Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cloth Diapering 101: Part 2, The Wipes

OK, so I'm the worst blogger ever!  Three months between blogs that are part of a series!  Oy!  I'll try to be more on top of this going forward.

In this second installment, I'll be talking about wipes.  Back in February of 2011 I wrote about The Great Wipe Debate.  It's amazing for me to look back at this post & see how much I have learned since then!  For those of you who read the initial blog, my methods & opinions have since changed on cloth wipes.  For those of you who didn't read the old post - don't bother.  I'll start fresh here.

BumGenius Flannel Wipes
Many people debate over whether or not to use cloth wipes or not.  I am finding that most of the time the people who don't use them don't because they haven't found the right combination of cleanliness, ease & portability.  When I started with cloth wipes, I received a tip to use baby washcloths instead of actual flannel cloth wipes because they were much cheaper.  BIG mistake!  I used the washcloths for a while and wasn't very fond of the results.  They were very harsh on my baby's skin and often time led to a small rash because of that.  So if you're trying to save a buck while cloth diapering, don't do it there!  Get the flannel wipes!  As with all things cloth, the initial expense is greater than with disposable but the overall savings will win out in the long haul.  They are about $1.00 a wipe and are usually sold by the dozen.  The first flannel wipes I bought were BumGenius flannel wipes but you can buy good flannel wipes on any cloth diapering site. Or you can save money and make your own if you're handy with a sewing machine. 

So how do these things work?  What do you do with them?  Is it worth it?

Overall I'd say that yes, if you are using cloth diapers cloth wipes are worth it.  If you're using cloth diapers & disposable wipes, that means possibly digging through mess to dispose of the wipes or putting a mess to the side.  With cloth wipes, you just toss it all in the pail together and its done.  No digging, no separating, no wondering what to do with a poopy wipe while you get another one because your child's bum isn't clean!  There are many different ways you can make cloth wipes work but the most important thing here is to find what works best for you.

California Baby Diaper Area Wash
In order for the wipes to work, they need to be wet or you have to use some form of spray.  So you must first decide what you want to use.  Many diapering sites sell wipe solutions.  Here's where you can save a few bucks and make your own.  Get a spray bottle & fill it with water & some mild soap - just a tiny bit.  It can be anything you're comfortable using on your baby's bottom.  Or just plain water works fine too.  The second thing you want to decide is how to use said solution.  You can either pre-wet wipes so they are ready when you need them, or you can spray the wipes as you need them.  In my experience, it is just easier to have wet wipes on hand because you never know when you're going to need them, it's one less thing to have to worry about during diaper changes, and you don't have to carry a spray bottle in your diaper bag.  Let's face it - you're already carrying enough in there!

Huggies travel case with cloth wipes
If you decide to spray on demand, simply spray the wipe or your baby's bottom & wipe the mess away.  I'd recommend having 2 spray bottles - one for home and a travel one so you can just leave one in the diaper bag.  If you want to pre-wet the wipes, you'll need a waterproof container to store them in.  Some people like wipe warmers for the house - any wipe warmer will do.  I just use a travel wipe case, again any case will do.  I think mine came with a package of Huggies wipes, so if you have one of those laying around from your disposable wipes you're set!  Just wet some wipes with your solution or just water, put in the case & you're good to go!

A little tip here...I have found that if I have wet wipes sitting in a case for more than 2 days they get a funky mildew smell to them.  So at the beginning of each day I take out the number of wipes I think I will use for the day, wet them in my sink, wring them out and put them in a travel case.  If I need more I can always wet more.  If I don't use all the ones I wet, they are OK for the next day.  After a week or so you should be able to guesstimate the number of wipes your baby will need for a day.

But what do I do with my poopy wipes?

Easy.  After the diaper change is over, just toss the used wipe into the diaper pail or wetbag and wash with your diapers.  That's it.  I know it might seem impossible that all of that yuckiness will wash off of the wipe but it will, I assure you.  When I am out & about I keep the dirty wipes wrapped in the dirty diaper in the wetbag so that when I deal with everything at home I'm not reaching into a bag filled with poop and it's easily tossed into the diaper pail.

That's about it for wipes!  Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cloth Diapering 101: Part 1, The Diapers

When I started this blog, it was primarily so that a few people could follow my cloth diapering adventures.  In the beginning, I stayed somewhat on topic and a majority of the posts were about cloth diapering and what I was learning.  However, I recently realized that I never went over the basics of cloth diapering!  After talking a few friends through the first stages of cloth I have decided I might as well cover it all here.  I'm going to break it all down so that it's not overwhelming (hopefully).  Today's topic:  The Diapers.  What is needed & what kinds are there.

In order for cloth diapers to do their job, you need three basic things:
1.  Something absorbent
2.  Something waterproof
3.  Something to keep it closed

There are many variations on all of these, and that is probably why the most overwhelming part of cloth diapering is making sense of it all.  Once you understand which part does what, it's easiest to make decisions about what your preferences would be.

