Sunday, December 18, 2016

This one's for the parents

It has been an unbelievably long time since I've written as my life in the last year has been consumed with my husband's and my first baby, a little girl.  A rough pregnancy, followed by a rough delivery and then the craziness that is becoming a parent has kept me from sitting down and putting thoughts on a page, but today I feel the need to.

Every parent ever can probably relate when I say that my experience of becoming a mother has been one primarily characterized by sacrifice.  Don't get me wrong, I love my daughter and being her mother is a huge blessing, but in the last six months I have sacrificed sleep, my social life, my sanity, and along the way, many important parts of myself.  Before my daughter came along I was a social butterfly, rarely content to sit around at home by myself.  I enjoyed running, reading and writing, was passionate about social justice and enjoyed regurgitating research to help those around me live more just lives.  Now I hardly have the energy to leave the house and get to the grocery store.

After a particularly difficult day yesterday, I found myself wondering who I had become and when exactly I had lost a lot of the things that made me me.  I guess some of these things have limped along in the last couple months through a few conversations here or there, but most of them, if they still exist, have been warped and have become more about P than about me.  I can hardly remember the last time I did something I enjoyed, just for me.  I guess this is parenthood.  But to keep my sanity (and a little bit of my identity) I decided to take time today to do this, this one thing that brought me joy in my former life.  So here it is, my re-entry to the blogging world, and without neglecting a large portion of my audience or becoming a "mom" blog, I'm going to write about some of the really amazing kid companies I've come across since having my daughter.  This is one area where my passion for purchasing sustainable and ethically made products has warped and become largely about my daughter.  I rarely purchase things for myself anymore, but have been floored with how easy it is to shop ethically for a baby (and have maybe used it as an excuse to buy her too much stuff!)   If you don't have a child this may seem irrelevant to you, but if you know a kid under the age of 10, or have to attend a baby shower at some point, I'll tell you about some really great, mostly local, companies that you can support and feel good about.

One of the major Canadian news networks (I can't remember which one) posted a piece on Facebook recently about local children's clothing companies.  I was excited to see this, as some of my favourite companies were featured, but as I scrolled through the comment section (always a bad idea) I was pretty disappointed. So many readers commented that they would never spend that much money on children's clothing and that no working class family on a budget would buy these things. I felt compelled to comment and ended up having a lively debate with some other mothers about the benefits of buying local and how to make it work even if you were on a budget, and I came to realize that there were two underlying ideas which solicited such negative responses to the article.

 The first was the idea that children must have a lot of clothing, making it too expensive to shop locally. I think this idea actually permeates the whole fashion industry and becomes an issue when shopping for adults as well.  Yes, shopping locally seems completely unattainable if you're expecting buy your 2-year-old twelve shirts, but does he or she really need that many options?  I will be the first to confess that my daughter has far too many articles of clothing. There's no way I can dress her in all of them before she outgrows them. That being said, if your child is super messy and does need a ton of different options, there are ways to shop locally and ethically and still have enough.  My husband and I both work in the non-profit sector and therefore don't have a ton of cash to spend on little P's wardrobe.  I prioritize shopping locally and ethically though, and we manage to afford it by getting the majority of her wardrobe second hand, and filling in gaps with more expensive, locally made staples.  She has a few pairs of locally made, good quality organic leggings, a couple sweaters and a romper.  Everything else was either given to us or bought used.

The second idea is more problematic. This is the idea that clothing isn't worth that much money.  This sentiment has been banged into our skulls by the fast fashion machine that dominates the industry today.  I can't count how many ads in the mall brag about the low price of clothing.  But what are these ads really saying?  "We pay our workers next to nothing!"  One of the arguments one woman had about the aforementioned article was that these companies marked up their prices way too much.  Her example was a $50 sweater.  I will admit that my daughter owns one of these $50 sweaters, (she has this one) and I think it's worth every penny. I personally researched how much locally made, organic bamboo material costs, and let me tell you, it's not cheap.  In fact, it's $30-$50 per metre. Add thread, machine costs (repairs, etc.), shipping costs, marketing, and the wage of the people making these clothes and running the business, and you can see why $50 for this sweater is not out of the question.  All it means is that everyone involved in the supply chain is able to make a living.  I believe that gives our clothing a much higher value than the fast fashion industry would lead us to believe.

