Last month I wrote about how I found it challenging being a Natural Mama here in Los Angeles – and the challenges that I described were from outside influence, which is hard to control and difficult to manage. People in restaurants don’t understand that we don’t want a plastic cup for our child when we go out to eat. They still bring us a plastic cup with a straw, and act surprised when we reject it. (I have no idea how the plastic straw industry got parents to believe that drinking out of a straw is the next step of weaning a baby from a bottle or a sippy cup, as so many parents tell me how their toddler is “graduating” to plastic straw. Sydney didn’t use bottle, nor a sippy cup – we actually tried the sippy with a bamboo cup, but the lid came off and so Sydney drank from the cup from day one—and he drinks out of cups and mugs without any problem. He always drank from the breast and from glass, ceramic and bamboo cups.)
This month, I’d like to address personal challenges at home. Life in the “old days” seem very romantic to me but they are not always easy and I’m grateful for lots of inventions that make modern life easier and healthier.
- I’m grateful for running water! I spent a lot of time in my childhood on our farm in Hungary, where we had to bring the water up from the well by dropping down a bucket into the dark hole in the ground. When we took a bath on this farm, we had to heat up the water on an old wood burning stove one bucket at a time, fill the tub, and when it cooled, we could bathe. You can imagine that we didn’t take many baths when we were on the farm. The bath preparation started early in the afternoon, so we could bathe while it was still warm and light outside, since there was also no electricity to heat the house, only a large oven.
- Which brings me to being grateful for the electricity we have! We have light when it’s dark outside, we have a microwave when we need to heat up food, we have a fridge that keeps our food cold, we have a washer that cleans our laundry in an hour and we have a/c and a heater that keeps us comfortable when it’s gets cold or hot inside the house. We also have computers to connect us with family and friends, and which keeps us informed, educated and entertained. We have lights on the roads and in the neighborhoods to keep us and our families safe, when we travel and when we are at home.
- I’m grateful for our sewer system! Because of these sewer pipes we can get rid of our waste with a quick push of a level, drain rainfall to protect our homes from going under water, and we can take a bath or a shower spontaneously and daily if we wanted to.
- I’m grateful for grocery stores! In America we can shop 24/7 for food, drinks, and snacks, for medicine, emergency supplies, and entertainment, and we can always be close to a human if we need help in any shape or form.
- I’m grateful for the paved roads! We can travel quickly and efficiently from place to place without worrying about the elements stranding us.
I’m grateful for many things in my life and I’m trying to be mindful every day. We have everything that we need to keep us safe and sound, efficient, healthy and “happy,”but I like to tread on this planet lightly. I like to leave less behind, not only for the sake of the planet but also for the sake of our personal relationships with each other at home and within our circle of friends.
So here are my personal challenges:
- Sydney loves to play with water and during cold weather when he couldn’t play outside, he climbed up on his little chair to run the water from the faucet for what seemed like hours on end. I had to let him, while at the same time I was fighting my demon inside my head to stop him from running the water because water is precious and it just goes down the drain. My challenge is not only to shut up and to let him have his fun and his experiment (thankfully he learned to turn off the faucet and to run the stream of water just a bit not at full stream) but I want to install a greywater system, so that the water that he plays with inside the house will go to good use. I have it all planned out in my head but not sure when we can actualize it. Water is a precious source for everyone and I want to do better to preserve it (we killed our lawn with thick mulch and are planting either for us to eat or for bees to make honey) while at the same time giving Sydney the room to enjoy and experiment.
- We have a dryer but we decided to hang dry all our clothes. This has worked wonderfully during the summer and our clothes dry faster than it would in the dryer. I love it! But this might be a challenge during the winter months when it’s cold and humid. Maybe we can still hang dry inside and the heater will dry out clothes? We’ll see how this will work. But I know I would miss getting into the warm bed at night after the sheets have been freshly washed and dried!
- I love the smell of holidays! But this is a big problem for me. Not because I like the smell but because I haven’t used any synthetic scents on me or Sydney for years and my nose has become super sensitive to anything chemical. When I go to stores and I smell the perfumed air from afar, I can’t stop thinking of all the chemicals that the employees and the store visitors inhale on a daily basis. I wish I could stop thinking and start enjoying but I can’t. And at the same time, I love the smells of the season when I pass by a pumpkin patch, a christmas tree stand, or a bakery. How do I bring those scents into my home without chemicals? I read on a few blogs that heating cinnamon and lemon rind in a small pot of water will do the trick. But that’s the only recipe I could find. And then there is the guilt of using gas for just a pot of water that scents my home. Grrr. In my head I always find a negative and why I shouldn’t enjoy some simple pleasures in life. HELP!
- I love my work and I don’t want to give up my computer! In a way I would love to be without internet.
When I have weekends that I don’t go online, I find it very refreshing—I feel rejuvenated, like after a long spa treatment. But I make my living working in the media (websites, photography, acting, teaching and writing). And at the same time, Sydney is not allowed to be “on the computer” which means, that he doesn’t play on our phones (he is allowed to listen to music on an old phone we loaded kids songs to). He is not allowed to play on the iPad and he is not allowed to touch our laptops. We sometimes look at digital photos we took, so he can remember what we did and so he can remember his family overseas. We Skype with family weekly, so he can get to know them and learn about them, and know that he will never be alone when Stephen and I are gone. My work and our “no media” principle clash sometimes and I hate when that happens because I can’t focus on Sydney. So I do my best to only work when he is asleep in the afternoon and late at night. But the less he sleeps, the more challenging it is to get work done.
- I’m grateful for ready-made food but I know buying packaged, ready for the microwave food is not healthy for me nor the planet. There is a lot of packaging, that’s bad for the environment. There is a lot of crap that goes into microwavable food, from preservatives, to ingredients I can’t even pronounce.And, of course, the food is placed into a plastic-covered container when it’s manufactured, which probably contaminates the food with plastic particles. I’m not a great cook and I love the comfort of just quickly heating up something that I buy at Trader Joe’s or at Fresh & Easy. I heat it on the stove, add a bunch of veggies and Sydney and I are ready to eat. But I know that this is not healthy and certainly not the natural way to go. I considered becoming a raw foodist but I like to have some meat in my diet. I sometimes try cooking from scratch but nothing comes out right for me. When my husband cooks from scratch, which he does on weekends, the food is delicious and I love it when there is leftover for Sydney and me for the following week. This is a big challenge for me to work on and I welcome any suggestions in this area.
There are as many challenges for me as there are parenting styles, and I’m sure many parents go through this phase along their parenting journey. We have friends from all corners of the world, whose beliefs are as varied as can be and we love them all. We learn from all of them, even if they are not parenting the same way as we do! Everyone has their own beliefs and convictions and I’m very strong about mine.
I strongly believe that the first few years of development of our species has to be primal and nurturing, to allow the brain to reach its maximum potential. This primal principle is my natural way of raising my child and it is challenging. (When I read books that back up 15 years of brain development research, I can’t help but compare raising a child with an animal raising its young. Animals raise their young simply with lots of nurturing, nudging, teaching, guiding, doing and showing, and with “discipline.”)
Being challenged inspires me every day to try something different, to be open to the “old” and primal ways, to love like I’ve never loved before, and to appreciate and support my son’s curiosity and love for life like there is no tomorrow. And I do this living in a modern city while at the same time practicing natural parenting.
This article appeared in the on-line magazine for actors The Networker, in October 2013.