You may think that being a crunchy-granola mom means that I reject all mainstream ideas, or that I’m thoroughly against modern medicine. Well friends, there’s a lot more to this story. We had a little family breakthrough this week, and it’s actually thanks to a best-selling mainstream parenting book. If you haven’t read Dr. Marc Weissbluth’s Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, and you’re currently battling kids’ sleep habits at your house, you need to check it out. We finally broke through the wee man’s developmental hurdles, and after three nights of Dr. Weissbluth’s “extinction method,” I’m happy to report I have two boys under 2 sleeping peacefully in the same room, almost entirely through the night. **Cue the happy dance!!**
So how does a crunchy mom who believes in attachment parenting, co-sleeping, and extended breastfeeding reconcile using a mainstream practice and allowing a baby to “cry it out” for three nights? For starters, I’m not married to my crunchy-mama lifestyle. I’m married to my husband, and I’m a mother to four children. So our lifestyle is shaped by what we think is best for them. Secondly, our crunchy lifestyle is based on what we’ve read and researched, more specifically, on the pros and cons of what we’ve researched and how those weigh against what we want for our family. Sometimes that means the typical crunchy lifestyle wins, and sometimes we stick with the mainstream. We use cloth diapers because I hate spending a zillion dollars at Target every single week, and because I tend to forget to put things on our shopping list. The cost savings plus the peace-of-mind that comes with always having diapers handy (even if they’re in the washer) is worth washing two extra loads a week. But I also use Tide Ultra to wash said diapers, because the green and natural detergent doesn’t stand a chance against what my boys do to cloth diapers. Seriously. I’ll take chemicals when it comes to cutting through E. Coli.
It’s true. I’m the quintessential crunchy mom when it comes to my biggest decision making. We homeschool because we feel like we can cultivate a curiosity and love for learning in our children that will be a better fit for them long-term than what the school system had to offer. But we also realized that homeschooling wasn’t the best fit for our child with autism, who genuinely needs the structure and intervention of a neurologically therapeutic special-needs school. We eat entirely organic/non-GMO food not because we’re food elitists, but because we don’t want endocrine-interrupting chemicals being introduced to our bodies through the foods we eat. And yes, we’ve read the studies that say it makes little difference, and that there are plenty of natural poisons that can be ingested (for example, I’m fully aware that rattlesnake venom is all-natural/organic, and no, we’re not ingesting it). We’re free-rangers. Our kids don’t have a ton of structure in terms of their activities- we have a few planned things each week, but for the most part, they’re free to run around and play and come up with their own ideas. Seriously, with four kids, I draw the line at taxi-driver/cruise director. I am not going to lose my mind in order to keep these guys occupied! We like how we feel based on these decisions, knowing that they fit our lifestyle and we can adopt them without a lot of challenges.
In my ultimate crunchiness, I’m a home birther. But I didn’t make that choice because Ricki Lake told me to, or because Gisele is doing it, or because I don’t believe in modern medicine. I did it because I suffer terrible side effects from anesthesia. I did it because I’ve read about the dangers that come with repeat cesareans, I knew my husband and I wanted to continue to expand our family, and that the likelihood of me being able to have an unmedicated, intervention-free VBAC would greatly diminish as soon as I walked into a hospital. My midwives do not shun modern medicine- they practice it. They did the same blood pressure check and fetal heart monitoring in each prenatal appointment that my OB/GYNs did. They read the same test results. They monitored my blood sugar, they tested me for Group B strep, and they were prepared to offer me state-required testing at birth. They came to my birth with oxygen tanks for both me and my baby, and were both trained and experienced in handling challenges like shoulder dystocia and third and fourth degree tears. As a woman with absolutely zero prenatal complications and a history of low-risk pregnancy and birth, I was an ideal candidate for home birth. I did it successfully twice and I’d absolutely do it again in the future. It’s the right fit for me, and the right fit for our family.
But here’s the thing. The mainstream thing isn’t all bad. In fact, it’s a pretty good fit for the vast majority of people. And that’s cool. We embrace it plenty of times- today our wee man had a pretty severe asthma attack. I didn’t pull out essential oils to treat him- I took him to the doctor. We need to increase his steroid dose, and we’ll do that. Maybe not so crunchy, but again- it’s about what’s right for our family and our lifestyle. Our family needs our wee man to be able to breathe, and this is what helps him. So the steroid gets to stick around. Conversely, our child with autism and a plethora of other mental challenges suffers terrible side effects as a result of medication, so we use aggressive therapy instead. I struggle with depression, but anti-depressants only make my scary symptoms worse. I need a counselor instead. We have to follow what works. Our over-arching family dynamic is a crunchy one. We like filtered water, non-processed food, limited medical intervention, and a family-centered approach to education. But that’s us. The dynamic changes as our family changes, and I’m sure yours is the same way. What’s beautiful is that we’ve made our decisions based on information- not feelings. So when people feel the need to question or criticize them (which is rare, honestly), it’s pretty easy to explain why we do what we do and move on. I hope the same is true for you- and that you never see my crunchy parenting as a judgment of more traditional parenting. We’re the only ones who have to live our lives, so it makes sense that we’d do that according to our own decision-making and not anyone else’s.