If you're down on yourself for not doing everything "right," no matter what you feel "right" is -- cloth diapers, reading to your kids every night, no junk food -- please stop beating yourself up. As this wonderfully candid piece by Virginia Sole-Smith in Parents Magazine attests: Perfection is not only impossible, it is....well, actually that is her whole point. It's impossibly demanding, expensive, time-consuming, and unnecessary. And this, from a writer who once, she admits, got paid for hectoring moms to live every moment eco-mindfully:
Before I had kids, I had big plans. Breastfeeding, of course. Cloth diapers, absolutely. Only stainless-steel or glass bottles, sippy cups, and plates. Cleaning supplies made from white vinegar, lemon, and essential oils. The list goes on and on. Here’s the real confession: I didn’t just plan on doing these things myself. As an environmental-health journalist, I’d spent years writing articles about why other parents should do this stuff too. (Some of those stories were published right here in this very magazine!) Let me repeat: I wrote them before I had kids and, frankly, had no idea how hard it would be to clean spit-up stains with baking soda or pack zero-waste lunch boxes with only organic homemade meals.
Once the BPA hit the road, she realized that even her fellow green moms were "relaxing some of the 'natural parenting rules.'" They were buying Pampers, or using formula, or not worrying about organic pillow cases.
These choices aren’t about selling out. We’re just done trying to live up to the unrealistic standards developed in the 1970s by crunchy-parenting idols such as William Sears, M.D., and perpetuated these days by blogs like Genevieve Howland’s Mama Natural and Vana Hari’s Food Babe. Many green practices involve simple, easy swaps, but trying to Do It All Naturally creates more work, costs us more money, and makes us feel like we’ve failed for not being some perfect paragon of natural parenting.
Virginia's solution? Do the "natural" things that actually work for you, but 1) Feel unguilty about embracing some conveniences, 2) Stop assuming everything considered "green" is automatically so much better for your kid or the environment, and 3) Recognize the burden (especially on moms) that some "natural" practices are creating for no reason.
Natural parenting, with its many rules and studies and lists of ingredients to memorize and analyze, can feel like a hugely important project to take on. Of course, protecting the environment is important, but it’s also not a problem we can fix just by shopping our way out of it or cooking all our meals from scratch. Making small changes when they make sense and don’t create a lot of stress is one thing. Feeling like we’re single-handedly failing the planet and our children is a sign that we’ve lost the plot.
The whole piece is so liberating, it feels like in writing it, Virginia also liberated herself.
At Let Grow, we believe in liberation, too, from the idea of perfection, and from the nutty idea that kids NEED perfection. They don't. In fact, it's oppressive.
If you have found yourself relaxing your "standards" -- and loving it -- we'd love to hear it too. And here's to a relaxing weekend!
Photo from Unsplash by @mah .