The Profound Limitations of School

Earlier today I was reading an article from one of my favorite homeschooling blogs, and someone commented,

“What if your kids regret being homeschooled?”

This isn’t the first time I have heard this, but I couldn’t help but wonder why no one ever asked what if public/traditional schooled children will regret being schooled in that particular way.

Well, I decided not to wait and hold my breath until someone asked, and took it upon myself to write an article on behalf of myself:

Someone who regrets being raised in the public school system.

I want to start off by saying that this isn’t an article meant to criticize my parents, vilify teachers, or make you feel sorry for me. As a matter of fact, I am not one to really *regret* even the worst of things in life, because it has been my experience that I always find value in those situations later and I am better off from having learned from it.

More than I feel regret, I feel sad. When I really consider my 18 years (from ages 5-23) in the school system, I feel sad about all the time I wasted living for an idea that wasn’t mine. I feel sad wondering about all the things I might have been doing if I wasn’t sitting in a desk learning boring material that serves next to no use to me today as an adult. I feel sad at how little say I had over my life, and even more so, that I didn’t know I was supposed to have a say, and how I believed I was just doing what everyone *had* to do. I feel sad that I missed out on so much opportunity in childhood.

This isn’t to say I never had a good time at school. If you put a bear in a cage, he will find a way to have some fun. This isn’t to say I didn’t gain things at school. For example, I made great friends at school that I still have today (although, I didn’t *need* school to make friends, but I digress). Something doesn’t have to be all bad all the time to be mostly subpar, which is what it was for me.

People will wonder what’s with me. “School did you well,” they will say. “You loved school. You should be appreciative that you can even go to school.”

I just don’t agree. I don’t have to appreciate anything I didn’t choose. I don’t have to appreciate that which steals freedom.

Because that is what I learned. You cannot under any circumstance be pro-freedom AND pro-public (and even much private) education. They are total opposites. School is the antithesis of freedom. Period.

At school you can not arrive when you want, or leave when you want. You may not wear what you want or style your hair how you want (at least, not at my school). You may not even learn what you want, or when you want, or how you want. You may not choose your sources or your teachers. You may not even always get to urinate, defecate, or eat when you want. You may not get time off on the days you want (you must abide the calendar the school has set; this will determine the schedule of your entire family for the entire year). You may not pursue anything outside of school that conflicts with school hours.

And if there is *anything* that I learned, it is that you cannot *say* what you want without consequence.

Oh, and socialization my ass. That’s all I ever got in trouble for.

Ok, maybe I sound a little bitter, and it’s because I a little am (18 years is a long time!).

In school, there are about 10 subjects and areas of learning offered. I came from a conservative school, so I’ll be generous and say 20 subjects on average (make that number 30 if you want!). This number is still incredibly tiny compared to all the things to be learned and experienced in the real world, outside of school. The real world is a huge, amazing place full of amazing people, things to do, and discoveries to find. Heck, your local library offers you more than your school.

This is what I mean by the profound limitations of schooling. What is to be learned in the school environment is profoundly minimal compared to all that can be learned in LIFE.

Since I am the one writing this, we can take me for example. That which I am most passionate about now and the area of studies I pursue (midwifery and women’s health) were not offered in school. Maybe some in college, but not in the way that it really matters to me or in the ways that I wish to make a difference in the world. Once I learned about unschooling I dropped out of college and coined myself an “adult unschooler.” I used my 20’s exploring and for the first time, figuring out what excited me and made me feel inspired. Now, at 30, I am much more clear on my mission in life. And I didn’t get it from school. I figured it out because I gave myself the time and the freedom to explore what it was for me. Without school, it is possible that I could have figured this out a lot sooner in life (but who really knows).

The public education system has created a curriculum that excludes an almost infinite number of possible chosen life paths. I mean, any system is going to exclude other systems, naturally. When you enter into the schooling system, you are shutting the door to all other possibilities that do not fall within that system. This done under consent is fine. I enter into systems and leave others behind all the time. The problem is we have been told a lie that says this is the best system, the most salient system, and if we don’t go to this system then we will fail. And for the most part, people deeply believe this lie.

So much of what is possible today as far as “career” and  “work” goes, does not require a degree. And with the internet, there is so much more opportunity for self-created business and entreprenuership.

“There’s not a school on earth, not a university or college that exists that is even remotely equipped to educate you properly on communications and marketing in the world we live in today.”

-Gary Vaynerchuk, entreprenuer, author, self-made millionaire. 

Today’s traditional schooling environment is outdated at best, and a complete waste of time for so many people, at worst.

We have to wipe away the misconception that school prepares you for life. For two reasons:

Life is now. It is not a place in the future. You prepare for life by living life, not locked away all day hearing about your future life one day.

The second reason is that it only serves a purpose for a fraction of people. It is not a one size fits all model, and is a very new system comapred to the history of the world, created to make workers for industry.

Boldly, I say school doesn’t optimally serve anyone, because lack of freedom and choice isn’t *the best* for anyone.

….but I know there will be push back on that claim.

