Half Mag / Half Zine

A mum-of-four has detailed her controversial parenting techniques that see her children live without limits – by being able to drink coffee, go barefoot, and play outside in the rain. Mara Doemland, 29, says she uses a mixture of parenting styles to raise her brood but crucially “doesn’t want them to be restricted” in what they do.

The stay-at-home mum goes barefoot herself as much as she can and allows her children – Emmy, nine, Murphy, seven, Ripley, five, and Indy, two – to do the same if they wish. Mara encourages them to play out in the rain and doesn’t restrict what they can eat at mealtimes, which means they’re more than likely to choose to eat fruit and vegetables themselves, she claims.

Breaking conventional norms, Mara has even let her daughter, Emmy, shave off her own hair and if her boys want to wear pink dresses, she is fine with it. Mara, from Corpus Christi, Texas, US, said: “I’m a barefoot person and have strong feet.

“I let my kids go barefoot if they want unless the pavement is too hot. Emmy and Indy love to be barefoot.

“I let them drink coffee if they want to try it but they don’t drink it like adults do.

“They’re not doing shots of espresso all day.”

She continues: “When it rains, I make sure we all get out in it and just have fun. It’s freeing but it is a mess.”

Mara has gradually built her own ‘free range’ style of parenting after having Emmy at just 19.

She says that when she first became a mum she was strict, and then learnt to allow her kids to make their own choices.

This style of parenting has cut their sugar cravings, Mara argues.

“I was mean and had no patience when I first had Emmy,” she explained.

“I don’t agree with restricting food for my kids. I don’t want them to have a negative relationship with food.

“I make sure all food is available for them which doesn’t categorise certain food as ‘special’ or a treat.

“It actually stops them craving sweet things if it is all available to them.”

Mara and her partner, Christopher Mareth, 36, a reseller, also encourage their children to dress how they want.

“We want them to be comfortable and wear what makes them happy,” Mara said.

“Emmy has her head shaved and is only wearing black and oversized clothes at the moment. We let our boys wear dresses if they want to. It’s what they like.”

Mara also doesn’t force her kids to share, and she thinks it’s important for them to have time to themselves if they want to.

“If one of my kids is playing with something and another other wants to play too, we don’t make them share if they don’t want to.

“We have taught them phrases such as ‘give me space.’ As adults we don’t always want to share things so I don’t think it’s something that kids should have to do.”

Mara also lets her kids eat sand and play with marbles.

“Kids always put things in their mouth so I don’t stop them eating sand so they can work out for themselves that it’s not something to eat,” she added.

“They’ll spit it out again and say ‘yucky’. They’ll probably do it a few times before they learn. I’d rather they learn rather than be fearful and scared of it.”

Things Mara’s kids are allowed to do
These are some of the things Mara lets her kids do that others might think are controversial:

  • Lets them drink coffee
  • Go out barefoot
  • Doesn’t restrict what they eat
  • Lets them eat sand
  • Doesn’t force them to share
  • Lets them wash in the rain
  • Lets them dress how they want
  • Lets them shave their hair