Sunday, November 21, 2010

Why Thanksgiving is My Favorite Holiday

This is my favorite time of year. The air is crisp and cool, the leaves are falling fast, and home is a warm, welcome retreat to the changing weather. Even better, it’s Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is, without a doubt, my favorite holiday. As a self-confessed “foodie”, I look forward to the rich culinary history of Thanksgiving and the amazing flavors of the season. Thanksgiving is about real food. You can’t get by this holiday with Twinkies and frozen pizza. No, for Thanksgiving you need real, whole food: turkey, yams, potatoes, corn, pumpkin, and cranberries and all the fixings. Sure, we have to watch out for antibiotics in our turkeys, pesticides in our produce, and BPA in our cans, but unlike Halloween or Valentine’s Day this holiday is not ruled by Hershey’s or Hallmark, or obsessed with the consumerism that seems to plague the Christmas spirit. Instead we celebrate the bounty of the earth and the harvest of our labors or, likely, the labors of our fellow farmers. We gather together with friends and family to feast and to be grateful. We pause to express our gratitude for the gifts and blessings in our lives, no matter how big or how small.

Giving thanks during the holiday season is about the practice of gratitude. More than any other holiday, Thanksgiving offers us a brilliant opportunity to engage in some simple self-enrichment, and not just the fattening kind! Those who subscribe to the Law of Attraction recognize that that a state of sincere gratitude is one of harmony and peace. As you express gratitude for the circumstances of your life, you radiate energy that attracts more abundance. Understanding gratitude means taking stock in your life and sometimes looking at things with a different perspective. Even things that appear challenging or unwanted hold great blessings as they teach you, guide you, and further you along your personal path. (This also applies to people so before you head off to gather with extended family, welcome some gratitude practice into your life and see them in a different light!). Altering your viewpoint and welcoming gratitude seemingly transforms the very people and situations around you. In fact, as Wayne Dyer once said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Psychology research shows that practicing gratitude actually improves overall life happines and can help those with chronic disease to experience less pain. Taking time to appreciate the gifts of the day brings us to living in the moment, living with intention. There are simple ways you can bring a practice of gratitude into your life. Try taking time with your family to say “thank yous” around the dinner table and express what it is that you are thankful for that day. Make a mental list of the small (or not so small things) that you are grateful for – an easy commute to work, a healthy child, a great meal, or a quiet moment. Or keep a gratitude journal and record your thanksgivings. And, of course, take a few extra moments to smell, taste, and feel that delicious pumpkin pie and to appreciate the pleasure it brings you.

Happy holiday!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mother Madness: Letter to the Editor, Wall Street Journal

The following was written in response to the Saturday Essay (November 6, 2010) by Erica Jong, published in the Wall Street Journal. Click here to read the essay:

I have to fundamentally disagree with Erica Jong’s recent essay “Mother Madness” in which she suggests that attachment parenting and “green-parenting propaganda” represent an “avoidance strategy” and perhaps the “ultimate bondage for women.” My experience through the Holistic Moms Network, a national organization representing thousands of American women who share a passion for holistic parenting, does not bear out these conclusions.

In my experience, the women choosing to follow an attachment parenting, green parenting path are indeed choosing this path of their own free will, often not in alignment with mainstream parenting ideals although, admittedly, it is becoming increasingly more popular. These women do not view their roles as “victimization” but are rather reclaiming motherhood as a source of empowerment, awareness raising, and, yes, political action.

The women I have seen embrace “mother madness” are taking on the patriarchal institutions and authorities who seek to dictate their motherhood experience, to subvert breastfeeding in the workplace and in public locations, to give their parental decision-making power to their pediatricians and parenting experts, and to look the other way when educational institutions suppress independent, creative thinkers who seek to “solve problems for themselves” in unique ways. These holistic mothers are distrustful of the powers-that-be and the power that corporations and government institutions try to wield to dictate their parenting systems. They are empowered by using their individual power of choice and purchasing power to induce change, personally and politically. Rather than being “an avoidance strategy” that squashes political protest, holistic parenting has empowered women to make the connection between personal choice and political action. We have seen our mothers protest pesticide spraying in local playgrounds, spearhead healthy, local school lunch programs, and run for political office because of passions they cultivated raising their children and their desire to change the world, beyond that which they and their children inhabit.

Far from giving “up on the ideals of community”, Holistic Moms Network members and leaders work to create local parenting communities, bringing together mothers and fathers who are passionate about connecting with their children, with each other, and with the planet. They do indeed realize that “the community and the child cannot be separated” and seek to cultivate an environment where children can develop independence as a result of healthy attachment, where play is more important than “every waking hour [being] tightly scheduled”, and where alternative learning environments are celebrated.

Parenting from a place of awareness, empowerment and support is not about creating mother guilt but about feeding our own desires to nurture and make informed choices in spite of institutions that would have it otherwise. And it’s not about being perfect. To the mothers out there, no matter what path they have chosen, we concur with Ms. Jong on her final statement: “Do the best you can. There are no rules.”

Nancy Massotto, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Holistic Moms Network

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tuning In

I have always considered myself to be an intuitive person, energetically getting and sensing things about people, places, and even pets on a deeper, gut level. But becoming a parent reinforced this in a powerful way and brought about a whole new sense of knowing and understanding that defies rational awareness. Being in tune with my kids has taken on a whole new meaning and value for me as a mother.

I recently picked up an intriguing book, Intuitive Parenting by Debra Snyder. As the parent of a disabled child, Snyder found that tuning into her intuitive self on a profound and spiritual level allowed her to communicate with and experience a connection with her child that may not have otherwise happened. As a parent of a child with special needs, I find intuitive parenting to be even more important as a tool for negotiating this journey. A recent NY Times Magazine article explored the journey of parental intuition with novelist Masha Hamilton. Hamilton writes "as a parent, I’ve experienced another level of perception that seems to kick in with no clear outside cues." As Hamilton describes, there are times we simply get a feeling of danger or warning that something is not right with one of our children. And this feeling of strong mother's intuition has been confirmed through the stories of many other parents.

The challenge for me is not so much tuning in as it is standing my ground on what I know. From the time I first became a parent, I have always felt what was "right" for my particular children. Choices I have made along the way about their healthcare, their need for closeness or their breastfeeding habits were all based upon what I intuited from them. Unfortunately, this always seemed to fly in the face of conventional wisdom. My children would be spoiled or too dependent, the world told me (as did some of our friends and family members). They needed to be more independent, calmer, less energetic. It didn't matter who they were as people, rather it mattered to the outside world whether or not they fit into a preconceived notion of child behavior and rearing. And trusting in your inner wisdom rather than the external consensus is not always the easiest row to hoe.

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned from parenting is to follow this intuitive, connected path with my children no matter what the world outside seems to say. Cultivating my own inner voice has guided me to choose specific remedies or treatments, to know when a child is not well or stressed, and even to make specific professional and personal choices. It may not fit into a clinical trial or be dictated by rational processes of logic and evaluation, but inner knowingness, if you will, can be powerful when heeded and not second-guessed. Opening up to this inner knowledge may be a journey but it brings with it great insight and confidence. As Albert Einstein once said, "The only really valuable thing is intuition."