Mom Talk: Attachment Parenting and the miniMOMist

you may be surprised to learn that some minimalists have *gasp!* children! Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has 6 children. Dave Bruno of The 100 Thing Challenge has three daughters (good luck, Dave!). And those children were, at one time, babies. Wiggly, giggly, squiggly, gorgeous little babies.

For something that, on average, only weighs 7.5 lbs at birth, babies come with a lot of stuff. Cribs, clothes, toys, bottles, bibs, playpens, strollers, pillows, diapers, soothers, and laundry laundry laundry!

But in truth, this need not be the case. When Naomi was born, we too had the copious amounts of stuff. But since then, I have realized how much we didn’t need, because of the method of parenting we are practicing.

Attachment parenting is a phrase coined by Dr. William Sears. It is described as “sensitive or responsive parenting that allows the child to build a strong, trusting bond with his caregiver and allow him to grow confident in his world and it’s surroundings.”

It involves a lot of techniques viewed rather taboo by mainstream culture, including, but not limited to, breastfeeding, babywearing, positive discipline, cosleeping, and gentle sleep habits. Most attachment parents participate in some, but not all, of these traits.

The truth is, however, mindful attachment parenting can actually help dwindle the material baby objects you have in your home.

Babywearing involves using a simple or structured carrier to keep your baby on you while you are walking/moving around. Examples of baby carriers include stretchy or woven wraps, ring slings, pouch slings, or structured carriers. These allow you to carry, comfort, soothe and care for your baby without leaving him in a stressful situation, such as in a car seat, all alone. Babies can sleep, look around and learning more at this higher vantage point.

What it Elimilates: Strollers, Possibly Car Seats, Play Pens.. If you have no car, you wouldn’t, in theory, need a car seat, but I would have one as it is illegal and extremely unsafe to drive without one with a baby in your car. However, with baby riding high and happy in a comfy carrier, you don’t really need a stroller or a playpen. We have a very expensive stroller we got as a gift that has hardly been used, since both Naomi and I love babywearing so much.

Breastfeeding is by far the best thing you can possibly do for your baby, after unconditional love. Human breastmilk is designed for baby’s delicate digestive system and provides your baby with any and all nutritional necessities. It’s free, always the right temperature, decreases gas bubbles, reduces the chance of allergies, earaches, colic, etc. The benefits of breastfeeding are numerous!

What This Eliminates: Baby bottles, nipples, covers, formulas, breast pumps, bottle warmers, bottle sterilizers, bottle brushes. I will go on record and declare to the world, that I hate pumping. If I were to die tomorrow, that can be my epitaph. While some women with an overabundance might need it, if your child is exclusively breastfed, as Naomi was, until she begins solids, you will not have need for any of these things. The breastmilk is always “on tap” so to speak.

Co-Sleeping involves many variations, but in essence, the baby and parent share some form of sleeping space, such as sharing a bed, sidecaring a crib to the adult bed (our arrangement), having baby sleep in a bassinet beside the bed, etc. Never more than an arm’s length away, the parents can both monitor baby’s breathing, can nurse baby when he wakes up, can change baby quickly, etc.

What This Eliminates: A separate room, baby decor, the majority of baby furniture, etc. So much space and money is saved via this route. My own personal preference, sidecarred crib, allows the best of both worlds. My daughter sleeps soundly, and I can nurse her back to sleep as soon as she wakes up, while she still has her own space, away from us, in her crib. All she needs for bedding is a crib sheet and a sleep sack and she is good for the night!

Other branches of attachment parenting, while not so material-based, can include but are not limited to: natural childbirth, home birth, stay-at-home parenting, homeschooling, unschooling, anti-circumcision, natural health, cooperative movements, naturism and support of organic and local foods. We ourselves practice many of these activities. However, as these are not our focus, this can be left for another discussion.

Minimalism is about removing distractions from your life in order to focus on what is truly important. Whether through birth, adoption or fostering, having a child in your life is one of those things that should make all your other distractions pale in comparison. With the help of attachment parenting, Michael and I have been able to commit so much love and time to our daughter, that we have a relationship with her that is hard to describe. We know her so well and are so deeply bonded to her, that we can tell just what she needs before she even realizes it. In truth, I am awake now because I woke up a few minutes before she did. I am so in tuned with her that I can wake up to care for her even before she makes a peep.

Your thoughts? Ideas? Have you experienced something similar? Different? I’d love a discussion!

