I see you. I see you having a hard time. I see you chasing your wild child through the grocery store, having decided in a fit of bravery to take the chance and see if the madness could be contained this time. Will it be adorable and pleasant? Or will you get kicked in the face by a flailing two-year-old because you simply can’t allow them to scale the shelves in the cereal aisle?
I see you using your sweetest voice, reminding your toddler, “Please use gentle touches,” “We can’t eat dog food,” “It’s time to go now. You are frustrated.”
I see you picking up your screaming child and carrying them out of the room, store, restaurant. I see you leaving because it’s really your only choice.
I see you at the playground, constantly on your feet, chasing your little one around, trying to stay one step ahead of this tiny human who is still a baby and suddenly in a bigger kid body.
Because that’s what toddlers are– babies in bigger kid bodies. Hence the erroneous title “Terrible Twos.”
This blog has been passed around numerous times on social media, and I understand why. People are disconnected. Folks are glued to their technology. The other day I saw a young boy on a swing. He was simultaneously using his iPhone, possibly updating his whereabouts: “Swing.”
It may be true that some parents pay more attention to their electronics than their children. Child abuse and neglect are real issues. But not every parent on their phone is as guilty as the author suggests. It’s important to understand that if you see a mother on her phone, you’re getting one tiny glimpse into her world, not the full picture.
I’m not trying to give the author a hard time; she clearly meant well and was writing in defense of children and attentive parenting, which is great. But when I read her blog post, the main sentiment I feel is: Give me a break. Give us all a break.
With every birth a mother is born. Whether it’s your first or fifth birth, it is a transformative time, poignant and capable of creating personal revolutions. As soon as my husband, Chad, and I found out we were expecting a baby, I knew I was going to give birth at home. My experience giving birth to my first son in a hospital was not something I wanted to repeat, for multiple reasons.
I was a single parent when my first son, Sunny, was born, and, unfortunately, a sense of loneliness is what I most associate with his birth. I had read Spiritual Midwifery and had watched The Business of Being Born; I knew (with as much vague certainty as a first-time mother can have) that I wanted an empowering, informed birth experience. I still chose to birth in a hospital, “just in case,” but I felt confident. Reading Ina May’s birth literature, I strongly connected with the philosophy that creating the same vibes that got baby in there—sensuality, privacy, intimacy—can help baby get out. I knew what I wanted, but my experience was very different.
I got married back in November, after knowing my husband for 7 years. He is my best friend, my soul partner, my rock, my clown, all of those good things. And we often don’t sleep together.
“Gasp! What?! You don’t sleep together?! Doomed for sure…” I can imagine some people thinking.
But I am writing to dispel the myth that cosleeping leads to a sexless relationship, as well as the notion that couples have to sleep in the same bed in order to have a happy sex life. Continue reading →
Using social media to share our experiences with pregnancy and birth is a beautiful thing; through sharing our journeys, we build communities of informed mothers who feel empowered and supported.
Yet with the information age comes a peculiar sense of urgency and entitlement towards this instantaneous form of communication. It seems that, as with pregnancy announcement etiquette, some people may need a refresher regarding how to tactfully and respectfully respond to pregnancy and birth, especially online. Continue reading →
Yeast infections. Most women have had at least one, especially during pregnancy. I experienced that terribly itching feeling during my pregnancy, and it led me to researching natural treatments, since I generally don’t trust drugstore-variety products.
I learned that coconut oil, lavender oil, and tea tree oil are all anti-fungal and anti-yeast, so I decided to make a concoction and see how it worked. It was amazing! Instant relief. I’ve tried a few other natural treatments before, like eliminating sugar, taking probiotics, applying yogurt and/or garlic for their anti-yeast properties, but this one is by far the best and most effective in my opinion. Continue reading →
On our Facebook page, we often post breastfeeding photos as part of our effort to normalize nursing, and the reaction is always the same: lots of support and celebration, lots of oohs and ahhs, but also a plethora of insulting, attacking, disgusting comments. No matter how many times this happens, I am always stunned by the ugly reactions people have to a mother feeding her child. Continue reading →
Vaccination. The topic is enough to turn my stomach, because of the ugliness that so often follows. I’ve read numerous debates about breastfeeding and formula, circumcision, cry-it-out, carseats, and more. Yet nothing gets so viciously attacked as the choice to refuse or even question vaccines. Continue reading →
For some people, announcing a pregnancy is a happy, exciting time. Many soon-to-be mothers experience joyous reactions, hugs, happy tears, high-fives, and other loving, encouraging responses. Others are not so fortunate, and it seems that an etiquette guide is in order. Continue reading →
Among the many medicinal food choices out there, garlic is one of the best. It is a highly anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory food. I often turn to garlic during cold and flu season, because it fights infection and protects the immune system so well.
GOOT (Garlic Olive Oil Treatment) is a powerful medicine traditionally made with garlic and olive oil. Continue reading →
When I first started learning about breastfeeding, attachment parenting, circumcision, gentle discipline, etc. I enthusiastically purchased some bumper stickers espousing the messages I believe in, hoping to plant seeds of information at every stop light and traffic jam. Since then, I have received some angry looks, some honks of support or disgust, plenty of glares, some laughs, and a few thumbs-up. I have had some fear that my car would be vandalized for having such bold messages on its bumper, but thus far I’ve had nothing but a broken side mirror, which may or may not have been related. Other wise mama friends have had their stickers ripped off or other vandalization of their property, unfortunately. But still, we find it important to inspire the quest for more parenting information everywhere we go. Bumper stickers, t-shirts, bags, pins, etc. can all be powerful forms of activism, because people who wouldn’t necessarily seek out this information get a glimpse of it, and may go on to learn more just out of curiosity.
