Attachment ParentingNatural Fatherhood

Natural Fathering: My Experience

Natural parenting would probably describe our style of parenting, and although I’ve heard of natural mothering, natural fathering? Not so much.

So I named this blog Natural Father Papa because I wanted to put it out there that a natural father is the natural state of a man (but I’m papa at home, not “father”, hence the name change). An intuitive and grounded and connected man will be a strong model for his children and his community. A natural father knows his power as a man and respects the power of his wife as a woman. He supports his partner through pregnancy, birth, and the raising of the child.

Natural fathering, to me, is about learning to live simply and naturally while raising a family in an increasingly hectic and competitive world, a world where all kinds of dubious substances are in our food and water and air. It’s about teaching our kids to stand up for their beliefs and to have principles that guide them.

We have birthed two of our babies at home, unassisted, and we can’t imagine doing it any other way. Our first was a planned homebirth, but my wife had severe symptoms of toxemia/pre-eclampsis, so we ended up in the hospital. She was induced a month early, and our daughter was perfect and healthy, just very skinny (4 1/2 lbs.). Our next child was born in water (an Aqua Doula set up outside), at dawn, unassisted, and the experience was awesome. Our youngest was also born in water, the Aqua Doula set up in a tipi in the yard, and witnessing that birth really hammered home the fact that women’s bodies know how to give birth, without any outside assistance. I highly recommend considering a homebirth, or even an unassisted birth, for DIY-type fathers and mothers.

Our children have slept in our bed since birth, and will continue to until they are ready to have their own space. It just made more sense to not have a crib or a separate room. As a new parent, with all of the new experiences and challenges that you have, the last thing you want is more work. So when the baby wakes up for nursing or diaper change or a burp, why go to another room to comfort and tend him? Let them have the comfort of you always being there with co-sleeping. It won’t always be that way. The fear of rolling over on your baby is completely unfounded and is just plain silly.

We started teaching our youngest sign language from very early on, and it made communication so much easier. It takes babies a long time to be able to make certain sounds, but they can mimic and remember signs easily. Teaching infant potty training with signs and sounds was a huge help in getting to diaper-free very quickly, and all it really takes is commitment to doing it. Our youngest was diaper-free at 1 1/2, and mostly diaper-free at age one. I built her a wooden potty chair just her size, and she loves it. We love it too, as we don’t have to put her up on the big toilet and be with her the whole time.

We homeschool (I should say unschool) our children, and we really enjoy it. Anything that they are interested in, we try to get them involved in. We may not know vaulting, or ceramics, or how to play the fiddle, but there is usually someone in our community that can teach it. I’m always amazed at how fast we manifest opportunities through our connections.

I was at a workshop the other day with JL Glass, a motivational and leadership speaker, and he brought up the fact that very early on in school, we are exposed to messages or lessons that really mess with us. He said “You are given a piece of paper with a group of objects and told to circle the one that doesn’t belong. Right off the bat, we are being told that things that are different don’t belong.” Wow! What other “harmless” activities and lessons are out there? We want to raise our kids with positivity and openness and compassion, with the ability to think for themselves, not to spit back memorized answers to get a better grade.

Our children are comfortable wherever they are, even if it’s different from what they have been used to. They are great campers. We camped for 5 weeks in a row last spring, and they are so comfortable being out in nature, that the only complaint we heard was that our oldest had run out of books to read (and she soon got over that). There’s something that kids get from digging in the dirt, climbing a tree, scrambling up a hill, cooking outside, going to sleep when it’s dark and waking up at dawn, that they really need. A connection to the natural world is key when teaching them about our place in the universe. Of course, we need to be comfortable in nature before they will, as so much of their learning takes place through watching and imitating us. If we don’t have an issue with squatting over a sawdust toilet or a hole dug behind a tree, then they don’t either.

I know that there are specific definitions out there for natural parenting and attachment parenting, but I don’t think that there is one for natural fathering, so I’ll be exploring that in upcoming posts. A lot of work has been done in the women’s movement and the mothering movement, but I see a big need for a primal fathering movement, one that honors men in their power, that strengthens the father/son and father/daughter connection in a positive way. We’ve been demonized by some and marginalized by others, and now is the time start anew.

Derek Markham

Things I dig include: simple living, natural fatherhood, attachment parenting, natural building, unassisted childbirth (homebirth), bicycles, permaculture, organic and biodynamic gardening, vegan peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, bouldering, and the blues. Find me elsewhere at @NaturalPapa, @DerekMarkham, Google+, or RebelMouse.

2 thoughts on “Natural Fathering: My Experience

  • I’ve heard about the benefits of co-sleeping. I just can’t emagine the logistics. We have my wife, myself, 75 lb dog, a three year old and one on the way. There’s no way anyone is getting good sleep in a queen sized bed. All other points I im in total agreement on. I’m pushing myself to explore a more simpler lifestyle for me and my family. We’re constantly eliminating clutter and “thinning the herd”. I do admit to being a bit of a gadget freak tho….but I’m trying!
    good post!

  • zen dad: Maybe a wall-to-wall futon? 🙂 Our 2 year old just got her own mini-bed that’s at the same level as ours, so she’s still with us, but to one side and not between us anymore. We love having our space back (until the next baby).
    Man, I resisted high technology and gadgets for a long time, but being a tool-type guy, I really admire sexy machines. I make fun of my wife’s clothing and shoe addiction, and she busts my chops about gear and tools and gadgets. As long as we’re smiling when we say it…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *