Peggy and John McMahon: The Parent as a Professional

A conversation with the editors of Mothering magazine about the parent as a professional.

| September/October 1985

  • 095-016-01
    The McMahon Family

  • 095-016-01

"I don't think our society is doing a good job of raising people who are growing up to be very sane. Look at the rate of adult suicide, of teenage suicide, of mental illness, of divorce — of all the indications of people's unhappiness. Compare us to other societies — more primitive, perhaps, but with stresses of another kind — that raise emotionally stable human beings. I think that in order to save our civilization, we really have to look at how people become sane and happy. In a way, we have to redefine parenting."  

Peggy O'Mara McMahon, editor of Mothering magazine and speaker of the above words, is giving her full efforts to doing just that: redefining parenting. She and her husband, John, have made nurturing their family, which includes Lally (11), Finnie (9), Brant (7), and Nora (3) the primary goal in their lives.  

How are they doing this? Well, they started out by birthing their children at home (when it was medically safe), because they felt that home is the best place for a family to experience the bonding aspects — emotional, psychological and spiritual — of birth. In addition, Peggy has breast fed all four offspring, on their schedule, not hers, even though that entailed nursing siblings. Peggy has stayed home fulltime with the children ... and as soon as it was financially possible, John worked at home and became a full-time father as well! Both parents chose to learn how to discipline their children with respect, rather than spankings. They decided to educate their offspring themselves. They agreed not to watch that great family distracter, television. And they've made all their family's health care decisions — even controversial ones, such as not immunizing any of their children — after much deliberate study and reflection.  

Peggy's and John's careers are also intimately involved with improving families, for she is editor, he is general manager, and together they are owners of Mothering ... a wonderful quarterly dedicated to learning how to parent in a loving and "conscious" way. Mothering magazine covers a wide range of parenting issues with a distinctively warm and caring hand. Those of you who want to learn more about the topics discussed in the following interview (as well as the many parenting topics we had to leave out of the following interview) will find that magazine the first and best place to look.  

Last January, staff writer Pat Stone and photographer Steve Keull traveled to Santa Fe, N.M., to visit Mothering's first family and to learn about the "professional parenting" they advocate. Both MOTHER staffers had a grand time and greatly enjoyed the company of all six McMahons. They saw a family that works, plays and loves together remarkably well. And they found their own concepts of what constitutes good parenting broadened and challenged. As Pat himself admits, "Studying mothering and talking with Peggy and John have definitely had an effect on me as a parent: The most obvious influence is that I haven't spanked any of my own children since doing this interview. Some of what the couple says is still hard for me to take — I'm not ready to say no to immunizations, for instance — but the more I think over their ideas, the more they make plain and caring sense. "  

You may find that what Peggy and John McMahon have to say — edited here from over four hours of recorded conversation — has the same effect on you.  

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