I was at a local play place for a few hours the other day, getting homework and blogging done while I watched my son play. When we finally left at dusk, I was pleasantly surprised to find this note stuck under my windshield wiper.
My heart was so glad to know there was another wise mama (or dad, or grandparent, or child-free person!) out there identifying with the strong messages displayed on my car; not getting mad at or disturbed by the information, but embracing it, and possibly already being informed about these issues! I only wish I could have met this like-minded person who is somewhere out there in my community.
What wise mama gear do you have– bumper stickers, shirts, bags, pins? Have you ever gotten a response to it, positive or negative? Share your stories!
“Tantrums” are normal reactions from kids that almost every parent deals with at some point. They can be frustrating and scary for us, particularly if we do not have the tools to guide our children through them in a healthy way. Understanding where they come from can be endlessly helpful. Tantrums are urgent, overwhelming panic responses in a child’s brain.
The valuable and insightful book The Science of Parenting: How today’s brain research can help you raise happy, emotionally balanced children by Margot Sunderland states, “A distress tantrum means that one or more of the three alarm systems (rage, fear and/or separation) in your child’s lower brain has been very strongly activated. As a result, your child’s arousal system will be way out of balance, with too-high levels of stress chemicals searing through his body and brain. Distress tantrums happen because essential brain pathways between a child’s higher brain and his lower brain haven’t developed yet. These brain pathways are necessary to enable a child to manage his big feelings. As a parent, your role is to soothe your child while he experiences the huge hormonal storms in his brain and body.” 
Remembering that this is a biological response can help parents approach the situation with compassion rather than frustration. I wanted to title this “10 Tips to Tame a Tantrum” because it’s catchy, but I recognize that it could potentially seem dismissive of what a child is going through. The aim is not quite to “tame” them, but rather gently guide them through their feelings. Reading tips like this on a regular basis helps me be the parent I want to be!
Empathize, empathize, empathize. Children are still learning emotional regulation and impulse control. They have tantrums the same way adults might feel emotionally overwhelmed after a very long, trying day. Comfort them the way you’d want to be comforted when your emotions feel out of control.
Avoid the panic response. It can be intense and embarrassing to deal with tantrums, especially in public with many watchful, judgmental eyes. But panicking can provoke an urge to control and shame our kids, rather than empathize with them. Ignore the outside world and focus on the best way to comfort your child.
Remember to breathe. Place your hand on your heart, take a deep breath, and take a moment to center yourself. This will help calm yourself and your child. Do this before you react.
Make eye contact. Get down on your child’s level. Children have such a hard time absorbing information when we talk over them instead of talking to them. Making eye contact can reconnect you with your child, calming them and making cooperation more likely.
Show affection. If your child consents to being touched or held at that time, hug them, rub their back, pick them up. Physical comfort can have a calming effect on you both.
Offer a snack. The difference in kids’ behavior when they are content and when they are hungry can be tremendous. Keep healthy snacks handy, especially when you’re going to be out of the house for a while. Apple slices, nut and dried fruit bars, carrot sticks, homemade crackers, bananas, etc. are great choices.
Get some rest. Go lay down with your child for a bit. Snuggle and take a nap if possible. Being overtired greatly intensifies emotional reactions, in both children and adults.
Water! Offer a drink of water and give your child a bath. Simply changing the environment can help calm kids when they are in the throws of heightened emotions.
Go outside. Fresh air works wonders. Being in nature can be therapeutic for children and adults alike. Sometimes kids just have extra energy they need to burn off, and being cooped up indoors can overwhelm them.
Use fun/whimsy/distraction. Distraction can be a negative way to brush off a child’s feelings, but sometimes it is the best way to help them regulate themselves. Tell a magical story, discuss their favorite new subject, sing a funny song, act silly, do jumping jacks, etc.
Vitamins. There are so many options available today that it can be overwhelming. What types of vitamins are out there? What kind of supplement is best? Do people even need to take vitamins? The truth is that not all vitamins are created equal, and knowing the difference is essential.
My experience with vitamins began when I worked at an organic foods co-op in St. Paul, MN. I had seen drug-store variety synthetic vitamins before, but working at the co-op introduced me to food-based vitamins. The difference between food-based vitamins and synthetic vitamins is vast and important. Synthetic vitamins are man-made, harder to absorb, and come with significant risks, including increasing the risk of cancer and heart disease. Mega-vitamin companies latch onto nutrition trends, and create products that are low-quality, mass produced, and not tested for effectiveness. As with many areas of life, it’s best to stick with small, ethical companies that produce quality products, which means shopping at your local health food store, or ordering trusted products online.
The most important point I want to stress is that healthy, whole food is the best source of vitamins. From my experience working at the co-op and in the health and wellness field, I’ve noticed that people are often looking for a simple vitamin pill or powder to take to help them achieve health. There is no such thing. Although there are some great options for supplements, no green wonder powder will ever replace adding fresh, organic spinach and kale to your diet; no vitamin tablet will replace nutrition therapy. The foundation of health is built upon the food we choose to eat, the thoughts we think, and the love we show our bodies. Hippocrates said, “Let thy food be thy medicine,” and this simple advice is some of the best.
