An interview with Laura Calbone and Carrie Stephens of the local chapter
SURVEYS CONSISTENTLY TELL us that women make most day-to-day decisions in the household — and undoubtedly those choices are becoming more holistic.
A national non-profit organization to support moms in making choices on health and holistic living was launched 10 years ago, and now the Holistic Moms Network (HMN) supports more than 120 chapters across the country and thousands of moms — and some dads and other caregivers.
HMN supports informed consent for vaccinations, women’s rights to natural childbirth, living without chemicals in foods, green choices in the home, promotes breastfeeding and produces the Natural Living Conference, now in its 10th year, to support the leading voices in natural living and parenting.
Nancy Massotto, founder and director of the Holistic Moms Network, is a recognized expert in the field of green and natural living and parenting. She holds a Ph.D. in government and politics and her professional background is based within the research, natural health, familial education and academic areas in which she has excelled for the past three decades.
“The mission of the Holistic Moms Network is to raise awareness for natural living choices and to empower people with practical information they can use to live greener and healthier,” Dr. Massotto says.
The Twin Cities chapter of HMN, established in 2007 by Sara Grochowski and Jen Zotalis, is now being led by two moms who are committed to spreading the word that women who make holistic choices for their children and parents have their support. Laura Calbone of Bloomington, a mother of two children, and Carrie Stephens of Richfield, a mother of one child with another on the way, are the new chapter leaders.
“Holistic parenting is understanding we are all part of a collective of a much bigger picture,” Carrie Stephens says. “We teach our children to be respectful and create a positive impact on all living things where we can all thrive.”
Local meetings include guest speakers and time for members to share tips and ideas with each other on a wide variety of holistic and environmental topics. Members also can buy natural products at wholesale prices through the Frontier Natural Products Co-op, and the group is considering the option of buying bulk and natural foods through Azure Standard.
Meeting topics have included essential oils, organic gardening and composting, tips for being more environmentally friendly, and living a holistic style on a budget — and coming topics include options for sending your child to school (Waldorf, Montessori, public education), a potluck with the sharing of healthy recipes, and a candlelight yoga session to bring in the new year,
“In November,” says co-leader Laura Calbone, “we will be talking about overcoming challenges with partners and friends regarding holistic lifestyle choices. Maybe your partner or family members aren’t completely supportive of the choices you are making, so how do you work with them and talk with them so you have a positive relationship and interaction with them, especially as the holidays are approaching?”
The leaders of the Twin Cities chapter of Holistic Moms Network spoke with The Edge about how they promote holistic living.
What challenges face women today who could potentially be helped by the Holistic Moms Network?
Laura Calbone: First of all, there are the health aspects — not only keeping yourself healthy, but also keeping your family members healthy. Today, there is a wide variety of choices available, which is wonderful, but I think people aren’t completely aware of all the choices or need a more thorough understanding of the different choices — for example, alternative medicines. What else is available to treat illnesses or conditions?
When our group gets together, we talk about the challenges we are having in keeping our family healthy — or in keeping our family more environmentally conscious — and we share possible solutions that we can use. We learn from each other, and we also invite guest speakers who are experts in a variety of fields to come in and give us more information about that.
It’s about making your family healthier in more holistic ways — more in tune with the environment and with nature.
Carrie Stephens: As a community, all challenges facing women today are supported by Holistic Moms Network. It’s so easy to get lost in our fast-paced, busy world without making connections with other parents. Holistic Moms Network helps families find the support, share knowledge, and create long-lasting friendships with other like-minded families. It is through these connections we find the ability to face these challenges.
What led you to Holistic Moms Network?
Laura: I’ve always been an environmentalist, and I used to do a lot of volunteer work with the Sierra Club, so that was one aspect of it. The other aspect was that I personally had some experience with a health condition when I was in college. The only recommendations the doctors came up with were medications with adverse side-effects, and I wasn’t interested in those side-effects or the medication. I ended up going to a Naturopathic doctor, and in working with her, she solved my issues with a change in diet and incorporating exercise.
Then I became a really strong believer in alternative healing and preventative care. I became a mother and wanted to incorporate all of these ideas in raising my children. I found this organization, joined and I’ve been a member for a few years now. I love going to the meetings. I always learn something, and I always leave feeling energized, because I am surrounded by other people who care about the things I care about. They are very knowledgeable. There is always somebody there who knows more about something than I do, and I always learn from them. It just feels good to be around other people people who are supportive of these things.
