Today, I introduce you to Stacey, a New Zealand mama of 4 (including 3 in cloth) who says she’s much better at appreciating the smaller things and moments since becoming a mum. Stacey and her family subscribe to a slow and simple lifestyle which, for them, includes being more purposeful in everything they do. Stacey talks about the simple task of changing nappies as an opportunity to be present and connected – an opportunity that became even more meaningful since she made the switch to cloth nappies. Now, she has an array of colours and prints to discuss with her children at change time. Join us for more on Stacey’s philosophy on life and parenting, and to find out how she has found success with cloth nappies after starting three years into the parenting game.
Welcome, Stacey @stacey.kale_
Tell us a little about yourself, your family, and where you live?
I’m Stacey and I am a stay-at-home mum to 4 little loves: Mason (4), twins Grace and Amelia (3) and baby Finn (5 months). Our family of 6 live in the beautiful Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand just two blocks from my parents (and my childhood home). In what feels like a former life, I had a range of management and sales jobs overseas before retraining as a primary school teacher. My husband Simon works for one of the local councils in our area.
You subscribe to a slow and simple lifestyle as much as possible. What does this look like for your family?
For us, it’s trying to be more purposeful in what we do and why, including purchases we make – we like to support small business where we can and focus on quality pieces that bring us joy. We are always looking to reduce our impact on the environment and making small changes as we can.
I am very in tune with our kids and their needs; I am not afraid to say no to activities or commitments when they need rest or time to connect. I refuse to rush their precious childhood. We spend most of our days at home, enjoying free play and time together. Spending time in nature when we can – our local forest school is a family favourite. Simply trying to be present and happy with what we have and focusing on each other as a family. Slowing down and enjoying each other.
What kinds of activities do you think epitomise slow and simple?
Slow living for us is appreciating moments as they happen, connecting with others. Something as simple as cooking at home and eating as a family, really connecting with my kids during moments of care like nappy changes or brushing their hair.
In terms of parenting, it’s being more conscious and aware of our children’s needs and emotions, finding the balance of guidance and allowing the struggles of growth both physically and mentally. I parent from a place of child development and wellbeing; my teacher training has helped frame the parent I am today. Looking at the whole child and respecting them as a person.
We are always trying to declutter and simplify our home especially as a family of 6, with each child we have needed/wanted less. We try and source a lot second hand now and are very thoughtful in new purchases. We would love more spare time to make greater changes to the amount of things in our home – shifting the focus from material possessions to each other is very important to us; as the kids grow this will become easier.
We are always finding ways we can be more sustainable and self-sufficient. We want to be able to tell our grandkids that we made notable changes to protect our planet.
What has been the highlight of the last 12 months for your family?
Welcoming Finn into our family – our last baby. We now feel so complete!
I really cherished lockdown as a family. My husband was able to work from home which we were very grateful for.
Also, winning care cover for Grace. This was something I battled hard for for over 2 years and I am so glad she is now getting the treatment and support she deserves.
What are your family’s goals for 2021?
We are currently renovating our home to make it work for our family better. Getting through that while living with my parents is a massive focus for the next few months.
We have just started a new therapy program for Grace and have some health and development goals for her around strength and independence (walking, improving speech, standing without support).
Incorporating consistent one-on-one time with the kids; this can be a real juggle with 4 young kids but it’s so important for us all.
Create a special outdoor space where we can grow our own food, play and learn – we are currently looking at homeschooling our kids, so a space that will support that is important to us.
You have written that your motherhood journey has been far from what you dreamed and expected. Can you explain?
I was once told I was likely to not be able to have children and I always wanted to have a big family. We were thrilled when things happened quite easily for us.
When pregnant with the twins we were diagnosed late with twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS). There was fault in our care and things were missed. When we found out something wasn’t right at 20 weeks, we were air ambulanced around the country, had laser surgery to give our girls a fighting chance and spent the next 7 weeks in and out of hospital with worse news given at each appointment and, in the end, told we had a 3% chance of bringing both babies home. Grace was very hydropic and her heart wasn’t forming as it should; they said they wouldn’t be able to help her if she was born prior to 32 weeks. Amelia was doing a little better.
Our girls were born at 27 weeks and in a very poor condition. It was 5 days before I could hold Amelia, 16 days for Grace, 5 weeks before Mason could meet them for a few moments, 4 months in a hospital 5 hours from our home. Grace had open heart bypass surgery when she finally reached 2kg at 8 weeks of age and this was a very rocky time for her. We came home with both girls on oxygen and Mason was still under 2. Their first year was a complete blur. Our sole focus was survival. We were quite housebound, we only went to the doctors or the hospital.