The Meaning of Excess

“I am a little concerned with the things you have been writing,” my husband commented today when he called me on his morning break. “I am concerned about your definition of ‘excess’.”

While he can be so funny and charming, Michael also has a sharp sense of logic and a view of the world that I only wished I could experience. When he says he has a concern, I try very hard to listen because what he says usually makes sense. And because I love and respect him.

“You keep talking about all the ‘excess stuff’ we have,” he continued. “but don’t forget, everyone lives in excess. If you have more than a roof over your head, a change of clothes, somewhere to sleep, and more food than you can eat in one day, you have excess. You can’t get rid of it. And if you try, you’re just going to end up giving away things you actually wanted to keep. And then we are going to have to spend money to get them back.”

Hmmm.

He’s right. Mainly because he knows me. I am one of those black-and-white, all-or-nothin’, “Remember the Alamo!” types. I decide I’m gonna do something and I dive in head-first, without really checking to be sure I can swim in the pool. I expect water, but more often than not, I find myself swimming in pudding, when I discover the challenge I’m involved in is just too difficult for me (at the time). I am also one of those hyper-focused, insanely driven “For the Shire!” types who blocks out all distractions around me and zones in on the task at hand, forgetting to acknowledge anyone or anything around me. It can be bad when you forget a pot on the stove and supper is ruined. Or you leave your wallet at home. Or you forget to fill the tank.

The result? My home, online folders, iPhone, craft desk, video game library and desktop are full of unfinished projects, ideas that haven’t panned out, disorganized jumbles, and “when I have time to…”

The problem is, I will never have time. I never will have time to keep my home spotless, weigh 110 lbs, hand sew all our clothes, grow my organic produce, cross stitch a lovely wall hanging, read every attachment parenting book, hold down a part time or full time job, dress like a supermodel, be perfectly rested, knit all our Christmas gifts, scrub the floors with a toothbrush, and write the next great novel. I just won’t. My poor brain, body and soul can’t handle it all.

Here’s the thing, though. What I just described above? That’s excess too. It’s mental excess. It’s the excess of perfectionism and social influences that tell me I have to “do it all”. In truth, however, I don’t care to do it all. I don’t. I don’t care to do everything listed above. I would like to, don’t get me wrong, but there are other things that I have to shower and lavish my attentions on.

Remember my Priorities post a couple days ago? I listed the five things that are my priorities:

  1. Jesus
  2. Family
  3. Health and well being
  4. Financial freedom
  5. Our environment

All of the things I said above can be part of my priorities, but they cannot my priorities. If these things cannot be shared with or benefit my priorities in some way or another, then they are not helping me. What’s more, if they take away time I should be spending on my priorities, than they are dangerous. If I spend all my time working on my organic garden while my family sits around waiting for me to make them supper, where have I gotten us? Nowhere.

Excess is not just material things. Excess can also be how you focus your skills, time and money. If they hamper you or prevent you from paying attention to the things that are important, they are not going to contribute to your overall happiness.

I need to change my word. It isn’t excess I need to be rid of. It’s distractions. Things that distract me from my priorities. That is what my sweet, wise husband was saying — to not focus so much on my excess. Because I will never be completely rid of it. Instead, he wanted me to focus on the distractions. The things that I waste time on that keep me from my priorities. He doesn’t want this new path of minimalism I am striving towards to become another distraction. He’s afraid I wish crash and burn and get myself in trouble again.

I am trusting in myself and my focus on my priorities to keep me strong. If something is taking away from them, than it’s time to let it go.

Control Over Purchases

This morning, when my daughter and I woke up, I grabbed my iPhone and scanned my latest Tweets. My husband, Michael, doesn’t often tweet, so I was surprised to see one at all today. But the content was as follows:

“No sense in being greedy. I have to control my purchases, even free things. I already have something that will work, no need for more junk.”

Now, as much as I love and adore him, Michael’s tweets are not normally so, shall we say, deep. The one before that came around Christmas, and said, “Why don’t you take me to Turkey Town?” So this one really caught me off guard. So when I knew he’d be on break, I sent him a text message asking him what the story was behind his insightful tweet.

He responded, “I saw a metronome on freecycle and thought hey, help us to sleep. Then I thought, well we have the ocean sounds [on CD] and several devices to play them on. So why get the metronome when someone else can use it and we don’t really need it.”

