Monday, April 20, 2009

Cloth nappy saga part II

This is sooo exciting - I've never had such a controversial post as the previous one! Soon I am going to be able to get advertising on this site, or maybe get a guest role as the radio shock jock of mothering ! So, in the interests of milking it for all it's worth, here are some more thoughts on how supercilious and judgemental I am for preferring cloth nappies.

But first, some sanity:

It's great to try to move our lives in the direction of ecological righteousness, but it's also true that every human activity has environmental impact -- especially the activities of that fraction of the human population rich enough to have diapers of any kind. From the earth's point of view it's not all that important which kind of diapers you use. The important decision was having the baby.

(Donella H. Meadows is an adjunct professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth College.)


I think that trying to silence women by saying 'Don't have opinions because other women might feel upset,' is unfeminist. When did women become such sensitive flowers that an opinion from someone with a different point of view was enough to reduce them to quivering balls of inferiority complex? The world changes through us having visions - different visions - of how to make the world a better place. Then we have discussions (or arguments about it), then if we are so inclined, we become activists about it. For example, in my opinion, same sex parents should be legally recognised. It's not just about "what's right for us" - I want the whole of Queensland legislation to change to accept this! I'm not a breastfeeding or natural birth activist, but yay for those that are.

I think that it is important for women, for mothers, to have opinions and be proud of them. We are doing an important job. The way we bring up our children determines the sort of people they will become, and the sort of society we are creating in the future.

So think about how you are parenting, do the research, decide what you want to do, and have the guts to stand up for it.

I think using cloth nappies is better - for the environment, for my pocket, and because it looks better.
I think extended breastfeeding is better.
I think keeping my children out of childcare as long as possible is better.
I think immunising is better.
I think co-sleeping is better - for attachment, for preventing SIDS, for maintaining breastmilk supplies and because it is yummy.
I think gentle parenting (no corporal punishment or emotional abuse) is better.

I don't just think these things are better for my children, I think they are better generally. If everyone used cloth nappies, imagine the reduction in waste (with the caveat of the quote above). I think there should be paid maternity leave for the first year of a child's life so all children could have a parent at home full time. I think immunising works because whole communities participate in it. I think we are still suffering from the clever post-war era marketing ploys of the formula manufacturers (scientific=better!) so that our own mothers have very little breastfeeding wisdom to pass on. If all children were brought up gently and with positive messages, I think there would be less bullying, depression, teen suicide, drug addiction and so on.

These are my beliefs and I feel okay about having them.

Also, there are things I think are better that I don't do.

I think being a vegetarian is better for the planet - meat is very resource intensive.
I think it is better for children to watch no TV in the early years.
I think natural childbirth is better than a caesarean.

For various reasons, I don't do these. But if I'm with someone who does, I don't fall into a heap complaining about how they are so smug and superior. I've made my decisions and I'm okay with that.

I hear working mums complain that stay-at-home mums "make" them feel guilty, and I hear stay-at-home mums complain that they get no respect and they have sacrificed so much. I choose to be a stay-at-home mum and I'm happy with that - proud of it even. I think it is better. But if I chose to work, I would do so because I thought that was better - better financially, better for my sanity, or better as a role model for my children as a woman who is concerned with more than the domestic sphere.

I think that if you have low self esteem before you have a baby, you will have low self esteem after you have a baby, and other people holding back their opinions won't save you. If you feel guilty about something, you'll feel guilty - other people's words or actions might trigger guilty thoughts, but you've got to have something to feel guilty about in the first place.

I also think that me saying, 'This society would be in better shape if everyone used cloth nappies,' is no different to my readers saying, 'This society would be in better shape if everyone kept their opinions to themselves.' We want everyone to live the way we think is best. Religious nuts do it, greenies do it, you do it.

Let's all have opinions and be proud of them!


Deborah said...

Yes, for the most part I think that the things we do (i.e. my partner and I) with respect to parenting are "better" things to do. Like having family dinner around the dining table, not in front of the tv (much easier for us now that our girls have attained the age of reason, but we have done it since they were tiny). And some things I recognise as being better, even though I don't do them myself, for reasons.

Capcha: pecim. Related to the Latin verb pecare - to sin?

Deborah said...

Actually, that would be peccare. My convent education obviously didn't stick.

Anonymous said...

it is my opinion (and i'm proud of this opinion) that calling people bogans is not just an aesthetic judgement but one about perceived class. and i think it is better for feminists not to engage in or perpetuate a class system if we can avoid it. (perhaps i am naive, but it's my opinion nonetheless). that, in a nutshell, is my response to the previous post, which i have thought about a lot over the weekend. i didn't respond because i felt that others had eloquently said what i felt.

for what it's worth, it is also my opinion that erin is right about the mommy wars and i think it was a super-long bow for anonymous to draw to suggest that erin was talking about abusive situations.

gorilla_gardener said...

