Category Archives: Striving for Balance: Personal & Family

For parents seeking personal and family balance.

Saved by AP and Now 8 Kids Later: An Interview with Margie Wilson-Mars

By Rita Brhel, API’s  publications coordinator, managing editor of Attached Family magazine and an API Leader (Hastings, Nebraska, USA).

photo (1)My husband and I have three children, and we consider our family to be quite busy especially as our children grow older, develop their own interests and add their own activities to the family calendar. I am thankful for Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting as I feel the foundation for secure attachment that we laid in the early childhood years has helped keep us connected in spite of our full schedules. Still, it is mind boggling sometimes to think of what it would be like to add another child to the mix.

And then I met Margie Wilson-Mars of Salem, Oregon, USA. A parenting writer, Margie and her husband of almost 20 years, Robert, have eight children ages 27, 25, 23, 21, 14, 12, 9 and 8—seven sons and one daughter, three of the boys who are on the autism spectrum. Margie and Robert also have three grandchildren ages 7, 6 and 3.

Now there’s a full household! I could hardly wait to share her Attachment Parenting (AP) story.

RITA: Thank you, Margie, for your time. To begin, how did you decide to first try out the AP approach?

MARGIE: By the time I found out there was an actual thing called AP, I had already been practicing it.

I was only 19 when I had my first son. My mother-in-law had been an oddity in the very early ’60s and breastfed her boys. My mother, who was 15 years older than my mother-in-law, was in my ear constantly with, “You just have to nurse for three weeks and then it does no good.” It was simply a reflection of her generation.

Even in 1987, I was the odd one out breastfeeding and refusing to let my son cry it out. I watched Dr. Jay Gordon on “The Home Show” on ABC—so radical then! My mom told me I was punishing myself.

RITA: Your mom didn’t agree with AP?

MARGIE: For the record, she was legitimately worried about me. It’s just what she knew. She was an amazing mom.

By the time my mother passed away, she was finally comfortable with my parenting style. Acceptance means the world to new moms, to all moms.

RITA: So who did you lean on for AP support?

MARGIE: When my daughter was born 19 months later, I found La Leche League meetings. I am a very solitary person, so in hindsight, I wish I’d participated more, but it did give me validation for what I felt.

I just got “worse” from there! I met Peggy O’Mara, went Dr. Sears happy—yeah, I was hooked.

RITA: And your husband is supportive of AP?

MARGIE: After getting remarried, my new husband instantly accepted and participated in AP. In fact, I don’t even recall discussing it. When our first son was born, he slept with us. Well, I should say he slept with his dad because he was only comfortable on Daddy’s hairy chest! Most of them did the same, but our last, preemie Adam, was partial to sleeping on his brother Mark or his “Sissy Mama,” our only daughter, Stephanie.

[Editor's note: Visit the API website to learn more about infant sleep safety and download API’s Infant Sleep Safety Guidelines brochure.]

RITA: At one point, you mentioned to me that AP saved your life. Can you expand on this?

MARGIE: When my first baby, Steven, was born, we moved in with my parents because I was scared to death. When he was 2 weeks old, my older sister came upstairs into my bedroom and asked me what I was doing. Apparently I calmly answered, “I’m going to try and finish feeding this baby, and then I’m throwing him out the window and following.”

I honestly don’t remember how it happened, but I ended up at my mother-in-law’s house where she tucked me into bed for some much needed sleep and took Steven. She would wake me up to feed him, keeping an eye on us, and then send me back to bed.

Her gentle manner just blew my mind, the total opposite from my family. Even the way she bathed him was so soft and stress free. No more watching the clock between feedings or freaking out because he didn’t poop that day.

My depression ran deep, and it took getting pregnant with my daughter Stephanie before it totally lifted. Being constantly reassured that listening to my instincts was not only OK, but good, made all the difference. I have no doubt that if I’d continued on the path I was on, I wouldn’t have made it.

RITA: The quality of parent support can really make all of the difference. I’m glad you found support when you did.

MARGIE: There have certainly been huge bumps in the road since, but my mother-in-law set the tone for my parenting. No matter how rocky things got at times, our attachment was never affected. For example, when my daughter and I clashed through her teenage years, she told me she never felt like she couldn’t crawl into bed with me and know that everything would be OK. Her grandmother is truly the one to thank for that.

RITA: I’m thankful for her, too. The world needs more parents like you—and her! So how has AP worked out for your family as it has grown?

MARGIE: I think the best thing was the ease of taking care of the babies when they were little. When the oldest four were teenagers and the babies were little, we had a gigantic cushy spot—spots are very important in our home—in the living room where I could just be with all of the boys, yet stay accessible to the older ones. It also forced my autistic boys to be social with their brothers.

People are still astonished when they see how cuddly our autistic sons are.

RITA: What is it like seeing your oldest children becoming parents themselves?

MARGIE: Even though we still have little ones at home, seeing our daughter with her children—just wow! She’s the best mother, so instinctive and giving. Our oldest son is a newly single dad and so intensely bonded to his son.

The evolution of parenting, seeing them working so hard to correct the mistakes we made and become even better, closer parents to their children: It’s a beautiful thing to see.

We’re really doing the same thing with our younger boys—improving and evolving. It can be a struggle to stop feeling sorry for yourself and just move forward.

The bigger the family, the more you need Attachment Parenting.

RITA: You mentioned that AP seems to be helping in parenting your children with autism.

MARGIE: This is huge for us.

My third child, Mark, has Asperger’s syndrome. He is from the first wave of autistic children born in 1990 when it started to skyrocket. When he would nurse, he would pull his entire body away, trying so hard not to be touched any more than he had to. The more I’d pull him in, the harder he would fight. Autism wasn’t even on the radar. Mark self-weaned at 8 months old, and I was crushed. He was happy as could be as long as he was on his own.

When our sixth child, Nathan, was 3 months old, our oldest son kept saying, “Something’s wrong with him.” Teens are so subtle. We thought maybe he was just sensitive because he had suffered a birth trauma when my cervix was lipped over his head for over an hour while pushing during labor. An hour after birth, his face turned nearly black from the bruising.

Months later, while I was sick, my husband took Nathan for a checkup. We say that the baby we had died that day. Rob brought home this terrified, seemingly hollow baby we didn’t know. If there was something wrong before, it was a million times worse that day.

Having had Mark, I knew that holding Nathan, feeding him and snuggling him through his fears was the only way to go. People are amazed when they see how connected he is. If I didn’t have him, my husband did. If he didn’t have him, his big sister did. He is a little cuddle monster, and while he has full-blown autism, he shows no signs of “don’t touch me, don’t look at me.”

By the time Justin, baby number 7, came along, we knew fairly early and said, “Ah, we have another Aspie!” Sure enough, he has Asperger’s like his older brother, Mark.

The parents of autistic kids I know have them in day-long therapy, speech class, tactile class, et cetera, et cetera. There’s even one mom I met who put her 12-year-old into a group home when he hit her 4-year-old. She brings him home on Saturdays. I cried when I heard. It still breaks my heart to think about it.

The biggest difference is in how bonded we are to each other. It’s not unusual to see 140-pound, 12-year-old Nathan on his dad’s lap or mine, or finding them all in a big “puppy pile” playing video games. Our youngest, Adam, says, “My friends never sit on their mom’s laps. Isn’t that weird?”

