The Hard Truth about Cloth Diapering

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You never forget the times when someone implies that you are a bad mother.

Recently, such a situation occurred in our church’s elevator. I had just nursed my daughter in the designated room and was traveling two floors to reach my husband and our Sunday school class. Sleep deprivation and perpetual nursing have a way of chronically weakening one, so I sent my daughter’s carrier and blanket with my husband. The baby and diaper bag were enough to juggle.

I entered the elevator with baby in arms. I took a deep breath, and the door began to close. Ah, a moment’s peace for communion with…

[Enter older, more experienced mother. Think Baby Boomer.]

“You’re wearing a jacket. Where’s hers?”

Few things sting quite like an unexpected, self-righteous bullet.

“Her blanket is with my husband.”

I departed with the kind of restraint that would make even Jesus proud.

We live in Southeast Georgia. The temperature reached the low-70s before the worship service ended just 90 minutes later.

I am reminded that motherhood is more than what we put onto our children’s bodies.

When I began cloth diapering two and a half years ago, I had no way of knowing the depth of such a commitment. The laundry is endless; the orchestration of cleaning baby and diaper is impossible; and the stains that result from skinny baby legs make me often question why I even bother.

For myself, my children have incredibly sensitive skin, and my nontraditional choice allows me to “practice what I preach” as a public health practitioner: for every cloth diaper I use, I save a disposable from the landfill.

But the truth is, cloth diapering doesn’t make me a better mother. It doesn’t ensure my children will enjoy a long, healthy life. And it certainly doesn’t entitle me to make another mother feel inadequate.

I think the heights of motherhood can lead us to feel invincible, and we lose our footing in reality. It becomes all too easy to see life through the “I-have-it-all-together” lens, and we naturally project that onto others. Fellow mothers, unfortunately, are most convenient targets.

Perhaps the best that we can do is to consider our future selves – the ones who will one day look back and wonder why we were so obsessed with getting the external right.

In the end, aren’t we all just mothers one elevator ride away from losing our minds?

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