Crunchy with a side of Moderation

November 16, 2010 · 11 comments

Happy Bella saw her cakeThis 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

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Larissa November 16, 2010

Cousin, I just love you :-) This one definitely made me smile.

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2 Amanda November 16, 2010

♥ this post! Really hits home with me!

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3 Theresa November 16, 2010

This totally sounds like me! I call myself a hippie, but I actually just wrote a post – 10 Ways I’m Not Really a Hippie – because I definitely like to shower everyday, and wear make-up and general be normal, while making earth and human friendly choices with my parenting and lifestyle. It’s definitely possible to live in both worlds!

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4 Sara November 16, 2010

I love this! I’ve been going a crunchy a little at a time, but it does make me laugh when friends and family think I’m waaay out there. I’m so not! But I do breastfeed and cloth diaper (most of the time) our twin toddlers. :)

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5 Rae November 16, 2010

Thank you for adding my pic! I love that pic of my niece

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6 Emily November 17, 2010

Can you imagine how exhausting it would be to have an all-or-nothing parenting style? I love that we can take little bits and pieces from different philosophies and cultures, try different combinations – and see what works for us. I’m always surprised when people refer to me as a “hippie mom”. The funny thing is, the ones calling me that were just as surprised to find out how “crunchy” I am – because really – I’m not. Does that make any sense? Unless I become engaged in a conversation about natural birth, breastfeeding a toddler, or…um…the placenta in my freezer, no one would ever think to put me in a hippie category. I hope these and similar topics lose their hippie stigma. Sites like yours help break down stereotypes. I feel like a lot of “crunchy” things are becoming more mainstream, which is great! Let’s save the “hippie” label for the actual hippies, please ;)

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7 Aida N November 17, 2010

Did you read my mind? lol. I swear I had a moment last week where I could’ve written this exact same post. I was thinking about how non-mainstream I am but you wouldn’t really know it by looking at me. So, I don’t fit in with mainstream moms as I live such a different lifestyle than they do BUT at the same time I don’t appear to be extreme enough for the hippie crowd. Good to know I’m not the only one ;)

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8 Jessica (Crunchy-Chewy Mama) November 18, 2010

Love it in the borderlands! Isn’t it interesting how context teaches us about ourselves? I titled my blog Crunchy-Chewy Mama because I am so aware of this in-between space. When I think of my sister-in-law, who lives in a cabin in the woods in Maine, teaches yoga and was raised in Waldorf education (which we’re doing, too), I feel so uptight and suburban in my cable-knit sweaters, allowing my child to accept the Dr. Seuss book he got from his other aunt and knowing his limited exposure to TV and videos eclipses her kids’ by a million-fold. And, as a c-section mom in a group of homebirthers, I often felt like I was a little not of their kind before I had my HBAC this August.

But most of the time here in Northern Virginia, people seem to think I’m this a natural mom thoroughbred. “You’re so good,” I hear. Hey, I just want to be healthy and happy, and I’ve figured out that for me that means a lot of natural stuff and not so much of the other. I’m comfortable with my choices. But sometimes I’m surprised how others react to them. I could not imagine life with a baby and without a sling, nor could a lot of folks I know, but I’m in a writing group where they look upon the Maya Wrap with intimidation.

I recently gave my card to someone who asked what the blog name meant. I referenced what used to be my header image: painted red toenails in Birkenstocks.

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9 Suchada @ Mama Eve November 18, 2010

Love it Jessica! Painted toenails in Birkenstocks describes me pretty well too :)

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10 Natalia January 28, 2011

When I was 8 or 9 I was very upset after school (this is 70′s). My parents kept asking me what was wrong and eventually I asked “whats a hippie and dad please can you take that earring out of your ear”…… my dad smiled and said no, I like it.

My parents raised me vegetarian, but it was my choice to meat outside of the house if I wanted but gave up at aged 10. My mum would send me to school with a giant veggie/cheese sandwich and an apple (of course no one would trade) and when I complained my mum asked me if I was still hungry after my lunch. Of course no, but to me that’s not the point, I wanted jam sandwiches, a packet of chips and a cookie like the rest of the kids, but to my mum all that mattered was I wasn’t hungry and I had had a healthy lunch. She also fed me spoonfuls of cod liver oil, molasses and we had wheatgerm and bran for breakfast (honey added as a treat).

At the time I hated it but as I got older I always had compliments on my skin, hair and general glow of health, so I am grateful to my mum for being out there when although it was the 70′s we got a lot of stick but she kept with it. Trying hard now to bring my daughter up without that sweet palette, so far so good.

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11 Suchada @ Mama Eve January 30, 2011

Natalia, all that talk about healthy food is making me hungry! I think your comment illustrates exactly why children *need* parents, and why it’s important for us to do what we know is best for our children, and not just give them what they would like to have. Thank you so much for sharing!

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