Artisanal mothering

Artisanal

On Mother’s Day I wrote about my firm belief that love makes a mother, not birth choices.

But apparently, loving your child is no longer enough. Contemporary natural parenting aficionados appear to view their children as status symbols whose birth and feeding serve to proclaim the superiority of their mothers. Just as in certain circles artisanal food proclaims a superior hostess, in parenting circles specific parenting practices, natural childbirth, breastfeeding, family bed, etc. proclaim a superior mother. I think of these parenting practices as artisanal mothering.

What does artisanal mean? According to Dictionary.com:

pertaining to or noting a high-quality or distinctive product made in small quantities, usually by hand or using traditional methods

Traditional, and traditionally labor intensive processes are required to produce artisanal cheese or artisanal bread. The maker takes no shortcuts, and avoid all conveniences in producing artisanal products, and that supposedly makes for a superior product. Greater suffering = higher quality.

In the world of natural parenting, traditional and traditionally painful and inconvenient processes are required to produce artisanal children. The mother takes no shortcuts, and avoids all conveniences and that supposedly makes for superior children. Greater suffering = higher quality.

Personally, I blame Martha Stewart for the obsession with artisanal products. Don’t get me wrong; I love Martha. The foyer of my home is graced by a vase, stenciled over faux painted walls, above a hand made, decoratively shaped shelf. Martha showed me how to do it, told me I was capable, and sent me off to buy stencils, faux painting supplies and a jig saw. I’m proud of how it all came out and how many thousands of dollars I saved in the process. I suffered to produce the vase, painted walls and handmade shelf, but I don’t kid myself; it’s only cheaper than what a professional could have produced, not better. Professionals probably could have done a superior job.

Similarly, artisanal children may be cheaper to raise, and require a great deal more suffering on the part of the mother, but they are not a superior product. Natural childbirth can produce an agonized mother and a cheaper delivery, but not a better baby. Indeed there is considerable evidence that traditional methods of giving birth are more likely to produce a damaged child than hiring a professional. Breastfeeding may take an extraordinary effort and commitment on the part of the mother, and may be cheaper to provide, but it doesn’t make for a better baby. Indeed, in some settings, formula is actually better for babies. The family bed may more inconvenient for the parents and cheaper than a separate crib, but it does not provide a superior baby, either. In the world of mothering, there is no evidence of any kind that traditional methods involving a lot of physical suffering on the part of the mother produce a superior product.

Artisanal mothering (natural childbirth, breastfeeding, baby wearing, co-sleeping) emphasizes process over outcome. But in raising children, it is outcome (happy, healthy children) that matters, not process. Moreover, children should be viewed as ends in themselves, not as means for demonstrating maternal superiority.

Buying in to natural parenting is like buying artisanal cheese. If you like it, and it works for you, go for it! But don’t ever confuse what you like with what is best. Buying artisanal cheese does not mark you as a socially superior person, and buying into natural parenting does not mark you as a better mother.

  • ihateslugs
  • CB

    I’m confused by this analogy. Artisanal breads and cheeses certainly taste a lot nicer than Wonderbread and Kraft cheese squares. I know what I’d choose.

    • Alcharisi

      Sure, and I agree with you–but that’s a personal preference, not a verifiable measure of quality.

      I do think the analogy could use a bit of finesse. First, there’s a distinction to be made between labor/method and level of expertise. My partner and I do a lot of home bread baking according to “artisanal” recipes and methods, and we’re pretty pleased with the results. No one, however, is going to confuse us with a Chad Robertson or a Lionel Poliane. It is the case with bread, cheese, etc., that extra time and labor put in in particular ways creates flavors and textures that (so far, anyway), seem to escape large-scale manufacture. It is also the case, however, that a professional putting in that extra time and labor is going to a.) be more efficient, and b.) get better, more consistent results than is a hobbyist like me.

      Second, as I mentioned above, this really depends on the value of “better.” I personally prefer (and, thankfully, can afford both time and money-wise) the flavors associated with “artisanal” food production methods.* Other people don’t, and that’s fine. Where “artisanal” and non-“artisanal” methods don’t really differ much is in the end goal of satisfactorily nourishing people’s bodies. Yeah, wonder bread’s probably not great for you, but that has more to do with it not being whole grain than with its method of production. As long as one sticks more or less to medically sound dietary recommendations, there is no significant difference between methods of manufacture as far as accomplishing the goal of feeding someone.

      *In most cases. We shall not discuss my addiction to Now and Laters.

  • Jessica S.

    Off Topic alert! First off, I should state that my doctor and I are already discussing this and I have my normal appt on Friday, so I’m not relying on the interwebz for medical care. 😉

    So, I had an ultrasound done yesterday (I’m 31w + 3 d) and the results state that “overall ultrasound age is larger than clinical dates by more than three weeks.” My doctor said in her email, along with the results, said that the baby is healthy but she wants to do a 3-hour glucose test to make sure this isn’t due to GD. I cleared the 1-hour glucose screening at 28 wks, but from what I’m reading, GD can pop up at any point and often without any symptoms? I’ll just have to wait and see how that test goes (Friday AM). I’m hoping it’s negative, b/c I’m awful at following diets. Plus, I don’t eat terrible right now as it is and I’m not suppressing a ravenous appetite or something so I can only imagine that whatever changes is have to make would be hard! 🙁

    But I’m curious, what else would account for measuring so large? My son was 10lbs 10oz at birth (I was two days past my due date), and they estimated him at 8.4lbs exactly a month before he was born. I didn’t have GD with him, and I gained about 65lbs with him. I’ve only gained 25lbs so far with this one.

    Argh – I’m really just dumping more than anything, b/c I hate having to wait to figure things out, but that’s exactly what I have to do. 🙂

    • Guest

      I was similar. No GD diagnosed ever. My substitute CNM advised me to go on low carb diet for the remainder of my pregnancy (6 weeks, luckily v2.0 was early by 2 weeks so I only had to do it one month).

      Large baby could just be DNA. It’s a large baby.

    • Anna T

      The ultrasound could be wrong or the gestational age could be off.

      I was misdiagnosed with IUGR because my due date was counted as 40 weeks from LMP, when in fact I knew I had not conceived until at least a month from LMP, and perhaps more (which means the due date should have been at least 42 weeks from LMP).