My son is only three, but I get asked where he will go to school or what kind of schooling he will receive. To me, knowing the answer to this question would be more or less assuming who my son is and should be. It would be molding my son to fit an image before he even had time to show me who he was and what he wanted out of life. I do not assume what his life will look like. This doesn’t just simply mean I do not assume what he will want to be when he grows up. I also don’t assume he will want to live like me or anyone else. For all I know, he wants to be the next Christopher McCandless, or be a baker in France, or a porn star, or an author, or build the tallest buildings in the world, or play the piano, or swim with dolphins. I literally have no idea, and that is how I like it. I like being a witness to the unfolding, not a maniplulator of it.

My bottom line is that compulsory schooling is a form of insanity. If we have to punish and shame children who don’t want to follow the rules of a system that doesn’t appeal to their true nature or bring them joy (school isn’t natural for children or for anyone), then it’s a system of abuse and misguided power. Then we are the ones with the problem, not them.

Free your children. Free yourself. Free your life <3

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Dear Parents: 6 Things to Remember This Holiday Season

Another holiday season is upon us and if you’re anything like me, you’re equal parts soaking up the things that make this time of year so special (like wood burning fires, carols, and smells of citrus and cinnamon), and loathing all that makes it gloomy (like familial expectations or lack of connection with loved ones).

I know that as a culture we have fallen blindly into some traditions that are pretty saturated throughout society, especially when it comes to our children. Like many things that parents do, we continue on with the ways as it was done to us. Often without thought, but that is why I am writing this (because yay for self-inquiry).

My main point in this article is to remind everyone that the purpose of this year is supposed to be about love, giving, joy, appreciation, etc. Many times we get stressed or start acting in ways that run counter these intentions (like when my mom gets stressed out that the Christmas tree isn’t up yet). It is easy to want to appear a certain way to others, or manipulate, or use the goodness this time of year offers as a way to assert control.  If you find that something you are doing around the holidays doesn’t bring out the love/joy that it is meant to, then it’s important to look at why you are doing it in the first place.

Some of the biggest strikes against the goodness of the holidays are carried out on our kids. Between Santa, Elf on the Shelf, treats, parties, and gifts we finally have all this ammo to leverage their behavior.

But is that really how you want to spend your holiday? Are threats and bribery and manipulation really what the holiday (or any day!) should be about?

If you are a parent, it is important to remember these 6 things always, but especially for the holiday season:

1. Gifts are not bribing tools.

A gift is defined as something that is given freely and unconditionally without expectation of anything in return. If you want to give your children gifts, then do so from a place of unconditional love. If you are only giving gifts so long as your children behave in ‘XYZ’ manner, then that isn’t a gift at all. It is a tool used to bribe, threaten and manipulate their behavior.

If your husband or wife didn’t take out the trash, would you punish them and take away their gift? Do we make memes about how to punish spouses or friends by taking away gifts?

If your child is acting unfavorably, taking away gifts, or throwing them in the fire (as I have seen some memes explain) will only make your children afraid to come to you in times of need or be dishonest and sneaky with their behavior. It will make them untrusting with gift exchange and see gift giving as a conditional that we do to reward people or only when we want something from them.

Not to mention, it is cruel to inflict an entire holiday and tradition upon children and then take it away when you don’t like how they are acting because society’s expectations tend to be too high for children.

The holidays aren’t meant to be stressful (but somehow have almost become synonymous with that), it is a time for peace and goodwill. Your children can learn that by it being modeled to them.

This way of thinking is part of the “I love you if…” mentality. It is a display of conditional love. And yes, as we are adults it is important to use discernment in who we share our love and energy with, but these are our children and our love should always be unconditional.

If you are using gifts in power-play struggles, then rethink your motive and ask yourself what *you* need to feel more connected to the holiday spirit. They are gifts, not rewards.

Which brings me to number 2…

2. Controlling your kids isn’t your job as a parent.

I just read this great article on how controlling our kids isn’t our job as parents (but so many people seem to think it is!).

I mean, isn’t that good news? We can all let out a big sigh of relief! I know I do when I am trying to control my child and then remember that it isn’t my job.

One way we do this during the holiday season is with that stupid Elf on the Shelf. Yea, I said it…

Unless you are trying to raise your kids to be blindly accepting of authoritarian structures, a police state, and/or a life lived under surveillance then I would toss the doll. Or keep him, because you know, he’s cute–

but not as a way to manipulate and control the behavior of your children by lying to them.

I know it’s hard to believe that children can be inspired to goodness without things like God, the government, elves or Santa watching their every move, but they can. People (and children are people) want to be good. No one is just born wanting to cause grief and annoyance for anyone.

This is teaching our kids that you only have to be good when someone is watching, and that it is ok to tolerate authoritarian surveillance (can you say creepy?). It doesn’t inspire self-motivated and genuine acts of kindness and virtue. It has it be that now your children have to be secretive and manipulative (Like you. It is a learned behavior.) as to not upset that elf sitting on that shelf who then reports back to Santa. It doesn’t help behavior, it simply shifts where and when and how it is directed.

What does shift behavior in all humans is connection and an authentic feeling of belongingness and inclusion in their tribe or family unit.

3. Lying isn’t cool.

If you find that you are having to lie to, again, manipulate and control behavior, then I ask, is there a better way?

We understand that lying isn’t good to do to our spouses and our friends, so why is it so widely accepted to do it to our children?

