On Idle…

How do I [try] to “parent” my children?  I answer with the below genius manifesto.   I come back to it often and with gusto.

Which makes me remember, I keep being reminded that we don’t parent.  Our children often parent us.   We can guide, and listen, and provide options, and of course – we keep our children safe.  But mostly, I try to sit still, shut up, stop talking, and watch the miracle of childhood unfold.  Sometimes, it gets very messy.  And that ain’t no joke.


From The Idler website.

We reject the idea that parenting requires hard work
We pledge to leave our children alone
We reject the rampant consumerism that invades children from the moment they are born
We read them poetry and fantastic stories without morals
We drink alcohol without guilt
We reject the inner Puritan
We don’t waste money on family days out and holidays
An idle parent is a thrifty parent
An idle parent is a creative parent
We lie in bed for as long as possible
We try not to interfere
We play in the fields and forests
We push them into the garden and shut the door so we can clean the house
We both work as little as possible, particularly when the kids are small
Time is more important than money
Happy mess is better than miserable tidiness
Down with school
We fill the house with music and merriment
We reject health and safety guidelines
We embrace responsibility
There are many paths
More play, less work


If I could talk to my self when I was pregnant for the first time (and have the benefit of knowing the kind of mama I’d morph into) here’s what I would say:

Pregnancy & Parenting PART I

  • Stock up on SmartWater and fresh fruit and veggies for juicing.  These were the main two things that go me through my mild morning-sickness and increased my energy.
  • Do whatever you need to do to get consistent chiropractic care (with a professional trained in Webster technique).  Beg, borrow, barter, steal, pay.  Do whatever you need to do.
  • Take monthly pregnancy photos.  Cheesy ones will suffice.   Get professional ones taken when you are really big and ripe.  Enjoy this process.  Love your body.   Revel in the power and magic that is your body.
  • Find your tribe.   Those mamas whose couches you will wear out, whose ears are willing to be bent at any moment, who can swiftly and tenderly place your child on her hip as if they were her own.  Find mamas willing to nurse your baby if necessary, and who will drop unprompted gifts on your doorstep just when you need them.  Find a mama on the internet, on text, on email, on Skype who will answer your technological call on those days in which you can’t muster the will-power to clean up one more mess.  Mamas whose homes waft of soup, and brownies, music, laughter, and a few stinky diapers.  Find your tribe.
  • Count on this:  You will do and say things you never thought you would.  And you will not do and say things you always thought you would.  This is a double-edge sword.   Example:  I never thought I’d bribe my children.  Bwahahahaha.
  • Repeat this every single day you parent:  Live in Love.  And Love Wins.  Feel what it’s like to let go of pOWer.
  • Note to Self:  Don’t believe the hype that Living in Love means conditional parenting/conditional love.  Children do not need to be trained like pets, or disciplined with the voices from your own childhood.  They also do not deserve to be disciplined with the voices of our culture that doesn’t respect their connected-to-the-earth spirits and their need to explore and question and Live in Love.  That said Living in Love is a daily practice.  Hard.   It holds a mirror up to your very own face.   Forces you to look.
  • Give yourself the gift of co-sleeping.  The family bed heals.  Dreams are shared.  Breath rises and falls upon your neck, warm and sweet.  Tiny hands find your heart.  Nursing is seamless and you can do it while you sleep.  You’ll know when you and/or your child are ready to transition to a different sleeping arrangement.   Yes, sometimes all you’ll want is your own space back.  Sometimes, small elbows are shaper than a knife.   Sometimes you’ll curse your decision.   Live and Sleep in Love.
  • Pick.  Your.  Battles.  And then let 95% of them go.   Doing this helps me feel content in my vision of being a granny in a rocker on a wide, wooden porch and not regretting the fact that I chose reading books with them instead of forcing them to clean their messes up every time.   Life. Is. Too. Short.   And then you are gone, and your children are left with memories.    And someday, they will say to a dear friend, deep in conversation “Well, when I was growing up we heard alot of___________and felt alot of___________and I always seemed that ___________ was the most important”.   I hope my kids will fill in those blanks with one word:  LOVE.
  • No, it isn’t easy.  And you won’t have all the answers.   And it will challenge your own view of yourself.  If it doesn’t, then try harder.  Go deeper.  Question everything.   Quell the voices.  Sit in silence.  Cry as often as you can.   Smile when you want to scream.   Hug when you want to lash out.  Crumple to the floor in desperation when you need to.   Ask the wind for advice;  she often replies.   Heal in warm baths and sweet slumber.
  • For the sleep deprivation:  Get lots of vitamin D and fresh air.  Take your placenta pills and supplements and B12.  Eat chocolate and drink green juice.   Sit on couches with your mama-tribe.  Do yoga in the park with your kids.   Barter with your favorite chiropractor.
  • Nurse on demand.  You’ll get so super good at it that you won’t even notice you are doing three things at once while nursing.   I can stir a pot of soup, nurse a baby, and text message all at once.   Not that such a thing deserves bragging rights, no.  It’s simply a nessassity.
  • Forget nursing bras (for me, at least).   Live in tank tops with built in support.   Layer if need be.   Stock up on V-neck shirts in soft fabrics.
  • Ditch the nursing cover unless you are truly opposed to modest/natural/normal/easy/best-you-can-do nursing in public.  Babies generally don’t like being covered when nursing anyways.  And it’s just another thing to pack and to put on while your baby is crying.   It could make a good picnic blanket, however.   Ditch the Boppy too (though it was indeed helpful after my C-section, so I guess I’d say this to my 2nd-time-pregnant self), as it is bulky and baby seems to just slide into the crack and not be able to get close enough to my body.
  • For the anxiety and crazywildtimes:  Get cozy with The Rescue Remedy or other flower essences.   Love up on homeopathy.   Befriend the nightly glass of wine.   Practice alternate nostril-breathing and Emotional Freedom Technique.  Sing at the top of your lungs.   Master the dance-party in the car and in the middle of the messy living room.   Meet the grass with your nose as you fold into child’s pose.  Go grocery shopping alone.   See “For the Sleep Deprivation”.
  • Wear your baby.  In a supportive carrier that is good on your back (not the ones you can find in Babies R’ Us and Wal-Mart).  Often and everywhere.   Start with your favorite wrap/carrier when they are newborn (I love the Moby) and then graduate them to a more structured carrier as they get older (my fav is the Ergo). Pop them in when they are fussy.  Nursing “issues”? Sleeping “issues”? Colic/gas “issues”?  Wear your baby and find that most of those issues will dissipate.  Wear them when you bake and cook, while you fold laundry and stroll the neighborhood.  When your carrier is covered in flour, and grass, and cookie dough, and spit up, and breast milk, and food then you know you’re really living.   When your baby knows the sound of the straps clicking into place and the motions of you sliding them in, you know it’s all working.  Life is best lived on the chests and backs of mamas.