Eating a wide variety of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables is an excellent way to get easily absorbable, bioavailable vitamins and minerals. A good goal is to strive to eat a rainbow of different colors in fruits and vegetables every day. There are many options, to be served raw, steamed, and prepared in lots of other fun, delicious ways (check out this recipe blog and this recipe blog for inspiration):
Green: Broccoli, spinach, romain, field greens, cabbage, celery, kiwi, avocado, green grapes, green beans, snap peas, sprouts, cucumber, zucchini, asparagus, green apples
The notion that “whole grains” are an essential part of a healthy diet has been perpetuated by corporate food companies that jumped on the whole wheat bread bandwagon, but there are enough issues with grains that people (especially those dealing with any sort of chronic health issue, whether that’s fatigue or irritability or something more serious) may want to reconsider the place of grains in their diet. I choose to forgo wheat fornumerous reasons, and instead a small portion of my family’s diet consists of quinoa, organic brown or wild rice, and gluten-free whole oatmeal. They are good sources of protein, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, and other vitamins and minerals. They are also easy to digest and much less inflammatorythan other grain options.
Animal products can be an important part of a healthy diet. However, they can also be disastrous if the wrong foods are eaten. Most conventional meat, dairy, and eggs– those sold in most grocery stores across the US– come from animals who are kept in cages on unsanitary factory farms. Due to the unsanitary conditions, antibiotics use is rampant in the meat and dairy industry. Antibiotics in our food can wreak havoc on the body, changing the natural and extremely important flora of our digestive system, and creating superbugs.
Conventional factory farm meat and dairy also lacks nutrients because of the living conditions of the animals. Cows and chickens are meant to be grazing freely in sunlit pastures, eating fresh grass and insects. This lifestyle supplies the vitamin D, vitamin A, and other essential vitamins and minerals that eggs, meat, and dairy are known for. However, the majority of animals raised in the US for food are fed genetically modified corn and grains, and as previously mentioned, they spend the majority of their lives confined to cages. This is not only disastrous to the environment, but also to the animals and the humans who eventually consume them.
Raw, free-range, pastured meat, dairy, and eggs are different. The animals are treated well; they’re free to roam and graze; they’re absorbing plenty of vitamin D from the sun, and antibiotics are generally unneeded. These are powerful high-vitamin foods that contain easily absorbed important nutrients. We have been told for years that fat is bad, but good fats (from these animal sources, and also from plant sources like unrefined organic coconut oil, avocado, and nuts) are essential to proper brain function, and they can help stave off hunger, supporting healthy eating habits and weight-loss goals. Access to free-range, pastured and raw animal products is not always easy, but you can check this resourceto see if there’s a small, ethical farm near you. More people in more cities across the US need to be demanding clean, ethical foods in their local grocery stores, so now is the time to start a grassroots movement if there are limited options in your area.
It’s clear that food is the ultimate, best source of vitamins and minerals that are essential to a healthy life. However, there are instances where vitamins and supplements might be necessary for healing, or to compliment an already healthy diet. In that case, food-based vitamins are the best option. Over the years researching various supplements, I have found a few high-quality sources that I turn to when I need a boost in my diet, and I also recommend them as a wellness coach to people on a healing journey. The following are some suggestions of supplements for vitamins and minerals that may be lacking in your diet.
-Fermented Cod Liver Oil and Butter Oil from Green Pasture: These supplements are relatively expensive, but definitely worth it if you’re trying to heal a chronic health issue, particularly an autoimmune or gut health issue. Cod liver oil and butter oil are nutrient-dense sources of crucial Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins K, D and A, and healthy fats. These powerful supplements can be beneficial for so many issues, including healing teeth, healing the gut, easing anxiety, depression, and ADHD.
-General multi-vitamin: A multi-vitamin should be considered by people with limited access to fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables or free-range animal products, people with specific therapeutic needs, women before, during, and after pregnancy, or anyone looking to improve their general health. Garden Of Life is my favorite food-based vitamin; they also make a wonderful prenatal vitamin that has beneficial herbs for women, and a good children’s chewable. In a multi-vitamin you will find essentials like zinc, calcium, selenium, and iron, among many others.
-Magnesium: Magnesium is an important mineral that is often lacking, which can produce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and fatigue among other issues. Parents who are finding themselves stressed and overwhelmed by parenthood might want to consider a supplement. I take a shot of Natural Calm magnesium drink when I am feeling stressed, and I find it very effective. Magnesium can also be beneficial for children with sleep or anxiety issues; I intend to start using magnesium oil for massages at bedtime. Magnesium-rich foods include pumpkin seeds, dried herbs, real cocoa powder, flax and sesame seeds, nuts, and molasses.
-Folate: Folate is the food version of Folic Acid, and the names are often used interchangeably. Most of us have heard about the benefits of Folic Acid, but Folic Acid, as the synthetic form, comes with risks. Folate does the job, without the risks. A food-based vitamin like Garden Of Life, Rainbow Light, and New Chapter (although they were recently bought out by mega-company Proctor & Gamble) will have folate instead of folic acid. Folate-rich foods include dark leafy greens, beans and lentils, cauliflower, citrus fruit, squash, celery, seeds and nuts.
-Vitamin C: Vitamin C can help treat cold and flu, and has been shown to be successful in the treatment of cancer as well. Camu Camu is a food-based source of vitamin C, derived from the fruit of the same name. It is a much more effective medicine than the plethora of synthetic vitamin C supplements out there. Vitamin C-rich foods include peppers, thyme and parsley, guava, kiwi, leafy greens, oranges, and strawberries.
-B Vitamins: B vitamins are essential for energy and good mental health; lack of B vitamins can spur fatigue, migraines, depression, anxiety, stress, memory loss, and worsened PMS. I swear I do not work for Garden Of Life, but I’ll promote their products again because they’re some of the highest quality, which is important if you’re going to spend money of vitamins: their Raw B Complex is a good choice. Vitamin B-rich foods include liver, clams, oysters, mussels, fish, raw cheese, free-range eggs, nuts, seeds, and veggies.
