Sunday, November 14, 2010

Diaper in the teapot

Can you even stuff a diaper in a teapot? Ewwww!

Anyhow, there is a growing discussion around the issue of diaper donations. Some folks are the YummyMummyClub are getting together to organize a diaper drive with some tips and inspiration from Huggies. The diapers going to foodbanks to help low income parents keep their babies in dry behinds and allowing the parents to spend the much needed money elsewhere. I think this is great. I want to get involved!

However on the other side, some folks who cloth diaper are like "Wait a minute! What about cloth diapers? You can re-use them. They're better for the environment and babies."

Well first of all, for those who haven't researched the price of cloth diapers, they're expensive. An initial purchase of $100-$500 is a HUGE amount of money to someone who is low income. Even gently used cloth diapers don't come cheap. The larger your stash, the more you pay. There was probably once a year in my family where we had a couple of hundred dollars to blow on anything. Income tax refund time. And we usually spent it on silly items such as much needed shoes, replacing a pot that had broken 6 months ago, bus fare etc. So I'm not sure where folks are suggesting people get the initial investment money, unless they of course are going to donate their stashes to cover a child for their entire diapering lifetime.

Then there is the issue of laundry. Most people I know who cloth diaper do a wash every couple of days or so. Those who have huge stashes, maybe eke by with once a week. Let me tell you something. Weekly washings are not a reality for everyone. Most people receiving these disposable diapers, they don't have washing machines and are at the mercy of private commercial operators who can and will kick you out if they don't like what you're doing.And they're free to do so.

Anyhow, a brief run down of the clothing situation when you are "po'" you come home, you change out of your "school clothes" you wash your underwear and maybe socks in the tub at the end of the day. Your play clothes can get dirty as all heck because you only have a pair or two, but your school clothes are to be maintained in working order. This is assuming the parents have a system. Every couple of weeks or so, your family hauls a couple of garbage bags of stuff that needs to be washed to the laundromat-the good one was a few blocks away, spend an afternoon there and you have clean clothes. No one I know who cloth diapers washes once every couple of weeks. Of course everyone I know who cloth diapers has a washer/dryer and some extra money. I reckon the poor could spend what's left of the time they're spending working and trying to make a living, washing diapers by hand, but come on. Low income parents like spending time with their kids too, who is anyone to tell them that they shouldn't spend that 1 hour they have to spare a day working with their kids on homework or vegging with them outside.

I think a lot of people are coming at this from a place of privilege and need to really understand what the day to day life is of a parent who is using a food bank or social agencies to feed and cloth themselves. We've relied on them growing up, it's not a picnic, it's hard, so very hard and so very complicated and I think asking folks to add one more layer of work and figuring out how to make things work to their already tough lives is kinda ignorant, or "ignant!" as we'd say back home. I know some folks are sitting here thinking "Geez Joy, it's just friggin laundry, it shouldn't be THAT hard or THAT expensive." But really, it is. That $5.00 in laundry money can go to a bag of milk, it can be bus fare for a day for a student, it can be a bunch of hamburger which makes a couple of meatloafs. Seriously, if you can't think of ways to spend the equivalent of a couple loads of laundry on several necessities, then you haven't been there and you need to consider what right you have telling people how to live. The alternative is getting free diapers and no extra laundry costs, which unfortunately don't fit in the ideal world of some folks, but it is bonanza to those who need it and who are we to criticize?

What we need to criticize is the system where there are people who are barely squeaking by while others are doing quite well. In Canada! We have people living without clean water, garbage collection, heat, food, necessary clothing and what have you, and we're arguing about diapers? You don't have to like how some people chose to donate, how some companies decide to give back or operate, but you also need to give back too to be in that position. If you don't like the diaper drives or Huggies, well, as we'd say back home "put your money where your mouth is" and pony up. Go talk to some folks who work in these communities, see what necessities are needed (be prepared it might not align with what you deem necessary) and how you can contribute. I can hook you up with a marvellous organization serving Regent Park and other downtown communities.

Ultimately, I think we need to look at this problem not from our places of privilege, it's easy for us to sort out all the problems of low income folks if they just did this, or just did that. I might think my donation of an uber expensive double stroller might be worthwhile, but the money I could get for it on craigslist might be better received. Disposable diapers are a necessary evil for many people, those who don't have the time and resources to be running back and forth to the laundromat and doing laundry frequently. It's reality, and if you'd like that changed, great! So would I, so would a lot of people, so lets find a way to have at it, but I can guarantee you, diapers is not a productive hill in the giant issue of poverty in Canada, to die on.


Stacey said...

As a cloth diaperer, I agree with you. One thing people could donate instead is a cloth diapering service where diapers are not purchased and the washing is taken care of. Just a more realistic option for people without time or laundry. But the cost might be better spent on getting more rather than simply saving on diaper waste. They should focus on more privileged folks using cloth.

Joy said...

That's a cool perspective Stacey, if they focused more on folks who have the means, then what would be left would be better absorbed by the system.

Just that...please wait until A dude is potty trained before folks start focusing on me. :)

Kimberly said...

Booya and amen sister!

Joy said...

Thanks for the Booya Kimberly. I'm secretly relieved that I'm not the only mom who says that. lol