So with that in mind, next time you're shopping for a little one, check out these really awesome local companies I've come to love in the last 6 months: My absolute favourite clothing companies for my little one are all local.  Little and Lively has adorable, very simple pieces - mostly leggings, crew necks, dresses, rompers,and shorts, and are made locally in Abbotsford, BC.  Their clothing comes in super cute patterns, and are well made by the owner and creator of the company.  My personal favourite is the Raglan Pullover.  P has one that says "Mountains Daydreams Adventure" that couldn't sum up my hopes for her little life much better.

Vonbon  is another great Vancouver based company.  They also carry some great baby basics, including swaddle blankets and hats for newborns.  These pieces are all a little more pricey, but they're all also organic, and make really unique and thoughtful baby gifts. P has a fleece lined organic bamboo pullover that is the softest thing I've ever felt (the one I linked to earlier).  I have to repent of my envy every time I put it on her.  I hope to get her a few more pieces in the next little while as the fleece lined bamboo is very cozy and warm and are great layers for the cold weather we're experiencing right now!

My other go-to is Jax and Lennon Co.  I was actually introduced to this local Surrey-based company by a Facebook contest in which I won a $25 shop credit.  I used it to purchase P the cutest vintage floral bamboo hoodie (which she has just outgrown - I'm grieving) and have been hooked ever since. Bamboo is temperature regulating, so it makes great base layers for the cold weather, and will keep little ones cool once the weather gets warmer.  Jax and Lennon also has simple styles, but they carry a bit of everything - thermal shirts, undies, leggings, spin dresses, hoodies, tunics, t-shirt dresses, rompers, you name it. They even have women's styles!  I own their women's thermal and it is my go to for throwing on with my PJ pants to keep cozy.

The best thing about shopping for kids is that you can even find locally and ethically made accessories!  Minimoc makes adorable soft-soled leather shoes and mocs for little ones and is based in Abbotsford, BC.  These shoes run $45-$55, so they're not cheap, but they are designed to last!  These are a great investment if you're planning on having a few kids as they will easily live through 3 or 4 non-walkers.  P wears hers constantly and they still look brand new.  I'll let you know how they do with wear once she starts walking!  Wild Child Designs is a knitwear company in Maple Ridge that produces hand-knitted toques, headbands and scarves, and they are adorable!  In fact, she's one woman, hand making hundreds of beautiful pieces.  Unfortunately for us, she doesn't keep her shop open often and sells out pretty quickly, so if you're wanting one of these babies, you need to be on the top of your game!  Always and Foreverly is my favourite bow company, based out of Surrey.  This mama-run business produces the most beautiful handmade bows and headbands, and they're actually very inexpensive!  I'll be honest, I have a small obsession and P now owns more bows than she can wear.  Good thing she doesn't outgrow them very quickly! And last but not least, Beluga Baby is a Vancouver based wrap company.  They make bamboo baby wraps that are great for any new parent intending to wear their baby.  They are soft and secure, and help regulate babes temperature so he or she is not too hot or too cold in the wrap.  Most people will say these are best for newborns, but I wear P in mine all the time. She's snug and close and finds it very comforting, especially as she goes through the trauma of teething.

This ethical consumerism enthusiast has been just thrilled with the amount of products made locally for babies and children.  It may contribute to the fact that my daughter is now way more stylish than I am.  Now, it's time for the little one to wake up from her nap.  Me-time is over, and I leave you confident that you are armed with the information you need to buy the best for you kids, and wow people with your baby shower gifting skills!

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