-Herbs are also a powerful addition to a healthy diet, and can be found in supplement form. Herb Pharmis my favorite brand for herbal tinctures, which include nutrient-dense options like anise, alfalfa, green tea, turmeric, echinacea, and St. John’s Wort.
While it is easy to get caught up in the wide variety of supplements available, learning to regard fresh, whole food as your medicineis the ultimate gift to yourself and your family. I’ve only taken a product or pill regularly when I’ve been in the midst of a healing journey. I turn to Camu Camu, Green Pasture’s butter oil, probiotics, and herbs when my son or I feel a cold or infection coming on. I keep calm with the magnesium drink, and improve energy with B vitamins and kombucha. The best steps I’ve ever taken to improve my general health are fermenting foods and planting a garden.
Wise mamas, share your favorite high-vitamin foods, food-based supplements, or herbal tinctures!
My journey into attachment parenting and mothering-as-activism began long before I became a mother. I have been into alternative living since I can remember, choosing vegetarianism at 12, shaving my head for the sake of Buddhist-style simplicity/punk rock style at 15, and moving away from home to attend an alternative art school at 16. I’ve been fiercely passionate about equality, anti-racism, anti-sexism, and pro-LGBTQ rights since I was a young teen, when I started attending peaceful protests. I started learning about healthier lifestyles at that young of an age, because it fit with my interests. Moving from my smaller hometown of Fargo, ND to the larger city where my school was located, Minneapolis, MN, exposed me to a plethora of information about health, wellness, sustainability, and culture in general. I also saw my first babywearing and breastfeeding mothers there. I supported myself by babysitting as a teenager in Minneapolis, and I remember having an intuitive drive towards gentle communication. I learned that children generally respond well when treated with respect and empathy, rather than punitive punishment and controlling discipline. I experienced positive results from getting on kids’ level (physically and mentally) and talking to them like humans, rather than treating them like nuisances, as our society would often have us do. I learned that instead of demanding obedience, we should teach children to love and respect everyone, and that doing so has the potential to create a more peaceful world.
At 17 I got a job as a nursery coordinator at a Quaker church in Minneapolis, and this helped solidify my views about caring for children. The Quaker beliefs about children are lovely, and similar to Attachment Parenting in that they believe children are worthy of empathy and compassion. They also believe that kids, in their raw, unfiltered, innocent form are closer to The Divine/God/The Universe/whatever you wish to call it, and thus deserve as much respect and honor as any other living thing.
It was around the time that I started working with kids at the Quaker church when I began providing childcare specifically to low-income parents, particularly single mothers. Even though I wasn’t a parent yet, I had an innate understanding of child development, a kinship with kids, and a desire to help mothers be the best moms they can be. Sometimes all it takes to break generational parenting patterns and cycles of violence is some outside perspective and assistance.
My journey into health and wellness has been the result of a combination of experiences, including numerous family members with serious health issues, including multiple sclerosis, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. I have been drawn to clean eating and vegetarianism since I was young; my parents could tell you stories about me rescuing bugs as a child, and wanting to adopt every animal I saw. Not eating animals simply fits with my nature and dietary needs, so I embrace it, although I read a lot of information about traditional food, Nourishing Traditions, Weston A Price, GAPS diet, bone broth, organic/free-range meat, etc. I am able honor my own desire to abstain from eating meat, while respecting the medicinal aspect of animal products as high-vitamin foods. My son and I both consume free-range/local eggs and raw dairy.
As a young teen in my hometown, I had a hard time finding healthy vegetarian options and I had no concept of real, whole food. But when I moved to Minneapolis for school, I was introduced to the world of organic food co-ops, namely the Wedge—one of the US’s largest organic co-ops. I learned for the first time that there were more than two kinds of apples—I had only had Red Delicious and Granny Smith before. In the city, I tried a wide variety of amazing, delicious organic apples that were sustainably grown, and I got to read all about it on the labels at the store. That sparked the beginning of my journey into non-GMO, organic, ethical whole foods, and natural living in general. I soon got a job at the Mississippi Market in St. Paul, MN, where I learned more about organic food, farming, gardening, juicing, non-toxic beauty products, and natural medicine. I worked in the juice bar at the co-op, and there I learned about juice fasting, which has stayed an important part of my health routine.
It was also at the Mississippi Market where I found Ina May Gaskin’s book Spiritual Midwifery. This book blew my mind like no other ever has. I began thinking of birth in completely different terms than the way I had been programmed by my childhood, the media, and our culture to think of it. I was still four years away from becoming a mother, but the door to natural parenting had already been opened.
Then in 2007, I was living back in my hometown, working at a library, casually dating someone when I missed my period, had super tender boobs, and took a home pregnancy test. It was positive. My very uncertain future came crashing down on me. It quickly became clear that the person I had been with definitely was not interested in being involved, although I desperately tried to work it out for a while. It was a one-sided effort, and in hindsight I am so thankful my efforts didn’t drag on for too long. Embracing my role as a single parent is the most empowering thing I have ever done.
I unfortunately had nowhere near the community of wise mamas I now have, so I felt very alone during my pregnancy, but I am eternally grateful that my life had already turned me onto the path of natural living, which made transitioning to natural parenting feel easy. I had a dear friend who was three months ahead of me in her pregnancy, and she introduced me to the term “attachment parenting.” I read everything I could find on the topic. The book The Attachment Connectionwas profound. It discusses attachment theory, and how studies of children in hospitals and orphanages show the necessity of children forming a strong, healthy bond with an attached caregiver. It documented the outcomes of children who were treated with respect and gentle discipline in the home versus children who were raised with controlling, harsh discipline. My intuition was more correct than I had known– the effects of violent, punitive parenting can leave lasting negative scars, including higher risks of low self-esteem, addiction, and future violence. All of which we already have far too much of in our culture. I grew to see attachment parenting not as just a sweet way to mother, but as a profoundly important part of changing our world.
