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.

What I Want: Goals 2011

Time for some brainstorming! Need to come up with a plan for the coming New Year. I read Dave Bruno’s recent post on developing habits and under his suggestion, I will only set 3 habits to strive for in 2011.

  1. Meet the 100 Thing Challenge mark. by selling or donating as many material possessions as possible.
  2. Practice raw food veganism by following the 52 weekly goals I have aligned for myself.
  3. Pay off and close at least 2 of our 4 credit cards by saving any and all extra money received, creating an emergency fund, and selling off copious amounts of excess goods.

I am excited for 2011. It will be very interesting to see how the weeks and months progress.

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.