A letter from a “natural parent”

Dear Kait,

Thanks for introducing yourself, and for your beautifully written post. It is clear you worked hard to rein in your knee-jerk reaction to my blog post, and I appreciate that. As the author of Why “Natural Parents” Are Richer and co-author of The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year, I’m happy to respond to the spirit of your post.

I can relate to the source of your anger. You’re sick of reading about how people (read: you) should and shouldn’t parent, and internalized the Time Magazine cover and media blitz as an assault on your parenting style. You want what’s best for your daughter, and you’ve found your way like the rest of us, through trial and error, and you’re sick of seeing your choices get ripped apart by those in the media and blogosphere.

You’re correct – the title of my blog post was meant to draw attention, and I sensed that it would be controversial, despite my attempts otherwise. Parenting in general is controversial, because taking any strong position on parenting, especially a minority one like Attachment Parenting or Natural Parenting (which, you’re correct, are very similar and in some circles synonomous), by default involves rejecting other positions.

To get to the heart of your assumption, while I am a strong advocate for the type of parenting I embrace, I also recognize that each of us makes our own decisions based on our individual circumstances, values, and the information and support available to us at the time. I do not think that breastfeeding is right and bottle feeding is wrong, and I could go down the list of practices that you described and say the same for each. I think that we each have our own “right” and “wrong”, and we each have our own natural and unnatural.

Labels are tricky. We chose to label our book with the term “natural parenting” as a nod to the back-to-basics approach we describe, which many people across time and around the world would just call “parenting.” But labels can be helpful because we all like to take mental shortcuts (i.e. is this book for me or not?), so that’s what I’m working with.

As someone who also fed my baby some formula, bought a crib (I wish I only paid $100!), used disposable diapers, a bouncy seat, etc., I can sincerely tell you that I’m not judging you. Nor do I judge any parent who has the sincere intention of doing right by her child. I wrote the book, and that blog post, in the spirit of educating the self I was before I became a mother. I wish I’d known that most of the assumptions mainstream society makes about baby care are driven by corporate agenda’s or some dead male doctor’s opinion ungrounded in science.

If you choose to read The Other Baby Book, which we wrote so that parents would have access to another alternative that might speak to their heart, you’ll find that we don’t use the word “should” anywhere in its pages. You’ll find that while we educate and inform, we never judge. You’ll find that we embrace the wisdom of mothers, as individuals and as a collective body of powerful beings. And you’ll also find the following words in our introduction,

A discussion on parenting wouldn’t be complete without some mention of guilt. We’ll keep it simple: we trust you. We believe in the strength and intelligence of mothers, and we know that you want to do right by your baby and yourself. Every choice we make has pros and cons, and reflects our values. As women, we tend to feel guilt around decisions, regardless of what choice we make. So we ask you to read with an open mind, and to respect your inner voice.

The goal of our book is not to have you adopt and master our every word. If something doesn’t resonate with you, no matter how many studies back it up, we encourage you to follow Emerson’s lead: “Trust thyself—every heart vibrates to that iron string.”

Sincerely,

Miriam

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7 thoughts on “A letter from a “natural parent””

  1. This is a wonderful response. Embracing and not defensive. I was hoping for more of this attitude in the posts discussing your graph, to foster a genuine discussion. Mamas need to embrace and aid each other, not back away and build walls.

  2. I think this is a very nice response! I am not categorized as a NP or an AP – I’m just a parent who dabbles in whatever is necessary at the time to keep my son happy! I have been told that I’m more AP than I like to admit. HA!

    I wasn’t really offended by your graphic that caused such an uproar. I did find your numbers to be WAY off for the normal/mainstreem parent (and I am not normal – I am quite spendy but even I didn’t spend $1,000 on a crib!). What offends me is people who tell others how they SHOULD parent – rather than just giving them options on how they can decide to parent. I definitely think that this response puts you in the camp of giving people options so that they can make the best decisions for themselves.

  3. Beautifully put. There is no “should”! There is only how you choose to be. Parents that choose more “natural” options, or whatever it may be called, are enjoying having a book and a blog written just for them because they’ve lived, ignored and sometimes ridiculed, on the outskirts for so long!

  4. Very nice response. I think that a lot of people who feel strongly about their parenting beliefs (Kait as well as myself and many others), came to these beliefs through knowing our children. My son liked to be carried everywhere (still does), loved nursing, was not a naturally good sleeper, etc. I don’t think I found AP as much as it found me. Someone with a child who likes to be alone and/or settles easily is going to make different parenting choices and may feel equally strongly that those are the right ones. Knowing your child is most important.

  5. Dear Miriam,
    Thank you so much for your beautiful, kind and heartfelt response. I really do appreciate it more than I can say. You very accurately described how I felt about your piece and I respect that very much.

    I understand what you’re trying to do with your site. I understand that you’re trying to build a community of like-minded women who want to support each other in their parenting styles. I understand that you’re trying to create a safe haven for parents who believe they don’t fit in with mainstream parenting. And I believe that you think your site is inclusive to all mothers who have “the sincere intention of doing right by her child.” You say that you never use the word “should” in the pages of your book, and I’m assuming that extends to your site. I would suggest that while you might not actually use the word “should” on your site (I am making no claims about your book as I have not read it), you are espousing a certain way as more natural and you do that in a way that implies that more natural way is better. You may not agree that that is what you are doing and I respect your opinion on that, I just want to let you know that others feel differently about it. I know that if I were you, I’d appreciate know that.

    This post, this letter to me, is the kind of inclusive, judgment-free message I look for. This post is free of any subtle message about what is more natural and therefore better. This represents the kind of community I would like to be a part of. I’ll continue to read posts on your site, and if they feel as inviting to me and my way of parenting as this one I will certainly enjoy them and welcome them into my life.

    Thank you again for your respectful and thoughtful response.

    Best Regards,

    Kait (picturesandprint.com)

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