      All the time I was told, “your baby is tiny, tiny, tiny” and I kept saying, “the gestational age is wrong, wrong, wrong.” Not because I was smarter than the doctors, but because I *knew* when I had sex. I tried to hint about it and say I *know when I conceived*. Perhaps I should have been blunter, but I was too shy.

      Unsurprisingly, I went into labor at 43 weeks and 3 days, which was in reality around 41 weeks (same as with my first child). And no IUGR – a perfect birth weight, a little above average. A healthy placenta, too.

      A friend of mine had her baby’s weight estimated at 3.5 kilos, and ended up giving birth to a 4.1-kilo baby. The medical staff were stunned at how off the estimate was, and also by how easily he came out.

      Just saying, these estimates are just that, estimates. They aren’t always precise. Not to say you shouldn’t pay attention to them, but they can be wrong and if it turns out you don’t have GD I’d ask for a repeat scan.

    • Isramommy

      Did you have an early dating ultrasound? If not, the dates can be very off (as AnnaT wrote below). I know many US women don’t have a dating scan, so maybe take that into consideration?

      My first pregnancy the dating scan showed me at only 5.5 weeks when my LMP put me at 8 weeks. The scan was correct. I gave birth at almost 44 weeks by LMP, but was considered 41+ 2 based on my early scans. Situations like that explain some of those homebirthers claiming they delivered “perfectly healthy” 44 weekers, when actually they had a 41 week baby and late ovulation.

      I imagine the reverse happens even more frequently.

    • Gene

      I had a huge baby without GD. 11lbs. He was just a whopper for some reason (and had an early dating u/s around 6wks). Some people just grow big babies.

      • OBPI Mama

        Same here. 9, 10, then 12 pounders. Checked their sugars at birth too and sugars were good as well. No GD, just monster babies. Only gained 6lbs. during 10#’ers pregnancy, only gained 12lbs. with 12#’ers. With lots of working out and eating like a super model. Sigh.

        Good luck!

  • R T

    This made me crack up! My husband and I joke around about “artisanal” products all the time. Kraft or one such company has a packaged, shredded cheese at the supermarket they have labelled as “artisanal” and several other companies including Domino’s. It’s become a meaningless marketing ploy just like “green” products. We about died laughing when we saw this video on the topic http://eater.cc/K1yMko

  • Dr Kitty

    Anyone who is familiar with the term “Pinterest Fail” will know that sometimes you really should take the shortcut or pay a professional.

    If following step-by-step instructions for a craft can go so badly wrong, imagine trying to follow step-by-step instructions for raising a person-complete with their own unique personality.

    Unless it is outright abusive or unsafe, parenting is the one thing in life where “you do you” is actually the single best piece of advice.

    Oh…and in case you’re NOT familiar with Pinterest fails….
    http://www.buzzfeed.com/readcommentbackwards/31-horrendous-pinterest-fail-monstrosities-dmjk

  • Anna T

    Not every “crunchy” type chooses their “crunchiness” in order to say, “I martyred myself for my children and so I’m superior to those who took the Easy Way Out!” (epidural, bottle-feeding, etc…).

    I chose to have an unmedicated birth because the thought of a needle in my spine freaked me out, and I wasn’t in what you’d call agony (and believe me, I HAVE been in agony and I know how it feels – and when I was, I took whatever I was offered to stop the pain. I didn’t care about side effects or risks or whether it was “natural”).

    I chose to breastfeed because I think it’s awesome and, despite the hurdles I’ve faced (drops in production, slow weight gain, tied tongue, D-MER, plugged ducts complete with high fever), it was still in the long run easier, simpler and cheaper than sterilizing bottles for two years. And I HAVE breastfed for over two years because there was no good reason to stop.

    I stay home with my children and homeschool them because I love being around them and other educational options in our area are not that great, frankly. I don’t “sacrifice” my time or my career because I’m so noble and selfless.

    However, I couldn’t and wouldn’t wear my babies for very long. Why is it that nobody mentions how freakin’ hot it is to have the baby always near your body in a carrier? I live in Israel and summer is like 75% of the year here. Babies didn’t seem to like it much either. They were red, sweaty and fussy, and much happier in a crib than in the oh-so-natural cloth wrap.

    Co-sleeping? Not for me. I can never sleep well with a baby in my bed for fear of rolling over them. Makes much more sense to have the baby NEXT TO the bed in a little bassinet for the first few months. This way I can easily breastfeed on demand and also relax in my own bed without fear of injuring my baby.

    Cloth diapers? Yuck yuck yuck. I’ve washed my share of poopy clothes in the process of potty training, no need for more, thanks very much.

    My point? Choose what is best and right for you and your entire family. Choose what is good and convenient. Find the right balance. Do not martyr yourself, because it doesn’t make you a better parent.

    • Guestll

      I think you’re so right. Do what works, for you, for your child, for your family. The only exception I make is on public health issues, like vaccines.

      I wanted to breastfeed because it seemed easier to me than formula feeding, and I’m lazy. I used cloth diapers because my mother and my MIL always did, and again, it was easy. I was given a sling at my shower, had no idea how to use it or if I’d even wear it, and three years later, my husband and I still “babywear” (hate that term, but whatever). I didn’t do rice cereal or purees, just fed her what we ate, because that’s what my mother did with all four of us, she didn’t use cereal or baby food, and it worked well. I had a lovely nursery with a crib, a beautiful bassinet right by the bed, and we bedshared because my daughter just would not sleep unless she was next to me. I used coconut oil on her little bum because I use it on my skin and it’s gentle and doesn’t wreck cloth diapers. I never did CIO (well we tried it once and it was a disaster) because neither my husband nor I are comfortable with sleep training.

      I could go on, but I did these supposedly “crunchy” things because they worked, not because I’m married to an ideology. I also went back to work before my leave was up, and work despite the fact I don’t have to, financially-speaking, because I like my career and don’t think I’d be a good SAHM. Not married to ideology there either — it’s just what works.

      • OBPI Mama

        OT: What brand of cloth diapers did you like? We use bumgenius, but when I went to only 1 kid in diapers I gave a lot of them to my sister-in-love for her daughter (kept back 8 snap bumgenius ones for my 2 year old). If we have another baby I would need more cloth diapers and debate about which ones I want to use.

        • Guestll

          I used Elementals (the old style) exclusively for day from the time she was 9 weeks old. I adored them and had 27 in total – I bought one to try, then bought them online in bulk to save money (I think 12 at a time or something). We’re not having more kids so I passed them on to a friend who uses cloth, just had a baby, and is going through a bit of a rough time financially.