More later.   But until then, tell me what you wish YOU could go back and gently share with your pregnant self….

jeanette leblanc photography

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Jeanette says:

    Oh Leigh…I would add one thing you your list, perhaps an addition to find your tribe.

    Find those mothers who will be your teachers over and over again. Those who will remind you, with how they live and the words they write and the love they speak, just the kind of person and mother you are meant to be.

    Thank you for being one of my teachers.


  2. Heather says:

    Words so very true. Thank you, Miss Leigh! I wholeheartedly agree that you need your tribe. My mama friends help me more than they know.

  3. Rixa says:

    More play, less work is a good one. But work is fun, too. I love gardening, fixing things, painting, demolishing, anything involving power tools. The kids think mopping the floors is the best thing ever. They love pushing the vacuum. They measure flour when I’m baking (and then get it all over themselves). They always want to help when I’m doing my “work.” For kids, work is play. Ironic that so many toys you can buy imitate adult work (play kitchens, fake tool sets, etc). Why not let them use the real thing whenever possible?

    I still haven’t learned how to let my battles go…some I don’t think I should, like telling my children over and over “we do not hit. we do not hurt each other.”

  4. erin says:

    this. is the most amazing
    so perfect
    i have no words
    i wish i could have written it.
    but of course i couldn’t. nope. not without you.

    mmmm i love you mama

  5. Christy says:

    *clicks the like button*

    YES, Yes, yes! The things I wish I knew years ago.. the things I try to (subtly) share with my Mama-friends now. Is it horrible that when reflecting on the past, I solace my regrets by finding hope that with each subsequent pregnancy-labor-delivery-child I learn how to be more of the Me I want to be? Sigh.. all we can do is learn, share, live, and love better! xo

  6. Doula Lula says:

    Dear self: Treat yourself like a queen. Go to the chiropractor. Get regular massages. Do more yoga, less intense cardio. Let go of your need to plan and control everything. Keep eating well. Re-prioritize. Quit your job. Live in the moment, right now – everything is about to go spinning completely out of control (there’s that word again). Wear bright, beautiful, feminine, flow-y clothes that make you feel divine. Keep breathing, and stop thinking so much. Surround yourself with people who actually see You. Stop comparing. Be ready for infinite, unimaginable love.

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