Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Advocating or just Opinionated?

Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they advocate for healthy, gentle parenting choices compassionately. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


As parents, we're faced with SO many decisions. Sometimes we go with our gut, sometimes we research like crazy, sometimes we ask our friends and/or parents what they did when facing the same decision. There are more decisions to be made than a non-parent could even imagine!

So after making these decisions that will have such a huge impact on who our children become, I think we have to feel confident in our choices. We know we decided for a reason(s), whatever that may be. We may have even had to argue our ideas with a partner. I think the very confidence that is necessary to a parent can, when shared with others, come off as being opinionated.

I am very confident in my big decisions. I don't use hormones. I avoid foods that include hormones, especially for my children. I do not vaccinate. I breastfeed until a natural weaning process happens on its own. I let my baby lead her weaning to solid foods. My little one shares our bed. These are all decisions about which I am passionate! It can be hard to share information about these things without coming off as a know-it-all or better-than-thou type of mom.

So how do I share my opinions and philosophies on parenting in a compassionate manner? First and foremost, I try to practice what I preach. None of us are perfect and we shouldn't pretend to be, even to prove a point. Try to lead by example. Secondly, I blog and journal openly about the choices I make and have made as a parent. I welcome questions from friends and family and try to offer resources rather than get defensive about my choices.

And finally, I simply watch for opportunities to advocate compassionately without ruffling feathers. If a soon-to-be or new parent that is a coworker has said something that I know goes against my stance, but it is clear they are set in their ways (after all, they had reasons for their decision, too) - I opt to keep my mouth shut. If someone sounds more uncertain, especially if they seem to be processing a choice and trying to come to a decision, I jump at the opportunity!

It can be hard to feel that we made the right choice and still recognize that it isn't the right choice for everyone. Being a fundamentalist natural parent isn't going to convince anyone of anything. That sort of attitude really just scares people off of your ideas. "Only those freaky hippie people do that!"

I think that aside from leading by example, we (or at least I) have to watch for opportunities cautiously. I am so passionate that it definitely borders on opinionated. Help to educate those around you when they are ready and most open to that education. That is how we can all compassionately advocate... whatever moves us to a desire to advocate!