          For night, I liked Bum Genius prefolds with an insert and a BG cover.

          I had newborn cloth diapers, I think about 20. I can’t remember the brand, but they were made to fit between 4 and 15 lbs. She wore those from birth. I sold them for about half of what I paid when I discovered Elementals. I really, really, really liked them. The quality is superb. After 2.5 years of a million washings and dryings, only a few had little inner holes and were still working well. I never had to strip them, not once. Very few leaks. Trim and fit well, from 9 lbs to 23 lbs, when she toilet trained (we used Bum Genius training pants for that). Easy for anyone to put on, daycare had no issue with them. My mother was jealous when she saw them, she used flats and plastic pants way back in the day (she had a service).

          FWIW, my daughter never had one diaper rash in her whole life. Could just be luck, but seriously, I adored those diapers. 🙂

    • Gene

      Fwiw, you do not need to sterilize bottles. Just washing in warm soapy water and air drying is fine.

      • Anna T

        OK, LOL. Just goes to show how little I know about bottle-feeding. :o) Never needed it and feel so lucky, but I realize things are different for other people.

      • Guesteleh

        Dishwasher will do the trick too.

        • Bombshellrisa

          Or those Medela bags you put four ounces of water in and then stick your bottles and nipples in and microwave it for a couple minutes.

      • OBPI Mama

        I had to sterilize ours (glass BornFree) and the nipples once a month (nipples and rings more often) because of the chance of thrush. It was much cheaper to be frequent about it than to go to the doctor and pay for a visit and medicine. Lesson learned on that one.

    • OBPI Mama

      I completely agree. Though some people would call me crunchy and other’s would say I’m not crunchy enough. C-sections, bottlefeed (lack of milk glands, dang it and yes, you are right on about bottles… I hated sterilizing the nipples and rings and washing them, especially the inserts for BornFree bottles! haha. You do what you have to do, but I still found them to be a pain in the butt!), but I grind my own wheat, cloth diaper my babies, etc…. Thank goodness, I gave up on labels years ago and love feeling not “bound” by them! haha.

      And the only baby who liked to be worn was my 4th. She liked it for half a year or so… which coincided with fall/winter, not surprisingly!

      • Mishimoo

        I’m the same! I garden organically, cook loads of yummy food including babyfood, babyled weaning, babywear, try to avoid artificial preservatives/colours/flavours (3 kids with eczema, it seems to make a difference), make jam and am thinking about canning, have the kids in rearfacing seats until they’re too heavy for the seat to be in that position, sew because I enjoy it, and am a bit of a D-I-Y addict.

        I also vaccinate, use conventional medicine, use conventional cleaning products, have used sleep training, early introduction of solids, and don’t particularly care about screen time.

        For me, it’s not about being a superior parent; I just have the luxury of choosing those options.

        • OBPI Mama

          Are we the same person? haha. I have about a page and a half of sewing to-do’s, 150 tomato plants to get in the garden this week, etc. You should try canning veggies if you’ve done jam already. It’s kind of addicting. Though hot.

          I tried the natural cleaning products (make your own) route and the one thing I learned about it is that it really only works if you clean frequently and consistently with it all. I am not a frequent cleaner and realized I need the heavy duty when I do clean.

          I have one kid who had eczema patches and a mixture of coconut oil and tea tree oil worked great on him (per his pediatrician).

          • Mishimoo

            Hahaha! Must be an Aussie cousin 😛
            I also have a load of tomato plants to go in despite it being nearly winter because I live in the sub-tropics. Going to try and plant them out tomorrow, hopefully I’ll get a chance.

            Thanks for the tip! We’re lucky – as long as we avoid parabens and artificial additives, their eczema is controllable with sorbelene cream. Did try a steroid cream during a bad flare-up, but that made it worse.

          • araikwao

            (speculating here, with my med student level of knowledge only) How can steroid cream make eczema worse? It is an inflammatory condition, and corticosteroids have an anti-inflammatory effect, so what on earth is the pathophysiology…? Dr Kitty?! Others?

          • Mishimoo

            I have no idea, our GP was like “Well, that’s weird. Propaderm usually works really well. Keep doing what you usually do, but more frequently instead.”

          • araikwao

            Thank you! Obviously a bit more complex than the cases I’ve seen! I might just try and ask a dermatologist about it during this rotation!

          • Mishimoo

            Go for it, I’m curious too. My brother also has eczema and his skin reacts like Young CC Prof’s – some creams work for a little while, steroid creams cause a reaction, some fabrics irritate his skin too, etc. He’s found that if he has a really bad flare-up, the best course of action is to take Phenergan, drink lots of water, slather himself in cream, and try to sleep as much as possible.

          • Young CC Prof

            Excellent. Most GPs have no idea what to do with skin allergies as severe as mine, and wind up making it worse, or throw antibiotics at it because they don’t believe skin could look that bad without being infected.

            Basically, I’m super careful about what I put on it, and when things go wrong, I take large doses of Benadryl and don’t scratch.

          • Young CC Prof

            There are other substances than in there, and people can be allergic to the other substances. Even if you try to make it as pure as possible, there has to be some sort of vehicle for dissolving the cortisone and encouraging it to soak into the skin. Also, some people can just mechanically react to anything covering the skin, especially if oil based.

            I have absurdly many skin allergies, far more than even I can keep track of, and yes, I do react to cortisones. And then I go get a different product, and sometimes that one works better, and I can use it for a few months until I start reacting to that one, too.

    • Medwife

      It’s so completely ok to do whatever works best. Nonpharm pain relief in labor did the job for me; postpartum, Vicodin? Yes please! Bed sharing + breastfeeding was great, baby wearing completely did not work with my mammoth baby. My patients have every combination possible of “crunchy” and mainstream choices. They’re fine. I worry about my addicts, my mentally ill, my abused, my impoverished patients. Not my worried well.

    • wookie130

      I don’t think there is any wrong with any choice that is made, as long as it’s made with the best interest of our kids and family in mind, and it doesn’t do any long-term harm or jeopardize safety, etc. I had a c-section, had to formula feed (due to IGT), and had my daughter sleeping in a crib in her own room by the time she was 7 weeks old. However, I also loved babywearing, baby-led weaning (which is the fancy schmancy way of saying “skip the puree”), coconut oil as a diaper rash treatment, cloth diapering, and natural cleaning products (i.e. cheapo vinegar!). Who knows what we’ll do once #2 arrives…I imagine we’ll do what works for US. There is nothing wrong with “crunchiness.” It’s the attitude of superiority that comes with any particular philosophy that taints it.

