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Food: Parenting or Homemaking?

Welcome to the July Carnival of Natural Parenting: Let’s talk about food

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 written about their struggles and successes with healthy eating. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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vegetablesWhen I was thinking about what I wanted to write about for this month’s Carnival of Natural Parenting, I had a list of food-related issues, stories about food and our family, and my journey into vegetarianism. But I had a hard time relating all that to parenting, which is the focus of this blog. To me, parenting was affection and discipline and emotions and activities and learning. Food was lumped into the “homemaking” category.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how wrong I was.

Feeding our children is one of the most important jobs a parent has – it is the first form of nurturance and the longest lasting. Even adult children going back home to visit their parents experience the nurturance of lovingly prepared food.

Food is an important aspect of parenting in lots of ways:

  • Healthy food builds healthy bodies and brains, which builds a strong, stable foundation on which to lay the bricks of discipline, good habits, social skills and education. Poor nutrition, especially a diet full of highly processed foods that contain artificial flavours and colours, leads quickly to poor behaviour.
  • Eating together helps teach children about self-control, sharing and how to delay gratification.
  • Regular family mealtimes demonstrate that family time together is important, and shared conversation over dinner is an excellent way to strengthen relationships, share the experiences of the day and build children’s vocabularies as they listen to adults speaking with each other.
  • Growing and preparing foods is an opportunity to teach children where their food comes from and gives them a chance to practice valuable skills in menu planning and cooking. How many kids leave home without knowing how to prepare anything but mac & cheese out of a box?

I know I am guilty of devaluing the work of “homemaking” in my own life. I tend to put off cleaning, make dinner at the last minute, lose important things (like the flashlight!) in the just-slightly-too-disorganized drawers and cupboards of my house. Recognizing the value of healthy, well-planned meals, tidy spaces and “a place for everything” takes back the considerable power of the homemaker’s role. I want that power back, and I want to have a clean, comfortable house in which to raise my kids. I want to have the time, energy, motivation and skill to prepare healthy meals. I’m working on this by sampling my way through the recipes in my new favourite cookbook, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Next up on my reading list is Radical Homemakers.

Recognizing the importance of food as a parenting resource is a good first step for me. I feel positive about many of the choices we have already made in our family around food and mealtimes: we eat together every day, we’re vegetarian, we eat a lot of whole, real foods and we rarely eat out. The changes I’d like to make around food are mainly focused on reducing the toxins in the food we eat, such as eliminating foods packaged in cans and increasing the percentage of organic foods in our diet.  I also want to make our housekeeping more efficient so that cooking and cleaning get done without taking too much time away from the other things we want to do.

Food is a essential aspect of parenting and homemaking, and it raises up the two together like the baking soda in a muffin dough.  Good food makes parenting easier, and good homemaking makes it easier to put good food on the table.  Now, let’s eat!

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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:

(This list will be updated July 13 with all the carnival links.)

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{ 15 comments… add one }

  • Lauren @ Hobo Mama July 13, 2010, 3:19 am

    My husband talks a lot about how food is much more than nutrition, probably because his mother showed so much of her love through the meals she prepared for them while he was growing up. He likes to point out the provision and community aspects of food—like the way you describe eating together; humans traditionally don’t eat in isolation, and you can see this even in modern society where whenever you want to get together with someone, it usually revolves around food in some shape (even getting coffee).

    Anyway, this is just to say I agree with you that food is powerful and a way we can parent thoughtfully. A lot of your goals are mine as well — some sort of life organization where we figure out how to fit meals and housekeeping into the rest of our lives. And this includes (sigh) washing the dishes afterward…
    Lauren @ Hobo Mama´s last blog post ..July Carnival of Natural Parenting- Changing your familys way of eating

  • Anna C. July 13, 2010, 4:06 am

    Feeding our children, requires a lot a patience which speaks about responsible parenting. On on the same page, cooking, preparing and setting the food and so as the mood for meal time takes a lot of hard work. By being wise with our food selection, we make our efforts all worth it.

