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13
Nov

When Natural Parenting Makes You the Odd One Out

by Tiffany in parenting

This week the Green Moms Weekly Question addresses opposition from family and friends when you take the more granola path as a parent. The question is “What type of topics in natural parenting cause opposition among family and friends and how do you handle it?”

I think this is a really awesome question because it can be very polarizing for some people. Personally though I have had very little negative response to my parenting choices, so I count myself lucky.  There are numerous places were ones parenting choices can rub people the wrong way and incite negativity and bickering amongst family and friends though. Here are some of the more sensitive issues in my mind.

Breastfeeding – Natural moms are more likely to breastfeeding exclusively and for extended periods of time. Because breastmilk is at the forefront for a long period of time this means breastfeeding in public is often times just part of the package. Baby needs to eat when baby need to eat right? I was an unabashed public breastfeeder myself and I never once had an issue with anyone making negative comments from family, friends, or even strangers. In fact whenever chain restaurants made the news for being anti-breastfeeding I would often stage my own nurse-ins by making a special trip just to breastfeed in their place of business. I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful of anyone but I did want to do my part to make breastfeeding something that people recognized as completely normal and acceptable.

Vaccines – Lots of natural parents choose not to vaccinate because of the potential side effects and all the horrendous ingredients in the vaccines themselves. I have had no trouble from other moms and my own family totally supports my choice in this matter. I have had trouble with doctors though and I do my best to show them that I am not some patsy they can push around. I am an intelligent mom who is making an informed decision and they will not change my mind.

Positive Discipline and Attachment Parenting- This can be a biggie within families sometimes. Chances are your parents or grandparents may have been raised in a family where the belt handled discipline problems or where children were supposed to be seen and not heard. This can cause issues when you decide to choose respectful and peaceful parenting.  It can get even stickier if you have a child with “issues” such as autism, hyperactivity, sensory problems, etc. Those problems were just not around so much back when our parents and grandparents were having kids so their can be lots of misunderstandings. I had few issues but if I did I only had to remember that my husband and I alone were the ones that knew our children through and through. What total strangers or extended family thought was of little consequence.

Homeschooling and Unschooling – This issue isn’t unique to natural parents by any means but lots of attached, green, natural parents are choosing to homeschool. This can be a big problem for some of our family and friends who think we are somehow doing a disservice to our children’s education by going this route. I cannot say I had total support when I chose to homeschool my oldest but in all honesty I can admit he wasn’t being best served by a home education, it was just the best we could do with what we had available at the time. But I feel for parents who struggle with negativity from friends and families about their educational choices because it can be an amazing and joyful experience for parent and child, AND they can get a great education, despite what critics say.

Cloth Diapering – When you tell people you use cloth diapers it is not uncommon to hear “Ew! Gross!” My own mom thought I was a little nuts when I told her I planned to cloth diaper my second baby but she was a quick convert when she saw how easy it was and how cool and modern cloth diapers had become. Plus I ended up sewing my own diapers and starting a very successful diaper business. I even hired her a seamstress on occasion and she became my biggest champion so it all worked out. Still it helps to have a nice diaper on hand when you tell people you cloth diaper so that you can turn those “Ews” to “Aaahs”.

Cry It Out – Mainstream parenting advice seems to favor letting your babies cry themselves to sleep. Of course it does. We live in society where mom’s convenience is prized as the most important thing but I didn’t become a mom to put all my own needs first so I never let my babies cry it out. Whenever someone gave me the advice to just let my baby cry I would tell them I am one of those newfangled “get off your butt” parents. There was little they could say after that one.

Co-Sleeping – This can be sticky too. Many people will advise parents to never let their babies into their bed or they will never get them out. All 3 of my babes slept in my bed and my nearly 6 year old still does. I have few worries (okay, no worries) that he will still be there when he is a teenager. I am not sure why co-sleeping bothers some people but I just laughed it off if anyone made comments to me.

Natural Childbirth – I think I only had one family member comment on my intention to have a natural birth and I think that comment was actually a defense of their own choice to have drugs. I wish more moms realized that it isn’t a competition. If I choose the natural route that doesn’t have anything to do with you and your choices. I say stand by your choices and make your own positive body message be heard but just realize that some will view it as criticism of their choices.

Anyway… your turn! What natural choices have you made that rocked the boat with your friends or family?

Find out how green moms Carrie and Rachel answered this question as well.

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

23 Comments

  • http://www.greensahm.com Stephanie – Green at Home Mom

    Breastfeeding was a big one with my mother-in-law. She was utterly opposed to it, as she had been told that formula was better for babies, and when and where she had her kids, breastfeeding simply wasn’t done. Science had solved all when it came to formula, and no information I gave her could convince her otherwise.

    She became more accepting when her own daughter breastfed, then I drove her up the wall again when my last child I breastfed past age two.