      • Guest

        v2.0 is BLW because I’m too lazy-tired to purée home-food, or make up the commercial baby muesli and feed it to her.

      • Mer

        Ok HOW did you get your baby to sleep alone? Mine refuses to sleep more than 40 minutes without me. With me he sleeps for 6. I need him to sleep 6 alone! Share your secret, please!

        • Young CC Prof

          I was terrified to fall asleep holding him for one minute, so one thing I did when desperate was put the crib right up against the bed, then stick my arm through the bars, (like a prisoner) and put a hand on his tummy.

          It actually worked sometimes, we both fell asleep like that.

          • Mishimoo

            I had to do that with one of our dogs when he was a puppy. He slept on the floor, and I slept with my arm hanging off the bed, hand resting on his back. I wish it had worked with our youngest kid.

        • Some babies are just okay with it, I think. I don’t know if there are tricks to use :/

        • OBPI Mama

          We did a version of the Babywise book for sleep stuff (soothing self to sleep in their own crib, sleeping through the night… as in 6-8 hours). I gleaned from it (used what I thought was good for us and threw out the rest). My first son naturally wanted to sleep by himself and go to sleep by himself, my second son needed encouragement (I finally did the book when he was 11 months old because I was pregnant again and exhausted), with my 3rd I had to train him when he was a young baby out of necessity (sanity was precious), and with my 4th, we did it the same. I, obviously, thought parts of the book were great and useful!

        • Irène Delse

          It may not be something parents do: some babies are just good at sleeping alone, from what I’ve seen.

    • gretta

      Whatever you choose is fine unless:

      A. You make up scientific sounding reasons why your choices are best and how everyone not making those decisions is hurting their child

      B. Make other mothers feel like shit by excluding, demeaning or taunting them be cause they didn’t make the same choices as you.

  • Renee

    There are huge opportunity costs that must be considered. BF is NOT cheaper at all once you factor in moms time. It was cheaper for me because I was already home all the time by the time I had baby #2, but if you try to do it while at work, the costs quickly add up. Take time off to BF and AP (or even just parent, period), you will lose hundreds of thousands in income, and can damage or even kill your career.

    American moms really cannot win when it comes to parenting, and the utter lack of any social supports (like all other advanced nations) makes it even worse.

    • Guestll

      This is so true. I breastfed for 15 months, went back to work part-time at 8 months (though I had a year off, paid at 75% of my salary) and full-time at a year. But if I’d had to go back to work within a few weeks, or even a few short months, I couldn’t have done it. I also work from home so I could pump in my dining room as I worked. These are privileges not afforded to most working mothers.

      The lack of parental leave for American parents is just criminal.

    • Anna T

      I would never have been able to do it either, if I had to work. Never succeeded in having satisfactory letdown with a pump.

      It depends on how you consider the costs. Personally I wanted to stay home with my babies and would have done so, breastfeeding or not. However, if you generally want to work and *only* stay home to breastfeed, then perhaps it’s not cost-effective.

    • rachel

      Absolutely! My youngest is 4 months old, exclusively breastfed. I went back to work at 6 weeks (the longest I’ve ever had for maternity leave and it was entirely unpaid–I’m an ob/gyn and my husband stays at home with the kids). I pump in the morning before my office hours start and during lunch and make just enough for her each day. I breastfeed when I’m home and she reverse cycles so she nurses every 2-3 hours all evening and overnight. I’ve considered building a pumping break into my office schedule but would lose so much money for the 2-5 patients that wouldn’t be seen during that break I just can’t do it. My time is very valuable and formula feeding would be so much cheaper for us. But, baby is thriving, I enjoy breastfeeding, and she’s the last so I know the sleep deprivation will end at some point. It’s funny that I sleep more on call than I ever do at home now.

  • Renee

    I know someone is bound to say this, so I will beat them to it- these choices may not result in suffering at all. If you separate the ideology out, it becomes merely a difference in lifestyle.

    Like most things NCB/AP, once you don’t have the weight of enormous expectations driving your parenting/birth choices, it becomes an issue of what works for you, not what is supposedly superior and vitally important. If you truly believe straying from any of the proscriptions of NCB/AP will cause lifetime harm to your kid, you will be stressed, and will follow those “rules” whether they suit you/your kid, or not. It’s the inflexibility of this ideology (and all other total belief systems like this) that makes it unworkable, not the actual methods, which may be miserable, or wonderful.

    I had one baby that was all mainstream, and another all “AP” (minus the belief system), and the difference was negligible because our circumstances changed between the kids. (Their births were as high tech as it gets though, as was their prenatal care.) The “AP” kid was MUCH harder, but the parenting choices were in repines to her temperament , not the other way around.

    • OBPI Mama

      I love this response. I have 4 kids and am always so amazed by the differences in approach they need.

      Labels are a pain in the butt, I’ve come to learn. Just do what works for your own family and know that something else might work different for another family and that’s fine too. (we are running into this issue with our decision to try our local school instead of homeschooling again next year… sigh). Same goes with kids.

    • Amy M

      I have identical twins, and though their basic needs were the same as infants, as they get older, it is clear they are very different children, personality-wise. It’s a little more subtle, because we raise them the same way overall, but certainly there are times we need to take a different approach with one vs. the other about something.

  • Guesteleh

    It’s a signifier of social class. In previous generations the rich hired help to do manual labor, so “store bought” items were a sign of affluence. Nowadays the sought-after commodity is time. So if you’re home pureeing your own baby food from the organic vegetables you raised in your garden from seeds purchased from an obscure heritage varieties catalog, that lets everyone know you don’t have to worry about paying the bills.

    • Young CC Prof

      I like this take on it. I think that really has a lot to do with it.

      • Elizabeth A

        It really, really does.

        If you float around Mommy blogs enough, you can see nearly everything made into a symbol of conspicuous consumption. There’s a huge, unspoken, concern with how to use “natural” parenting methods WHILE STILL being seen to spend money on your children.

        I am pretty sure that whoever came up with Waldorf education in the first place would be appalled by the existence of the $80, natural hardwood, toy ironing board.

