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The Essence of Parenting

Welcome to the February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Essentials

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 the parenting essentials that they could not live without. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


I cannot imagine parenting without my kids.

I know it seems obvious at first – how could I parent without my kids?  But what else is essential to parenting?  When I started brainstorming ideas for this month’s Carnival of Natural Parenting, I thought of all the parenting books I’ve read, the family support I have, the homeschooling groups, lullabies, cosy woven wraps or co-sleeping arrangements we’ve tried.  I tried to imagine parenting without them, and found that I could.  Plenty of parents around the world already do.  Our king size bed and public library full of children’s books are some of the tasty goodies that make it possible for me to parent in this particular way, and I certainly enjoy parenting more because of them.  But none of them are absolutely essential to my parenting.

michelle and a newborn beatrice

Parenting: Day One

I would certainly find it more difficult to parent without having lots of time to spend with my kids, but if I had to go back to work I would, and I would keep parenting.  I would find it a challenge to parent an infant without breastfeeding, co-sleeping and babywearing, but if I had a double mastectomy, a sleep disorder that made co-sleeping unsafe or a back injury that made babywearing impossible, I’d love that baby just as much, and I’d parent as well as I possibly could in those challenging situations.

Even in an awful, I’d-rather-not-imagine-it scenario where something devastating happened, like having our house burn down or losing my husband, well, as long as my kids and I were alive I’d keep on parenting.  I would not be the same parent I am today in that kind of situation, but I can’t imagine not parenting, even through a tragic loss.

The only situation I can think of that would make it impossible for me to parent is losing my own ability to communicate and be present in reality.  A brain injury would probably make it impossible for me to continue parenting.  Being in a coma would stop me from parenting.  Losing my Ergo?  I’d be sad, but I’d keep on parenting.

mom carrying a baby on her back

Parenting is all about making do with what you’ve got, and loving your kids no matter what. I sure am glad I had my trusty Didymos, The Baby Book, my friend who introduced me to the idea of homeschooling as she began homeschooling her own kids, a wonderful online community of like minded parents and the means to stay home myself.  These things, ideas and people have shaped the way I think about parenting my daughters and expanded the realm of possibility in our lives.  I’m very thankful for my University education, which helps me research child development and the psychology studies behind attachment theory.  I believe my own early childhood, spent mostly at home with my mom and little brother, gave me a template from which to imagine the kind of childhood I wanted to give to my own kids.

All of these things, all the priceless gifts that have improved my life as a parent – they are not essential. The essence of parenting is the relationship between parent and child, in whatever circumstances they may find themselves. That is parenting, and I can’t imagine parenting without myself or my kids.  I can make do without everything else.


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:

