Friday, June 11, 2010

Cloth Diapers: the Tool of the Perfect Mom?

Am I the Tie that Binds?
I am Kathleen from Cottontail Baby. I am a stay at home mom of three VERY active, sports-obsessed, all organic guys. We live a fairly terrific life in a great, little house at the end of a culdesac on a lake in Minnesota. Our yard is full of deer, ducks, geese, frogs, turtles, fox, bunnies, wild turkeys and one, lonely, coyote. Every summer, during our abbreviated growing season, I tend to my garden. Sadly, the green thumb with which my mother is blessed, skipped a generation with me but I keep at it and have managed to feed my family from the garden more weeks than not! Besides Cottontail Baby, I also run its sister site, Mamaclothonline. In addition to those two ventures, my time is spent serving in my community, especially volunteering in my children's school and on their various sports teams as well as with the local Children's theater. I am thrilled to be a founding partner in the Cloth Diaper Retailer Cooperative with all these other terrific moms from whom I learn every day.
I was all set to sit down and write a blog post about swim diapers. After the "Poo in the Pool" fiasco of Memorial Day during which our local pool was closed for an hour, in 90 plus degree, humid, sticky, weather, due to an unfortunate disposable swim diaper that did not work, I was fired up and ready to write. Just buy a reusuable swim diaper. Imse Vimse are good. They work. They don't inconvenience your neighbors. They are cheaper in the long run and better for the environment. Plus, they are cute! I had it all planned out. Then, I sat down and read the Sunday NYT Styles section.....
In the Sunday NYT section, tucked away behind an article on the gorgeous, classy Iman, the Gore's marraige implosion, and the tall lady from Glee marrying a woman from my alma mater, was an article about a French Intellectual (their term, not mine) who opines that some of the tools of motherhood that I espouse - cloth diapers, breastfeeding, natural childbirth - are just chains that are keeping women from achieving their full potential. Elisabeth Badinter, as she outlines in Conflict: The Woman and the Mother (Le Conflit: la femme et la mere) believes that the advances of modern times, disposable diapers, the plastic (now BPA-free glass) bottle and epidurals which were designed to help free women and keep them independant and liberated are being discarded in favor of greener, more eco-friendly, and she would say, harder choices. Choices that are rolling back years of feminist advances in favor of a lifestyle that chains women to motherhood.

So, as you can see, not what I wanted to read on a happy, peaceful, Sunday morning. Mommy Wars a la Francais. Unlike the US based Mommy Wars which seem to focus mostly on the Working Mom vs. Stay at Home Mom dynamic, this was all about the movement toward a greener, cleaner lifestyle. She classifies the heightened eco-awareness amongst many of today's moms (and dads!) as just a passing fad and one, that left unchecked, is going to derail decades of advances for women.

After I got over my initial anger and frustration at what I believe to be this woman's limited point of view, I guess I understood a bit of what she was saying. Yes, women are making different choices than perhaps their mothers would have made. I can see how the women who blazed the trail for working women (moms or not) would be upset or frustrated that so many who follow are choosing different paths and perhaps not fully appreciating their struggles and sacrifices. But, isn't this okay? Isnt the beauty of where we are in society that it is okay that we have a choice? Bottles might allow women to return to work sooner but breastfeeding is cheaper and easier for many (not all, as my own experience would attest). Cloth diapers are better for the environment and our pocket books. So many live their lives in a medicated state, isn't it okay and rather cool that some (once again, not all, as my crash C-section would attest) choose to experience a major life event drug free and clear? Why are these things bad?

I do agree somewhat with one point she makes. That we, as a society, have idealized what the "perfect" mom does (cloth, breastfeed for 12 months or more, natural childbirth) and those who opt to not do these things or, even worse, try and cannot succeed in doing these things are left feeling like a failure. As if they did not check off all the "Good Mommy" boxes and are not as dedicated as the moms who do. So, what do you think? Are women who choose cloth and breastfeeding and natural childbirth rolling back decades of feminist advances? By making these choices are we reducing our freedom and limiting our professional options? Are the women who choose to not incorporate these elements into their parenting portfolio "Imperfect?" Or, in the end, is the "Perfect" mom one who loves her child and does the best she can in her own individual way taking into account her own, individual circumstances?


  1. Something to make you think! I have always hated it how someone is made to feel inferior because they chose to bottle feed etc, or circumstances caused them to do that. What is most important is loving and supporting our children and doing the best we can with what we have available to us.

  2. Feminism was NEVER about working. It never about burning bras or giving up 'home' life. It was about the FREEDOM to be EQUAL to CHOOSE. Nothing more, nothing less. By tarnishing breastfeeding and cloth diapering choices, and saying we'll 'undo DECADES' of hard work, is very short sighted, for one thing, and tunnel visioned for another. Just because SHE has certain goals, doesn't mean the rest of us do. We're choosing the CHEAP and EASY way that also happens to be greener. Yes, we ARE doing what our grandmothers would have done, but look at where our 'fanciness' has gotten us. Some of the greatest inventions of modern times have also proven to be the worst for us. I suppose she doesn't want people to cook at home either, and just eat out all the time because it's 'freeing'. Can you say obesity? I would seriously question her motives to write this piece.



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