Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Importance of Advocating Compassionately

Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they advocate for healthy, gentle parenting choices compassionately. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I've written this post at least a dozen times in my head. I have drafts in Blogger. So, when I saw that the topic for April's Carnival of Natural Parenting was "Compassionate Advocacy" I knew it was time to polish this off.

Recently a friend told me that she thought I was rare in the fact that I was "crunchy," but not judgmental. I respectfully disagree. I think that many natural parenting advocates are characterized by the actions of a few, making compassionate advocacy even more important.

I am a strong, respectful and compassionate advocate because I desire (and expect) to be treated with respect and compassion, because I don't know what the person before me said, and because you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

The blanket statements, the "Oh, you just needed to do x,y, and z," and name-calling can become rampant on online mommy boards. It seems much too easy for some to forget that there is a person behind that screenname, a person who has thoughts and emotions and struggles just the same as you do. A person who, perhaps, planned endlessly for an unmedicated birth, but ended up with a cesarean section. A person who tried so hard to breastfeed only to be told they weren't making enough milk, baby wasn't gaining enough weight, and they needed to supplement. A person who wants to parent gently, but struggles because of how they were raised. And, sometimes, a person who has read, educated themselves, and just chosen to do things differently than you do.

I know many lactivists, birth advocates and et cetera just wish people were truly informed. We want people to be informed and empowered as they initiate their breastfeeding relationship. We want people to know there are risks associated with epidurals, continuous fetal monitoring, routine IV fluids and other birth interventions, and that it's okay to ask your care provider about these things and expect an honest answer (not just an "it's hospital policy"). Sometimes our message is lost in the quest to disseminate information. Sometimes a few are disrespectful and judgmental and give a bad reputation to the many who follow behind them. Sometimes we forget that even the most factual statement can have loaded meaning to a mother who has been hurt or felt judged in the past. Sometimes we say, "Oh I'm so sorry, this is what worked for me," when just an "I'm sorry," would suffice.

I have mentioned before that I link a lot of blog posts and articles on my personal Facebook page. Most are parenting oriented, although I throw in political, diet-related or philosophical links in sometimes, too. I post all these links not to annoy the heck out of people trying to quickly scan through their news feed, but because you never know who you might reach, who might need to read that particular message that particular day. I have an eclectic group of friends on Facebook -- friends from high school I haven't seen or talked to in nearly fifteen years, friends from college, friends from kung fu, from my old job, other moms, relatives -- and I post things because I hope that maybe just one person will say, "Oh, I never thought of it that way before." Maybe one person will decide to see an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant for a second opinion. Maybe one person will decide they are unhappy with how they are being treated at prenatal appointments and transfer care. Maybe one person will realize they are not alone in their struggles, whether they be in gentle discipline, nighttime parenting, or potty learning.

When I was pregnant with Beanie I joined an online birth club board. We were all due in the same month and bonded strongly. I remember struggling when Beanie was a newborn, wanting sleep and wondering if I would ever sleep again and one mom asked if I had ever considered cosleeping. I hadn't, but that one shared idea made an impact, we tried it, and things improved from there on out. I joined another online board when I was pregnant with Bubby, but was not nearly as involved as I had found my groove, so to speak, and didn't have all the questions or need the confirmation that I was doing right as a parent. I did, however, feel that I had the opportunity to respectfully provide an alternate view on some topics, to share our experience, what we had learned, and where to go if someone was looking for more information. I hoped that I could be the one to share an idea someone hadn't considered before.