I was blessed to be doing childcare for an awesome family, the mother of which is a doula. Both parents are also acupuncturists, which introduced me to another world of natural medicine. Through my doula I was able to do some art therapy from the incredible book Birthing From Within,which helped me process some of the emotional weight I was carrying, which in turn helped prepare me for birth. My doula lent me homemade cloth diapers and a sling, and that kind gesture again changed my life. Not having to worry about spending money on these incredibly valuable objects made my goals as a parent so much more attainable. This is why we at MotherWise want to form a donation fund to help provide cloth diapers and slings to mothers in need.
I chose to give birth in a hospital, although I had been reading a fair amount about homebirth. I was living in an apartment that I didn’t feel comfortable birthing in, and I thought about asking my mom if I could give birth in her home, but at the time I wasn’t well-versed enough to make a case for it. I felt scared to ask, not knowing that my intuition was actually supported by evidence that homebirth is as safe or safer than hospital birth for low-risk pregnancies. I thought I had prepared well for being in a hospital environment; I had a detailed birth plan, my doula, a lot of empowering information, and confidence that my body could do its job. But I still felt pushed around by the medical system. I had a long labor with a number of different nurses coming in and out, although I had asked for privacy. I had tested positive for Group B Strep, so I was convinced I needed to be on antibiotics, not knowing there are other options. People were barging in and making my job as a laboring woman very difficult. My doula was excellent support, especially when it came to pushing. A nurse was trying to direct my pushing, and her timing was completely off. My doula told me to listen to myself, and gave me the perfect encouragement to get my son out by saying, “Your baby needs you to push him out right now! He is ready to meet you!” She later told me she could see the “birth team” getting forceps ready, even though there was no real need for them. My body had taken over and was pushing my baby out in a wonderfully animalistic way. I soon had my baby in my arms, and I said to him, “Welcome! You are so beautiful! Welcome to the world!”
In my birth plan I stated I did not want my baby removed from my sight unless there was a true medical emergency. I had all procedures done bedside, after we had time bonding. And because my doula had been such an excellent advocate for children by asking me, “You’re not going to circumcise, are you? I think it’s torture. I’ll have to show you a video,” I rejected all unnecessary procedures for my son. I was impressed that although I was in a hospital in a small city in the Midwest, not one nurse or doctor mentioned circumcision to me. In fact, I had two different doctors during my pregnancy speak out strongly against it. I am brought to tears with gratitude for being informed about the issue of routine infant circumcision before my son was born. I know far too many parents who learned the truth only after the surgery was done, and it’s devastating. That is why our MotherWise team works so hard to inform parents about how unnecessary and harmful circumcision is.
I was also blessed with information about breastfeeding, and even though I had a few odds stacked against me, my breastfeeding relationship with my son was more than I ever could have hoped for. I was a new, scared, single parent; no one in my family breastfeeds past a few months, in fact the first time I really saw breastfeeding was when my doula nursed her kids around me. I hit a few bumps in the road, mostly serious pain in the beginning due to a bad latch. I wanted to give up at some points, but I had read enough information about the risks of formula that it wasn’t an option. With the help of my doula, nursing videos, a visit with a lactation consultant, nipple butter, and a brief use of nipple shields, I went on to breastfeed my son for over three years. I feel positively triumphant about it, and I look forward to helping other mothers reach their breastfeeding goals. I will be getting doula certification this summer in order to make that dream a reality. My doula eventually introduced me to one of her doula friends– our very own blogger Crystal! Crystal is one of the only other breastfeeding moms I had in my life in those early years, and her support (amongst her many other amazing gifts) has had a tremendous impact on my life.
I had quit my job at the library due to our country’s terrible maternity leave rate; I just couldn’t imagine leaving my 6-week-old baby with someone else every day. I was willing to learn to live with almost nothing in order to stay with my son, and I did. I learned to make all my own cleaning supplies, greatly simplify my life, stop spending money on things that aren’t completely necessary, and of course breastfeeding, babywearing, cloth diapering, and cosleeping helped me save a lot of money often associated with having a new baby. I also decided to go back to school. I had tried going to college before to study art, but I never dealt with schedules and deadlines well. This time I had a new purpose. I have been studying fine art, painting, illustration, gender studies, and nutrition since 2009. I am almost done with my certification as a health coach, and I will hopefully be graduating in 2013. I have taken a lot of online classes, which has allowed me to “stay at home” with my son. I currently trade childcare with trusted caregivers when needed. My life has been transformed by my journey into education, particularly in terms of the art I have studied, and the knowledge I have gained from Women’s Studies. I met our blog manager, Ashley, in school and she has been a major blessing for myself and my son. I have felt like an academically successful person for the first time in my life, and I love it. I strongly believe in self-education, and I will continue with it forever. I recently learned how to encapsulate placenta, and I will be adding that to my doula services. I am studying illustration with plans to create children’s books, and I hope to attain yoga teacher certification someday. I believe people should be free to investigate, learn, and practice the things they love to do most.
