Challenges of natural parenting/natural living - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 21 Old 06-02-2010, 02:56 AM - Thread Starter
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Does anyone else feel like it adds a lot of challenge to your life to lead (or at least attempt to lead) a natural family life? I'm talking about the kinds of things that bring us together on MDC- healthy eating/organic foods/cloth diapers/eco-friendly household items/etc (whatever it is you do!). For me, it seems the crunchier I get, the harder it makes my life... No longer is it just run out to the store and get what you need, I put a lot more thought and research into things I'm eating and buying and it can be quite challenging.

For example: I've been trying to curb my consumerist tendencies but have recently been shopping for new toys for a long car trip with DS. What I'm finding - yet again - is that there is sooo much c.r.a.p. available out there, but it's so hard to find good quality toys... If I can even find things locally, they're usually a fair bit more expensive or I have to go online and eat the shipping costs.

Food is another big one. There are four grocery stores in a 30 block radius of my house, only two of which have a minimal assortment of organic products. Otherwise the nearest organic (think Whole Foods-type) grocer is a half-hour drive away. And cooking from scratch is pretty much always healthiest but again, it requires an additional investment of time and effort.

Cloth diapering's another. Where to buy them, where to find the better brands, where to find a good laundry detergent to use on them, etc. etc. Now that I've got a good routine figured out it's no big deal, but nothing to do with it is stuff you can pick up at the local corner store like you can pick up a pack of disposible diapers.

Even just the stupid little things. Like a decent sunscreen for DS. Seriously, I know of only 3 stores in the entire city of 1 miillion people who sell anything I was happy with. And I can only get to them on Saturdays.

Sigh. Maybe this is just a vent. None of the difficulties will change my ideas or commitment, I just wish it were easier. Anyone else with me? Have you had to compromise your ideals just to have a more manageable life? I know there is more I'd like to do, but I just can't handle more at the moment.

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#2 of 21 Old 06-02-2010, 08:33 AM
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A lot of it depends on your location-- and looking at yours, yes, it would be difficult. I live in a crunchy-ish city in the US, and if I were as crunchy as you, it would still be easier for me than it is for you.
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#3 of 21 Old 06-02-2010, 11:13 AM
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I agree.. we moved from the local college town where it was much easier, out to the sticks (need to change my location in my profile..). I'm currently pulling my hair out about recycling.. the guy who does trash pickup doesn't take recycling, it's not a county service, and the county's so big the dump is waaay far away to use the center and there's not a drop station anywhere.
When we first moved in, we asked a neighbor about the trash pickup and he told us who to contact. then we asked if the guy picked up recycling and the neighbor said.. yeah, he'll pick up whatever you put in the trashcan... lol.
other than that, though, country livin' is pretty amenable to crunchiness. we can grow our own food the way we want and lots of other things. we are too far from the stores to go there much, which helps, although i do seem to order stuff online more than i should.
it is hard sometimes though.. i do know what you mean.. it's much easier to order a pizza than to go through all the steps of making one, for example.

Is it getting lonely in the echo chamber yet?

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#4 of 21 Old 06-02-2010, 11:51 AM
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Absolutely! For me, food is the biggest challenge and the thing we've compromised most on. I think it's the biggest challenge b/c it's one we face frequently with interactions w/ others. Preschool, tee ball, birthday parties--anything that involves snacks or food means there's a 95% chance I'm going to seriously disagree with what's being offered.

Then too there's the convenience factor everyone's mentioning--it's 100x easier to hit the Chik Filet drive thru and tell myself the (non organic, full of top-10 pesticide laden) fruit cup makes up for it. Why isn't there a hummus or sustainably farmed meat drive thru? But there isn't so we deal. And I"m not even that crunchy or organic--just avoiding food colorings, excessive salt and sugar and HFCS is enough to wad my panties on a daily basis.

Next year my DS1 is going to start kindy and he's already talking about the cr*p he's going to eat--thanks, Principal, for mentioning you offer chips and ice cream!

And of course if you mention these things to most people, they act like you're crazy or depriving your LO. Yes, I'm insane for not wanting my 2 y/o to eat your free Dum Dum HFCS lolly.

Yeah, food. It's frequently a major time-consuming and/or irritating PIA for me.
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#5 of 21 Old 06-02-2010, 12:16 PM
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i know exactly what you mean! i spent 30 minutes at walgreens reading ingredients on sunscreen and still was forced to pick one i only sorta am okay with. i don't know where a natural foods store in this area is (except for whole foods, ick$$)
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#6 of 21 Old 06-02-2010, 12:32 PM
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I think balance is necessary. It's good to be informed about what the "best" choices are, but sometimes you have to make do with less than best for your sanity or well being or wallet. There is a huge privileged component to NFL, IMO, unless you're willing to really go and live very simply, which I am not.

