Holistic parenting: An approach more than a definition

Healthy living is a journey
When I was in graduate school my idea of breakfast was a Diet Coke® and a cigarette.  Today, it’s local organic eggs and a fair trade latte.  Talk about change!

Moving into a healthy lifestyle is not often a sudden transformation.  Rather, it is a journey we take throughout our life as we discover new information, new resources, and embrace more healthful goals.  For me, my personal journey was bounded by two opposing perspectives: a traditional, back-to-basics perspective and a modern, convenience lifestyle.  I grew up in a multi-generational household and my Italian-American grandmother had a passion for cooking everything from scratch.  She spent hours in the kitchen making pasta, cleaning fresh fish, and embracing a lifestyle that honored the bounty of the earth.  She also distrusted doctors and often shunned modern medicine for simple home remedies.  My mother, however, was urban and hip – always embracing the latest trends, including fast foods and quick fixes.  I generally followed my mother’s ways for many years, but honored the traditions of my grandmother and adopted her passion for food and cooking.

Start a natural lifestyle as early as possible
Fast forward into my 20s as a graduate student when I began to seriously pay attention to my health and wellness.  My love for food and cooking led me to books and resources about the connection between what we eat and how we feel, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I became passionate about a healthy, plant-based diet and the world of wellness began to unfold.  I discovered homeopathy, chiropractic clinics, and farmers’ markets.  By the time I married and was ready to start a family, I was already on the path to a holistic lifestyle.

Starting a family is a time of excitement and wonder – and anxiety.  First, the fun part begins.  Spreading the news, picking baby names, and planning a nursery.  But the journey of motherhood also brings many questions.  For many parents, it is the first time we really start to pay attention to the things we put in and on our bodies.  We start reading labels, researching ingredients, and wondering how they will impact our future family.  We start worrying about toxins in our homes and the impact of chemicals in our environment for future generations.  Or maybe we reach that threshold as a parent after the fifth ear infection, the never-ending allergies, or a concern about junk food in our children’s school lunch programs.  Whether your holistic living journey started before children, as mine did, or it follows your entrance into parenthood, it is an ongoing evolution for all of us.

A holistic approach to parenting begins with an awareness of how our choices and actions are interconnected.  It may start with a realization that the quality of the food we eat during pregnancy will impact the health of our future child.  It may begin as we plan a nursery and discover the dangers of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in paints.  Or it may be a radical awakening to global warming and what we can do to preserve the future for our children.

The essence of holistic parenting
Being a holistic parent means that we are aware of how our actions, choices, and behaviors impact our health and the health of our planet.  We embrace the concept of “holism” and begin to treat symptoms as larger issues – both individually and with regard to the environment.  We recognize that a fever is the body’s way of fighting disease and is part of a larger healing process, just as we understand that the disposable diapers we are tossing in the garbage are connected to unusual weather patterns and global warming.

But crossing that threshold does not mean we suddenly jump to the finish line.  Often, we straddle two worlds.  When I was young, I would spend hours in the gym and then indulge in a meal of processed foods to satisfy my hunger.  We all rationalize our unhealthy behaviors along the way and live with our many contradictions.  However, reconciling these contradictions becomes harder and harder as we learn and grow.  New conditions and information are constantly arising that ask us to make choices and changes.  We acknowledge that the clutter of plastic bags in our homes is indeed polluting the planet and one day we make the switch and purchase reusable bags.  We become aware that High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is pervasive in many of the food items that we buy and we commit to reading labels and finding alternative products to keep our children healthy.  As holistic parents, we strive for balance: balance that includes reducing our anxiety about the future and finding support.  We seek out information as well as community to enrich our journey and discover acceptance.  When we look for information to make the healthiest choices for our families and the planet, consider the implications of our actions, and understand how our choices or actions have repercussions for our health and wellness, then we have embraced the journey.  This is the essence of holistic parenting.

Holistic parenting is not about sacrifice
Making changes to embrace holistic living and parenting means taking those first steps into living with health and sustainability in mind.  But being a holistic parent is not a race or a contest.  It’s not about living the “perfect” green lifestyle or abandoning all of our traditions and practices.  It is the effort we make to become informed and to make the best choices for ourselves, our families, and our planet.  It means that we are engaged – personally and politically – in the choices that we make and the impact that they have.  I may be an organic food enthusiast who drives a hybrid, but my personal journey as a holistic parent still includes lattes and chocolate!  Even though we have an eye on wellness, we may not choose to give up our caffeine habit today, but we might choose to purchase only organically grown, fair trade coffee.  We might avoid processed sugars to improve our children’s health but opt to sweeten treats with local honey instead.

I look forward to exploring the many facets of holistic parenting with you and hope you will join me on this journey so that we can learn together!

Read More:
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Nancy Massotto is the Founder and Director of the Holistic Moms Network, a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Nancy has a passion for living holistic and works to help parents connect, learn and support one another on their journeys through parenting and holistic living. Find more information about Nancy on her website or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.