This is a question that I have seriously been asking myself lately. While I am generally a pretty laid back parent (paci on the floor? Wipe it off! Doggie kisses in the mouth? Why not?), I also tend to be the person who reads too much. Waaay too much. And, no, I am not talking about actual reading for pleasure, folks. If that was the case, I would be writing a cutting edge book on how to be a mother AND still find the time to read. I am talking about too much internet reading. Mostly on baby health related things.
The real kiss of death for me though is that my husband has his PhD in Chemistry. While that might sound like something that can be helpful, it is actually somewhat of a hinderance because he knows and understands pretty much everything. I have read the EWG report on sunscreen so many times that I can recite for you which ingredients are "bad," but my husband goes a few steps further by reading the 40 studies that were cited in the forming on the list, so he can tell you exactly, and in great detail, what atrocities things like oxybenzone do when they enter your body.
Because of this, I am a natural, organic, harmful chemical-free, freak. Honestly, it's not even my fault. Once you know these things, you just can't forget them. Trust me, I have tried.
We were at my parent's beach house with some friends last year and their oldest son (5 at the time) was holding a receipt from lunch in his hand. As soon as I saw it, I went into "oh-my-God-that kid just caught on fire while trying to outrun the gorilla that is chasing him into the ocean" freak out mode. Total lunatic. I told him to throw it away and go scrub his hands because receipts are bad for you. And they are.
Thermal paper, which is most popularly used for receipts, contains high levels of BPA that can be absorbed through your skin. Terrifying, right? Seriously, think about it. You can't avoid it. If you touch a receipt at the store, think of how long it is until you can wash your hands. At that point, you have touched your eyes, your steering wheel, and, oh yeah, your kid. All with BPA-soaked hands. It literally makes my hands twitch to think about it.
Even if you can avoid the receipts, the cashier has touched hundreds of receipts and she then touches all of your products. Awful. As you can tell, I have thought way too much about this, but then again, you are also talking to the person who makes her own tomato paste out of fear of the BPA lurking in the liners of cans.
Crazy, right? But once you know, you can't ignore it. Sometimes I wish that I didn't know. If I didn't know about spray sunscreen being bad, I would use it on the Moose and be happy because it would take all of 15 seconds to sunscreen her and my hands wouldn't get greasy. But because the EWG releases a "safe sunscreen" list every year, I do know. And once I know, I can't ignore it without 1) feeling like an awful mom and 2) becoming paranoid that the sunscreen is slowly building up in her liver as we walk to the beach (it's not).
Our house is void of normal things like dryer sheets, women's deodorant and gluten. Because, when you are married to a PhD chemist you know about the things that lurk in women's deodorant that can potentially cause Alzheimer's years down the road. You know exactly what each of the 42 pesticides found in conventional apples can cause in humans. You know what early studies are being done on the effects of gluten on the developing brain and you therefore do not allow your child to eat gluten.
So, are we healthier than the average family? Probably. But, you know what, most families don't avoid the things that we avoid and they are fine. Better than fine in fact. They are healthy and happy. At the end of the day, the small amount of BPA in organic tomato paste probably won't hurt my child and neither will using spray sunscreen once or twice, but, once you have the knowledge, you cannot ignore it. Maybe some people can and I envy them for it, but I just can't. It sucks. There is no other way to put it.
So, that goes back to my question. Is knowledge really power or is knowledge an achilles heel? I guess for me, it is both. I am glad that I know about serious dangers and that my husband can understand the impacts of things like triclosan and can explain them to me (on a basic level) so that we can make an educated decision (rather than me just reading an article on huffingtonpost.com).
On the other hand, what will I do when Moose comes up to me in a few years and wants the Disney lunchbox, which contains an alarming level of pthalates? I don't want her exposed to the chemicals, but I also don't want her to be the weird kid at school. And am I really not going to ever let her eat a cracker or use spray sunscreen or wear deodorant that doesn't smell like a man or a dirty hippie? Of course not. I am going to let her do all of those things because: a) they won't kill her and b) I don't want her to the kid who is weird and different from all of the other kids.
At the end of the day, I am going to do what every other parent does and do the best that I can. I am going to keep my paranoias to myself so that Moose doesn't grow up fearing anything that isn't grown in our garden and I am going to try to keep her from the things that are actually harmful, while aceepting that there is an inherent risk to life.
I just wish that I didn't freakin' know.