Mum living in rural Australian town is forced to defend her ‘controversial’ parenting rules

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An Australian mum has been forced to defend her unusual parenting rules after she banned prams, high chairs, day care and even shoes.

Alex Tucker, 25, has introduced several ‘controversial’ rules for parenting her toddlers, Berkley, two, and Freya, one, to fit their rural environment on the Hawkesbury River, in New South Wales.

The toddlers don’t use high chairs or prams, instead joining in on eight kilometre hikes, and she doesn’t enforce any structured play or sign up to weekly commitments like play group. 

Her children do not go to day care with Alex electing to either bring them to work on the boat with her and her boyfriend Paul or they simply don’t go into work. 

Mum living in rural Australian town is forced to defend her ‘controversial’ parenting rules

Alex Tucker, 25, has introduced several ‘controversial’ rules for parenting her toddlers, Berkley, two, and Freya, one, to fit their rural environment on the Hawkesbury River, in New South Wales

The rural mum refuses to teach her children to swim, despite living on the waterfront, and the kids don’t even wear shoes, roaming free and barefoot instead. 

After sharing her rules online Alex received plenty of criticism from other parents, with one commenting that social services should be called. 

But she since defended her rules. 

She said shoes distort feet shape and prams and high chairs are not essential to their way of living. 

Defending her choice not to give them swimming lessons, she said they would encourage her water-fearful kids to get into dangerous water to swim.  

‘I’m not bothered by people who don’t agree with my “controversial” rules. Mothers are criticised no matter what they do, and especially online,’ Alex, who works in the fishing industry, said.

Defending her choice not to give them swimming lessons, she said they would encourage her water-fearful kids to get into dangerous water to swim

Defending her choice not to give them swimming lessons, she said they would encourage her water-fearful kids to get into dangerous water to swim

‘That’s why it’s important to share the “controversial” things. I’m opening the conversation for everyone to start thinking outside the box before straight up criticising someone’s parenting when they don’t know how different someone’s lifestyle can be.

‘I’m not preaching my ways and this isn’t a “how to” manual. This is what works for our family.’

Alex’s children roam barefoot across the beach, on pavement and even on their family hikes but the mum insists going without shoes is better for her kids. 

‘It sort of shocked me that that was a big issue to a lot of people,’ she said.

‘In Australia it’s pretty normal to not wear shoes unless you are at the shops or school or work. 

‘Even then if you are from a coastal town like us, it’s normal to not wear shoes at the shops, and working on boats, it’s also common to not wear shoes. .

Alex's children roam barefoot across the beach, on pavement and even on their family hikes but the mum insists going without shoes is better for her kids

Alex’s children roam barefoot across the beach, on pavement and even on their family hikes but the mum insists going without shoes is better for her kids

‘A big factor of that is muscle and joint development. It’s no secret shoes change posture and foot shape so I figure why distort their natural development when shoes just aren’t necessary most of the time. 

‘Shoes serve purpose, like if the ground is too hot or too cold, or if snakes and wildlife is a valid threat, or if something hurts to walk on. 

‘For the most part, they are just not things we deal with in our daily life, so the kids don’t wear shoes. 

‘When you don’t wear shoes, your feet do often toughen. You do learn how to walk on rough surfaces, and being a small coastal town Aussie, that’s just our way of life.’

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Alex’s boyfriend Paul owns a fishing business and Alex, who has experience working as a fisherman and commercial captain, often helps on the boat when he’s in need of extra crew members. 

The couple usually take their kids along to work with Paul having them by himself if Alex is needed to help on another boat. 

If the weather conditions are too bad for the children to join Paul on the boat and Alex is busy, the dad will miss his day of work entirely rather than send their kids to day care.  

‘We are a rural family working in primary production – I am a stay at home mother out of necessity, like most rural mothers,’ Alex said.

The couple usually take their kids along to work with Paul having them by himself if Alex is needed to help on another boat

The couple usually take their kids along to work with Paul having them by himself if Alex is needed to help on another boat

‘I’m needed at home for more than childcare and housework – we are the people at the frontline of feeding the nation. 

‘If it is not a desirable day for them to come to work, one parent stays home, that’s rural life.’ 

Despite living on the waterfront, Alex has decided not to teach her children to swim – another rule that many concerned parents have called out to be dangerous. 

Parents online were quick to point out that knowing how to swim could save her kids’ lives should they end up in the water alone, but Alex has said there is a strong difference between water safety and swimming. 

‘Swimming lessons was a difficult one to decide on but I came to the conclusion that a toddler probably couldn’t swim out of the river on their own,’ she said.

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‘In the river here, currents and submerged objects are a huge factor for drownings, and while they have a healthy fear of the water, I won’t encourage them to enter it by doing swimming lessons. 

‘We play by the river a lot, and when a toy falls in, they freak out and come ask me to get it. 

Despite the backlash from parents online, Alex has no regrets over sharing her alternative parenting rules and hopes she has opened up a conversation about rural parenting

Despite the backlash from parents online, Alex has no regrets over sharing her alternative parenting rules and hopes she has opened up a conversation about rural parenting

‘If my eldest has a life jacket on, he will very hesitantly walk in knee deep to get into a boat but refuses to go further. Frankly I want to keep it that way until they are big enough to understand how to swim out of a current. 

‘I’m less concerned with driving three hours to put my toddlers into swimming lessons so they can swim around a pool, when in reality, that’s not actually going to help our situation. 

‘For now I want floating to be their ONLY instinct if they were to somehow fall in. 

‘I don’t want them to think of swimming as something fun that people do, at least not at this age.’ 

Despite the backlash from parents online, Alex has no regrets over sharing her alternative parenting rules and hopes she has opened up a conversation about rural parenting. 

‘I don’t know that I’d call them rules, it’s just how we are doing things right now because it does work best for us, so I don’t regret sharing them at all,’ she said.

‘I’m actually happy that I got to see some comments like “oh I’ve never thought about it like that, makes sense.” All toddlers are different, but as long as they are happy and healthy – they are where they should be.’ 

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