        • LibrarianSarah

          Wasn’t that guy a cult leader? Or at the very least a cult member? There was/is something culty going on if I remember correctly.

          • Trixie

            Rudolph Steiner was a grade-A lunatic. Like, imagine every crazy woo thing you’ve ever heard, then turn it up to 11 and throw in astral projection. I’m not sure if Anthroposophy was a cult, exactly, but it was a religious movement.
            And actually, he proscribed the exact design of most of those Waldorf toys.

        • Trixie

          Steiner would’ve been fine with getting paid $80 for his toys.

      • DiomedesV

        Absolutely. Just look at the emphasis on buying “natural” products that inevitably cost far more, and for supposedly “green” purposes. Not too long ago, people who were concerned about the impact of consumption on the environment tried to consume less. But that won’t do for today’s Green Warriors. No, they have to consume As Much But Differently.

        The mantra is Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. But the Reduce part makes for inconspicuous consumption, which is not what these people want.

        • Amy M

          I just had a discussion with some coworkers recently about this sort of thing: eating “right” by cutting out processed foods and attempting to eat seasonally. Except we live in MA, so there’s no fruit/veg available from November-April in this part of the world, so either you buy frozen, or you buy fresh produce that is seasonal somewhere else, and the cost is high because of shipping. And if you don’t want the conventional pesticides, and opt for organic (another status symbol), you will pay even more. So truly eating “right” and avoiding processed foods is quite costly, at least for part of the year.

          • Young CC Prof

            And year-round fresh food is as ahistorical and “unnatural” as you can get diet-wise.

          • Amy M

            Yeah, and growing/canning/preserving your own is very time-consuming!

          • Young CC Prof

            My mother used to do that, although with a freezer. I helped, and yes, it was a lot of work! We’d get fresh local stuff, cook it and freeze it in Tupperwear. Never labeled it, though, which made life more interesting come winter.

            “Hey, what’s for dinner?”

            “Um, this one! It’s red.”

          • OBPI Mama

            … anticipating and dreading the 150 tomato plants waiting to be planted in the garden this week… heeehheeeee-heave, heave, heave.

          • R T

            Hasn’t that always depended on the climate? There are plenty of places in the world where you can grow food year round!

          • Elizabeth A

            The highest yield crop of New England has pretty much always been rocks.

            I am doing some urban food gardening, but it involves containers, as our soil is lead contaminated from old sewage and plumbing systems. I am pretty sure that I should add food miles back on to my homegrown tomatoes to reflect the fact that the soil was trucked in from out of state.

            And if we had to wait for my plants to produce to eat a tomato, we would be very grouchy people.

          • Amy M

            hahaha! Me too! I have a few pots on my deck–some tomato plants, a pepper, some cukes….we’d starve if we were depending on that. It’s because I like fresh deck tomatoes as a snack in the summer.

          • Elizabeth A

            I’m trying to grow the ingredients for tabbouli, but no matter what I do, the bulgar and the lemons are coming from the grocery store.

          • attitude devant

            and the olive oil?

          • Elizabeth A

            I harbor a dark suspicion that the econo-size jugs I buy at the grocery actually contain canola with food dye and flavoring.

            They have pretty pictures of the Italian countryside on them, so I can daydream about being near real olives.

          • MLE

            Thank you thank you!!! When I lived in CT I was beaten over the head with the “eat local!!” commandment all the time. Ok, I live in an apartment and I don’t own an orchard, so I didn’t can anything for the winter. It’s December now so I will eat snow slush mixed with solvent and twigs?

        • Young CC Prof

          Exactly! There are two grocery stores near my house, let’s call them Natural Mart and Average Mart. I often walk to the store with my own shopping cart, or (if baby is along) stroller with luggage compartment. When you use your own small cart, having the stuff bagged actually makes it harder to fit, so I just pack the food items in one at a time. No bags used, no fuel used.

          The cashiers at Natural are just as surprised as the ones at Average by the fact that I don’t use bags, reusable or otherwise. And walking to the store is MORE exotic at Natural than at Average, since many Average Mart shoppers don’t own cars.

    • attitude devant

      Oh, you are sooooo right. Makes the Martha Stewart thing even more apt. I’ve always thought Martha was ‘time porn’. Another show that was ‘time porn’ was ‘Cheers.’ Both offered the fantasy of unlimited time to do whatever: make special mulch mixes to match the seasons, to sit around in a bar every damn night and just talk. I mean, I counted myself a good mother because we ALWAYS had dinner together, but in the time porn world I would be growing the food and cooking it myself, instead of the creative way I made take out varied and healthy and most of all made time for us to eat together.

    • Renee

      If you are poor, being an all natural , AP, NCBer also gives you instant social status that you would never get to have as a low income, mainstream mom. It also gives you an instant circle of “friends” and a social group, which is more mixed income than other more stratified associations.

      It is a way to be unique, superior, and have self esteem in a society where moms are only revered in name only, and low income moms are reviled, period. I get this. Also, now your choice to stay home for 15 years to AP and HS/unschool your kids, is laudible, not disgraceful, even when it means choosing long term impoverishment. Fundamentalist religion can be used in this way too. QF allows you to have a huge family, economics be damned.

      Often I think low SES moms that want to stay home, use natural parenting as a way to make their choice to be a SAHM legitimate in the eyes of others. A mainstream low SES mom that uses SNAP and Medicaid to afford staying home, instead of working (in addition to a partner), is hated, and bashed repeatedly by pretty much all levels of society (even other poor people, for shame.) But, if you are an APer, you get much more support form your own peer group, and the admiration (real or feigned) from other moms that would have looked at you with disdain otherwise.

      It’s a sad thing that moms feel the need to justify their choices, but when you are poor, every single thing you do is scrutinized. The reason for this utter disgust for low income moms using SNAP and staying home, is because mothering in our society has ZERO value. Here, the prevailing attitude is that its better to work, even for minimum wage, and send your kid to a low cost (often low quality) daycare 12 hours a day, than to parent them if on assistance.

      Long story short- moms short circuit this judgement by choosing AP/natural parenting. Who can blame them?

      • attitude devant

        Listen, you are one great mom. You are. And for your kids, having you there is better than anything right now. I always feel bad when I hear about your run-ins with your circle on the vax issue and midwife issue. Must be hard. But again, your two are so lucky to have you.

      • Guestll

        It’s not just low SES Moms who use AP to justify wanting to stay home. Plenty of educated, HHI Moms use it as justification, too.