I stopped receiving emails from Freecycle weeks ago, because the minimalist in me can easily be drowned out by the frugalist in me, and can see the free items as “a great bargain”. Needless to say, I was acquiring far too much junk. Instead, I left the offers up to my far more discerning husband and I only request or offer items now. Freecycle is a fantastic program, and it easily has prevented a multitude of things from ending up in the landfills. But for me, it’s just too tempting.

It was so refreshing to hear his thoughts and know that even though he isn’t attempting minimalism in the same degree as myself, our priorities are the same: we want to create in our home a quiet, peaceful environment without a lot of clutter and chaos, where we can focus on what makes us happy.

If you’re interested in any further pearls of wisdom from my Beloved, you can find him on Twitter under @iamjacksnick.

Welcome to the miniMOMist

“I worry she’s too stressed,” my husband Michael said of our daughter one December evening. She had been crying again for what appears to us to be no valid reason and we didn’t understand her needs. Our daughter, Naomi was only 6 months old at the time. From birth, we had never left her side. We¬†practice¬†cosleeping, babywearing, breastfeeding and taken her with us to each and every event we attended. We were practicing attachment parenting and seeing wonderful results from it. Our beautiful baby girl had always been ahead in her development; she rarely fussed or cried without valid reason. She was a bright, cheerful and happy baby.

So the idea that she could possibly be stressed baffled me. How was this possible? She had no reason to be stressed! We lived for her, did everything we thought we could do for her. How was it possible she was stressed?

After Michael’s comment, I began to look around me and started to realize where it was Naomi’s stress might be derived. Our home life, work life, diet, energy, social life, and finances were in crisis. I couldn’t keep up with the housework. Michael loathed his job. We were in debt. We ate carbs and protein almost entirely with very minimal variety. We were always tired and sick. We were more often than not neglecting or avoiding non-crucial social gatherings, especially church. Our hobbies had long since been put on the back burner.

It quickly became apparent that it wasn’t just Naomi who might be stressed out, but her parents as well!

Now before anyone jumps to conclusions, I wish to make the following point completely clear and understood: Neither of us in any way see or believe our attached parenting style had anything to do with our current situation. We had decided before her birth that these guidelines were chosen and implemented in order for us to provide for her what we feel is a loving, comforting home. And what’s more, we had been seeing results almost from day one! Naomi slept through the night from about day five to present day, had never been sick, was clear with most of her communications and was one of the best behaved babies we had ever known. In short, even though we knew we were biased, our choices had helped us culture in our daughter the lovely and friendly little girl that she is.

What had happened, I realized, was we had been duped by the traditional line fed all new parents: the gorgeous, cooing baby lying docile in his crib, while his lovely, perfectly dressed mommy (usually in a crisp white blouse and pearls) leaned over his crib and sighed dreamily at her little bundled angel. The rooms they were in had surely never seen a speck of dirt since the mother had turned 13. All babies slept on schedule, ate neat and clean, all housework was done without effort, no cost need ever be considered. In short, all new mommies and daddies should be able to do it all, and what’s more, maintain the perfection they had in their pre-baby lifestyle.

Well, reality was quickly settling in. No baby is perfect, and what’s more, certainly no parent is perfect. And what’s more, having a baby changes you, your spouse, your life, everything. And no one and nothing prepares you for it.

I thought about this over the next several days. I knew there were some things that I couldn’t change. I couldn’t make my husband’s job more agreeable, nor could I immediately decrease the amount of debt we currently had. But I could start making sure that my time was spent wisely. I could trim the fat of my day and focus on what actually mattered. I began to look at my day and realized that there were many, many changes that could be made to make my home life and family life simpler, more productive and easier on us all.

I began listing changes I intended to make, striving to come up with ways of working the current situation in our favor. And the more I looked at it, the more I realized that the simple acts of simplifying, minimizing and downsizing could indeed help us reach our goals.

And that is how miniMOMist came to be. Here we will share how minimalism impacts us and our world as a family. Through green living, upcycling, simplifying, thoughtful actions, nurturing, caring and loving, I intend to decrease the chaos that surrounds us and create a comfortable, sustainable lifestyle for us.

I look forward to sharing this exciting endeavour with you all and eagerly await your interactions. Over the next 6 days, I plan to lay out my plans, objectives and goals that I anticipate for the coming year.

Have you chosen to make 2011 a time to simplify your life? Is there an area you need to work on in order to make life less stressful for yourself and your children? I’d love to hear about it!