From Sustainable Couple to Sustainable Family

This post is my contribution to the March APLS Blog Carnival.

With my due date fast approaching (tomorrow!), I’ve been thinking about how we want to raise our child.  In terms of our continued quest for sustainability, I realize that there are some areas of our lives that we’ll have to let slide, while in other areas, we’ll be able to continue on in our sustainable ways.

The first thing to go will be Freezing Our Buns.  We’ve been told on numerous occasions that our house is simply too cold for a baby.  Don’t worry grandmas-to-be, we promise to turn the heat up when we bring the little guy home.  For now, our nighttime temperature of 60 suits me just fine.  Our desire to reduce our carbon footprint and our dependence on foreign oil isn’t more important than keeping our little guy warm.  But not to worry, spring seems to be coming on full force, and we look forward to being able to turn the heat off for the year and throwing the windows open.

I also realize that I’m going to have to scale back some of my from-scratch lifestyle, as the new baby will put bigger demands on my time.  Though I’ve been meaning to get a clothes line and start line drying, I know this summer probably won’t be the time for it.  Since I hate doing laundry now, and I’ve been told our once-a-week laundry regime will change quite a bit when baby comes, I’m planning to continue using the dryer.  I’ll also probably be more likely to use a kitchen appliance than do something by hand, like using a breadmaker instead of kneading.  Even so, I think I’ll be buying bread, and I probably won’t make homemade cheese for a while either.  If these compromises result in more time with my family, then that’s fine with me.

One thing that I’m not willing to change is my reduction in household chemicals.  My “green” cleaners won’t be replaced by the cheaper, more traditional cleaners.  Let’s be honest, I don’t clean all that often (my family and friends will confirm that), so I’m not going through an inordinate amount of household cleaners.  Having a baby is not the time to get relaxed about chemicals in the house.  The same goes for personal care products: I’m going to keep on getting products that are as pure and safe as possible.

I think a new, interesting facet will be working on sustainable consumerism.  Until now, I’ve been what you might call an anti-consumer, really thinking about my purchases before making them.  After building our dream house, it was easy… we were out of money!  However, having a baby brings with it a whole new need to buy things.  Fortunately, I had an amazing baby shower, and we’ve got most of what we’ll need.  But as our baby grows, we’ll need the typical clothes, shoes and toys, and I’ve done my best during my pregnancy to start scouting second-hand stores and learning about toy safety.

Our food choices also won’t change.  Sustainable, locally and humanely raised food is important to both of us, and teaching our son where his food comes from is going to be a big part of his upbringing.  This is one area that I’m determined not to let fall through the cracks as learning to raise a baby takes over our lives.  We’re planning to continue our vegetable garden this year, while scaling back a little to make it more realistic for us.  I’ve decided not to start seeds indoors this spring, but will be getting some tomatoes that my dad started from seed, and starting other veggies right in the garden.  We’re going to grow only veggies that we know we’ll eat on a regular basis so we’ll be able to keep up, and along with our berry patch we should have plenty of produce from our backyard.  Our little boy, before he’s even eating solid food, will benefit from our backyard garden because I plan to breastfeed.  But that’s not all… with a mom’s family farm raising strawberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, raspberries, peaches, apples and pumpkins, and a dad’s family raising pigs, turkeys, clams, oysters and–for the first time this year–chickens… Well let’s just say this little guy will be exposed to lots of agriculture and healthy local food when the time comes for him to eat it.

But it’s not just about the food: it’s about the experience.  I look forward to taking my little boy on walks around the farm in his stroller or in a carrier, enjoying the outdoors and the animals.  We can also visit the local farmer’s markets and enjoy music and community.  When he’s older, my husband looks forward to taking the little guy out on the boat, helping to gather clams or stealing some time to fish.  The excitement of catching a fish, growing a giant pumpkin, or collecting eggs from our future backyard flock will always be a part of our family’s life.

Overall, I think staying on the path to sustainability has to be about choices.  Major changes in our lives mean we have to reassess what’s most important to us, what to keep and what to let go.  What do you think?



