Natalie is a mum of one, bringing him up vegan and without society's gender boundaries.
Crunchy Vs Silky
I had never even heard of this term until I was well into my pregnancy – I think it’s more common over in the US, but it has definitely made it’s way over the pond. If you google the term, different websites will give you different descriptions. But in general, it is agreed that a ‘crunchy’ parent is
A follower of the Montessori method*
Into homebirths (or as medically un-assisted as possible)
Into Gentle Parenting
A user of cloth nappies
A user of alternative medicines
I’m led to believe that the term ‘crunchy’ actually comes from all the granola these ‘hippy dippy’ mums are supposed to eat, but I’m not sure. The opposite mum is ‘silky’ and can be summarised as someone who
Has a hospital birth
Is a meat eater
Gives all vaccines
Has the baby in a cot, and may follow the cry-it-out method
Has a house full of plastic toys
Fills up landfill sites with disposable nappies.
*Again, I am generalising – but Montessori method mostly focuses on open-ended play for children. Think more wooden blocks that can be anything, and less plastic toy with only one use.
What If You're Both?
Having looked again at both of those lists, I can honestly say I fall into both camps. I’m ‘scrunchy’ (or crilky?) and proud.
I’m 100% vegan. And I’m bringing my son up as a vegan too. I believe it’s best for him on a dietary level, but also a moral one too. I will never revert to eating meat, but I honestly won’t mind if my son chooses to, further down the line.
Pro-Vaccine And Pro Play
I am so pro-vaccine it hurts. I have given my son every vaccine available to him, and will continue to do so. I have read the studies, I understand the science. I’m no virologist, but I know that so many diseases could have been eradicated by now if everyone vaccinated their children. I don’t want my child dying of some Victorian disease in 2022, so I vaccinate.
We do follow the Montessori method as much as possible. We only tend to buy wooden, open ended toys, and we encourage our son to use his imagination with his play. We also encourage lots of mess, but that’s another story. However, our son is lucky enough to have lots of friends and family that care about him, and who buy him plastic toys. And do you know what? He loves them all equally. He gets as much good quality play from his plastic shopping trolley as he does from his wooden blocks. I will never discourage the purchase of a good toy. Play is what you make it.
I Had A Crunchy C Section
I had the absolute opposite of a dreamy home birth. I laboured for 36 hours after being induced, and ended up having an emergency c-section. It turned out, my son’s (admittedly large) head was too big for my pelvis. Had I been at home, with one midwife I dread to think what could have happened. Midwives are miracle workers, but they wouldn’t have had the equipment to help me. I had a fantastic experience in my local hospital, and everyone I came across was amazing. They allowed me to ‘crunchify’ my section as much as possible, so I still had delayed cord clamping, immediate skin to skin time, and my own playlist in the background – all of which are beneficial to both mum and baby. It was brilliant, and if we ever have another baby I would have an elective section like a shot.
We’re definitely gentle parents. Or at least, our definition of gentle parents. We have never allowed our son to ‘cry it out’. If he wakes in the night crying, we literally run to him, hurdling any obstacle in our way. I have injured myself on more than one occasion, dashing to him in the small hours. We also make sure we talk him through his emotions. All toddlers have tantrums – there is so much in the world that is out of their control, which must be horrendous. He still has those moments, but we just sit with him, talking him through his feelings until he feels better. I would rather sit with him on the floor of a supermarket for 10 minutes than drag him screaming outside and traumatise him further. It might sound like it takes forever, but he often snaps out of it in a matter of minutes.
Disposable Nappies and Co-Sleeping
I tried cloth nappies. Oh lord, I tried. There is NOTHING cuter than a baby with a fat, patterned bum. But honestly? The washing just got too much in the winter. The summer was a dream, I had a line full of gorgeous nappies wafting in the breeze. But since you can’t tumble dry them, come the winter my entire house resembled a laundrette, and I’m not here for that. Plenty of people have more patience than me though, and I would absolutely try it again if we had another. I might actually have my shit together by then, who knows.
Co-sleeping saved my sanity. In the UK, guidance states that a baby should be in the same room as the parents until at least 6 months old, as it reduces the chance of SIDS*. For the first few months our bundle of joy happily snoozed in his moses basket – but he outgrew that pretty quickly. He then REFUSED point blank to go in his crib. We quickly learned that he would sleep like the proverbial baby in between us, in our bed. So we did it. And we all slept much better for it. From the ages of 4 to 11 months we were all snuggled in together, but eventually he needed more space, and so he started to go in his cot, in his own room. He still sometimes sneaks in though, and it’s lovely.
*Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
Am I A Crap Mum?
Breastfeeding was my first failure, as a mum. My milk just didn’t come in. Everyone told me I would know – my breasts would get heavier, they would be painful, and my baby would be able to feed. I managed to give him the first milk, which is full of nutrients, but then after that? Nada. My boobs never looked or felt any different, and my poor baby was sucking on a dry tap. At 5 days old he was re-admitted to hospital for losing too much weight. We started off by combi-feeding him – still trying to breastfeed, and supplementing with formula. But despite continued advice, support, and furious pumping, there was nothing doing and we switched completely to formula. It’s what was best for my baby, but also my own mental health. Continuously failing at something you should ‘just be able to do’ is soul destroying.
Ultimately, I think I have just discovered that as long as I can keep him alive, and happy then I’m doing the best I can for him. And that’s ok by me. Fed is best, happy is best. As parents, we’re our own worst enemies. Constantly comparing our child with others, and ourselves with other parents who seem ‘better’ or more together. We can all only do so much – and if you don’t have the time, ability or mental capacity to do something that people say you ‘should’ do – then don’t.
© 2022 Natalie Parker-Jones