I don’t think it’s about _not_ having opinions; I think it’s about expressing opinions in a way that doesn’t belittle or put down people that do differently. I’m sorry, but I think the tone of this and the previous post did not come across well. Of course I think feminism should be robust enough to allow for informed debate around different parenting choices/methods but I think the way this debate is couched needs to be done carefully; I did feel offended by some of your comments (e.g. bogan; the whole ‘us and them’ feel to your post; the low self-esteem in this one); and I think the writer also has to take some responsibility for others’ reactions, not put it all onto the reader, to be honest.

And I don’t think you can easily equate parenting choices with other kinds of choices: I think parenting is loaded, loaded, loaded with emotion and people will take any perceived criticism very personally. Perhaps that’s self-esteem (and women having low self-esteem, why would that be, I wonder? In this patriarchal society and all); perhaps it’s internalised guilt; but isn’t this because of the way motherhood (and “good mothering”) is set up in our society – it’s our fault how the child turns out; it’s our fault how our child is behaving; we are told every choice we’ve made along the way makes the child. Just one example, I’m thinking of the controlled-crying/don’t carry them too much they’ll never learn independence school of thought; or perhaps the reverse, carry them all the time or they won’t feel attached to you; the consequences are always apparently horrendous and lifelong and, guess what IT’S YOUR FAULT.

So, in sum, not to say you shouldn’t agitate for change, or for what you feel is the right choice, but don’t get too surprised if people get upset and take offence. Having said all this, I did find the cloth-nappy post informative and interesting as well.

Kelly & Sam Pilgrim-Byrne said...

Ahhh, the cloth vs sposie debate!

For the record, we use sposies and we're definitely not bogans thanks very much!

I think cloth nappies look fussy and like a lot of effort and your previous post didn't do anything to change that view and if I'm honest with myself, I too attach value judgements to those who use cloth nappies.

By you using the term 'bogan' it indicates that you think you are above those 'dirty bogans' who put their children in disposables which I don't think measures up on any feminist debate very well.

Remember, we're not all home 24/7 to be able to wash and dry nappies - and let's not forget the water that is used in washing those nappies.

I'm pleased for you that you believe you are making the best choices for your family, but really, is there a need to name call mothers who don't make the same choices for whatever reason?

Deborah said...

I don't think Mikhela was name-calling at all. Look, it really is better to have dinner around the family table, and to read aloud to your children, and to spend more time at home with them if you can. There can be good reasons for people doing otherwise, but often that's a compromise. Like the compromise you might have to make between spending longer at home with your children, and going out to work to earn an income to support them. Or like the compromise you might make about using disposable nappies because you have twins, and you already have a toddler, and you have a partner who won't go cloth, which is what happened for me. Get over it. It happens.

ThirdCat said...

Usually I hide from conflict - especially blog conflict where nuance is very often the victim - but because of what you said about opinions, I'm gonna put my two cents worth in...

This is why the bogan bit worries me. Saying "Babies who aren't in cloth nappies look like bogan babies to me now" feels to me like it puts a judgment on a child - or, worse, a baby and that's where the post stops being about the issue of cloth vs disposable for me.

By labelling a baby 'a bogan baby', I feel that we start the process of turning our babies into our accessories. And, in my opinion, babies and children as accessories is what's at the bottom of the Mummy Wars (which I use for want of a better term). I'm not saying that's why you intended to do by any means, I'm just saying that's my response to it and that's why I felt uncomfortable about the post.

So that's one cent. The other cent. I absolutely agree that we make decisions about what is better and that's how we raise our children. (As a sort of aside, sometimes we don't make decisions, sometimes we just look up and realise we've been doing something without giving it a lot of thought). However, when we label things as 'better' I think it's important that we remember to add 'for me/us', 'for raising the kind of child I want to raise', 'for being the kind of parent I want to be' because there's lots of ways to bring up children and lots of ways to be a parent and lots of those ways are good. For example, attachment parenting. Not for me. But I am very glad that some people do do attachment parenting. I think it's good that my children will hang around with children who were attachment parented. Diversity is good. But I also think there are ways to be a gentle, loving parent that aren't attachment parenting. Still, I see why some people love it so much.

We are lucky that we have so many choices and that we are able to discuss these choices. Where I live now, cloth nappies would not be an option.

One of the problems about all this is that our choices are sometimes implicit criticisms of other people's choices, or we feel that others' choices are implicit criticisms of ours. It has taken me a few years to get my head around that. But if I start going into all that, this comment will be longer than any post I've ever written on my blog.

Anyhoo, apart from all that, I was rather amazed at the cloth nappy changes that have happened in just the short time since my children were wearing them.

Anonymous said...

Ouch!! Sorry, but I think it is sad for an adult to apply the term 'bogan' to a child just because their parents made the choice to put him/her in a disposable.

We use cloth most of the time. I love cloth, but I also value the benefits of a disposable nappy. I feel more guilt using cloth than disposable... guilt that I'm using so much water when we're on high water restrictions; guilt that it takes my time away from my children to wash, stuff and fold them; guilt that I would like a bit of 'me' time occasionally instead of tending to nappies when they're asleep; guilt that my child regularly gets nappy rash when in cloth (despite what I do to stop it) when they've NEVER had nappy rash with disposables!!

Today my child is in cloth. But does my child look cute? Yes!!!