Tag Archives: parenting

Learning to be a Mother

Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning from children

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared the many lessons their children have taught them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Spending my days and nights with Joshua for the past ten months has taught me about myself and about how to be a mother.

My first lesson was in patience.  I always thought of myself as patient, since I’m a teacher and patience is necessary for survival, but also because I am willing to work and wait in hopes that my patience will pay off.   We may have saved for years to build our house, we may have waited five years after getting married to start a family, I may have earned multiple college degrees, but I didn’t know what real patience was until I became a mother.  Real patience, I learned, is pacing the floors in the middle of the night, rocking my baby to sleep.  Real patience is nursing my baby for four hours straight each evening for the first three months, and learning to eat my dinner with one hand (even the left one).  Real patience is changing my baby’s diaper or clothes or my own clothes for the fifth or sixth or seventh time that day, before noon.  Real patience is what enabled me to do these things quietly, calmly, even happily.

I also learned to trust my instincts.  Experts, both respected and self-proclaimed, are contstantly telling me how to feed my son, how often to pick him up, what to dress him in, how to lay him down to sleep, how to get him to sleep through the night, when to start solids, when he should reach each milestone.  After some self-doubt early on, I realized that nobody knows my baby better than I do.  So far, my instincts have led me to breastfeed on-cue exclusively for the first six months, nurse in public, cosleep, respond to my baby’s cries, hold or wear my baby, feed him real foods, and allow him to achieve milestones on his own developmental timeline.  I’ve learned to smile, nod, and discard advice that doesn’t meld with my instincts.

Finally, in these last ten months I’ve learned what it means to love a child.  I always knew what it was like to love my parents, siblings, other family members, friends, and of course my husband, but I now know what the love of a mother for her baby feels like.  It is unconditional, unwavering.  I understand why mothers in nature can be the most formidable, fearless, and dangerous protectors of their babies.  My resolve to live sustainably has strengthened since becoming a mother, since I see it as an extension of protecting my son and providing for his future.  Joshua owns my heart and my soul.

P.S. This is my 800th post!

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

 

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A Day in the Life of a Working Mom

2:00 am- Joshua nuzzles me, looking to nurse. I nurse him and he goes back to sleep. He wakes and nurses about every 15 minutes for the next two hours. I’m awake the whole time.

Continue reading at the Breastfeeding Diaries…

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A Simple Toy

Today’s guest post comes from Laura of A Pug in the Kitchen.

While I was pregnant with my son, I spent a lot of time reading.  I read everything I could get my hands on concerning pregnancy, child-rearing, education, green lifestyles, the list was endless.  While I was reading, I picked up a few books on the marketing game that is played against parents.  Even though I read about it and knew what I was going to be up against, I am honestly surprised at how there are days when I feel sidelined by my choice to lead a simpler life. 

 

I’ve never considered myself to be tremendously materialistic or trendy.  The only reason why I bought a new pair of shoes this past fall was because the pair I was wearing at the time fell apart.  While I was walking.  I’m not concerned about appearing to have it all together.  It doesn’t bother me in the least bit to shop at garage sales and thrift stores.  I have no problem making my own meals and clipping coupons.  These things don’t bother me.  My husband works a typical day and I pick up a few hours a week tutoring math.  We garden, use cloth diapers, cook from scratch and recycle.  There aren’t grand vacations on our calendars and we don’t have the newest cars.  We spend time together as a family as much as we can and our ideal weekend is one that has no obligations so that we can stay at home, moving with the flow of the day.

When I registered for my baby shower, I was shocked at all the absurd products on the market geared toward making my life as a new mother “easier”.  Since I don’t like clutter and chaos, I eschewed the battery operated snot sucker for a tissue.  We bought 2 dozen cloth diapers and a laundry basket.  I didn’t have one bottle in the house since I planned to breastfeed until he was at least 1.  The toys were cloth or wood.  I felt good about my choices until my friend registered for her shower.  Then I started to compare.  This being the inherit downfall of society, I fell prey to its allure and started to feel bad for my son.

For the first time ever, I felt bad that my son’s toys were wooden and didn’t have bells and whistles as I watched the other baby play with an obnoxious toy that wouldn’t stop asking us to come out and play.  As our children got older, the toys got more involved and flashier.  I felt worse whenever a play date would end.  All this time, I had been going under the premise that I had survived just fine without fancy toys and had learned to role play and imagine without having all sorts of prompts and mechanized voices telling me what to do.  Suddenly, I wondered if my own growth had been stunted by not having a play laptop.

Being a simple parent isn’t what society is geared toward these days and if you choose to be simple in your lifestyle, people act as though you are depriving your children of all the joy life has to offer.  Of course, post-partum hormones play a big role in these feelings, but it is also due in part to whether or not you have found support.  I am gathering my community of mothers around me who understand why I’ve made my choices and encourage me.  We compare our diaper results and trade recipes for dinner.  Together we ooh and ahh over locally crafted puzzles.  And they helped me to see that my child is healthy and happy without all the hoopla.  Now, I realize when I come home from an overstimulating play date that he’s been stressed, not that he’s missing the toys.  Watching his face light up when he sees his favorite dump truck makes me realize that when it comes down to it, he’d rather be at home with me, playing with his puzzles or building with his blocks or chasing the dogs around the house. 