BumGenius newborn AIO
The most basic, easiest to use and understand type of diaper is the All-In-One (AIO).  Like the name says, all three requirements are in one piece.  Nothing to stuff, nothing to adjust, you use it exactly like you would a disposable diaper except you wash & reuse it instead of toss it away.  These are great for newborns, while you're getting used to cloth diapering, and for baby-sitters and other reluctant-to-cloth caregivers.  The downfall is that these diapers are usually sized and you will need to upgrade your stash (read: spend more money) when your little one outgrows each size.  Also, since nothing comes apart they take a while to dry.  I am seeing these "true AIO" diapers less and less, and mostly only in newborn sizes.  However BumGenius recently came out with what they are calling a FreeTime AIO diaper, and this seems to be a new version of an AIO but the layers of absorbancy are exposed & I imagine they take less time to dry than other AIO's since it is open.  I have not yet tried these myself, but they do seem like they would be really easy to use.  The variations on the AIO's are usually just with how they fasten, and these are the same for most other diapers as well - either aplix (velcro) or snaps, and some offer the umbilical snap-down for newborns.  Aplix is really easy to use, especially for newborns, however some people encounter problems with it wearing out over time.  If you are only getting the newborn AIO's, you'll probably be fine, and if you're handy with a sewing machine you can easily replace the aplix.  Besides CottonBabies, other brands of AIO's are:  Rumparooz Lil' Joey's and Swaddlebees.

The Pocket Diaper in a Nutshell
The next type of diaper is often times referred to as an AIO, however there are two parts to it.  This is the pocket diaper.  It's probably the most popular type of diaper out there.  They are easy to use, you can customize absorbancy by changing what you stuff it with, and they are often a one-size-fits-all (OS) which is very appealing to the wallet!  The outside shell of the diaper is your "something waterproof" (usually PUL - polyurethane laminated fabric) and "something to keep it closed".  Most of them come with the "something absorbent" and you can pick & choose what you want to use or buy additional inserts.  Basically you have the outside shell of the diaper and there is an opening (pocket), usually in the back where you can add your absorbent layers, called inserts or soakers.  Many of these are made out of microfiber materials, however you can also stuff them with other types of inserts, including cottons and wools, and most of them can accommodate prefolds as well (we'll get to those later).
Tweedle Bugs OS Pocket Diaper

As I mentioned before, many of these are OS and there are a few ways to achieve this.  Most brands use the snap-down method - They will have several rows of snaps on the front of the diaper where the size of the diaper is adjusted by folding the top row of snaps down and snapping it into place on one of the designated rows.  This is probably the most popular method and is offered with BumGenius, Rumparooz, Tweedle Bugs and GroVia.  Others have adjustable elastic hidden in the legs of the diapers like FuzziBunz, and others have Slide2Size like SoftBums, which is a toggle & drawstring system hidden in the legs & front panel of the diaper so you can custom fit the diaper to your baby instead of move between pre-designated sizes.  But not all pocket diapers are OS; there are quite a few sized pocket diapers out there if you don't want to deal with snapping and unsnapping every time you use a diaper.  Happy Heinys and FuzziBunz offer sized pocket diapers, and Thirsties bridges the gap and offers two sizes that each adjust using snaps.

The only downside that I have found while using these OS diapers is that they can be a bit bulkier on smaller babies, and too big for some newborns.  They claim to be ideal for babies as small as 8 lbs, but I think it's more like 10-12 lbs.  While I think that OS pocket diapers are definitely the way to go for all of your cloth diapering needs, I do think that newborn sized diapers should be used in those first few weeks/months/however long they fit depending on how big your baby is.  The good news is that these diapers got me through potty training with my daughter and she wore them until she was 2 and a half years old, and I kept one of the newborn sizes around for playing with dolls as she gets older :)

Here's where things start to get a little blurry and confusing.  AI2's, covers, prefolds.  Sometimes there's not much of a difference between an AI2 and a diaper cover.  Sometimes they are interchangeable and can be used with many types of inserts, sometimes they are brand specific.

SoftBums Echo AI2 Diaper
Let's start with the All-In-Two (AI2).  Like a pocket diaper, the outside shell of the diaper is your "something waterproof" (PUL) and "something to keep it closed".  The difference is that the "something absorbent" either snaps into place or gets tucked into flaps without being covered by a pocket.  The aim of these diapers is to re-use the outer shell for multiple diaper changes and only have to replace the soiled insert.  The most popular brands of these are SoftBums, gDiapers, and the Flip System.  The downside to these is if the shell is lined with any kind of soft material it will get wet with the insert and I am not personally comfortable reusing a wet shell, so I just use those diapers once and am done with them until they are washed.  Both the Flip System & gDiapers offer disposable inserts as well as cloth inserts.  I don't see the point of that too much, but I figured I should mention it. Some of these shells can be used as diaper covers for any number of absorbent layers, which brings us to yet another side of cloth diapering:  Prefolds.

Prefold with Diaper Pins
What are Prefolds?  Prefolds are probably what most people think of when they think of cloth diapers.  Old-school, white cotton diapers.   Prefolds are the "something absorbent" part of diapers and need to be coupled with "something waterproof" and "something to keep it closed".  Years ago, these diapers would be held together with diaper pins and then rubber pants would be put over them as a waterproofing layer.  Luckily, there have been many advancements in cloth diapering, and the pins & rubber pants aren't really necessary, thanks to diaper covers.

