First, let me say this is in no way a knock against all of you incredible stay-at-home moms. I do not for one instant think you have more time to get things done. You just have different time, and I’m only here to speak about my own experiences. It makes me sad when I hear someone say they can’t use cloth diapers (and reap all the cost-saving and health benefits from doing so) because they work, so they think don’t have time. It’s all a matter of perspective and making time for the things that you feel are important. So I hope that sharing my experience might encourage another family to give it a go.
Being a mom is hard. Being a parent is hard. We never feel like we do enough or do it right or make enough time for our precious babies. Being a mom who works full-time outside the home often intensifies these feelings of guilt. We send our kids to daycare for long hours and only have a few short hours each day to really spend time with them, all the while cramming breakfast, and dinner, and baths, and house keeping into those short hours too. So HOW THE HECK do you make cloth diapering work out while working full-time?!?!?
Let me paint a picture. You get home from a long day on the job. Your babies are clamoring for your attention, you need to get dinner on the table (‘cause let’s face it, they’re hungry NOW), and there is a full wet bag of diapers needing to be tended to. What comes first? Babies and food, in some crazy, simultaneous, circus-level feat. And the diapers sit. Dinner is finished, food somehow gets cleaned up and put away, babies are bathed and snuggled and read to (HOW many books tonight??) and put to bed. FINALLY! A moment of peace. Oh wait… diapers. So up you go to spray and sort and toss in the pail, or washing machine if it’s wash day. And you possibly still have a load, or two, to fold from the last time.
So, how do you make it work? My take on it is my take on most things in parenting: you make it work with dedication, love, patience, a whole lotta caffeine, and most of all a routine.
As a full-time working mama, I had requirements that needed to be met that are important to me in order to make cloth diapering work for us:
First, I needed a daycare that will accept our cloth. I didn’t invest in a cloth stash only to have to buy disposables to send to daycare. In case you missed it, check out my other blog post on using cloth at daycare!
Second, I needed a system, a routine to helps me stay on task. What works for our family may not work for everyone, but here’s a rundown of my cloth routine:
- Wet bag of dirty diapers comes home from daycare.
- Set wet bag in the bathroom to await sorting and spraying. This could happen earlier some days if the kids are magically occupied by something and hubby is cooking dinner, but normally it happens after the kids are in bed.
- Go through evening routine with family, get kids to bed.
- Sort wet and poopy diapers. Wet diapers go in the hanging wet bag in the laundry room. Poopy diapers get sprayed and tossed in the pail next to the toilet until wash day. (*For some families, they send two different wet bags to daycare- one for poopy diapers and one for wet- this makes this step go by MUCH faster if they will accommodate you that way.*)
- On wash day, all diapers get dumped in for their spa time. I’ll take a shower, clean the kitchen, or even watch some TV! After the wash cycle is over, inserts and wipes go in the dryer, and shells, pail liners, and wet bags get hung up on the drying rack to dry overnight.
- Assemble and fold clean diapers a few nights a week. I can easily get 2 loads piled up, with a third in the wash, before I need to fold. Sometimes it’s nice to fall behind and get some extra down time in. I just know that if I do procrastinate, whenever I do get around to folding diapers, it will take longer.
- Coming home late and washing diapers in the evening means mine don’t get hung outside very often. I try to make sure that I do at least one load on a weekend morning, so I can hang that load up for some sun and fresh air. The weather doesn’t always cooperate, or sometimes it’s the family that doesn’t cooperate, and sometimes I forget the diapers are finished in the washer until it’s 4 in the afternoon and the best sun of the day is gone!
Third, I needed support. We all need support! And sometimes that support means my (awesome) hubby sprays the diapers while I’m still putting the baby to bed. Or sometimes it means he knows I’m doing diaper laundry that night, so he’ll dump in most of the diapers and fill the prewash but leave it open so I can just throw in the poopy diapers after I spray them. Sometimes support comes in the form of older siblings helping you stuff diapers or having a mom or mother in law who loves you enough to put diapers away when they come to babysit for the evening. Having the support of your family, whether immediate or extended, is important for any big parenting decision- cloth included.
Lastly, I needed a good stash size. I put this last because it’s not essential to being successful with cloth and work. I started with a smaller stash, and I made it work, but it took more time and effort. I have just enough diapers to get through an entire week of daycare, so I rarely HAVE to stuff during the week. I do try to, so I’m not buried under a full stash-sized mountain come the weekend, but I can get by skipping it if something else comes up. This saves me a lot of stress and keeps me feeling positive about using cloth.
A lot of other working mamas echo these sentiments, and all rely on routine.
“I wash twice a week but always stuff on Sunday. I have built a large enough stash that I wash them so they don’t sit too long, but they sit clean in a basket until Sunday. It is just part of what I do Sunday evening to prepare for the week ahead! When I feel stressed about it I remind myself why I made the choice, and since I am passionate about cloth diapering, it makes it easier to push myself to do it!” – Becca H
“What helps is a daycare center that is cloth friendly, a husband who is supportive and on board, routine, and a decent-sized stash so you’re not washing every day or every other day. I have a stash that is close to 40 diapers, and end up washing 2-3 times a week. When I’m paying attention, I’m a day ahead of the end of my stash, meaning I’m rarely stuffing diapers the morning they’re needed. I like to put together wet bags ahead of time as well.” – Jade C
“I make sure diapers are all clean and stuffed by Sunday night and ready to go for the week. I usually wash on Wednesdays right when I get home from work and those usually don’t get stuffed until Sunday again. I empty the wet bag once I get home so I don’t forget and spray what needs to be sprayed.” – Danielle K
Overall, I don’t sweat it too much. At the end of day, as long as the kids are fed, pseudo-clean, and loved, and the diapers are clean, I call it another success, and you should too!
Today’s post was written by guest author and fellow #LalabyeMama Sara J.! Thanks, Sara J.!