Of all of my parenting decisions, my choice to use cloth diapers raises the most eyebrows.
People tend to treat it like an admirable but inconvenient decision that they would never seriously consider themselves, like converting your car to run on vegetable oil or biking everywhere instead of driving.
They see it as difficult, and a little weird.
This bothers me, because I think my choice is more convenient, not less.
I use a diaper service, Happy Nappy, and since they bring my diapers to my door and take them away from me on a weekly basis, you could argue that my choice is actually lazier than using disposables, since I never have to go shopping for diapers. I don’t deal with any more poop than a parent who uses disposables. In fact, since I find that disposables have a deplorable tendency to leak poop down my baby’s leg, I actually deal with more poop when he’s in disposables.
Their cost is comparable to disposables – around $25 a week – and service becomes free after you’ve been with them for 30 months, because kids usually potty train earlier in cloth diapers. So either my kid will be potty trained by 30 months, or I get free diapers. That makes it a cheaper choice, even with the convenience of a diaper service.
So here I am, making a cheaper and more convenient choice, but people respond as though I was hand-knitting my entire family’s wardrobe or something.
But I wouldn’t mind that in and of itself. If anything, it makes me look good, even while I save time and money. It’s just that I get so tired of the vibe that I get from friends and child care staff.
One of our friends who babysits for us returns his wet diapers double-bagged and double-knotted in plastic, even though we have a special bag with a zipper made just for this purpose.
I mean, it’s a wet diaper, it’s not nuclear waste.
And I had a devil of a time trying to find a daycare that would even allow cloth diapers.
“But what would I do with the diapers? I can’t keep them inside, we have health regulations,” one potential caregiver argued.
“What do you do with the dirty disposables?” I argued, “do you walk each one outside to the curb every time you change a kid’s diaper?”
“So instead of throwing it in the bin, you put it in a separate bag and I take them away at the end of the day. I bet the other parents don’t take away their dirty diapers,” I said.
“But why can’t you just use disposables?” begged another lady at another daycare.
“What’s wrong with cloth?” is what I want to know.
I just don’t understand what the big deal is.
People seem to see my choice to use cloth diapers as some sort of environmentalist craze. It’s not. Saving the world wasn’t even in my top three reasons for using cloth.
The first two reasons were the cost and convenience of a diaper service. The third was health.
Disposable diapers are associated with asthma, infertility, and many of them contain a known cancer-causing toxin.
I’m not saying that using disposables is a terrible thing.
I don’t think that using cloth diapers makes me a better mother than those who don’t.
It’s a minor decision, and I’m not a purist. I use disposables when we travel, for example, and I don’t spend the entire time terrified that the chemicals will shrivel his little penis right off (although my husband, who never felt strongly about diapers before the baby was born, has become fervently pro-cloth after our travel experiences with disposables).
But on the other hand, I think that since I’m making a healthy, convenient, and cheaper choice, I shouldn’t be given quite so much grief over it.
Owl’s daycare markets itself as “green” and they take great care to use non-toxic chemicals and provide organic, from-scratch meals. But my choice to use cloth has only ever been treated as a special favour that they do for me. I happen to know that one of the other kids who comes to the daycare wears cloth at home, but his mother is forced to bring him in disposables. She doesn’t know that Owl is coming in cloth each day, as a condition of me bringing him at all.
Owl is a bit of a favourite at his daycare, and they even provided me free service when I was out of work, again as a favour because they loved Owl so much. So I’m grateful. I owe them a lot. So I keep my mouth shut.
But I’m also resentful.
Because why should it be treated like such a special favour to bring my kid in cloth? The provincial health website even says right in its daycare facility guidelines that cloth diapers are recognized to be healthier than disposables and no more of a contamination risk when handled correctly.
I feel guilty that my son gets to come in cloth, and this other boy doesn’t. Cloth diapering moms should stick together. Whenever I meet one, we immediately bond over our socially bizarre decision. I even had an old friend who I hadn’t seen in many years mail me her old diaper covers when her youngest son outgrew them, as a gesture of solidarity, and I was pathetically grateful.
Another friend, The Farm Fairy, uses the same diaper service, and we have exchanged clean diapers for dirty on weeks when one of us was running a little low.