  • Dionna @ Code Name: Mama July 13, 2010, 5:24 am

    Thank you for pointing this out! Food prep can become much more of a chore than something I do out of love. My toddler, however, is one of the happiest, most gracious food critics ever – so that makes it easier. I also cherish the times that we make dinner together, that makes it more of a parenting experience than a homemaking one for sure.
    Dionna @ Code Name: Mama´s last blog post ..Breastfeeding State Law Cards

  • Mrs Green @ littlegreenblog.com July 13, 2010, 9:36 am

    I love how you have woven all of these things together. I think it’s important to feel good about our food choices as parents. I feel so pleased that my daughter is healthy and robust and I know that it is partly due to her diet. There are things I would love to change, yes, but I feel I’m doing ok. There’s always room for improvement and I wish you well in your targets of reducing packaged food and increasing organic.
    Mrs Green @ littlegreenblog.com´s last blog post ..Celebrating food

  • Casey July 13, 2010, 11:48 am

    I loved that post! I think that in our culture we have started to believe that there is something old fashioned or simple about homemaking. Somehow it’s less respectable than the parenting part of staying at home with children. I think that when I, like you, began to see how it all intertwined I also realized how much more smoothly my life and my family’s lives tended to flow. I don’t always do as well as I want (read: I usually do a poor job) at the homemaking part of my job, but it’s something I work on every day.

    • michelle July 13, 2010, 10:53 pm

      I used to think of many aspects of homemaking as old fashioned, but now I can see that those old fashioned homemakers were actually on to something much of the time! Eating locally and in season, growing and preserving your own produce, home cooking, home baking, sewing your own clothes, heck, let’s even include giving birth at home or teaching your own kids to read and write – all of these things are so much healthier and meaningful than their mass-produced and institutionalized counterparts.

  • Jessica - This is Worthwhile July 13, 2010, 11:49 am

    One of my favorite food blogs is 101 Cookbooks. She’s (mostly) vegetarian and she uses lots of seasonal ingredients. The photography is also gorgeous, but that’s just a bonus.

    I totally agree with you on the feeding is parenting aspect. Homemaking is a freaking ART, a SKILL. You couldn’t take some schmoe off the street and throw them into this job anymore than you could ask someone to fly a plane. The knowledge base alone for this job is astounding. Think about it: people devote their entire lives to nutrition and the culinary arts and it’s just one aspect of our daily lives. Kinda crazy!
    Jessica – This is Worthwhile´s last blog post ..Whole foods in- wholesome feelings out

    • michelle July 13, 2010, 10:42 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation of 101Cookbooks, Jessica! I had a quick look and – wow, gorgeous photography indeed. I’m looking forward to browsing through her blog later.

      I’m finding that the more effort I put into learning how to actually approach cooking/cleaning/parenting/homemaking as several integrated tasks and learning how to get better at those tasks, the more I enjoy them. I used to dread cooking and made the most terribly bland meals possible. (seriously. ask my husband.) But slowly I’m learning how to cook better and clean more efficiently and it all kind of flows better with the parenting that is going on throughout. We still have disastrous days, of course, but I can see more and more how all these things are learned skills instead of something certain people are born knowing how to do.

  • Holly July 13, 2010, 2:58 pm

    I completely agree that feeding our children right is an integral part of parenting. We keep them safe from other dangers of the world – why not be proactive in ensuring their life-long health?
    Holly´s last blog post ..When to Splurge on Organic and when it is okay to skip it

    • michelle July 13, 2010, 10:45 pm

      I agree – food is so important yet it’s something we do so often that it becomes easy to overlook! But yes, good food makes a lot of sense in terms of ensuring good health in the future.

  • stefanie July 13, 2010, 3:43 pm

    So nice to see another vegetarian family. We get endless flak for raising our son vegetarian, even from family members who surely remember that my siblings and I were also raised vegetarian and have never had problems because of it. Consciousness from an early age FTW!
    stefanie´s last blog post ..try- try again

    • michelle July 13, 2010, 10:48 pm

      We don’t get much flak from our families about being vegetarians, which is good. Tom’s family are also mostly long-time vegetarians, but I was raised eating meat and the only time it comes up is at big family feasts like Christmas. But overall my family has been very accepting of nut roast instead of roast turkey. :)

  • Beanma July 13, 2010, 4:31 pm

    Yes, yes, yes … 100% agree. I love feeding the Bean, and making all her food. It’s one of my favorite parts of mothering!

  • Kristin @ Intrepid Murmurings July 14, 2010, 12:09 pm

    Excellent post. I totally agree that providing healthy choices and modeling the kind of attitudes and behaviors that are important to you with regard to eating and food is so important. I think about this a lot, perhaps because I feel like I have so much to learn and improve in the discipline/connection aspects of parenting but feel more confident in how I manage the homemaker & feeding aspects for my family. I do want to figure out how to be more efficient & intentional, that is for sure (so I have more time to focus on my challenges in the other areas!).

  • Lisa C July 14, 2010, 6:35 pm

    I love that you place value on homemaking. When I was in school I shunned the homemaking classes because I wanted a “career” (though oddly enough, I wanted to be a mother more than anything). Now I am eager to sign up for cooking and sewing classes, because I realize how much I want those skills for my family!
    Lisa C´s last blog post ..Real Food

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