How do you advocate for healthy, gentle parenting choices compassionately?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Natural Parenting Advocacy by Example — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her blog, Twitter and Facebook as her natural parenting soapbox.
  • You Catch More Flies With Honey — When it comes to natural parenting advice, Kate of The Guavalicious Life believes you catch more flies with honey.
  • From the Heart — Patti at Jazzy Mama searches her heart for an appropriate response when she learns that someone she respects wants his baby to cry-it-out.
  • I Offer the Truth — Amy at Innate Wholeness shares the hard truths to inspire parents in making changes and fully appreciating the parenting experience.
  • Advocating or Just Opinionated?Momma Jorje discusses how to draw the line between advocating compassionately and being just plain opinionated. It can be quite a fine line.
  • Compassionate Advocacy — Mamapoekie of Authentic Parenting writes about how to discuss topics you are passionate about with people who don't share your views.
  • Heiny Helpers: Sharing Cloth Love — Heiny Helpers is guest posting on Natural Parents Network to share how they are providing cloth diapers and cloth diapering support to low income families.
  • Struggling with Advocacy — April of McApril still struggles to determine how strongly she should advocate for her causes, but still loves to show her love for her parenting choices to those who would like to listen.
  • Compassionate Advocacy Through Blogging (AKA –Why I Blog) — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how both blogging and day-to-day life give her opportunities to compassionately advocate for natural parenting practices.
  • A Letter to *Those* Parents — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares how to write an informed yet respectful reply to those parents — you know, the ones who don't parent the way you do.
  • Why I Am Not A Homebirth Advocate — Olivia at Write About Birth is coming out: she is a homebirth mom, but not a homebirth advocate. One size does not fit all – but choice is something we can all advocate for!
  • Why I Open My Big Mouth — Wolfmother from Fabulous Mama Chronicles reflects on why she is passionate about sharing parenting resources.
  • Watching and Wearing — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life advocates the joys of babywearing simply by living life in a small college town.
  • Compassionate Advocacy . . . That's The Way I Do It — Amyables at Toddler in Tow describes how she's learned to forsake judgment and channel her social energy to spread the "good news" of natural parenting through interaction and shared experiences.
  • Compelling without repelling — Lauren at Hobo Mama cringes when she thinks of the obnoxious way she used to berate people into seeing her point of view.
  • I Am the Change — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro describes a recent awakening where she realized exactly how to advocate for natural parenting.
  • Public Displays of CompassionThe Accidental Natural Mama recounts an emotional trip to the grocery store and the importance of staying calm and compassionate in the storm of toddler emotions.
  • I will not hide behind my persona — Suzi Leigh at Attached at the Boob discusses the benefits of being honest and compassionate on the internet.
  • Choosing My Words — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom shares why she started her blog and why she continues to blog despite an increasingly hectic schedule.
  • Honour the Child :: Compassionate Advocacy in the Classroom — Lori at Beneath the Rowan Tree shares her experience of being a gentle and compassionate parent — with other people's children — as a classroom volunteer in her daughter's senior kindergarten room.
  • Inspired by the Great Divide (and Hoping to Inspire) — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis shares her thoughts on navigating the "great divide" through gently teaching and being teachable.
  • Introverted Advocacy — CatholicMommy at Working to be Worthy shares how she advocates for gentle parenting, even though she is about as introverted as one can be.
  • The Three R's of Effective and Gentle Advocacy — Ana at Pandamoly explains how "The Three R's" can yield consistent results and endless inspiration to those in need of some change.
  • Passionate and Compassionate: How do We do It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares the importance of understanding your motivation for advocacy.
  • Sharing the love — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine talks about how she shares the love and spreads the word.
  • What Frank Said — Nada at miniMOMist has a good friend named Frank. She uses his famous saying to demonstrate how much natural parenting has benefited her and her family.
  • Baby Sling Carriers Make Great Compassionate Advocacy Tools — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shared her babywearing knowledge — and her sling — with a new mom.
  • Everyday Superheroes — Who needs Superman when we have a community of compassionate advocates?! Dionna at Code Name: Mama believes that our community of gentle bloggers are the true superheroes.
  • Words of advice: compassionately advocating for my parenting choices — MrsH at Fleeting Moments waits to give advice until she's been asked, resulting in fewer advocacy moments but very high responsiveness from parents all over the spectrum of parenting approaches.
  • Peaceful Parenting — Peaceful parenting shows at Living Peacefully with Children with an atypical comment from a stranger.
  • Speaking for birth — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud soul-searches about how she can advocate for natural birth without causing offense.
  • Gentle is as Gentle Does — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how she is gently advocating her parenting style.
  • Walking on Air — Rachael at The Variegated Life wants you to know that she has no idea what she's doing — and it's a gift.
  • Parenting with my head, my heart, and my gut — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares her thoughts on being a compassionate advocate of natural parenting as a blogger.
  • At Peace With the World — Megan at Ichigo Means Strawberry talks about being an advocate for peaceful parenting at 10,000 feet.
  • Putting a public face on "holistic" — Being public about her convictions is a must for Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama, but it takes some delicacy.
  • Just Be; Just Do. — Amy at Anktangle believes strongly about her parenting methods, and also that the way to get people to take notice is to simply live her life and parent the best she knows how.
  • One Parent at a Time... — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that advocating for Natural Parenting is best accomplished by walking the walk.
  • Self-compassion — We're great at caring for and supporting others —from our kiddos to other mamas — but Lisa at Gems of Delight shares a post about treating ourselves with that same sense of compassion.
  • Using Montessori Principles to Advocate Natural Parenting — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how she uses Montessori principles to be a compassionate advocate for natural parenting.
  • Advocacy? Me? — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers that by "just doing her thing," she may be advocating for natural parenting.
  • Feeding by Example — Mama Mo at Attached at the Nip shares her experience of being the first one of her generation to parent.
  • Compassionate Consumerism — Erica at ChildOrganics encourages her children to be compassionate consumers and discusses the benefits of buying local and fair trade products.
  • The Importance of Advocating Compassionately — Kristen at Adventures in Mommyhood acts as a compassionate advocate by sharing information with many in the hopes of reaching a few.
  • Some Thoughts on Gentle Discipline — Darcel at The Mahogany Way shares her thoughts and some tips on Gentle Discipline.
  • Compassionate Advocacy: Sharing Resources, Spreading the Love — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle shares how her passion for making natural choices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting have supported others in Dominica and beyond.
  • A journey to compassion and connection — Jessica at Instead of Institutions shares her journey from know-it-all to authentic advocacy.
  • Advocacy Through Openness, Respect, and Understanding — Melissa at The New Mommy Files describes her view on belief, and how it has shaped the way she advocates for gentle parenting choices.
  • Why I'm not an advocate for Natural Parenting — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog delivers the shocking news that, after 10 years of being a mum, she is NOT an advocate for natural parenting!
  • Natural Love Creates Natural Happiness — A picture is worth a thousand words, but how about a smile, or a giggle, or a gaze? Jessica at Cloth Diapering Mama’s kids are extremely social and their natural happiness is very obvious.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy — Even in the progressive SF Bay Area, Lily at Witch Mom finds she must defend some of her parenting choices.
  • A Tale of Four Milky Mamas — In this post The ArtsyMama shares how she has found ways to repay her childhood friend for the gift of milk.
  • don't tell me what to do — Pecky at benny and bex demonstrates compassionate advocacy through leading by example.