RITA: My oldest, who was an early preemie, had major developmental delays that mimicked autism. She would’ve been diagnosed with autism if she had been born full term. The very day I received that news, I whole-heartedly dived into AP. Before that point, I was kind of wishy-washy. It took a long time to build that trust and connection with her, but today, I credit AP—along with various therapies by AP-friendly professionals—for helping her overcome her challenges. It’s validating, Margie, to hear your story. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

MARGIE: Recently, I’ve read a lot of parents online who have left AP. Most claim that AP parents are too militant and flip out if people stray from [API's] Eight Principles. The parents that make these claims can scare off new moms who are maybe only breastfeeding and want to find out more, or can’t get a good night’s sleep but feel wrong letting their baby cry. I hope that parents think about these things before they make that [judgmental] comment to a new mom.

Screen-Free Week: An Interview with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

By Rita Brhel, managing editor of Attached Family magazine, API’s Publications Coordinator and an API Leader (Hastings API, Nebraska, USA)

for-white-TEE-e1390923415217Television, computers and other technology can offer a lot in terms of education and entertainment. Living in a temperate region with bitter winters and sweltering summers, there are seasons when my outdoors-loving family prefers time inside, and I have found creative ways to turn screen time into interactive family time as needed.

However, I also have to admit that it can be tempting, especially in the seemingly endless winter months, to overdo the screen time. Screen-Free Week—being observed this year from May 5-11—serves as an annual reminder to balance screen time with time away from technology.

Attachment Parenting International (API) promotes a balance of screen time within the family as one of the many ways to prioritize the parent-child relationship. Each year, API’s online magazine, blog, social media sites and other online resources go quiet in support of Screen-Free Week. We’re excited to be able to bring you this interview with Sara Adelmann, MA, with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, home of Screen-Free Week, to further inspire your family to take part in this international event.

RITA: Thank you, Sara, for your time. I understand that this is a very busy time of the year for you as Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) gets ready for Screen-Free Week. API embraces Screen-Free Week as an opportunity to educate and support parents in reducing screen time in their homes. Let’s start by learning more about CCFC and Screen-Free Week.

SARA: CCFC is the proud home to Screen-Free Week. We set the dates each year, provide resources and help spread the word. But it’s the thousands of individuals all over the world who organize local events. Anyone can organize Screen-Free Week in a classroom or entire school, with a scout troop, faith community, neighborhood association, at a local library or in any community group. Organizers and volunteers promote the week, reach out to partners, and help children and families discover fun, screen-free activities.

Screen-Free Week celebrations vary from family to family, school to school and town to town. Every year, we hear from organizers and participants around the globe about all of the fun screen-free activities they’ve discovered. Visit www.screenfree.org to find out how you can get involved—for the children in your life, for yourself and for a more positive, healthier future.

RITA: Screen-Free Week is an innovative project and so needed in our tech-heavy culture. What originally inspired CCFC to organize Screen-Free Week?

SARA: Reducing children’s screen time and advocating for screen-free, commercial-free time and space has always been essential to CCFC’s mission. That’s why when the Center for Screen-Time Awareness closed its doors [in 2010] and asked us to become the new official home of what used to be called “TV-Turnoff” [since 1994], we leaped at the chance.

Children are spending way too much time with screens—a staggering 32 hours per week for preschoolers and even more for older kids. And now, with mobile devices, children are immersed in screens, and the things they sell, nearly every waking moment. Regardless of content, excessive screen time changes children’s fundamental connection to the world. It deprives them of hands-on creative play—the foundation of learning, creativity, constructive problem solving and the capacity to wrestle with life to make it meaningful. And the costs are extraordinary: poor school performance, childhood obesity and problems with attention are just a few.

Turning off screens for seven days helps participants realize that life without screens is not impossible and is actually fun. A week-long turnoff allows sufficient time to explore a wide range of screen-free activities and develop more productive and healthy habits. Giving children the chance to play actively, develop relationships and learn to evaluate options will help them become more well-rounded people, better educated citizens and more alert consumers.

RITA: API loves how Screen-Free Week promotes families spending time together beyond technology, but we recognize that in many families, at least some screen time is the norm. How much screen time is too much?

SARA: Research links excessive screen time with many of the health and social problems facing children today, including learning, attention and social problems, childhood obesity and sleep disturbances. In addition, the more time our youngest children spend with screens, the less time they spend interacting with caring adults and in hands-on, creative play—two activities proven to be important for learning. It also exposes kids to lots of harmful advertising and can be habit forming.

It’s vital that parents monitor the amount of time their children spend with screen media. With so many different devices available these days, parents might not realize how much time their children are spending with screens—minutes can easily turn into hours. Setting rules early on about when, where, what and how much is important.

Navigating Military Life with API’s Eight Principles of Parenting

By Kathryn Abbott, API Leader. Kathryn led an API Support Group in Skagit County, WA, in 2011-2012 and then served as a Co-Leader for San Diego County API in 2012-2013. She plans to start a new API support group in Norfolk this year.

Kathryn Abbott FamilyBoth the joys and the challenges of parenting provide parents opportunities to grow and develop into our best selves. As we undergo this process, we are the model for our children, leading by example and showing them our core values.

For families in which one or both parents serve in the military, there may be a set of unique circumstances that shapes some of those joys and challenges. These circumstances may include moving (on average every two to three years), deployments or long separations, being far from family and friends, interrupted relationships with health professionals, changing schools and jobs, making new friends and finding community, just to name a few.

In my family, my husband serves in the military and I am a stay-at-home parent. We have found that using API’s Eight Principles of Parenting has helped us more easily navigate the life changes that come with serving in the military. It has also helped us maintain consistency for our children during times of change and stress in their lives, leading to more secure attachment. Many nonmilitary families also face the challenges of moving, being far from family and friends, or having to parent separately, so it is my hope that this article will be helpful to military and nonmilitary families alike.

Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting

This principle addresses the need to be prepared for the experiences of pregnancy, birth, the postpartum period and ongoing parenting though all its stages. It encourages us to become informed about the choices we will make for our care during our pregnancy and birth, as well as to become familiar with the stages of child development.

As part of our preparation for birth, my husband and I took a birth class. During the class, we were asked to do a drawing exercise that led us into labor and birth and then from birth into the postpartum period.  When I looked up during my drawing, I saw that my husband was finished with his picture, while I was only about one quarter of the way done. We had a chance to talk about this difference. “I will be getting ready for and then going on deployment three months after our baby is born, so my postpartum experience won’t be long,” he reminded me. Oh, right. For a large part of our newborn’s life, my husband would be working 10-12 hours a day, six days a week, getting ready for deployment, and then he would be gone.

As a military spouse, I am not alone in this experience; many parents are home alone for long days caring for their families or are parenting solo while a spouse is deployed. Many members of the military miss the birth of their child, or they may miss most of the pregnancy and make it home just in time for the birth.

Part of working with this challenge is being prepared for it. Talking about expectations, seeking out the support needed during these times, and finding ways to involve the physically absent partner in the experience of the pregnancy or birth are all strategies families can use to be better prepared for the many transitions to come.

In families in which one parent may be absent from the children for months, understanding child development is vital. For example, the 18-month-old a partner returns home to will be quite different from the 1-year-old he or she left. For the partner at home, sharing the development of the children through emails, letters, phone calls, texts, Skype or Facetime can be very helpful for the parent who is away.

Feeding With Love and Respect

This principle encourages us to meet our children’s need for physical nourishment throughout their lives. Preparing nourishing meals and developing mealtime rituals can be a wonderful way to provide consistency and connection even during the transitions military families must face.

Our family has used our mealtime rituals of sharing meal preparation, eating together as a family and saying a blessing at meals as a way to nurture our whole family during moves, deployments and daily life. Even if our meal is a simple one served on a paper plate while sitting on the floor of an empty house, we come back to the security of preparing meals and eating together.

Respond with Sensitivity

This principle encourages us to respond to our child with sensitivity throughout his or her life. Whether we are holding our crying infant or sharing the joys and challenges of our teenager, we are building a relationship based on trust and empathy.

