Tuesday, December 20, 2011

With Age Comes Wisdom, and Tolerance

When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person

who can live at peace with others. - Peace Pilgrim

Perhaps it is age and experience that bring us wisdom indeed. As young, idealistic parents we are often on our soapboxes about what is "right" and how we should parent our children. We wear our passion on our sleeves and often become defensive in the face of opposition. We believe there is one way - our way. Whether our passion is expressed in our beliefs about childbirth, breastfeeding, our diet, or educational choices, we feel "right", others "wrong."

But some days down the road, the powers that be open us up. We discover a new path, perhaps due to health crisis or new information. Or we find ourselves in place where we are willing to make a change, and our edges start to soften. We have not lost our passion nor our ideals, but we have grown into the wisdom of tolerance.

At Holistic Moms, we struggle with the challenge each and every day. Our members are parents with many passions. Some new parents, some with adult children. What we share in is an interest in natural, holistic, and sustainable living. But what that means to each of us is not the same. Holistic living and parenting is a journey. We are each unique, with our own life experiences, knowledge, wisdom, and resources. There is not one "right" but what is "right" at this time, in this place, with this information. Understanding that and cultivating tolerance is essential for our very existence and for our mission and purpose of supporting parents and raising awareness. Attacking, criticizing, and making others feel guilty for their choices will not achieve these goals. Honoring diversity and treating each other with tolerance will.

When I was in graduate school, I spent several years living with a roommate I adored. We had much in common, and many differences. I was a vegetarian at the time, passionate about healthy foods and nutrition. She was a fan of drive-thrus. We never attacked each other about our eating habits, but chose to live in the same space with different choices. Many years later we reconnected and the tides had indeed turned - she was passionate about healthy living and she and her entire family had embraced a plant-based lifestyle. Peaceful co-existence had allowed her the space to discover another choice in a place that was safe and accepting. She found a path that worked for her and, ironically, I have since chosen another!

When we refuse to tolerate or even begin to understand the choices of others we close ourselves off from learning. The choice we have made in this time and this space may not be the choice that serves us well in the future. When we become rigid about being right, we fail to recognize when we ourselves our wrong. And when we demand that others change, we make them more steadfast in their positions rather than open to new possibilities.

It is not an easy road to travel. Critics on every side will find fault with us for not being "their" way. Holistic living is not a single issue. Indeed, the very nature of holism is a recognition that everything is connected and intertwined. One single choice does not exclude you from being a holistic parent, nor does any one choice make you one. You will never have arrived in the land of health or parenting perfection, but will always be on your way there. And what journey doesn't deserve some good company?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Antibiotic Overuse

One thing many Holistic Moms agree on is that our healthcare culture is quick to prescribe antibiotics for a wide variety of illnesses, even when their use is not warranted. Even the American Academy on Pediatrics (AAP) has backed off the use of antibiotics for such childhood ailments as ear infections, acknowledging that "concerns about the rising rates of antibacterial resistance and the growing costs of antibacterial prescriptions have focused the attention of the medical community and the general public on the need for judicious use of antibacterial agents."

Surprisingly, however, 80% of all antibiotics sold for use in the Unites States are used on animals, not on humans. In fact, most antibiotics are used in commercial farming as a result of overcrowding and unsanitary conditions. While many consumers are concerned about humane treatment in agriculture and seek out local farms for their own purchases, the overuse of antibiotics in commercial agriculture is something we all need to be aware of, even if you don't consume animal products. Why? Because "bacteria resistant to antibiotics used in animals will also be resistant to antibiotics used in humans." What does that mean? That means that as these antibiotic-resistant bacteria spread, many diseases may become difficult - if not impossible - to treat.

Agricultural antibiotics impact all of us. Consuming undercooked meat contaminated by antibiotic resistant bacteria or touching raw meat juices is just one way we come in contact with this issue. But animals carrying these superbugs also shed them in their feces or milk, their byproducts may wind up as fertilizer for other crops, or runoff from factory farms can seep into our drinking water. Even airborne antibiotic resistant bacteria have been detected.

Citizens Against Superbugs, a grassroots campaign spearheaded by Applegate Farms and STOP Foodborne Illness, is calling on the President to end the overuse of antibiotics on animals. You can sign the petition and lend a hand to this effort by clicking here. Help support these efforts and make a difference!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

When a Jar of Tomato Sauce is Enough

The other day my 5 year old was beside himself. From the car ride home to pick up his older brother from school through the dinner hour, he would break into to crying/screaming jags that startled me. And all he wanted was mommy. He needed to be held and consoled. He would regroup and be fine and then an outburst or tantrum would ensue. It was back and forth, up and down. It was the witching hour - when homework needed to be overseen, dinner needed cooking, and the dogs were doing their "feed me" dances. But everything needed to take a back seat to the emotional chaos, including dinner.

When calm finally returned, it was dark and dinner was way past due. And that is when guilt started to rear its ugly head. The kids needed to eat but the time crunch and emotional drain of the day's events left me reaching for a jar of tomato sauce (albeit organic) and some pasta. On the one hand, I had nurtured and fed my child emotionally and yet that voice of perfection still rose up. How could this meal's "vegetable" be a a jar of tomato sauce? I found myself guiltily grating fresh carrots and onions into the sauce to assuage Ms. Perfect before I started the conversation about being "enough". It was enough that dinner was being made, regardless of its nutritional density. But why does this mama-guilt and demand for perfection always seem to arise? Couple that with some eco-guilt and holistic minded-moms are in for serious trouble.

Motherhood and guilt are so closely intertwined that we expect it to be a "natural part of mothering" according to Karen Kleiman, writing on "Guilt, Motherhood, and the Pursuit of Perfection" in Psychology Today magazine. We are always judging ourselves and others, fearing that we have scarred our children and failed on our parenting journey. And this persistent yardstick of perfection can lead moms down a path to anxiety and depression.

Instead, parents need to develop self-acceptance and understand that we are good enough, in this moment, with these resources, and with whatever energy and patience we can muster. Every single day is an opportunity to learn and grow as a parent and judging every imperfection - in ourselves and in others - creates a pattern of guilt and regret. As author and positive affirmation expert Louise Hay has said: "The bottom line for everyone is I’m not good enough. It’s only a thought, and a thought can be changed."

We need to change our self-talk and thoughts as mothers. This is no easy task. Self-talk is so automated we often don't even recognize when it is going on. Listening and being aware of what we tell ourselves is the first step in changing the conversation. Slowing down to pay attention, journaling, and meditation are all great tools for identifying our negative self-talk and learning to replace it with more positive statements and beliefs. We need to know that we are good enough and creating positive self-talk is a step in the right direction. As mothers, we need to forgive ourselves and know that we are doing our best. And we need to know that sometimes a jar of tomato sauce IS enough.