I don't spout off the latest research and information to every unsuspecting friend and family member, but I keep sharing information in the hope that I can reach just one person. Who knows what they may do with their newly acquired knowledge? It could change their thinking or free them from the idea that there must be something wrong with the way they are doing things because (it seems) they are doing things so differently than others. With every interaction I strive to be the most respectful, non-judgmental and compassionate advocate I can because that's the face I want to put on natural parenting. Because that's who I really think we, as natural parenting advocates, are. Because I expect nothing less in return.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Natural Parenting Advocacy by Example — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her blog, Twitter and Facebook as her natural parenting soapbox.
  • You Catch More Flies With Honey — When it comes to natural parenting advice, Kate of The Guavalicious Life believes you catch more flies with honey.
  • From the Heart — Patti at Jazzy Mama searches her heart for an appropriate response when she learns that someone she respects wants his baby to cry-it-out.
  • I Offer the Truth — Amy at Innate Wholeness shares the hard truths to inspire parents in making changes and fully appreciating the parenting experience.
  • Advocating or Just Opinionated?Momma Jorje discusses how to draw the line between advocating compassionately and being just plain opinionated. It can be quite a fine line.
  • Compassionate Advocacy — Mamapoekie of Authentic Parenting writes about how to discuss topics you are passionate about with people who don't share your views.
  • Heiny Helpers: Sharing Cloth Love — Heiny Helpers is guest posting on Natural Parents Network to share how they are providing cloth diapers and cloth diapering support to low income families.
  • Struggling with Advocacy — April of McApril still struggles to determine how strongly she should advocate for her causes, but still loves to show her love for her parenting choices to those who would like to listen.
  • Compassionate Advocacy Through Blogging (AKA –Why I Blog) — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how both blogging and day-to-day life give her opportunities to compassionately advocate for natural parenting practices.
  • A Letter to *Those* Parents — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares how to write an informed yet respectful reply to those parents — you know, the ones who don't parent the way you do.
  • Why I Am Not A Homebirth Advocate — Olivia at Write About Birth is coming out: she is a homebirth mom, but not a homebirth advocate. One size does not fit all – but choice is something we can all advocate for!
  • Why I Open My Big Mouth — Wolfmother from Fabulous Mama Chronicles reflects on why she is passionate about sharing parenting resources.
  • Watching and Wearing — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life advocates the joys of babywearing simply by living life in a small college town.
  • Compassionate Advocacy . . . That's The Way I Do It — Amyables at Toddler in Tow describes how she's learned to forsake judgment and channel her social energy to spread the "good news" of natural parenting through interaction and shared experiences.
  • Compelling without repelling — Lauren at Hobo Mama cringes when she thinks of the obnoxious way she used to berate people into seeing her point of view.
  • I Am the Change — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro describes a recent awakening where she realized exactly how to advocate for natural parenting.
  • Public Displays of CompassionThe Accidental Natural Mama recounts an emotional trip to the grocery store and the importance of staying calm and compassionate in the storm of toddler emotions.
  • I will not hide behind my persona — Suzi Leigh at Attached at the Boob discusses the benefits of being honest and compassionate on the internet.
  • Choosing My Words — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom shares why she started her blog and why she continues to blog despite an increasingly hectic schedule.
  • Honour the Child :: Compassionate Advocacy in the Classroom — Lori at Beneath the Rowan Tree shares her experience of being a gentle and compassionate parent — with other people's children — as a classroom volunteer in her daughter's senior kindergarten room.
  • Inspired by the Great Divide (and Hoping to Inspire) — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis shares her thoughts on navigating the "great divide" through gently teaching and being teachable.
  • Introverted Advocacy — CatholicMommy at Working to be Worthy shares how she advocates for gentle parenting, even though she is about as introverted as one can be.
  • The Three R's of Effective and Gentle Advocacy — Ana at Pandamoly explains how "The Three R's" can yield consistent results and endless inspiration to those in need of some change.
  • Passionate and Compassionate: How do We do It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares the importance of understanding your motivation for advocacy.
  • Sharing the love — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine talks about how she shares the love and spreads the word.
  • What Frank Said — Nada at miniMOMist has a good friend named Frank. She uses his famous saying to demonstrate how much natural parenting has benefited her and her family.
  • Baby Sling Carriers Make Great Compassionate Advocacy Tools — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shared her babywearing knowledge — and her sling — with a new mom.
  • Everyday Superheroes — Who needs Superman when we have a community of compassionate advocates?! Dionna at Code Name: Mama believes that our community of gentle bloggers are the true superheroes.
  • Words of advice: compassionately advocating for my parenting choices — MrsH at Fleeting Moments waits to give advice until she's been asked, resulting in fewer advocacy moments but very high responsiveness from parents all over the spectrum of parenting approaches.
  • Peaceful Parenting — Peaceful parenting shows at Living Peacefully with Children with an atypical comment from a stranger.
  • Speaking for birth — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud soul-searches about how she can advocate for natural birth without causing offense.
  • Gentle is as Gentle Does — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how she is gently advocating her parenting style.
  • Walking on Air — Rachael at The Variegated Life wants you to know that she has no idea what she's doing — and it's a gift.
  • Parenting with my head, my heart, and my gut — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares her thoughts on being a compassionate advocate of natural parenting as a blogger.
  • At Peace With the World — Megan at Ichigo Means Strawberry talks about being an advocate for peaceful parenting at 10,000 feet.
  • Putting a public face on "holistic" — Being public about her convictions is a must for Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama, but it takes some delicacy.
  • Just Be; Just Do. — Amy at Anktangle believes strongly about her parenting methods, and also that the way to get people to take notice is to simply live her life and parent the best she knows how.
  • One Parent at a Time... — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that advocating for Natural Parenting is best accomplished by walking the walk.
  • Self-compassion — We're great at caring for and supporting others —from our kiddos to other mamas — but Lisa at Gems of Delight shares a post about treating ourselves with that same sense of compassion.
  • Using Montessori Principles to Advocate Natural Parenting — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how she uses Montessori principles to be a compassionate advocate for natural parenting.
  • Advocacy? Me? — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers that by "just doing her thing," she may be advocating for natural parenting.
  • Feeding by Example — Mama Mo at Attached at the Nip shares her experience of being the first one of her generation to parent.
  • Compassionate Consumerism — Erica at ChildOrganics encourages her children to be compassionate consumers and discusses the benefits of buying local and fair trade products.
  • The Importance of Advocating Compassionately — Kristen at Adventures in Mommyhood acts as a compassionate advocate by sharing information with many in the hopes of reaching a few.
  • Some Thoughts on Gentle Discipline — Darcel at The Mahogany Way shares her thoughts and some tips on Gentle Discipline.
  • Compassionate Advocacy: Sharing Resources, Spreading the Love — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle shares how her passion for making natural choices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting have supported others in Dominica and beyond.
  • A journey to compassion and connection — Jessica at Instead of Institutions shares her journey from know-it-all to authentic advocacy.
  • Advocacy Through Openness, Respect, and Understanding — Melissa at The New Mommy Files describes her view on belief, and how it has shaped the way she advocates for gentle parenting choices.
  • Why I'm not an advocate for Natural Parenting — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog delivers the shocking news that, after 10 years of being a mum, she is NOT an advocate for natural parenting!
  • Natural Love Creates Natural Happiness — A picture is worth a thousand words, but how about a smile, or a giggle, or a gaze? Jessica at Cloth Diapering Mama’s kids are extremely social and their natural happiness is very obvious.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy — Even in the progressive SF Bay Area, Lily at Witch Mom finds she must defend some of her parenting choices.
  • A Tale of Four Milky Mamas — In this post The ArtsyMama shares how she has found ways to repay her childhood friend for the gift of milk.
  • don't tell me what to do — Pecky at benny and bex demonstrates compassionate advocacy through leading by example.