I went back to work for a few months between Mason and things going so wrong in our pregnancy; I loved teaching and believed it would be a great profession to have with a family but there isn’t a way I can make that work full time at the moment. I love being home with my children, I never expected to stay at home for reasons out of my control, or for this long and I am grateful at the same time for this time and being able to be there for all of the moments of their childhood.
I still feel like I have to pinch myself that I have 4 beautiful babies. I feel very very lucky.
What has been the greatest challenge of being a ‘medical mama’?
Being a ‘medical mama’, you have to learn what at first seems like a foreign language, you have extra considerations than those with ‘typical’ children. Often you have to fight and advocate very hard for care that your children are entitled to and that can be very taxing at times. You have to put all your trust and sometimes quite literally their lives in the hands of others and that’s not an easy thing to do.
It can be quite hard knowing if you are pursuing the right paths for your child’s care. There is an abundance of information yet you never really know where to start and what will work.
And of course seeing them in pain, completely exhausted, anxious or scared … it’s not an easy path to travel at times.
And your greatest learnings?
Follow your mama gut – it’s rarely wrong.
Cherish who and what is in your life.
My husband and I developed really strong communication skills in the lead up to the twins birth; we would debrief after each appointment talking openly about concerns and helping clarify information. We had to continue this as Simon and Mason would spend their weeks at home and come up most weekends so we had to catch each other up on what felt like very separate lives – we are a very solid team.
How would you say your approach to life differs now compared to before you had children?
I appreciate the smaller things and moments. I have also allowed myself to stop pleasing everyone else at the expense of my or my family’s happiness or wellbeing. I am a lot more grateful.
What qualities do you hope to instil in your children?
Kindness, honesty and compassion. Understanding of differences and the ability to look for peoples strengths. I hope my children follow their own path, their passions, what makes them happy. I hope their lives are balanced – rest shouldn’t be the reward of life.
How has your background as a teacher contributed to the parent you have become?
It’s helped me see things from what is developmentally appropriate for a child. I understand their impulses better; I acknowledge that behind every behaviour is an emotion or need.
It’s also given me a good view on what is actually important and made me really consider home and life schooling our kids. So many teachers I know are going down this path; our curriculum and best practice is following a child’s lead and areas of interest to make learning meaningful … that is an almost impossible task for a class of 30 children but it’s something I can manage at home with my 4.
I think it would be safe to say that you subscribe to a philosophy of “embrace the mess” in parenting your children? What are your thoughts on the importance of messy play?
With each child I have had to readjust my expectations of what our house should look like. It is definitely a home where the kids can play and explore. Messy play is so important for learning, igniting the senses, development and regulation.
What is your advice on bringing more messy play into the homes of parents who hate mess?
- Start small – only do what you can manage/deal with yourself.
- Trays are a great way to contain messy play.
- Take it outside.
- Add water – water play with food colouring, cups and scoops is still one of my kids favourites.
- Don’t have an expectation of how they should play – this should be free time to explore. Elaborate set ups are great if that brings you joy and you have time for it – don’t feel guilty if you don’t!
You have said of being a mama that one day you will long for the moments of playing on the floor. What are your thoughts on quality time with our children and how we can soak up the moments?
I grew up in a home where my parents worked long hours in their business, our home was kept incredibly neat and tidy. I don’t have any memories of my mum playing with us or reading with us. She was around more than Dad but she was always doing all the housework and stuff for the business that I guess there wasn’t much in her tank for family time. We never went without anything, yet I can’t remember all the ‘things’ I had. I remember our elderly neighbours picking bunches of flowers for us, taking us to the beach, teaching us to garden or play tennis. I remember my godfather helping with school projects; my Aunty baking with us and picnics on her lawn. I want my kids fond memories to have me in them. This means playing and doing things that are important to them. At the moment this is books and imaginary play with Mason, dolls and real-life chores with Amelia, stories and dancing with Grace, and Finn is all about the contact naps at the moment.
For what kind of future do you hope for your children?
An inclusive safe place where we care for each other and our environment more than we do now. Where we don’t feel we need to ‘earn’ time to rest and look after ourselves, our families and friends.
What is your family’s approach to caring for our world?
- Reducing our consumption and focusing on sustainable businesses.
- Shopping wisely, buying quality goods that will last and supporting local businesses.
- Reusing what we can and purchasing preloved.
- Recycling – this is super easy when our local government does weekly pick ups.
Any recommendations on great reads or places to go to find out more about protecting our environment?
Check out your local environmental centre. Even as a teacher you can arrange for them to come to your class to speak and share. I like to follow @ethicallykate on Instagram for tips and tricks too.
One of the changes you have made for the environment, of course, is cloth nappies. Can you tell us what prompted you to make the switch?
