Anxiety of Green Living

Hilltown Families Contributing Writer

I’m Going Green Crazy

Hilltown mothers of the world would be proud. Two months ago my family embarked on a journey to eat healthier, but as we began our trek through the grocery stores talking about healthy eating, living, BEING it began to spark some interesting conversations.

Our family began to talk about the environment. We began to think about how our unconscious stream of living was affecting the environment around us. The kids worried about what was in their snacks and cafeteria lunches at school. They began to inquire about our recycling habits and occasionally they turned off a light or two.

And conversation wasn’t the only environmental flame ignited. My family actually began taking some steps to implement some really sustainable habits.

For Earth Day we purchased a composter. That big, giant, hunk of plastic was as pleasing to my eyes as the beautiful butterfly bush that used to reside in the stonewall flower garden our composter now calls home.

About two days after that little treat, the McIlquham family began a home recycling center. I even spent an afternoon grilling my dad about the best way to separate our recyclables for our local transfer station since he’s the one who makes the weekly trek to dump. (Hey, he’s retired. It gives him something to do, and besides I think he likes it.) Thanks to that afternoon of quality father/daughter time and multiple phone calls later, I think I’ve got it figured out.

That same week, my 10-year-old daughter (now 11, her birthday was last week) commented on how green we had been living that week. Thanks to the car being in the shop we walked a mile to a friends house, bringing along our own healthy, semi-organic lunches to hang out for the day, and even walked the return trip home knowing we could have gotten a ride. We enjoyed that so much, that we opted to leave the newly fixed car at home and ride our bikes to the lake the following day.

My children were so impressed by their multiple displays of greendom that week that they asked to go out to dinner (some greasy dive down the road, not a chance that anything there would be healthy or organic), to celebrate.

OK we aren’t completely there yet, but “we’ve come a long way baby!” And to be completely honest I don’t think we will ever be 100 percent there — completely green, organic and sustainable. But I’m OK with that. We are living healthier and more consciously and the environment is better for it — and so are we!

But there is one thing about this whole “Green Mama” adventure that I am not OK with and that is the neurosis I have begun to develop in the process.

Seriously. My children may be on board now (and for all I know that could be temporary), but they weren’t always.

For the first month I frantically patrolled the food coming into the house: Was it fresh? Was it organic? Was it local? I became somewhat obsessed with it all, and if truth be told, all that obsessive (sometimes compulsive) behavior began to make me feel a little uncomfortable.

Then I found myself becoming increasingly disgusted with the amount of waste our family produced and generally just how wasteful we were in many aspects of our lives. I began to feel a little anxious every time someone took another bag of garbage out to the garage. My hands would begin to sweat and beads of sweat would form across my forehead each time I found a light, computer, CD player, television or any other myriad electronic devices left on somewhere in the house.

And that was all before we began recycling! I just about worked myself into a neurotic, recycling frenzy bordering on a Green Mama breakdown when we started that. Tissue paper in with the everyday paper recyclables had shortness of breath and that anxiety knot that always finds its home right in the center of my chest written all over it. Redeemable beer bottle in with the glass jars would conjure up the butterflies in the very pit of my stomach with, no doubt, the nausea soon to follow. I don’t even want to think about what might happen should the vegetable scraps somehow bypass the small compost bucket on the sink finding their way into garbage pail. That could very well land me in the local psychiatric ward for a mandatory one- to two-week environmental evaluation period.

All this greening has me teetering on the edge of a true psychological disorder and I’m pretty sure I just might have fallen in one or two times. Thankfully I have managed to climb back out, but frankly I’m afraid that one of these days I’m going to give myself permission to dive right in and then …

There better be a darn good Green Mama’s Anonymous group to drag my butt out!


Kelly Bevan McIlquham

Kelly is a psychotherapist-turned-writer who resides in Hinsdale, MA with her husband, three children, two black labs, a cat, a turtle, and a few goldfish. She is the Features Editor for The Advocate in the Berkshires where she especially enjoys writing family- and education-related articles and her monthly “Parent to Parent” column. Kelly also dabbles in writing for children and has had her work published by Wee Ones online family magazine. Her new blog “Green Mama” chronicles her journey as a “green” parent in every sense of the word — from her parenting naiveté to living greener. When not writing, her favorite pastime is cheering on her children at various football, soccer, basketball and baseball games. kwm229@msn.com

1 Comment

  1. Suzanne said,

    May 19, 2010 at 11:13 am

    LOL- you are too cute. I think it’s important to always remember that EVERY little bit helps! I think it’s impossible to live 100% green in our society today because we don’t have 100% control over our environment. But every baby step helps and if we could recruit our kids and parents alone into making minor changes in their lives, we are making a bigger & bigger impact. Consciousness is important, and if a veggie scrap misses the composter, maybe it will be a meal for a rodent. :) Focus on the positive.


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