Filed under Food, Gardening, Living from Scratch, Local Agriculture, Outside, Sustainable Living

24 responses to “From Sustainable Couple to Sustainable Family

  1. Something as big as having a baby changes your whole life in ways that are big and small. So, reassessing absolutely comes into play. In fact, it continues to do so as your baby grows and develops and has different needs. Kids change so quickly, and so our lifestyles sometimes have to, as well.

    And yet, sustainability is possible. My kids love the farmer’s market and working in the garden. They really love picking fresh berries or peas from the garden. Even amidst the constant upside-down-ness of raising babies, I am able to share the things I love with my kids, and I grow to appreciate them even more as I see it all through their eyes. It really is wonderful, and I hope that my example will encourage them to live sustainably, too.

  2. As someone that raised 2 children in a 65F house until about 5yrs ago when the wood fired boiler went it… your house isn’t too cold. But do watch that you don’t use too many blankets on the baby in the beginning, they add a lot of weight, a lot of weight makes it difficult to breathe. Our upstairs would have been closer to 60F since there’s only one heat duct in the alcove.

    For green cleaners make certain you don’t use the commercial brands. They are untested. They don’t have to be. My fav is vinegar and water. Borax is another.

    Laundry… I have a front loading washer and dryer… the biggest size. Although I still seem to do unending loads.

    Those that claim baby rearing takes every moment of their time frustrated me a lot when mine were small. We managed to go here, do that, garden, etc. The child doesn’t need to be held 24hrs/day.

    Also….. another thing that drove me batty about some of my friends… You aren’t the first to have a child… you won’t be the last….. It’s amazing how may think they are.

    • The only cleaners I use are ones that disclose all their ingredients, so I know what’s really in them.

      Your attitude towards some of your friends about them not being the first to have a child seems kind of harsh. I think it should be a joyous occasion for the birth of any child, and I for one can see how it can make people a little self-centered 🙂

  3. What a lucky boy he is going to be. Don’t worry too much about the heat. Babies do better in cooler than warmer.
    This is one of those areas that you can plan some,but much of it is just feeling your way. You’ll get into your own groove and be able to do lots of normal things. I didn’t have too much trouble getting stuff done. A sling or baby bjorn type thing can be wonderful for all of that.
    What fun he’ll have running around the farms! Relax and enjoy him!

  4. Peggy Wilson has a pretty good draft of a book available on Lulu for download. It has links to many site you will like given your interest in being sustainable and frugal.

  5. I think that you have a good plan, but that after your baby is born you will have to continually reassess priorities – just like the rest of us. Some days, getting a shower will be a major accomplishment. But don’t worry – having a baby changes your life, but it doesn’t usually change your core values. Pay attention to what you feel is right and listen to your gut. In my humble opinion, for the first three months, here’s what you should be worried about:
    1) get a good start on breastfeeding
    2) get enough sleep – hahahahha what am I thinking? Get some sleep.
    3) bond. You, your husband, and the baby should spend as much time as you possibly, possibly can just laying around counting fingers and toes, making faces at each other, etc. Readjusting to life as a threesome takes time, and it’s really, really important to take the time to do it right. Luckily, it’s extremely pleasurable and fun. Just all hang out in bed together as much as you can.

    And ps. I agree, babies do way better in cool rather than too warm. There are great snuggies and warm jammie-thingies out there these days. Even secondhand.
    You are in for such a treat! Congratulations!

  6. Gayle Rowley

    I turn my heat off at night and it regularly get down to 55 in the house during the winter. I had a baby in May 2008 and he is just fine. We put him in warm jammies with the feet in them and and sometimes add an extra t-shirt or pair of socks underneath. Stick to your sustainable plan and enjoy your new baby!

  7. I think that a woman like you, as thoughtful and firmly rooted in the earth and her family will do fine. Follow your heart. Your instincts will speak to you. The world is full of well-meaning people with opinions that may contradict your own, and it always will be. We’re all very passionate about our babies! The best advice will come from within.

