Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mayim Bialik talks about Holistic Moms Network

Okay, I'll admit it. I watched Blossom when I was young and always wondered what happened to actress Mayim Bialik. I knew she went to college, but then what? Well, thankfully, she’s back and we had a nice long talk about her involvement with the Holistic Moms Network, a non-profit organization connecting parents who are interested in holistic health and green living.

Why did you get back in the Hollywood eye now?

When Blossom ended, I was 19 and I went to college, because that’s what you do in my family. And I kind of went straight through to grad school. I did some acting, a couple episodes of Fat Actress, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, but I really wanted to focus on my degree. My initial hope was that I’d be a research professor or something like that. I studied neuroscience, but once we had our first son, who’s now almost 4, my husband and I just started realizing that, in terms of lifestyle and how we wanted to raise our kids, being a research professor was not the best way to go. It was a lifestyle decision in terms of what kind of hours and schedule can allow us to be with our kids

So I finished my thesis, but was thinking about what it would be like to see what it’s like to act fulltime, because I’ve never really done that. Last time I acted, my mom was with me doing everything, and I was really still a kid. And I do love performing. I’m still sort of learning how to be an adult in this industry, in terms of premieres and things like that. .

Now though, you can’t even breathe without somebody knowing about it?

You can’t tweeze your eyebrows without someone saying you missed a hair, you know? Because it’s all on the Internet. There was really not an Internet like that. When I started acting I was 11-years-old and it was 1986. It was a very different world.

How did you get involved in the Holistic Moms organization?

My husband and I just started seeing friends of ours who made certain parenting choices and we started learning about it, even before we got pregnant. We started learning about home birth, and extended breastfeeding, and home schooling. It seemed really off the wall to us, so we started doing research. And with my neuroscience degree, I was in child psychiatry, I studied some child development, so I was already reading a lot of this stuff. We started interviewing midwives, and pediatricians, even before we got pregnant, just to see what it might look like to be in different circles than we were raised in. So when we had our first son, we made certain decisions, and then as we started raising him, we made more and more decisions, and then we just had our second son less than a year ago.

What kind of personal decisions did you make?

Well, home birth. I’m thinking about the things that sort of shocked our parents the most. So I’d say home birth was right up there. Natural birth people are more comfortable with. But the idea of home birth was something that was very hard for us in terms of really everybody on the street challenging us.

My second son was a home birth. My first was a transport after a natural induction that often doesn’t work as well as a chemical induction, but I didn’t want the chemical. Also, extended breastfeeding without giving solids for the first year is something that’s important to us and works well for us, but a lot of people were very surprised about. And I never even thought you could grow a baby on breast milk for a whole year until we did it…twice. Bed sharing is also big one.

I say that I only know how to raise two people, and that’s my two kids. I don’t know how to raise your kids. That’s why you’re their parent, so whatever choices I make are the ones that I’ve decided work for me, and I don’t pass judgment. If other people want to have a conversation about the choices I’ve made, I’m more than happy to talk about it. And I think it’s organizations like Holistic Moms that give people that support, who are kind of doing things against trends, at least against current trends in parenting. But the fact is, what works for people is what works for them. If you’re asking me about statistics, I’m more than happy to talk about them, but otherwise, I really only do what works for my kids, and assume that everyone else is making educated decisions too, for their kids.

It’s hard to make those first decisions…how do you do that and feel comfortable?

For me, there was a book written called Parenting Without a Map, and sometimes I think when you’re in these circles, you can feel like you’re really parenting without a map. But I don’t think I would have been able to make any of these choices without like-minded friends. Mothering magazine has a friend finder, so I made some friends that way. Really finding like-minded people, not just so that you can be agreed with, you know, even though we like to be agreed with in general. To find people who are parenting similarly, I mean, this is the way people used to transmit information so that you were never doing something alone for the first time as a parent. Now, I feel like we live in these very separated communities, but we’re missing that support system.

How were you raised?

I was raised by politically active, concerned parents from an immigrant family in New York. So my parents made anti-war films against Vietnam, they were very politically active. My mom made sandwiches for the local health food store. She used soymilk when she stopped breastfeeding, which was very radical in 1975. She had me, I was a breach, with no medication. Which was not a C-section, which was surprising also. But I think a lot of this stuff wasn’t even on my parents’ radar. My mom never even knew she could keep her maiden name. It was almost not even an issue. And I was the kind of teenager who was really into the planet, and using canvas grocery bags, and people always laughed at me. And now I say to my husband, you know, who’s laughing now? Now we get a little refund every time we use my bags.

And I’m not looking to be cool. I really am one of those people who really believes very strongly in doing all those little things. It’s also a very like Jewish ethic I was raised with, that you save the world, one thing at a time.

How have you found the reaction to being back in the spotlight and talking about this?

I don’t want people to think that I’m taking this opportunity to try and make myself feel like I’m the best parent in the world. As I said, I’m only the best parent to two people, and that’s my kids. I’ve had a lot of people say to me, you’re doing something wrong by fill-in-the-blank. And I really don’t think that’s the way we build a strong community of parents or kids. So that’s kind of what I think is really discouraging, and that’s what I would hope that maybe people would get out of this, that you don’t have to agree with each other, but there needs to be open dialogue so that we can all parent better in our community. Because our kids are going to have to live with each other and they’re the next generation that has to make decisions, and be the teachers, doctors, lawyers, and postmen. That’s what we’re raising them.

What advice would you give moms?

Attend a La Leche League meeting, even if you’re not sure about breastfeeding. Their advice really runs the gamut of help for people who want to be home, who don’t want to be home, who can breastfeed and who can’t.

Get involved in some sort of support group or parenting group. And if you are leaning green or holistic, something like Holistic Moms Network is especially important. The third thing is to read as much as you can and I don’t mean on the Internet, but to actually go to the resources of some of the pediatricians you’ve looked into, or to a library. Go to a place where there are actual books you can read start to finish because you really get only one chance to be educated about your kids. And I hear people say that it was too much work to research vaccinations, so I just decided to let them do whatever. You can make whatever decision you want, but I think it’s super important to go ahead and get as educated as you can, so that you can then be present when you make those decisions and not feel like you’re kind of a passive participant in your kids’ lives. The saddest thing I hear is when people say my pediatrician knows my kids better than I do. And the fact is, I really, I don’t believe that’s true. I think we instinctually know our children best.

It’s really nice to be part of an organization that I’ve been a member of even when I was off the radar, because it’s easy. It’s easy to talk about something that provided that support for me, because I needed it, and I still need it.

Thanks Mayim and welcome back!


Celeb said...

Hey there's nothing wrong with watching blossom when you where you...I'd admit I watched it too.

But it's interesting to see what she's up to now. Holistic parenting, interesting.

marion said...

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