Click here to read the first part of this interview with Monica Walker, health practitioner in Portland, Oregon, and visit her website:
Joanna Steven: I love what you say about empathizing; it reminds me of John Gottman’s book How to Raise an Emotionally Intelligent Child. We don’t often realize that children can become very frustrating by their overwhelming emotions and their inability to label them or even make sense of them. Helping them see that we understand and that their emotions are valid is such a great thing to do!
Some of my friend told me that they could never do attachment parenting because they work outside the home. They see it as an all-or-nothing philosophy. What would you tell them?
Monica Walker: That book is sitting in my kindle and I have yet to read it but it’s close to the top of my list! Something I remind myself of very often is that what seems trivial to an adult is a very serious and often overwhelming experience to a child. I consider it my job to help my daughter navigate those situations and the listen/empathize combination is what works best for me. My ideas on this are largely influenced by Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and the emotional intelligence work of Dr. Laura Markham of www.ahaparenting.com.
One of the best things about attachment parenting is that there is no “right way” to do it. There are as many forms of attachment parenting as there are families who practice it. It is a parenting style in which you can pick and choose what works for you and your family or for each individual child, as is often the case. It emphasizes relationship, meaning that decisions are made and practices are extended, ended or altered depending on the needs and wants of the parent and child.
As a parent, we pay attention to both the needs of our child and our own needs and act accordingly in a loving and responsive way. There is no minimum time requirement to attachment parenting, we don’t need to be with our child 24/7 to develop a secure attachment. In fact, I believe it is the quality of time we spend with our children, not the quantity that truly makes an impact.
I encourage parents who want to practice AP and who have jobs outside of the home (and those who don’t!) to practice attachment parenting whenever they are with their child: Breastfeed, baby wear, co-sleep and/or use gentle discipline. In addition, holding and cuddling our children, engaging in activities with them, coming down to their level to play or read, using positive and loving language, listening to what they express to us, allowing them to make choices whenever appropriate and responding to their needs for attention and connection are all ways we can foster a strong connection with our children on a daily basis and reap the rewards of the benefits that secure attachment brings.
Many full time employed parents receive great comfort in finding caregivers who are willing to or routinely practice this type of care. When we have to leave our children, there is nothing like the feeling of leaving them with someone who is attentive, loving and committed.
Sometimes people who hold the belief that they can’t practice AP because they work full time have the common misunderstanding that AP requires a parent be present with the child 24/7 and feel overwhelmed by the time and energy it seems to take to parent this way. There can be a pitfall of perfection in this thinking. There is no need to be a perfect parent who does everything by the book. Here comes again the benefit of going easy on ourselves and celebrating what we can do, rather than focusing on what we can’t yet.
There is a lot of support available for AP: books, blogs, online articles, parent support groups, both virtual and face to face and coaches like me who can work on an individual basis. I highly recommend Mayim Bialik’s book Beyond the Sling for all working parents who want to practice AP. She makes it very accessible, provides examples of different family situations who practice AP and encourages readers to do what works best for their family, not some formula or some ideal.
I think parenthood offers us an incredible opportunity to for self development and awareness. Here are some questions to explore no matter what stage of parenting you are in or what style you have been using. For those on the fence about AP, these can help determine if attachment parenting is even for you. It may also solidify your commitment to AP, which can make working outside the home full-time and practicing AP feel more manageable.
What kind of adult do I want my child to grow into?
What are the values and characteristics that I would like to foster in my child?
How will I parent to bring out these qualities in my children?
Who do I want to be as a parent?
What things do I want to bring into my parenting from the way I was parented and what do I want to leave behind?
What type of parenting feels natural to me?
How does my child respond to how I have been parenting?
If there is one thing I have learned from being a mother, it is to trust my instinct. Sometimes we need to clear out a little baggage to get to our instinct and these type of questions can help. As we do a little exploration about our relationship to parenting and long term goals for our children, we can lean more and more on that instinct. Sometimes we need to throw out the books, stop reading the articles and ignore the experts and just put our attention on our children, follow our instinct and parent from there. It is more important that we parent from our heart and our instinct than we subscribe to some style of parenting or another, especially if that style doesn’t work for our family.
Underneath all of the practices that AP suggests is a fundamental trust in the child to develop and grow in his own time and for the parent to respect and encourage that natural developmental track. It is a way to decrease the amount of stress, anxiety and fear experienced by a small person in a very big and brand new world. If we keep that in mind, we can parent in a whole variety of ways and still end up with secure, independent, self-aware, and compassionate children.
Joanna Steven: I totally agree about following your instinct. I read so many books when Franklin was born because I felt like I needed some advice, but every book was different and they all contradicted themselves! I realized that the reason for this was that every child is different, and each one will match a book, just not all of them at once!
I think that after reading this interview, many people will definitely want to see you. What can they expect from working with you? What services do you provide?
Monica Walker: Thanks Joanna!
As a holistic health practitioner, I offer three main services: nutrition education, massage and coaching. Using one or more of my services, I customize each session to the needs of the individual person I am working with.
My nutrition work has a traditional and whole foods bent. I provide nutrient analysis and customized meal plans and recipes as well as, information about specific foods and nutrients as they pertain to the individual. In addition, I am available to talk to groups on a variety of nutrition topics, including optimal nutrition for pregnancy, postpartum/lactation and first foods.
For those in Portland, OR, I am available for outcall massage or at my office in NE (beginning in early August 2012). I specialize in deep tissue and cranial sacral and practice 6 other forms of massage (including pre/postnatal), so I incorporate a variety of techniques as needed into each session.
As a coach, my main intention is to support people in connecting more fully with their inner wisdom, their fundamental values and creating the lives they most desire. I work with career change and development, relationships and communication, decreasing stress levels, creating fitness programs, natrual birth and conscious parenting resources and much more. I call my coaching “holisitic lifestlye coaching” because I support people in incorporating healthful practices in all areas of their lives with the intention that we feel vital, connected and joyful in daily life.
Many of my clients have told me that I have “changed their lives” and have found that the services and resources I provide really make an impact on their health and well being. (I prefer to think of it as I was their supporting them as they changed their lives, but “you say tomato”!). My approach is truly holisitic: I pay attention to and incorporate the body, mind, emotions and spirit of each person into our work together.
Sometimes it’s the small changes, like one client who loved the coconut oil I use to massage so much that she started using it as lotion and cooking with it and had major shift in the health of her skin, or the busy, stressed executive and mother who experienced much needed restoration with weekly massage. And sometimes it’s bigger shifts, like my clients whose chronic pain has been eased or eliminated with a combination of regular massage and nutrition changes, or the slow and steady transformation of many of my clients getting more clear about what they want and don’t want in their lives, shifting relationships, changing jobs or harnessing the inner critic in a way that makes their daily life more enjoyable and authentic.
If any of this sounds like something you are wanting, visit my website for more detailed information about my services, philosophy and rates: www.OurWholeBody.com. I’m available in person in Portland or via skype or phone from anywhere else (expcept for massage, of course!).
Thank you so much for this opportunity, Joanna! It has been a very inspiring experience for me.
Joanna Steven: Thank you, Monica!