        • Amy M

          I think some of the low income moms don’t necessarily WANT to stay home, but the cost of childcare is more than any income they could bring in, so they really have no choice. Then maybe they get into AP, for the reasons Renee outlined above.

          • Spamamander

            That was me- I would actually have liked to work, at least part-time, if for no other reason than to be out and around with other adults and feel productive. Childcare would have been more than I earned, however, especially with a special needs child.

        • Life Tip

          True. I think most well educated, higher income mothers were raised with the “go girl, you can be whatever you want” mentality (and that’s a good thing!). So what happens when they just want to be a SAHM? Or their circumstances dictate that they need to be a SAHM? Or their religious beliefs pressure them into being SAHM? They feel the need to justify it somehow. It has to be hard. They have to be doing something more special. It’s a higher calling, etc. And they must blog about it.

          Also, in our society, many view time as money. So, if you aren’t bringing home a paycheck, you better be doing something productive. And everyone needs to know that you’re productive. I’ve never had a friend who is a working mother post on Facebook a list of all the things she’s done this morning. But it’s not uncommon to see a SAHM’s post about how she’s already fed her baby, made breakfast, cleaned, done laundry, gone to the grocery store or whatever, all before noon.

          I hope by the time my daughter is grown, women will be able to make the choices that make them the happiest and not have to justify themselves to the world.

          • fiftyfifty1

            “I hope by the time my daughter is grown, women will be able to make the choices that make them the happiest and not have to justify themselves to the world.”
            Although men have to justify themselves to the world, and for the most part they seem to be able to handle that.

          • Elizabeth A

            To be fair about those fb posts – when I’m working, I post on socialesia pretty selectively. I have to assume my boss will see it, and if I want props for being efficient, I can yell over the cube wall. When I’m home, it’s easy to lose track of time and feel useless, so I seek mo re social interaction by putting my to do list up.

            I’ve been trying to stay off line to keep from having entire days swallowed by the internet, but it’s a little pathetic how badly I want someone to come by and tell me how good the yard looks.

          • Lombardi

            “But it’s not uncommon to see a SAHM’s post about how she’s already fed her baby, made breakfast, cleaned, done laundry, gone to the grocery store or whatever, all before noon.” I have noticed this as well and wondered why? Thank you for putting this in perspective.

          • AmyP

            To be fair, when you’re a SAHM, you don’t have a boss, so it’s important to generate your own motivation so it’s not jammies and Elmo until dinner time. Posting progress reports on Facebook may be self-motivation for these people.

            I’ve blogged with similar motivation before, just to show myself what I’m accomplishing.

    • OBPI Mama

      Or you just have different priorities. I grow much of our own food (I’m a stay at home wife/mom and farmer’s wife… which comes with it’s own set of duties!) and it’s important to me to grow a lot of what we eat (produce, eggs, chicken, beef, dairy), show my kids where our food comes from, and I love to can! Love, love, love canning. I’m not super into heirloom seeds (there is a reason they were tweaked!), but I don’t spray our vegetables because I typically don’t need to (even a large garden is more manageable to keep ontop of than a produce farm).

      My husband and I have the same stresses with money and are stretched pretty thin at times (family farming is tough!), but because the above is a priority to us and a passion of mine, we make it happen. And I have the time to do it which I know can be an issue (2 years ago when my 4 kids were 4,3,2,and 8 mos. old; I bought our produce of an Amish neighbor so I could can!).

      • Guesteleh

        The people I’m talking about think they’re eco-conscious because they shop at Whole Foods and subscribe to a yoga magazine that’s printed on 50% recycled paper. It’s a whole upper-middle class subculture that is very prevalent where I live.

        • Guesteleh

          This shit right here is what I mean. From the blog Earthy Crunchy Mama:

          1. a person who is environmentally, health, and socially conscious.

          2. a parent who fosters a strong, positive bond with their children through natural living.

          3. a website committed to making earthy crunchy mamas’ lives a bit easier through detailed product reviews,
          a library of articles to guide your pursuits, and a store full of hand-selected products.

          • Lombardi

            Interesting how it boils down to just an other form of consumerism.

          • Young CC Prof

            Exactly. People who actually are making their own stuff, who can make do or do without, I have quite a bit of respect for them. People who’ve made a lifestyle out of buying green-branded products, not so much.

          • Busbus

            Honestly, I think it depends on where you’re coming from. If you are able to stay home/forgo conventional employment, genuinely enjoy canning and so on, then that works for you. I, on the other hand, am not crafty and I only cook when I have to. It would be stupid of me to waste time on these things for a mediocre output at best, and no enjoyment. It’s much wiser for me if I spend my time doing things I love and am good at, such as my job, and use the money I earn to buy veggies from a farmer, thereby helping to make it possible for him or her to do the things he/she is good at and loves.

            Division of labor is an awesome, wonderful thing. It makes it possible for people to focus on their talents, make use of economies of scale and produce superior results. It is the only system that makes it possible for society to have scientists, artists, technicians, scholars, and farmers. I have no desire to go back to a time where every human has to put in gruelling hours of work just to put food on the table or make everything from scratch. And I don’t think that any of these kinds of labors is more virtuous than another. It’s good we’re all different and have different things to contribute. That’s what makes society work, and it makes the world a much more interesting place.

          • Young CC Prof

            And there’s nothing wrong with buying stuff. I just don’t respect people who consider themselves really crunchy back-to-nature types because they buy green-branded products which are basically identical and more expensive versions of standard consumer goods.

          • When I first moved to Israel [1976] choices were very limited so I cloth-diapered all three children, and their early food was all made from scratch and dumped in the blender. Now we’ve got most of the choices you get in the US, and frankly, it just seems uneconomic to me to spend lots of money on imported items. My daughter uses disposable diapers but bought a cunning little electric device [European] that steams and purees small amounts of food especially for babies. It cost a bit, but she soon recouped the cost in comparison with prepared baby food, and will now use it for the baby which will arrive in a month or so [inshallah!].

            Once again, common sense conquers!

      • R T

        I grow most of our vegetables too, but not this year! There is a serious water shortage and we haven’t had rain. I couldn’t justify using so much water. We’ve even stopped watering our grass and it’s all but dead now. If we ever get any rain, I’ll plant again. I luckily live somewhere I can grow almost anything all year round. I enjoy growing! I enjoy cooking and canning. It doesn’t make me feel superior to anyone. It’s simply a hobby I enjoy!

