Finding the Courage to Be A Fearless Natural Parent

Life

It seems there are as many different parenting styles as there are “experts” in our modern world.

From Dr. Luther Emmett Holt, the father of pediatrics, who famously taught that babies and children should never be played with; warning that parents could “spoil” their infants if they gave into their baby’s needs such as frequent feeding and comforting.

To more recent times with Gina Ford, the Queen of Routine, claiming all babies MUST be woken and fed by 7am and given a last feed at 6.15pm, during which parents MUST not make eye contact with their baby in order to avoid excitement.

I’m the first to admit that as a passionate natural parent my perspective has shifted as my confidence and experience has grown in the last few years. I find myself easily calling bullshit on this type of misguided advice, not because I’m an expert, but because I’m a parent with my instincts fully intact and I’m not afraid to trust them.

Yet, acting on our instincts is far from easy in our conventional society.

Like most parents, from the moment I announced my pregnancy those around me began offering unsolicited advice on how we should raise our son. While I appreciate it’s generally well meaning, it can sabotage a new parent’s confidence as it tempts us to doubt our instincts before we’ve had the chance to put them into practice.

Many people see natural parenting as just another style of parenting that can be easily stereotyped and dismissed.

I beg to differ.

Natural parenting isn’t a series of prescriptive rules; it’s an empowering philosophy. An empathetic attitude. An emboldening way of life. An organic work of art, rather than paint-by-numbers. And it works for ALL children.

How can such a bold statement be true?

Because the fundamental tenet of natural parenting is to be responsive. By definition, that means natural parenting is tailored to each individual child. And while we’re all different, there are common needs that unite humankind. All children need to be heard and treated with respect. All children need to know that their needs matter. And all children need to know that someone cares.

For me, parenting as nature intended encompasses implementing principles of attachment theory, simplifying childhood, treating children as equals and immersing our kids in the natural world. As a new mother choosing to parent this way, I quickly realized that I was a member of a countercultural minority.

I remember sitting at coffee groups with my baby sleeping in a wrap surrounded by a sea of strollers and being asked whether I’d sleep trained my son; the very thought of it broke my heart.

I remember being told that when my son could ask for it, he was too old to breastfeed; I smiled politely, while listening to my instincts, which were telling me the statement was based on personal hang-ups and cultural fears rather than fact.

I remember googling “is it ok for my baby to nurse to sleep” and being met with a barrage of articles reporting that by breastfeeding to sleep I was creating unhealthy sleep associations; I closed the browser, trusted that mother nature doesn’t get it wrong and continued to nurse my son to sleep.

And now, I feel isolated as I weigh up the options available for our son’s learning, recently having been judged by another mother who said “being home with parents might be ok for some kids, but preschool is best”.

I find myself constantly saying NO to convention in order to say YES to something better; I stand out like a sore thumb and it ain’t easy.

Because society likes everyone to conform and obey the rules; to go to school, get a job, buy a house, get married and have kids. So, it should come as no surprise that the same is expected when we have children. Put your baby in a crib.  Top up with formula. Push a stroller. Train her to sleep. Give him a time out. And dish out discipline.

But, what if that doesn’t feel right?

What if we pull back the veil on common parenting practices and don’t like what we see? What if we want parenting to be an enlightening journey rather than a series of chores to get through? These are the types of the questions that inspired me to make different choices.

And when we elect to take a different path and are brave enough to be open about it we unintentionally shine a mirror on those who follow the status quo, whether they admit to themselves it or not. Because most parents do what their told without realizing they have the right to make an independent decision.

I strongly believe that nothing about your parenting journey should be predetermined by others.

So how do you find the courage to be a fearless natural parent?

By realizing that courage is not the absence of fear, but the realization that choosing to parent in a way that is authentic to you is more important than fear. Lean into your fear of judgment, trust your instincts and don’t shy away.

When we make choices only to avoid discomfort our worlds get a little smaller, possibility doesn’t seem so endless and we trade the spark of authenticity for mindless conformity.

For me, if I strip it back to basics, it comes down to one simple choice; I can choose to please others and gain their approval or I can choose to do what I know is best for my child. Needless to say, my son wins out every time.

