Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Just Be; Just Do.

Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they advocate for healthy, gentle parenting choices compassionately. 

Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I used to be a more outspoken person. As I get older, I find that I feel less inclined to jump into a heated discussion (or engage in one in the first place) even if I feel strongly about a topic. I think part of that has to do with having experienced the other side of that: when someone doesn't agree with what I'm doing (or what I think about something) and feels the need to tell me about it, inevitably I end up feeling threatened. To me, parenting is such an intimate journey, and parenting choices are deeply personal to me, that I don't want to have to defend my choices to other people all the time. It's exhausting. This is probably why more and more, I find myself choosing to advocate (if you can even call it that) for the natural parenting practices that fit our family simply through just being who I am and doing what feels right.

I write a lot about how I feel about parenting and some about my philosophy behind the way I mother my son. I don't claim to know the right way to parent. I don't believe there is only one right way. That's one of the reasons I don't go around knocking other peoples' parenting choices (even anonymously on the Internet, as I've noticed people like to do). I also try very hard not to give unsolicited advice, because it's something that I don't appreciate receiving from others.

I've learned that one of the best ways to make a point sometimes is to not say anything at all, to just live my life (and parent my child) the way I feel is best. Most of the time, the best way to advocate for the natural, gentle parenting choices I feel are best for my family is to just live my life the best way I can. To be mindful in each moment, to send good energy out into the world—especially in the direction of people who have hurt me—and to love my son fiercely, passionately, unconditionally, and publicly.

If others see the way Jaymz and I do things in our family and they're curious, they'll ask. One of the most visible ways Jaymz and I display our parenting style is through babywearing. I'm falling in love with babywearing all over again, now that I can more comfortably manage a back carry without assistance. Jaymz wears Daniel every evening and almost all the time on weekends. When we're out, people notice. He's a very tall man (at 6'4") and quite thin, and to see a big man like him walking around with a child strapped to his chest is a great sight.

A woman came up to us the other day in the grocery store, as Daniel was taking a nap on Jaymz's chest in the Ergo (with the hood up). She was clearly trying to let us know that she thought Daniel was unsafe having his head covered like that. He did look very...limp, now that I think about it (because he was in a deep sleep). I held back my initial reaction (offense at her approaching us to question our parenting judgment) while Jaymz calmly and enthusiastically explained the baby carrier to the woman. He demonstrated how the hood unsnaps, told her how great it is to have his baby close to him, and commented about what a great nap Daniel was getting while we were out doing errands. The woman reluctantly left once she seemed satisfied with his explanation.

More often, I get positive comments from strangers about babywearing. I was wearing Daniel in the Las Vegas airport a couple of months ago, and an older woman came up to me and said, "It's so nice to see parents not carrying their babies around in plastic. It's better for both of you...with Baby so close to Mama." It was such a wonderful, short interaction, and I left with a smile on my face. Recently, I was standing next to a father who was wearing his baby at the farmer's market, and he complimented me on my choice to wear a sweatshirt that was large enough to be zipped up around my mei tai, so Daniel had all his extremities extra-protected from the cold. We had a nice little conversation about babywearing before parting ways.

Aside from babywearing, there are many more less obvious signs of our parenting style throughout our home: the absence of a crib (we bought Daniel a futon for when he's ready to transition out of our room...whenever that is); the cloth diapers sunning on the drying rack; the prevalence of simple, unscented body products in the bathroom; the cabinets stocked with delicious, healthy foods; the vegetables that will sprout up soon in our garden.

I don't think the way we live our lives is better than the way anyone else lives theirs. I feel in my core that this is the best way for me to be in this world, and so I just am. I just do. I just live my life and mother my child the best way I know how. Sometimes people notice, sometimes they ask questions, and sometimes they say I've inspired them to try something new. Those times are really rewarding for me.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo 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:

  • Natural Parenting Advocacy by Example — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her blog, Twitter and Facebook as her natural parenting soapbox.
  • You Catch More Flies With Honey — When it comes to natural parenting advice, Kate of The Guavalicious Life believes you catch more flies with honey.
  • From the Heart — Patti at Jazzy Mama searches her heart for an appropriate response when she learns that someone she respects wants his baby to cry-it-out.
  • I Offer the Truth — Amy at Innate Wholeness shares the hard truths to inspire parents in making changes and fully appreciating the parenting experience.
  • Advocating or Just Opinionated?Momma Jorje discusses how to draw the line between advocating compassionately and being just plain opinionated. It can be quite a fine line.
  • Compassionate Advocacy — Mamapoekie of Authentic Parenting writes about how to discuss topics you are passionate about with people who don't share your views.
  • Heiny Helpers: Sharing Cloth Love — Heiny Helpers is guest posting on Natural Parents Network to share how they are providing cloth diapers and cloth diapering support to low income families.
  • Struggling with Advocacy — April of McApril still struggles to determine how strongly she should advocate for her causes, but still loves to show her love for her parenting choices to those who would like to listen.
  • Compassionate Advocacy Through Blogging (AKA –Why I Blog) — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how both blogging and day-to-day life give her opportunities to compassionately advocate for natural parenting practices.
  • A Letter to *Those* Parents — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares how to write an informed yet respectful reply to those parents — you know, the ones who don't parent the way you do.
  • Why I Am Not A Homebirth Advocate — Olivia at Write About Birth is coming out: she is a homebirth mom, but not a homebirth advocate. One size does not fit all – but choice is something we can all advocate for!
  • Why I Open My Big Mouth — Wolfmother from Fabulous Mama Chronicles reflects on why she is passionate about sharing parenting resources.
  • Watching and Wearing — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life advocates the joys of babywearing simply by living life in a small college town.
  • Compassionate Advocacy . . . That's The Way I Do It — Amyables at Toddler in Tow describes how she's learned to forsake judgment and channel her social energy to spread the "good news" of natural parenting through interaction and shared experiences.
  • Compelling without repelling — Lauren at Hobo Mama cringes when she thinks of the obnoxious way she used to berate people into seeing her point of view.
  • I Am the Change — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro describes a recent awakening where she realized exactly how to advocate for natural parenting.
  • Public Displays of CompassionThe Accidental Natural Mama recounts an emotional trip to the grocery store and the importance of staying calm and compassionate in the storm of toddler emotions.
  • I will not hide behind my persona — Suzi Leigh at Attached at the Boob discusses the benefits of being honest and compassionate on the internet.
  • Choosing My Words — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom shares why she started her blog and why she continues to blog despite an increasingly hectic schedule.
  • Honour the Child :: Compassionate Advocacy in the Classroom — Lori at Beneath the Rowan Tree shares her experience of being a gentle and compassionate parent — with other people's children — as a classroom volunteer in her daughter's senior kindergarten room.
  • Inspired by the Great Divide (and Hoping to Inspire) — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis shares her thoughts on navigating the "great divide" through gently teaching and being teachable.
  • Introverted Advocacy — CatholicMommy at Working to be Worthy shares how she advocates for gentle parenting, even though she is about as introverted as one can be.
  • The Three R's of Effective and Gentle Advocacy — Ana at Pandamoly explains how "The Three R's" can yield consistent results and endless inspiration to those in need of some change.
  • Passionate and Compassionate: How do We do It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares the importance of understanding your motivation for advocacy.
  • Sharing the love — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine talks about how she shares the love and spreads the word.
  • What Frank Said — Nada at miniMOMist has a good friend named Frank. She uses his famous saying to demonstrate how much natural parenting has benefited her and her family.
  • Baby Sling Carriers Make Great Compassionate Advocacy Tools — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shared her babywearing knowledge — and her sling — with a new mom.
  • Everyday Superheroes — Who needs Superman when we have a community of compassionate advocates?! Dionna at Code Name: Mama believes that our community of gentle bloggers are the true superheroes.
  • Words of advice: compassionately advocating for my parenting choices — MrsH at Fleeting Moments waits to give advice until she's been asked, resulting in fewer advocacy moments but very high responsiveness from parents all over the spectrum of parenting approaches.
  • Peaceful Parenting — Peaceful parenting shows at Living Peacefully with Children with an atypical comment from a stranger.
  • Speaking for birth — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud soul-searches about how she can advocate for natural birth without causing offense.
  • Gentle is as Gentle Does — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how she is gently advocating her parenting style.
  • Walking on Air — Rachael at The Variegated Life wants you to know that she has no idea what she's doing — and it's a gift.
  • Parenting with my head, my heart, and my gut — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares her thoughts on being a compassionate advocate of natural parenting as a blogger.
  • At Peace With the World — Megan at Ichigo Means Strawberry talks about being an advocate for peaceful parenting at 10,000 feet.
  • Putting a public face on "holistic" — Being public about her convictions is a must for Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama, but it takes some delicacy.
  • Just Be; Just Do. — Amy at Anktangle believes strongly about her parenting methods, and also that the way to get people to take notice is to simply live her life and parent the best she knows how.
  • One Parent at a Time... — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that advocating for Natural Parenting is best accomplished by walking the walk.
  • Self-compassion — We're great at caring for and supporting others —from our kiddos to other mamas — but Lisa at Gems of Delight shares a post about treating ourselves with that same sense of compassion.
  • Using Montessori Principles to Advocate Natural Parenting — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how she uses Montessori principles to be a compassionate advocate for natural parenting.
  • Advocacy? Me? — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers that by "just doing her thing," she may be advocating for natural parenting.
  • Feeding by Example — Mama Mo at Attached at the Nip shares her experience of being the first one of her generation to parent.
  • Compassionate Consumerism — Erica at ChildOrganics encourages her children to be compassionate consumers and discusses the benefits of buying local and fair trade products.
  • The Importance of Advocating Compassionately — Kristen at Adventures in Mommyhood acts as a compassionate advocate by sharing information with many in the hopes of reaching a few.
  • Some Thoughts on Gentle Discipline — Darcel at The Mahogany Way shares her thoughts and some tips on Gentle Discipline.
  • Compassionate Advocacy: Sharing Resources, Spreading the Love — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle shares how her passion for making natural choices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting have supported others in Dominica and beyond.
  • A journey to compassion and connection — Jessica at Instead of Institutions shares her journey from know-it-all to authentic advocacy.
  • Advocacy Through Openness, Respect, and Understanding — Melissa at The New Mommy Files describes her view on belief, and how it has shaped the way she advocates for gentle parenting choices.
  • Why I'm not an advocate for Natural Parenting — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog delivers the shocking news that, after 10 years of being a mum, she is NOT an advocate for natural parenting!
  • Natural Love Creates Natural Happiness — A picture is worth a thousand words, but how about a smile, or a giggle, or a gaze? Jessica at Cloth Diapering Mama’s kids are extremely social and their natural happiness is very obvious.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy — Even in the progressive SF Bay Area, Lily at Witch Mom finds she must defend some of her parenting choices.
  • A Tale of Four Milky Mamas — In this post The ArtsyMama shares how she has found ways to repay her childhood friend for the gift of milk.
  • don't tell me what to do — Pecky at benny and bex demonstrates compassionate advocacy through leading by example.