It’s taken me a while to reconcile both sides of the toy store.  Being a parent for me is now about finding balance.  We have lots of cloth and wooden toys, but we also have Tonka trucks made out of plastic.  My boy loves trucks; wooden, metal, plastic, and recycled plastic.  None of them do anything; they are powered by imagination and little hands guiding them down the path of their dreams.  So in the end, my home-birthed, cloth-diapered, local-foods-eating son is learning how to use the incredible mind he was gifted with and how to make his own fun instead of waiting for a toy to flash its pretty lights.  For me, this is a simple success.

Laura is an advocate of things green, natural and even a little crunchy after leaving her career as a Toxicology researcher when it became evident to her what was really going on behind all the pretty labels.  Today, she can be found in the garden, in the kitchen, playing with her 1 year old son, crafting or stealing a few moments to read.  Feeding people real, local and simple food that isn’t deceptively healthy is her passion.  Check out Laura’s blog A Pug in the Kitchen or follow her on twitter @Beansprouthair.  

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Teaching my Kids Where Their Food Comes From

Today’s guest post comes from Amber of Strocel.com.

I live in suburban Vancouver my with husband and our kids – 5-year-old Hannah and 2-year-old Jacob. In my working life, I was an electrical engineer and I wrote computer programs. My husband works in television, making sure that the graphics on the local news look good. Most of our neighbors live similar lives, working in middle-class jobs that involve cubicles. If aliens were to observe our neighborhood they might deduce that food comes from the grocery store and/or the local fast food outlet. And before that, it comes from a big refrigerated truck.

It’s important to me that my children don’t think that food comes from the store. I mean, OK, a lot of my family’s food does come from the store in the end. But not in the beginning. There is a back story to every bite we take, and that back story matters. It impacts our health, the health of the people and animals involved in food production, and the health of the planet. I want my kids to know the back story, so that they can make informed choices.

Given the near-total lack of anything resembling agriculture in my community, how do I help my kids to get a window into food production? I do a few things:


Blueberries from our blueberry bush

1. We have a vegetable garden. It’s not the world’s most impressive vegetable garden, not by a long shot. But we can pick our own peas and carrots and tomatoes and blueberries. We watch the miraculous transformation from small seed to exuberant squash plant. And we taste the amazing flavors in fresh-picked produce.

2. We visit our local farmer’s market. Once a week nearby farmers truck into our suburban enclave with their produce. I take my children and they help me pick out our fruits and veggies and seafood and meat and cheese. We try new foods that we have never even seen before, like garlic scapes and blue hubbard squash. We talk to the people who grew or made the things they’re selling, and learn a little bit in the process.


Hannah says hello to some dairy cows

3. We pick wild berries. Not all food comes from a farm – some of it grows in our local park and along the roadside. Salmonberries, huckleberries and blackberries are our favorites. I have taught my kids to never eat any berries that I don’t give them, of course. But they’re learning that nature’s bounty is broader than anything a grocery store can conceive of.

4. We visit farms. Whenever we get the chance, we visit farms to see how they work first-hand. We meet the cows who make our milk and the chickens who lay our eggs. We see the fields where our grain is grown. Farms are fun places for kids, especially my suburban kids who find them especially novel. And, honestly, they’re pretty fun places for me, too.


Jacob gets up close and personal with some goats

5. We cook together. If you’re buying fresh, local produce, you need to know what to do with it. Cooking with kids isn’t always fun, I’ll admit it. But knowing how to cook from scratch is an important life skill, and so I’m willing to put up with a little inconvenience to equip my kids for the future. And even when they’re not ‘helping’ me make dinner, they’re usually in the kitchen watching, so I hope they’re seeing my example.

Like a lot of children, my kids ask me for all kinds of foods I don’t want to buy. Yogurt in tiny plastic tubs with licensed characters waving from the label. ‘Fruit’ snacks and pre-packaged pudding and cereal with marshmallows. It’s not always apparent to me that they understand the food lessons I’m trying to teach. But I have faith that if I keep at it, it will sink in. They will grow old enough to understand, and when they make choices for themselves they’ll consider the impact of the food they eat. At least, I really hope so.

Amber is an engineer-turned-at home mom to 5-year-old Hannah and 2-year-old Jacob. She lives in Vancouver, Canada with her husband Jon, the kids and her ill-tempered cat. In her free time she gardens, crafts, and dreams about the life she will have when she grows up.You can catch up with Amber’s regular adventures, in food and beyond, on her blog at Strocel.com.