Prefold in a Thirsties Cover
Diaper covers are the updated version of rubber pants.  They are the "something waterproof" (PUL) and the "something to keep it closed" portions of the cloth diapering formula.  Both the Flip System & the SoftBums Omni are large enough to accommodate a prefold.  And like I mentioned earlier, most pocket diapers can be stuffed with prefolds for extra absorbency.  But for designated diaper covers, just fold the prefold in threes, lay in the center of the shell or diaper cover, and close the diaper cover around your baby as usual.  When the time comes to change the diaper, the shell or cover can be reused through multiple changes, just use a new prefold.  Prefolds & covers are probably the cheapest way to cloth diaper your babies.  Covers are made in all shapes and sizes, some are OS, some are sized, some are specifically for newborns, some are aplix, some are snapped.  My favorite covers are the Flip System, Econobum, and Thirsties Duo Wrap.  But be forewarned - the Duo Wrap runs very big, so the smaller size will last for quite a while.  Diaper covers don't have to be used with just prefolds either; you can use any kind of absorbent material that will fit into them.  Some people use old flannel sheets or t-shirts in lieu of prefolds. And there are plenty of stay-dry inserts out there that can be used in conjunction with covers as well.  And then there are fitted diapers.

Fitted diapers are sized diapers that have a closure on them (aplix or snaps), and look very similar to every other diaper we have talked about.  However, there is no waterproof layer to them so you would still need a diaper cover over these.  In my opinion, I'm not sure why these even exist anymore but they do, and you should be aware of them because they seem to have everything - just not the "something waterproof" part, which is SUPER important!  When buying your diapers make sure you know what you're getting.  If you want something waterproof, make sure the description includes a waterproof layer or PUL.

Have I confused you yet, or are you still with me?

The important thing is not to get overwhelmed.  Decide what kinds of diapers you want to use (pocket, AIO, covers & prefolds) and only price the brands that make what you're looking for.  You won't really know what works best for you and your baby until you start trying things out, so if you're not sure what you want to try, buy a few things and then only stock up on what you really like.  If you're starting with a newborn, I recommend getting a few newborn sized AIO's to start out with.  Then I would recommend getting a pocket diaper and a cover and some prefolds.  Prefolds will never go to waste.  Even if you don't use them as diapers, you can use them as burp rags, dish cloths, cleaning rags, etc.  And if anything is confusing or you're not sure how to use/fold it, try YouTube.  I am willing to guarantee that someone has posted a video answering your question. 

Good luck!

I have to take time here to thank my friend Julia for being my go-to cloth diapering guru.  If it wasn't for her, I probably would have freaked out too much to even try CD-ing.  She has some interesting things going on over at her blog, so check her out at Greenish Me :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Finding the Bliss in the Stress

Yesterday was stressful.  It was a long day filled with road trips and swimming lessons and fighting over fake ice cream.  The bedtime routine was especially hard last night as well.  I have been handling bedtime for both kids by myself this week as my wife is away on business.  It's been a little challenging, but we didn't have any major issues until last night.

Both kids had fallen asleep on the way home in the car.  I brought R in first in his carseat and left him in the dining room sleeping.  Then I brought K in, hoping to just transfer her to her bed like I do on many a night.  For whatever reason she woke up, though I am not convinced she was entirely awake.  She was crying, flailing, kicking, slapping herself and yelling something about corn.  All of this is very unlike a sleepy K.  I could not find any way to soothe her no matter how I tried, no matter how much I told her I was there and that she was OK.

In this midst of this half hour battle of trying to calm her down, she woke R up.  Of course.  Why wouldn't I be able to go to sleep at a decent hour in my own bed by myself?  So he was sitting in the dining room by himself crying.  Now the dilemma of, "Who needs me more?"  Unfortunately, when I went to pick R up, this induced an even more severe reaction in K - I didn't think that was possible, but it did.  The only resolution I could see was to bring R into K's bed with us until I could get either one of them to sleep.  I was annoyed that they were both awake, I was annoyed that they were both crying, and I was annoyed that I couldn't just go to bed myself.  It was an exhausting day and I was drained.

I don't know who started to fade first; it seems like it happened simultaneously.  I was laying on my back, K sleeping on her stomach yet wrapped around my left side, and R had been nursing on my right side but found his way up to cuddle in the crook of my neck. 

As horrible as the night had been, this was one of the most wonderful moments I have had with them together.  Lullabys were faint in the background; twitches indicative of deepening sleep alternating from one side to the other; the airy shudder of breath, the last signs of a sob in each ear...Any trace of aggravation or annoyance I had earlier was completely gone.  What was I annoyed at anyway?  That they needed me?  That they wanted so much for me to pick them up and to love them?  That they needed me to soothe them?  Those are not reasons to be annoyed, those are things to cherish - they will only be this way for such a short amount of time, and I know it.  I remember actively remembering my last few naps with K before R was born.  Now it seems so long ago but I remember it like it was yesterday because I knew I had to hang on to it.

I could feel myself starting to drift off and fought it just so that I could savor this moment, this secret nighttime solace where I lay sandwiched between my two children who cling to me for comfort because they love me.  Their sweet smell enveloping me, their hair tickling my face and neck, their little hands grabbing my arms as they twitch even further into sleep, their slowing breath on my neck relaxing me to sleep myself.  This is what love feels like.  It is the most amazing feeling in the world.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Go Green Diapers Giveaway

This was too cool of a giveaway not to share!

GoGreenDiapers has developed a fantastic new diaper called the Champ 3.0.  They are a pocket diaper, but they are changing the way that pocket diapers are made with this new design.  Their new features are dual leg gussets and double layers of PUL.