For families in the military, especially for the parent who is serving, it can be hard to hear our child’s sadness at leaving their home, their friends or perhaps even a pet behind. Choosing to respond to these feelings and expressions with sensitivity only strengthens our relationship with our child.

As the parent, we might need to take a deep breath and remind ourselves that we didn’t create this sadness for our child on purpose. Nor is it ours to take away. We can hold our child and say to her, “I am sorry we moved and your best friend is so far away.” And when she is finished sharing her feelings with us and is ready for a solution, we can help her write a letter or email, or make a phone call or Skype with that friend. And then we can support her through the process of making another new friend.  

Use Nurturing Touch

Using nurturing touch is a wonderful way for all parents to help connect with their children. From babywearing to hugs, tickles and massage, there are many ways to meet your child’s need for nurturing touch.

Nurturing touch can especially be of value during times of change, which can be stressful even when we are happy about them. Remembering to give children extra time for snuggles or foot rubs at bedtime can help them relax in a new home or give them time to share their fears about a parent’s absence.

When a parent returns from a time away from the family, nurturing touch, whether through snuggles or horseplay, can be a wonderful way for the family to reconnect.

In our family, my husband and children have a goodbye/goodnight ritual that includes a hug, kiss, nose rub, butterfly kiss (using the eyelash on a check) and ends with deciding who has the hardest head. Of course, it is always our children who knock him down amid much laughter. This is something they will even do over the phone or Skype, and they love hearing him fall on the floor, even if he is 3,000 miles away.  

Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally

This principle encourages us to meet our children’s needs for security, even at night. This will look different in all families and can include a variety of different sleeping arrangements. These arrangements can and should be flexible to meet the needs of the individuals of the family. Cosleeping (where the child is in the same room as the parents) or bedsharing (where the child sleeps in the bed with the parents) can be invaluable tools for the benefit of both parents and children. (Click to read more about API’s Infant Sleep Safety Guidelines.)

As a new mother, I shared a bed with my newborn to facilitate ease of breastfeeding and maximize my sleep and rest. My husband slept in the other room so he could be sure to have enough rest to fly safely the next day, and later he was on deployment. This sleeping arrangement meant I was better able to care for my infant and myself.

Bed sharing and cosleeping have continued to serve our family well, as they ease our children’s fears in new places, provide an opportunity for warmth and reconnection when my husband returns from deployments or trips, and often allow me, as the solo parent when he is gone, to get some much needed rest.

For families who find that separate sleeping places serve them best, providing assurance to a child through a bedtime ritual (and a nightlight if needed) and responding to their needs at night are ways that help children to feel secure throughout the night.

Provide Consistent and Loving Care

For military families in which the one consistent thing is change, this principle can provide us with a way to help ease some of the insecurities that can arise for our children and ourselves.

It our family, we planned that I would be the stay-home parent. We felt that having one consistent caregiver, especially as we moved, would be the most beneficial arrangement for our children. Since the birth of our oldest daughter eight years ago, we have moved four times. Being able to give our children consistent and loving care has truly been a gift to our family. There is no added sense of loss or insecurity that may come with changing child care as the result of a move.

For some families, both partners need or want to work, but they may also want to find consistent and loving care for their children. Some creative ways I have seen military families meet these needs include: having another family member, such as a grandparent, live with them and provide full-time care for the child; using an in-home nanny; or arranging for child care with a friend who stays home with his or her children.

For the many military parents using a local daycare as their child care option, finding ways to reconnect at the end of the day becomes essential. Taking time to spend some one-on-one time each day, giving extra hugs or having a special date with your child once a week can go a long way in creating and maintaining a secure attachment with you. Seeking out a child care provider who is consistent with your philosophy and acts as your partner in caring for your child is truly a benefit to the whole family.

Practice Positive Discipline

This principle encourages us to use discipline that is empathetic, loving, respectful and that strengthens the connection between parent and child. Positive discipline is the hardest for me when I am under stress. That stress can come, for example, at the end of a long day when there won’t be a partner coming home to relieve me, or when my children are balking at going to the dentist because they have never met this new dentist, or when my house looks like 143 boxes have just been unpacked and nothing has been put away (although really that’s just how it looks after the girls have been busy playing!).

Practicing positive discipline, even if you were raised with it, can be hard. For me, this is the area where parenting calls me to become better than I am right now and also calls me to be as gentle with myself as I can. When I remind myself that I value relationships over things, that I want my children to feel and know what it means to be respected, that I want to repair any disconnect my child is feeling with me, then I can help myself reframe whatever stressful situation I may be in and make the connection with my child.  

Sometimes in order to practice positive discipline, I need to give myself a break. I simply tell the children, “I am feeling angry [or frustrated or upset] and I am going to go outside and take some deep breaths. When I come back we will figure this out.” I give myself that pause and time to de-stress so I can reconnect with the love I have for my children and then reconnect with them.

For the military parent, practicing positive discipline can have an added element of challenge since much of military culture is based on giving and following orders. This is an area where both parents will need to talk through how positive discipline will be used within their family and how to support each other in this practice.

Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life

This principle comes last on the list, but it is really the foundation all the others. If you are not able to have time for yourself and time to nurture your relationship with your partner, it will be more of a challenge to nurture your children and your family.

For military families, this principle can have an added layer of challenge. Moving often requires rebuilding community: you must all make new friends and start over in favorite activities, and there may be new schools and new jobs. When you are far from family and friends and don’t have a trusted child care provider while your partner is away, finding time to recharge can be a challenge.

To help find balance in your days, consider:

  • Attending a support group meeting. Attending (or starting) API support group meetings has been invaluable for me. My children can come, and I get some time with other like-minded parents.

  • Arranging play dates. When my oldest was younger, I had three close friends who all had same-aged children. Once a week, all the children would go to one house for play time and snacks while the other three moms went to do whatever we wanted. Anything from cleaning the floors to doing yoga was on the list! Our children were safe and happy, and we each got a much needed respite.

  • Wake up early. I don’t wake myself early on purpose, but I find that if I am awake before my children, I have time in my day to read, check email or just think.

  • Celebrate the moment. Whether I am making myself a really nice cup of tea or spending 20 minutes on the phone with my sister, I recognize this time as time for me to recharge.

  • Make a date with yourself. When my husband is home, I go on a yoga date with myself and he has a father-daughter date with our children. Many gyms also offer child care if that is something you and your child are comfortable using.

Making time to nurture your relationship is key. Though you will have seasons in which you are more  or less connected with each other, it is important to find ways to keep the relationship strong, especially when you have young children who have many needs. For military families, an added challenge to the parental relationship is the extended separations. These separations can add more stress to a couple in an already stressful situation. Again, being prepared, seeking out resources and using creative solutions can help you maintain your relationship. Simply making the time once a week (even if it is in the early morning!) to maintain your connection to your partner will support and sustain your relationship.

Practicing Attachment Parenting and striving to use API’s Eight Principles of Parenting doesn’t mean my life will be perfect. But I know that when my house is a mess, my children are adjusting to a new home with all that it entails, and my spouse has been gone for more days than I want to count, the tools we use to help maintain connection and build trust and empathy will help us through those times of challenge and those times of joy. These tools help me as I strive to be the person I want to be.

 

Peggy O’Mara: An Interview

By Rita Brhel, managing editor of Attached Family magazine, API’s Publications Coordinator and API Leader (Hastings API, Nebraska).

Photo on 2013-04-01 at 15.58As it turns out with so many of the most amazing people I have been privileged to write about, Peggy O’Mara—a mother of four who was an absolutely integral force in starting and carrying the Attachment Parenting movement for 35 years through her magazine, Mothering—didn’t set out to change the world.

But, wow, she sure did.

I always pictured Peggy as a high-powered magazine executive, but it became quickly apparent that she is just like you and me—first and foremost a mother, now a grandmother, who adores her family but also has a giving heart with a passion for helping parents at all points in their parenting journey.

To begin with, when I began our phone interview and apologized ahead of time for the interruptions from my children that were sure to happen—and did, over a box of Valentine’s Day cards—Peggy recalled a memory of the magazine’s staff, including herself, bringing children into the office and attending to them while pushing out stories and putting together the lifeline that Mothering was for so many mothers. Oh, and she said that sometimes she misses that part with the children underfoot.

While for many of us, Peggy O’Mara and Mothering are synonymous—one will always be linked to the other in our minds—I want this interview to celebrate Peggy as herself, because while Mothering magazine was a large part of her life, she is so much more.

RITA: You began with Mothering at a time very different from today, more than a decade before Attachment Parenting International was founded. What inspired you to begin your Attachment Parenting journey?

PEGGY: I was a La Leche League Leader before Mothering.

I gave birth to my first child in 1974. I was living in southern New Mexico (USA), which was a pretty rural area. My husband and I had moved there wanting to get back to the land. We just had that kind of mind-set. My parents were there, too. When I became pregnant, La Leche League was the first thing I found for any kind of support.

There was a really strong culture of volunteering in those days. Women were just beginning to work more outside the home. I became a La Leche League Leader in 1975. Because there were so few leaders in the area, I quickly took on other volunteer jobs within La Leche League. I did the area newsletter for a time, and then I took on the job of coordinating leader applicants. This job is really what prepared me for Mothering, especially talking to people about their parenting philosophies and learning how to ask questions. I learned so much from La Leche League.

RITA: And then came Mothering?

PEGGY: Most people think I founded Mothering, but I didn’t. I actually found Mothering in 1976, in a health  food store in Albuquerque (New Mexico, USA).

Addie Eavenson founded Mothering in southern Colorado (USA) in 1976 and then moved to Albuquerque. I moved to Albuquerque in 1978. Earlier that year, I had sent Mothering an article I wrote titled “In Defense of Motherhood.” I was reading all these bad stories of motherhood, but no one was saying about how ecstatic it was to be a mother. Addie called and asked me to be an editor! I was pregnant with my third child at the time and literally threw up because I was so excited.

Soon I found myself trying to work at Mothering with three kids under age 5.

Then Addie decided to sell the magazine. She was just ready to move onto something else in her life. She wanted a $5,000 down payment that I didn’t have. I went everywhere, talked to every banker, trying to get the money, but I couldn’t get any. So she was going to sell it to someone else, but then that fell through and I was able to buy the magazine without the down payment—though my husband and I had some pretty stiff monthly payments. It was a miracle! It really was a miracle, and that really influenced me to feel that could I do anything.

So I bought Mothering in 1980, and that was the beginning of that.

RITA: Why did you stay with the name Mothering? How do you feel about fathers?

PEGGY: Fathers are very essential. I think people didn’t think we appreciated fathers.

When I started with Mothering, I wanted to change the name to Whole Family Living. But Addie reminded me that she had named it Mothering to celebrate the act of mothering.  At the time the magazine was founded, mothering itself was really maligned. This was in the 1970s when some feminists called homemakers the family servant. I was among the first generation of mothers leaving the home to go to work.

It’s also important to recognize that fathers are more nurturing now than they were when Mothering was started. Fathers have come so far now that there is a stay-at-home dad’s conference in California (USA). That’s very different than it was in the 1970s.

A mother depends on the support of her partner at home. And here I mean same-sex couples as well as heterosexual couples. Regardless of sexual orientation, our partner’s support is essential; it’s everything.

RITA: What was it like in the early days of Mothering?

PEGGY: The early days were very much “learn as you go.” All I wanted to do was be able to give information. I was very intimidated by the magazine industry. I didn’t want to read anything about it because I didn’t want to know how much I didn’t know, so I just did it one step at a time. I tried to publish what I wanted to see in a magazine: stories I wanted to read, stories from interesting people, beautiful photos, ideas that moved me.

We were hesitant about new technologies at first. Our first office machine was a copy machine in 1982. I remember being pregnant at the time and standing with my belly off to the side because I didn’t know if it was safe to be around the copy machine while it was running.

Getting our first fax machine was a big deal. And, of course, computers—Mothering grew up as technology did, but we were cautious because as a health-oriented magazine, we had published articles on the risks of computer screens to pregnant women. New screens reduced those risks.

RITA: When did Mothering seem to intersect with the wider natural living and Attachment Parenting movements?

PEGGY: Mothering really caught on in 1998. President Bill Clinton was in office, and the environmental movement was really getting going. Cloth diapers were big. There was a growing interest in social justice.

It used to be that anyone looking at Mothering was very much into the natural lifestyle. Anyone reading Mothering was either all in or all out. Then in the mid-1990s, I hired a couple of editors who were different than our traditional readership—they were athletes, really into fitness, and they found that natural parenting worked well with their lifestyle. This was a big change for Mothering: People were choosing natural parenting, but it didn’t define their entire life. The culture was changing quickly from a time when natural food and natural living considered “out there” to a time now when they are now integrated fully into mainstream life.

In 1998, Mothering went from a quarterly to a bimonthly magazine. We also started going to the Natural Products Expo. By the early 2000s, we started seeing babywearing everywhere. It grew to incredible popularity because of the fashion aspect, and along with it came many of the ideas of Attachment Parenting we had been heralding since the 1970s.

We also started seeing growth in Mothering’s influence. Ideas like the family bedroom and nursing past two—I never thought they’d be so accepted by society. It used to be that no one but those of us at La Leche League meetings was talking about these kinds of things. Now they’re part of the national conversation. They’re something that everyone is talking about and most new parents are considering, and many people are doing some parts of it or all of it.

RITA: And Mothering helped to inspire Attachment Parenting International as well.

PEGGY: I first met Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker [API’s cofounders] through La Leche League. They were leaders, too, and we would attend the same conferences. I think we were all influenced by a talk at one of the conferences by Dr. Elliott Barker of the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, who explained how every violent criminal he had encountered had a history of extreme separation and insecure attachment as a child.

RITA: Certainly you had more influence through Mothering than you might have realized. And yet somehow, even the best of causes seem to find opposition. How did you handle Mothering’s critics?

PEGGY: In many ways, having critics means that you are affecting people, making them think and respond. I tried to offer explanations and evidence, but often critics respond emotionally, and Mothering is not for everyone. I took on controversial topics in print because I wanted parents to have important information to make decisions about their children now. I trusted that parents would sort out their own truth from what I offered, and I never pretended to be objective.

Online, our discussion forums grew rapidly and were ranked by Big Boards as the largest for parents online. This was in the early 2000s before Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest got so popular, and we had seen other online communities go out of control and implode. We drew some criticism for our moderation policies at that time, but they were intended to keep the discussions civil and focused on natural family living. At one time, we had 80 volunteer moderators.

RITA: When did you decide to transition Mothering from print to online?

PEGGY: Well, it wasn’t so much a decision as something about which there was no choice. Mothering in print was a small magazine, a niche magazine, with a 100,000 circulation. In the mid-1990s, we founded Mothering.com and the boards. In the 2000s, the growth of Mothering.com far eclipsed the magazine. By 2010, we were seeing 750,000 unique visitors per month. Parents everywhere, within and beyond Mothering, were going to the Internet.

That growth of Mothering.com paralleled with what happened to the economy. We had grown the business to a $2 million-per-year business. 2009 was our best year.