  1. Thank you for sharing! I agree that calm and kind persistence is key!

    Come & Join the Playdate!

  2. "that's the face I want to put on natural parenting" - we are on the same wavelength! That is exactly what Lauren and I discussed when we created NPN, we want to be there for parents who need support and information, not judgment. Excellent post Kristen!

  3. I really relate to your post! I like to share info about natural parenting, but I know that nobody wants to be preached to or judged!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I love the idea of linking to blog posts and articles about compassionate parenting on your personal Facebook page. What a great way to spread your ideas and beliefs!

    I will definitely be stealing that idea.....

  6. I do the same thing on Facebook! Whenever I see something even remotely interesting, I post it for the same reason, in hopes that someone will see it in their feed, read it and be changed. Of course, things don't happen that way and people's opinions run deep. But as you said, we just might reach that one person some day and really make a difference.

  7. Such a day for this post! Insightful and compassionate as always!

  8. I have thought the exact same thing as what your friend said (about you being rare) so maybe this linky is a chance for me to find more mamas like you :) I definitely have always appreciated your compassion and hope you can inspire others to be the same way.

  9. It's interesting...a long time ago, I stopped "inviting in" the negative energy of harsh comments and judgments. And I stopped "giving it out" -- even if that was always just in my head! And the energy of harshness -- it's just not there anymore. I don't find much judgment or harshness from others. Oh sure, there is an occassional something or other...but I (THINK! HOPE!) that when it is met with "no resistance" or "taking them on" and with just "allowing" or not defending or even just simply a gentle presence, the comment or the harshness just seems to soften. This is more energy work and heart work than "wordsmithing." I sure don't have that when I'm under stress and feel attacked. I just breathe, connect to my heart, try to send some compassion to the other person, not take it personally, and just not even give energy to the judgment. And it fades -- if only in my energy field -- it fades.

    So good for you for doing your own version of this gentleness practice!

    You do bring up an interesting thought -- here we are practicing gentleness and acceptance...with our children -- do we practice that with others too?

  10. I love this sentence "I keep sharing information in the hope that I can reach just one person." It's perfect. I think of myself as someone who walks through life scattering seeds. Some fall on barren land, but some flourish - which, is in essence, how I think you are doing things too. Thanks for sharing a lovely post.

  11. Great post for CarNatPar. I'm glad you polished it off for the carnival. I also share a lot on facebook (I have no idea if my mainstream friends have me blocked by now as they never comment) but also act from a place of compassion elsewhere.

    I think that many of the crunchy (and mainstream) advocates who talk about getting informed make the mistake that once someone is informed that they will take on the same viewpoint. It still amounts to the reasoning "if you disagree with me, you are ignorant and must be educated" mentality.

    Whether you're educated or not, anyone advocating to you from that standpoint is not going to be listened to. Offering the information or simply offering a compassionate word advocates more strongly than educating the ignorant. It may not seem so, but it is the nonviolent way to go. Change must come from within for it to be true change


Thank you for taking the time to comment! I love to hear from you.