This weekend a high school friend of mine came to visit with her three children. I hadn’t seen her in years, but we found we still had plenty in common, lots of notes to compare, and with the five children between us, no moments of awkward silence. It was great to see her.
We talked about our businesses (she owns Roaming Reflections Photography and is a gorgeous photographer — if you’re in Las Vegas you need to book a session!), and of course a lot about parenting. She and her husband are outdoorsy and environmentally conscious, so I was a little surprised when she said her husband thought my writing was a little “out-there”. To be honest, this always surprises me.
I’ve always had a bit of hippie in me, but I also considered myself fairly mainstream. I shower regularly, try to wear trendy clothes, and drive a car that takes regular fuel (as opposed to a converted diesel that runs on used vegetable oil from McDonald’s). Heck, I even go through the drive-through a few times a month, on the days when I realize I don’t have leftovers for lunch and we’re out of bread and peanut butter because I haven’t gone to the grocery store that week.
But when I write, I write about the idealized version of my life . . . where my gentle parenting style produces children who never scream and I come up with creative recipes to use every bit of vegetable from my CSA box every week. Um, right. At any given moment my children are flipping out and refusing to eat anything but their organic pumpkin chocolate-chip cookies, and unless I’ve had a really good week, I’m cleaning out scraps of kale from the bottom of my crisper drawer (that may have been there for more than the last seven days (or twenty)).
When I wrote my “Counterculture Mama” post, I did it almost as a joke to myself, because I suddenly realized my lifestyle wasn’t quite as mainstream as I’d always imagined it to be. (Most women don’t have a placenta in their freezer? Wha…??) But it also made me realize that it’s possible to not be normal, but still function as part of mainstream society. I make my own shampoo and laundry soap, but I don’t have tell-tale armpit hair or the scent of patchouli wafting ahead of me when I arrive somewhere (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Society has its biases about what “different” looks like, but I’d like to challenge that. The women I admire and consider mentors in my (semi-)crunchy lifestyle aren’t hippies who grew up in communes. They’re intelligent, educated, and thoughtful. Many of them live differently than their parents did, and try things (like home birth, or alternative healthcare) that their families aren’t completely supportive of. Some of them come across as pretty granola, with flowing skirts, long hair, and no makeup, but many of them look at home in corporate settings too.
There are many faces of the natural parent, and there are many practices too. There’s no rule that says you have to subscribe to a CSA, breastfeed, or have your baby at home to belong to the club. I write about my natural parenting experiences because they’re new to me, and fun — not because I’m the ideal or because I think everyone should do it exactly the way I do. I think my friend was pretty surprised to see I was using disposable diapers — just as I was surprised when one of the crunchiest, natural women I know posted on facebook she was having Chili Frito Pie for dinner. (Real Fritos, too — I didn’t think she bought anything that was made in a factory!).
Parenting styles don’t need to be an all-or nothing thing. There’s nothing wrong with learning about a new way of doing something, then taking what works for you and leaving the rest on the table. It won’t make you more mainstream, or less, or anything. And who knows, maybe you’ll start off with a batch of yogurt, then decide to forgo commercial skincare, and then you’ll end up with a home birth. Or not.
Photo Credit: Happy Bella saw her cake by Raelene G, on Flickr