    Homeschooling for just one year was a big deal with my inlaws too. The neighborhood school was having problems, so we homeschooled, sort of. It was an online charter school, which some homeschoolers don’t consider to be real homeschooling, as there’s still a credentialed teacher and state standards involved. It worked for us, though, and if the neighborhood school hadn’t made some big changes by going charter, we’d still be doing it. This year we’re testing out the charter, and at the end of the year decide what will work next year. My inlaws just couldn’t see how any sort of schooling at home could possibly be as good as even a poor quality school, no matter how much data I sent them showing otherwise.

  • DrMomma

    Good points! I’d add keeping sons intact to the list. Not everyone is willing to look into the benefits of protecting sons’ wholeness as equal to their sisters’ bodily integrity, and this can cause friction in some family circles. 

    • http://www.naturemoms.com/blog Tiffany

      Agreed DrMomma.

    • Anonymous

      DrMomma, oh yeah, for sure, people don’t seem to want to mind there own business and have no problem coming right out and asking me if I had my boys circumcised!

  • Pingback: Natural Parenting Opposition — Happy Green Babies()

  • Dnkraus

    Enjoyed your article….I am encountering this type of thing as I adopt my green practices.

  • Daviskarenr

    I’d like to make a comment about the co-sleeping. I always lean towards natural ways of doing things, but our experience with co-sleeping was not a good one. My step son started sleeping in our bed around the age of 2, and we could not get him out until he was 9.  We tried everything (bribing, demanding, coaxing, rewarding, etc).  We eventually had to move his twin bed into our bedroom and put it right beside ours because he was just too big to fit in the bed with us.  The only thing that got him out of our bed was (1) we moved so there was a change of scenery (2) we bought him a brand new bunk bed (3) we let him leave any lights on in his room that he wanted (4) we sat in a chair outside the room, but right in the doorway where he could see us.  It took almost a year of doing this us to be able to walk away from that chair while he was still awake. Even now, at 13, he still asks if he can sleep in our bed but we just tell him he is too big.  (he’s bigger than me, and i’m 5’4″, 170 lbs).  I really wish we’d never started him sleeping in our bed, because he seems to have an unnatural fear of sleeping alone.  While he does sleep in his own bed, it’s like pulling teeth to get him to go to bed.

    • http://www.naturemoms.com/blog Tiffany

      Sorry to hear about your issues. As I was writing this I did want to put in a proviso that you may in fact have difficulty getting children with special needs or special issues out of your bed. My youngest is nearly 6 and showing no signs of being ready to leave but I suspect he may be on the autism spectrum like his older brother. We will wrestle with this issue when it comes but I think it will be worth it in the end to have given him that time with us when he needed it.

    • http://www.naturemoms.com/blog Tiffany

      Sorry to hear about your issues. As I was writing this I did want to put in a proviso that you may in fact have difficulty getting children with special needs or special issues out of your bed. My youngest is nearly 6 and showing no signs of being ready to leave but I suspect he may be on the autism spectrum like his older brother. We will wrestle with this issue when it comes but I think it will be worth it in the end to have given him that time with us when he needed it.

    • http://naturalmomstalkradio.com/blog carrielee

      I don’t think it has anything to do with co-sleeping. I have 5 biological children, and two of them still ask to sleep with me despite having graduated from the family bed. The other two love sleeping alone and I never have any issues. I think it has more to do with temperament. :)

  • http://www.nontoxicnest.wordpress.com Meryl (Nontoxic Nest)

    Yup, I can relate to a lot of this. Breastfeeding *babies* is very socially accepted and supported (here in New Zealand) but as my toddler hits 18 months with no signs of slowing down, I’m definitely veering into “a bit weird” territory, according to the mainstream.

    I also encounter a lot of resistance to having a house as low in harmful plastics and other chemicals as I can. I think people take it as a personal slight (if I don’t have plastic toys, I must think they’re bad parents for letting their kids have them, right?) when actually I’m way too busy with my own family to be too much concerned about theirs.

    It goes both ways, though. I have definitely felt judgement from ‘natural’ type parents for not co-sleeping – I really wanted to, but in practice I loathed it and was getting far less sleep. And for not feeding my child 100% organic. That one REALLY gripes as, although we make an effort to feed substantially organic, it comes down to money. It’s only a choice if you have the means to make it one.

    At the end of the day I think, live and let live. That includes respecting the choices of parents who aren’t “green”, “natural”, “AP” etc too. After all, you can’t expect people to respect your decisions if you don’t respect theirs.

  • http://www.nontoxicnest.wordpress.com Meryl (Nontoxic Nest)

    Yup, I can relate to a lot of this. Breastfeeding *babies* is very socially accepted and supported (here in New Zealand) but as my toddler hits 18 months with no signs of slowing down, I’m definitely veering into “a bit weird” territory, according to the mainstream.

    I also encounter a lot of resistance to having a house as low in harmful plastics and other chemicals as I can. I think people take it as a personal slight (if I don’t have plastic toys, I must think they’re bad parents for letting their kids have them, right?) when actually I’m way too busy with my own family to be too much concerned about theirs.

