Let me preface this post by saying that I do not look down on anyone who cloth diapers or purchases used clothes. I do not think that I’m any better than those who choose to, nor do I believe that our way is the best and the ultimate. Once again, this is a personal decision that we have made for our own family based on our unique preferences and circumstances.
There was a period in time as I neared the end of my pregnancy with Claire when I seriously considered cloth diapering. It is more green. They say it’s more economical in the long-run. I have also read that today’s cloth diapers are superior to those in the past, and that they can actually be better on babies’ sensitive skin. Plus, look at all the cute designs!
When I relayed my thoughts to my mother, she was vehemently against it.
“No, you will not be cloth-diapering your kids. And that is that.”
I know what you must be thinking: they are my children, and I have the right to raise them how I see fit. My mother should trust that I can make these decisions on my own, and she should respect them, right?
But my mother had her reasons. You see, she and my father have been in the clothes-cleaning business (dry cleaning and laundromat) for over twenty years now. And her main reason for being against cloth diapers is that soiled cloths can never really be clean again, no matter what cleaning method you use. And the stuff that gets on these diapers is some of the worst that can stain your clothes — at least in my mother’s eyes.
I finally understood when she pointed out that I wouldn’t just wash, and re-wear my clothes if they had been soaked in urine or had been smeared with stool; I would discard them. (And this is true — it is a personal quirk of mine.) So why would I expose my children’s sensitive skin to cloths that get exposed to urine and stool over and over again, especially since it sits against their skin for such prolonged periods of time?
“Besides,” she added. “I cloth-diapered both you and your sister, but only because we didn’t have disposable diapers back then. Why would you purposely add more work to your life when being a mother is already so much work?”
It made sense.
Yes, I am aware that there are chemicals in disposable diapers that may irritate babies’ skin. Yes, I know disposables are more expensive. But in my experience, they are easier, cleaner, and both my girls’ bottoms have remained free of diaper rash since birth.
My mother uses the same logic for buying used clothes. But in her mind, there is an added strike against used clothes because you don’t know who wore those clothes before you. In other words, you don’t know what type of lifestyle they led, if they were clean people, and so forth.
“I have run dry-cleaners for over twenty years. I have seen the horrible stuff that people do to their clothes — it makes no difference if they’re rich or poor, or if their clothes are expensive or not,” she tells me.
She understands that most of the clothes that are sold in second hand stores are in good condition. But she says that after some of the things she has been exposed to in her line of work, she can never place her trust in strangers to have taken good care of the clothes that she will wear, even if they have been carefully cleaned.
I have been exposed to a sliver of her business too. And I too, refuse to purchase second-hand clothes for my family for the same reason. Hand-me-downs from trusted friends and family members? Yes. But used clothes from strangers? No.