I’ve had three in nappies before and it was so expensive. When we found out we were expecting Finn, I toyed with the idea. I had thought about cloth before but always felt overwhelmed or talked out of it by family and friends as too much hard work with twins. Initially I was motivated by the cost savings but have found it’s more the impact to our environment that has kept me motivated.
What were the first weeks in cloth like for you?
I was quite nervous to start. I was lucky enough to become a brand rep for Joyce at @chuckles.nz and she answered so many questions in the weeks leading up to my order arriving. She encouraged me to just start small, one nappy a day. I found once I got that first nappy fitted, it was so much easier than I built it up to be in my mind. Within a week we were using them at nights too with the twins
What role does your partner play in your cloth routine?
While I usually do the majority of the washing and stuffing simply because I am at home, Simon knows the prewash and main wash routine, changes nappies and stuffs when I have had a busy day and not got them stuffed. He did everything for the twins while I was in hospital with Finn for 10 days when he was born.
What has surprised you most about using cloth nappies?
How it has made an essential but routine task more meaningful. I am more present and connected during nappy changes which is important as a mum of 4 seeking more focused moments with the kids. I am more purposeful – we talk about colours and patterns of the nappies.
It’s also so much easier once you get your wash routine down than I expected.
What has been the greatest challenge you have had to solve to date?
Finding the right absorbency for Finn; boys are a little different to girls and he is a heavy wetter. I also started right away with him vs later on with the twins. It’s all learning and adjusting as they grow – the girls have been pretty much the same size and weight since we started.
How did you come to decide which nappy brand would be the one to first grace your daughter’s bottoms?
I entered the @chuckles.nz brand rep search and purchased their starter pack to start with and a few extra prints that I couldn’t resist. Joyce had been so patient and informative with me, messaging back and forth for weeks helping me prepare, choose and was so supportive. I really appreciate how Chuckles also cater for those who are later to train; there are some unknowns about Grace and her mobility and how that will impact on her personal care. I like that we will have an option if we need it further down the track.
Now with 3 in cloth, have you found you can use the same nappies on all your children or do you use different nappies for each of them?
They now all use the same – OSFM shells and bamboo and hemp inserts. I also have some stretchy winged pre-folds too which I use mostly for Finn too; I found these boosted really helpful when he was a little smaller.
How have you found clothing a newborn bottom compared to your girls who were 2 before you started using cloth?
I used some newborn shells which seemed so teeny in comparison! The biggest thing for me to consider was onesies and pressure leaks – we found just doing up the middle dome helped with this.
Everyone is going to want to know, how do you manage the washing with 3 in cloth?
I have 58 nappies between the 3 kids. We also have 4 training nappies ready for the girls and will grow this when needed. I prewash and main wash daily. I can give myself a little slack but if I don’t stuff within 2 days my stash is running low but have extra inserts for winter when things take a little longer to dry. With 4 kids we wash daily anyway to keep on top of the washing clothes … I hate it piling up and becoming overwhelming.
How do you organise your nappies?
I have 4 metal baskets with lots of airflow. I use 3 for clean and stuffed nappies and have our Chuckles Primas in a basket to themselves which we use for overnight and Finn’s naps. The other basket is for dirty ones. Good, simple organisation is key.
What is your advice for families still on the fence about making the switch to cloth?
It is actually so much easier than you imagine before starting out. You don’t have to go all in, swapping a nappy or two a day adds up and makes a big difference to your pocket and the environment. Talk to other cloth families and ask what works for them. I follow the Clean Cloth Nappy guidelines but there is no right or wrong way to do cloth nappies. Do what works for you and your family.
Joining the cloth party some time into your parenting journey, do you have any thoughts on how we can encourage more families to make the switch earlier in parenthood?
I think it was about education for me. It can be quite overwhelming all of the information online and people in my circle weren’t using cloth nappies so I hadn’t had any personal exposure. Follow some cloth mamas on Instagram, ask questions, most are only too happy to help. Don’t be afraid to just give it a go – every time you use a cloth nappy it’s one disposable out of the landfill and that’s something to be celebrated.
What’s your advice for families who aren’t yet ready to make the switch to cloth nappies?
Think about the ways you can benefit from making the switch. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Don’t beat yourself up if you want to start part time or need a little break from cloth – we tend to revert to disposables when we have hospital admissions as we don’t have time or easy access to washing machines. We always look forward to getting back into our cloth routine when we are home.
Describe your journey with cloth in one word.
Any final words of wisdom to live by?
I have always loved the Maya Angelou quote ‘Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better’. I had it above my desk as a teacher. I fall back on it a lot as a mother and life in general.