    It goes both ways, though. I have definitely felt judgement from ‘natural’ type parents for not co-sleeping – I really wanted to, but in practice I loathed it and was getting far less sleep. And for not feeding my child 100% organic. That one REALLY gripes as, although we make an effort to feed substantially organic, it comes down to money. It’s only a choice if you have the means to make it one.

    At the end of the day I think, live and let live. That includes respecting the choices of parents who aren’t “green”, “natural”, “AP” etc too. After all, you can’t expect people to respect your decisions if you don’t respect theirs.

  • http://twitter.com/DoNotFaint Anne-Marie Lindsey

    You lost a reader with this post. I disagreed with a mom I babysat for who was “sleep training” but no one ENJOYED listening to that baby cry. She didn’t do it because she is lazy. She did it because she has a business to run, no one was getting any sleep, and she didn’t know what else to do. I’m glad that this has all worked out for you, but accusing any other mother of being LAZY is just cruel. “I didn’t become a mom to put all my own needs first so I never let my babies cry it out. Whenever someone gave me the advice to just let my baby cry I would tell them I am one of those newfangled “get off your butt” parents.” Really? Really?! I’m not coming back.

    • http://www.naturemoms.com/blog Tiffany

      Sorry you were offended Anne-Marie but I do not regret any of my words. I can say with certainty that I had a situation every bit as challenging as the mom you mentioned. I had a newborn baby, a business, and colon cancer. I “personally” cannot see any valid reason for letting a baby who needs you, cry themselves to sleep. At any rate my words were directed at those who advise others to let their babies cry it out for the sake of convenience. What an individual mom decides is her own business though.

      • NaturalAussieMum

        Good on you Tiffany!! There is no excuse!!! 

      • Peacelovingkindness

        I don’t think parenting should be about
        taking sides about what form of parenting is right & which is
        wrong. As long as the children are taken care of and loved, every
        family should do what works best for them in their situation. People
        who chose to parent naturally do not want to be judged and criticized
        for the way that they do things, but neither do people that do not
        choose the natural path (was well as everyone in between.) You (as
        well as myself) don’t want to be criticized for co-sleeping, but
        saying that the parent letting their child cry it out is lazy is
        doing the same thing. This world is so dynamic and every family’s
        situation and lifestyle is unique. Therefore, what works for one
        family may not work for another.   

        I have found some aspects of natural
        parenting that work great for my family, while others do not. 
        Unfortunately, I feel pressure from both natural parents and mainstream
        parents when I choose a different style of parenting than they use.

  • Sarah

    When we chose a midwife instead of a doctor, it was a big deal for my obgyn nurse mother-in-law.  She tried to talk us out of it, but having a midwife was so absolutely amazing, I’m very happy with our decision.  

    Another issue was introducing certain foods into her diet very slowly so as to avoid allergies (I’ve had many allergies eczema since I was a baby). My daughter started solids at 6 1/2 months and common allergens were withheld till much later.  No wheat until 1 yr, dairy until 2yrs, etc.  People would say, “oh it’s fine if she has just one cracker!”, etc.  But I was firm and now she is a wonderful eater, loves food, and has no allergies or eczema.My daughter is two and is still breastfeeding.  I’m done with it and ready to move on but she’s clearly not.  I do get embarrassed when other people find out she’s still breastfeeding but it’s partly just my own insecurities.  No one has ever made any rude comments.

    Oh yes, and no vaccines.  Another topic we try to avoid at family gatherings!

    • Drea Potter

      Good for you Sarah. Breastfeeding until one is hard. In many cultures people breastfeed their children until two or three. Hoooray for you that you chose what your daughter wanted. American mothers don’t give one another enough support when it comes to breastfeeding and many issues that surround motherhood. We are quick to dish out the critisizm though.

  • Juanita

    Immediately picking up a crying baby, cosleeping at all and now into year 7, breastfeeding, breastfeeding beyond 6 months, breastfeeding beyond one year, breastfeeding a toddler, allowing potty training to occur naturally which took 9-12 months, wearing my 4 year old at times, not wanting to work full time….all I can say is have a team of others who understand or relate to what you are doing or who respect your choices to ground you. Seek La Leche League members who tend to make similar choices…

    • Juanita

      And, I didn’t even mention a midwife and a VBAC with her guidance.

  • Marie

    We have gotten “mainstream flack” for keeping our sons intact (no circumcision), refusing to eat animals, strictly limiting sugar/sweets and not having television.  It definitely takes more courage to be different than to conform but it is a lesson worth teaching to our children:-).  

  • Mrsduby

    this was an excellent article !!! I loved it !!! I am not a mom, but i read natural health blogs all the time and this is one of my favorites! While i dont have kids yet, i very often get flack for eating a natural organic diet, using herbs and remedies instead of meds and well as for the vaccine argument – i just keep quiet instead of getting into fights.

    its wonderful seeing a whole website of like minded individuals where i dont feel like the weird one anymore !

  • http://www.naturemoms.com/blog Tiffany

    An interesting article: “We can confirm now that forcing “independence” on a baby leads to greater dependence. Instead, giving babies what they need leads to greater independence later.”http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201112/dangers-crying-it-out