Again, it is about control and placating reactions. I personally notice myself starting to tell lies to my son in an attempt to manage his reaction. Then I have to tell myself that this only creates more trouble for the both of us in the future when/if he finds out I was not telling the truth (like when I say there is no more cake left and he sees it in the refrigerator later on). That is when I take a deep breath and tell the truth, full and ready for his big feelings. “I actually don’t feel like driving all the way to the dinosaur park today. Yes, they are open, but I don’t want to make the commute.”  This is hard because he *knows* that we could go, but I really don’t want to drive all that way. This is good because even though this is hard to hear, we are connected because he knows what is true for me and I know what is true for him in that moment. Therefore, I have maintained a sense of trust between us. He can trust that I will always tell him the truth, which let’s him know that I trust that he can handle the truth. It is actually a really kind thing to do (I originally learned to do this with significant others, but it totally works with kids, too).

I value my connection with my son and undermining his intelligence doesn’t sit well with me. For this reason, I personally choose not to lie about Santa or Elf on the Shelf, which I outline more extensively in this article

I know some argue that it promotes imagination, but I argue it does the opposite since the story is already made up for them and takes away the opportunity to imagine for themselves. I digress. My point isn’t to tell you to stop telling your children about Santa, but rather to examine the way you are telling the story and your motive why you might be framing it in a way that has them believe he is real and that their behavior dictates his.

Some children are really hurt upon finding out that Santa isn’t real. Why would I want to risk that pain for my son? Children can even find it really hard to trust their parents when they discover they are the ones moving the Elf around the house. They might wonder, “What else are they lying to me about?”

4. Your child doesn’t have to sit on Santa’s lap.

If your child is crying and terrified of the jolly man in red, then please, do not under any circumstances force them to just so you can get a picture. It isn’t cute and it isn’t funny.

I know some people will balk at me and claim I can’t have a little fun and that I take things, too seriously.

I am not worried about that. What I am more worried about is how so many parents are numb to the terror and resistance their child is feeling about sitting on a strange man’s lap. How easily it is for some people to ignore those real, legitimate feelings all for a picture.

I understand that *we* know our child is safe, but what is important is that *they* know and feel safe, and if they are crying, then they don’t feel safe. If our goal as parents is to have our children know it is ok to say “no” to things that make them feel uncomfortable, and for them to know it is ok that they don’t have to touch people (or have people touch them) that they don’t want to, then we start here with Santa Claus and respect their wishes. Forcing close encounters like this against their will teaches them that they don’t have bodily autonomy and that their “no” doesn’t matter and people can override it.

5. Affection is only nice if it is consensual.

This touches (no pun intended) on the same point as Santa Claus. It isn’t uncommon to see more relatives and loved ones during this time of year. Some people are tempted to tell their kids to “give Uncle Timmy a hug,” or “come give your granny kisses,” but we should protect our children from such advances if they object or seem uncomfortable.

Again, by forcing affection it teaches them that they have no choice in who they share love with and how, and also makes them uncomfortable to say no to others in the future. This is actually the perfect opportunity to model and show them that they have power here and can say “no.”

We can do this by interjecting, “only if you want to” when someone asks for affection of some kind. If you see your child is not wanting to, you can ask, “would you like to give a high five instead?” Sometimes they won’t even wanna do that, and it’s ok. I just say, “maybe later.”

I wouldn’t worry that it is unkind or disrespectful. It is never unkind to not do something when you feel uncomfortable doing it. What is unkind is forcing someone who doesn’t want to.

6. All kids are good.

This is the time of year where our children will get asked if they have been naughty or nice this year. Don’t be surprised if the cashier in the checkout line asks your child if they have been good because Santa is coming soon.

It is quite a weird thing if you ask me. No one asks adults these questions. The notion that children can be “bad” is skewed anyway.

Children are not bad. What we view as bad is simply behavior that is reflecting an internal struggle that adults misinterpret as bad and take personally. No one wants to be bad and no one was born bad.

“Misbehavior should be a signal, not an offense.” -www.racheous.com 

To address people who speak to your child with this sort of language, I prefer to just say,

“Oh, we don’t believe in that,” or

“Everyone is a good person.”

If your holiday season is riddled with power struggles, threats, bribes, stress, and tears over holiday traditions that are supposed to bring joy and magic, then what are you doing it all for?

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I Am A Feminist, and Not All Choices Are Worth Fighting For

I want to start off by saying that I am as “pro-woman” as it might get.

Of course, women should be treated with equal respect. Of course, women should have the right to choose what they do with their bodies. Of course, women deserve to be paid the same as men for the same work. OF COURSE, women are worthy citizens. Absolutely. And…

All the choices we have been presented with by a society dominated by men and patriarchal values are NOT worth fighting for. Meaning, just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should… or even want to.

I get it, though. These choices we are given have been framed as “rights.” Rights is a charged word. Who doesn’t want rights to something? Of course, women should have the right….right?

We have somehow been duped into thinking that just because society has given us an option in regard to our own lives, health, careers, etc, then it has value and we should fight for it.

But let’s face it. Society misses the mark A LOT in terms of what is conducive to the health and wellbeing of its citizens. As a matter of fact, I would be so bold to say that mostly, what we deem as normal and mainstream societal expectations and behavior pretty much sucks.

I want to pause and reiterate. I am allllll for a woman’s right to choose. I am in no way suggesting or proposing that we remove a woman’s right to choose for herself, or force/inflict anything upon her without her consent and against her judgment.