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Following my Instincts

I’m very happy to share that Joshua is a great eater.  He loves to nurse, and it’s been relatively easy for us.  That said, the first few days were tough, compounded by the stress of repeat pediatrician visits.  Joshua weighed 9 lbs. 8 oz. at birth.  Naturally, he lost weight in the beginning.  At 3 days old, we went to his first pediatrician visit, and Joshua had lost weight.  They required us to go back at 4 days old, and then again at 5 days.  My milk came in when he was 4 days old, and so on day 5 he had gained weight.  However, the doctors wanted to continue the precautionary weighing, and so at 7 days old, we went back to confirm that was on the upswing with weight gain. 

Going back to the doctor’s office 4 out of our first 5 days at home was stressful.  The last thing I wanted to do was get dressed to leave the house and strap my baby into the car seat he hates.  Instead of following our own instincts and allowing Joshua to nurse on demand, when he was hungry, the doctor advised me to nurse him every two hours.  This meant waking him up and force-feeding him when he wasn’t hungry.  He’d doze off, and I’d frantically try to wake him by tickling his feet or taking off his warm clothes.  I sent my mom to the store to pick up a breast pump while I tearfully supplemented with formula (1 oz. after every other feeding) as advised by the doctor.  I began pumping, trying to bring up my milk supply so I could use that instead of formula.

Throughout these stressful days, I was never concerned that my baby was starving.  Yes, his weight had dropped down to 8 lbs. 10 oz., but that’s still pretty big for a newborn.  My fear was that, if he didn’t gain weight, we’d have to continue going to the doctor.  So the force-feeding continued until day 7, when the doctor told us we didn’t have to come back until he was 2 weeks old.  All the pumping (suggested by the pediatrician but deemed unnecessary by the lactation consultant) resulted in days of engorgement and leaking.  However, I refused to let all of those outside influences discourage me from nursing my son.

After day 7, we went back to nursing on demand.  This meant that Joshua sometimes nursed every hour, sometimes every 3 hours.  I refused to time how long he ate for or count how many feedings each day.  I also refused to count the number of wet and dirty diapers.  I let go of all of that, and he was fine.  When the lactation consultant called to check on us, I explained that requiring us to go back every day was stressful, and I thought it was unnecessary.  She tried to explain that most moms find it reassuring to monitor weight closely, but I told her I disagree.  Ed thinks it’s an insurance scam, and I’m not convinced that’s not the case.

At 2 weeks old, Joshua was eating like a champ and his weight was 10 lbs. 2 oz.  I wanted to tell off the whole pediatrician’s office, give them a piece of my mind.  They worried me for nothing, stressed me out, made me feel inadequate.  And that clearly was not the case at all.  At 1 month, he weighed 11 lbs. 3 oz.  He’s a big boy.

What I’ve learned from this whole experience is to trust my own instincts.  I believed that everything would be okay before they stressed me out, and it was.  In the future, when I have another child, I know what this experienced mom (ha!) will say: “I’m NOT coming in tomorrow, or the next day.  I’ll see you next week.”

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Dreaming

Maybe it’s the three-day weekend, the agricultural fairs, the time spent in the apple orchard with my mom, or visiting my grandfather in the corn field today.  Or maybe it’s the pregnancy.  Whatever it is, I’ve been daydreaming a lot lately. 

I’ve been dreaming about the type of life I want to give to our children.  Not things, but experiences.

I want our children to spend time outside in all the seasons.  Making maple syrup and planting the garden in spring.  Swimming all day long in the summer.  Hayrides, pumpkins and apple picking in fall.  Snowmen, sledding and pond skating in winter. 

I want our children to grow up around animals.  I want them to know how to treat and behave around dogs, cows, horses, pigs, chickens and turkeys.  I want them to learn to drive a hayride, train a dog, and milk a cow.  I want them to collect eggs and taste fresh honey.

I want our children to value family, traditon and the Earth.  Learn our family histories and the value of working together as a family.  I want them to appreciate and respect nature and wildlife.

I want our children to enjoy learning, both in and out of school.  I want them to escape into a world of stories, feel the satisfaction in solving a difficult math problem, and learn to appreciate the wonders of the natural world.  I want our children to have the confidence to try to solve real problems in their daily lives.  I want them to learn and value the skills it takes to grow and preserve their own food and be self-sufficient.

I had been getting down on myself, wondering how I could ever provide all of these opportunities to our children on our two little acres.  Fortunately, we don’t have to do it alone.  Our families do all of these things, which is how Ed and I had all of these experiences in our own childhoods.

A few days ago, I read “Is it a Farm Yet?” and was inspired.  I realized that our two little acres can do a lot toward providing these experiences that I so want for our children.  We don’t have to do it all, and we don’t have to do it all at once. 

So as I dream about getting a pair or trio of laying hens (and maybe, possibly a duck), adding peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries and pears to our little apple orchard, getting a dog when the children are old enough to take care of him and Dukie’s old enough not to be jealous, and someday in the far-off future building a barn and greenhouse, I am slowly but surely reaching toward the life that I want to provide for my children.

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