Advocacy through Openness, Respect, and Understanding

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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Photo Credit: Lollyknit on Flickr
Used by Creative Commons license
I will always remember the day that everything I believed about belief changed. I was sitting in my cultural anthropology class on a perfectly ordinary Saturday morning, participating in a discussion on the many recurring themes in oral traditions throughout history. We looked at several different flood stories, and while I was previously aware that “Noah’s Ark” had not been the only tale of a catastrophic, widespread flood; on this day the reality of the these themes’ pervasiveness really struck me.
The idea that “they will know we are Christians by our love,” had long been dear to me and I believed myself to be a reasonably good example of this love. I was by no means perfect, but I did my best, trying to live in a way that was in accordance with my beliefs. On that Saturday morning, however, something else struck me amidst the crashing wave of thoughts that had started to rush in. I began to see the faces of the many inspiring people I had met who followed other belief systems: there was the beautiful Hindi woman, radiating with love, who had recently come to talk to the children at a camp I was helping lead; and there was the kind, gentle Zoroastrian man whose grandson I taught at the local Montessori school. I realized that I knew a great many people who lived and breathed love, and yet were not Christians. Clearly this love was not unique to people with my exact belief system.
It was on this day that I realized how few people really needed to hear about my beliefs. It was on this day that I let go of the idea of evangelizing, and instead learned the value of opening my mind and my heart to share with others on equal ground. It’s not that I don’t feel I have something of value to share, but rather that I recognize that I’m not the only one who does. If others see the value in what I have to share, they’ll ask, and if they don’t, well, they’re not going to really listen to what I have to say anyway.
What does this have to do with natural parenting, you ask? Religion aside, each of us has our own beliefs, and these guide our parenting practices in much the same way that they guide us in other arenas. My beliefs as a parent have led me to breastfeed my daughter, to share sleep with her, and to respond to all of her needs with love, gentleness, and respect. Your beliefs may guide you to different practices, but that does not make me superior to you. In fact, it’s quite possible that we can learn from each other.
I would love to live in a world where all parents are guided by love, respect, and understanding of children and their needs. Perhaps the best way to get there is by extending that same love, respect, and understanding to other parents so that we can learn from one another. At times I’m tempted to advocate for the type of parenting I believe in by spouting these beliefs to anyone who will listen, but I try instead to remind myself of that one day in cultural anthropology class, and advocate for respect by showing it to others.
Mamaste: The mother in me recognizes and honors the mother in you.

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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.

27 thoughts on “Advocacy through Openness, Respect, and Understanding

  1. Zoie @ TouchstoneZ

    Great post for CarNatPar! I absolutely adore your approach to both this carnival and advocacy. I resonate with this so much. I strive to approach everything and everyone with the same sense of openness and trust that you share in your post. I find it has had the most positive effects for both myself and people I'm connecting with.

    I'm now following your blog, too. I'm happy to connect with you!

    Reply
  2. mrs green @littlegreenblog.com

    That was beautifully written and I could relate to so much of what you were saying. In fact when I submitted my post to the carnival this month I just wasn't sure if my words would come across right, but it seems you and I are saying the same thing Phew!

    Reply
  3. MJ

    Beautifully said Melissa!! My mother having been born into Buddhism was my first introduction into spirituality. The Japanese live their spirituality and you can see it in everything they do–the way they artfully make their food, create their gardens, perform their ceremonies, etc. This has stayed with me all this time and I think has really helped form my own understanding that faith, character, and integrity shine through actions. This is the same with parenting for sure. "Perhaps the best way to get there is by extending that same love, respect, and understanding to other parents so that we can learn from one another." And this is why I love your blog ;).

    Reply
  4. Mama Mo @ Attached at the Nip

    "Mamaste"… love it! Thank you for a wonderfully thoughtful post. I really enjoyed it :-)

    Reply
  5. Lindsay Turner

    You said what I said, only much more eloquently! I agree 100% and love your perspective on parenting and spirituality. If more people thought like us, the world would be a much more peaceful place :)

    Reply
  6. Melissa Kemendo

    Thank you so much, MJ. I love your blog, a lot, so your comments mean a great deal!

    I am really drawn to the principles of Buddhism, and while I'm hardly immersed in Japanese culture, I do love going downtown and seeing all the lovely tourists from Japan wearing their babies and smiling at mine :)

    Reply
  7. Dionna@CodeNameMama

    What beautiful thoughts, Melissa – I love how you've described being willing to share, yet open to listening. Thank you for writing this month!!

    Reply
  8. Jessica | Cloth Diapering Mama

    This is absolutely beautiful and inspiring!! Mamaste to you as well…

    I love your description of the beautiful Hindu woman who was radiating with love… sometimes its about providing open and quiet support, as you have experienced!

    Reply
  9. Rosemary

    My favorite? " It's not that I don't feel I have something of value to share, but rather that I recognize that I'm not the only one who does. If others see the value in what I have to share, they'll ask, and if they don't, well, they're not going to really listen to what I have to say anyway."

    I love it. Oftentimes, being a silent witness by just being available has far more impact than being vocal.

    Reply
  10. Terri Henry

    I love it! By radiating the love and joy we create in our lives we can be a light to others without having any need to evangalize our beliefs or be judgmental. This is a beautifully written post and I'm letting it sink in and resonate. Let the love light shine – Mamaste to you also.

    Reply
  11. The ArtsyMama

    Melissa this is a wonderful perspective. I love how you were so open to the change that was in you. We meet so many people along the way that sometimes we forget when we open ourselves to them that we need to remember to receive also.

    Reply
  12. Rachael Nevins

    What a marvelous post. I especially like your idea of advocacy as being not really advocacy or evangelizing but as a conversation in which everyone might have something to learn. But oh my goodness it can be hard to find that common ground where such a conversation can actually take place.

    Reply
  13. Dreaming Aloud

    I find it so sad how much I find people of strong religious beliefs actually isolate themselves from others. Their beliefs cause distance not brotherhood, simply because we do not share the same belief systems, dogmas, words, actions. For me religion is the action of love made large in the world and anything which acts against this, however it claims to be in the name of this god or that, is actually antithetical to religion.

    I have to admit that we in Europe, especially of the rather reticent Protestant denominations, really do not "get" the forthright, overt religiousness of so many Americans, and so do not quite know how to interact with it. I found your post so refreshing. Thank you.

    Reply
  14. laura

    Perfectly said! I never want it to be said that I forced someone into my way of believing… even with my own children and their life choices. I agree with you 100% that if I show respect to others, I'm being an effective advocate.

    Reply
  15. Lisa

    I love what you say here! I don’t think any of us – no matter what faith tradition we come from – has the monopoly on truth. We have ‘our’ truth…’a’ truth. And the times that I think I have “the” truth, something blows me away and humbles me again. Thank you for such gentleness! Lisa

    Reply
  16. Shonnie

    I just found your site through the Natural Parents Network blogroll and really enjoyed your story. It reminded me of a piece I wrote about why we judge other parents and how we can potentially lessen that tendency to find fault — When parents judge. Thank you for walking your path and allowing others the space to walk theirs!

    I love mamaste!

    Reply

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