The author of a new book on “Earth Parenting “ Krysti McMullan shares her story about raising children through connecting to nature.
Let me begin with my life intention: what it is and how it came about.
My intention is to raise our children with a love for the Earth and all her creatures, and an understanding of their place in the web of life and how they impact on it. I want them to be happy, of course, but I know true happiness comes from connection with the world around us, the people in it, and connection with a higher force.
While still quite young, I recognised consumerism to be a trap, and knew that when the time came for me to have children, I’d want them to be able to navigate their way around this. My hope was that they would then be able to raise their own children with an intention to keep their eco footprint light. I wanted to be able to pass on the ways of people of the Earth who have gone before us, who lived sustainably and mostly peacefully.
With my first pregnancy something ignited in my soul: a yearning to remember the ways of the women who in times past had raised their babies without all the trappings of the modern world.
As an adult I had worked for six years on luxury yachts owned by billionaires. Arriving wide-eyed into this world of opulence, what struck me hard was how resources were squandered.
I had come from nursing in geriatric homes that had the limited resources and found myself confronted with the most amazing amount of waste and in the name of order and cleanliness of superior standard. I discovered an underlying common denominator in the billionaires themselves that pointed at an actual psychosis. I felt like I was receiving information that would help the whole world. These people were not fully conscious and they were running the world.
My childhood was spent over seas, in Fiji for five years and Arabia for six years and then Pakistan for a year. When our family took holidays we traveled to different parts of the world. So when I first fell pregnant, I remembered the profound happiness and natural ease with which babies and children were handled in “poorer” countries around the world. In contrast to those people, my family had no close relatives. Our community was an ever-changing group of expatriates and single people, and my parents argued a lot, in a kind of love-hate relationship.
THE SHADOW SIDE
This setting meant that I grew up as a privileged child within the dysfunction of my nuclear family, while observing the threads of a matriarchal culture all around me. I needed those threads: I wanted to pick them up and weave their magic into my family. But deep down I also observed that a shadow side to my mothering lay in the curtains of my sideshow, waiting for its moment.
I had to recreate the atmosphere in which I grew up in order to cleanse the karmic space of my soul for myself, and for my children. It was necessary for me to learn my lessons so that they could flourish without any handed down baggage. In sharing my failings, other mothers may see that we are all in this together. Often, aspects of ourselves that we hide from other mothers are what they too are hiding and, like the first person on the dance floor, it only takes one to get everyone dancing.
So when I began the weaving of my family, I was carefully regarding my shadow, observing it when it appeared and mostly just dancing my dance. Pregnant with a big belly, I began recalling many forgotten insights I’d made as a child while traveling. I remembered how contented the babies and small children were, and that I had rarely seen them upset. In comparison, the scenes around me in Perth, 1999, showing a modern lifestyle and affluent culture, were different. Supported by children’s television and general media there was evidence that our culture was, and still is, weighed heavy with its conversation of the “difficulties of parenting”.
It was obvious that babies I’d seen in other countries hardly cried because they were always carried by someone, and usually were tied onto their mothers. In Africa, their practise of carrying their babies on their backs allowed them to get about with ease. I decided that carrying the baby on my back would be an essential part of this easy parenting. The baby would blend in with the flow of my life, intimately connected to my flow from the beginning. Asking new African Australians was not the answer: they seemed unhappy about the connection to such a thing. But eventually one African told me “they just throw them onto their backs”.
I realised that the confidence to do this would be a cultural thing from having grown up watching women doing it and I was out of my depth. Rather than giving up I left the matter with providence and kept my intent strong, focusing on the questions of what women throughout time would have done as I neared our baby’s birth. The rewards began immediately. It was as if I had opened up a direct line with ancient women. My questions were answered with sudden realisations and knowing. I think all mothers are receptive to this and some operate from this place of knowing.
