Response to my cloth diapering posts

Remember my cloth diapering posts from way back when? I recently got this email from Laura:

"First, I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog, "Ask Moxie."  I am a mother of 3 kids, ages 6, 3, and 1, work part-time outside the home, and find your non-judgemental, common-sense parenting philosophy so refreshing.  It’s a terrific resource, keep up the great work!

With that preface, I just wanted to comment that your entries (featured prominently on your sidebar) on diapering didn’t sit well with me.  While you try to separate parenting choices from environmental choices in your opening paragraph, I don’t think they are that divisible.  Making responsible environmental choices is part and parcel of what many people consider to be "good" mothering.  Preserving the earth for our children, fostering environmental stewardship in the next generation, etc.  And, generally, I feel like the tone of these entries is not in keeping with the "good-for-you" feel of the rest of your blog.

Aside from that general impression, I want to comment specifically on your hierarchy of environmental impact of diapering choices.  I work in the environmental field as a biologist and environmental educator, consider myself an environmentalist, and researched this issue extensively before my oldest child was born.  The issue is far from clear-cut, and certainly cannot be sorted into the kind of linear hierarchy you present.  I encourage you to take a look at the book "The Consumers Guide to Effective Environmental Choices" by Michael Brower and Warren Leon, published by the Union of Concerned Scientists.  It addresses cloth vs disposable diapering and how it is a non-issue in the whole scheme of things.  Now, you may feel completely free to disagree with their findings, but the point is that there is honest disagreement in the scientific community on this issue and it’s oversimplified, even misrepresented on your blog.

Because the diapering issue is emotionally charged, and far from environmentally clear-cut, I would like to see your diapering entries edited to focus more on the wealth of information you have on how to do cloth diapering.  And to emphasize that diapering is just one more parenting choice that you make based on what feels right to you, for whatever reason.  If the environmental piece is truly a separate issue, as you assert, then why bring it in at all?  In my opinion, it is just a detriment to what would otherwise be a terrific entry on how to cloth diaper.

Thanks again for all the time you put in to this terrific parenting resource.  I hope it brings you as much pleasure as it does your myriad readers!"

Interesting thoughts.

I’d like to address the environmental choices being part of good parenting comment, and give some background on why I wrote the cloth diapering posts in the first place.

When I started cloth diapering my first son I quickly discovered that online it made me a saint. I was one of the good, chosen mothers who cared more about her child and about the environment than those evil, oblivious disposable-diapering mothers did.  Those mothers were to be pitied or scorned for their bad choices.

I really didn’t  buy into that. For one thing, I diapered because it was cheaper and it was just as easy for me to wash a load of diapers as to schlep out and buy more. So how did being cheap and lazy make me better than someone who assiduously researched whether to use Pampers or Huggies or Seventh Generation?

And there was plenty of scorn from the disposable-diapering crowd online, who apparently thought all cloth diapering mothers were tree-hugging freaks who did everything the hard way because it made us feel good.

So my cloth diapering posts were meant primarily to introduce the different ways of cloth diapering to people who were curious about it, but also to dispel the myth that cloth diapering automatically makes you a better parent. There are so many reasons people use cloth diapers, and so many reasons people use disposable diapers (the entry costs to start using cloth diapers are way more than some excellent parents can manage, for example) that it makes no sense to me to make judgments about other people’s parenting on the basis of choices about diapering.

I think that’s why I wrote those first few paragraphs, including the one about the hierarchy of diapering choices, in such a brisk, flippant way. I didn’t want people to start any one-upping or misery poker in the comments sections. Obviously this was before I knew everyone well enough to know you all were as committed to having a safe space to muse and analyze without having to be defensive and posturing.

So I guess my questions is this: Should I rewrite that post? Did you take it to mean that that was the absolute, essential hierarchy of good for the environment? What about someone who found this site through one of the cloth diapering posts? Also, let me know if I need to drop an even broader hint.

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