Sunday, March 27, 2011


I used to be the Food Police. I was obsessed with every morsel that went into my children's mouths. I admit it, I was a pain in the ass and I was very strict to the point of my kids gorging themselves whenever they had a chance on the "forbidden" food.

The thing is I did it because of fear.

I was SO scared that eating anything less than organic whole foods was going to lead to a demise in health and cause illness. It made me very anxious and there is a lot of propaganda around and other parents that fed my fear. It's also a bit of a status in the hippy-la-la(TM) community to bring the healthiest of sugar-free, home baked treats with you. I'll admit to being scared of being judged in certain circles based on what was in our lunch bag.

Before you let me know about toxic food etc let me say that I still believe in a diet mainly of whole foods for health. But I'm not frightened of the other stuff now. I eat well because it feels good to do so, I feed my kids healthy food because I want them to feel good too. I don't, however, limit their choices to just what I think is "optimal" anymore. They have many, many opportunities to choose for themselves and sometimes they pick the chocolate. You know what? Sometimes I do too.

It might sound like a small distinction but I don't think that it is.

I clean up for Tannah because I prefer the house clean and I'm not scared that she will NEVER learn to clean up herself. I let them watch as much TV as they please because I'm not scared about all the "damage" that it will do (like I was in the past) but I can see that they learn lots and enjoy watching. I also know that if there is something else on offer they might just choose the other activity rather than fear that they will sit in front of the box all day.

I feel like a lot of the eco based messages, some of the attachment parenting and even some of the radical unschooling info out there really gets you to buy into the fear. Don't buy this because your kids will die of toxic poisoning, answer every babies cry not because you want to be there and meet their needs but because you are damaging them otherwise and never, ever say no because you will be stifling your childs learning experience. I know there is lots of fear in mainstream parenting too but the hippy-la-la (TM) stuff is what I know so I'm writing from experience.

I would describe myself as all of the terms mentioned above. I'm eco aware, I'm an attachment parent and I'm a radical unschooler. I think are lots of great reasons to live the way I do. But now I'm not under the pressure of being perfect that comes with the fear of failure.


Veronica said...

I think this is why I never fit in well with the AP community. My generalised parenting is AP, but I couldn't get my head around the fear mongering and the judgement I was seeing. I grow as much food as I can at home. I eat as ethically as I can afford to do. I like to know where my meat was raised, but sometimes, I like pizza as a treat and sometimes, we'll all eat chocolate. And I'm okay with that.

(word verification is "eat me" which I think is apt)

Deb G said...

Brilliantly said, Shae. I have felt this fear too (and worried too much about what food I packed in the lunchbox too!).

Sometimes parenting is so darn hard that I have to let some things slip now and then. And I need to be kind to myself about that. Balance, anyone?

Deb G said...

* oops.. not 'have to let some things slip'.. just 'have let some things slip'... (minor distinction)

River said...

Things were so much simpler when my kids were little, as long as they were clean, fed and happy, not too much fuss was made about anything else.
Could you answer a question for me? What is unschooling?
Is it another name for homeschooling or something entirely different?

bek said...

I am of the opinion that anything that postulates an argument based on emotion, fear and ad hominem (YOUR CHILD WILL DIE IF YOU DON'T [whatever] AND YOU"RE AN IDIOT IF YOU DON'T AGREE WITH ME!!!1!!!1111!!1111one) should be summarily ignored and more attention paid to evidence that is at least logical and rational. Backed up by proper science helps a lot :)

Mmmm...chocolate...*goes prowling for more*

shae said...

River-unschooling is home education that follows the childs lead rather than school at home. Rather than being a teacher, I'm more like a facillitator to their learning. For many (myself included) it spills over into trusting children with things like screen time, food etc.

If you want to learn more Sandra Dodd or John Holt are good people to google :)

Shannon Hillinger said...

I find myself saying all the time, "You can only do what works for your family." I've said it enough that the other moms in my AP group don't tend to remark on my decisions any more.
I do think the judgment and fear mongering is a cultural problem for all parents, not just AP ones. Just look at the way every new parenting study is discussed.

Naomi said...

I didn't even realise my parenting was AP until my babies were no longer babies!
I was so worried about what my children ate it was doing my head in! Once I relaxed, we all relaxed.
We eat well, we grow our own food, and source local, organic when ever possible. But sometimes there is nothing like a big mac!

As for TV, without it we would have been at a loss with a child who spent much of his early childhood unwell, sometimes gravely unwell. It was all he could do some days, and at least then I could sit with him and watch too, we talked, we discussed and when he slept, I could snooze to with the hum of the tv in the background.

It is all about balance, and what works for you and your family.

Glowless @ Where's My Glow said...

The fear-mongering really gets to me. Parents need to do what is right for them, what they feel comfortable with because it suits them and ultimately they will be good at their job because of it. I'm the only AP in my mothers' group but they don't realize it and often bitch about AP in front of me. Granted I'm not a fully fledged card carrying Hippy-La-La so it's less obvious with me.
The bitching I hear from them is from the opposite side of the spectrum - fear about cosleeping killing your baby, fear about babywearing meaning your child we never learn to walk or grow up to be clingy, fear that breastfeeding for the recommend WHO length of time will mean they'll be at school before they give up the breast. The fear is everywhere and it does my head in! (Especially on a hormonal day when I doubt every single thing I do!)

Be A Fun Mum said...

Great post Shae. I don't fear so much anymore because I trust myself as a mother. My parents rarely allowed me to eat lollies but when we did get treat, it was a BIG ONE. And to this day I remember the trips to the canteen on holidays and the icecreams after a swim. Not in excess but a joyous treat. I aim to be a conscious shopper and do the best with what I can.

KylieM said...

ahhh food .. th bane of my life. I have fussy children, one so fussy to the point that he as about 5 things he eats ... seriously, I challenge anyone to have a fussier eater than I do .. I get all sorts of advice "starve him, he will eat then', 'force him to eat' etc etc .. I shudder. My son eats yoghurt everyday, one specifc type of pureed fruit, one specific type of baby food vegetable (he is 7), jatz biscuits, scotch fingers, custard, various homemade cakey things and thats about it. CHoc chip cookies are a favourite but I limit that, he then drinks Up n Go, almost a litre a day .. the dietitian said boring, but overall ok nutrionally .. so I will go with that. I dont want meal times to be a battle, I want them to be enjoyable .. he will eat, eventaully,

Berta said...

love the post, judge ourselves a little less, judge others never....radical indeed

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