Carrie: My holistic perspective did not start until much later in life. My sister became interested in some green living and holistic ideas and tried to rub them off on me. At that time, the ideas did not sink in as much as they do now. After I became a parent, I understood her point of view and respected her more than I can ever say here.
I did an internet search and came across the Holistic Moms Network website one day. The topic of vaccinations was a bit of a warm one in my household. I had so many concerns and kept coming across more and more information that led me toward not vaccinating our daughter. I was not finding any support in this decision and wanted to find someone else who felt the same way. It was through this group that I received a tip about a class on the subject. I took my husband with me to this class, and we both learned a lot. We now have found common ground on the subject.
There have been times where I have felt very isolated from other parents in making parenting decisions. After attending a few meetings and becoming a member, I have realized you don’t need to feel so isolated. The group has really made me feel more confident as a parent. I can only thank them for that.
Aside from growing its membership, what other goals do you have for your chapter?
Laura: We share the goals of all of the Holistic Moms chapters. We want to make sure that people who come to our meetings feel comfortable, no matter where they are on their holistic journey or their parenting journey. For those women who’ve just had a baby, or are pregnant and haven’t had a baby yet, or even grandparents or caregivers — you don’t have to be a mom with children of a certain age — we want to be an open, inviting, supportive community that recognizes that everyone’s going to have different choices that they make for their family, and that’s OK. We just want to be sure that we are providing education on different choices that people can make for their health, for the environment. We want people to have information to make the best decision for their families.
A testimonial on the Holistic Moms Network website [www.holisticmoms.org] from one member indicated that she now felt comfortable coming out of the closet regarding her holistic lifestyle choices. Is there a stigma about being holistic that you’ve experienced?
Laura: I definitely think so. I found it personally. Other parenting groups that I’m a part of are supportive in a lot of ways, but not necessarily holistically. For example, when we go to someone’s house for a play date or something, and they’re serving Goldfish® crackers and Oreo cookies, I’m thinking, “Well, we really don’t eat that.” It feels uncomfortable, and I might go along with it, thinking, “Well, it’s just this one time. It’s not the end of the world.” You don’t want to be the only parent who hands out, for example, organic suckers or fruit on Halloween.
A lot of members don’t vaccinate their children, and that’s a hot topic in the press these days. A lot of mainstream parents think, “Why are you being difficult about this?” There are a lot of topics where we have a difference of opinion. Even with organic food, I’ve found where some of my friends are like, “That’s just ridiculous.” For me, it’s like, “Well, I think it’s important.”
From a spiritual aspect, too, options come up about whether you go to more mainstream churches or not. What kind of spiritual values are you conveying to your children as you raise them?
How does the Holistic Moms Network compare with mainstream parenting groups you’ve been a part of?
Carrie: Mainstream parent groups are more like play dates with some brief parent interaction. It is harder to connect with other parents in this manner due to our attention being drawn to watch over the children. Plus, everyone has a different style of parenting.
It seems very hard to talk about many topics with mainstream groups, as there is always the fear of offending someone. At the Holistic Moms Network, we are a support network for parents who are interested in many aspects of green living and holistic health. We want to learn from each other and are not afraid of embracing some of the more controversial topics. No one judges me if an idea doesn’t work for my family. We all want to be open-minded that way.
How important is the bonding that takes place between members and their children who attend your group?
Laurie: That’s a huge part of it. We joke around when we leave our meetings, saying, “Oh, I was with my people!” It’s really nice.
I know the previous chapter leader that talked about setting up play groups for our children, and that’s something we may be doing going forward so our kids can develop friendships just like we have in the group.
Is there a spiritual component to Holistic Moms Network?
Laura: Yes, holistic living is the whole self. You look at the physical, mental, emotional and the spiritual. I haven’t been to a local meeting that has covered a spiritual topic, but that’s something we would definitely be open to.
The Twin Cities chapter of Holistic Moms Network meets from 7-9 p.m. on the third Wednesday of every month at Fuller Park Recreation Center, 4800 Grand Ave. S., Minneapolis. Anyone can attend a meeting for free to check it out before they join Holistic Moms Network. For more information, visit Twincitiesmn.holisticmoms.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.