Jennifer, author of Hybrid Rasta Mama, lives in the Sacramento, CA area with her husband and can be found blogging about breastfeeding (especially extended breastfeeding), bed-sharing, co-sleeping, attachment parenting, cloth diapering, green living, babywearing, peaceful parenting, a Waldorf approach to education and parenting, playful parenting, getting children outside, as well as cooking and eating Real/Traditional Foods. A life-long lover of reggae music, Jennifer takes a little of this and a little of that and blends it all together into something that works for her family.
What inspired you to create your blog?
As a mother who whole heartedly believes in a natural parenting approach, I have a strong desire to inspire other mothers and fathers to explore gentle parenting choices. Even if parents already employ a natural parenting technique (or two, or three, or twenty), I feel that it is important to provide a resource which they can turn to inspire new ideas about parenting approaches based on my experience as well as research. This is ultimately why I decided to start blogging.
I get very enthusiastic, passionate, motivated, and inspired by natural, gentle, peaceful parenting techniques and approaches. Although I am outspoken, approaching parents who I do not know and provoking a discussion about parenting practices is just not something that I find myself able to do easily. I’m much better at expressing myself in writing and being able to carefully and thoughtfully outline my views rather than having a “seat of my pants” discussion. A natural parenting focused blog met my need to share my thoughts while at the same time offering me an extended family of bloggers and readers whose views I can learn from as well.
I think that this blog might one day be a really interesting read for my daughter. Although I keep a daily personal journal for her, my posts will help my daughter really see who I was striving to be as a mother!
What topics of interest do you tend to undertake?
I tend to have three main areas of focus: Natural Parenting, Real Foods/Health and Wellness, and a Waldorf inspired approach to parenting and education. You can find posts related to cloth diapering, breastfeeding, ages and developmental stages, peaceful parenting, mindful parenting, gentle and loving guidance (I am not a fan of the word discipline), inspiration for parenting, challenges to better yourself and your parenting, and personal accounts of my parenting successes and miss-steps. I am very inspired by the “Waldorf” view of education and Rudolph Steiner’s view of child development. I strongly agree with the Waldorf/Steiner parenting philosophy and write about this as well.
I am also extremely dedicated to living a real foods lifestyle and making healthy, green choices for our family. Although I am still in the midst of this journey, I feel it is important to share my experiences with my readers as I work through the transitions to becoming a fully green home and living a 100% real foods (Weston A Price) lifestyle. I dive into whatever health topics spark my interest at that moment. I also try to post at least once recipe (or collection of recipes) monthly.
What do you aim to impart to your readers through your blog?
It really depends on the particular post. My research based posts are intended to provide factual information related to a particular topic (most often health, real foods/Weston A. Price inspired diet, and healthy/green living.) I aim to write a post that offers my readers a foundation from which to do further research. My hope is that I can aid them in their journey to a more healthful lifestyle.
My parenting related posts typically are based on personal experience and my own parenting philosophies although I do offer some research heavy parenting posts. These are normally related to hot topic issues like spanking, punitive parenting, anger and hostility in parenting, and the like. As my daughter develops and finds her way in this world, my parenting approach and philosophy holds firm in its core values but remains flexible in how I implement it. I feel that it is important for my readers to not only see me on my parenting journey so that they realize they are not alone in their own journey but also to find inspiration for their own parenting. We are all in this parenting thing together and I want my blog to be a place where parents can find support reassurance, guidance, inspiration, motivation, awareness, and honesty. I am by no means an expert on anything but I hope my experiences and philosophies on parenting resonate with my readers and allow them to strive to be the best parent they can be to their children.
What do you feel the conscious approach to parenting gives rise to in regards to our relationship with our children?
A conscious approach to parenting gives rise to many things in regards to our relationship with our children. I personally have seen the benefits of conscious parenting both in my own relationship with my daughter as well as observing the relationships other conscious parents have with their children. I strong believe that conscious parenting:
· Encourages secure attachment;
· Empowers both the child and the parent;
· Provides more peace, joy, connection, acceptance, interdependence, and respect within a family structure;
· Enables parents to emphasize their child’s self-worth, self-esteem, self-confidence and free thought through self-discovery which in turn creates a a very trusting relationship between parent and child;
· Nurtures greater self-awareness and emotional depth;
· Gives children an inner strength and a sense of trust in themselves that is unbelievably deep;
· Assists with the parents’ understanding of their children and with the children’s comprehension of their mother and father as a person and a parent;
· Allows the parent to relax and enjoy the journey they are on with their child which in turn creates a balanced and harmonious environment for the child;
· Keeps chaos to a minimum and when the ebb and flow of life does get a little messy, conscious parenting provides the framework in which both the child and the parent can rely on each other and support each other through the rough waters;
· Fosters positive, supportive and fair interactions in every situation;
· Allows parents to comfortably communicate natural and logical boundaries without fear of breaking trust;
· Provides the gateway for the parent to deliver and receive radically honest communication to/from their child;
· Allows parents and children to develop a healthy friendship with each other;
· Creates an understanding between parent and child that is so deep, that often times no words are needed to express how one or the other is feeling. Communication transcends language and becomes something organic, raw, and natural. Souls are connected and the parent and child can simply “be” with each other without all of the mainstream parenting garbage clogging up the relationship.
