Struggling with Advocacy

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.

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I’m still struggling to find my place within advocacy.

I’ve cared about issues before, but I’ve never been this passionate about them. I feel as though my eyes weren’t opened to the truly important things until I got pregnant with my daughter. (It may be because before the birth of my daughter, I was more than just a little selfish!) Just as soon as I saw her – small, beautiful, and perfect – I knew that I had to be her advocate. She had not the voice to be her own. Suddenly a fire was lit beneath me.

Breastfeeding Symbol

Breastfeeding Symbol

The two issues about which I’m most passionate are breastfeeding and anti-circumcision (yes, even though I had a daughter). My mother breastfed me for 18 months and told me many stories as I was growing up, so I was raised thinking of breastfeeding as normal, natural, and a perfect time for bonding. My passion for anti-circumcision has much younger roots; when I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband said he didn’t have the choice to be circumcised. He wishes the choice was his own. His statement led me to do my research. I found out that the “pros” people list as pros are either a really long stretch to believe or they have no scientific reasoning behind them. They are merely aesthetic.

That being said, I still don’t know exactly how to advocate for these causes. It helps if you know a little bit about my personality. I’ve gone from the younger version of April that used to talk constantly and never censored a word that came out of my mouth to a new April who listens twice as much as she talks, would rather not hurt anyone’s feelings, and who would certainly not ever want to be involved in confrontation if not absolutely necessary.

Whenever I advocate for breastfeeding I don’t want to hurt the feelings of anyone who made an educated decision not to breastfeed and I certainly don’t want to hurt anyone who tried but was unable. When I advocate for the end of circumcision, I don’t want to offend people who have done their homework and still made that choice for their sons.

In short, I don’t want to tell anyone “You’re wrong for doing that! You were given breasts to please your husband, and then feed the baby that results from that pleasure! And while we’re at it, foreskin is not a birth defect, so why are you giving your son cosmetic surgery?!” I believe that even though I happen to think that breastfeeding is the primo way to go and circumcision doesn’t have any medical benefit, what I think may be wrong. I’ve been wrong before. Why couldn’t it happen again? How do I have any room to judge? I know I make plenty of parenting decisions that 100% crunchy moms wouldn’t agree with, but I still do these things because I’m positive that my child will not be harmed. I’m sure that the parents who do not breastfeed and the parents that do circumcise their sons feel the same way.

Preserving Genital Integrity

Preserving Genital Integrity

Because I want to step so softly, how do I advocate these days?

I write. I write in a public forum where everyone and their mother can see the thoughts going through my mind. I write stories about the reasons I’ve chosen to do things, rather than the reasons you should not choose the roads I have decided not to take. I try to give useful information in my blog and post information on my Facebook page that will facilitate a mother’s ability to breastfeed if she wants, and I try to provide information that lets people know how I came to the conclusion, with my husband, to not circumcise our son if we had a boy. I let mothers-to-be know “If you’re interested in breastfeeding and you want more information on circumcision, let me know!” and leave it at that. Honestly, I’d rather just plant the seed and allow the mother to come to her decision on her own rather than beating someone over the head with information until they’ve decided they’d rather avoid me than have to listen to my ideals.

Overall, my intent is to provide information about these issues in a loving, informative, and non-judgmental way. I hope that in doing this I can be a voice for those who are too small to speak their own minds. I hope I’m being a strong advocate for my daughter; not only for right now while she can’t speak, but also so that she knows she can grow a voice of her own later. And I hope that in the meantime I’m not being unreasonable or condescending in my tactics.

To be honest, I’m still not sure if I’m doing this right or not. I’m not sure that I shouldn’t be picketing. I’m not sure that I shouldn’t be shouting from the rooftops and via all the electronic media we’ve been given today. I’m not sure that my advocacy is strong enough. At the times when my voice is weak. . . I hope the life I lead tells my story for me.

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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.

About McApril

Wife, mother, administrator.

Posted on April 12, 2011, in Blog, CarNatPar, Circumcision, Family, Lactivist, Parenting, T. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. The written word is such a powerful medium, but I hear you on the feeling you ‘should’ be doing more. But you know, maybe those opportunities will present themselves; often the Universe has a way of manifesting what we need ;) I love how strong this post feels; thanks for sharing :)

  2. I think it sounds like you’re being very respectful and helpful, and I admire your restraint given how passionately you feel about those topics (and I’m with you there!).

