When I was pregnant with my daughter, I informed someone who was very close to me that I intended to cloth diaper. She immediately got upset, telling me that it would be impossible to keep up with and there was no way I could do it full time. My insistence that it was indeed possible and in fact, done by many people only infuriated her more. The conversation ended with her screaming that she was going to buy me disposable diapers for my baby shower because I “would need them,” and then she hung up on me.
I stood there stunned and utterly baffled by what had just happened. It wasn’t until my daughter was born that I finally discovered the underlying reason behind that seemingly inexplicable outburst. Within weeks of her birth, it quickly became evident that some perceived our parenting choices as a commentary on their own. Anything that we did differently was obviously an affront to the way they did things.
As my daughter grew, we encountered this sort of defensive, "What's wrong with the way I raise(d) my kids?" attitude a number of times, as well as others who did not get upset but almost seemed self conscious around us for living different lifestyles. So here is my open plea to everyone who diapers, feeds, carries, births, educates, etc… their child(ren) differently:
There is nothing wrong with the way you raise(d) your kids. We’re not saying our way is better, it’s just what works for us as parents and what feels most comfortable in our hearts. We are not trying to say you should've done anything differently. Everyone does the best they can, and that’s what we are trying to do. These are decisions that, quite frankly, have nothing to do with choices you may have made with your own family. Just as we try to respect your right to decide what is best for your family, all that we ask for is the same understanding and consideration.
Some of you out there may assume I’m only talking to people who parent with more mainstream ideals, but this plea goes both ways. I will be the first to say that had I been juggling a full time job instead of being a SAHM, I probably wouldn’t have breastfed or co-slept for nearly as long. So if certain changes in my own life would’ve dramatically impacted the way I was raising my daughter, then who am I to decide what is right or wrong for another family? If I had more children and was working, perhaps I wouldn’t have made it through three years without ever using disposables. Maybe I would’ve set my passions for the planet aside and caved out of necessity?
I know, I know… there are plenty of moms who will proudly assert that they were capable of cloth diapering even with X number of kids and a full time job, but maybe one mother has a child that wakes up all night, every night, and another mother has a child who is sick all the time and just can’t handle the extra diaper laundry. We think just because we put so many intricate details of our lives on public display via social media that we KNOW some stranger halfway around the world. We KNOW what they are or aren’t doing, and we have a right to judge what they should be doing.
If we can’t stop putting strangers on the defensive, then how can we expect our loved ones to abide by the same standards of respecting our own choices? Nobody else has walked the exact same path as I have, and nobody else has the exact same passions and concerns as a result of the experiences I’ve had. I’m just trying to raise my child the best way I know how, and I bet that every other parent is doing the same.
Amy Serotkin is dedicated to sustainable living and finding ways to eliminate toxins in her home. She is an avid organic gardener and cook, and is always looking for more ways to challenge herself to lessen her family's ecological imprint.
Her website, The Mindful Home, shares with consumers the information she's found on toxins and eco friendly products that help eliminate disposables or toxin exposure. She also hopes to highlight smaller retailers, crafters and manufacturers.