The word “choice” is defined as: “an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.”

Therefore, is it really a choice if we aren’t given all the information about the choices we have to choose from? Is it really a choice if you are not choosing between “two or more possibilities” and you are just doing what is being pushed onto you by societal expectation and conditioning? Because you know, that’s how your mom did it and that’s how you were raised.

I am pro-woman. I am pro-health, freedom, happiness, vitality, and power of all women. Most women have so much internalized misogyny that they are not aware of their power and abilities as a woman. They don’t know how good they can feel. I am still realizing it for myself.

And I believe that some of our choices we are given and fighting for do not create such a woman if she is choosing it out of tradition and ignorance of any other alternative.

For example, if the goverment came in tomorrow and said they were proposing a bill that said we could no longer eat at McDonald’s, and McDonald’s was going to be banned, would you fight for your right to eat there?

You definitely could! Fighting for your right to consume from an establishment that will only make your body sick and toxic and unable to be your absolute best, greatest self is an option. And I think we can do better. Oh so much better.

Do you think we would be fighting for McDonald’s of all places if we knew the other options that were available to us? If we banded together as women to support one another in education/support in health and vitality? If we laughed in the faces of those who make these laws and said, “cool, we don’t need your crap anyway,” and reclaimed our own innate power that knows we never ever needed McDonald’s to be alive or healthy or vital or beautiful or self-sufficient?

What if we knew deep in our core that we have everything we already need? That it truly, on the deepest level, cannot be taken. That is merely the illusion and where so many of us give away our power. *We* think we need *them.* Their approval, their product, their permission, their laws, etc. The cold (and also liberating) truth is: WE DON’T.

You have the power to cure your ills, pain, disease, sickness. You have the power to prevent and attain pregnancy. Your body can birth a baby on its own. You can heal your brain. You can heal your life.

Again, I am not saying that all women should never have support when support is needed. Thank God we have technology when it is truly needed (rarely) and damn technology for all the times it interrupted a natural process and caused major harm (not rare at all).

The point is education and awareness. If women knew how to take all this information and power back into their own hands then we woudn’t need to rely on outdated systems to tell us outdated information.

Women deserve to know the whole truth and see the bigger picture of life and their own bodies.

So before you go marching in the streets for your rights to take a pill with known side effects to your body and mind, ask yourself how you are perpetuating the war on women and their bodies by doing so.

If you become aware of the negative effects this has had on a society of women and still for whatever reason choose to take this for yourself, then fine (this is just one example). This approach isn’t what is happening, though. Women are not aware that the other symptoms they are experiencing are because of their pill use. Women have been completely stripped of their intuition and ability to track their cycles and don’t know that they have that option.

When women know the reality of their “choices,” it will only be then that they can truly choose. Until then, we are merely dry swallowing baneful convention and calling it “freedom.”

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Why We Didn’t Potty Train (and What We Did Instead)

My son turns 3 this month, and over the last year I have had many people ask me how long he has been potty trained when they notice he isn’t wearing a diaper. When I tell them he has been fully (night and day) out of diapers since right before he turned two last year, they want to know how I did it. I can see their excitement as they think maybe I have a trick to help them, because usually they are really struggling to get their child to use the toilet. When I tell them we didn’t potty train, they look confused and resign to the fact that I must have a “special” or “unicorn” child. As his mother, I certainly think so ( 😉 ), but I also believe that as a general rule, we don’t need to “train” children to use the toilet.

I want to start off by saying that the use of disposable diapers is unique to western culture. There are so many other cultures who don’t suffer through what we know as “potty training,” and their children grow up not defecating on themselves just fine. First, (like so many things I write about) it is important to be willing to let go of some of your ideas about children and how they work/what they need. If we can be open to the fact that so many of our ideas are based in non truths then it will be easier to approach something like using the toilet with a brand new perspective. So how did I get my son to use the toilet without training him to?

1. I normalized using the toilet from day one.

I didn’t wait until some arbitrary time in his life to introduce the concept of a toilet and not urinating on himself. I made sitting in his own poo and pee not normal from day one. I made using the toilet normal from day one. Some people call this Elimination Communication (EC), but you don’t even have to do it full time. My son still wore diapers, mostly in public and at night. Even with a diaper on, I made it a point to take him to the bathroom and hold him over the sink or the toilet from day one. I didn’t catch every poo and pee. He went in his diaper plenty, but he learned about using the restroom from birth. Can we really blame children for not using the toilet when from the time they are born the only concept of using the restroom they have is going on themselves, in their diaper? Of course introducing something radically new will be met with confusion and resistance. Some people use EC to a T, and I think that is great and preferred, but I also understand not everyone has the time or attention for that. The good news is that you can do it at a level that feels good to you. You can still introduce the toilet from day one without going diaper free (EC) full-time. They are never too young to learn about the toilet, which is the main mistake I see parents make. Often times a parent wants to start potty training but fear their child is “too young.”

Read the book, Diaper Free for a complete understanding! My sons father read the entire book and was hooked instantly.

