Motherhood has moved my capacity for guilt to a whole new level—and I was pretty advanced to begin with. The guilt-rants that occur in my brain are often totally illogical (due to sleep deprivation) but it’s amazing how powerful they can become. Here is a sample of a sudden guilt gush: “Why didn’t I bring mittens to the park? Now he’ll probably get frostbite and never be able to pursue his dream of professional fiddling!”
O.K. It doesn’t always get that bad, but it is hard to feel as though the entire well-being of another tiny soul rests on my shoulders. So when I throw the health of the planet into the mix, I can occasionally become overwhelmed. As I’m wheeling my son through the grocery store (and sensing an impending fit) it’s tough to make quick decisions about green packaging, organic products, and price—all while singing Itsy Bitsy Spider and planning a diaper change in a public restroom.
But if I don’t consider all that, my green guilt voice takes over. “Who cares if your son is two minutes away from a melt-down. You need to go back out to the car and get the fabric grocery bags. The polar bears are dying for God’s sake and a few disposable sacks might be the deciding factor!”
The good news is that the green guilt voice fades in comparison to my instinct to meet my son’s needs when he’s in distress. In this picture of Roscoe and me, you may be able to tell that it would be impossible for me to always put the planet’s needs above his own.
The biggest revelation for me in my green journey has been a simple phrase I gleaned from a fellow teacher: “progress not perfection.” Ahh.. What a relief! The permission to do the best I can under the circumstances and slowly take steps toward greener living.
As you may have gathered from our blogs, Rebecca is a deeper shade of green than I am. She’s a vegetarian, she’s incredibly resourceful (in a green Martha Stewart way), she doesn’t drive, and she makes my careful thriftiness look extravagant. Then there’s my friend Pamela, who has opted not to have children to limit impact on the planet, is a devout vegan, and rides her bike for almost all her transportation needs. Neither of these women piously tout their environmental agenda. In fact, their actions come from a deeper place than guilt.
The truth is, guilt never gets me anywhere. When I feel guilty about the need to exercise, I grab a cookie. But when I imagine how good it would feel to move my body, feel the wind on my skin, and breathe I can actually get myself out the door for a walk. The same goes for green motherhood. If I can keep my focus on how good it will feel to more fully integrate eco-friendly choices into my life, I can be at peace with my own slow, clumsy progress—and during grocery store melt-downs the polar bears are just going to have to make it without my fabric grocery bags. (but I will choose paper!)