But those are my only cloth diapering contacts. When I talk to anyone else, I just try and ignore their “it’s weird” expressions, because I don’t want to start a whose-way-is-better argument with people I like and care about.
I don’t want to be that person.
I just find their decision to use disposables to be as baffling as they find my decision to use cloth, and I wish that my reasonable decision didn’t get perceived as quite so unreasonable.
What parenting decision have you made that seemed perfectly reasonable to you, but seems weird to others?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog from mother of one, Carol @IfByYes.
Photo credit to simplyla. This image has a creative commons attribute license.
Bed-sharing, baby-wearing, strict-strict discipline, using sharp knives before they’re two, letting them climb to the top of trees, allowing them to wear uncoordinated and inside-out clothing…the list is enormous!
We used disposables because there is no nappy-service here. If there had been I would have gone that way too, perhaps.
I understand your resentment about having to keep mum about Owl in cloth diapers, though. That would do my head in, besides my mouth is too big: I’d blab by mistake – or the kid concerned would…!
Going cloth was also one of the best parenting decisions I ever made as well! I don’t know if people perceive me as being weird or crazy… but perhaps more like curiously ‘different’… just one of “those mums”.
I admit that I do resort to packing disposables for friends who babysit because I consider their help as a big favour. Especially if they appear somewhat disturbed at the whole idea of seeing poop on cloth thing. There’s just something about seeing poop on fabric that gets to people as opposed to seeing poop on plastic.
I’m jealous of your diaper service! We don’t have that option in Malawi but we still chose cloth most of the time (we were on the environmental and the price tag side of things). Here we didn’t have anyone raising an eyebrow – many are using cloth simply because disposables are so expensive. What you mentioned about your son being able to use cloth in daycare and another child not being allowed to would also really bother me.
I live in South Africa and here it’s REALLY common for people to use cloth diapers. The more affluent moms have the option of a diaper service. I worked as an Au Pair for a family who used the diaper service and I had absolutely no problem at all handling cloth diapers. When the clean diapers were delivered, I’d fold them with a disposable liner in the middle. This made it REALLY easy when it was time to change a soiled diaper as the disposable liner with it’s not-so-fragrant contents could be flushed down the toilet and the wet / dirty diaper went into the diaper bin which sealed tight so there was no odour.
That said, despite my good intentions (I’d bought cloth diapers, diaper covers etc before my first child was born) I ended up using disposable diapers exclusively … and the cloth diapers ended up doing duty as “spit up” cloths! The reason for this was that my son was very ill for the first 2 years of his life and no cloth diaper on earth was able to contain his copious diarrhea!
Kudos to you for sticking with the cloth diapers when others raise their eyebrows. I use disposables, but I have a good friend who is committed to cloth and echoes much of what you said here.
As to your question, our whole family gets flu shots each year, but I know some folks who have a strong stance against them. So it can be tricky to navigate those conversations when they feel it is harmful to give their kids the shots and I feel it is harmful to not give my kids the shots. There is no “right”, but it’s weird to have such strong and opposing reactions to the issue.
Great post!! I’m literally just starting to use cloth – they are all folded and ready to go – for similar reasons. Disposables are really expensive here in Kenya and we are also swayed by the environmental arguments and that cloth diapered kids potty train earlier. But people here think it’s bizarre to go that direction when you can feasibly afford the disposable kind – what most people prefer to use when they can.
But good for you for sticking to your guns. And you’re not such a minority anymore. In some circles I’ve run in, parents feel like they should apologize for using disposables.
Thanks, folks! @Tara, the shots thing really frustrates me, too. Thankfully I don’t know many people like that, but they drive me crazy when I bump into them!
The vet clinic where I work just dealt with a puppy who had parvovirus… came from a breeder who “didn’t believe in shots”. Ha. When I see that, you can bet my own kid got vaccinated…
Yes, every mother should make the decision that works best for her. I admit, I never tried cloth diapers, but I definitely see the trend toward them. I think it’s cool that you are sticking to your guns and having Owl wear them all day at the school!
Thanks for covering this topic! I do love ways to go green.
The people are just afraid to use them because of the myths which have been spread through the internet. The people just have to believe that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages that of cloth diapers.
I don’t know what the fuss is all about using cloth diapers, when it has been proven time and time again that they are environment friendly.