The dual leg gussets are something I feel has been missing from cloth diapers.  Disposable diapers have been using these for many years, and with this enhancement, I truly feel that there is NOTHING that disposables have on cloth!

Double layers of PUL will make this diaper extra waterproof & super durable.  This will lengthen the life of your diaper and give you more quality for your money.

To celebrate their new creation, GoGreen is doing a pre-release giveaway at Baby Half Off!  Go check it out for your chance to win one of these revolutionary diapers!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Coming Soon: Conneuter's Soap!

I have blogged before about my frustrations with the lack of selection of cloth diaper detergents available.  I have mentioned the desire to start making my own detergent.  I have shared my failed attempts as well. 

After much research & contemplation, I finally think I am on to something!  I still need to work on the scent - nothing I am doing is leaving a lingering scent quite like I'd like it to, but I think I have the formula down, or at least a very decent start to one!  A friend of mine is helping me test it out preliminarily, but within the next few weeks I believe I will be ready to open up the testing to a broader audience!  Conneuter's Soap is on the Horizon!

I will be looking for cloth diapering families willing & interested in assisting with the testing process, so "like" our Facebook page and stay tuned here for more info. if you want to help out!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dealing With Anger & Letting It Go

Yesterday morning I had a run-in with someone who made a less than desirable comment on one of my Facebook posts, and I reacted out of anger.  The only reason I bring this up and write a blog about it is because I thought I had moved past being an angry person and my reaction to the situation upset me.  Anger like all emotions, serves a purpose and can be healthy.  At what point does it become destructive?

When I was younger I had a bit of an issue with anger.  That's an understatement - I was an extremely angry person.  It took many years but I got to the root of it, worked out some demons, and finally became a sane, rational person again.  Basically, after years of being a punching bag to my peers, low self-esteem, and some bad situations, I had had enough with the world and something inside of me broke and all of this rage came flooding out of me.

On the one hand, it was good for me - I stopped letting people take advantage of me as I had for most of my life.  I stood up for myself.  I had such low self-esteem back then that when someone befriended me I felt that since I wasn't worthy of friendship to begin with, I'd better do what I can to keep them around.  And so I lost a lot of myself to that.  I became a people pleaser (those of you who knew me in college probably find the thought of that impossible).  I made bad choices in many of the friends that I kept around and they took advantage of me time & time again.  I poured all of me into every friendship I ever made, because if I had friends it meant that I was worth something, right?  I would have done anything to not rock the boat with anyone.  If there was a problem it had to be my fault and I took ownership of it right away whether or not I should have.  I wouldn't allow myself to express opposing opinions on anything, wouldn't call anyone out on how ridiculous they were, all for fear of being made fun of or abandoned.  It didn't matter as long as everyone was happy.

At some point I got tired of it all.  Something inside me started screaming, "I deserve better than this!" and this dormant rage was unleashed on the world.  I was angry at everyone and everything.  And in a way, I deserved to be.  I needed to be.  It's how I found my backbone again, my voice.  I was tired of being walked all over, tired of keeping my mouth shut just to keep the peace when nobody around me seemed to care how I was affected by anything. I was tired of giving and never getting anything back.

That part is fine, that's the healthy anger.  We should stick up for ourselves.  We should not let ourselves be walking doormats.  We are worthy of love & friendship, and it is possible to maintain that through arguments and differences of opinion.  Anger helps us protect ourselves.

But not when it's your only reaction, and to the extreme.  I was never just a little angry; it was like a switch - all or nothing.  I would react with the same amount of anger whether you accidentally bumped into me or if you started screaming obscenities in my face.  I couldn't get it under control, and it was a problem.  Add in college, some alcohol (and other things) and I was a total mess.  Luckily, I was never physically expressive with it beyond slamming some doors and throwing french fries across the room.  But I'm sure I damaged a few relationships because of it and I do have some regrets about that.

It took a lot of soul searching and hard work, but I finally made it to a place of normalcy.  I wasn't angry all the time anymore, and when I did get angry it was reasonable.  I've been in balance for a long time now and thought that my problems with anger were behind me.  Until yesterday morning.

The actual argument isn't important.  I allowed myself to be engaged in negative conversation, I let my emotions get the best of me, and I reacted in a way that I am not proud of.  I only allowed myself to go back & forth with this individual twice before deciding to cut it off.  And even then he sent me hateful messages that I simply deleted.  So I did have some restraint - the old me would have gone on for much longer with much harsher commentary.  And had I decided to cut it off, I would have fought to the death!  But I didn't do that, I cut it off and then let it go right away.  Well, not right away.  I decided I needed to let it go right away and then I actually did let it go during my morning run.  The old me would have been steamed for hours later.

But I don't want to be that person anymore.  I don't want to allow anger to control me.  And the fact that it did, even if only for a few minutes, worries me.  The fact that I allowed myself to get sucked in to a negative conversation in the first place bothers me.  Why didn't I just let his comments go?  Why did I have to respond at all?  I was just sticking up for myself though, isn't that OK?

Of course it's OK.  But one thing I have learned is that anger & negativity begets more anger & negativity.  I had to know what I was getting into by responding at all.  I fed into it.  Why did I feed into it? And at what point does anger go from being an OK, healthy emotion to something that is not so healthy?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Swimming in Cloth

Believe it or not, two days ago was the first time I used a cloth diaper in the water!  When I started CD-ing my daughter, she was already 20 months old and it was the beginning of fall.  Shortly after she turned 2, we started the potty training process.  Also, shortly after she turned 2, my son was born and we didn't spend a lot of time in the pool/ocean that summer.  So last summer didn't lend itself to many opportunities to use a swim diaper at all. However, since we're just beginning this summer and R is far from potty training, I am sure the opportunities will be plentiful!