Reflecting on my own experiences in school compelled me to approach homeschooling my son. My son was 16 months old when I started college, and at first I had him in the Early Education Center on campus. The class for the youngest children was great. The teachers were lovely, attentive, and safe, and I only had him there for a couple hours at a time. When he transfered to a class for toddlers the next year, I started to get uncomfortable with the stricter atmosphere. It seemed less understanding of child development, with more demands that children be working on specific activities, rather than allowing the free play that is appropriate for that age. So I pulled my son out of there and put him in a Montessori school. I love the philosophies, but I quickly learned that not all Montessori schools are the same. To put it plainly, some of the teachers were mean and I didn’t want them around my son. It reminded me of my experiences in middle school and highschool, where I felt completely failed by the system. I had a terrible time in school before college, because of the bullying that I experienced, but more so the harassment I witnessed. Some teachers were advocates, others were not, which only adds to the damage some kids end up with. I also suffered a lot academically, because I have always been an artist and a writer, and I had zero motivation to apply myself to other subjects, especially with the way they were taught. What I saw in school paired with what I saw my son and other kids going through cemented my decision to homeschool, and I called on my small community of mamas here to help me achieve that goal. Taking back my power to educate my child has been one of the most empowering decisions I have made yet. We are now unschooling, which fits perfectly with my son’s personality. He is very creative and energetic, and he needs several hours outside every day, preferably exploring nature, in order to function at his best. My ultimate goal with his education is to continue to find ways to make unschooling work as a single parent.
I never had a computer until I started college, which is when I found the magical world of crunchy moms on Facebook. I feel so fortunate to have accessed all the parenting info I had before I even knew so much more of it, and such a community of support, was available online. I quickly met a number of lactivists and intactivists who helped me feel more secure in my activism and advocacy for children’s rights and mothers’ wisdom. I contacted Mothering Magazine to ask them for more information geared towards low-income single parents, and they offered me a position as a blogger for that very topic. I am still in awe that I am blogging for a magazine that I had read voraciously throughout my pregnancy and motherhood.
I met our amazing Jackie through the intactivist world, and we bonded instantly, over many issues aside from circumcision. She has become one of my closest friends although we haven’t met in person yet, and the idea for our MotherWise Facebook page developed quickly. I knew anything we created would be successful because Jackie is just such an amazing force in the world. We soon needed more admins as our fan count grew, and I thought my friend Nicole would be perfect. She is incredibly smart, with a very clever mind that is quick to investigate and understand new topics. I knew Nicole in Minneapolis several years before, where I became close with her and her son. She was one of the single parents I did childcare for, and learning about parenting alongside her has been something I’ve loved even before I became a mother myself.
Eventually we needed another admin, and we decided our wise mama fan Amanda would be a great fit. She always left informed comments, and she has such an enthusiasm for life, we knew her passionate nature would be in tune with ours. With our community of wise mamas continuously growing, Jackie and I started contemplating the idea of starting a blog where we could share important knowledge, document our own research, collect recipes, and have a hub with an archive of all our valuable information. Ashley fit perfectly into our plan with her aesthetic eye, website design experience, blog managing and writing skills. My dear friend Crystal was an obvious choice because of her impact on every life she touches, with her wisdom, positive energy, health and wellness expertise, and patient mothering skills. And thus we formed our blogging team!
I read a beautiful quote recently: “If you get, give. If you learn, teach.” Our MotherWise team believes strongly in this motto, and we want to give and teach everything we have been blessed to learn thus far on our journeys. We will continue to grow and learn alongside our wise mama community, and with excitement in our hearts, we look forward to providing information, support, and our various areas of expertise to our wonderfully supportive readers. Thank you all so much for coming along with us on this journey.
I was a single mother to my oldest son for four years, before my husband and I got together.
My husband was recently gone for a couple weeks for work, and I was parenting alone.
I was parenting alone, but I wasn’t a single parent.
I ruminate on this after witnessing a strange phenomenon where partnered or married mothers call themselves single moms because their partners are gone for any amount of time.
“My hubby’s away this whole week, so I’m a single mom!”
It has been expressed by those of us who are or have been single parents that this is inappropriate.
Stay with me now– I know what some of you are thinking.
“You’re too sensitive!”
“Get over it!”
“I can call myself that if I want to!”
I can see the dismissive comments now.
Because I’ve seen them several times before.
But, in the spirit of letting the voices of marginalized people speak louder than those who wish to speak over them, please consider not calling yourself a single parent unless you truly are one.
Of course you’re free to give yourself that title whether or not it’s true. Some people wonder why it matters, why there is weight to it. Consider this: would you think it’s right for a single mother to call herself a military mom? Or a married mom to call herself a widow?
I’ve actually heard a married woman — whose husband is alive and well — call herself a widow. Because hunting season started. How fortunate to be able to use that title as a joke.
Everyone has their own struggles. This isn’t about who has it worse.
Parenting as a happily married mom is tough. Parenting as a military mom is tough. Solo parenting is tough. I have two kids now, and it’s definitely harder to balance things with my partner gone. But there are differences between solo parenting until your husband gets back, and being a single parent.
While my husband is gone, I can still have contact with him. We email and text. Even when he was in the military and went overseas, I got letters from him.
When I was a single parent, there was no partner for me to share milestones with. No partner to giddily exclaim “He took his first step!” to. No husband for me to send a letter to, expressing how difficult bedtime is without him. No texts and phone calls to check in. No supportive words from a distance.
While my husband is gone, I still live in the home we have created together. His temporary absence does not leave me to support our whole family on my own. He supports me, emotionally and financially, to be a stay-at-home mom. While he is gone, I still have his support.
As a single mother, I was solely responsible for the food we ate, the clothes I put on my child, the roof over our head, every bath time, every bed time, every boo boo — it was all me, and only me, all the time.
