Choices and Parenthood

published:  March 2005


My mother once wondered how my sister and I turned out the way we did. She fondly (I think) refers to us as witches. Our children don’t watch television or work with computers. At least not yet. They don’t eat junk (or hardly do). We don’t burden them prematurely with intellectual concepts. We put them in a Steiner school because we want them to develop into balanced human beings – in thinking, feeling and willing. We eat organic and biodynamic food when we can. Our cleansers and detergents are natural and biodegradable when possible. Our medicines are homeopathic or anthroposophic. We use allopathic remedies only when absolutely necessary. We give birth at home and without drugs. Today this seems radical given the state of the world, but years and years ago, this was the norm. The way I see it, not too many people died of cancer then or suffered the kind of debilitating diseases we’re seeing today.

We don’t respect the processes of life anymore. We ingest chemical cocktails when we can’t conceive, decide when our children will be born, and numb ourselves from the pain of childbirth without bothering to think about what it means. We bring our children into the world in cold, harried environments and inject them with all kinds of drugs at birth because we buy into the fear that they might get sick and die if we don’t. We give them formula because we’ve been made to believe it’s superior to human milk. We give them junk and wonder why they won’t eat their veggies, so we go out and buy more powdered milk because it’s a “complete food”. At the first sign of illness, we give them antibiotics and steroids. Then we give them more when the illnesses become chronic because the child’s body has lost the ability to heal itself.

A friend recently said that any choice our parents and grandparents made in their day was much healthier than the ones we make today, just because the world was different then. Entertainment wasn’t so violent. Technology wasn’t so in your face. Food was not laden with antibiotics, hormones, preservatives and other edible poisons. People were less afraid, not too much in a rush to get who-knows-where and weren’t burdened with constantly beeping cell phones. Their days weren’t made-up of hours in traffic on polluted roads lined with billboards. There was more nature everywhere. There weren’t too many assaults on the senses. Everything is too fast and hard in our world today and so we must struggle to make against-the-tide choices to create warmth, light and space in our lives.

The tragic deaths from cassava poisoning are an example of the hard lessons of materialism. We use pesticides to maximize agricultural yield, without thinking about what they do to the earth and the human body over time. It is the same principle behind genetically modified food. Materialistic science says this is the way we can conquer world hunger, but at what cost to human life and the vitality and well being of the earth? And we wonder why so many of us are falling ill.

I believe all this was meant to happen as part of our human development. The world has become so materialistic. It will take tremendous resolve to restore balance in it. Our task now, unlike our grandparents for whom life seemed simpler, is to rise above materialism in full consciousness. It is our task to choose to live in a way that brings human life and spirit back into cohesion so that we can transform the world through conscious deed. This begins by making choices in the way we live; in the things we choose to spend our time and resources on.

People are incredulous when they hear that my children don’t watch television. It isn’t forever, of course. Television is part of the world. It is not my aim to create an unrealistic world for them. I just believe that it is not time for them to experience electronic media given where they are in their development. What they need to be doing is experiencing their bodies and the world. There will be time for technology later on, when they are stronger physically, emotionally and intellectually. This means I’m with them more and I find things for them to do. My children love to build things and the things they continue to create in their play make me feel I’m on to something real.

As a mother who is making conscious choices, I am forced to work on my inner development. When I say something to my children I always follow through. I don’t make promises I can’t keep. I work hard to live authentically. I am careful about the kind of conversations they are exposed to. When they go through difficult patches, I look at myself and the home I’ve created for them and try to see where I may have contributed to their difficulty and how I can help them through.

I chose to give birth to my second child at home because I wanted him to come into a peaceful, loving environment. I didn’t want him to feel the coldness of the hospital and the stressful movements of all those strangers in white the way my first born and I did. I chose not to give formula and went breastmilk all the way. I decided certain immunizations were more harmful than beneficial. To support this decision, I am vigilant about my children’s nutrition, rhythm and their exposure to unhealthy stimuli. I am not perfect but I do strive to give them a better life by finding the courage to go against the norm because I believe it is all part of helping them to be inwardly strong to face –and overcome– the overwhelming challenges of this material world. One day, I hope my choices come together and that my children become the kind of men who will live in a way that truly serves mankind and the world.

These are not easy choices but they have to be made. I choose a healthy life for my children so that they grow up able to hold their own against the harshness of the world not so that they can live in isolation, but so that they can be fully productive, socially engaged spiritual individuals. It is the strength inside that will create the world outside. This can only happen if I make the difficult choices today.