After all, our children are our most important parenting critics. So, block out society’s white noise and listen to YOUR child. They will teach YOU how to be the parent THEY need. Follow your heart and listen to your instincts; they will never lead you astray. And this community will be here to support you and pick you up if you stumble.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” Ambrose Redmoon

Lost Art of Natural Parenting
THE LOST ART OF NATURAL PARENTING
“This book is the key you’ve been searching for; the permission to silence the noise of society and be the parent you want to be.”

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COMMENTS
  • May 04, 2017
    Cecily

    I LOVE this! Think this is my most favourite read – the best blog post I’ve ever read.
    I have been trying to explain every single thing you have written since I had my first son nearly 4 years ago. I never manage to get my points across as I stumble and trip over my words feeling judged and seeing the rolling eyes! This explains EXACTLY what I want to say! THANKYOU!

    • May 04, 2017
      Tracy Gillett

      Oh wow Cecily, what a compliment!! Thank you!!! I am so happy you enjoyed reading it and that it connected and resonated with you. And our son’s are the same age – my little man has a 4th birthday coming up, can’t believe it! Thank you again for reading and for such a lovely comment xx

  • May 04, 2017
    Katie-Marie Dartmouth

    I nodded enthusiastically throughout this and couldn’t share it quick enough! It’s so sad when mums are shut down and feel they can’t do what comes naturally – I don’t know why society is so scared of nurturing 🙁

    • May 04, 2017
      Tracy Gillett

      I don’t know either Katie – it just doesn’t make sense to me. It’s so sad but so happy that we have a community of parents who are brave enough to choose a different path. Thank you so much for reading and for sharing – very kind of you and much appreciated. Lovely to connect with you xx

  • May 04, 2017
    Camille

    PLEASE never stop writing! You’re so wise and such a inspirational human. Your strong values, beliefs, what you stand for is truely beautiful. I couldn’t agree more with every word you write. It is so comforting and at times quite emotional to read your words and feel so connected through your blog. I’m all for being a part of this countercultural minority! Thankyou so much for this wonderful post. x

    • May 04, 2017
      Tracy Gillett

      Thank you SO much Camille – it means the world to hear words like yours and motivates me to keep writing. I am so passionate about parenting being a wonderfully positive experience – there is a better way. I’m so happy that my words connect with you and appreciate you reading them. So lovely to connect and please feel free to reach out any time. So happy to be part of the countercultural minority with you xx

  • May 05, 2017

    Sigh. My talking and walking almost three year old stopped playing with a new friend she’d met at the doctor’s office waiting room to “do some beeboo”. I shyly pulled her in and gave her the breast she needed. I new the mother of the other child would be horrified (as well as others in the waiting room), but I couldn’t deny my child the comfort she was seeking. To my surprise, the other mother started telling me about how she’s co-sleeping and feels addicted to the smell of her daughter. How her daughter grabs at her nipples all the time and other intimate details she clearly felt alone in experiencing. You’re right, it takes courage being a unique parent for your unique child. Not only does your child win, so does the world in so many other unimaginable ways. Thanks for the reminder. I’m looking forward to your new book. Avery

  • May 06, 2017
    serdar

    Hello Tracy, I don’t know if dads comment you at all but as a dad myself I would like to share my thoughts with you. I’ve been reading this blog nearly since my son was born. I really don’t remember how i came across your blog but what you write always relieves me. My wife and I have become natural parents unawares. I ‘d had no idea what kind of dad i would become but once my son was born, i fell in love with him. I hugged, kissed, caressed him countless of times regardless to what people say about spoiling him. Prior to his birth, i conferred to parents and my friends that have kids. They are so narrow-minded when it comes to raising a child that it didn’t take me long to realise that i would not like to raise a robot. The way they’d lead me was such boring, tedious practices of parenting. As you always write, my wife and I listened to our instincts whenever we were in doubt. She breastfed her for almost 27 months. (he’s now 28 months old). Our house is so tiny that we couldn’t arrange him a discrete room. By that, he sleeps in our room in his crib but whenever he feels like he jumps into our bed which we love and don’t feel discontent at all. ( regarding to your co-sleeping)
    Lastly, we love our natural parenting journey at every single second of it and everything feels all right.
    Thanks for your inspirational blog. It really helped us feel that we’re not alone.

    From Istanbul with love.

  • November 07, 2017
    Liza

    What an absolutely wonderful and refreshing post! as a mother to two boys and a baby girl I feel that I have been that sore thumb for ten years now! How comforting to know that I’m not alone in thinking like this! Cant wait to browse through your other posts 🙂

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