One of the hardest parts about parenting is when things we’re used to doing suddenly aren’t as easy to accomplish. Whether it’s washing all the dishes, working on a DIY house  remodelling project, going for the daily jog, or getting in that hour of reading before going to bed, moms and dads everywhere can relate to this phenomenon in some way .

As someone who tries to lead a waste-free life, especially when it comes to food consumption and house utilities, the view isn’t that different. Living waste-free is rewarding because of the limited impact on the environment, but for various reasons it can sometimes take a little extra time and effort. When it’s just adults keeping track of things and staying organized in a waste-free lifestyle it’s a lot easier to manage, but when young children are part of the picture, adults no longer have free rein; suddenly we’re scrambling to stick to our ideals. As a new parent, this is something I’m learning all the time.

At first we think we’ll get back to what we perceived as normalcy, but eventually reality sets in and we become accustomed to the fact things, for good reasons, will never be quite the same again. Nevertheless, finding a comfortable balance between what was and what is—in my case between living waste free and having to compromise on occasion—is a necessary challenge.

How do we cope with being parents and keeping up with previous levels of waste-free living until everyone is old enough to truly lend a hand?

Consider the following:

  • Be patient: When kids arrive into our world it’s essential to remember that they are the boss in more ways than one, and while leading a similar life as before isn’t impossible, there will be new ways of getting things done with a different time frame. That’s why it’s important to have patience and remind ourselves that if things occasionally fall by the wayside ,we have the ability to pick it all up again down the road.

In terms of being waste-free, patience means not being too hard on yourself or anyone else and doing the best you can do. The environment will absolve you for being lackadaisical in your quest; people won’t be as forgiving.

  • Simplify: A big part of being waste-free means using reusable tableware, but when the kids are at the age where their hands are in everything, it doesn’t make sense to use the china and other family heirlooms and constantly be stressed out.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t make every effort to produce an amazing presentation, however, until the kids are old enough to be a little more responsible, keep it simple and have a second-hand set of dishes for those special occasions. When it’s no longer needed, this secondary set can be passed on or sold to someone else.

Alternatively, it’s a good idea to have a back up plan when the reusables are out of commission. For example, although I may believe that living waste-free is important, having a few eco-friendly brands of disposables stashed away for “emergencies” is a smart back-up plan. When they are needed, biodegradable sets will lessen the blow when they are called upon to please a hungry family that can’t wait for the dishes to be washed.

  • Don’t give up: When the goal is zero waste, but there’s so much going on and life is taking over, don’t give up—be a leader and show kids how it’s an easy process on the one hand, but following through can sometimes be tricky. The key is persistence.

Things don’t always work out as we’d like but that isn’t a reason to surrender. It’s important to focus on the potential, and that a lack of success isn’t complete failure: merely a bump in the road to achieving our goals, and the only way to accomplish them meaningfully is to stay positive and never give up.

Featured photo credit: Young, happy family in a room interior via Shutterstock

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