When I was expecting my first son I had grand visions of the type of mum I’d be.
I’d always been environmentally-aware, so using cloth nappies was a given. So much of a given in fact that they were purchased, washed and neatly folded on the change table by the end of my second trimester.
I promised myself my son would be fully breastfed from his first feed and that he’d self-wean when ready.
I vowed that his diet once on solids would be predominantly home-grown produce from our organic vegie patch. There would be no commercial baby food for him. Of course I’d be the eco equivalent of Martha Stewart, whipping up homemade organic casseroles and purees for my sweet cherub.
He’d play with natural, educational toys – not the cheap, plastic ones you find in overflowing toy departments. And licensed products? There was no place for them in our home!
As for television? Forget it!
I’d read the recommendations and knew TV was off limits until the age of two years; I’d play with him, read to him and take him out into nature. I daydreamed about idyllic strolls in the pram and having him snuggled up closely in a sling.
It was going to be perfect.
I was going to bring my son into the world without the typical large volume of waste that accompanies babies.
We were going to be ecoceptional!
And we were.
Until baby number two came along.
As settled and bonny as bub no.1 was, no.2 was the total opposite.
He fed constantly. Cried whenever he wasn’t being held. Wouldn’t sleep for more than 30 minutes straight……45 minutes at a push.
Big brother not only started watching Wiggles DVDs, he knew every song and dance move by heart within weeks. He still is Wiggles-obsessed and has the licensed jocks, keyboard, guitar and costumes to prove it.
There were no idyllic strolls with no.2. I was always running late to appointments and needed to bundle the kids into the car at the last minute.
To maintain the around-the-clock breastfeeding-on-demand and settling routine, I reluctantly relaxed my standards in the kitchen. Frozen chips and peas started appearing on Master Two’s plate.
Bub no.2 didn’t have any gourmet organic casseroles. He ate whatever food we were having for dinner as I got sick of running a restaurant.
Our vegie garden died.
We didn’t bother sowing a winter crop. It was the first time in nine years we missed a season.
One chicken died. We didn’t have enough energy to replace her, let alone look after the other one properly, so we gave her away to a friend with hens.
By the time bub no.2 was six months old, I was exhausted. By 15 months, I was totally worn out. Around this time he self-weaned, seven months earlier than his older brother. Rather than mourn the end, I was secretly relieved.
Twice we travelled the 1200km return trip to the nearest decent hospital for him to have surgery for different conditions (not serious thank goodness). By the time he was 18 months old, it was my turn. Carpal tunnel was causing constant and intense pain in both my wrists. I was doing well to manage dinner each night and change nappies when my husband wasn’t home.
It was so hard letting things slip.
Every time I looked out the window to see our dying vegie patch I felt sad.
Every time I drove the kids into town I felt guilty.
Every time I popped some commercial baby rice rusks into my shopping trolley I prayed I wouldn’t run into a friend at the register. It went on……….
While I initially beat myself up over letting our eco standards slip around the home, I soon realised that they had to. My earlier vision of ecoceptional just wasn’t sustainable in our current situation.
Instead I needed to stop punishing myself for not living up to my eco-parenting aspirations. After all, I was giving my all to this parenting gig and I seriously had nothing left in the tank.
Being aware of my eco mother guilt enabled me to make a conscious decision to move past it.
I focussed on caring for my boys, putting a healthy homemade dinner on the table each night and keeping up with the cloth nappies. I turned a blind eye to our once productive organic vegie garden that resembled a wasteland and some tidying and cleaning around the home. OK, a lot of tidying up and cleaning around the home.
And I’m SO glad I did because I’m not Superwoman. I’m an ecoceptional mum who’s doing her best. And when you’re doing your best, there’s nothing you should feel guilty about.
We’ve now moved through that super-tough time and not only have chickens again, we have a modest veggie crop. It’s nothing like it was in its heyday, but I’m okay with that. I’m where I need to be right now.
So, if you’re suffering from eco-mother guilt and are struggling to live up to your eco ideals, take a moment to consider the following:
- Surround yourself with like-minded mums.
This may be a mother’s group in your area (there are even eco-parenting ones out there!) or join some online eco-parenting communities, where you can share your experiences and get some support.
- Set up systems in your home to help you maintain your eco lifestyle and stay on track. Make as many of your regular household tasks as much a habit as brushing your teeth. It might be that every second morning you wash your cloth nappies and hang them up at lunchtime, or every Sunday afternoon you plan your meals for the week and prepare your shopping list. Whatever it is, if it’s scheduled, it’s more likely to happen.
- Get your partner on board so it’s not all sitting with you.
You’re in this together and you need to work as a team. Let him have the kids and take a break.
And lastly, but most importantly……….
- Be kind to yourself.
If it all comes crushing down around you and you’re starting to despair, give yourself permission to let things slip and do whatever you can to get through the rough patch. You can always jump back on the eco-parenting horse when you’re in a better position to do so. Your kids need YOU to be okay.
I still have grand visions of the type of mum I want to be. But I’m happy to say that I’m damn proud of the mum I am.
Laura Trotta is an ecoceptional mum and environmental engineer. She is passionate about educating and inspiring mums to parent more sustainably . Download her FREE eguide ’11 Steps to Ecofy Your Home”