2. I kept him out of a diaper as much as possible.

This is important because I didn’t want him to get used to the feeling of sitting in his own waste. I wanted it to be felt as something that was unwanted and uncomfortable (which it was). Many people are worried about poo and pee all over their house. I will admit, it helps if you have hard wood floors like we did. Yes, there are accidents, but for me they were worth it because my son was completely out of diapers by the time he was 2. Being diaper free really encouraged my son to use the sign (as in, sign-language) for potty. I noticed when he had a diaper on, he wouldn’t sign when he needed to go. When he was a newborn we would lay him on waterproof pads at night so that he wouldn’t ruin the bed. Once he became more mobile, we put him in diapers in public and at night, but still made it a point to take him to the bathroom when we thought he needed to go, and like I mentioned above, our timing wasn’t always perfect, but it was the association we wanted to instill.

3. I let him mimic us.

Right around the time children become official toddlers, they get really into doing whatever it is that you are doing. This was really helpful when it came to using the toilet. When my son was about 14-15 months old, I bought him his own toddler potty and put it right next to the big toilet in our bathroom. When I would go to the bathroom, he would follow me in there (because no one can pee alone when you have a toddler) and want to sit on his potty too. When we were in the backyard or out in nature, he would also copy his dad and pee in the grass. It got to the point that from a really young age he would open our sliding glass door to the backyard and go outside. It was really exciting for him.

4. I never forced, bribed, punished, or shamed him about using/not using the toilet.

There were times he went in his diaper and even on our floor at home. I never made a big deal about it or demanded he use the potty. I never shamed him or punished him either. Often times kids’ refusal to use the toilet is based on the amount of pressure we put on them. What you persist they will resist. If there is pressure or shame or anything like that around using the toilet in your home, then it is likely your child feels a lot of anxiety about it. Age is irrelevant. It is never productive or helpful to use these tactics to get a child to use the toilet. It just creates more problems.

One day, I decided to try and see what would happen if we just stopped using diapers altogether. My son had already been using the toilet a lot on his own, and I felt ready to try and go 100% diaper free. The first few days he had a couple of accidents, and went in the bed three nights in a row, but after those first few days, we literally had zero accidents and he would even get up at night and go use the toilet.

I believe being diaper free from an early age taught him that it’s not comfortable or normal to feel your own waste on your body. When I stopped using diapers at all, he already had the concept of going in the potty down, as well as the understanding that it doesn’t feel good to sit in your own wetness or poo. Without diapers he learned quickly the discomforts of having wet pants/sheets, which I think motivated him to use the toilet. Again, without force from me, and it only took several days for the switch to happen. If you want to try the cold turkey method, then you must be ok with some accidents in the beginning. And consider that “cold turkey” might only work if there has been a lot of preparation up until that point.

So that is how I got my two year old out of diapers without ever using any “training” methods. The idea is not to train and enforce toilet use, but to simply create an environment where success is possible and conducive for confidence and self-sufficiency.

I understand that there will always be exceptions such as special needs children and those on the spectrum. I do not write about that simply because I am not experienced with it. I welcome anyone who parents a child with special circumstances to write about toilet topics for them because there can never be too much information and learning to be had.

As a general rule, though, children in other cultures from all over the world have managed to use the toilet early on, and American children have one of the oldest potty training ages in the world. It isn’t because we lack the ability, it is because of our cultural practices and what is seen as normal. Mostly, at a certain point we all use the toilet on our own anyway, so some might wonder if this even matters. Maybe not at the end of the day, but if you are wanting to simplify and make parenting a lot easier (which I am all about), then this is just another thing to question and inquire about. I also truly believe it instills self-awareness and age appropriate independence.

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Top 10 Books for Empowering Yourself as a Mother

Yesterday I wrote a post outlining five of the ways we tend to give away our power as mothers. It is easy to read about what not to do, but given how most of us were brought up, what to do instead can feel confusing and like we are at a loss. With that said, there is no destination and there is no arriving. We are always learning and growing and doing our best to stretch ourselves where we can.

Once I realized so many of the messages I recieved as a young girl and teenager didn’t serve me or make sense as an adult, I dove deep into books that rocked my world. I love books for this reason. They can offer a fresh new perspective and change the way you view and approach reality. One book can be a total paradigm shift for you. I have read several such books, and that is what I want to offer you here.

The books I list below are books that I believe would greatly shift the lives of mothers and women for the better if we had them as some sort of required reading. They offer radical changes in the way we view things such as the way we birth babies, parent, take care of ourselves and our families, have sex, and ultimately live our lives. I put “Mothers” in the title, but really these books are for all women.

Here are my favorite books that will definitely have you feeling empowered and confident as a woman and a mother:

1. Pushed

pushed

Pushed exposes the truth of the broken maternity care system in America. It is one every mother-to-be should read!

-if you like the sound of this, also try: Immaculate Deception.

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2. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

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Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth book is the grandmother of all childbirth books. If there was only one book I could recommend on birth, it would be this one. Ina May is the nation’s leading Midwife who has been practicing for decades. This woman knows her stuff.

-if you like the sound of this, also try: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth.

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3. The Continuum Concept

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The Continuum Concept is about a woman who spent over two years in the jungle observing Stone Age Indians. She reflects on the differences between their life and our life in western culture.

“She offers a new understanding of how we have lost much of our natural well-being and shows us practical ways to regain it for our children and for ourselves.”

-if you like the sound of this, also try: Magical Child

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4. How to Raise a Healthy Child…In Spite of Your Doctor.

