10 Things my Parents Taught Me Which Should be Mainstream

Most people currently in their 20s have grandparents who lived before the current obsession with consumerism and convenience took over and who are brilliant sources of knowledge and wisdom, which I think is often overlooked in our society. I am a little unusual in that my parents had me later on in life (their early 50s), meaning I was brought up listening to wartime stories every bedtime. Both my parents were young children during the second world war and they had lots of stories about rationing and running out to the air raid shelter in the middle of the night. They also told me lots about what it was like to grow up during the 40s and 50s, in particular the emphasis placed on reducing waste and being appreciative of surrounding nature, friends and family. They taught me the importance of using what you have available and of reusing what you already own instead of buying new. I'm not quite sure when lifestyle changes turned towards convenience over meaningful connection, leading to the consumerism-obsessed culture we live in presently. I thought I would make a little list of all the things they taught me which I am now actively trying to advocate. The old ways that have somehow become the new, new way of doing things, back when it just made logical sense to do them and not just because recycling was a trendy buzzword.

1. No Food Waste

Now my parents weren't the most adventurous when it came to trying new foods, but they were very cautious about not wasting it. Everything that wasn't eaten was kept in the freezer for soups or stews at a later date. They also bought in the exact amounts they needed instead of getting more than enough just in case - exactly the mentality new zero waste shops are trying to promote.

2. No Bought Convenience Food

Most of my childhood memories involve my Mum in the kitchen baking and family meals around the table, and I'm pretty sure she carried pre-made jam sandwiches around everywhere she went in case someone was a little peckish. Being able to purchase takeaway coffee, wrapped sandwiches, cereal bars and other snack-like foods so readily whilst on the go is a relatively new phenomenon. Many people nowadays take this for granted without even considering the environmental burden this lifestyle carries.

3. Mend and Make your Own Clothes

I have to admit my sewing and knitting skills have a lot to be desired but I have my Mum to thank for the encouragement to learn how to do them in the first place. I'm slowly getting back into making our own clothes again, it's taking time but it is such a valuable skill I think. I also have lots of fond memories of my Mum and I hunting through charity shops on Saturday afternoons, picking up spare material for my latest project or exploring vintage jacket collections. There's something so special about giving a pre-loved item a new home, not to mention how much money it saves to shop second hand. We're currently surrounded by fast fashion marketing where issues regarding who and where our clothes are made are very rarely questioned. However I can feel a fashion revolution starting to gain momentum as conscious living becomes more widespread.

4. Drying Clothes by the Fire or Outside

Nothing beats that fresh sweet smell of laundry that has had the chance to dry outside in the Spring sunshine. Not to mention how good the sun is at getting stains out of items, especially cloth nappies. We don't own a tumble dryer and always air dry our clothes inside on our landing (next to the radiators) or outside on a nice day.

5. Reusing all those Old Containers

Anyone else have childhood memories of playing with old beads/buttons/toys stored in old margarine tubs? The whole process of thinking about what you can use something for before throwing it away is so important. Once I actually stop and consider how I can reuse a certain item, I often find lots of ideas flooding in.

6. Meal Planning

Meticulously planning meals means you can cut down on food waste by only buying in what you know you are going to use, when it comes to fresh foods anyway, I normally bulk buy dried goods like pasta and oats from zero waste stores. When I was a kid we had strict meal plans for each day of the week, we currently don't quite take it that far, instead we usually have a list of meals for the week and cook whichever we fancy on a particular day.

7. Cloth Nappies

Not only did the generations before us use cloth nappies, they also washed them by hand. This obviously required lots of effort and time and indeed I have no doubt that the invention of the disposable nappy was a big step towards women regaining more of their old life back after having children, but at what envionmental cost? These days, using cloth nappies is really not that much more effort than using disposables and can potentially save a lot of money.

8. Community Spirit and Supporting other Parents

They say it takes a village to raise a child and I did not realise how true this statement is until I had a child of my own. With everyone keeping themselves to themselves and families often living in completely different parts of the country, our current society has become very individualised. We've lost that comunitry support that naturally came to young parents in the past where they always surrounded by friends and family if they needed them. Hence why I think its more important than ever before to support other parents, to connect and never judge - you don't know what they've been through that day. I also think that because of this break up of traditional support units in the modern world there is often more pressure on young mothers than ever before, but that is a different topic for another time.

9. Appreciating Slow days

I have my Dad to thank for this one. Mainly for dragging me out every Sunday afternoon for a wander through the woods. Teenage me was rather introverted and very bookish, I could spend days locked away with a pile of books. However so many hours were spent under those trees with my Dad, a flask of tea and the biscuit tin. Of course once I left home and did the whole young person thing of rushing around at university, various societies and new jobs, I kinda forgot how important it is to slow down every so often. It's something I'm still working on but I am realising once again just how much power there is in slowing down and just being present, and particularly how crucial it is with a young child in tow.

10. Knowing how to make a Good Brew

How could I forget this one, us Yorkshire folk basically have tea in our blood. Perfecting a good old cuppa tea is one of the most important tasks to pass on to the next generation.

Thanks for reading.

Emma xx


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