As a self-described “crunchy, hippie, granola mom,” Amanda Spencer has made organic her mantra, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find the occasional box of Cookie Crisp in her cupboard.
“I’m not a purist,” Spencer admitted. “I try not to indulge in a lot of sugar, but — moderation.”
The 37-year-old mom of three was raised in what she calls a conventional American household, with processed snacks and plenty of TV, and when she had her first child 13 years ago, she parented how she knew. But when her second child arrived seven years later, a switch to organic baby food sparked a world of change for the whole family.
“I realized the way I parented wasn’t conducive to healthy behaviors,” Spencer explained. “I stopped smoking and drinking soda. I started buying organic and then growing my own food and canning. I’m still getting more into it every day. The experience has been so beneficial for their childhood development.”
In October 2015, eager to find like-minded moms to share ideas and knowledge with, Spencer, who lives in Galesville, started a local chapter of the Holistic Moms Network with Carolyn Knapp, 33, an Onalaska mom of two with a similar passion for health and hands-on parenting.
The Holistic Moms Network, a non-profit organization with more than 120 chapters across the United States, encourages active, informed parenting, offering forums on a variety of topics ranging from non-toxic cleaners to alternative medicine. The La Crosse chapter is currently comprised of 12 mothers ages 20 to 40, who gather monthly for mediation, yoga or raw foods cooking classes and discussions on homeopathy and baby wearing, a form of carrying your child close to your body during daily activities. The members vary widely in their interpretations of holistic and degrees of commitment to each aspect, and Knapp prefers the term “conscious parenting” while Spencer calls her approach “peaceful parenting.”
“To me, a holistic mom is someone who takes the advice of others but also looks inside herself and uses her own instincts,” Knapp said. “Obviously, you need to find what works for you. It’s not all or nothing.”
For Knapp, that means focusing on natural food, supplements and outdoor exercise, but passing on cloth in favor of paper towels. Spencer home-schools her youngest children, forages and buys secondhand, but gave up on cloth diapers. When it comes to medicine, both favor a balance between holistic and modern. As a chiropractor, Knapp believes in the physical and emotional benefits of being properly aligned and regularly adjusts her kids, and Spencer is a fan of home remedies. While the Holistic Moms Network has faced scrutiny over the anti-vaccine stance of some of its advisory board members, Knapp says the local chapter does not influence either way but invites discussion from its members.
Knapp and Spencer stress that meetings are a supportive, judgment-free zone, and while members may differ in opinions and choices, they are united in the quest to raise their children in a happy, healthy manner.
“The choices you make for yourself and your family are going to shape the future and the environment,” Knapp said. “It’s always just a journey of being open, curious and seeking.”