Ethical living · Social justice

Are children making my children’s clothes?

Last week was Ethical Fashion Week and my Facebook feed was full of articles about ethical and sustainable fashion. At the same time Ethical Consumer launched their new free online Journal of Consumer Ethics and I read this:

“Ethical buying is one of the few effective tools we possess which can address – albeit imperfectly – the serious social and environmental problems that humans, as a species, now face.” (Rob Harrison, editor of the first edition of Journal of Consumer Ethics, quoted in Ethical Consumer)

As I mentioned previously I had been disheartened by my small attempts to live more justly struggling to see how I, one individual, could make a difference. I was also ‘surviving’ rather than ‘thriving’ as a new parent, probably suffering from post-natal anxiety.

Now re-energised and re-envisioned to think much more carefully about my purchases and believing shopping purposefully and with deliberation is an ‘effective tool’ to make a difference, I started thinking about what I buy for Small Boy and Little Miss and then it hit me – like a punch to the stomach: Were children making my children’s clothes?

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A Guardian article from earlier this year stated: ‘Children as young as 14 have been employed to make clothes for some of the most popular names on the UK high street.

Researching clothing companies, I’ve discovered that Marks and Spencer have been named by Ethical Consumer as the ‘most ethical high street retailer for clothing’ and there are many smaller ’boutique’ [read: expensive] online stores selling organic and/or fair trade children’s clothes. I have previously purchased gorgeous t-shirts with tractors on from Frugi.

Currently, Little Miss wears a selection of beautiful hand-me-downs from family (her cousins and from friends in our church). We then pass on her too-small-clothes to a local mother-and-baby charity shop. Shopping justly for Little Miss will be fairly straightforward as I rarely buy her anything!

Making ethical purchases for Small Boy will be harder and more expensive but I do not want another child to be making his clothes.

We now pass on Small Boy’s too-small-clothes to twin baby boys in our church family. This has got me thinking about buying items which are long-lasting so I have good quality clothes to pass on to these two wonderful boys. I’m prepared to spend more because they too will benefit and it gives me pleasure to see them wearing Small Boy’s t-shirts and trousers.

It’s easy to be generous to them because I can see them, play with them and cuddle them. But now I want to act justly towards the children and women working in factories many miles away who I do not see and do not know.


If you have time, please read this article by Vicky Walker about the new clothes for children shortly to be available in Poundland.

Christian

Waiting for the baby

Earlier this year towards the end of my pregnancy, a friend sent me this meme causing me to laugh wryly:

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The last trimester can feel like it lasts forever but I knew it wouldn’t be long until the wait (and the physical discomfort) would be over and I could look at my baby’s face and hold her in my arms.

How did Mary, the girl chosen to be the mother of the God-baby, feel as her time to give birth drew near?

Giving birth to Small Boy just before Christmas gave me a fresh appreciation of Mary’s courage and obedience. In the final months of pregnancy I felt HUGE (this is because I was), struggled to sleep and suffered from dyspepsia (yep – the nausea and vomiting wasn’t just first trimester). I waddled rather than walked and stayed close to home and the hospital. You wouldn’t have found me making a five-day journey sitting on a donkey.

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Mary wasn’t the only one waiting for her baby to arrive – this was the moment the Jewish people had been longing for: the arrival of the Messiah, the one who will rescue God’s people.

A friend recently asked me if I had a favourite Christmas carol. ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’, I replied immediately.

This is my favourite section:

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings

These lyrics come from the ancient prophecy of Malachi and look forward to the Lord’s coming:

But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. (Malachi 4:2, New Living Translation)

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These words speak to me of emotional healing and freedom. Christmas can be such a difficult time emotionally: we can feel sorrow or regret as we remember absent loved ones and we can get stressed if high expectations aren’t met. Spending time with family can mean we revert to playing the roles we had in childhood. Even in precious seasons, there can be challenges – a friend of a friend has written some great advice about Christmas with a baby. If you think this Christmas is going to be a tough time for you emotionally, then please be kind to yourself and maybe talk things through with someone. (In the UK, the Samaritans can be called for free at any time.)

Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament:

It would be four hundred years between Malachi and Matthew. History didn’t stop. Kings and kingdoms came and went. But God’s redemptive plan stayed on schedule. When the time was right, Jesus would bring salvation to both Jews and the Gentiles. God’s kingdom arrived in the person of his Son.‘ (They Spoke from God: A survey of the Old Testament, p. 836)

Advent is a season of waiting. Waiting is so much harder when I don’t know how long I have to wait. If I’m waiting for a bus and I know one is coming in a hour, I am content and productive. But if I’m waiting and I don’t know when (or even if) a bus is coming, the time passes slowly and I’m on edge. Would I have waited differently if I’d known at age 18 that it would only be 12 years until I met Mr Pilgrim? 

I love these words from Shane Claiborne about how to wait: ‘And we wait in expectation of the full coming of God’s reign on earth and for the return of Christ, what God will yet do. But this waiting is not a passive waiting. It is an active waiting. As any expectant mother knows, this waiting also involves preparation, exercise, nutrition, care, prayer, work; and birth involves pain, blood, tears, joy, release, community. It is called labor for a reason. Likewise, we are in a world pregnant with hope, and we live in the expectation of the coming of God’s kingdom on earth. As we wait, we also work, cry, pray, ache; we are the midwives of another world.

On Christmas Day, we celebrate the birth of the God-baby and ‘Hail the Sun of Righteousness’. The wait is over. If you’re currently waiting for something, then wait with God. His timing is perfect.

Merry Christmas! Have a good one.

Dido x

mental health

Not drowning, but swimming

As a young teenager, I got caught in a large Atlantic wave while swimming on holiday in France. Turned upside down and surrounded by water, I didn’t know which way was up. 

This is how I feel when caught in the throes of anxiety: It feels like I’m moments from drowning, I don’t know how to get to the air I need to survive, I’m alone, afraid and can’t escape the powerful forces pressing down on every side. 

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Sometimes it feels like a radio is playing and I can’t turn it off. The negative thoughts just keep playing in my head: ‘you’re the world’s worse mum’, ‘you’re such a rubbish wife’, ‘your friends don’t really like you’, ‘you’re no good at your job’, ‘the good times won’t last’. For much of this year, the soundtrack in my head has been constant anxious thoughts about the health and well-being of my baby: ‘is the baby moving?’, ‘is the baby going to have a safe and healthy delivery?’, ‘why did I think I could have two children? I can’t even cope with one’. It was a struggle rather than a joy to tell people I was expecting. Sometimes I wished I could hide the obvious physical signs.

I couldn’t swim to the surface. I couldn’t turn off the radio. All I could do was cling to a promise from God: he said to look at Small Boy as a reminder of God’s goodness and faithfulness. Just as he had brought my son into the world safely, so he would this baby.

While in labour I started feeling a failure for having a epidural. I remembered a counselling idea I’d heard about. I think it’s called ‘sympathetic’ or ‘compassionate friend’. I imagined asking some of my close friends if I should feel guilty for my decision. I couldn’t visualise any of them saying yes. I then thought how I would respond if a friend came to me and said she chose to have an epidural but felt a failure. I knew I’d confidently tell her she’d made the best and right decision; giving birth is not a competition. Sometimes it’s easier to show more compassion to others than ourselves! As I rejected the guilt, I drew closer to the water’s surface. 

Somehow in the process of giving birth, the fear dissipated and my strength returned. I have decided that the only mum I can be now is a Dido Pilgrim Mum. This will look different to how others parent. As I make mistakes and muddle along in this motherhood adventure, I’m determined to say no to guilt and fear.

This is not to say that I’ve been totally free from anxiety, panic, guilt and fear since the birth of Little Miss but it seems that something has shifted. I’ve reached the sea’s surface and am swimming.