Sustainable Parenting: It’s Not All or Nothing

April 25, 2023

Lullaby Earth is excited to welcome Parenting and Relationship Coach Jessica Martin-Weber to our blog! Learn more about Jessica and her amazing community at The Leaky Boob.

My parents tell a story of how my mother became a bit of a “natural freak” when she found out she was pregnant with my brother. Suddenly she quit smoking (thanks, Mom!), refused to allow anyone to smoke around her (thanks again!), did a major diet overhaul, switched cleaning products and wanted to get rid of all the plastics in their home (easier said than done at the time). Her pregnancy started them down the path of a healthier lifestyle overall. (I’m still really, really grateful they quit smoking!)

We used to laugh at this story, my dad making it seem like my mom was kind of crazy at the time.

Yet, when I was pregnant for the first time, I experienced a similar urge. And then again for every baby after. It didn’t feel crazy to me then, it felt reasonable, responsible even.

The desire to live a healthier life didn’t go away either. In fact, it grew and living sustainably became a big part of my family’s goals, too. How could we live better for our own health and the planet’s? Now I’m more committed than ever to steadily moving our needle closer to sustainability. 

Pace Yourself with Sustainable Parenting

Young mother nuzzling her infant during tummy timeYoung mother nuzzling her infant during tummy time

When I was first pregnant, I felt an intense urge to change everything possible to be safe and sustainable. I had to be sure I didn’t leave this planet worse off for my children. Everything I looked at and considered became an area I had to reduce, reuse, recycle.

Before long I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with options, cost, and not enough energy to make it happen how I felt it should happen.

My stress and anxiety shot up. I feared for my not-yet-born child and the world she would inherit. I cried and stressed some more. I couldn’t do it all. I couldn’t make every single decision align with my value of sustainability. I couldn’t afford only organic, sustainably manufactured products for my baby and our family. I couldn’t find more time to shop, make or plan for only sustainable choices.

It was at this point that my husband gently asked me to stop. Not to stop caring, just to stop obsessing. To set some limits. He reminded me that we didn’t have to make it happen all at once. It was actually more, well, sustainable, to do what we could and enjoy preparing for our baby, celebrating her.

I realized he was right.

It didn’t have to be all or nothing. 

Make Eco-conscious Choices That Make Sense for Your Family

In those early parenting days, I thankfully learned that I could care and make conscientious choices where I could – and that over time we could gradually do more. Doing something is far better than doing nothing, right? We’d start where we could, doing what we were capable of at that moment and with our limited resources of time, energy and money. Tomorrow and the next day and the next and the next year, we’d add a little more.

Sustainable family of five enjoying the outdoors togetherSustainable family of five enjoying the outdoors together

How to Approach Sustainably Parenting Realistically

As a relationship and parenting coach, I regularly tell our clients to think about what values are most important to them, like being a sustainable family. A value like sustainability can come with dozens, maybe even hundreds of goals. The next steps, then, are to:

  1. Narrow down the goals that serve that core purpose
  2. Identify the barriers to those goals
  3. Select 2-3 goals to start with to avoid overwhelm

If you try this and you’re having difficulty getting started, look at what goal will have either the greatest impact or be the easiest to implement to grow your confidence and get some momentum. Either makes an excellent starting point.

This same philosophy is what worked for me determining what I would start with in making sustainable choices for my family. 

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Here’s How I Implemented this Process

I decided to start with what changes would have the greatest impact on our family’s health and the environment. I determined that would be the areas where we would be most likely to be exposed to toxic chemicals most frequently: our sleep surfaces, food sources and personal hygiene products.

I further refined those selections by considering what would be easiest to implement. This really helped us narrow down to actionable steps of shopping for a non-toxic crib mattress, breastfeeding our baby and choosing organic produce for us, and using non-toxic baby bathing products.

That suddenly felt … doable! From there, I picked one at a time according to my priorities.

I can’t say exactly what this process of becoming a more sustainable family will look like for you – your list may look different than mine. What I can say is that recognizing that sustainable parenting doesn’t have to be all or nothing was perhaps the most sustainable choice I could make as a young parent. It saved me energy and prevented burnout. 

Remember that sustainable parenting is an ongoing pursuit, too. Every year I adjust my priorities and reevaluate my goals. We’ve made many, many more sustainable choices over the years including food storage, appliances, bedding, lawn care, vehicles and transportation, additional nutrition choices, and so much more. But, we take it one change at a time. In pacing myself I’ve been able to accomplish far more that aligns with my purpose and goals than if I tried to do it all at once.

Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer, speaker and relationship and parenting coach, Jessica is the creator of, co-creator of, freelance writer and mom. Jessica lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest and co-parents her 8 daughters with her husband of 25 years.