  1. Mama, it looks like we're in exactly the same place!

    I used to be really outspoken, too. I realized as I get older that it would probably get me shot one day. =/

    But that aside, as I matured, I realized that my uber strong opinions weren't the only right opinions. And I started realizing how badly it made me feel (or how angry, depending on the moment). Just as soon as I connected two and two, I decided to let my lifestyle speak for itself.

    I love the imagery of your 6'4" husband shopping with a sleeping little one close to his chest. I know that's a beautiful sight for you Mama. =)

  2. It is so rewarding to have a conversation with someone about parenting where we are simply sharing information and ideas. No judgment, no right or wrong, just sharing. Thanks for being you, Amy :)

  3. I love how you describe parenting as an intimate journey. I feel exactly the same way! Great post!

  4. "To be mindful in each moment, to send good energy out into the world—especially in the direction of people who have hurt me, and to love my son fiercely, passionately, unconditionally, and publicly."

    These are very wise words! I find that I only lose my cool when I am not being present...your energy is more powerful than your words, good for you for being mindful of it!

  5. My husband and I also love wearing our daughter out and about. It always starts conversations, and gives us a chance to promote babywearing naturally.

  6. This is such a beautiful and eloquently written post. I used to feel like I needed to explain myself and our choices, but now I feel comfortable just living our lives the best way we know how. It's a bit freeing.

  7. That is totally how I feel about receiving advice: ugh. It's what makes me hesitant to dole it out in real life, as well. I like that Jaymz wasn't intimidated by the stranger and instead explained his point of view. And it is so rewarding when something you're doing elicits a positive response from someone, especially when you're just living your life the way you want to.

  8. "I don't think the way we live our lives is better than the way anyone else lives theirs. I feel in my core that this is the best way for me to be in this world, and so I just am. I just do. I just live my life and mother my child the best way I know how." I am copying this down so that I can re-read it often. This could very become my new mantra. Beautiful, lovely post--thank you so much. Wow.

  9. Beautiful post! I can't think of a better way to parent and be a natural parenting advocate than through your words: "I feel in my core that this is the best way for me to be in this world, and so I just am. I just do. I just live my life and mother my child the best way I know how." By the way, we loved using a combination of co-sleeping and floor bed! Deb @ LivingMontessoriNow.com

  10. Sometimes I just want to point out to people that how our family lives our lives is not about them.

  11. The interaction you had with the woman at the supermarket makes me laugh - people do that ALL THE TIME in Dominica! 'You are wearing that baby too tight', 'She is chewing the strap', 'He will suffocate in that', 'You must put a hat on him' 'You are burning your baby in the sun without an umbrella', 'It's too cold for a child to be running around without socks', 'His neck is crooked'.... Honestly I could go on with the number of unsolicited pieces of advice that one gets as a new (or even experienced) mother. But whilst I used to get annoyed I know that most of these comments come from a sense of love, of wanting to help, of being curious but not knowing how to articulate it, the feeling that my child is a child of the entire community. And yes at times we can have an interaction to explain what we do and why which is great but sometimes not. I try to stay happy regardless. The positive comments and interested queries are wonderful moments. Great post.

  12. Like Charise, I like your use of the word "intimate" to describe parenting. Yes.

  13. I'm not overly outspoken either, but love when others ask me about cloth diaper or other things we do, which gives me an opportunity. recently on our first vacation with baby, my husband willingly wore our son in our recently bought Ergo while we toured around. it was great! :)

  14. Great post for CarNatPar. It's interesting to me that crunchy parents often get the wrap of being superior. I think it's because we're so passionate about what works for our family. If someone else isn't feeling as enthusiastic, a bit of jealousy or insecurity arises, no matter how similar or different the parenting practices are. The majority of parents I know, don't advocate agressively.


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