  • DiomedesV

    “But apparently, loving your child is no longer enough.”

    I don’t disagree with much of this post. But loving your children has never been enough. Plenty of abusive parents love their children. Many neglectful parents love their children.

    Loving your child is necessary, but not sufficient, for being a good parent.

  • Artisnal mothering may work for some moms – for some it might be the most rewarding experience that satisfactorily raises children. But there seems to be a need in this set to paint those who make different choices with the “bad mom” brush, or at the very least the “inadequate mom” brush. Sadly, what is completely ignored is the opportunity cost – and that for many mothers, making alternate choices would actually be better for both themselves and their children. I hope that when my kids are grown – they will lament not that I was a “perfect mom” and did everything the right way – but rather that I was the best mom for them in their circumstance and did my best to do things that got the right outcomes.

    • Guestll

      Yes, THIS.

      There’s also the smug damnation of the “mainstream mom” brush. You know, the sheeple who vaccinate fully and on time, use disposable diapers, and let their kids play with their iPads…or something like that.

      • OldTimeRN

        Back when I had my kids, letting them play with my keys was what I used to keep the occupied. I’m sure those keys went into their mouths plenty of times and guess what? They all lived.
        But I love the iPhone/ipads now a days. I wish I had them back in the day.

        • Poogles

          My goddaughter (2yo) just “inherited” my old smartphone – loaded with nothing but apps for toddlers. She was a very happy little girl 🙂

    • OldTimeRN

      Seriously when my children look back at memories I want them to remember I danced in the living room to a goofy song or I sang in the car when their friends were with us and embarrassed them. Better then being remembered for making them eat organic cookies.

    • Amy M

      I doubt most children are aware there IS another way, at least until they are grown. What they are raised with is “right” to them, you know? (barring abuse and neglect of course) Maybe as grown-ups, they’ll look back and think “I wish my mom could have done more X” but they won’t love you any less and maybe they’ll make an effort to do more X with their children. Maybe their children will go on to think “Huh, I wish my mom would have done less X, I really didn’t enjoy it.”

      I don’t know, I don’t spend much time worrying about that stuff, it’s not worth it. The only thing I feel guilty about is that my children have cavities. And my husband is implicated in that too. We probably didn’t achieve the best oral hygiene possible, and we give them too much sugar. Despite that, I’m pretty sure my children love me and their dad, and will not grow up to be sociopathic murderers or giant, wastes of space draining society of its resources for no return.

      • Susan

        There was a very hideous murder of a teenage girl in our community. I will never forget reading the paper where one of the mothers of the teenage boys who killed the girl ( basically for fun… it was awful) anyway in our local paper the mother of one of the murderers ” I breastfed him for two years”… my point isn’t that extended breastfeeding/attachment parenting is bad, I don’t think it’s bad at all, but it’s not any guarantee, as this mom seemed to imply, of your child turning out well. Frankly, I felt sorry for the woman. I think it’s an illusion when we think we can parent well enough to guarantee our kids won’t turn out badly.

        • Amy M

          Oh I totally agree. And when our children turn out wildly successful that’s not entirely down to awesome parenting either…they have many influences in their lives. But I think in general, most people turn out fine regardless of the details of their childhood.

    • Susan

      Exactly, I have no problem with most of the “artisanal” choices, the safe ones, whatsoever, many I even admire. A few I did myself. But it’s the need to feel superior, the illusion that your kids are significantly better people than other kids… that’s the part that needs to go.

  • Bomb

    I only eat artisanal children. It’s a good thing.

    • Mel

      The extra loving make them even more melt-in-the-mouth tender….

    • Spamamander

      I sincerely hope you aren’t serving with a white wine, that would be savagery.

      • Guestll

        Fava beans, nice chianti, etc. etc.

    • Mishimoo

      Is that a step up from the free-range ones?

  • OldTimeRN

    We promote a safe sleep campaign. ABC, ALONE, on their BACK, in a CRIB. No co-bedding, no stuffed animals,no bumper pads, no heavy blankets, swaddled as long as baby will like it. There is always that talk about evidence based practice, well here you go. Yet some of the most educated chose to ignore because they think they know better.

    Breast feed your kid forever. Wear your kid all you like. Home school till the cows come home. But please stop martyring yourself for the greater good. Because some of us know it doesn’t make a lick of difference.

    • Trixie

      Why swaddled?

      • OldTimeRN

        So they can’t pull a blanket up and over their heads and suffocate. That is why sleep sacks became popular. Technically we promote no blankets at all except a sleep sack.

        • I LOVE sleep sacks for babies!

        • Trixie

          Oh, that makes sense. I used sleep sacks but couldn’t figure out how actual swaddling would matter.

    • Mel

      One of my former students – who had two babies at 16 &18- always posts really good, solid information on her FB page for other young moms including ABC information. She’s pretty blunt about how your baby is safer in an empty drawer on the floor than next to you in bed. I’m so very proud of her!

    • Guestll

      Bedsharing made a world of difference in the sleep we all got as a family. Faced between a baby who simply would not sleep on her own, and making my bed as safe as I possibly could for her (flat hard surface, no pillows or blankets) I chose the latter. It had nothing to do with ideology and everything to do with the desperation and the feeling that I was going completely mad.

      • FormerPhysicist

        Yes, us too. I don’t recommend it as ideal, though. It’s just what we felt was the best of bad options. Especially after I dropped her a few times after falling asleep breastfeeding in the chair.

        • Guestll

          I don’t advocate bedsharing either, but yes, for us, it was what worked, we tried to do it as safely as possible, and I have no regrets. It got us through the first year, sanity intact.

          Did yours roll down your torso, to your lap and then to the floor? That’s what mine did when I fell asleep nursing, on laminate. Didn’t even wake up. I thought I was going to have a heart attack…

          • FormerPhysicist

            I don’t quite know exactly how she fell, but boy did I startle awake with the thump!

        • Guest

          “It’s just what we felt was the best of bad options.”

          Yup. I am learning this aspect of parenting. Next trick – deciding on the bad options, without guilt.

      • Amy

        Here too. I didn’t bed share until my daughter was bigger and able to walk really well, at around 11 months. Before bedsharing I was a zombie and probably a terrible parent, wife and employee. After I let my daughter sleep in bed with me things got 1,000% better for me. But I absolutely refused to put her in bed with me until I was sure she could get herself out of any hazardous situation. I would never in a million years bedshare with a newborn or wiggly infant.

