At first glance, it would seem that my husband and I are natural parents. We like to brew homemade beer, we shop at the farmers’ market, and we have had chickens in our backyard. We like breastfeeding. We even let our kids run around naked most of the time and don’t force them to wear shoes outside. I’ve never been a fan of antibacterial soap and similar chemical concoctions most people use to keep themselves clean. And recently we embarked on the natural parenting adventure “par excellence” – cloth diapering.
However, I realized the other day while browsing a “natural” baby store that I really don’t belong in this category. There’s no way I would dream of purchasing half the stuff in that store. $15 for a travel size container of earth-friendly baby wipes? $300 for an organic baby sling? No thank you.
It might sound like this is all about money. Maybe I’m just too poor to be a natural parent. But the money thing is really only a symptom of a deeper problem: the fact what motivates a lot of the “natural” trends is actually far from natural. In reality, our priorities are radically different from our ancestors who we so commonly hearken back to in order to justify the natural things we do. Take co-sleeping as an example. Do you think native cultures slept with their children to prevent SIDS or follow the philosophy of Dr. Sears? No. They slept with their kids because they wanted to protect them from saber tooth tigers or being whisked away into the spirit world. Likewise, when babies were swaddled and put in different locations, it wasn’t to teach them to be independent but rather to prevent heat loss. Talk about a difference in perspective.
It’s too easy to get caught up in parenting trends and forget the things that are most elemental, that inspire the cool baby gear and expensive natural food. If we’re honest, it’s hard to do anything the “natural” way any more. This is coming from someone who makes their own baby wipes. In fact, there are a lot of things the natural parenting movement promotes that aren’t natural at all, like carrying your baby around in an expensive sling or wearing pricey minimalist shoes (although I admit to being a huge fan of both baby wearing and minimalist shoes). When I compare my suburban life to the life of a family who really lives in harmony with nature, it becomes clear that using the term “natural” to describe my parenting habits is a bit of a misnomer.
To be clear, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with wanting to prevent SIDs or following a certain parenting philosophy. I’m not even opposed to expensive organic slings. I guess I’m just expressing a frustration I have with the whole parenting thing, whether you buy the expensive organic baby lotion or stick with good old Johnson and Johnson. Parents are pulled in so many directions by advertising and the media that sometimes it’s good to take a breath, close your eyes, shut out the distraction, and tune in to our own parenting instincts. Forget what Dr. Sears, Benjamin Spock, crunchy mom down the street, or any other parenting guru thinks. What doyou think and why? Call me naïve, but what’s most natural, most fundamental, is that deeper connection between parent and child.