Cloth swim diapers from Mother Ease
I should start out by saying that I know they make cloth/reusable swim diapers, but I haven't purchased any.  Since I'm not sure if there will be a baby #3 or not, I'm not willing to invest the money in them since I know that regular cloth diapers can be used as well.  Really, we'd only be using it this summer and next summer (assuming that R is potty trained by age 3).

BumGenius AIO by CottonBabies
So the first time he went in the water, I used a BumGenius AIO and didn't use any additional inserts as I normally do.  Everything was fine, but I noticed that when I went to change the diaper his poor baby butt was wrinkly!  AIO's absorb too much for use in the water.  It wasn't the end of the world, and there was no risk of an exploding diaper as there are with regular disposables, but lesson learned, don't use AIO's in the water!

BumGenius 4.0 by CottonBabies
Day 2, I decided to use a BumGenius 4.0 with only the newborn insert.  I thought about using no insert at all, but I was a little skeptical since there would be absolutely nothing to absorb in case he were to pee outside of the pool.  This went better than the AIO, but he was still a little water-logged at the end of the day.  Again, nothing that some airing out can't fix, but I'd prefer not to let him get and stay so soaked.

SoftBums Omni
So next time I will give the 4.0's another try but without any insert or maybe a SoftBums without an insert.  I'll just have to use the same caution as with disposable swim diapers - put them on right before getting in the water & take them off shortly afterwords to avoid risk of leakage.  I was hoping to be able to avoid that with the cloth, but oh well.  Either way, I see no need to ever use a disposable swim diaper again!

What are your favorite cloth diapers to use as swim diapers?  Any suggestions?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Moms Against Moms

I have blogged before about how moms commiserating can be harmful, but it focused mainly on the negative headspace you can get stuck in by focusing on the bad parts of a situation instead of the positives, and it was mainly in regards to mom bloggers. But a few days back I came across a dialogue online that bothered me.  It happens all too frequently in real life and it kind of disgusts me.

To sum it up, there were two moms commiserating, and not in the healthy, supportive way. The good way sounds something like this:
Mom1: Ugh, last night was horrible! I barely got any sleep, the baby woke to eat 7 times last night, we tried co-sleeping but I couldn't get comfortable, and everyone was miserable!  So now I'm exhausted and hubby is away on business for 4 days so the rest of my week is going to be bad too!
Mom2: I hear you, those early days can be brutal but they'll be over before you know it. -- Or -- Our family co-slept for 5 years, maybe I can help you find a way to do it more comfortably?  --Or-- Would you like some help this week?
Healthy. Supportive. Helpful. Attempting to bring another mom up out of a dark place. However, this is not the dialogue that I was reading. What I saw were 2 women, who were both apparently moms, and were complaining about how difficult their lives were. Piles of laundry, seemingly absent spouses, general exhaustion, etc. But instead of trying to support each other or sympathize, it seemed more like they were trying to one-up each other with how hard their lives were. One would complain that it seemed like there was always a stack of dirty dishes and the other would come back with something like, "And you only have 1 kid! I have 3!!" As though having a bigger mess from 3 kids makes you a better mom or more of a mom somehow. Why the competition for who has it worse? Why would you be proud of the fact that your life is kinda miserable? I thought that the point of life was to enjoy it and to share that happiness with others, not bring them down further into darkness when they are clearly already struggling. Your life being worse or you having to deal with seemingly "more" than someone else does not negate the fact that the other person is also having a hard time. I came across this a lot when I was the mother of one. If I so much as mentioned I was having a difficult time at all, a barrage of people would say to me, "Wait until you have two!" or "You have it easy, you only have 1!". I just don't understand this. How are these comments at all helpful? They're not. They are bragging rights for the miserable. It's basically another way of saying to someone, "Your problems are insignificant. I have to deal with more. Shut-up."

But the part that really got to me, the part that was not only personally insulting to me but harmful to all of us, was at the end of the conversation.  The one mom had seemingly come to the end of her complaint list, and the other mom said something along the lines of, "Well, at least you get to stay home all day!  I do all of this AND have a full-time job!"  To me, this is her way of saying that because she works outside of the home, she does more or was a better mom because of it, hereby "out-mom-ing" her friend, if you will.  While simultaneously insinuating that if you are a stay at home parent you are at home all day, lounging about, taking it easy.  You know, bon bons and such.

The truth is that their situations are not similar enough to be compared like this at all!  If you have children and are working a full-time job, you're not doing exactly same things that a SAHM does.  Your life is different.  Yes, you share some similar responsibilities because you're both mothers, you both have to maintain some kind of living situation, but your day to day is very different.  The working parent's child is with someone else during the time that they are at work.  If it's a full-time job, that's a good portion of the day.  Yes, you might come home from a job and then do some of the things that parents who stay home do, like make dinner or wash dishes and things of that nature.  But it's not the same as being the at home parent.  It's just not.  I am in no way saying that you're any less of a parent or that your life is easier - working comes with its own set of challenges, and I will get to that.  What I'm saying is that it's silly to even try to compare the two situations and we shouldn't be.  One isn't better than the other.  One isn't more  or less of a mom.

