There are many facets to the diamond that is parenthood, some of them rough, some of them smooth, but all of them as complicated and beautiful as the last.
Your world changes in every way possible, but how do you carry over your personal morals and ethics to this new part of your life, how do you keep living ethically and sustainably when the bin is filling up with dirty nappies and it seems like it would be so much easier to order takeaway every night than to ever cook again? Then there is how do you pass on your morals and ideals without forcing them upon your children?
Rather than dwelling on whether it was even morally ethical to bring a child into this world due to the uncertain future that our world faces, environmentally, politically and socially I prefer to focus on how I can minimise the negative impact on the planet of having a child, make the world a better place for her and teach her how to make it a better place by leading by example.
One of the biggest environmental problems with having a child is the impact of the amount of waste from dirty nappies to leftover food, broken plastic toys and old clothes. Sometimes there is not a lot you can do if you have to throw away smashed up toys, chewed to pieces biscuits and clothes so soiled they are a lost cause but there are definitely ways to minimise the amount of rubbish!
Firstly clothes, all the clothes I have bought her until now have been second hand from charity shops, ebay and depop or hand me downs from friends and family. She will get new clothes as presents from time to time but I endeavour not to buy new clothes myself. It makes absolutely no sense to me to buy her new clothes when she grows out of them every few months and there is some stuff that doesn’t even get worn once before it gets resold, passed on to friends with younger babies or given to the charity shop. She will be turning one soon and I have bought her a Little Green Radicals dress to wear not just on her birthday but until she can no longer squeeze into it and when she is a bit bigger and has slowed down with her growing then there are so many awesome organic and fairtrade childrens clothing brands out there to choose from including but not limited to Little Green Radicals, Frugi, Piccalilly, Tootsa, Where does it come from? and Tommy & Lottie to name but a few!
Secondly, Nappies, I had every intention of using cloth nappies, I bought some second hand had everything prepared and ready but when I got round to using them I hated them and she did too, they were bulky - none of her babygrows would do up over them and they seemed uncomfortable for her and hot too as she was really red where they were clearly rubbing on her. So I sold them on and did some research into disposable nappies that were not so bad for the environment, this is when I found Naty, made from natural, renewable and biodegradable resources including compostable Nappy Bags made from gm free corn film they are the perfect solution if like me you aren’t using cloth nappies but don’t want to buy ones with plastic in them! Baby wipes are also a big problem at the moment clogging up sewers and littering the oceans so Naty have made wipes from biodegradable wood pulp sustainably harvested from FSC certified Scandinavian Forests and any scents are natural from plants rather than chemicals.
Lastly toys! All the toys she has at the moment have been presents from family and friends or I have bought second hand from Charity Shops, Facebook Marketplace or online selling sites like Gumtree but with her first birthday coming up I didn’t want to buy her any old plastic rubbish so did some research into some lovely fairtrade and sustainable toys for her!
From Babipur she’s got some Plan musical Instruments and some Lanka Kade cars, both these companies make really lovely fair trade toys from sustainable rubberwood and we will definitely be purchasing from them again in the future!
I also got her a Puppet from The Puppet Company who manufacture in the Far East in factories that visited regularly to ensure high standards in workers conditions.
I also bought some felt vegetables, a wooden crate from Ikea and a mini metal watering can so that she can practise for helping me in the real vegetable garden and I can teach her all about her food and where it comes from. Ikea are ahead of their time in terms of sustainability and have lots of handy tips on making your home more sustainable on their website.
To me the importance of organic, fair trade and biodegradable products is obvious, why would you buy products for your child that were possibly made by someone else's children that are being forced to work in horrendous conditions? If it is not something you would want for your own children how can you spend your money on something that allows such practices. Non organic cotton not only has disastrous effects on the farmers that grow it and the bees who are being killed by the pesticides on it but it can also have effects on your child's health if there are chemicals on and in it.
Children are expensive and their cute and tiny clothes can often end up having a not so cute and tiny price tag, this is just one of the reasons why I buy second hand, the other being that with hundreds of thousands of tonnes of clothes ending up in landfill every year I am saving at least some from going to waste and by passing it on yet again I am reducing each items carbon footprint even further. If you have noone to donate your second hand items to and you can’t be bothered to sell them on (let's be honest having a child doesn’t leave much time for anything else!) then there are plenty of charities that can send them overseas to mothers who don’t have money to buy lots of clothes for their children.
That pretty much covers the material side of things, but what about emotional?
How do I make sure that I lead by example? And ensure she grows up free of prejudice whether that is race, species or gender.
I know that I can only do the best I can with the help of my partner, friends and family but I put an immense amount of pressure on myself to be a perfect example of the kind of person I would hope her to grow up to be! And I think that is probably the same for all parents and this is a very similar story for parents all over who understand the importance of bringing up the next generation to be changemakers in the world!
I love teaching her new things and seeing the wonder in her eyes and although she is still very young I try to explain things to her as if to an equal although of course in a simplified form! There are many different approaches to parenting, I know and not everyone will get where I am coming from, people are often confused about us bringing her up vegetarian until we can give her all the information at an age at which she will be able to make an informed choice and then if she wants to start eating meat she can as they say she doesn’t know so why should we care but that doesn’t make sense to me, why would I give my child something I myself wouldn’t eat, just like I make sure to use organic shampoos on her as I use for myself.
In the end there is only so much I can do and she will eventually find her own path, all I can do is guide her and help her anyway that I can!