  • Not Without Him — The love Starr at Taking Time shares with her husband is the foundation of her parenting.
  • I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without B(.)(.)bs — From an uneducated dreamer to a breastfeeding mother of a toddler, nursing has forever changed Kristy at Strings to Things’s relationship with her daughter and her outlook on life.
  • Raising a Child in the Internet Village — When Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction has a question or concern about parenting, she turns to the Internet. What did parents do before Google?
  • Partner in Crime and ParentingBethy at Bounce Me to the Moon can’t imagine parenting without her husband’s sense of humor – he brings her laughter and love every day.)
  • I Make MilkPatti at Jazzy Mama can’t imagine trying to mother her babies without her breasts, but she could do it if she had to.
  • New Perspectives Bring New BeginningsMJ at Wander Wonder Discover, who is a former authoritarian mamma, has gained perspective via parenting.
  • Time Out!Mrs. Green at Little Green Blog explores how time apart can increase your capacity to give unconditionally.
  • Unimaginable Without HimKristina at heyred designs is celebrating her amazing partner, without whom none of her parenting experience would be possible.
  • My Parenting NecessityClaire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl needs “me time” in order to be the Mama she wants to be.
  • Babywearing As a Way of LifeDarcel at The Mahogany Way talks about the benefits of babywearing in everyday life.
  • Parenting Partnership — Sometimes Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter doesn’t appreciate her husband enough, but she definitely couldn’t imagine parenting without his help.
  • Parenting EssentialsMomma Jorje loves her parenting products, but she needs you even more.
  • My Parenting Must-Have: SupportJoella at Fine and Fair wrote a letter to her daughter about the role that support from friends and family plays in her mothering.
  • It’s More Than Just Hair — Think doing hair is full of fluff? Too girly? Useless? Karli from Curly Hairdo Ideas used to think so too.
  • The Minimalist Parent — The parents at Living Peacefully with Children embrace a minimalist perspective when it comes to baby gear. A good sling is all they need.
  • Without My BreastsCharise at I Thought I Knew Mama can’t imagine parenting without her breasts; here’s why.
  • Loves Books, Loves PeopleSeonaid at the Practical Dilettante discovers that the library is a perfect fit for her family’s needs.
  • An Ode to the Maya WrapRevMama’s next child might be named Maya, because of her fondness for the sling.
  • Avoiding the Padded RoomPecky at Benny and Bex is here to testify that it takes a village to raise a child.
  • My parenting essentials, from Tivo to battery-operated monstrositiesLauren at Hobo Mama presents a list of parenting essentials you didn’t even know you needed (and probably don’t…).
  • Attachment Parenting Through Separation: It Makes It a Little BetterJessica at This Is Worthwhile talks about how she couldn’t survive her separation without attachment parenting and the bond it’s afforded her with her 3 year old son.
  • Parenting EssentialsDeb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares the principles she used to parent her children from infants to adults.
  • My Parenting Essentials — The things that are truly essential to Kim at In Desperate Need of Entertainment aren’t things at all.
  • I’m No One Without My Sling — How baby carrying is essential to the parenting of Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama.
  • I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without…Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine talks about what she needs to raise her children.
  • February Carnival of Natural Parenting — Through her experiences over the last five and a half years, Casey at Love What Is has discovered her most important tool for parenting is using her instincts.
  • CNP: I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without __________.The Artsymama discloses the one thing that gave her back control of herself as a parent.
  • Laugh Until I Cry — Laughing with her sons keeps Acacia at Fingerpaint & Superheroes connected and grounded.
  • I Cannot Imagine Parenting WithoutLuschka at Diary of a First Child realizes what the one thing she can’t imagine parenting without is, and it turns out it’s not a thing after all.
  • It Takes Two — Here are a few of the reasons why Jenn at Adventures Down Under cannot imagine parenting without her fabulous husband.
  • Stopping to Listen — Though it wasn’t easy at first, Knocked Up – Knocked Over cannot imagine parenting her daughter without listening first to what she is telling her.
  • The Essence of Parenting — There are many wonderful resources that make life easier for Michelle at the Parent Vortex to parent, but the essence is the relationship between parent and child.
  • What I Cannot Live WithoutSybil at Musings of a Milk Maker considers her computer to be a parenting lifeline.
  • True Blessings: White Noise and GrandparentsKat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment can’t live without her white noise machine and the support of her parents.
  • The Necessities! — What “stuff” does a natural parent like Lily, aka Witch Mom really need? Not much, it turns out.
  • Mama Showed MeMama Mo at Attached at the Nip writes about how parenting wisdom is passed on by example.
  • Ode to the Loo — For Joni Rae at Tales of a Kitchen Witch, the bathroom is her safe place, where she can take a minute to calm down if she is feeling touched out.
  • Go, Mama. Go!Andrea!!! at Ella-Bean & Co. has been able to integrate her many roles through her get-up-and-go parenting essential, exercise!
  • My Other HalfBecky at Old New Legacy realizes what a relief it is to have her husband parent alongside her.
  • Grace, Love, and CoffeeMrsH at Fleeting Moments realizes that lifelines can take the form of the profound, or the mundane. Both are ok.
  • Supportive Spouse, Check! — There are so many parenting tools and gadgets that are superfluous, but the one essential, for Danielle at born.in.japan, has been her supportive spouse.
  • Why I’m a BabywearerMeredith at Becoming Mamas reflects on the ways babywearing has enhanced her mama baby relationship…and made life easier to boot.
  • It’s Marvelous Out Here, Kiddo!Rachael at The Variegated Life can’t imagine parenting in the big city without the marvels of Prospect Park to share with her Critter.
  • Yes, Thank YouAmy at Anktangle offers tips on how to ask for and accept help, an essential for successful parenting.
  • Parenting Essentials Checklist: Mom’s Inner Rebel and Her Kids’ VoicesOlivia at Write About Birth reflects on raising global citizens and saying no to societal norms.
  • Eco-Mama Online! — An Eco-Mama living in the mountains of a nature island, Terri at Child of the Nature Isle finds it essential to connect to nature and to connect online.
  • Sorry, We Just Sold the Last OneNev at The Adventures of Lime confesses she missed out the day they handed out patience.
  • LaughTashmica at The Mother Flippin’ Blog reveals her super power, her talisman agains mean mommy.
  • My Priceless Parenting Resource — What do books, a magazine community, my mother and the local playgroup have in common? Lucy at Dreaming Aloud tells us…
  • The Gift of Shared TimeTree at Mom Grooves strives to experience the world from her daughter’s perspective.
  • Follow the GigglesDionna at Code Name: Mama can’t live without the sound of her child’s giggles – come watch her video and you’ll agree!
  • Can I Mommy Without Boob?Emily at Crunchy(ish) Mama shares her fears about weaning and losing part of that the mother/child bond.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Lauren @ Hobo Mama February 8, 2011, 12:56 am

    What a wonderful and very true post! No matter the circumstances, we pick ourselves up and move on, so the only essential is that relationship you have with your kids.