In 2010, we were seeing the beginnings of the recession. Our advertising dropped and so did our subscriptions. Nearly half of our subscriptions were traditionally gift subscriptions. During the recession, people weren’t giving gifts. They weren’t buying subscriptions. Advertising in print was down.

We were cutting expenses, but it got the best of us and Mothering developed a lot of debt to the printer and to our ad reps. The last three issues of 2010 were printing later and later because our cash flow was reduced. We were selling ads, but our January 2011 issue experienced the lowest ad sales in 10 years. We were just too far gone by then. It was all I could do to keep from going bankrupt, so I had to sell the business.

I stopped publishing the magazine in February 2011 and sold the website to pay off the print debt in July of 2011.

I became an employee of the new owners. I had a two-year contract and then was laid off in November of 2012. I was unemployed for the first time in decades but was able to get a reverse mortgage and reduce my monthly payments quite a bit.

Even though I am no longer associated with Mothering, others continue to think of Mothering and me as one and the same. I have no control over the editorial or advertising direction that Mothering is taking now, and yet I will always be associated with the business in many people’s minds.

RITA: That is so hard. I praise you for making it through.

PEGGY: Thank you. It has been hard.

RITA: And now?

PEGGY: I didn’t think I could do a digital magazine without staff, so I challenged myself to make a WordPress site. It gave me confidence after I lost so much.

I started www.peggyomara.com in August of 2013. I’m doing what I did in the beginning with Mothering—really connecting with writers and people who have interesting things to say. I’ve always been motivated by social justice and can focus more on that now.

I’m really having fun. There’s a lot less pressure, so I can be more creative now. I plan to grow the site just the way I grew Mothering.

RITA: The Internet has changed so much of how everyone communicates and how information is disseminated to the public. What are your thoughts?

PEGGY: I love blogging. I love the Internet. I like what the Internet has given us in access to information and freedom from isolation.

There are a lot of voices on the Internet. You’re able to choose your own reality, your own world. You choose what you really want to know, whom you want to listen to. The evolution of the online user is such that people eventually look for the authoritative voice so that the information they’re getting is something they can trust.

RITA: Do you feel that parents can get adequate support through online sources?

PEGGY: Parents can get a lot of information online, but it’s not a substitute for in-person support. What the Internet has increased so much is advocacy and social entrepreneurship.

RITA: With your history of advocating for natural parenting and Attachment Parenting, what advice can you give others?

PEGGY: Start by acknowledging the other person’s position. For example, through La Leche League meetings, I learned that even if I had a great experience breastfeeding, another might have had a lot of difficulty or felt tied down by the frequent nursings. In order to talk to and possibly help a mom with different experiences than my own, I have to understand my own biases and practice compassion.

Start with a certain gentleness. Share your experiences, and keep it personal. Talk from your heart rather than your head. Use I-messages, just as you would to talk to your child. Talking about your own experiences is better than anything, rather than lecturing.

At the same time, in the media, too much information is presented as opinion when facts do matter. There is a difference between opinion and facts. I always try to combine my instincts with the science if I can.

 

Take Time to Reconnect After the Work Day

By Rita Brhel, managing editor of Attached Family magazine, API’s Publications Coordinator and an API Leader (Hastings API, Nebraska). Originally published on TheAttachedFamily.com in October 2008.

Boy & TeddyMy friend, Nicole, and her husband both work full-time. Their two-year-old daughter spends the day with a childcare provider who has watched her since she was six weeks old. Oftentimes, Nicole comes home after a 45-minute commute tired, wanting to relax and spend time playing happily with her daughter.

When her child was younger, Nicole would breastfeed to help reconnect in the evenings, but as her daughter grew into a toddler and weaned, the challenge of creating a peaceful evening has mounted. Her daughter, hungry for her attention, seems to push the limits constantly, often bringing home acting-out behaviors she’s learned from older children in her daycare. While Nicole believes that discipline is important, she doesn’t want to ruin the evening, and tends to discipline inconsistently, choosing not to discipline when it appears her child is starting a tantrum.

When you’ve spent most of the day away from your child, it’s natural to want to come home and spend a peaceful evening relaxing and playing together. But some busy parents have difficulty finding quality time to spend with their child. The parents’ priority may be to enjoy a phone conversation with a friend, to watch television for an hour, or to have a family dinner at a local restaurant. The children, anxious for their parents’ undivided attention, may express their frustration through tantrums and other acting-out behavior, quickly causing tension for the entire family. Should these parents, like Nicole, let discipline go by the wayside in an effort to have a more peaceful evening?

Consistent Discipline Always Important

Discipline is a very important component of Attachment Parenting (AP). As outlined by Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting, discipline is an essential tool in helping children to develop a conscience, especially as the child grows and becomes more independent. But a key part of AP discipline is teaching children, not by reacting to their behavior, but by meeting the needs that lead to undesirable behavior. The same holds true for stressed, dual-income families seeking quality family time in the evenings after the children come home from daycare and before they go to bed.

Reconnecting after being apart for a day is essential for working families, according to Jane Nelsen, EdD, in her 2005 article “Seven Ways Busy Parents Can Help Their Children Feel Special,” posted on www.positivediscipline.com.

“Helping your child feel special is a matter of planning and habit, not a lack of time,” writes Nelsen, who co-authored Positive Discipline for Working Parents.

Here are some of her tips to help parents to reconnect with their children at the end of the day:

  • Take time for hugs – Don’t underestimate the power of a hug in changing attitudes, yours and your children’s. Hugs can also be significant in stopping acting-out behavior.
  • Involve your children in rule-setting – Children are much more enthusiastic about following rules that they’ve had a part in setting. Help them come up with creative ways of getting their chores done or setting morning and bedtime routines, and brainstorm solutions for other issues that tend to be contentious.
  • Include your children in your chores – Your children will feel empowered when you ask them for help, instead of lecturing or scolding. Instead of getting angry that there are toys all over the floor of the family room, ask them to help clean it up.
  • Regularly schedule special time with the children – Set aside some one-on-one time together with each of your children. Nelsen recommends at least 10 to 15 minutes a day for young children and at least 30-60 minutes a week for school-age children, although many parents would argue that children need more one-on-one time with their parents than this. Actually putting this quality time in your calendar means you’re making it a priority, and even when an evening is particularly hectic, your children will know that you will be available for their special time.
  • Take time to listen and share – Ask your child to share her happiest and saddest moments of the day. Perhaps you do this during your special time together, or at bedtime as Nelsen recommends. Listen without trying to solve problems, and then take your turn to tell your own happy and sad moments.
  • Write a note to your child – Put a hand-written note in your child’s lunch box, on his pillow, or tape it to the bathroom mirror. The notes, like hugs, give children a boost during the day.
  • Take advantage of errands – Whether you’re going grocery shopping, to the bank, or dropping mail off at the post office, the drive time during these errands provides additional one-on-one time for your child. If you have several children, have them take turns. Take this time to listen to whatever your child wants to talk about, and share special stories from your life, such as when you were younger.

Children may act out because they feel they aren’t receiving enough undivided attention from their parents. By taking the time to reconnect with their children, parents are not only fulfilling children’s needs but also giving themselves exactly what they need – children who feel right with themselves and with their families, and who are less likely to act out. And if children do have a tantrum or act out, those who feel connected respond more positively to their parents’ discipline.

A key part of AP discipline is teaching children, not by reacting to their behavior but by meeting the needs that are leading to the undesirable behavior.

Spotlight On: Birth, Breath and Death

Birth Breath and Death Front Cover copy

An interview with author Amy Wright Glenn about her book Birth, Breath, and Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula.

Tell us about your book.

