I read a lot. Mainly fiction, but also autobiographies, anthropological studies, and books on sustainable living. And, since Tom was born, about parenting.
I tend to be drawn towards books and magazines that focus on being a ‘green’ parent. I subscribe to the Green Parenting Magazine, and I have recently been given two different books with ‘green parenting’ in the title (The Ultimate Guide to Green Parenting by Zion Lights and The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting by Kate Blincoe). I read blogs by parents aiming for a more sustainable life.
Mostly, these books, magazine articles and blogs are good. Sometimes useful, sometimes funny, sometimes informative. But there is a worrying underlying assumption in many of them and it has been annoying me more and more as time goes on.
The assumption is this: that being a green parent means being an attachment parent.
It’s all over the place. Especially in the Green Parent magazine. This assumption that anyone who wants to take care of the environment must also want to breastfeed, co-sleep, and baby-wear. That you can’t want to live sustainably and also use time-outs. Even the Zion Lights book, which is not very long, dedicates the entire beginning chapter to telling people that they should take the attachment route. And never, ever, ever think of doing any kind of sleep training. (The Kate Blincoe book, incidentally, has a brief mention of baby-wearing but otherwise is refreshingly free of judgement on parenting style. Read it. It’s very good).
Now, if you’ve read my parenting posts before you will know I do some of these things with Tom. I own more slings than I should and aim for empathetic, gentle discipline over time-outs or scolding (not always successfully). But that is to do with how I feel most comfortable parenting and what works best for my family. It has nothing to do with wanting to be green. Being a green parent should be about trying to reduce your impact on the environment and teaching your kids to do the same. Recycling? Buying second hand clothes? Using cloth nappies? These are things I do which make me closer to being a green parent. Owning four slings? That doesn’t make me green, especially considering I also own a buggy. And I’d like to think the fact that Tom has never slept a single night in our bed doesn’t make me not green either. Nor does introducing a couple of bottles of formula a day when I went back to work when he was 6 months old (we already owned the bottles, proving breastfeeding is not always waste-free, and recycled the formula cartoons. We are still using the scoops as toys for water or sand play).
And that is my worry. That parents who want to reduce their impact on the planet, but who don’t (or can’t) breastfeed or baby-wear or co-sleep, might read these books and articles and be turned off the whole idea. Because it ends up being part of the realm of ‘that’ kind of parent. Which is ridiculous. We all need to think about what we use and what we throw away. Especially when we are raising the next generation. It has nothing to do with which parenting style you prefer and everything to do with being mindful of your choices and how they affect the world around you. And raising your kids to do the same.
So regardless of how you approach parenting, please don’t think you can’t also aim for a greener life. Because you do not have to be an attachment parent to be a green parent.