Today’s guest post comes from Laura of A Pug in the Kitchen.
While I was pregnant with my son, I spent a lot of time reading. I read everything I could get my hands on concerning pregnancy, child-rearing, education, green lifestyles, the list was endless. While I was reading, I picked up a few books on the marketing game that is played against parents. Even though I read about it and knew what I was going to be up against, I am honestly surprised at how there are days when I feel sidelined by my choice to lead a simpler life.
I’ve never considered myself to be tremendously materialistic or trendy. The only reason why I bought a new pair of shoes this past fall was because the pair I was wearing at the time fell apart. While I was walking. I’m not concerned about appearing to have it all together. It doesn’t bother me in the least bit to shop at garage sales and thrift stores. I have no problem making my own meals and clipping coupons. These things don’t bother me. My husband works a typical day and I pick up a few hours a week tutoring math. We garden, use cloth diapers, cook from scratch and recycle. There aren’t grand vacations on our calendars and we don’t have the newest cars. We spend time together as a family as much as we can and our ideal weekend is one that has no obligations so that we can stay at home, moving with the flow of the day.
When I registered for my baby shower, I was shocked at all the absurd products on the market geared toward making my life as a new mother “easier”. Since I don’t like clutter and chaos, I eschewed the battery operated snot sucker for a tissue. We bought 2 dozen cloth diapers and a laundry basket. I didn’t have one bottle in the house since I planned to breastfeed until he was at least 1. The toys were cloth or wood. I felt good about my choices until my friend registered for her shower. Then I started to compare. This being the inherit downfall of society, I fell prey to its allure and started to feel bad for my son.
For the first time ever, I felt bad that my son’s toys were wooden and didn’t have bells and whistles as I watched the other baby play with an obnoxious toy that wouldn’t stop asking us to come out and play. As our children got older, the toys got more involved and flashier. I felt worse whenever a play date would end. All this time, I had been going under the premise that I had survived just fine without fancy toys and had learned to role play and imagine without having all sorts of prompts and mechanized voices telling me what to do. Suddenly, I wondered if my own growth had been stunted by not having a play laptop.
Being a simple parent isn’t what society is geared toward these days and if you choose to be simple in your lifestyle, people act as though you are depriving your children of all the joy life has to offer. Of course, post-partum hormones play a big role in these feelings, but it is also due in part to whether or not you have found support. I am gathering my community of mothers around me who understand why I’ve made my choices and encourage me. We compare our diaper results and trade recipes for dinner. Together we ooh and ahh over locally crafted puzzles. And they helped me to see that my child is healthy and happy without all the hoopla. Now, I realize when I come home from an overstimulating play date that he’s been stressed, not that he’s missing the toys. Watching his face light up when he sees his favorite dump truck makes me realize that when it comes down to it, he’d rather be at home with me, playing with his puzzles or building with his blocks or chasing the dogs around the house.
It’s taken me a while to reconcile both sides of the toy store. Being a parent for me is now about finding balance. We have lots of cloth and wooden toys, but we also have Tonka trucks made out of plastic. My boy loves trucks; wooden, metal, plastic, and recycled plastic. None of them do anything; they are powered by imagination and little hands guiding them down the path of their dreams. So in the end, my home-birthed, cloth-diapered, local-foods-eating son is learning how to use the incredible mind he was gifted with and how to make his own fun instead of waiting for a toy to flash its pretty lights. For me, this is a simple success.
Laura is an advocate of things green, natural and even a little crunchy after leaving her career as a Toxicology researcher when it became evident to her what was really going on behind all the pretty labels. Today, she can be found in the garden, in the kitchen, playing with her 1 year old son, crafting or stealing a few moments to read. Feeding people real, local and simple food that isn’t deceptively healthy is her passion. Check out Laura’s blog A Pug in the Kitchen or follow her on twitter @Beansprouthair.