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Cutting the cloth

May 8th, 2004 · 5 Comments

What was once principle and pride has become practicality. I’m not happy about it.

I like to think that I live what I believe. But sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I can’t. And sometimes I won’t.

Many would say I’m making a mountain from a molehill. What’s upsetting me is a simple matter of sanitation. Whether I’ve lived and died probably won’t make any difference to this earth after I’m gone, in the grand scheme, and whether we used paper or cloth diapers on babies will be even less significant.

Yet I do believe that my choices make a difference.

Whether I use a stryofoam plate or a stoneware one. How often I flush the toilet and what kind of meat I eat. If I grow organic vegetables in my garden or use rags instead of paper towels. I think that the sum total comes from daily individual decisions. The earth is the way it is today because of little things that billions of people have each done in their yesterdays. I want to make the best choices I can, considering the impact I will have on other lives for tomorrow. I feel responsible for my life, what I consume, and the footprint I leave behind me on this planet, what the next generations will inherit. I want to consume as little as possible and leave as much as I can behind for those that follow.

I’ve already described my dilemma in a previous post last year. At first I was using cloth diapers as a matter of pride. I always believed that was what the best mother would do. Perhaps because that’s what my mom did. But I think I’m through that issue.

However, I still believed in the principle of cloth diapers. Recycling rather than wasting. Creating less rather than more trash. Putting soft natural cotton rather than stiff chemical paper next to my baby’s bottom.

But when I read Yule Heibel’s post on garbage and recycling a couple months ago, I found myself agreeing with her.

I say this to underscore that I have nothing against recycling and avoiding throw-away products, but I’m always questioning whether I’m hitting a point where the energy expended to avoid the landfilling product does more damage than using the product.

Washing my own diapers isn’t saving me time. It’s not saving me that much money, if any. I’m not saving energy. I’m not saving water. I’m using more water and electricity in cleaning cloth than I would with simple paper disposables. It’s unclear to me how ecological or economical my decision is. Perhaps too I should research what Rosemary Esmay wrote about recycling truth

there was never a landfill crisis, recycling doesn’t save trees and all it really does is cost us money.

I said to myself though that cloth diapers were still better. That was my last remaining principle. Quality. I’d rather have cloth on her skin than some unknown substances. Cloth was natural. And natural is always better.

But recently Baby Elisabeth has been having more bouts of diaper rash. Bad rash. So bad she cries. It gets tender fast. While Ted’s parents were here, I put her in paper diapers most of the time, since we were on the go a bit, and it would be more convenient while sharing the bathroom etc. Since they’ve left and I’ve switched her back to cloth, she had rash almost instantly. It negates the purpose of cloth diapers if I’m continually covering her bottom with creams meant for cows in Vermont or adult women. I don’t want to do it.

Plus to go forward from here in cloth diapers requires further investment. My other two children at this size were in disposables (due to logistics and diaper rash too). To continue, I need to buy more covers, larger covers and perhaps even larger diapers. Elisabeth seems to be constantly soiling her covers. I’m not sure it’s worth the money, especially since I hope to potty-train her in a few months.

Looking at the economics from where I am now: I can either invest in more/different cloth diapers and covers. Or, based on Enoch’s Amazon.com prices for diapers, I can use that same money to buy paper diapers to get me to potty-training time.

I don’t like to live by practicality. If practicality was my god, I’d live a different life. Love, for example, isn’t very practical.

Yet I like to be practical. I don’t like pie in the sky. I like pie on my plate.

But I also like to live by what I believe is right. What I believe is best and what is best for my situation aren’t always the same. Parenting, I am discovering little by little with these little ones, involves finding that balance. What is best is what is best for my child and often dependent on the situation. Sometimes I’ve got to put principles aside and be practical. My pride can be hurt. But I don’t want my kids to be. I’ve got to be flexible. I’ve got to let some things be disposable. Perhaps even my principles and the diapers I use.

Tags: family

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Betsy Devine // May 8, 2004 at 8:43 pm

    Like you, I started off with cloth diapers for all the most idealistic reasons. I later forgave myself for switching to paper for less important reasons than you have. (In my case, I rebalanced the equation of cloth versus paper by assuming that my time and labor had real value also.) So if your baby’s bottom is sore, I say–get disposables!

  • 2 enoch choi // May 9, 2004 at 1:37 am

    I agree with Betsy. Not only is our time & labor more valuable, I’ve read analyses showing how the washing of cloth diapers is actually more damaging to the environment. And another article this past week in the NYT claimed that 50% of infants worldwide are potty trained by 1 years old and that the whole diaper/pullup industry is engineered for parents’ convenience, not physical necessity of our kids. But it’s true, it’s easier to just change diapers than bring nally to the bathroom hourly. But it’s good for her, so we’ll be doing it soon 😉

  • 3 Shephali // May 9, 2004 at 5:25 pm

    I agree too. I am a new mom of a three months old baby.I was also thinking about cloth diapers at one time .For me the issue was the cost.Well, then I realized that I need to give my baby the best .And the best is disposable diapers which is hygienic and convenient .So it takes care of both the baby and the parents:)

  • 4 Beth Donovan // May 9, 2004 at 6:39 pm

    Potty trained by 1 year? I’m sorry – at that age, it’s the parents who are potty trained, not the baby!

    Pushing babies to be potty trained can really screw them up – they will use the potty when they are ready, and I’ve yet to hear of anyone whose child still wore diapers to college. So worry about the big things in life – like giving babies all the love and attention they deserve.

    Anyway – disposables are the least irritating to a baby’s skin. No matter your good environmental intentions, your baby’s health should come first. Go with disposables and feel no guilt!!!

  • 5 Julie Leung: Seedlings & Sprouts // May 10, 2004 at 12:43 am

    P.S. – postscripts to yesterday’s posts

    Anita Rowland posted some links describing “the intersection of real brain science and fantasy in the movie Eternal Sunshine”. I wonder how this storage(erasure?!) of emotional memories in the brain fits with some of the studies I linked in…