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How to Raise A Healthy Child is written by a renowned pediatrician who claims parents use the doctor way too much, which can actually make your child less healthy in the long run. He offers home diagnosis and treatment remedies and tells you when to call your doctor and when it is not necessary.

In my previous article that I mentioned above, I talked about the importance of taking control of our own health and not relying on the types of doctors who bully their patients.

-if you like the sound of this, also try: Creating Healthy Children Through Attachment Parenting and Raw Foods.

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5. Women Who Run With the Wolves.

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The mythical stories in Women Who Run With the Wolves really inspires the natural, wild, all-knowing woman within us all. Anytime I have forgotten my innate power as a woman, I will read a story in this book to remember how much I already have within myself. It is so easy as mothers in this culture to lose that sense. This book celebrates women as magic and medicine.

-if you like the sound of this, also try: Witch: Unleashed, Untamed, Unapologetic.

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6. Her Blood is Gold

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Nothing felt more empowering for me as a woman as when I came to fully love my menstrual cycle. Not just tolerate it, but LOOK FORWARD to it. I did this by learning about the power and purpose of bleeding, and how in the past, women were seen and treated much differently when they bled. We often view our periods as something to hide, loathe, and shame. This attitude has it be that we have stiffled our fullest expressions as women. Embracing all of yourself (including the reality that you bleed once a month) is the most profound thing I have ever done for myself. Her Blood is Gold outlines the history of menstruation, how we have lost the understanding of its power, and how we can make our way back to seeing the gift that it is. If you have daughters (ok, sons, too!), carrying a postive attitude about your period and your body is vital.

-if you like the sound of this, also try: The Red Tent

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7. Pussy

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Our pleasure is a vital nutrient that so many of us are lacking. It is so easy to lose our connection to our sexuality when we have children…but it is important that we don’t! Mothers are still sexual beings with sexual needs (even though we don’t always feel that way with the sleepless nights). Just because we “don’t feel like it” doesn’t mean the need has gone away. How you feel and express your sexuality can look differently for everyone. It doesn’t mean you should be having a bunch of sex! Pussy: A Reclamation is said to be required reading for any woman who wants to step into her pleasure, power, and purpose. Just go read the book description! Powerful stuff.

if you like the sound of this, also try: Slow Sex

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8. The Artists Way

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Something else that is often lost in motherhood (and in our masculine oriented culture, in general) is creativity. Which goes hand in hand with our sexuality! The Artist’s Way is a 12-week workbook aimed to inspire a more creative life. I truly believe that sometimes it isn’t so much that parenting is hard, but rather, it highlights where and how we are not living a life that is aligned with our deepest truths and desires. This book wakes you back up to what you really want out of life, and I think modeling that to our children is important.

-if you like the sound of this, also try: The Artist’s Way for Parents

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9. The Teenage Liberation Handbook

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In my previous post I highlighted the importance of questioning our beliefs around schooling and exposed how much disempowerment comes from following that institution when done without thought or sound reason. I think in order to feel truly empowered, we have to know that our time and energy is ours to spend and use as we see fit and realize we are not obligated to anything, even and especially the traditional school system. I won’t go too far here in dismantling commonly held beliefs around why most people think we need school. I have touched briefly on that before, and there are many resources for that. Teenage Liberation Handbook is a great place to start. It isn’t only for teenagers, as one might assume, although, it is directed at teenagers and their parents. I read it in my early 20’s and became what I like to refer to as an “adult unschooler.” For me this meant that I finally got to live my life for ME, exploring my own interests and using my time to do things that I wanted, rather than following a predetermined timeline expected of me by those around me and society as a whole. Just think if we got to do that from the time we were born and our parents trusted our innate passion and desire for learning? Who would I be today if I didn’t wait until my 20s to discover who I really was as a human? Talk about ultimate freedom and empowerment! You have to check out this book.

-if you like the sound of this, also try: Free to Learn & Dumbing Us Down (I couldn’t just pick one here).

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10. The Conscious Parent

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The hardest part about empowering ourselves as women and mothers is bringing to light our own pain and shadows. If you are a parent then you might know that no one can do this better for us than our own children. If we can become aware enough, then we can see that they are the perfect reflections of the places we are not in alignment with our own truths. This can be a fun game to self discovery, but it can also be painful to uncover at times. It is so much easier for most of us to blame our frustrations and behavior on our kids. I mean, clearly I was fine until you didn’t listen to me….

The problem with that line of thinking is that it paints our children as the ones with the problem and never allows us to address and heal the things that get triggered within us. In The Conscious Parent by Shefali Tsabary, she flips the way we tend to view our children and how we parent on its head and offers a new idea about who our children are. She also suggests that parenting is the biggest opportunity to “wake up” to our own truth and lives if we can become skilled enough to see our children as perfectly brilliant in reflecting back to us exactly what we need to see about ourselves.

-if you like the sound of this, also try: Unconditional Parenting

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Enjoy!

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5 Ways Mothers Give Away their Power

Dear Mama,

You have more power than you might think.

You are the master of your domain, and the domain is you and your child(ren). Master, not to be confused with dominance and control. By master I do not mean that you are here to control your child, but you are in 100% control of the decisions you are required to make for your child.

