The Unnatural Parent in a Natural World

When I first read about MommyCon, a “boutique style convention dedicated to bringing modern parents and mothers-to-be together,” I didn’t think I was their demographic.  The conference has a natural and organic parenting focus and highlights babywearing, natural birth, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, and natural health and medicine in their seminars and workshops.  While individually I support all of these topics in concept, I could never be like the “natural parents” who are able to collectively do them all.  I believe in simple, organic, child-centered approaches to parenting, but as a working mom, some of these things aren’t practical.  I can’t wear my baby all day because I’m at work and not all daycare centers will cloth diaper or provide organic snacks.  I may be seen breastfeeding and carrying my baby in an Ergo carrier, but you will just as easily see me changing disposable diapers.  We eat organic foods, but also drive through McDonald’s.  So my dilemma with MommyCon was: if I’m not a “natural parent,” does that make me an unnatural parent?

MommyCon invited me though to attend their Philadelphia event and discuss all of my concerns openly with creator, Alexzandra Higgins.  She describes MommyCon as an event she runs out of her diaper bag and seeing her kissing her son between introducing speakers was a shining example of a working mom at her best.  Alexzandra Higgins

Alexzandra reassured me that 70% of their Austin attendees defined themselves as working moms and that 88% of the attendees also breastfed for at least 6 months.  Being a working mom doesn’t mean you can’t be a natural parent, she persuaded me.  Her hope for the MommyCon attendees is to leave feeling empowered in their parenting choices– whatever those choices are.  MommyCon is meant to be a non-judgemental and open-minded convention for forward-thinking parents, so I toured the vendors and sat in on seminars keeping this in mind.

Cloth Diapers

The first speaker I saw was Dana Kostas of Diaper Parties, who discussed the pros of cloth diapering, including that it is better for babies’ skin, the environment, and your wallet.  There were also a variety of cloth diaper vendors and areas to try them out on baby dolls.  The selection was impressive and the patterns were adorable!  The next speaker I heard was January Harshe of Birth Without Fear, who shared her own birth stories, including a VBAC home birth.  I mentioned to Alexzandra Higgins that there was an anti-physician undercurrent throughout this talk in particular, but she countered that January can only speak from her experiences as a mom and so her advice and recommendations are based on a mom’s perspective and not medical advice.  However, January seemed to have some strong words for the moms in the audience that sounded like medical advice, including stating that breech babies don’t need c-sections despite what doctors tell you and that if your doctor expresses concern about your birth plan to change doctors.  I questioned Alexzandra about why there wasn’t a medical professional panel at the Philadelphia MommyCon and she informed me that this was unique to the Philadelphia event and reflected a lack of interest/availability of local providers to attend.  I know there are plenty of local OBs, midwives, pediatricians, and lactation consultants whose voices would have been a great addition to the convention and I hope to see those perspectives added next year.

The last speaker who I attended was Jessica Martin-Weber of The Leaky Boob, who discussed building community and supporting breastfeeding moms.  As she acknowledged, she was preaching to the choir.  Looking around where I was seated, I could see at least 5 bare breasts nursing children as old as 30-months.  She repeatedly emphasized the need to normalize breastfeeding in our society, however, I felt that the how-to aspect of this talk was weak.  She referenced recent events in the media, like moms being asked to cover up on airplanes, but did not support it with facts about what a breastfeeding mom’s rights are or how to handle these situations.  So while I applaud her breastfeeding six children and empowering others to breastfeed as well, it seemed like the wrong message for an audience with whom you could dig deeper and empower to make change.

MommyCon_Seminar

I wandered the vendors hoping to see some familiar faces, and did in the Nest (my favorite indoor play space) and Cloth (my new favorite children’s boutique), but missed other locals like Yoga Child, Mama’s Wellness Joint, The Little Treehouse, The Car Seat Lady, and the Please Touch Museum (which has an expectant parents bootcamp and special delivery program).  It would have been great to see some of the resources that Philadelphia has to offer young families featured here.  I found some other new resources though, including Karma birth services (for placenta encapsulation), Milkin’ Cookies (lactation cookies), and My Fabulous Mama (baby planning services).  I left inspired to join a breastfeeding support group and with some ideas of postpartum gifts for some friends.

Ergo_babywearing
Ergo carrier

After my first hour at the convention, I had interesting conversations about everything from babywearing to circumcision and was invited out to lunch by three different groups of people.  I found the MommyCon attendees to be passionate and friendly and the vendors were equally informative and genuine.  I think that there is room for improvement in the diversity of seminar speakers and vendors, but I look forward to next year as the Philly MommyCon continues to grow.  In my case, I think Alexzandra Higgins accomplished her goal of having me leave MommyCon feeling empowered in my parenting choices, whether natural or not.

car_seat_safety

Upcoming stops for MommyCon in 2013:  Portland, Los Angeles, and Kansas City.  The 2014 schedule will be released in the Fall.

{Disclaimer:  I was invited to attend MommyCon and had my registration fee waived.  I did not receive compensation for this post and all opinions expressed are my own.  Please consult your personal physician for medical advice.}

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2 Comments

  1. I loved your write up! I especially like how you acknowledge that you like the concept natural parenting. I have learned that I am drawn to the natural parenting in theory but the society and reality of my life as a working my does dictate what I actually do sometimes. I loved the open mind and thoughts of diversity.

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