  3. I love your thoughts about planting a seed – what a perfect way to describe a form of compassionate advocacy!

  4. I think that by living our lives in these ways, we can serve as a bridge. It is important to me that *somebody* is shouting from the rooftops, because I was ready to hear them. It is important to people who are not ready to hear the rooftop-shouters that some of us are (just as passionately) holding out our hands to those who may wish to join us. Or at least, that’s what I think.

    But I understand what you mean when you say you feel like you should be doing more. I have that feeling myself, but I also know that I can only do so much before I start to burn out. I am frequently reassured by my rooftop-shouting friends that they need me, too, so I think we have a place, doing our thing, writing about it, and giving voice to those too quiet to do it for themselves. Do you get that reassurance, as well?

    • I *completely* understand what you’re saying here, and to be honest, I never quite thought of it that way. I’m not exactly an “all or nothing” girl, but I think that in advocating (especially when I see signs like “Mamas don’t let doctors cut babies”) that I should be doing more.

      But no, I don’t really get that reassurance. To be fair, natural parenting isn’t really recognized where I live. Around this area people expect their children to be independent at a time I believe is way too early. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that I should have given my daughter formula so that I could go out and drink, that I should let her cry it out so that she would learn to sleep on her own, and that I need to stop spoiling her.

      Mind, in the next sentence, I’m told what a truly wonderful daughter I have.

      I’m in the minority around here, even amongst most of my friends. Maybe that’s why I feel that my voice is so small.

  5. Your last sentence is perfect! I also hope that the life I lead tells the story for me!

  6. I truly feel that a lot of our advocacy (and blogging is a powerful medium!) is actually a lot stronger than we realize…things we say could be something a person who needs it ignores right now, but may come back to days, months, or years later….

  7. I really love this post. I can feel the struggle you’re having with yourself about the best way to be.

    It sounds like you and I are similar in that we used to be one way, and now have become more reserved. I wonder what caused such a dramatic change in each of us? You spoke perfectly to how I feel in the last line: “At the times when my voice is weak. . . I hope the life I lead tells my story for me.” Thank you.

  8. Becoming a mom really does ignite a passion for making the world a better place, doesn’t it? I, too, love having blogging and writing as a means of compassionate advocacy!

  9. I love your honesty! I totally agree, while struggling to be a gentle, crunchy parent myself I find that I cannot judge other parents, though I may disagree with their choices. Especially with breastfeeding, I’d rather just plant the seed, as you say, and let the mother come to me if she needs help instead of hounding her.

  10. I am with you on the blog as a platform for compassionate advocacy. Especially when it comes to family and friends, I don’t feel like I can “preach” (or really want to!) to them in person, but I know they are reading the blog and that may be a way for them to try to understand some of our parenting philosophies. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  11. Lovely thoughtful piece. What struck me with this part “I’ve gone from the younger version of April that used to talk constantly and never censored a word that came out of my mouth to a new April who listens twice as much as she talks, would rather not hurt anyone’s feelings, and who would certainly not ever want to be involved in confrontation if not absolutely necessary.” was that maybe April was judging both younger and older April? Maybe that makes it hard to speak. It certainly does for me. That and the desire to tread softly and not hurt, as you say. It’s a delicate balance – respect for others’ views, respect for your own views!

  12. Lovely post! I like your intent “to provide information about these issues in a loving, informative, and non-judgmental way….At the times when my voice is weak. . . I hope the life I lead tells my story for me.” I truly believe that’s the best way.

  13. I use my blog as a way to get out some of those strong passionate words without actually saying them to people. ;)

  14. This is a great post for CarNatPar. I also question where to draw the line on issues that I feel cross over from parenting choice into violating the rights of a child. Circumcising is one of those issues. I do make the distinction between actions and the people doing the actions-just like we do with our kids, right? We may want to encourage one type of behaviour and discourage another while always making it clear that we love and support the child. The same compassion can be extended to parents.

    I think as long as you’re choosing to question where that line is, you’ll be on the compassionate side of advocacy.

  1. Pingback: Self-compassion: Having a “metta moment” « Gems of Delight

  2. Pingback: Advocacy through Openness, Respect, and Understanding | Vibrant Wanderings

  3. Pingback: Gentle is as gentle does «

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