There are so many ways that we as mothers give away our power and authority to people and systems as a given, without thought, because we don’t realize there is any other way. We allow our bodies/souls and our children’s bodies/souls get overided by people who we think know better than we do when it comes to our lives and the lives of our children. But they don’t.

As mothers we are constantly being thrown shame about our choices as a parent, no matter what we do. Now, it is important that we talk openly about evidence based practices that are proven to have better outcomes for our children, but many cases, people want us to just go with the status quo. Just do what was done to them, the way their parents did it. Don’t ask questions, don’t be too loud, don’t speak up, don’t question the “experts,” ignore that gut feeling. You know, the one you might get at a doctors appointment or sending your kid off on the first day of school. We are told these feelings are “normal,” and that every mother goes through it. I agree, they are common, but they are not normal. Our world has made living for systems beyond our community and the opinions of some people priority over what we intuitively know. To the point that the felt sense of that intuition is gone for many people. We are filling our kids bodies and heads with things that we don’t even have the slightest clue what is it, because we think we have to. That there could be another way, doesn’t even occur to many people.

This isn’t about convincing anyone to do things my way (how boring a world that would be!). But if you don’t know that you have choices beyond the mainstream world, then you aren’t actually making decisions from a place of truth and desire. You are living on autopilot and not considering the impact of living a life in accordance to the status quo, whose only agenda is to keep you relying on it.

So what do I mean by giving away power?

Well, your  power is your deep internal knowing, and then the actions that support it. It is standing up for what you know to be true and not fearing the potential backlash from those who feel confronted by how you live. Actually, you might feel fear, but you do it anyway, because you cannot function living for others and out of alignment with what you know to be best for you and your family.

I see mothers give away their power to others all the time. Sure, there are going to be women who live by the book. They do what they are told, trust the “experts” no matter what, never venture far from their predetermined path as a mother and will insist that they are not run by fear and not giving their power away. That is fine. I am not speaking to them. I am speaking to those who know something feels off. They get that feeling that things aren’t right or they want to change something, but that something goes against everything they are told to be okay and right about raising children. I am here to tell you to listen to that. It is ok, and very empowering to never feel confused or afraid in your choices as a parent. I love how much freedom I have there, and I have that freedom because I don’t listen to other people and have cultivated a deeper trust within myself. I truly believe that if you have that, then it almost doesn’t matter what you do, that faith and confidence will carry you. Even if you do everything totally oposite than what I personally believe to be true, if you feel so good and right doing it, then your family and children will feel that.

Here are 5 places I see mothers giving away their power, where they should not, ever, anymore:

Doctors during pregnancy

This isn’t about how I think you should be pregnant and give birth, but it is true that 99% of women follow a predetermined agenda once they see those two blue lines. From that point on they are under the control of a doctor. They see it as them working for the doctor and not the other way around. Remember, this is your body and your baby. Your caregiver works for you. If you don’t want to drink a nasty glucose drink, you don’t have to. If you don’t want to be induced, you don’t have to. If you don’t want to labor on your back strapped to a bed, you don’t have to. If you don’t want an episiotomy, you don’t have to get one. If you don’t want your baby taken out of your sight, she doesn’t have to be. If you ever have that “bad” feeling about ANYTHING, listen to it. I cringe when I hear a woman say, “my doctor won’t let me…”

If that is the case, then I wouldn’t hesitate finding someone who works FOR YOU and honors your wishes. I understand that there are special circumstances where a woman has to do something she didn’t originally desire or plan, but this isn’t what I am talking about.

Women have so much choice and power around how they bring their babies into the world. Excerise that right. Question and research everything.

2. Parenting experts.

The problem with listening to the experts is that they come from all ends of the spectrum. Some will say never ever leave a baby alone to cry, others will suggest you go in the nursery just to clean up the vomit, make no eye contact and get out (ok, that is just cruel, but that line of thinking actually exists). Sure, I think it is great to find people who support what you intuitively know, and refer to them in times of confusion, because you trust them and their opinions on such matters, which is different than giving away power.

Ultimately, you know what feels good and what doesn’t. Yes, it is true that sometimes we have to feel our feelings to allow for freedom on the other side, and because of how many of us were raised, feeling our feelings can be uncomfortable, which means feeling our child’s can be even more uncomfortable.

So how do you know the difference between “good” uncomfortable feelings and “bad” uncomfortable feelings? I would say the answer to this is that the “bad” uncomfortable feelings are persistent, nagging and have a flavor of guilt associated with it, whereas “good” uncomfortable feelings are fleeting and you will often feel refreshed or renewed after having let yourself feel it all the way through. There also isn’t much doubt in your decsions when you have “good” uncomfortable feelings that need to be loved and felt. It all feels very clear, but it still FEELS, and that is okay.

One example is parent’s confusion over sleep and letting babies cry alone. Many feel if they pick up their baby or sleep near their baby then they are somehow spoiling their baby. On the other hand, they feel terrible letting and listening to their baby’s screams. This is a perfect example of listening to our intuition and how it often goes in the exact opposite direction of what the “experts” tell us (not all experts, of course).  It is rather sad that we believe a vulnerable baby can have too much love and care, or be made to feel too insecure. Or to think a baby’s needs go away at night. Understanding child development and listening to our intuition will make examples like these pretty clear.

3. Your mother-in-law, or your own mother.

This might sound a little harsh, but it needs to be said.