  1. Great post, as always! I totally agree with you. Although, even peacefully going about your [babywearing, breastfeeding in public] business can lead some folks to conclude that you're a know-it-all, holier-than-thou type. Sometimes, the most powerful "advocacy" is just going about your life.

  2. I really appreciate your post. I love your perspective that it's because we've all researched our parenting choices (even the parents we disagree with) and need to feel confident in them that we become so entrenched and defensive if someone challenges them. Because we're all just trying to be good parents, after all. That should help me come down off my high horse next time I disagree with someone's parenting style, huh?

    I think your point that being a fundie natural parent isn't helpful is spot on as well. I know I've already scared my parents with our hippie ways. If I were gentler and more confident but quieter about it all, I bet I'd do a better job of convincing them.

  3. Such great food for thought! I love how you mention watching for opportunities cautiously. I am definitely guilty of over zealously creating opportunities that really are not there. Information is so much more valuable when it's wanted than when it is showered on the unwilling!

  4. It is so important to be honest - Lauren (and others) have written great posts about their shortcomings as parents, and the guest post I did recently for Mama Eve had a great response too - simply b/c we were honest about how hard it is to be a parent! There's nothing about NP that says it can only be practiced by perfect parents. Thank goodness, or I wouldn't identify as NP ;) TY for being so compassionate!

  5. So well said!! Living authentically is the best example I know. I have never been a fundamental anything, but this transition into peaceful parenting has been so powerful, it's hard not to share, which is why I guess I started blogging. I think maybe that is just the easiest way to advocate. We share honestly and people can take what they want from there ;). Great post!!

  6. Well said! Like you, I look for those opportunities where people are seeking out or open to more (or new) information and keep my mouth shut when they obviously aren't. It's hard sometimes, but I do believe it's the best way to advocate.

  7. I don't, or try not to anyway. I don't really think it is my place to tell other mothers what to do. I try to live, or lead, by example and to respect other people's choices. If someone is interested that is another story. People resist when they feel preached at, that is for sure!

  8. "I simply watch for opportunities to advocate compassionately without ruffling feathers" this is totally me as well! I also love the part where you say that being a fundamentalist is only going turn people away from even considering or seeing a different point of view. Thanks for sharing!

  9. First off, love the background (lol) Secondly I love the portrait. I find myself trying to balance between saying too much or not enough at the right times. It can be easy on the internet to forget that there is another human being you are talking to so maybe tone it down a bit and relax the soapbox speech. On the other hand it can be just as easy in real life to forget that I am a person with convictions and should voice those opinions when the opportunity presents itself. Thank you for sharing!