While my husband is gone, his blankets are still on our bed. His clothes are still in the closet. His smell is still on his shirt. His image is still in my heart.
When I was a single mother, there was none of that. I was alone. Sometimes it was wonderful and empowering, and other times it was excruciatingly painful and lonely. It was my choice to embark upon parenting on my own (as much of a choice as it can be when you find yourself with a surprise pregnancy and the biological father simply walks out of the scene). But it was hard in ways you cannot understand unless you’ve been there.
When you call yourself a single parent even though you’re not, you treat it like a costume you can put on and take off whenever it’s convenient. The casual treatment of something that is very serious to many of us who have been there is dismissive of our experience. It’s also something of an insult to your partner to claim to be a “single mom” just because they’re out of town for a bit. I’m not single as a result of my husband being gone for work– work that he does to support our family.
Harm reduction is important. Harm reduction is assisted by people being aware of the words they use, and how they impact others. Now you know it is hurtful to some of us. Will you stop?
Imagine your first memories as a child are clouded in violence, fear, and instability.
The person who was tasked with keeping you safe, who you loved unconditionally, was also the person with whom you shared your first high.
You embarked on a decade-long battle with addiction, which began before you could drive a car.
You want nothing more than to overcome this darkness.
You are aware of cycles, how children repeat the patterns of their parents, and you’re terrified at the possibility that your kids could one day experience this nightmare.
You understand that the cycle needs to end now, that you will be the one to show them the way.
Imagine that you are an incarcerated woman. Now imagine that you are incarcerated and pregnant.
Today you are sitting in a women’s prison, carrying your third child, contemplating giving birth sober for the first time, without any family or friends. You need help. You need support.
Stories like these are a common reality for many women in prison today. That’s why the Isis Rising Prison Doula Program is doing something about it.
From their website, “Isis Rising is a prison-based pregnancy, birth, and parenting project provided to women currently serving time at the Shakopee Women’s Prison. The program includes individualized support for expectant incarcerated mothers along with a mothering group facilitated by our doulas, providing support during birth along with the education and skills mothers need to be stronger and more connected.
Isis Rising’s commitment to social change is illustrated in our six core beliefs:
-We believe that we are all connected and that by supporting those in our community who are struggling the most we can better the quality of life for all.
-We believe that all women deserve to make informed decisions about their bodies and their children.
-We believe that all humans have the capacity to change, grow, and transform through the birth process.
-We believe all women deserve the support of another woman at the time of her birth.
-We believe that traditions of female labor support improve the outcomes of labor and delivery.
-We believe that positive birth experiences contribute to improved bonding between mother and child and that this in turn reduces the likelihood of future abuse and neglect of that child.”
All children deserve a healthy start to life. Every child deserves to be welcomed with love, not fear or isolation, and all women deserve a safe birth experience. Among other things, doulas provide continuous labor support. Continuous labor support has been shown to decrease the risks of various birth interventions, including unnecessary c-sections.
The importance of support for women in childbirth cannot be overstated. The work doulas do is valuable beyond words. Where midwives, doctors, and nurses are there primarily for the baby, a doula is present for the mother. She is an attendant to the mother, providing her with prenatal, birth, and postpartum information. A doula gives emotional and physical support during labor, suggesting different positions and pain management techniques. A doula brings you water when you need it most. A doula whispers in your ear, “You can do it!” at the point when you’re sure you can’t. A doula is there to help as you welcome and get to know your new baby.
As of July 1, 2015 all incarcerated women in Minnesota will be allowed access to a doula, as well as prenatal education. This is a huge advancement in the treatment of women during pregnancy and childbirth. Isis Rising is a small grassroots project in which all of the money goes directly to programming. They need to be prepared to meet this need as the new legislation is enacted.
Giving Tuesday is a global day to encourage giving back through donations and supporting small businesses. We have Thanksgiving Thursday, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday is your opportunity to really make a difference! If you’re looking for a way to give back this Giving Tuesday (or any time!), Isis Rising is a tremendously important organization to support. 100% of the donations from this fundraiser will be used solely to pay for births in 2015.
About 1 in 28 children in the United States have a parent in prison. That’s one child from every public school classroom in our country. It’s easy to look beyond our own communities to see suffering in other parts of the world, but there is true suffering in our own backyards. By donating to local causes, we are investing in a healthier community for our own families, and a better chance at a healthier tomorrow for all children.
Click here to make a donation to help mothers and babies have the birth experience they deserve!
What Lena Dunham did is not ok. It’s natural. It’s common. It’s not shameful. It’s not dirty. But it’s not ok.
What Lena did, as recorded in her memoir, is sexually experiment on and with her younger sister, for several years. Since her admission, Lena has been accused of sexually abusing her sister, while many have spoken up to say that it is completely normal and, as such, harmless.
Neither is entirely accurate.
Child sexual exploration is natural, because sex is fascinating, touching ourselves and being touched feels good, and children discover these facts at various ages. It is normal for children to be curious, and react to good physical sensations.
It is common, because children will explore their bodies, and sometimes the bodies of others. They will learn that something feels good, and they will want to repeat it.
But what Lena did is not ok. It’s not ok because children cannot consent. It does not necessarily make her a child molester, because she was a child herself. But she was several years older than her sister, and Dunham would not be the first minor accused of sexual abuse. Where is the line drawn? When is a child old enough to know not to touch another child sexually? What age gap is acceptable? What if it is an 8-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl? There are too many grey areas; too fine of a line between childhood exploration and sexual abuse.