What are some of the changes that you feel need to happen in order for our culture to shift towards developing healthy parent-child relationships?
I am about to step onto my soapbox. Stay with me here…there may be some good nuggets of insight amongst all of the word diarrhea. ;)
I feel that there is a LOT at play when it comes to the current state of parenting. Now, I am coming at this from the standpoint of a U.S. citizen, living in California. Things certainly could be different elsewhere as every culture approaches child rearing differently.
First, parents are NOT properly supported in this country. The government has a nasty habit of sticking its nose into everything and none of their intentions are ever good. They are biased against natural, mindful parenting via the almighty dollar. They will do what is in their best financial interest and sadly, their financial interest does not support helping parents to move away from what is typically considered mainstream parenting. It starts with the moment a baby is born. There is limited financial support for a new family. If a mother is a working mother on maternity leave, she gets a maximum of 16 weeks paid leave to bond with her infant. (Number of weeks paid leave depends on the state and whether the mother had a vaginal or cesarean birth). So mothers really do not get adequate time, in my opinion, to properly bond with their child. You are barely figuring out the whole parent gig when you are thrown back into the workplace. Some mothers cannot even afford to take the paid maternity leave since it is a small fraction of your normal pay. When a mother has to quickly return to work, her baby suddenly becomes a burden of sorts. This is clearly not the way to begin a healthy parent-child relationship. Parents should be given ample time and ample financial support to help them get off to the right start as a family, whether they are going from no children to one or adding another child to an already large family.
Second, I personally feel that we are way too caught up in the rat race of life and “having it all.” Not that long ago, women were content to stay home and raise their own children. Yes, this is a generalization and sure, there were certainly women who did not enjoy motherhood but for the most part, raising children was considered to be the most important job a woman could hold. I agree 100% and will probably get raked over the coals for this next comment. But I will state it emphatically…
WOMEN WENT INTO THE WORKFORCE AND THE DEMISE OF THE FAMILY BEGAN.
Yep – I shouted that one. But I believe it to be true.
Study after study after study has shown that children who are raised by their own parent(s), in their own home, are better adjusted children. They have fewer emotional issues, fewer mental issues, are healthier physically, and thrive better than their day-care raised counterparts. Now I get that some families “need” two incomes. But, and here I go again, do these families “need” two incomes because they enjoy all of the perks in life? The eating out, the going to the movies, the shopping, the nice car, the big house, the fancy décor? Are all of these things more important than a child who is healthy from a holistic sense?
I do not completely blame the two-income families for their “needs” which quite frankly are really “wants.” There is a lot of savvy marketing that goes on that makes consumers feel like that have to have this and that. Advertisers are also really good at making us feel like ass if we do not have the latest and greatest everything. Unfortunately, appearances play a big role in society today. Handmade clothes, cooking every meal at home, making your own entertainment as opposed to having every cable t.v. channel to mesmerize you, having a limited amount of toys, being a one car or no car family, and living modestly in general, are really not considered sexy by the masses. So in an effort to “be like everyone else,” both parents work at the detriment to a healthy parent-child relationship.
I am again not suggesting that you are an awful parent if you are in a two income situation. But there are only so many hours in the day, your child is basically being raised by someone else, mindful/peaceful parenting is TOUGH, and after a long day at work and trying to get the kids fed, bathed, and into bed, gentle parenting becomes awfully difficult to consistently employ.
Along these lines is how busy we have become. My god! It seems like everyone has all kinds of commitments, none of which are necessary for our survival. Children have classes, lesson, and sports. Parents have classes, lessons, recreation, meetings, “dates,” girls-night outs, etc… No one is ever home anymore. It is a constantly juggling act getting everyone to the right activity on the right day and at the right time. What the heck happened to staying home and spending time together as a family? Seriously! Sending your child off to karate class is not going to create a healthier parent-child relationship. Spending time with your child and making a concerted effort to be the best parent you can be and to be the kind of parent your child needs is what will create a healthy parent-child relationship. Yes, each person should be allowed to explore their individual interests and find activities that keep them grounded. But there should not be so many activities and outside commitments that family time becomes simply shuffling people around.
Life has become so very rushed. Ultimately, we all need to slow down and learn to enjoy some simplicity. We need to reconnect as human beings, away from our fancy Iphones, Ipods, Ipads, etc… We need to become families again and not just individuals living in the same home.
