May 26, 2010

Crunchy Mommies

This is a paper I wrote for my sociology class on a subculture to which I belong. :)
It's boring. Promise.

     You've seen us; we’re everywhere. It doesn’t hurt that we’re also loud and proud of our parenting ideals. Some call us Granola Moms or Holistic Parenting Activists, but I prefer to think of us as Crunchy Mommies. We’re the ladies who birth at home, nurse well past the first year, wear our babies and shun bouncy seats, swings, TVs and other “parent substitutes”. Our entire world revolves around our children and raising them in the most natural and nurturing way possible.

One way to spot us is to look for symbols; visual signs that convey a meaning to a group of people who share a subculture. For Crunchy Mommies this would include things like baby slings, cloth diapers and wheat germ snacks. If a Crunchy Mommy has a baby that isn’t a good walker yet, you can bet she’ll have a Moby Wrap, ring sling, Mai Tai or some other soft cloth baby carrier to use instead of hauling her offspring around in a car seat. Die-hard Crunchy Mommies carry their toddler and baby in a soft wrap at the same time. CMs are typically environmentally minded and prefer to use cloth diapers the majority of the time, but since we’re also smart women, these aren’t the cloth diapers your momma used on you! Fuzzi Buns, G Diapers, Bum Genius and other newer brands are contoured and have a removable insert that flushes, so they’re less of a hassle than old school cloth diapers while still enabling Crunchy Mommies to be “Earth Conscious”. They also come in myriad designs so we can show off our Fashion Consciousness as well! CMs are also extremely aware of what we feed our children. You’ll see us in the supermarket reading labels and vetoing anything containing High Fructose Corn Syrup or trans fats. We tend to make most of our food from scratch so we know what’s in it and can ensure the proper nutrition for our families. Some obviously Crunchy ingredients include: bulgur, quinoa, wheat germ, soy beans, tofu and lots and lots of fresh vegetables.

Crunchy Mommy’s symbols are also what make up our material culture-or physical items created by our subculture. Lots of CM’s make baby slings and wraps to sell to other mommies. We whole-sale the cloth diapers of our chosen brand and even make and sell organic baked goods and other consumables. An example is a group of moms who created Bountiful Baskets, a produce co-op, which they run to allow other Mommies access to fresh produce at cost.

Crunchy Mommies also have their own language, or system of symbols we use to communicate with one another. You’ll hear us in spirited conversation over such things as VBAC, HBAC, HBA2C, water births, free birth, tandem nursing, baby wearing, co-sleeping, and free range kids. VBAC, HBAC and HBA2C are all related. VBAC stands for vaginal birth after cesarean. HBAC is home birth after cesarean and HBA2C means home birth after two cesareans. The reason there are so many Crunchy expressions involving child birth is because a bad birthing experience is often what leads a woman to become a CM. A Crunchy Mommy has realized the system is set up to benefit the hospital employees and doctors, not the birthing mom. Once she realizes this, she also sees nearly all the ways we are encouraged by society to interact with our children benefit others, not our children or ourselves-- which leads us to co-sleeping and attachment parenting. We are told by “experts” our children must learn to sleep by themselves before they can even talk, let alone care for themselves. Why? Crunchy Mommies question that logic and then embrace bringing the baby into the parents’ bed. This has the added benefit of easier night time nursing. Babies who co-sleep are generally happier and very well adjusted. We also embrace attachment parenting, which is a philosophy that encourages parents to keep the baby with them as much as possible. Hold, snuggle, sleep with and generally have your baby near you at all times. Slings and wraps make this possible. All my children enjoy being in the sling or wrap while I do my chores and fix meals. They frequently fall asleep during vacuuming!

Crunchy Mommies value, or hold as a standard, ideas that help them parent their children in the best way possible. For most of us, this includes the idea of keeping your child near you almost always while they are in the formative years. Crunchy Mommies are very careful about who they let spend time with their children. For example, my children do not attend day care, even the child center at the gym, because there, I do not control who interacts with my children. Before my pre-schooler is allowed into someone else’s home, I get to know the family first. I invite their children over to play and spend time with the mother. If I am even a tad cautious, my child doesn’t spend time without me in that home. Our teenage babysitters must spend several days in our home with all of us before I consider letting them tend my children alone. For the most part, we put our kids to bed and then the sitter comes over to make sure the house doesn’t burn down on date nights. Crunchy Mommies also prefer Joy School and home school to traditional public schooling because we value being able to teach our children in the way that best suits them. We are also in control of the curriculum, so if we want to skip over certain parts of culture that are taught in public school (like children’s stories about homosexuals) we can. With slightly older children, Crunchy Mommies appreciate the values taught in the philosophy of Free Range Kids, or children who are allowed to play outside unattended. They go to the park by themselves and other activities that help children learn their limits but that are generally frowned upon by the general populous.

The norms, or rules by which Crunchy Mommies live, state that each Mommy does what is best for her particular child without regard to society. Each CM trusts that every set of parents knows what’s best for their child/ren. This will vary family to family and child to child. The ideas described above, such as birthing at home and wearing your baby, cooking healthfully, and home schooling are generally regarded to be the norm among Crunchy Mommies. Lots of CM’s participate in produce co-ops like Bountiful Baskets to help achieve the eating healthfully goal on a budget. It’s also the norm for Crunchy Mommies to avoid working outside the home, which means most of us operate on a very tight budget. Most CM’s are grateful to be able to raise their children so holistically.

I didn’t start out life as a Crunchy Mommy. I was a normal person until an emergency cesarean changed my life forever. Once I got over the trauma that surrounded the very unnecessarean (another subculture word) I received, my Le Leche Group members opened my eyes to another way of living. I slowly started to participate in this subculture that felt an awful lot like it belonged in San Francisco, not Idaho Falls. The more I gave up how I thought society was telling me to raise my kids, the more I enjoyed parenting. I found that as my family made choices that moved us closer to each other, it also moved us deeper into this groovy subculture of Crunchydom. Now I’m so crunchy, you have to poor milk on me, just to choke me down!

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