  10. Olivia (Write About Birth), so true. Sometimes even when asked our opinion, people are really just looking for their own fight. I try not to be judgmental of others and definitely prefer not to be judged for my own choices!

    Lauren, I was amused at your take... because I totally feel like I'm on a high horse sometimes. lol In all honesty, I feel like I am better because when given the choice, I chose to nurse as long as my child wanted. I don't judge others for doing what works for their family, but I am so proud of my choices!

    Melissa Joanne, advice is heard so much more clearly when it is sought, right?! :-)

  11. Dionna, I can not tell you how much I appreciate mothers being honest on their blogs! I look up to people online and if they appeared flawless I might think less of myself. That is not a healthy place to be. No one is perfect and displaying oneself as such is poor form.

    From one MJ to another (& back again), living authentically... I think it is the best we can ask of anyone. Blogging is such a great way to advocate in all of our respective corners of the universe!

  12. Smiling... love this...

    "Being a fundamentalist natural parent isn't going to convince anyone of anything."

    I agree. Confidence can come off as opinionated and that's where meeting someone in the moment and watching our own judgments can create a bridge.

    I enjoyed reading your journey to confidence and compassionate advocacy. :)

  13. Great post! I really get the "fundamentalist natural parenting" comment too. I know so many mamas who were turned off of natural parenting because they encountered the evangical preacher of NP.

    Like you, I am very confident in my NP approach and I have to keep tabs on that confidence. Gentle seems to always be the best approach.

    Thank you for your honest post. It really said a lot!

  14. tee hee - fundamentalist - awesome description. :)

    But I love your point about waiting until people are open and ready to hear - we can't know if they're ready if we're doing all the talking, right?

    Thanks for the awesome post!

  15. Great post! Being fundemantal, only scare people and make them more mainstream. It is important to find the right balance, to be able to convince somebody without being defensive.
    Btw, I love your photo!

  16. Great post for CarNatPar! I like what you have to say about being confident in your parenting decisions and moving from there. I often wonder if one of the motivations for the "fundamentalist" behaviour is a feeling of lack of confidence in either decisions or acceptance from others over said decisions. I'm with you, I can parent instinctually and with lots of research, then I can offer my opinions when and where I think they'll feel welcome.

    Like the previous posters, I also like your observation that "Being a fundamentalist natural parent isn't going to convince anyone of anything." So, so true!

  17. There are times when I wonder if others think that I am being opinionated when I share my parenting choices though I'm just so excited about sharing the info that I've come across. I'll definitely keep your suggestions in mind when sharing info with new people, might intimidate people less. Hehe.

  18. I agree it's a fine line, very fine. I've probably criss-crossed it many times already. Like wolf mother I think I am a lot of the time more enthusiatic than opinionated but sometimes I'm just plain old opinionated - I don't think others are wrong but I confidently know that my choices are very right for me!

    One example of how my enthusiasm almost got me in trouble...
    One of my friends once told me about using Calpol (pink liquid paracetamol) on her young child and then a few days later I came across a really interesting article all about the ingredients, potential side effects etc and I sent it to her. Then a short while later I got really worried that maybe she would think I am criticizing her choices and preaching...so I sent her another email explaining that and how much I respected her parenting choices even when they were different from mine. Thankfully she didn't see it in a bad way and often asks for my advice on aspects of our young kids lives. I'm glad it turned out well but I think it was a reminder to think a bit more carefully next time when sharing something that to me seems exciting!

  19. I am so excited to have received all of your comments and that my article spoke to you! Thank you for leaving a comment!

    Terri, I can really relate. I must admit that if/when my mother sends me an article against something I've *already* done it can be a little irritating... unless, of course, it is something I might do again.

  20. I love your thought that "being a fundamentalist natural parent" isn't helpful at all. I totally agree! You're right; it is a fine line between advocacy and passive bullying. . . and all humans tread that line pretty closely, even if it's not about parenting. It's good to be aware of the way we portray our convictions - I loved this carnival for making us think about that aspect of our lives. Thanks for writing!


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