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#7 of 21 Old 06-02-2010, 12:34 PM
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I do think you pick your battles, and location is key. For me I try to work in broad strokes.

For toys, I don't do extensive research on them. I just try to prioritize in general: shop second-hand (I personally believe this is kinder on the environment than buying new, pristinely handmade toys from fresh trees); when choosing big systems then do the research (like dollhouse, deciding to go with Playmobil) - but don't sweat the small stuff. When I'm not sweating it I do look at the most obvious things - copious packaging being one of my personal things - but really...I'll let it go.

For food, I put a fair amount of effort into this but I also try to cut down the effort over time. For example, I get an organic farm share/CSA delivered to the door, which is super easy on the shopping. Then I do the work of preserving/preparing it, but the preserving aspect saves time later in the year.

Cooking from scratch...I don't know that I personally at this point (practice) find it much harder than pre-packaged stuff for the most part and I *know* it's faster than ordering pizza (40 min) or the effort of getting in the car for takeout. Sometimes it's a matter of perception.

But it did take years to develop sort of that recipe bank/skill for a bunch of fast go-to food, and also a rhythm that works for me. (Like making & freezing pesto in batches....noodles with pesto is just as fast if not faster than mac-in-a-box).

But yes - in life you really do have to prioritize and I believe in balance. If something is not working, then let it go and be kind to yourself; I don't think being stressed out about doing everything right is very "natural family living."

~ Mum to Emily, March 12-16 2004, Noah, born Aug 2005, Liam, born January 2011, and wife to Carl since 1994. ~
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#8 of 21 Old 06-02-2010, 01:05 PM
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For example: I've been trying to curb my consumerist tendencies but have recently been shopping for new toys for a long car trip with DS. What I'm finding - yet again - is that there is sooo much c.r.a.p. available out there, but it's so hard to find good quality toys... If I can even find things locally, they're usually a fair bit more expensive or I have to go online and eat the shipping costs.

Do you have thrift stores in your area? We live in a very mainstream, superconsumer, top that! type of area where most people wouldn't even know what a thrift store is let alone be caught dead in one. So for us thrift shop shoppers it a gold mine! I've bought almost all my kid's toys (many natural wooden or metal) as well as my home daycare toys/bikes etc. (Just last week I picked up three all metal trikes, no gaudy plastic, just simple, red and cheap!) Plus baby stuff, including a mai tai for $8.
Where I used to live we had a Goodwill nearby which was fantastic, I miss it.
I'd hunt around a bit before you splurge on shipping costs : )
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#9 of 21 Old 06-02-2010, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by newbymom05 View Post
Then too there's the convenience factor everyone's mentioning--it's 100x easier to hit the Chik Filet drive thru and tell myself the (non organic, full of top-10 pesticide laden) fruit cup makes up for it. Why isn't there a hummus or sustainably farmed meat drive thru? But there isn't so we deal. And I"m not even that crunchy or organic--just avoiding food colorings, excessive salt and sugar and HFCS is enough to wad my panties on a daily basis.
See, and in some places there are such things-- or close to it (call ahead to the local hummus stand, run in and get it, and go). Location, location, location.

ETA actually I am pretty sure there is something like that in one spot in Atlanta across from a Chik Fil A.
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#10 of 21 Old 06-02-2010, 02:06 PM
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Yes, I find it more difficult in some areas and much less difficult in others.

Food is definitely an issue for us. Even if I was eating junk, the fact that my eating habits differ so much from the world around and especially from people that we interact with on a weekly basis makes it a very daunting task. But I do find cooking from scratch to be just as easy as cooking processed foods. There are wait times for everything you make, even junk food (unless you're just eating Doritos for dinner or something, I guess). I can make stuff in big batches, use the crock pot or the food processor, etc. etc. And I LIKE the food much better when I make it from scratch. That in itself is enough to keep me making the extra effort. No matter what the health components are, if it tastes better, I'm going to spend the time on it.

AP is really what brought me to this board, and I really find that overall easier (although there are some hard-at-the-moment things about it) than mainstream parenting. I don't have a stroller to maneuver or lug around, I don't care how many times my baby wakes at night because I just stuff my boob in her mouth and we both sleep, I don't have any bottles to bring or prepare, I can live in a smaller space because we have less "gear". We also do EC, and while that was initially more work than diapers, my daughter is mostly done with them at 15mo, which means I shaved a huge time off my diapering time with her. I only do diaper laundry once a week, if that. The same with GD, it does seem to require more patience, creativity, and attentiveness initially, but my 3yo is much less of a struggle for me than I've seen mainstream parents dealing with. And yeah, some of it is his personality (although, trust me, he is NOT an easy kid), but I feel like a lot of it is training myself to be tuned into his needs and meeting them before we have a meltdown.

