Diaper Free:  Facts and FAQs
Sat, 6/06/09 – 22:05 | 47 Comments

Going diaper free with your baby is not as hard or bizarre as you might think.  In the Western world, we have been programmed to believe that babies need diapers, but in many parts of …

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Home » blogging

The Dad Jam in the Westender

Submitted by on Friday, 29 May 20094 Comments

As many of you already know, I had the honour of being featured in a great article about dads, dad bloggers, and modern, “hip” parents.  The article was titled:  “This ain’t your parents’ parenthood.”  I was happy to be a part of this article, as it conveys many of the messages that I try and convey here at the Dad Jam.

I also got to be on the cover with my kids, which prompted many friends to greet me with, “Hey, I saw your cute kids on the cover of the Westender today!”  Or, “I noticed some cute kids on the cover of the Westender and I took a closer look and realized, ‘I know those kids!’”   You can see how this is helping to boost my popularity and self-esteem.

In any case, it has helped me to spread my message and bring some new folks on over to Jam here with us.  I have received many emails from readers over the past few days with a heap of questions about parenting and offers to review books.   This should result in many good future Jams to come, and some giveaways too.  Some of the questions I have received about going diaper free have prompted me to put a Jam about going diaper-free with a baby in the pipeline, so look for that soon.

The folks at the Westender were kind enough to allow me to copy and paste the full article here on the Dad Jam.  Thanks to Jackie Wong for the great article and Doug Shanks for the great photo.  The article can also be read on the Westender site here.

Here goes….

This Ain’t Your Parents’ Parenthood,  by Jackie Wong, Photo by Doug Shanks

front-coverThere really is no way to actually know what it’s like to have another life depend on you completely until you have a kid. A pet is not the same. Cats and dogs will survive on their own, they’ll figure something out, they’ll eat you if necessary. And fish or whatever don’t count. No, a kid, a little human, is so ridiculously unprepared to be in this world, it’s heartbreaking.”
From Adam Had’em: A Parenting Diary, published at OnlyMagazine.ca by Adam Thomas.

There’s no business like baby business: the sea of flaccid nursing bras in department stores; the curiously elaborate strollers priced similarly to a used car (does it have four-wheel drive?); the plastic toys; and, in many instances, the new parents’ abandonment of their established lifestyle in favour of suburban, minivan-driving domesticity — all of this seems to occupy the centre of mainstream parenting culture.

But these notions don’t sit well with all parents. Fathers, for example, are often left out of conventional mom-centric parenting communities. That’s starting to change, though, thanks to the efforts of a new generation of young male bloggers who write about their experiences as new dads, proving that parenting can, and should, be redefined.

***

Vincent Marra started his blog, TheDadJam.com, after becoming frustrated with the dearth of online resources about things to do with kids in Vancouver. A 30-year-old IT consultant, Marra lives in a two-bedroom condo near Granville Island with his wife, Nicole, their 10-month-old daughter, Yasmin, and three-year-old son, Sebastian. He blogs about a wide range of parenting issues, including his own experiences with home birth, dealing with toddler behaviour, and relationships.

“I remember reading an article about modern dads,” Marra says. “The article was way off, because it was just talking about how the modern dad has to have a digital camera and an HD camcorder. Do you just think modern dads only take pictures and make videos? We do a lot more than that. A modern dad is doing a lot more to get involved: staying at home with the kids, changing diapers.”

And modern fatherhood, Marra says, goes hand in hand with sustainable living. His family doesn’t own a car, and he and Nicole have been raising Yasmin without the use of diapers; those choices are a way to reduce their ecological footprint. “I try to… go against traditional views that your child needs to be in diapers until the age of three — these are old-fashioned views. I try to tell people, you don’t need to do that,” says Marra. The same goes for moving to the suburbs to raise a family.

“Maybe it’s because it’s what their parents did, or that’s what they think is the traditional thing to do… Maybe they think it’s more affordable to have a house in the suburbs and drive,” he continues. “But I think, longer term, it’s not affordable or it ends up being the same, because you have to take into account all the time that you spend driving into the city, and the car expenses and the household expenses… Living in the city, you get to spend a lot more time with the kids.”

As crucial as it is to spend time with your children, it’s just as important to make space to talk about the reality of how difficult parenting can be. Adam Thomas, the 35-year-old managing editor of Only magazine, started writing a magazine column, “Adam Had’em: A Parenting Diary,” when his daughter, Sylvie, was born two and a half months ago.

“There are thousands of magazines just dedicated to moms, and rightfully so, but there isn’t really much aimed at dads, or relating dads’ experiences,” Thomas says. “There is little communication about what is involved or what to expect, or even willingness to open up about being freaked out or scared.”

Thomas’s wife, Sarah Albertson, suggested he start the column as a way to present alternative viewpoints on parenthood that rarely, if ever, make it into the glossy parenting magazines. “Other parents will tell you it’s the most amazing thing you’ll ever do: you have to have a kid, it’s going to be the best thing in your life, [but] the first few weeks were literally hell,” she says.

