Sunday, March 31, 2013

Advocacy & Activism: Why gentle Advice and Guidance is Better Than Fear-Mongering

Written by: Beckah
Edited by: Tijana
Advocacy and activism- You might ask why I am writing this and what is my point in comparing the two? What's good or bad about one or the other? What's the beef? Why the negative connotation? I'll tell you.

We all know that children don't come with how-to manuals. We all know that people give unsolicited (and unwelcome) advice. "You're holding her wrong." "You're holding him too much, don't spoil him." "He's still breastfed? Time to wean!" "WHY aren't you breastfeeding?" One of mommy's biggest pet peeves, yes? We want to figure it out on our own and when we want to know more, we will search it out by asking a friend or taking to our friend Mr. "Google" with his copious amounts of helpful links. Right?

The problem with advice given by well-meaning parents or care providers is that it's difficult to determine if they want to push an agenda or are really trying to help you. I call this advocacy versus activism. 

This is solely my experience and my opinion based on my experience. Although they are on the same level in many ways, there is a huge difference between advocacy and activism. Meaning one similarity is that we are all out there, trying to make a difference. On the other hand, advocacy encourages gentle advice, love and encouragement. Putting your information out there at home plate, instead of searching people out. Activism (which I am COMPLETELY guilty of in the past), I have found, is fraught with people driven by fear, resentment and anger. There are many injustices that need to be rectified in this world. They will all be resolved with time and love. Fear-mongering and the pushing of agendas scares people away. Activism is alarmist. Advocacy is gentle, loving and understanding. There is no black and white. There is always space between those lines for a bit of gray.

Advocacy promotes drawing out the circle of influence out through awareness, whereas activism often focuses all attention on negative feedback and attacking instead of reaching an equal solution.

How do I define an activist vs. advocate?

Here is an example of what I mean. Which statements are you more likely to follow along with or ask more about? Which do you think is lactivist and which do you think is breastfeeding advocate?

Breastmilk and Formula

"You're formula feeding? That stuff is POISON! Why didn't you get donor milk? You probably didn't try hard enough to breastfeed."
OR (if you choose to say anything at all)
"Don't feel ashamed or feel like a failure. It sounds like you tried your best with the support you had. I know you're a good mom and have your baby's best interest at heart."

And so on and so forth with the rest of the "mommy wars" topics. My position in all of this? I'm an advocate. I do slip up at times when passion takes over and push my beliefs. But it's not who I want to be as far as making changes in the parenting world. I strive to make all options known to parents that are interested in knowing. Nothing is more rewarding than giving advice to someone who asks and hearing a success story or a simple thank you for the gentle and understanding information I've given.

This is Naturo-Mommy's philosophy: A safe-haven for parents seeking information without fear of criticism or ridicule for choosing differently. Our biggest goal is parents making informed decisions based on reliable data and proof.