Modern Cloth Diapers: Liberating Families
My family loves going out to eat at Cracker Barrel. It’s a cute, inexpensive little restaurant
with amazing southernstyle food that has made it’s way up the coast even as far as
southern New England, where my family lives. If you’ve never been to Cracker Barrel, let
me describe the dining room for you in two words: vintage nostalgia. The walls and
ceilings are covered with antique household items, photographs, and advertisements.
Some of them are downright funny, advertising things we’d never think to use anymore
like garters that actually function to keep socks from falling down. Some of them make
me wish I lived in the early 1900s when prices were so low and life was simpler. Some of
them make me really, really glad I live when I do. Looking at a display with a washboard,
wash bucket, and some old soap, I couldn’t help but to think about the massive amount of
time women used to have to spend on house chores. When you talk about liberating
women and the feminist movement, all the marches and protests, all the ladies wearing
shocking trousers and bloomers in public for the first time, all the speeches are well and
good, but honestly, nothing liberated us quite like the washing machine did. You think
flats and hand washing week is bad? Imagine an entire day once a week spent doing
the back breaking work of scrubbing not just the diapers but all your family’s clothing one
item at a time over a washboard. Follow that by the task of rinsing them, wringing them
out (imagine the calluses that would build up!), and then laying them out to dry. That was
usually followed by an inordinate amount of ironing—which was done with an iron heated
in the fire before the advent of easily accessible electricity. It makes you really thankful
for the fluff cycle in the dryer! No wonder it took an entire day to wash. Now imagine
doing this with as many as 15 kids running around because you probably got married
young and there weren’t many birth control options out there. It’s mind boggling to me the
amount of work women had to do. As it is, I sometimes feel I can barely hold it together
when trying to keep up with all the chores in my modern home.
THEN and NOW
Fast forward to the 1980s. Disposable diapers existed at this point, but my mother
wasn’t using them because they were so expensive. For the first four of us, a diaper
service truck came and took our dirty prefolds and exchanged them for a giant bag of
clean ones. I still remember the awesome, fresh scent that filled the yard when the truck
drove into our driveway and how I loved the new bag of soft, brilliant white diapers. My
mom wasn’t such a fan of cloth diapers, though. The pins were awkward, the plastic
pants were leaky and left red marks all over baby legs and backs, and she remembers
rashes. Lots of them. My mom really wanted those disposable diapers. Finally, there
was room in my family’s budget to buy them from week to week (that and diaper services
were slowly fading into nonexistence), and she switched to them and never looked back.
Disposable diapers liberated her, and they liberated our family. I don’t know why she
never washed her own diapers, but I assume for the general female populace of America
who were slaves to washing their diapers week by week, the advent of the disposable
diaper was that much more liberating—less time spent on house chores, and more spent
with the family. Soon, though, the popularity of disposable diapers gradually fazed cloth
diapers out nearly all together until disposables were basically the only option, as cloth
diapers were difficult to find at this point. By the time my parents had my sixth sibling,
cloth diapers weren’t even an option anymore. I remember how tight the money was, and
how much diapers took from our grocery budget every week.
When my husband and I found out we were pregnant, I switched to a part time job
and we bought a house. This basically cut our income in half and doubled our spending,
so money was tight. We both wanted to save money by doing cloth diapers and fully
planned on taking advantage of Gerber prefolds and plastic pants, since that’s all we
thought was available. I, being a halfdecent seamstress, wished there were some sort of
waterproof fabric available so I could make diapers, but I didn’t really do the research to
find out that there was. Then, my friend told me about her second hand stash of Fuzzi
Bunz perfect size diapers that she and her husband used for their daughter. I looked
them up online which lead to my finding other brands, and I was hooked. I literally felt
liberated to discover that we wouldn’t have to devote part of our grocery budget to diapers
from week to week.
Nowadays, with both mothers and fathers sharing the workload and responsibilities at
home, having a choice to cloth diaper is not just liberating for women, it’s liberating for
families. Often, in our pursuit of making life easier for ourselves, we actually bring things
to a different level of difficult. Women joining the workforce has been very liberating, but
unfortunately it has also led to a society where many women who would rather stay home
can’t because their families can’t afford it. In the same way, the advent of the disposable
diaper all but killed the cloth diaper industry. Thankfully, when modern cloth diapers
came along, we got the choice again. Lots of families still choose disposables—most do,
actually—but more and more people that I meet have discovered modern cloth diapers
and are jumping on the bandwagon. Personally, I feel that cloth diapers have liberated
our family. It was one more money saving step in allowing me to stay home part time
because it was that much less money that needed to be earned from week to week.
Besides, anything that offers you a choice where there previously was none is always a
step toward freedom.
Kim H Date 12/20/2013
The main reason we choose to cloth diaper was to save money, which helped me be able to stay home with my boys. My mom used prefolds and covers on me and we use prefolds and wraps. It is funny to see how interested she is in the snap or aplix wraps and snappis!
Melissa Reguin Date 12/20/2013
I know a lot of people that cloth diapered in the old days and they think the style of diapers are amazing. Plus they think I'm a little less crazy for using cloth instead disposables. It saves so much money. I definitely feel more empowered by cloth diapering.
judith martinez Date 12/21/2013
I had a diaper service in the early 90's (1992-1995) but I do wish I'd had the courage to just wash my own. It would have saved me so much money!
Mary Date 12/21/2013
Thanks for sharing this! I love reading about other family's reasons for choosing cloth. My mom is really supportive of us using cloth since she used it for a while too (she was military).
Kayla Stutler Date 1/4/2014
There have been times when we didny have enough money in our account to go buy a pack of diapers even if we wanted to. Cloth has been a godsend for us and absolutely liberating. By the way i also love cracker barrel!
Stephanie Slavy Date 1/24/2014
I love Cracker Barrel too. ;) I'm loving cloth diapers even more though. We switched in my effort to be a little more green and save money.
Amanda G Date 1/31/2014
We switch to cloth recently but I still feel like I'm a slave to my washing machine; good news is that we're getting a new one that will hopefully work better!!
Dawn Date 4/8/2014
I'm pretty sure everything I have read has encouraged me to cloth diaper.. and nothing discourages it.
Peta-Gaye Daniel Date 12/14/2014
Uggh... "women who would rather stay home can’t because their families can’t afford it"... that's the truth of my current situation. I'd love to stay home with my babies, and even homeschool... but, we're doing the best we can with me working outside of the home. Looking forward to the positive impact of cloth diapering when Baby #2 arrives in March 2015 :-)