    You’ll be fine. Your baby will be fine with you as a wonderful, intelligent and loving mother. Just choose the advice that resonates for you and chuck the rest.

  8. Ab,

    Hooray for not freezing the little one! Seriously, though, you have built a beautiful, sustainable lifestyle and you have so much to share and teach your little one! I can’t wait to take him on walks around the farm and perhaps his uncles can share their love of growing giant pumpkins with him!

    So much fun to look forward to!


  9. I don’t know about really small babies although I see several have answers but toddlers sure don’t need it warm.

    We kept the house at 66 because that was about the lowest we wanted to manage. The kids were continually stripping off their clothes or even running around naked. Clearly, it wasn’t too cold for them.

    I wish you luck with adjusting to the baby and learning how to continue your sustainability.

  10. Sounds like a great plan – and that you and Ed are flexible, that is the most important thing.

    I bought a jogging stroller, not so much to go jogging with the baby, but because it had large wheels that would go anywhere! We took the baby everywhere on every task, and it was great!

  11. First I just want to say I didn’t read all the comments, so I apologize if this has already been said. I grew up in a house het by a woodstove (as did many of our ancestors) and the temperatures were not the 68 degrees that is called for. But this is your decision, so I wanted to offer a suggestion and compromise. Rather than turning the whole house heat up (at night) I recommend a heater just for the babies room. This way you can set it to 68 at night for the baby but continue to sleep in your 60 degree bedroom. I have a ceramic one that we use in the room we are in (living room, girls bedroom when they are playing) so we don’t have to heat the whole house. If you don’t want to drag it all around the house then get one for upstairs and one for down. You can heat the desired room without heating the others.
    I think you will learn that being a sustainable parent really isn’t all that different from being a sustainable person. You just have to decide on where you are willing to compromise for the sake of time with your child.
    Another tip – if you babywear as its called (I just called it baby packing) you can put the wash out on the line (and if you use cloth diapers I highly recommend this). I never had smelly diapers and I just couldn’t figure it out, but then I realized that the people who were complaining did not line dry the diapers in the sun every once in a while.
    I know you like to do laundry once a week, and if you CD that might not be possible. I did a load of laundry every other day or so with my first baby, and it was fine. I would throw the laundry in the washer at night and then hang it out in the morning, but that was my routine and I had good sleepers (6 hours at night from the start, probably because I ignored the nurse who told me to wake my sleeping baby to feed her, I would rather nurse for 30-45 minutes (which I did at times) than wake a sleeping baby to nurse them more frequently for shorter periods).
    You will learn much is instinct and when you think your instinct is wrong you have grammas to turn to, who will tell you that you were right all along.
    Good luck and enjoy every moment, because days only go forward and with each new phase of childhood is something new to relish.

    • I grew up with wood heat, too. Our house was always cozy warm, since it was wood for heat and hot water, so we had to keep the fire going at night to have hot water in the morning.

      I’m simply not comfortable with space heaters. I don’t think they really save energy when you look at them comparatively and I’m unconvinced of their safety. Besides, we plan to have the baby sleep in our room in the beginning anyway.

  12. Amy

    Hi! Abbie Our first son was born the middle of Jan. I was
    concerned about keeping him warm. The Dr. said keeping
    a hat on him and several thin layers would also help. We
    have in almost 29 yrs. of marriage kept our home cool.
    65 by day and 60 at night. Our sons both do the same they
    tell people that complain to put on more cloths.
    I love your blog the way it is!!!

  13. Congratulations on the birth of the little guy!

    And regarding baby changes, while the temps may go up, very little may change in how you approach things (even though you have less time). The great thing too is you’ll be able to blend your own baby food (you really don’t need the jarred kind – just offer a great variety from your yard or market!)

  14. Congratulations on the birth of your baby! I hope you are getting a chance to spend lots of time together as a family resting and getting to know each other.

    Our experience with co-sleeping was wonderful. It made breastfeeding much easier and everyone in the family was able to get more sleep (a precious commodity!). I hope it is equally as beneficial to your family!

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