I often see mothers posting in mom groups about how to deal with a mother-in-law or their own parent strongly disagreeing about how they do something as a parent. They complain about their beliefs and ask for advice on how to get them to “see their point of view.”

Honestly, the problem isn’t your MIL, the problem is lack of boundaries on your (the mother’s) part. I get that some women deal with really nasty MILs and mothers. It still comes down to boundaries and confidence. If you know your deepest truth and you are confident in carrying it out as a parent then there is no need to convince anyone or make them see it your way (unless they ask or are curious, of course!). If anyone in my family (or friends) wanted to give me a hard time on a regular basis about how I do something then I have no problem setting a boundary, whatever that would need to look like. I think my own mother knows this about me, which is probably why she doesn’t give me a hard time, despite the fact she might not agree with everything I do. Seeing her grandchild and having a relationship with him is more important to her than questioning my choices. That said, I love having open, respectful conversations about it when she wants to.

I do believe some people just like the drama and want to appear right (been there!), but if you just honestly want to be left alone about your decsions then I promise, you can make that happen.

You also don’t need to give away your power by doing something that you feel uncomfortable/unsure about  just beciuase that is how your mom raised you and you don’t want to upset her or make her feel guilty. I know some women are very aware that if they did something opposite of what their mothers did, then that is indirectly telling them that we are not okay with how it was done to us, and that could feel offensive to our own mothers, and we don’t want to hurt them, of course. It is actually more unkind to go along to get along with your mother and protect her from feeling the truth of who you are and what you believe. It prevents potential growth for the both of you. You are not giving her the opportunity to possibly learn from her mistakes that she wasn’t aware she was making at the time.

4. Pediatricians

This goes back to my number one point, but I see mothers putting up with pediatrician bullying so much more. I see women dreading going to check-ups because they don’t want to feel bullied into giving an injection or medication that they feel uncomfortable with or still have very little knowledge on. It is horrible how much we shame women for questioning substances that they must choose to put or not put in their child’s body. No matter what you choose, I think we can all agree that it is totally legititmate to know what you are consenting to give your child and possible side effects. To not ask about any of these things feels totally irresponsible, but we treat women who question as the irresponsible ones.

Mothers remember, you are not obligated to keep a care provider who makes you feel horrible. You are also not required to attend check-ups until and unless you feel good about going. These experiences can and should be mostly care free and without stress and dread. If you find yourself feeling that way every time you go to the doctor, I would start to consider another game plan. We personally do not see doctors unless I feel that I cannot care for my son on my own and I need the opinion and help of someone who I trust. I can weigh and measure my son myself and I don’t need to be told that my clearly healthy and happy child is, well…happy and healthy.

5. Schools

Somewhere down the line we fell for the belief that once our child turns five then we give them away to a system who can supposedly better raise and educate them than we (or the world) can.

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We turn them in to a life of much less freedom and bodily autonomy for the safe bet that when they come out, they will be “educated,” because they can’t possibly learn outside of the starkness that is the school walls. We fall for the lie that learning can only be done one way, at one place, for everyone.

School is an authoritarian environment – one where there is a top down hierarchy where children are at the bottom and disempow

Once again, we are told to abandon our power as mothers and hand our children’s lives and education over to strangers, but we are told these strangers are “experts” so we feel justified in this decision. We tell ourselves they must be educated, even though in reality there are far more experiences and resources available in the rest of the world than are within the confines and limits of schooling. We tell ourselves that our children must be socialized, even though that is all we ever got in trouble for as kids in school. We know very well how much socializing is discouraged in the school environment.

I know my condemnations of schooling will get a lot of backlash. I am not so much saying what you should and should not do. I am simply suggesting you know the reality of your choices and question why you have chosen (consciously or unconsciously) this path, because that is all it is. *A* path. Not *the* path. It is not in any way a given or required. It is a relatively new created system designed to create 9-5 workers for a capitalistic society. Why have you chosen it? Was it a conscious choice or simply the next step in what you consider of living life? Are we considering how much of our time, attention, energy, and life we give away to the schooling system? We are on their clock all year, and having to constantly make sure we get in assignments, wake up at a certain time, abide by their laws and rules, etc. These things affect the entire family unit, not just children.

Again, if you think you made the best decision and your children love school, then maybe you don’t need this message. My message to you is still that you have more power than you know, and if you ever feel off or that your child isn’t thriving in this environment, then your job isn’t to ignore those feelings or “fix” or medicate your child or put them in a special class with other children who are accutely aware of a broken system. Your job is to change the environment, not change your child.

Sometimes we resist this notion because it would require us to take a good, hard look at our deeply held beliefs. It would require us to realign our priorites and make big (but often very neccessary) changes in our own lives. And oh it is so much easier to try to change our child than it is seeing them as people who are reflecting back at us what we need to see and change about oursleves, but that is why children are so great and magical. We just have to look and listen.

I know these ideas are not always easy to hear, nor are the results always happy readers. Luckily, I am not in the writing business to make people happy. I am in it to tell the truth and express that which I am most passionate about. I am curious your thoughts on empowering ourselves as mothers and taking back our rights to our own lives and bodies. What is available to us when we live our lives fully and truly for ourselves and the needs of our children, rather than assuming what life with kids is supposed to look like? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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