Now – back to that lack of support issue. If we are going to move away from the standard mainstream parenting, there needs to be a lot more support for families. Most parents simply do not realize that there is another way. They are just going with the standard flow. Sure, they may give mindful parenting a whirl but this approach to parenting is not something to just “try” once and then give up on. It involves a major shift in thinking, some HUGE work on the parents’ part, and commitment. It also involves fortitude. Mindful parenting will often bring up all kinds of yuck from our own childhood. Being able to stare our baggage in the face and move past it is not comfortable. But we must do this if we are to be the most mindful, peaceful parents possible.
Children bring out the best and the worst in us. Seriously. And it is way too easy to just resort to yelling, threatening, ignoring, punishing, and spanking. But in the long run, this only stifles the long term health and trust between a parent and child. We need mentors, classes, free resources, phone support, online support that is accessible to everyone. Parenting classes that are available need to shift to mindful parenting approaches and move away from the time outs, the rewards, the punishments. But this will be tough, because we are a very reward based society. Which leads me to my last point (although I could make a ton more).
We have become a VERY competitive society. We push and push and push our children. We expect perfection. We want them to be the most polite, have the best grades, be the most well behaved, hit all the developmental milestones first, to make us PROUD. I don’t know about you, but my daughter makes me proud every single day, just by being her. We need to start allowing our children to take the lead and to guide us as parents. It is not our job to impose our will on them. Step back for a moment and really soak in WHO your child is and not who you WANT them to be. Your child has their own mind, their own heart, their own soul, their own personality, their own dreams, their own wants, their own desires, their own destiny. Why fight that? Do we, as adults, like to be controlled through intimidation and fear? Is it really enjoyable to bust our asses in the workplace, sacrificing precious time with our families so we can get that raise? Wouldn’t it be nice to have all of that pressure off, to just be able to do the job we love, the way we want to do it, to the best of our ability without worrying about a yearly review, being written up, or getting a raise?
Parents are entrusted with the life of their child. It is our job to keep them safe and healthy. It is not our job to make them become a “something.” Until we get past the need to be the “boss” of our child and instead allow them to take the lead more, we will never have the healthy parent-child relationship that really needs to be in place if we are going to see a shift in just about every aspect of life.
Children teach us more than we teach them. It really comes down to allowing that to organically occur. When we learn to let go, we will be better parents.
What do you struggle with personally in your parenting journey?
I am not a patient person by nature. Patience really is a virtue that was left out of my DNA. I have always been someone who moves at a fast pace. I walk fast, I talk fast, I eat quickly, I am quick on my feet, but oddly enough I have a ridiculously low pulse and blood pressure. I am direct, efficient, and able to multitask like no one’s business. Having a child pretty much puts the breaks on impatience. And this is my greatest struggle. I am continuously learning to enjoy the journey of life as opposed to just waking up and getting through the day. Now that my daughter is almost 3 and gaining more and more skills and independence, life has come to a screeching halt. Doing anything with my persistent helper takes forever. And I have to remember to breathe and enjoy every single moment working in tandem with my sweet little girl.
I do not want to remember her childhood as one big rush from morning until nightfall. More importantly, I do not want her to remember her childhood as rushed. A child’s life is all about stopping to smell each and every rose, to poke at each and every bug, to wonder about pretty much everything they see, smell, hear, touch, and taste. And it is my job to put my impatience on hold and just love the freedom that having a child has given me. (But I still get impatient daily, no matter how hard I try. I mean really, does it have to take a half hour to put on a pair of shoes that you will fling off in the car anyway????)
My other struggle is simply to always stay focused on the path I have chosen as a parent. Mindful parenting is mentally taxing, emotionally draining, and physically demanding. Being there for your child, being there is every sense of the word is a lot of work. The payoffs are huge but it is not at all easy. Sometimes I can get bogged down and get stuck in my head. Parenting is not about the brain – it is about the heart. When I move from my heart to my head, I lose some of that mindfulness I have committed to. So staying heart centered and not head focused can be a real battle for me, especially since I love to analyze and overthink everything.
I also always want to fix everything. But I can’t. My daughter has to learn and grow through trial and error and sometimes this hurts, is ugly, is scary, or is confusing. It makes my heart ache when I have to step back and just watch my daughter take a misstep on her journey in life. But helicopter parenting won’t get her anywhere. Life can be painful. I just wish it didn’t have to be.
If you could give one bit of advice to mothers who have recently come across the concept of parenting mindfully, what would it be?
Parenting means establishing a solid relationship with your gut and your heart. These two organs always know more than your head does. So trust your gut. Once you get the hang of the mindful parenting approach, your heart and your gut will kick in in a huge way. It is imperative to listen. They won’t steer you wrong. The other piece of advice is to allow your children to lead you. I am not suggesting that you allow them to be the parent. Not at all. But your children know what they need better than you do. Trust them. Trust that they know their bodies and minds. Give them the freedom to show you what they need from you. Really, it comes down to open mindedness, warmth, compassion, and love. All they need is love. Genuine, deep, organic, raw, unabashed, soulfelt love.
Top 5 Posts (based on Google Analytics)
My Top 5 Favorite Posts I Created
Top 5 Guest Posts I Have Written