Wednesday, 29 January 2014

From Cupcakes to Chemicals - Book Review

Because my husband travels in the pro-science circles online, last month he came across an article by Julie Gunlock and passed it along to me to read. I noticed she also wrote a book called Cupcakes to Chemicals (How the culture of alarmism makes us afraid of everything and how to fight back). I really loved the catchy title and was very interested when I read the summary, so I quickly ordered a copy. 

Gunlock is a mama to three little boys and understands what a home really looks like. And the answer is not found on Pinterest. She knows that it's hard for moms to get dinner on the table every night, keep everyone safe and happy, all the while, processing the non-stop stream of information from the various media outlets we see in our day.

Maybe it's just me, but it feels like a new study with some alarming danger is published every other week. And often these studies will contradict each other. And more importantly, I'm tired of being worried about every. single. thing. connected to parenting. Will his sippy cup deform his teeth? Will he break his arm because we don't have bumper pads in the crib? Did he eat too many cookies this week? Is it ok to give him apple juice? It's enough to make me want to scream and throw things like a toddler.

In Cupcakes to Chemicals, Gunlock sympathizes with us; we all want to be amazing moms for our little bébés. And it's hard when we are constantly told by others what is best for our families. What foods to eat and which to avoid. What products to use and which to throw away.  And not stepping in that line could result in something horrible. But there are enough real things to worry about with our kids (like is he in the right daycare?) that we don't need manufactured problems (like is the apple juice going to kill my son?).

When my mom sees me do something different with our son (like sleeping on his back as a newborn, or using a video monitor) she often (jokingly) says to me that it's a wonder my sister and I survived, because she didn't do those things. The reality is that children born today in Canada and the US can expect to live longer than ever before. Like Gunlock tells us in her book, progress is being our friend.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm often a fan of natural cosmetics. I'll reach for the GreenWorks brand of cleaners, and I have even been known (before baby) to make my own body lotion. I also know that apple slices and milk make for a healthier snack than chocolate cookies, and I don't need a government study to tell me that.

I hope our son, Sebastian, develops strong critical thinking skills, so I should model them for him. I want him to grow up questioning whether something is right or wrong, and not just believing what someone else says because they think they are smarter than him. One of my favourite examples from the book is when Gunlock tells us not to be afraid of our plastic garden hoses. She says that "if a person attempted to drink the amount of water required to reach PVC toxicity, they'd first die of dilutional hyponatremia - death by water overdose- before reaching that toxic level."

I found this book to be refreshing, and a perspective not always given much time. Reading this book was like being given permission to relax and enjoy parenting. Something that almost sounds like an oxymoron. But being less stressed about life is good for my health, which is, in turn, good for Sebastian's health, and probably my husband's too ;)


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