Birth, Breath, and Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula is a heartfelt account of my work with the birthing and dying. I am a doula. I hold space for women as they give birth. I am a chaplain. I hold space for the dying. I am drawn to life’s thresholds. I am drawn to these doorways.

Birth, Breath, and Death is also a deeply personal exploration of what it meant for me to become a mother, given the painful legacy of my mother’s mental illness. I write about the healing attachment found in cosleeping, breastfeeding and babywearing. I weave together research on attachment and brain development, with reflections on empathy and compassion.

Finally, I share personal stories about birth and death, combined with philosophical reflections as my academic background is in the study of comparative religions and philosophy.

What inspired you to write this book?

My husband, Clark, came up with the title of this book during my training as a hospital chaplain. However, I wasn’t ready to write this book at that point in my life. It was the birth of my son–and the subsequently profound opening of my heart–that compelled me to write this book.

I didn’t want to go back to full-time academic work after holding my newborn in my arms. I knew I could use my skill as a writer to contribute financially to the family and fulfill my heart’s longing, and the longing of my young son, to stay at home and nurture him with the best of my energy and talents.

Much of Birth, Breath, and Death came to me in meditation, and I often woke up from sleep with sentences running through my mind. Writing has opened up many doors for me, and I’m grateful to find a way to work from home and share my insights, struggles, hopes and experiences.

How will this book benefit families?

All of us are born. All of us die. I write about the deepest questions we can examine in life. Within our family circles, we encounter both the miraculous and the mundane. Within our families, we most deeply encounter the transformative energies of birth and death.

I believe we all benefit from reflecting upon what it means to be born and what it means to die. These are life’s big questions. Even if one disagrees with my responses to these big questions, it is still invaluable to take the time to reflect upon them with an open heart and mind.

Parents, in particular, will benefit from reading this book as I reflect on what it means to be a parent and find one’s own way, trust one’s intuition, and draw upon best practices and scholarship to bring out the best in oneself and one’s children.

You share birth stories and reflect upon your work as a chaplain supporting the dying, but tell us more about the “Breath” part of your book.

The first thing we do upon leaving our mother’s body is breathe in, and the last thing we do before we die is breathe out. The breath is the link, the thread. It is a powerfully loyal friend throughout life’s journey between birth and death.

I practice meditation and teach yoga. Conscious breath awareness is central to these mindfulness practices. It’s central to living a mindful life. The “breath” part of the book relates to teachings drawn from many wisdom traditions that help us keep our hearts open as we live with love and seek truth.

You studied comparative religion and taught this on the college and high school level, so how does this impact your writing?

My studies of comparative religion and philosophy profoundly impact everything I do. I love making links between the particular and the universal, between the day-to-day patterns of living and the deep reflections that thinkers across time and culture bring to human life. My book is academically rigorous in the sense that I draw freely from my training as a scholar in the telling of birth, breath and death tales.

What are your views of Attachment Parenting International and what API is doing? How does your book work within our mission statement?

Attachment Parenting International is an organization I admire, support and celebrate. I’m very grateful for API’s commitment to link best parenting practices with research, and support families to develop secure attachments that foster the development of empathy, courage and resilience.

I found myself naturally practicing many AP styles of mothering and applied my previous research in the field of ethical development to the work of nurturing my son. I certainly want to support all parents to “raise secure, joyful, and empathetic children.” We do this best when we as parents embody these qualities ourselves.

My book chronicles my own journey of working through the pain of a difficult childhood and emerging with joy and empathy to embrace openhearted mothering.

Where can readers find more information?

Readers can visit my website www.birthbreathanddeath.com to read reviews of the book and find purchase information.

 

Ask A Leader: Housework Stress and Car Seat Woes

By Leyani Redditi and Cason Zarro, API Leaders of API of Greater Atlanta, Georgia

Q: I am feeling overwhelmed with household chores and parenting. I want to be present for my children, but the pressure of everything I need to get done is so stressful. How can I get everything done and have time for my kids?

1208354_91362232A: I have struggled with this balance myself. It is fine to say to a brand new parent not to worry about the dirty dishes, but eventually they do need to get done. I find that when my home is relatively clean and we have food in the fridge and clean clothes, my family and I are less stressed.

So how does it all get done? Well, first of all, it doesn’t ALL get done. Some things will go by the wayside. Maybe it is the folding or ironing part of laundry. A basket of clean clothes still counts as doing laundry. By all means cut corners where you feel you can while still feeling good in your space. But even then there are repetitive and time-consuming tasks that somehow need to get done.

Here is what I have found to be the most helpful for getting things done while taking care of my children: Figure out a system, do things in short increments and do something each day.

Find your system: Everyone has a different way of organizing themselves (or not), but when you sit down and list the things that need to happen in a day, you see why you are so busy (and tired) and why sometimes it feels so overwhelming. So make the list, give yourself credit for how hard you work and then get strategic.

Figure out what things need to be done each day, each week and each month. How can other family members help with these tasks? You all live in the house and can all help in some way. My 3-year-old helps set the table and picks up toys during our family 10-minute toy pick-ups. My 7-year-old puts away her own clean laundry and feeds our pets. My husband helps with dishes and home maintenance. I have found it very helpful to have a Morning List and an Evening List. And, no, we don’t get everything done each day, but we are all involved, and we know what needs to be done (most days).

Work in short increments: Having a newborn taught me to use the very short amounts of time I had with both hands free to get a lot done. Talk about learning to prioritize! I love the idea of only spending 10 or maximum 15 minutes on a task. I don’t wait until I have an hour to do chores. I do 10 minutes here, 10 there, and slowly things get done. Really it’s finding the rhythm of your day and your family. I think about fitting in little bursts of activity so that I can have the luxury of long chore-free stretches with my children.

Do something each day: Household chores are ongoing and repetitive; the plates get dirty over and over again. For me, learning to think of these activities as “life maintenance” was very helpful. Just like brushing my teeth, there are some things that need to get done every day (or at least most days). I had to give up the idea that at some point I’d find a bunch of free time to get it all done. So I do something each day. Sometimes getting the dirty dishes into the dishwasher is it. Other days, we pick up the house as a family. We put on great music and set the timer for 10 minutes. Then it is a mad dash around the house full of laughter as we pick up and put away what we can.

Most importantly, give yourself credit for whatever you get done. Feel good you are doing something rather than bad that you are not doing everything.

~ Leyani Redditi

*Scroll down to read more suggestions from our readers.

Q: My 6-week-old baby cries and cries every time he is in the car. How can I help him like the car?

A: Although many babies are put to sleep by the sound and vibration of the car, there are quite a few babes who cry and want to get out. Time will certainly make this better, but there are some things you can try in the meantime.

Some babies are simply not comfortable in their infant car seats. If you think that is the case, you may wish to try a different model car seat. Sometimes switching to a convertible seat may result in a happier baby because the seat may be more comfortable. A convertible seat is one that can be placed rear-facing for infants, and then turned around when your little one has reached the rear-facing limits for the seat. You should consult the car seat manual to determine if your infant meets the minimum weight and size requirement for a convertible seat.

Nurse or feed your baby right before you leave. Make sure his diaper is dry and that he has burped. You want him to be as comfortable as possible before strapping him in his seat.

If there are any music or radio shows that you listened to while pregnant, try listening to them in the car. The familiar noises can be very comforting for babies. Try singing some lullabies or upbeat songs, depending on what your baby prefers. Some babies are soothed by white noise. In a pinch, radio static can act as white noise.

You could also try placing a T-shirt you’ve recently worn close to your dear son. The familiar smell of Mama may help him feel less lonely. Some families have found it helpful to tape a picture of mom’s face where the baby can see it. If you are the passenger, reach back and rub his head or sit in the seat next to him.

