Is Organic Motherhood Just a Status Symbol?

I got SO excited when I read this headline on SheKnows.com.  I realize that being environmentally friendly is important.  There’s a reason that “green marketing” has been so effective, everyone really does want to do their share and save the planet and leave our children with a better world.  Really, we do!

But it’s not easy.  It’s expensive and it’s time-consuming and sometimes, it’s downright exhausting to put so much effort into one more thing… one more thing every mother can feel guilty about.  As a young, single mother, my daughter ate Gerber baby food, I used disposable diapers and we didn’t own a single piece of organic cotton clothing.  The reason?  Time and money.  Yes, growing my vegetables might have saved money, but I definitely didn’t have the time to garden.  I could hardly shower.  Farmer’s markets are great, but they are also an expensive way to shop.  There is a reason that Whole Foods only exists in big cities or affluent suburbs.  I realize that disposable diapers are more expensive, but daycares don’t do cloth.  And honestly, my tiny apartment was not equipped for the laundering of all those cloth diapers.  (Neither were my nerves.)  Organic clothing is nice, but it’s also double the price.

Organic motherhood sounds great in theory.  But the reality of young, working, single mother just didn’t mix with the whimsical stay-at-home land of organic motherhood.  I saw this headline and I thought, Someone is going to finally admit that organic motherhood just isn’t realistic for everyone.  Yes, we all know that its the ideal.  We all wish we could save the world.  But some of us are too busy saving our sanity and our savings accounts (if we’re lucky enough to have them). I was practically shaking at the idea of having a little validation.

And then…. SheKnows kicked me in the jaw.  They weren’t defending mothers who were trying their hardest but not making it to the “Perfect Wife/Mother/Woman/Environmentalist” image.  They were letting me know that even if I did spend the extra money to go organic, it still wouldn’t be enough.  I would be buying into a marketing scheme and not really helping the planet.  All those easy ways to be “eco-friendly”, the expensive ways, they are just status symbols.  Truly wonderful mothers will make the effort themselves, grow their own food, monitor the labor practices of the brands you buy.  In other words: I’m not only poor, I’m lazy.

I’m not saying that organic motherhood is a bad thing.  Obviously it’s not.  It’s admirable.  For those women who have the time and resources to put into it, I salute you!  I wish I was more like you.  Unfortunately, as a working mother, going back to school, I have precious few hours to spend with my daughter.  I want those hours to be full of playtime and reading and giggling and playing dress-up.  By concentrating on that, I lose any time I might have had to grow my own food or make my own products.  And that trade-off is worth it to me.

I wish that more websites would acknowledge that organic motherhood has limits.  I wish we could all agree that these awesome little tips just won’t work for everyone.  Because I think it will help assuage the guilt that lots of mothers face at our inability to be the perfect mother and the perfect global citizen.  If being eco-friendly didn’t seem like such an all-or-nothing concept, more stressed and busy mothers might be willing to take small steps towards organic motherhood, instead of ignoring the whole movement because we’re tired of hearing that we’re never doing enough.

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    • porkchop

      wow that article was terrifying. I especially liked the part where they said that, if you make your own food, you can decide for yourself if you’d like to poison your family with corn syrup or use responsible sweeteners. yikes.

    • Emily

      Hurrah for you! Your daughter will grow up with lovely memories of fun time with her mom, and when she’s old enough to understand you can explain to her why it’s important to do her best with the environment.

      Use the diapers, you’re already a super mom!

    • .

      Organic and healthy living is not a status symbol. My sister and I grew up on organic food because our parents cared about our health, not to impress the neighbors. I know people like you who get knocked up young get insulted when people suggest that you might not be doing the best for your child, but maybe you should have thought of that before you decided to have kids when you were poor and single. Now your kid’s health has to pay the price for your mistake. Do her a favor and at least TRY to keep her away from high fructose corn syrup and preservatives and so on. That stuff is literally poison for the body.

      • Taylor

        Wow, douche bag.

    • Sandy

      A “status symbol?” How ridiculously insulting. I provide my family with organic food because I’m educated enough in the food industry to know the effects certain food products can have on people. Ever wonder why obesity is rising exponentially? Why the rates of diabetes are so high? Why we have girls as young as 7 beginning their menstrual cycles? The answer is all in the food you are giving your child. Have fun explaining to your daughter that she has to wear a bra when she’s barely 8 years old.

      • Alex

        Calm down. It’s not like shes feeding the kid a diet of nothing but hfcs and mechanically separated chicken. A bulk apple isn’t going to give the kid 3 nipples and neither is a fruit of the loom sleeper.
        My parent didn’t feed me organics food all the time and I’m in perfect health(aside from a high metabolism which can be bad or good)

    • Eileen

      Organic living in general is just a status symbol.

      I don’t mean choosing to cook yourself rather than heating up a TV dinner, or dressing your kid in cotton instead of, say, plastic wrap, but there’s really not a huge difference between a regular apple and an organic apple or regular cotton and organic cotton…except that one costs more and lets you feel superior to everyone else.

    • Nina

      Sandy, did you not READ the article above? As well as having sufficient knowledge to understand the dangers of not providing your children a wholly organic diet – I’m going to guess is that you ALSO have the means with which to do so. Lindsay is pointing out that such rigorous adherence to ‘organic motherhood’ is not possible for all mothers and rightly positing that time spent with her daughter is preferable to tending the vegetable garden that she is required to somehow cultivate in an apartment.

      And to the woman who suggested she was ‘knocked up young’ and thus not qualified to look after her own child – stop being a bitch. I’m not even a mother and I’m enraged beyond belief at your audacity to presume you are qualified to step in and correct Lindsey’s mothering skills – I can’t even begin to imagine how much it might irritate her.