        • Guestll

          We were the opposite – as soon as she was truly mobile, she was outta there. She eventually slept in a crib, no issues, until she was 25 months and we moved her to a bed. I was terrified she’d jump off our bed…

      • Jacob Wrestled (Danielle G.)

        Guilty as charged, as well! We didn’t want to co-sleep. And didn’t, until DS was about 5-6 months old. He got sick and was miserable, we brought him into bed with us. Around the same time, he also started waking up again multiple times per night, and it was just so much easier to feed him without getting up.

        Before that, he’d wake up in the middle of the night, and I’d get him a bottle (we pumped but fed from a bottle), and fall asleep standing up while holding it because it took him eons to drink the thing. Or I’d hold him, and fall asleep holding him. (I’m glad someone else just fessed up to dropping their baby while trying to feed at 2 am. I feel better now.)

      • Lori

        Yep, this right here. The “plan” was room sharing, but the baby didn’t have that same plan. Eventually went for it, did no pillow, no blanket all that with the baby next to me and then we all slept. It was my first wake up call as a new parent that sometimes you just have to roll with the punches.

      • Mishimoo

        I ended up bedsharing for ages with the youngest, it’s a blur now but I did not sleep well. He would only sleep on my chest or propped up in a semi-reclined position against my legs. I was terrified because I know how dangerous bedsharing is, but there was no other way to get him to sleep. Once we started solids (at 4 months, oh noes!) he slept in his bassinet and I finally got more than 5-6 hours of broken sleep a night.

  • Mel

    The cost of a crib is much less than the cost of an infant funeral and burial.

    • Trixie

      You can get a pack & play for $50. Doesn’t even have to be a real crib.

      • Mel

        We’ve shown students how to convert an empty dresser drawer into a crib. We call it “Drawer on the Floor.” So much better than a funeral.

        • attitude devant

          I used a drawer for my first. Worked fine. Very portable too.

      • Bomb

        Or a laundry basket from a dollar store.

        • Don’t laugh — I’ve “liberated” cracked newborn bassinets [those perspex basket types on a wheeled base] from hospitals and use them for laundry. Just the right height, and they would be thrown out otherwise.

      • OldTimeRN

        Many hospitals are in touch with agencies who provide cribs to people who say they don’t have one. We try not to promote it because once the word gets on the street we will have people asking when they might not need it. But I ask bluntly, Where is your baby going to sleep? I feel most are honest.

      • Spamamander

        My first was in a Pack n Play the first months. I was staying with my parents while my ex was in basic training, and it didn’t make sense to get a full sized crib I would have to move to wherever we were stationed. Worked perfectly.

        • Liz Leyden

          My husband and I were in temporary housing for 6 weeks after our twins were born. We ended up buying a large pack-and-play with twin bassinets. It was expensive, but worth every penny. Of course, my son developed reflux, and slept in the car seat until we got a $50 rocking sleeper.

    • Siri

      Sorry Mel, that’s rather a silly argument! Even a spare-no-expense funeral is much cheaper than raising a child until adulthood…

    • expat

      In some northern country (Finland?) the government supplies all newborns with a cute cardboard box in which they are expected to sleep for the first months. The box comes with a mattress, bedding, onesies and sleep sacks. I think they started doing it in the sixties.

      • Elizabeth A

        Finland! The Finnish baby boxes are so beautiful and useful. I wish I could buy them for friends who are having babies. Heck, I wish someone had given me one.

        • Jacob Wrestled (Danielle G.)

          I think you just found a home based import business for someone.

          Scandinavian stuff is “in” right now. :p

  • Ellen Mary

    As someone who worked in daycare prior to becoming a mother, I definitely agree. Though I stay with my children & nurse them through toddlerhood, daycare & formula would also have definite advantages for them . . .

  • Amy M

    Thank you. I HATE the martyr-mother thing. Hate it. No, you making things more difficult for yourself does NOT mean you love your children more than I love mine. It means you wasted your time.

  • attitude devant

    For years, I was an artisanal housekeeper. I sort of saw it as a moral choice. No matter that I was wearing Italian shoes and carrying a briefcase; I did my own toilets and tubs, dammit!

    How silly was that? Here I was working my butt off in my job, and then spending my Saturday cleaning all day and resenting my kids for messing it up by Sunday. It took my brother to point out that paying somebody $20/hr to clean made more sense than cutting back at my much higher paying job to clean more. I don’t know why I couldn’t see that myself. And my cleaning lady is amazing, and reliable, and very well compensated. The bonus? I got to free up Saturday to spend with my kids. Everybody won.

    • Too bad you’re not in Israel — I’d ask you for her name . I’m desperate for a good cleaning woman. I scrubbed enough at work. Why can’t someone develop a Roomba that does dishes and heavy cleaning?

    • theadequatemother

      Hehe. I have “staff” now. Nanny, cleaning lady, dog walker…I hae a friend that uses her husbands grad students for errands – eg getting them to take the cars in for oil changes and whatnot. I don’t feel guilty anymore. My male colleagues all he stay at home spouses to do that stuff. I don’t.

      • R T

        Me too and it’s awesome! We have a lovely Part-time nanny and a fantastic housekeeper and the best gardener ever! I’m a stay-at-home mom, but I still don’t feel guilty about the extra help!

    • Renee

      AND you have employed another person! Its a win for everyone.

    • Amy

      I’ve decided to start selling Wildtree products as a side job so I can afford a cleaning lady. I would rather work a second part time job than clean my house.

      BTW, if anyone wants to buy some delicious Wildtree spices, mixes or marinades let me know. I need my bathrooms scrubbed like you would not believe.

    • Dr Kitty

      My Lovely cleaning lady (AKA the Polish Tornado) can make my house look better in 3hrs than I can in 10.
      Not only is she worth every penny, but my marriage is much happier because our only arguments tended to be of the “Why can’t you ever tidy- so much clutter!” “Why can’t YOU ever clean- clutter is better than dirt!” format, and she both cleans AND tidies!

      I don’t dye my hair, get manicures or waxes or spend time in the beauty salon. My cleaner is my treat.

    • araikwao

      Oh, I can’t wait to finish med school just so I can have a cleaning person!! Although there will undoubtedly be shame and guilt on my part once someone else peers inside, and has to clean the grubby oven/grimy shower et al.