Sometimes you may need to pull over to a safe place and nurse or otherwise comfort your baby. I have found it helpful to pull over, sit in the seat next to my baby and lean over to nurse her. She will even fall asleep occasionally, and I can sneak around and drive while she sleeps peacefully. If your son will be comforted this way, it can be helpful to keep him buckled so that he doesn’t wake up when you are trying to get him back in his seat. You can also try nursing him like this before even leaving the house.

Allow extra time, especially if you need to be somewhere at a certain time. This can reduce your stress when you do need to stop. Reduce unnecessary trips, and encourage friends to come visit you.

If all else fails, talk to your pediatrician to rule out a medical reason such as acid reflux.

~ Cason Zarro

We asked readers on Facebook to tell us how they find balance with household chores and parenting. Click here to read the full conversation on Facebook.

Sunshine: Lower your expectations. Best piece of advice that was given to me!

Erin: We gave up cable and hired a housekeeper to come once every 2 weeks. Best money ever spent in our home of 2 full-time workers. It allows us to spend time with our kids after work and still get lunches packed, etc.

Ina: Prioritize–listening to your child’s idea is a “now,” folding laundry is a “later,” and cleaning the garage is a “maybe.” Downsize–don’t have too many clothes, toys and knick-knacks around. The more you own, the more you clean. Change the bottlenecks–if there is a time of crazy stress during the day, try to change it (e.g., if bathing in the evening is stressful, bathe them after lunch).

Leah: Sometimes you just have to let go of the phrases “I need to” or “I should.”

Elizabeth: I find a lot of comfort from a weekly chart. I do just two or three main house cleaning things per day, and then I’m not spending an entire day cleaning everything. I also remind myself that my chart is a guide, not a “to do” list. I keep my kitchen tasks for after school time since my son is in there already doing his homework. He sits up to the counter, and I help him with his homework as needed while I do the dishes and get dinner on.

Sandra: The bottom stair and a shelf at the top of the stairs are the gathering area for things that need to be put away. No wasted trips up or down the stairs. Going up anyway–take the packs of tissue to the hall closet. Coming down–bring the glasses to put in the dishwasher.

Jennifer: I take a nightly bath with my two youngest (4 months & 19 months). It’s probably the only way I can even fit in a bath at night for myself. It’s such a sweet moment and my favorite part of the day. I wash each, hand them one by one to dad to dress, then rinse off myself. Simple things make a difference!

Jane: Keep kids involved; it’s their house, too. All three of them love it when I allow them to wash the bathroom (not the toilet). We get $2 spray bottles, fill with water and either vinegar, bicarbonate or lemon, and let them go for it. Let go of your pre-kids standard.

Brittany: Just decide sometimes that it’s actually not the priority; sometimes playing with your kids, reading stories, or taking a relaxing bath while listening to jazz or opera is more important. Sometimes meditating and deciding to be grateful that it’s your life and those are your kids before you crank up the music and start working helps you keep focus.

Cathy: By just implying it should all be balanced and we should be managing it–without staff–is just unfair at times.

Savannah: Having a routine of cleaning during a certain part of the day has unintentionally given my daughter a routine for when to have “alone” play time, which she enjoys quite a bit.

Maria: If you have something you need to do without kids nagging, give them lots of attention first. Play a game, get exercise, feed them, snuggle. Then try to get your task done.

Lauren: Babywearing definitely helps!

Aimee: Honestly, I just let things go. I clean up food and big messes, but our house is not perfectly clean unless we have guests coming over, then I do a quick major overhaul! We work full time, and I’d rather spend the time I do have with my daughter. I’d love to always have healthy home-cooked meals, but we do a lot of ready-made meals from Trader Joes.

Louise: My hubby is superb and cleans the kitchen whilst balancing both kids in the mornings, so I can sleep a bit more (5-month-old feeds 2 hourly), and I do the rest of the house. Online grocery shopping is a godsend!

Elizabeth: A few tactical things we do to help keep me from being overwhelmed: hired a cleaning person, make two meals on Sunday so we have leftovers for the first half of the work week, and use a grocery list app.

Josie: While my husband is doing the bedtime routine, I take 10 minutes to pick up the toys and straighten up a bit. It’s easier to start from zero the next morning!

Melanie: I have baskets in several rooms, so when I see something that doesn’t belong in that room (comb, dog collar, Lego brick, calculator, etc.), I pop it in the basket. Then every week or so, I empty all the baskets into a pile on the lounge floor and shout, “Come and get your stuff; anything not collected goes in the charity bag.” Works every time, and we quite often have stuff there for charity, too.

Kristen: My husband shares in all chores and, in fact, probably does more than me since our daughter was born (9 months old and breastfeeding). I spent half my childhood pretending to keep house or work … just because our society tells us these things aren’t fun doesn’t have to make it true for us. For our family, housekeeping is part of the overall peace of our lives.

Judy: I am thinking about doing a home office share with another work-from-home mom so that we can trade off child care on 2 hour shifts for each other while the other gets stuff done.

Cherry: I remind myself that it isn’t my ever-so-clean carpets and clean kitchen that I will be remembering on my death bed … it will be my time spent with my DD.

 

 

 

Spotlight On: Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids

An interview with Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids author, Dr. Laura Markham.

Tell us about your book. What was the inspiration?PeacefulParentHappyKids_FINAL.indd

Most parenting books focus on changing the child’s behavior. But when you try to control another person’s behavior, they resist. Kids only accept our guidance to the degree that they feel connected to us. In other words, our influence with our children and our ability to guide them as they grow comes from their connection to us.

So Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids is designed to help parents stay connected as their babies grow into toddlers and then into children, and to give parents best practices to guide and coach kids, rather than control them.

Finally, this book is designed to foster emotional intelligence in both parents and children. When humans–both parents and children–are in the grip of strong emotions like anger and fear, we disconnect from each other. So one of my goals in writing this book was to help parents learn to regulate their own emotions. That enables them to stay connected even in the face of their child’s upsets and to support their child’s healthy emotional development.

What inspired you to write the book?

There are lots of good books about babies written from an attachment perspective. But once babies start to assert themselves as toddlers, parents are often challenged to stay connected and foster healthy emotional development as they set limits. The parents I work with kept asking me for a book that elaborated on what I was saying to them in coaching sessions–a blueprint for raising a happy, connected, emotionally healthy child!

How will this book benefit families?

Parents do the hardest job there is, often without the information and support they need. This book gives parents that information and support, with hands-on tools that are easy to put into practice. Parents learn to regulate their own emotions to stay calm, they learn how to stay connected even while stressed, and they learn how to help kids want to cooperate even as they grow into strong, self-directed people.

Because I’m a mom, this book is completely practical, focusing on how to transform your daily interactions with your child. Instead of tips to control or manipulate behavior with punishment and bribes, there are step-by-step recipes to coach your child’s development into a more confident, resilient, self- disciplined, emotionally intelligent person.

What are your views of Attachment Parenting International and what API is doing? How does your book work within our mission statement?

My training is an attachment theorist, so I’m a big fan of API. I love that API makes attachment parenting accessible for all families. API’s Eight Principles are brilliant because they succinctly introduce parents to the needs of children for optimal development. And, of course, since parents can only offer children what they have inside themselves, the eighth principle–balance and taking care of yourself–is critical to our ability as parents to respond with sensitivity to our children’s needs.

Lysa Parker and Barbara Nicholson’s book, Attached at the Heart, explains the Eight Principles in depth. Some of these principles, like responding with sensitivity and using positive discipline, can be hard to put into practice as your child gets into the toddler years and beyond because we as parents are only human and we get emotionally triggered. So my book gives parents the tools to put the Eight Principles into practice by regulating their own emotions and by staying connected as their baby grows into a child.