It is natural for children to explore their own bodies; it is natural in the scheme of human sexuality for kids to be curious about their friends’ bodies, but it is not ok for children to explore any body but their own.
Children cannot consent, legally, and before a certain age, developmentally. Sexual contact without consent is sexual assault. An important part of consent is having the ability to say no, and the ability to recognize when someone is saying no.
Children do not have this ability. We all know plenty of toddlers who adore the word “NO!” But true consent means being developmentally able to understand sexual contact, to understand where your relationship with your sexual partner stands, to check in and make sure everything (especially new things) is going well and feeling comfortable. It is wise for partners, even those who have been together for years, to check in: “How does this feel?” “Is this ok?” “How was that for you?”
Affirmative consent is not just the absence of no– it is an enthusiastic YES! While children may have the natural desire for sexual contact (not because they understand sex and all of its complicated layers, but because it feels good), they do not have the developmental capability to form healthy boundaries and give an empowered “NO!” whenever necessary.
Because of this lack of consent, child sexual exploration wades dangerously close to assault, whether it seems completely innocent or not. While it may seem harmless and in some cases be harmless, there is no realistic way for children to form healthy boundaries. There is no guarantee that both children will have innocent intentions. There’s really no way to obtain consent in such situations, and because of that, it is not ok. Common, yes. Natural, yes. Safe? Not necessarily. Rendering it Not. O.K.
With that in mind, how do we prevent this, since it does stem from natural, normal curiosity?
Teach children about the incredible importance of consent. Start early.
DO NOT FORCE YOUR CHILDREN TO HUG OR KISS ANYONE, EVER, EVEN YOU.
Don’t spank your children. This teaches kids that people who love them can hit them, and teaches them they have absolutely no ownership over their own bodies. Spanking is a recipe for powerlessness.
Stop tickling your child if they tell you to stop. Have a “safe word” for rough play.
Teach your kids to obtain consent before touching others. Teach them empathy; ask them how they would feel if someone did this or that to them.
Teach your kids the right names for their genitals. Doing so helps prevent sexual abuse.
Remind your kids that their genitals are private, or sacred, or whatever word works for you and conveys that no one else is allowed to touch them there. I do this with my six-year-old, and have for several years. A casual reminder when he’s washing his genitals in the bath suffices: “Remember, no one is allowed to touch you there [add “until you’re older” when appropriate].”
Empower your kids to say no. Give them choices, and allow them to make their own decisions whenever realistically possible. Something as simple as, “Do you want broccoli or peas for your veggie?” helps empower.
Give kids a sense of bodily autonomy by treating them like human beings who are separate from you. They are having their own experience. Get on their level and empathize.
As your children get older, continue to have age-appropriate conversations about consent, sex, relationships, honesty, and anything else that may help your kids become conscientious people. Have them read things like this and this and thisand thisand this.
This may seem like a lot of information to lay on a young child, but when this approach is normalized from birth, it becomes second nature. My six-year-old has been known to run by me at the playground, chasing a squealing playmate, exclaiming, “They consent!!!”
Children are capable of understanding a lot more than they are given credit for, and they deserve to know this information to avoid being victimized, and to avoid victimizing someone else. Not all childhood sexual exploration is victimizing, but it can be, and because of that, it is our duty as parents to take preventative measures.
Talk to your kids about sex. Talk to them about consent, boundaries, and autonomy. Teach them that their bodies are theirs, and they are worthy of respect. Help keep your kids, and everyone else’s, safe!
It’s true. My heart does go out to Adrian Peterson. My heart also extends greatly to his 4-year-old son who survived the wrath of severe punishment distributed by his father, Adrian. The “spanking” Adrian’s son faced left lashes on his buttocks and scrotum. Many folks are sending Adrian a lot of hate and judgment for his wrong-doings and I completely understand that. In no way, shape, or form does the love I send condone his actions. Love, compassion and understanding are what he needed in the first place. Meaning: love, compassion and understanding could have prevented him from being in the situation he is in today.
On September 12, I tweeted that Adrian wouldn’t be in the situation he is in today if he had taken my Connected Parenting Course. Well, that would actually only be whole heartedly true if he was ready to change, because my course is designed for those who already know the negative implications regarding spanking and corporal punishment. Peterson is one that is clearly unaware, for he believes that physical punishment has served him:
“Peterson went on to reiterate again how much he loves all his kids, and only “whoops” them because he wants them to do right. Toward the end of the interview, Peterson said he would reconsider using switches in the future, but said he would never “eliminate whooping my kids . . . because I know how being spanked has helped me in my life.”
Dear friends, this is the problem. Our society has a history of believing that using physical punishment is OK. That it can help raise kids “right.” The evidence shows otherwise. Peterson is continuing the vicious cycle that was a part of his childhood. A part that has been supported and approved by society for such a long time. Habits are hard to break, add societal and generational programming, and you’re in a heck of a mess.
To be honest, I expected a lot more from Peterson. After his 2-year-old son died from abuse by another man last year (October 2013), I had high hopes for this amazing running back. I thought he could be a strong peaceful person. I thought if he remotely was the type to believe in physical punishment that the death of a son could be a rude awaking. Alas, the cycle continues.
It’s easy to call out a famous person for their mis-deed. It’s easy to look at someone who has been abusive and say, “What an asshole,” “He deserves to rot,” etc. It’s not so easy to see that he needs help. Help seeing that what his parents did to him was not right and that it’s not right to perpetuate the cycle. If he was blessed with love, compassion and understanding as a child, when he made mistakes that others deemed punishable, he would not be in the situation he is in today.
Our children need Love, Compassion and Understanding as they learn and grow! Every human needs love. This cycle Must be broken!