Earlier this week, my seven year old (yes, she recently had a birthday) told me I should have a television show titled “Natural Mom” so I could “teach others how to eat healthy.” I responded that I don’t have the personality for television, but that I write about healthy eating on my blog. She didn’t quite understand what a blog is or how it can teach people like television, but I’ve been thinking a lot about what she said, starting with the word “natural.”
I was reading something recently (wish I could remember what) that discussed how difficult it is to pin down an exact meaning of “natural;” it means different things to different people, in different cultures, and in different contexts. Another hitch with the word is using it to describe the noun “mom” or “mother.” Saying someone is a “natural mother” is very similar to saying she is “naturally inclined to mother” or “naturally motherly.” These phrases are dangerously close to what is termed essentialist thinking about women: that womanhood is defined by motherhood, that all women should be mothers, and that all women should know how to mother. While these ideas were prevalent in the past, they no longer form our dominant social thinking about women or motherhood.
So, I would rather describe myself as a mother who tries to incorporate natural ways of eating and living into my family life. Not the best title for a television show, or a blog. Anyway, I thought I’d briefly post some of the ways I go about this, just for kicks. I also have to give credit to my friend Karen for helping me to get to where I am today. I was already on this path when I met Karen, but her example has shown me how much is possible. Thanks, Karen; I’ve missed you the last year since your move.
- If you’ve read other posts on this blog, you know I’m into healthy eating. This means we eat mostly whole foods that we buy in their natural states or grow ourselves: fresh fruits, veggies, meats, eggs, and sea foods; whole grains; dried beans; organic whole milk products; and 100% juices without additives. We try to avoid processed food items, so that means I cook or prepare meals from scratch nearly every day, at least once per day, often more. My mother did this too, as did my grandmothers and great-grandmothers before them. My paternal grandmother even did most of her cooking on a hearth fire, but I am content with a gas stove and electric oven.
- Despite tremendous physical and social barriers, I breastfeed both my children, providing them with optimum nutrition and lots of nurturing time. With my oldest, we could never quite get it right, so I pumped my milk for nine months, at which point my supply went dry. The second time, I was determined to make it work, and after persistent effort the first two months, I successfully nursed her for 22 months. I write about this to illustrate my commitment to a natural food supply for my infants and to show that even very difficult nursing problems can be overcome.
- My children spend their play time interacting with other children, playing with their toys, or reading books instead of watching television, using the computer, or playing video games. They do get time with electronic media, but not as much as most other children. I think they can learn more about life and use their imaginations more if they are interacting with others, especially family members. They spend most of their time with me, and because I intentionally work only part time, I can do a lot with them hands on: reading books, making crafts, playing games, etc.
- I use essential plant oils instead of medicines to promote immune system strength, encourage healing, and to treat cuts and bruises. I buy these rather than make them myself, although I’d also like to try making some using herbs from my garden one day. I dilute them to make wound washes, to spray in the air, and to place on or near the body for aromatherapy. I also drip some into the shower to make healing steams. And, I make herb bouquets to further infuse the aromas throughout the house when someone is sick (see my post Growing Your Own for information about herb bouquets).
- I reduce our exposure to chemicals by using natural cosmetic products (see Sunscreen Regulations for more information), natural cleaning products, and avoiding unnecessary product ingredients. For example, I clean my kitchen with a homemade mixture of equal parts vinegar, water, and rubbing alcohol, which my friend Lee Anne told me about. I usually add some essential oils for scent and cleaning power. Vinegar and water in any ratio, or straight vinegar works too (I use the latter to clean the toilet bowl). I try to streamline our products and choose them based on minimal chemical ingredients, so my children use a plant based shampoo/conditioner combo (Burt's Bees - Baby Bee Shampoo & Wash, 8 oz liquid)and even though their hair can get tangled, I take the time to comb it without a detangling spray.
I could go on, but I’ll save more details for a later post. If all this seems crunchy granola to you, it probably is; I’m used to it and don’t see it that way anymore. I’ve found other blogs and bloggers who are probably crunchier and more granola than me, so I continue to be inspired even after my friend Karen moved away! If you have your own practices to add to this list, I’d love to learn about them.