“Nobody wants to admit that there’s problems. It’s indicative of our whole culture,” adds Thomas. “If people were sharing these experiences and being honest about things like, ‘My partner had a really hard time breast-feeding,’ or, ‘My kid has got this rash,’ or things like that — it really helps other people who are going through things. You realize that you’re part of some kind of bigger experience and you’re not alone… It takes a lot of pressure off.”

But the social pressure to buy into the baby industrial complex of our times is still there, Albertson says. “It’s a shame how materialistic parenthood has become. It’s become a lot about consumerism, and the point is, it should be the opposite. It should be detaching you from that world, and focusing on the things that matter: kids, family, having fun. Those should be the most important things.”

***

Focusing on the important things, however, can be difficult when faced with an overabundance of information on how to raise a child. “For young parents, the worst of it is when their kids are just born, when they look so fragile. There’s a definite tendency for people to equate youth with ineptitude, which is almost never true,” says 23-year-old Michael Hingston. Now a freelance writer and editor based in Edmonton, Hingston and his partner Katie Gutteridge, 25, raised their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Bridget, in a one-bedroom apartment near Commercial Drive until last year, when they moved in order to be closer to Gutteridge’s parents. Hingston and Gutteridge started a blog, “Portrait of the Baby as a Young Baby,” to document their experiences, from Gutteridge’s pregnancy, to Hingston’s last Father’s Day as a son, to Bridget’s birth. The two were SFU students before having Bridget, and have since finished their bachelor’s degrees.

“We both still have goals in our personal lives, but we’ve had to be strict and chip away at them when we’ve had time,” says Hingston. “Having a child doesn’t mean you can’t do the things you want, but you really have to pick just one thing at a time, and work at it like crazy whenever you can.

“That being said, a lot of my life and ambitions are irrevocably tied to Bridget anyway — my biggest ambition now is to make sure she grows up happy and level-headed.”

“I have put my daughter first in ways that I thought I wouldn’t,” says Gutteridge. “Maybe I thought that [by] being a feminist and in practicing equal parenting, I would somehow be immune to this sort of loss of identity, that I would refuse to give up my own life ambitions in the name of my child and partner. But, in some cases, I have. Absolutely, there are losses and life changes, but life is always changing, kids or no kids.”

Feeling able to be candid with these feelings — which many mothers experience — is crucial, because it’s normal. All the same, what’s often categorized as ‘normal’ mom behaviour is still consider extraordinary when people see dads doing it, which Hingston believes demonstrates the prevalence of outdated gender stereotypes, despite our considerable progress.

“The standards for being a good father are incredibly low,” says Hingston. “When a male co-worker at one of my minimum-wage jobs found out my girlfriend was pregnant, he said, ‘Good for you for sticking around, man.’ I was getting credit for not fleeing the country! Or if I take Bridget grocery shopping, other guys will say, ‘Giving the old lady a rest, huh?’ I routinely get glowing praise for doing something that’s just considered part of Katie’s job as a mother.”

But the appetite for parental reform appears to be huge: Marra was surprised and relieved to see the large number of stay-at-home-dads in the blogosphere when he started TheDadJam.com. He continues to meet more of them every day when he takes his children out to the playground.

As for Hingston, the best parts about being a parent are things, he says, that “would make non-parents nauseous”: “The way Bridget instinctively reaches out to hold my hand before we walk down the street, the elaborate songs she makes up about her stuffed animals, the way she slyly smiles when she knows she’s being funny… Knowing that you had a hand in shaping this person into who she is — it makes my chest ache on a daily basis.”

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4 Comments »

  • Lisa says:

    Yes, I too heard about your website through the Westender, and I’m looking forward to reading more about what to do with kids in Vancouver. I’m also totally jazzed to hear that you’re going diaper-free, too. Our 19-month-old is close to “graduating” out of diapers, and it’s been a long slog, but totally, totally worth it. The grandparents think we’re crazy, but it’s one of the best things I’ve done for the environment in a long time!

    Lisa’s last blog post..The Diaper-Free Saga Continues

  • Great article Vincent – that’s pretty sweet that you were featured in a magazine! I hope you got a few copies to keep as souvenirs. I’d like to think that my wife and I try to do things differently than the way things have always been done. I know we don’t always succeed but I think it’s important to at least keep in mind that there might be more than one way to do something.

    Tyler – Building Camelot’s last blog post..$100 Home Depot Gift Card Contest For Father’s Day

  • Head Jammer says:

    Thanks Tyler, yep, I kept a few copies for myself and have had some requests from the family for copies as well. I agree with you on doing things differently, and through reading your blog, I think you have succeeded in that in many ways!

  • Head Jammer says:

    Great to hear from you Lisa! I plan on writing a post about going diaper free and our experiences with that soon, as I have had some questions about that since the Westender article. That is great that you have made such good progress with your 19-month old! Great for the pocketbook and the environment!

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