As my intent developed and strengthened, my desire to live what I was intuiting became more important to me. We moved our bed to the veranda. We decided that although the suburb we lived in was one of Perth’s “most dangerous”, we would be safe under the umbrella of intention. Our first baby slept outside with us: the temperature was seven degrees Celsius. I was awakening under the stars. Me, an Earth Mother
I have been given the title of Earth Mother so often in my mothering that I wonder what it meant to others to call me this. I do not prescribe my approach as necessary for other mothers. And while satisfied with the path I took, looking back, I would do more for my personal nourishment, knowing now what that loss has taxed from my essential energy system.
I birthed naturally with all my babies. My first baby’s birth suffered with interference because we were in a birthing suite of a hospital and I came outside of their prescribed time limit after breaking my waters. Consequently, I was moved during the middle of my labour, which was an enormous setback. Despite the medical interference that this caused, I birthed my baby naturally.
My next baby was born at home, the third was a “home birth in hospital”, as friends described it, and my last was born at home.
I breastfed all my babies until were three years of age, except for the third, who stopped at two and a half years when I needed to be in hospital with my four year-old-daughter. The first three babies were co-fed so that the first two fed for a year and a half together and the second and third babies did the same. Three years gave them the full time that babies are connected to their mothers’ psychic energies, and this forged a strong bond and base for their development.
All my babies were carried everywhere on my back. They gained tremendous resilience and physical development from this. It also fostered their emotional strength. They all slept well throughout their babyhoods, and this has continued as they have grown.
PEACEFUL SLEEP TIME
We co-slept with all our children, which promoted confidence and flexibility in their sleeping habits. Sleep time has always been a peaceful and simple process in our family. In the past, I’ve hesitated to pass on this information, being careful to avoid touching on an area of life that’s sensitive in many families. However, I now feel I should share our bounty. Our information may help others reset their intentions for sleep time with their babies away from what is considered the “norm”. In my view, what is perceived as the norm for sleeping arrangements for babies is a cultural fracture, born of many generations of belief systems.
Cloth nappies were another departure from modern day practices. I only used cloth nappies with my babies because they were easier, more convenient and in the long run promoted early toileting control, without me doing anything much about it.
I began feeding my babies food other than breast milk from six months onwards, despite their prior interest, because I knew that it would benefit their digestive system to wait that long. Earlier feeding contributes to food sensitivities.
I fed my babies chewed up food that I was eating after first starting them on mashed bananas or other soft fruit or vegetables. By chewing up my food and giving that to them, I was giving them a wide range of food that aided their palate to accept all manner of vegetables and other healthy foods. It was also convenient and easy. Other times I specially prepared them cooked or mashed up foods.
Most of the time, I kept toys away from my children. They played with the Earth. Their first toys included leaves, sticks, stones, sand, mud, water, flour, flowers and nuts. I never took toys with us on outings; instead we found endless things to play with wherever we went. They were given toys by relatives and friends but I guess because I focussed more strongly on the elemental wealth that surrounded us, the toys were not essentials in their lives.
I have always immersed them in nature, in any weather.
We grew our own food. Even though we were only renting and knew one day we would have to move, at each home we had a garden with food growing in it. I wanted to instil in my children an understanding of the true value of food. I also wanted them to have the best nutrition possible. And it was fun gardening with them by my side.
I have always bought our clothing and household necessities from second hand stores, preferring to recycle rather than adding to the weight of consumerism. Throughout the years we have demonstrated often to each other our powers to manifest what we want. I have encouraged them to think about what they need before we go to the second hand store and sure enough, we often find it magically waiting for us!
PRECIOUSNESS OF EARTH
We have always recycled and composted our waste. I have lived demonstrating resourcefulness with the elements so that the children could grow with a connection and understanding of the preciousness of this Earth. For many years, I hand-washed their clothes, wanting them to grow up with a deep understanding for how to sustainably use resources. I walked or used public transport as much as possible. We have walked in terrible heat with wet sarongs that kept us as cool as air conditioning.
We were blessed with the connections we made with people and our surrounding environment through our dedication. It grew in the children a resilience and flexibility, and because they usually had my attention when they needed it, it was generally stress free.