But on top of that, the conversation that started this blog post also contributes to the invalidation of stay at home moms/dads.  In this society there is such a huge focus on a person's occupation that it has become synonymous with self & thereby self-worth.  The question 'What do you do?' might as well be 'Who are you & what are you worth?'.  I'm a doctor, I make a three figure salary, I'm really smart, you want to be me.  Or, I work for a non-profit agency, I don't make a lot of money but I'm really dedicated to this selfless cause that I love, I'm a great philanthropist and I do good things, you want to be me.

I'm not saying that this is right by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, I think it's a big problem because if you tell the wrong person you're a might as well tell them that you're intentionally unemployed and homeless.  Useless.  Some people equate this with being uneducated or unrefined, or even as setting back the entire feminist movement 30+ years.  I know, it sounds ridiculous, but I have seen it with my own eyes and experienced some of these reactions first-hand. And the thing that these people aren't realizing is that deciding to be a stay at home parent, making that decision to leave a job and change your entire lifestyle is a HUGE decision!  And often times it's a tough adjustment that you didn't see coming.  And I'm not talking about the caring for a child stuff like changing diapers and learning how to function with a baby in the mix - ALL new parents go through that adjustment no matter what.  I'm talking about going from having a set daily routine where you had to wake-up & be somewhere at a specific time every day, seeing a group of your peers, having adult conversations and having some sort of purpose in a company somewhere every day, getting to be just YOU every day -- to functioning solely to provide for your child, identifying mainly as the parent of your child, having your biggest success of the day be eating more than just a bagel instead of landing some huge account or fixing some great customer service debacle.  When you make that change, it feels like you lose your identity for a little while.  You don't get the water cooler conversation anymore, you don't make employee of the month anymore, you don't get any raises or go on any cool business trips or undertake new projects.  This, coupled with the often-times underwhelming & slightly disappointed reaction from others to this new identity can make you feel completely irrelevant and lost.  It is quite belittling.  I mean, how would this conversation make you feel?  (And I've had it!):
Employed:  So, what do you do?
Mom:  I'm a mom.
Employed:  Yeah, but what do you DO?  You know, for work?
Mom:  I'm a stay at home mom.
Employed:  So you don't work?
Mom:  Not outside of the home for money, no.
Employed:  Oh. <pause> So what do you do all day?
*Sigh*  Staying at home with children IS a job.  It IS work.  It IS a skill.  It has its own set of challenges and on many days can be very hard.  I am not complaining about being a stay at home parent, nor am I saying that stay at home parents have it "worse" than those that work outside of the home.  What I am saying is that they are two completely different experiences and almost impossible to compare.  Again, we should not be comparing anything like this anyway, I don't think it's healthy to define anything as better or worse when it comes to life skills or lifestyles.  Both sides come with benefits as well as challenges and they suit different people differently.  Laura & I are both moms.  She has a fairly elevated position in the financial industry, I am primary caregiver at home to our children. Both of us have complaints about our roles & both of us have things we absolutely love about them.  Neither of us is a better mom or more of a parent.  Neither of us has it worse.  Our daily lives are just very different.

But because she is the working parent, Laura is seen as intelligent; There is a certain amount of prestige that comes with her job title.  People think she is capable, educated, hard-working.  Based solely on her job title.  But she is also a caring and nurturing mother.  She is playful and silly and fun.  Not what comes to mind when you hear she is a working parent.  People hear that I am a stay at home mom and they don't really think much beyond that.  They think I love children, am nurturing, and don't care too much about how intelligent I am or anything beyond that.  They don't see that I also have a college degree.  I like to write, to read books and learn.  They don't think of me as hard-working or prestigious.  They just see "MOM".

I'm sure that many parents that work full-time have had some backlash on the other side as well.  Plenty of my friends have gotten, "Well, who's raising this baby if you're BOTH at work all the time?  Spending nights and weekends with the kid isn't real parenting".  And I know that those who do work outside of the home are made to feel like less of a parent because of this and often times feel guilty because of their desire or financial necessity to maintain a full-time job.  Society gives none of us a break.  You're expected to stay at home, not work & raise your children, but when you do it's assumed that you are either uneducated or lazy.

But I am getting away from my point of posting this now.  I don't like when people try to claim that their life is harder and therefore they are entitled to something more.  Or to the opposite, they claim that because someone else's life seems more appealing it is somehow easier and that other person doesn't live up to whatever ridiculous expectation being set.  Specifically when it comes to parents.

If you are a parent with a full-time job, you get to be an adult amongst other adults for a good portion of the day.  You have some form of commute to work where you get to be in your own head for a while and can drink your coffee and listen to your music or radio show or sit in silence if you want.  You are guaranteed to get a state-mandated break at some point.  You get recognition for your achievements and incentives to strive for better.  But you miss a lot of milestones and dance recitals and cuddles.  You work a full day and then have to come home and help keep up with the house and take care of kids for a while.  You feel like you never get a break and the work never ends.  If you're a stay at home mom/dad, you are your own boss & you get to make the rules.  There is no dress code, no rule about when your lunch should be.  You can go to the beach on a weekday if you want and you don't have to call out.  But the scenery never changes, really.  You rarely get a moment inside your own head or have adult conversation.  There are no sick days or vacation days.  You feel like you never get a break and the work never ends.