In addition, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids extends the discussion on discipline. API advocates for loving guidance that strengthens the connection between parent and child, just as I do. Often positive discipline approaches don’t address emotion sufficiently to “work,” especially with more difficult kids. My book goes into detail on how to address the emotions that drive “bad behavior” so kids stop acting out. (“Acting out” just means acting out a feeling or need that can’t be articulated.)  I know that “discipline” comes from the same word as “disciple” and means “to guide,” but any dictionary will tell you that the word has come to mean punishment. The research shows that children do need guidance and limits, but that those limits need to be set with empathy if the child is to develop self-discipline. So Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids gives parents both the theory and the practice of how to set limits with empathy, so the child WANTS to cooperate and has the self-discipline and emotional regulation to do so. With this approach, discipline is never necessary.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

As parents, we raise the next generation. So parents deserve the support of the entire society. As Charles Raison says, “One generation full of deeply loving parents would change the brain of the next generation, and with that, the world.”  I wrote this book to help all parents who read it become the mothers or fathers they aspire to be for their children.

Where can people find more information?

People can visit my website, www.ahaparenting.com.

 A limited number of books can also be purchased from the API Store.

Beyond Red Ridinghood: Protecting Children From Our Pain About the World

By Tamara Brennan, Ph.D., executive director of The Sexto Sol Center for Community Action and writer at Mindful Moms Blog. Originally published on www.NationOfChange.org.

If, as the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, what happens when “bad things” keep showing up to disrupt the calm in that village?  For those of us in the United States, watching the news with so many reports of war, shootings in public places, and information about policies that fly in the face of decency and fair play, well, it’s enough to ruin what inner peace we may have left despite of the hectic pace of our lives. Then it starts to rain too much in Colorado, creating yet another of the natural disasters that seem to happen all too frequently these days. As caring people, we carry an awareness of tragedy in our pockets as we go about our daily lives.    1418479_35492784

Each of these events is a part of an endless stream of bad news and tragedy. When they come out of nowhere too close to home, they shake up our sense of safety that we usually take for granted. But as we react to the news of each new shocking happening, the children in our lives are watching us, feeling our reactions and wondering what it all means about the world that they are just beginning to learn about. How we respond to their questions and fears is a test of the depth of our commitment to peacemaking.

Not everyone agrees about what information should be withheld from young children. Decades ago I was involved in informing people about the realities of the dirty wars in Central America, with their characteristic and systematic violation of human rights. On the way to a speaking engagement, I asked my speaking partner if he would consider not mentioning the details of a particularly horrendous and upsetting recent event if children were present in the audience. To my dismay he argued that the good to be gained by telling people the shocking truth about our country’s foreign policy outweighed the possible impact on a child or two.

Sure enough, there was a young girl sitting right in the front row. My partner did not censure his remarks. All I could do was watch helplessly as the child visibly recoiled with the telling. It was like witnessing desecration of holy ground. Afterwards, he and a close friend argued that children “need to know” what is really going on in the world, as if that experience somehow was ultimately for her benefit.

That is a sentiment that I have heard many times from activists, but I’ve yet to hear a compelling reason for this kind of early education about the ugly side human affairs. In a world of terrible atrocities, infuriating betrayals and devastating disasters, teaching young children about “the way things really are” goes way beyond telling them the story of Red Ridinghood and the lecherous wolf.

In order for children to develop in a healthy way, they must be allowed to have a fundamental sense that they are safe and that this is a benevolent universe. Their relative feeling of trust in the world will be the foundation on which they will build all their future experience – no small thing. The world is complicated, absolutely, but how is it beneficial to allow young children to believe that it is threatening, chaotic and loveless?

A child’s ability to comprehend the nature of life develops over nearly two decades. Being mindful that young children do not have our sophisticated ways of coping with news of tragedy, disaster, violence and danger will help us make decisions about what information we expose them to at home or while they are in school.

But let’s be honest. For politically committed and well-informed parents, there are moments when we get full to the top with feelings about the world situation. For all of us, parents or not, whenever our feelings are aroused, it takes self discipline to not blurt things out just to relieve the tension we feel or to register our outrage. If we do, the impact could hit like a careless stone hurled into the waters of the immature awareness of the children in our lives. Is that really what we want to do? After all, isn’t it for their sakes that we work for a better world?

If we are serious about creating a peaceful and sustainable world, we would not do violence to children’s precious and basic trust in life by exposing them to frightening information they can’t assimilate. It is a matter of respect then, to protect our tender children from the fear and anger we feel about the mess things are in. We would do well to face our own pain and disappointment so that we can heal the angst we have been carrying. Not only is doing so good for our families, but when we take back our power that has been trapped in fear, rage and grief, we become more effective as proactive change-makers.

Our world, more than ever, needs healthy people capable of envisioning and creating a human culture based on love and compassion. We need people who are emotionally responsive and thus able to act decisively while leading the way to higher ground with kindness.

There will be plenty of opportunity ahead for “real life” education for our children as realities become apparent to them in a more natural way without premature exposure. Our job as parents, teachers, friends and relatives is to protect them long enough to allow them to develop a healthy faith in a loving and safe world. It is their birthright to have the opportunity to develop a feeling of being empowered before the daunting challenges facing humanity make them feel overwhelmed. If we succeed in creating the conditions for their empowerment to occur, we will see them become the realization of our deepest hopes as they step into their roles as part of the shift toward a the better world we dream of.

Dual-Income Families Can Be AP, Too

By Rita Brhel, managing editor of Attached Family, API’s Publications Coordinator and API Leader (Hastings API, Nebraska), originally published on TheAttachedFamily.com on October 21, 2008.

There is a widespread belief that to be a good Attachment Parenting (AP) family, one parent must stay at home with the children full-time and that parent should be the mother. To be sure, this is a myth.

Some parents are mistaken in thinking that “real” AP families don’t choose to put their children in daycare.

However, parents need to look beyond the specific practices to realize the true goal in AP: Whether or not parents stay at home with their children is not as important as being sure to raise their children with secure attachments. If a dual-income family strives to maintain a strong parent-child emotional bond, this family is just as AP as one in which the mother or father stays at home full-time.

While Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting describe a parent as the best caregiver to provide consistent and loving care, API also recognizes that a one-income family with a stay-at-home parent is not the ideal situation for all families. When, for whatever reasons whether financial or personal, both parents choose to continue working after their child is born, it is very possible for that family to be able to practice AP.

In many cases, one parent may choose to work part-time or parents may choose alternate shifts or work arrangements so that at least one of the parents can be at home with the children at all times. For example, some parents find ways to work from home or take their children with them to their places of employment, or one parent works the night shift while the other parent works the day shift.

And “if neither parent can be a full-time caregiver, then a child needs someone who is not only consistent and loving but has formed a bond with them and consciously provides care in a way that strengthens the attachment relationship,” according to the API website describing the principle of Providing Consistent and Love Care, found at www.attachmentparenting.org/principles/care.php. This caregiver could be a grandparent or other relative, close friend, or a trusted daycare provider – anyone who can form a strong attachment with their child.

Once the child is home from daycare, parents should focus on reconnecting with their child, such as holding and cuddling, playing one-on-one and including the child in daily chores, or using other specific AP tools like co-sleeping, babywearing, and breastfeeding. On weekends or other times when the family is together and the parents aren’t working, parents should focus on spending as much time as possible with their children. Quality time is especially important if the quantity of time is limited.

Whether or not parents stay at home with their children is not as important as being sure to raise their children with secure parent-child emotional attachments.