I would say really, the hardest part about this life that I chose is public relations with people who don't agree. I don't want to convert anyone, but I also don't like being looked down on.
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#11 of 21 Old 06-02-2010, 02:12 PM
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You may find some things easier as your family gets older too. It's a little overwhelming with babies and small children, because that's an overwhelming stage anyway. Once you are past the diapering and the need to scrutinize every toy for so many things - swallowing hazards etc. - it won't be so tough. I second the idea to look for gently used clothes and toys.

For food, I would try to find alternatives like a CSA or farmer's market, buying a cow or lamb for the freezer, buying grains etc. in bulk...As long as you have the storage/freezer room, it will simplify things for you.
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#12 of 21 Old 06-02-2010, 02:15 PM
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i think the hardest part for me is the cost. in some ways i'm really thrifty and cut a lot of costs, but when it comes to being natural, it is least what i've found. i love organic fruits, veggies, meats, etc, but that of course adds up. and TOYS! man! they can be really expensive, but i would rather buy one or two good, natural quality toys that a bunch of those fisher-price, noisy flashing toys. and CD'ing can be expensive initially, but using CD's actually saved us when DH lost his job for a couple of months.

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#13 of 21 Old 06-02-2010, 10:16 PM
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I feel the same No advice here, really. i try to do batch prep but I am not willing to drive myself crazy with my food choices, except my my baby, i am very very picky about what he eats.
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#14 of 21 Old 06-02-2010, 10:18 PM
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Probably not what you want to hear but I actually feel like the AP stuff mostly makes my life easier, not harder.

CDing... Like you said, figuring out a routine is the hard part. Now I find it so much easier to dump the diapers in the wash in my own house than walk a huge stinking bag out to the Dumpster all the time. Truly.

Cosleeping means I don't have to wake up really when DD dream feeds. BFing means fewer bottles to wash (I WOH so we still have some.) Babywearing means I don't have to deal with maneuvering a stroller in stores and restaurants.

Whole Foods happens to be our nearest grocery store, it is a couple of blocks away (just lucky), I love to walk there with DD in the Angelpack... yeah it is pricey but luckily we are not hurting badly for $

Toys... honestly I haven't bought any toys myself. We have lots but they were all gifts. I don't really sweat it when somebody gives DD a toy that isn't all-natural or whatever though. I just say thanks and use the toy, mostly.

Label-reading... Yeah I've been a label-reader all my life. I'm always the one standing in the lotion aisle scanning the ingredient lists for parabens. I guess it's more effort than *not* doing that... but I've always been like this so it doesn't really register.

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I'm not crunchy. I'm evidence-based.
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#15 of 21 Old 06-02-2010, 10:40 PM
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What's really worked for us is to take baby steps, and then each step becomes integrated into our lives, to the point where we don't even have to think about it.

That said, this year being back at work (two more weeks!) we've had to rely on a lot of stuff (take out, frozen lunches, etc) that we normally would hate. It used to be if I walked into a conventional grocery store, it utterly overwhelmed me with all the colors/sounds/packaging/overstimulation/crap everywhere . But now we go there at least as much as the HFS that's our "normal" place.

And we do live in crunchy California, although at times we're still stuck driving a bit to get just the thing we want, or ordering online.

It's a journey, and every step is healthier... but overall, I think a lot of NFL is easier... like BFing is easier for me, hands down. Cosleeping with a baby nightnursing--easier. Feeing baby mashed pieces of my whole food--easier. Babywearing-- easier. Cleaning side by side with DD with just a mix of water/vinegar-- easier. And carrying diapers out to dump in the washing machine vs the garbage-- just as easy
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#16 of 21 Old 06-02-2010, 10:41 PM
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I guess I've never thought about it making my life more difficult or challenging. I just know that if I decided to go with a more mainstream lifestyle for convenience I'd be feeling guilty and conflicted. But maybe that's because I don't expect my lifestyle & choices to be easy - only to be worth my effort.

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#17 of 21 Old 06-02-2010, 11:38 PM
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GuildJenn summed it up
I get DS's toys and clothes at the consignment shop on my way back from walking to the farmer's market.
Anything I can't find there, I buy at the supermarket and don't feel that bad about it - I try to buy organic (although I try to buy local, too, and worry about the environmental costs of imported organic produce) and avoid the "dirty dozen."
I try to minimize household and personal care products - and worry less about choosing the most "natural" ones.
We cook from scratch thanks to some Sunday afternoon cooking and planning simple, quick meals.
But I'm guessing I'm a lot less crunchy than you - I have to admit I switched to disposable diapers at a year because my DCP wouldn't use them, although I found supermarket detergent worked perfectly fine to launder them

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#18 of 21 Old 06-03-2010, 03:25 AM
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It got easier when I realized it was *totally OK * to take some baby steps, and when I gave up on trying to "convert" anybody else.