  • MJ February 8, 2011, 4:30 am

    I have to say–exactly. If it weren’t for my kids, I would not be evolving into the person I have always wanted to be.

  • Kristina February 8, 2011, 5:59 am

    So great, and so grounding! It’s so easy to lose sight of what is really important – thanks for the reminder :)

  • Kat February 8, 2011, 6:33 am

    It’s true, without our kiddos, well, we wouldn’t be parents! The rest is, you could say, side-line stuff…I like this viewpoint. But I just have to ask, do you think you would have been the parent you are today, with this viewpoint, without all the other “side-line” stuff you mentioned, without being introduced to attachment theory, homeschooling, etc? I guess it’s a rhetorical question because that alternate reality does not exist. But I often ask myself that too….if I hadn’t read that book or the other or come across an important influence that has shaped the mother I am today, would I be the same mama? I’d like to think that I would, that I would have arrived at being an attached mama because of my instincts…OK enough rambling! Thanks for this lovely thought-provoking post!

    • michelle February 9, 2011, 10:11 pm

      Hi Kat – It’s hard to say whether I’d still be a Natural/Attachment parenting mama even if I hadn’t had access to all those great resources. Everything is dependent on everything else, and the person I am today or the person I was when I became a mother depended on so many other things happening first – meeting my husband, spending time in Ireland, dealing with emotionally challenging things in my early 20’s, etc. Without any of those things happening, I may not have become an AP mama, or a mama at all. I think I would have always been attracted to Attachment Theory though, and would have discovered it one way or another, just because of my personality and interest in Psychology.

      Thanks for asking such a great question – these topics can be great for starting a discussion because everyone looks at it a little differently.

  • Dionna @ Code Name: Mama February 8, 2011, 6:49 am

    Ha – our minds were going down the same path this month, I almost wrote about this exact same topic ;) My relationship with Kieran is why I parent the way I do. Thanks Michelle!

  • Cynthia February 8, 2011, 9:03 am

    I loved this post, Michelle. So perfect and so true. And what sweet pictures, too. :)

  • Sybil February 8, 2011, 12:41 pm

    Aw, your pictures are adorable!

    What a lovely post– and so true, of course. My kids have certainly taught me more about parenting than I ever thought possible!

    So glad to have found your blog through the carnival! I look forward to reading more.

  • Lucy @ dreamingaloudnet February 8, 2011, 1:14 pm

    Good call, well put. i totally agree. We had a tragedy in our community last November where a woman lost her two young children at the hands of their father, and the response of all us parents here was how, how, how could she possibly survive it? None of us knew if we would be able to. How do you go from being a mother one moment to a mother with no children. Sorry, not meaning to shock or sadden, but that is what your post made me think of, it is the unthinkable for all of us parents. Thank God for our children.


  • Rachael February 8, 2011, 8:11 pm

    Sort of related, but kind of a different point, really — but I can’t imagine being the parent of any child but the Critter. I suppose that will change if I ever do get pregnant again … but right now the mama I am is the mama of an energetic, talkative, inquisitive, demanding, cuddly Critter.

  • Mrs Green @ littlegreenblog.com February 9, 2011, 1:00 am

    Thanks so much Michelle for such an insightful post. I must admit I began with a ‘huhn?’ when I began, but you soon guided me through your profound thinking and words. This line “The essence of parenting is the relationship between parent and child, in whatever circumstances they may find themselves. ” summed everything up beautifully. Thanks so much for helping me think outside the box :)

  • Claire February 9, 2011, 9:00 am

    Being someone who got pregnant while unmarried (though in a long-term relationship) and very young, I sometimes wonder where my life would be at if I hadn’t chosen to keep Peanut. It’s hard not to realize that if I didn’t have a toddler, I wouldn’t have so much issue finding time to study and we’d make more money because I would be able to work.

    The instant second thought every time this goes through my mind is how much Peanut has changed my life for the better. My child has made me a better person. Loving her so much and devoting myself to her entirely has made me into the parent I want to be. Yeah, there’s all this information that’s out there and products to try, but it’s the absolute love for your child that makes you want to explore those things.

    Even beyond parenting, I would say that I wouldn’t be the same person I am without my child.

  • Stacy (Mama-Om) February 13, 2011, 4:42 pm

    Sweet. I love the honest — and profound — simplicity of this post.

    Thank you!