Ethical baby? Yeah, right!
You are in: surefish >
Date: 23 March, 2005
'Many, many hot baths are run in efforts to distress and de-puke after the latest spraying by Anya. Takeaways arrive more often than the post.
Charlotte Haines Lyon reports on the successes and failures of attempting to be an ethical mum.
On the 2nd January my little fantasy world of perfect parenthood was rudely shattered.
My natural birth plan went out the window due to a 24 hour labour thanks to young wriggler wrapping the cord round her neck and under her arm. Not only did I give in to the various drugs on offer, but after an adverse reaction to a drip I had an emergency caesarean section.
Needless to say most of our plans have not materialised. Every bit of energy seems to be spent recovering from the birth and simply surviving a newborn.
Obviously Anya is the most beautiful baby in the world and a sheer joy to love. However since her birth our house has been flooded with tears and not just our daughter’s.
At the beginning there were tears of awe which metamorphosed into tears of guilt. How could I become frustrated at the crying of someone so small at innocent? If I disliked her in the middle of the night then surely I was the worst mother ever.
More recently it has been tears of inadequacy. Am I the only mum who has a pile of washing and unopened post for a home? Are we the only parents who fail to follow books, resulting in our baby sleeping in our bed much of the time? And is Anya the only baby with a routine that is accurate to the week rather than the hour?
As if the pressure wasn’t enough, I am supposed to be the ultimate ethical mum for surefish. This at a time, when if I could sell my soul for a good night’s sleep, it would go to the first bidder regardless of their environmental policy or involvement in oppressive regimes. (I feel like wearing an ‘I told you so’ t-shirt – Ed, father of a two and a half year old).
Currently our house is a three person environmental disaster zone. Nappies are binned by the dozen. Many, many hot baths are run in efforts to distress and de-puke after the latest spraying by Anya. Takeaways arrive more often than the post.
The washing machine rumbles continually as does the new tumble drier, and no I haven’t got round to changing to green power yet. And, let’s not mention the extra miles spent in the car in order to have a peaceful baby.
Ethical clothing is a non-starter. A) We had no concept of how many clothes were needed so bought from the nearest supermarket late at night. B) £10 for one baby- gro seems very expensive considering it will be grown out of within five times of wearing it. C) Like her parents Anya is short and we have found a make that fits her and we get three for a fiver.
My mother tells me that as Anya is a Capricorn, she will be very socially responsible. I personally don’t understand astrology but I can’t help feeling that I am already frustrating the ambitions of a budding ethicist.
Having said all that, we have managed some things. Our disposable nappies are Nature Boy and Girl. They fit Anya well and are made of 70% biodegradable material which is about double that of most disposables. Neither do they contain dodgy gels or chemicals.
We also use their biodegradable nappy sacks and wipes when out. At home I am just using flannels and water to clean her. The only pain is that the newborn size are only available from a very large Boots quite a drive away but the rest of the range is sold by Sainsbury’s.
Within a week birth, Anya rejected her Moses basket so we had to buy another cot that would fit in our room. The second hand one we have is so big it only just fits in the nursery. Surprisingly we were able to buy a solid beech one from IKEA, which is harvested from responsibly managed forests and only cost £29!
We haven’t bought anything from officially ethical companies but we are reusing. Virtually all our baby gear is second hand, nursery furniture, many clothes, bedding, activity arch, thanks to family and eBay.
Finally, whenever I start berating myself for ethical impotence, I remind myself that I seem to be the only mum without a sparkling new four wheel drive buggy. It is not that such buggies are necessarily unethical, but I do wonder how many are thrown away needlessly. How many are reused like Anya’s fourth hand one?
It has become all too easy to feel a failure at the whole of motherhood. Thank God then for an adoring husband, my mother and Naomi Stadland. The first two consistently tell me I am wonderful. The latter has written “What Mothers Do.”
At last a book at my bedside that is utterly reassuring and affirming. She recognises that just having got through the day with a baby is an epic achievement. She affirms that simply getting to know my baby and her foibles is one of the most important tasks in the world and supersedes any routine or magic formulas.
The best bit though is Stadland pointing out that mothers are often the most influential person in a child’s life. This makes me wonder if the greatest ethical task is to actually nurture and love my child. This at least, I think I am doing.
As for the many imperfections, well I see my mission in life as comforting all other struggling parents out there. Like the proverbial diet – I will start ethical parenthood properly tomorrow.
Read Charlotte’s other ethical parent articles