Interview Series: Amber Strocel

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Today we are excited to introduce another API Speaks blogger to you.  Amber is a mother of two and hails from Vancouver!  Read on to learn about her tips for successful relationships (she and her husband have been together for 20 years!), her big venture to help people live intentionally, and how she balances it all.

Tell us about your family.

I am married to my husband of almost 10 years, Jon. We met in high school – we will celebrate 20 years together this May. Which is a long time, considering that we’re still in our mid-30s. We have two children – Hannah will turn 6 in February, and Jacob is 2 1/2. We live in suburban Vancouver, BC. Right now, Jon is working for a local television station, and I’m working from home.

Amber and family

I am amazed that you and Jon have been together for 20 years!  What has been important in maintaining that relationship?  You have obviously gone through a lot of seasons of life together already!  I am so intrigued by the ways that an AP parenting style translates to marriage.  How do you and Jon balance parenting?

I think the most important thing in maintaining a relationship is flexibility and openness to change. Jon and I are very different people now than we were in 1991 when we started dating as teenagers. We have accepted that change and growth is part of being together, and we embrace it.

In terms of parenting, I am the primary caregiver, especially for my younger child. He’s still breastfeeding, and so I am the one to re-settle him at night and offer comfort when he’s hurt. If I’m not here, my husband steps up, of course, but if we’re both there my toddler goes for me first, and I’m OK with that. I am also the one who is working at home and spending my days with the kids, which is just how things have worked out. As Jacob gets older, though, Jon is able to step in more and more, so I can go to yoga or meet a friend for lunch, knowing that my kids are with their father whom they love and are very attached to.

What led you to Attachment Parenting?

I was raised in a house where many AP principles were held. Although I don’t think the phrase ‘attachment parenting’ was used in the 70s and 80s when I was a child, my mother breastfed, co-slept and used baby carriers. Many of the same practices felt very natural to me – although I did face struggles, I was able to overcome them

I chose midwifery care for my pregnancies, and my midwives also helped lead me to attachment parenting. They supported me in having the birth I wanted, and led me to resources to support me in parenting the way I wanted to parent. They were really fantastic, and I credit a lot of my success with overcoming my early parenting struggles to their excellent care and support.

How do you deal with friends/family/strangers who don’t understand or disagree with AP practices?

I have actually not had to stick up for my choices all that much. My mother and mother-in-law have both been very supportive, and the rest of our extended family have largely followed suit. Most of the issues we’ve faced have had more to do with changing baby-care recommendations. For instance, 30 years ago it was recommended that all babies have supplemental water, whereas now we know that breast milk alone provides all the liquid babies need. In these situations, letting people know what the new recommendations are and why has been sufficient.

I will also say that as my children get older, and especially with my firstborn, I face fewer criticisms. Now that I have at least one child who can use the toilet, dress herself, print her name and so on, people aren’t as quick to question my parenting. It’s like that first kid is proof that I am up to the task of raising little people.

Have you ever had an affirming moment in your AP journey?

My 2-year-old son loves to ‘nurse’ his toys. It really is the sweetest thing. Then he pretends to pick gunk out of their ears, which is slightly less sweet but hits home. I really must remember not to pick at the poor child so much while he nurses.

Honestly, though, I’ve seen that my children imitate me and pick up on what I do. I like that, but it’s hard to say how much this really affects them. Since I’ve always parented them in this way, I can’t really say what they would be like if I hadn’t. For me, the affirming moments come more from my own confidence that this is the right choice for our family as we’re doing it. It’s not about an outcome, it’s about living my life in a way that fits.

I just love this sentence: “It’s not about an outcome, it’s about living my life in a way that fits.”  Can you talk about that a little more?

It’s hard to think of something specific, but I think that parenting is a learned skill, like any other skill. I have made mistakes and adapted and experimented and gotten better at it over the almost six years that I’ve been at it. I am definitely a very different mother today than I was when I had my first newborn, and a very different mother than I envisioned I would be. Much like flexibility and openness to change are important in a romantic partnership, they are also important in parenting. I’m constantly adapting to changing conditions and figuring out what works today. I’ve learned not to sweat it too much, or think too far ahead, because things will be totally different by the time I get there.

I will say that I have done a lot of things that were better for my children than for me, in order to meet their needs. When I had newborns, I didn’t really enjoy getting up at all hours of the night. I did it because I realized that this was what they needed at the time, and that I was laying groundwork in terms of letting them know that they were loved and cared for and fed and all of that. When you have kids, life isn’t about your own best interests anymore. It’s about figuring out what everyone needs, and how best you can meet those needs. So in the case of sleep, I figure out how I can get the sleep I need while also meeting my children’s needs. I may not get to sleep at the time I would prefer, but I have generally been able to come up with something that worked for everyone.

When you’re balancing the needs of multiple children, you’re again tackling the issue of ‘needs’ versus ‘preferences’. Not everyone gets to have exactly what they would want, when they want it. But everyone is able to get what they need today. Tomorrow can take care of itself.

What does 2011 hold for your family?

I am launching an online course about living with intention in January. It’s called Crafting My Life, and it’s kind of a big deal for me. I’m really excited about that. I will also be attending BlogHer in San Diego, which is another big deal for me. I’m trying to think of what the year holds for the rest of my family, but we don’t have any big plans yet aside from my stuff. I guess maybe 2011 is all about me. 😉

Thank you to Amber for letting us get into her head a little bit. Check her out at her blog, and look for more interviews soon.

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Author: Alissa

Alissa writes at A New History where she blogs about the challenge of authentic living with her husband, Levi and her almost two year old son, Solomon.

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