Now did I miss something, or don't we all have something in common here?  Having a full-time job does not make you supermom any more than being a stay at home mom makes you insignificant. Trying to make women feel bad for either decision is damaging.  We need to stop trying to out-mom each other and support each other instead.  We all need to assume that we are all doing the best that we can every day.  We need to make the best out of whatever situation we are in and celebrate all of the good that we have.  Sometimes we really have to search for the light at the end of the tunnel, but I assure you, it's there.  And it's a lot easier to find when you have people around you who support you and who help you to find the good instead of tearing you down because you're not exactly like they are or juggling as much as them.

And so I ask you, are you "Mom Enough" to avoid these silly competitions for misery badges?  Are you "Mom Enough" to enjoy how wonderful your children are, no matter how much time you get the privilege of spending with them?  Are you "Mom Enough" to know that motherhood is not a competition and cannot be graded?  Are you "Mom Enough" to accept that not all moms are like you and that's OK, because we're all on our own paths? Are you "Mom Enough" to know that there's no way to know if you're "Mom Enough"?

Love your kids.  Love your life.  Stop comparing it to anything else because nothing is better than the life you already have.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Stop Shutting Out Our Children

I was at the doctor's office with my son the other day, and while I was sitting in the waiting room I witnessed something that has become all too commonplace in my opinion, and we all need to do something to change it.  If we don't, I don't know what kind of people we will have in the future.  I see it all the time and sadly, I have been guilty of it to a degree myself.  But for the first time I was overwhelmed by what I was witnessing and it made me extremely sad.

There are two sections to the waiting room in our doctor's office separated by a wall - an attempt to keep the sick patients separated from the well patients.  I was sitting on the one side with my back to the separating wall and I could hear the interactions between a mother & her child.  Until this point I had not seen either of them, and had no idea the age of the child or what was really happening.  Honestly, I wasn't paying much attention to them at all until I head the mother scream out, "Get over here right now or I'm going to beat your ass!"  Well, now they had my attention!

I could hear the distinct beeps of typing/texting on a cell phone.  A few squeals of joy from a child.  Some quick and small foot steps.  Laughter.  More texting.  Message beeps.  All broken up by, "Get OVER here!  Now!"  We've all been there at some point I'm sure - We're out in public & our child is behaving in a way that we wish they wouldn't.  I really tried to put myself in this mother's shoes before jumping to a judgement of her.  I remember when K was about 11 months old and had just started to learn to walk.  I went to one of my first Holistic Mom's meetings and there was a guest speaker giving a presentation about water.  K, having just learned to walk, wanted to run around the entire room and explore every crevice.  She writhed & wiggled to try to get down off my lap.  And when I did put her down, she was off!  Getting into everything that she "shouldn't" have.  Stacks of hand-outs about water.  Women's purses.  The giant bin of pretzels offered as a snack to attendees.  Me, being new to the group and the only person who actually brought a child to the meeting, had no idea what was appropriate for the situation. I certainly didn't want to be that parent, with the unruly child who ruined the meeting.  But I also didn't want to reprimand K or keep her from exploring her world, which had just expanded tenfold to her since she could now walk.  So I did what I thought appropriate for the situation - I stayed near her and when she grabbed things that I thought were off limits (keys from someone's purse), I took it out of her hands, gently said, "no", and moved her to another part of the room that was "safe" for her.

But my attention was on my daughter.  I shifted it from time to time to the guest speaker's words, but overall the point of his presentation was lost to me as I was making sure my child was safe and not disturbing anyone else to the point of annoyance.  And just as I was thinking of this night that happened over two years ago, a little girl comes waddling around the wall.  I make eye contact with her, smile, and say, "hi!".  She can't be more than 13 or 14 months old.  She lights up & screeches with glee!  She is so happy to just be there!  To be walking and seeing people and finding things.  She waddles towards the door, stumbles & falls as new walkers do.  But then she gets back up & claps her hands in delight and smiles.  She sees a bin of books and runs towards it.  Of course, stumbles & falls again and gets up with delight.  I'm offering her words of encouragement, things like, "Great job!", "Yay!  You got back up!", all the things I would say to my own kids when they start walking.  And then the girl's mother stomps around the wall.  She is young, easily 10 years my junior.  "Get over here, NOW!" she yells as she keeps her face tuned to her phone, fingers moving madly, never missing a beat.  "You LEAVE that baby ALONE!"  And with that, she picks up her daughter and gives her a smack on the bottom. 

I have several problems with this scene happening before me, but I am trying to relate to this woman and give her the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe she is concerned that her daughter is bothering me.  Maybe she doesn't want her child near my child because mine could be contagious and she doesn't want her daughter getting sick.  And I should mention that at this point we are the only people in the entire waiting area.  So I say to this mother, "Don't worry about us, she's not bothering us at all!  She's adorable!"  And I proceed to try to make small-talk, trying to talk this mom down from wherever her rage is coming from.  Maybe she's just upset because her daughter isn't listening to her.  Maybe she's been at it all day & the repetition is getting old & wearing on her last nerve - I get that.  We've all been there!