It is perfectly OK for me to make a habit for example that if I do buy take out, it's Subway or veg. pizza or something like um the MSG free chinese we had tonight, and Daddy is OK with McD's. We are still eating WAY LESS McD's and similar than we would if I also bought it when it is just me and them. Or that the candy is up so high that I can't reach it and only Daddy hands it out.

It is perfectly OK to sometimes have my mom cook us a boxed convienience meal while we are at the park or whatever. (they are what I grew up on, she doesn't cook really) it is still better on us and the budget than whatever we could get at a drive-thru. (after all, it's not deep fat fried, and we typically have a salad or some sort of veg. too.)

It's also perfectly OK to do what we can afford and to focus on fresh home-cooked food. And I realized that doing that alone is a *huge* step for someone who grew up primarily on frozen and boxed meals.

and I agree a lot of the AP stuff is actually EASIER--I have not washed a bottle in ages. I prefer my cloth diapers. Fewer rashes and no worries like the recent change in the chemicals in Pampers...
I don't get up at night with a baby.

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#19 of 21 Old 06-03-2010, 12:40 PM
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There's a lot of hype and talk about AP/NFL being easier, and some of it is, it's true. Breastfeeding and babywearing and co-sleeping are the big ones for us. Yes, they all had a learning curve, but now that we've got it down I can't imagine putting out the effort to *not* do them.
BUT, I'm totally with you on the food, toys, products, etc. We use all homemade cleaners, because it's cheaper and I know they're crap free. But, using them requires that I ensure we have the supplies to make them on hand, and that I take the time to maintain the containers and keep the solutions mixed and stocked. It would be way easier to pick up windex at the grocery store. We also live in a place where access to important things is nil. There's no CSA here. There's no health food store. There's no Whole Foods-type store. The thrift stores are pretty sad. A friend found some cloth diaper liners and a swim diaper there, but I think that was a freak occurance! You certainly don't find wooden toys and mei tais there.
Food is my current big issue. Thankfully our grocery store does often have most of the dirty dozen produce items available in organics, but the prep and cooking from scratch sometimes feels waaaaaaay too hard these days. We used to make everything from scratch - bread, pasta, crackers... - but I can't remember the last time I made real bread since having dd!
I think, maybe, a lot of this stuff is harder now because you/we're also dealing with kids. There's simply less time in a day, and a lot less flexibility. We once made gnocci from scratch, and it took us forEVER, but that was pre-kids and it was ok to not eat until 9h30pm. We spent the time and enjoyed being together and laughing at our ineptitude, so it didn't seem like as much of a burden to do as it would today. That's my theory, anyway. Blame the kids!

For greater things are yet to come...

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#20 of 21 Old 06-03-2010, 12:49 PM
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I really enjoy doing research and live in a very wholesome naturally-inclined community so I don't find most things very hard to source, and there is lots of support for our approach to healthy living and parenting.

Some would say I go overboard with my research (I can get pretty obsessed when faced with a significant new purchase) but I find the investment in knowledge is worth the time and you really only have to do it once per product. I also don't find our lifestyle to be overly expensive compared to a more mainstream lifestyle. Sure in general food, toys and household products are more expensive when you choose the organic/natural option but then again there are so many things we simply don't need and they really add up. I don't buy paper towel, swiffer refills and a dozen different cleaners, for example, and I use the clothesline instead of the dryer. I don't need the latest fancy car or a cabinet full of dvds for DS, etc. I get really frustrated when people say that doing the right thing environmentally is expensive - in most cases it isn't, you just have to take the time to think outside the box.

What I find hardest is when we're confronted with a situation where the best option may be one that doesn't really jive with my values. It's hard to explain but an obvious example would be using antibiotics. Just yesterday I decided that DS needs them to finally lick a chest infection that has been driving him nuts for a month. For many moms, this would have been an easy decision made weeks ago. For me, just deciding to go to the doctor was a huge headache. I really wrestle between thinking it's no big deal to give antibiotics once in a while and there is a time for modern medicine and thinking no, not ever.

Happy mumma to my boys Henny Tom (Nov 30, 2008), Arlo Odie (Oct 5, 2010), and baby SISTER! due mid-Dec 2014.
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#21 of 21 Old 06-03-2010, 01:07 PM
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I have found one of the most helpful things for me was joining a Frontier Wholesale co-op. You can buy the products you want to use that are natural and less yucky for the environment and your body at an economical price (wholesale prices). I joined one that was already established then ended up starting my own with people I actually knew. If you find a few like-minded friends to join with you you can get free shipping if you order over $250 worth of stuff. PM me if you want more detailed info.

Also sometimes you just have to suck it up and use the icky stuff.

DS is 4!
DD 8/10/10!
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