Guest post: Feminist mom in a house full of boys

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9 (and quite possibly for the day or two after I get back), I’m featuring several guest bloggers. This guest post is from Summer of Wired For Noise.

Hello everyone. My name is Summer and I’m a Crunchy Domestic Goddess addict.

There, now that we have that out of the way. I am super thrilled to be one of the cool kids chosen to do a guest post why Amy is away enjoying her vacation. Yes, all of her readers are cool kids too. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a reader. No really, I mean it.

When Amy emailed me to let me know about writing here she suggested I could write about what it’s like to be a feminist mom raising sons. Uhhhh, I don’t know that I could condense that into a single post. I might need to write a book to cover all the ups and downs that come along with that. It’s certainly an odd place to be. On the one hand I’m a stay at home mom by choice, living fairly crunchy with my cloth diapers and breastfeeding a toddler, happily building houses with blocks on the floor. On the other hand I’m a pretty vocal feminist, almost a little too staunch in some of my beliefs if you were to ask some people. It’s hard to juggle adoring my sons for everything they are and knowing that they have a mountain of male privilege holding them up.

There are pluses and minuses that I face every day. Some of the more hardened feminists occasionally make comments questioning my support based on my lifestyle. And to be completely honest there are plenty of moments when I’m questioning myself. How can I speak up about people want to reduce or take back women’s rights while I’m in the kitchen cooking and cleaning and my partner is the breadwinner of our house? Self-doubt is a reoccurring issue.

Yet I also find myself in the amazing position to help teach two little boys what life can be like as equals. It’s not easy at all. They pick up too much negative influence from media, family, strangers. It’s an almost daily battle, thick with “I don’t care what your cousin said, girls can too play basketball and they’re just as good as the boys.” Clearly there are plenty of head-exploding moments. But in helping them learn to be equals they also get to live a little more free. The culture of macho-male, do this or you’re a “sissy,” real men don’t A,B, and C is silenced a little more in my house. They aren’t required to fit into a certain stereotype of what boys should and should not be. They can play monster trucks and baby dolls at the same time without teasing or insults.

In the end it’s really no different than any kind of parenting. There are upsides and downsides, moments when you want to cry for joy and moments when you want to rip your hair out, with plenty of gentle reminders in between. And sometimes an after-bedtime glass of wine to de-stress. How else do you think I get up to do it again in the morning?

Summer is an opinionated, AP lovin’, stay at home mom of two very stereotypical boys. She dishes on life, parenting, and staying sane at her blog Wired For Noise.

Guest post: Veganism and AP – Peas in a Pod

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9 (and quite possibly for the day or two after I get back), I’m featuring several guest bloggers. This guest post comes from To-Fu who blogs at Attachment Living.

Attachment parenting is really just permission to parent intuitively, as Dr. William Sears has noted: “When I first began using the term ‘attachment parenting’ nearly 20 years ago, I felt ridiculous giving a name to a style of baby care that parents would naturally practice if they followed their own intuition rather than listening to the advice of others.” If AP is about child-led living and intuitive parenting, then I think it’s easy to see how veg*nism fits right in (“veg*n” is shorthand for vegan/vegetarian).

If I look at the world from the eyes of a child as I often try to do now that I have a babe of my own, I can’t imagine a child saying “I want to eat dead animals,” or “I want baby cows to be taken away from their mamas so I can have their milk,” when given the choice. Children tend to feel a natural fascination and connection with other animals and, I would argue, they intuitively understand on a very basic level that the difference between the family dog and the veal calf in a factory farm is an arbitrary one. After all, anyone who lives with companion animals knows that they are sentient and have feelings, moods, desires.

I figure that’s why a lot of APers are veg*ns, too. Learning to see the world through our children’s eyes lays at our feet the great and terrible potential for a larger sense of compassion and empathy. As a friend on another forum said, “Without embracing compassion for my son, I would never have moved my sphere of compassion beyond our family and beyond the human family.” It’s a fantastic joy, and it comes with its share of responsibility.

I know several APers who came to question society’s ways of doing things vis-à-vis attachment parenting, and that act of questioning turned into other sorts of activism and advocating. For me, it was the other way around: veg*nism led me to AP. As a vegan, it was not difficult to understand the concept of seeing dignity and value in non-human animals, that a calf and mother would not want to be separated from one another, or that animals (like children) do not exist to be used as objects or accessories.

As a fellow vegan and APer says, “In every single interaction I have with [my son], I try to see where he is coming from and what he might be thinking and feeling before I decide what the best course of action is. And it’s the same with veganism. I think about the cows and how it would have felt to have my baby taken away from me at birth and then forced to pump milk for however many hours a day, have mastitis, live in cramped quarters, etc., etc.” To put it simply (quoting another vegan APing friend here): “It’s all overlapping expressions of the same idea.”

Through veg*nism and the AP lifestyle, I have cultivated a sense of awe for life and a connection to the world around me. A fellow vegan and APer puts it best: “The connection I see [between veg*nism and AP] is simply considering things from the side of the other. If my baby cries, she would prefer to be soothed than left alone. So I soothe her. If an animal doesn’t want to be eaten or commodified (which s/he doesn’t), I’m going to respect that, too.”

I recall understanding this sensation most acutely during pregnancy and labor when I felt a remarkable affinity with all pregnant and laboring females—non-human animals, especially. There was something primitive and feral about me in those days, and there was something about relating to all kinds of female animals that empowered me to carry on even in the face of blinding pain and the white terror of the unknown. I have since learned it is not an uncommon feeling.

Both the AP lifestyle and veg*nism require a person to strip away tradition and ignore well-meaning but faulty advice. Talking about veg*nism can be tough for the same reasons it’s hard to talk about extended breastfeeding, sleep sharing, gentle discipline, and all that is AP: People who aren’t into it (for whatever reason) tend to feel judged or indicted. My mother has had similar defensive responses to both my eating and parenting styles, and my guess is that she sees the choices I make for my family as criticisms on what she fed me and how she raised me. As such, AP and veg*nism have had other surprising lessons in store for me that went beyond how I fed my baby or what I put on the dinner table.

It’s hard sometimes, living as an attached veg*n parent. I want more than anything for my family to be united and buoyed by a sense of kindness, connection, and compassion for the world and all its inhabitants—human or otherwise—even though it sometimes causes problems in my interpersonal relationships, and even though it sometimes leads to feelings of isolation. I think most APers can understand these sentiments, veg*n or not. As John Robbins once said, “if you carry vision […] you’re a pioneer, and you can always tell the pioneers by the arrows in their back.

But you don’t need me to tell you that it’s all worth it.

Further Reading

Assuming that most of Amy’s readers are already familiar with the AP lifestyle, I offer here a few links relevant to veg*nism and parenting:

Veg*n since 1995 and APing Little-Fu since January 2008, To-Fu shares an AP/NFL blog with her Mothering Dot Commune due date club ladies: Other things she feels strongly about that fit into the scope of attachment living (and therefore living compassionately) are: veganism, feminism, women’s sexual health, and social justice.