Don’t get pissy yet; I am going to explain myself here. Before I had children, when I lived in the city, I went for years without having a car. I could walk almost anywhere and take public transportation anywhere else. If we lived outside the city today, and didn’t have kids, my husband and I would probably share a highly fuel-efficient vehicle that did not need to seat a family of five comfortably, or car seats, or our luggage and the dog. I used to be able to walk to the grocery store and pick up what I needed for the day with a single re-usable grocery bag.
Then I had kids. We tried to really stick to our good habits when we had children. With our twins, we even used cloth diapers, but by the time that their younger sister came long a year and a half later, I just could not keep up with it anymore and we changed to disposables at that point…and probably filled a landfill or two. Of course, whereas my husband and I would have dealt with being less comfortable in a myriad of situations when there were no little ones to consider; we became intense consumers of energy after the children were born. We had to get a car with ac and lots of room for the babies to ride in. We had to keep the house at a perfect temperature so that they would never be too hot or too cold. Along with children come thousands of pounds of pre-packaged snack foods, juice boxes and other crap.
If I had all of the toys that my three kids blew through as children in a pile right now, it might be larger than my entire house. Plastic pieces of shit from McDonalds, fucking party favors that were probably produced in sweat shops in Asia, toys that were un-godly expensive that they never even played with, and card board boxes that they used as forts for a month. We threw away balloons by the hundreds after parties, took the car to the grocery store across the street five times a week, went through at least six pairs of flip-flops per kid, per every damn year. The amount of popped floaties and swimmies that we have been through in the past decade would boggle your mind, and I believe that my kids have participated in the destruction of at least three different air mattresses as well as an air trampoline.
Here is the really scary part: I managed to waste a fraction of what I saw a lot of my friends wasting. I have always been relatively contentious about recycling and reusing things. I was a huge stickler about allowing my kids to waste food, whereas I have witnessed people throw their children’s entire untouched plates into the garbage without trying to save any of it for later. I did my best to pass on all of the clothes and shoes that were still usable after my kids grew out of them. I stayed at home, and cooked almost every one of our meals, avoiding a great deal of the extra packaging and waste that comes along with eating out. And still, I can look back and see what a fucking epic carbon footprint our family has left in its wake.
I didn’t expect to lose my mind as completely as I did when I had kids. I don’t know why I didn’t anticipate it, I mean how much was I really expecting to get out of myself on two hours of sleep a night? Survival becomes critical; all that you want to do in the entire fucking world is keep poop off of everything, and make those kiddos smile. Of course you select plastic bags at the grocery checkout! You bought the re-usable ones out of a sense of guilt, but what are the chances that you are ever going to remember to haul the damn things into the store along with the three squirming rug rats that demand constant attention? And besides, you can re-use the plastic bags for things like garbage can liners, or when you have to catch a random bout of kid vomit in the backseat of the car. Paper plates are suddenly not only acceptable, they are a fucking necessity, and sometimes even the styrofoam ones are, because they are the cheapest, and when has the budget not been tight? Yes, I have bought more than five toothbrushes in a week, or hairbrushes, or number two pencils, or scissors, because children create a black fucking hole in your house that they delight into feeding all of that crap into, so that you never have anything that you need when you need it.
God, parenting is hard. I am still carring around guilt and attempting to do penance by teaching my children to be ecologically responsible adults. With luck, my theory about the black hole is correct and at least all of that crap didn’t end up in a landfill, but then I guess I should be prepared for the intergalactic police to come knocking on my door one of these days to arrest me for my space-littering offenses. If you know anyone who is getting ready to have children, I truly recommend that you mention all of this to them. Maybe if I would have been prepared for the fact that my children were going to render me partially brain-dead for the entirety of their toddlerhood I could have done better. I am definitely going to my best to prepare my own kids for the day that it may happen to them.