But this mother never looked up from whatever was happening on her phone.  She had this wonderful daughter, this beam of light who was so happy, who was learning right in front of us, and she was missing it.  And she was angry.  And she was shutting out her own daughter.  Why?  Because she had to text someone?  She had to update a Facebook status?  It killed me that when the nurse came to call them back into the room, this mother never acknowledged the nurse at all and remained focused on her phone, never looking up.  To me, that's just rude.  And many of us are doing this.  With all of the technology that exists now, we feel the need to "stay connected" and consume whatever is thrown at us.  Mothers are choosing status updates over watching their children learn.  Fathers are watching videos instead of what is right in front of them.  And the result is that we are actually LESS connected to what is happening in our own day to day lives.  We want to stay up to date on everything that everyone else is doing, but we are losing sight of our own world, of what is REAL.  We are distracted from everything because we want to miss nothing.

We are all guilty of this to an extent, myself included.  And in this day & age it would be almost impossible to avoid technology completely.  Sometimes we have to take phone calls, we have to answer a text, we have to go online for something.  It's unavoidable.  And if your kids are like mine, the second I put the phone to my ear is when they become the most needy.  Sometimes we have no choice - we have to pay the bills and call customer service, and wait on hold indefinitely, and a whining child in the background can make you want to scream.  And sometimes we do.  Sometimes we have to shut out our children so that we can keep our lives moving forward.  We tell our children to hold on for a minute while we make a phone call.  We say we'll do something later, just as soon as I finish filling out this form.  But we have to find a balance.  Otherwise we'll all be rude zombies walking around, eyes glued to a small screen and not even taking note of the people surrounding us.  What to you have to tend to right now and what do you want to focus on?  For people with children, especially the young ones, your answer should be your children.  Yes, there are times that our focus needs to be directed elsewhere, but every time we shut them out we are telling them that they are not important.  Every time we don't include them in what we are doing we are sending the message that they do not matter.

I came across a quote yesterday & it made me think about this mother in the doctor's office: 
"Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what.  If you don't listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won't tell you the big stuff when they are big.  Because to them, all of it has always been big stuff." ~Catherine M. Wallace
In the end it's the relationship with your children that matters most, not the Tweets or latest viral video.  I assure you, life goes on if you do not answer every single text you receive.  Take steps to ensure that your child knows that he or she is the most important thing in your life.  A few months ago we implemented the rule that there is to be no non-essential internet usage while the children are awake, unless the other adult is there to tend to the children.  Yes, we can look up directions or weather or things like that if we have to because there are things we need to know on a daily basis.  But Facebook?  Blogging?  Right now Laura is lying on the couch covered in children so that I can post this blog.  If she wasn't, it would sit here as a draft until the children are napping or asleep for the night.

They are only small for a short time.  Make sure you are invested & present in every moment that you are with them.  Make it matter.  They will remember it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Detergent Attempt One

After months and months of agonizing research & acquiring all of the necessary components, I have FINALLY made my first batch of diaper detergent! Born out of a bad customer service experience, Conneuter's Soap is underway!

The toughest part was the research. I really had to dig to see what was going to be safe for cloth diapers, what wasn't, and what is eco-friendly. Many of the "diaper-safe" detergent recipes out there claim that both Borax & soap are OK for cloth diapers, but the reality is that they are not. Any kind of soap - even natural soap - contains oils that will clog your cloth fibers and will lead to build-up & potential leaks/stink problems. And Borax is too harsh of a chemical to be using on something that you will put on your baby's bum, and it will also cause your elastic & PUL to wear out more quickly than with detergents that don't contain Borax. Plus, even though it has been tried & true for years, there are emerging concerns about the safety of the chemical, both to us & the environment.

So I read. And read. And read, and read, and read. I read the labels of any detergent that I could get my hands on. I looked up all of the ingredients to see what they were & what they were used for. I read to see their impact on the environment. I read about how they were processed. I read about how they break down. I read about pH. I read about how they interacted with other ingredients in detergents. And finally I came up with a list of what would make a safe & natural detergent for my cloth diapers. And I bought all of them.

And slowly, I acquired all of the other pieces of equipment I would need to create a batch - a food processor, measuring spoons, scents (which was a whole research project in itself!)....while I already had most of these items in my house, I couldn't bear the thought of using them to mix detergent & then put my food in them afterwords. And I needed the funds to purchase all of these items, whereupon lies the next major delay. And of course, since I can't ever do just ONE thing, during this process I came across ways to make natural hand soap & decided that I would take that on as well and make Conneuter's Soap all-encompassing.

But, alas, I bought my items, I found the time, and tonight, I created the first ever batch of Conneuter's Soap Cloth Diaper Wash. I selected the "Baby Fresh" scent, and while it is very pleasant, I can honestly say that it reminds me of a baby in no way. So I will be calling that something else when we are done.

My diapers are in the washer right now, so all we have to do is wait & see the final result. I opened the washer in-between cycles to take a whiff, and I can say preliminarily that I think I need to add more fragrance. Like I've said in previous posts, I want a detergent that will leave a nice, fresh scent behind, and I'm not sure that I achieved that this round. But that's what trials are for, right?

**If you are a cloth diapering mama (or dad!) and want to help in the trial phase, please let me know!**
OK, so I definitely need to adjust my formula. For the first time since I have started cloth diapering, the diapers came out of the wash with stains still on them. Definitely not clean enough. Ugh. So I ran them through with RNG & am happy to say that any yuckiness is now gone. Back to the drawing board! Will make a few adjustments & substitutions & see what happens!