Low Waste Living Family Life with Mamalina

Fab Giovanetti

There is something to be said about meeting people online for the first time. I am a massive believer in personal and physical connections – I am a hugger, sue me – yet I also find that these days, more than ever, the “new normal” has pushed us to find connections even when miles apart. This is how I met the woman behind Mamalina. 

As a fellow lover of dungarees, I knew as soon as I met Emma I was in for a great ride. Despite getting slightly carried away with our love of coffee – another pleasant surprise – the reason I had a chat with Emma was to get a true understanding of the trailblazer behind Mamalina, the slow and sustainable parenting site.

The website focuses on living and parenting slowly and sustainably with a big dose of yoga, cooking, travel, and much more: “we try to live as low waste and sustainably as possible, in various different ways.” I launched a blog a couple of years ago, and before that, I started a YouTube channel.”

The origin of Mamalina

As a seasoned creative, Emma started her channel first and jumped on Instagram only more recently as she started documenting her first pregnancy (she now has three sons): “I started with YouTube, and then did the blog, and then did Instagram. I think I did it in the opposite order to how most people do it!” 

Quite a lot of plates to spin for a mum, you may be thinking. Yet, Emma eventually worked out what works best “I think it’s hard to find the time for anyone wanting to become a parent as your free time just evaporates!” 

Overall, creating consistency in her schedule has helped her massively, plus a few cheeky hacks along the way, including making the most of the time that her sons are asleep.

“I really like to wake up early before everybody else and just have like an hour on my desk. I just find it so productive in the morning –  at night I can’t do anything! I can just sit and get ahead of the day, and I love that as it sets me up.”  

Her passion for low-waste living sprung up when she was at an antenatal class, during a conversation about nappies: “they teach you how to put nappies on a child or baby, and the teacher at the end shoehorned in this little bit about reusable nappies”

That was a proverbial lightbulb moment for Emma as she recalls  “in my head, I thought…that makes loads of sense and that sounds really interesting to me. I went up to her at the end and I started talking to her about it. It was through the environmental impact of nappies that I first became interested in this new kind of parenting. A bit differently I guess, a bit more sustainably.”

Introducing low waste to the family

When it comes to a more sustainable approach to family life, a big hurdle is our relationship with, well, stuff. When you have a new baby there’s this expectation that you need to get so many new things, you know, new clothes, new bed stuff, new furniture, new buggy, new pram new stretch mark cream –  there’s so much stuff associated with being a new mom.

As you fall pregnant, you supposedly have to get new maternity clothes, yet there is so much you already own you can truly use: “I think I bought one or two pairs of trousers and they’ve lasted me through all three pregnancies and everything else I just wore what I had. Baggy tops or leggings, or even sometimes something that belonged to my husband.”

So much of what you already own is absolutely fine – you don’t need a specific new piece of furniture to change your baby or a special chest of drawers that acts like a baby change table. Emma recalls a very specific email that put things in perspective for her.

 “I literally was sent an email from a colleague at the time, it was pages long listing everything I needed to buy – it was titled baby essentials. It terrified me because there were so many things on that list. And so it was an AHA moment or realisation for me – you don’t really need those things!”

New mums or mums-to-be may feel quite vulnerable and exposed: “you see all this stuff that you need to buy when you just don’t”.

Talking about things, Emma outlines how there’s everything from charity shops to baby clothes rental systems where you can rent out clothes for six months to 12 months and then you return them and you get a new bundle of clothes. “Most of my kids’ favourite clothes are the ones that my mum kept from when we were younger” adds Emma.

Unpacking the idea of self-care

The term self-care is a loaded one as it means something different for everyone, depending on circumstances, personality, and overall health. As someone who struggles to prioritise brushing her hair every morning, Emma is not here to preach about self-care, yet her approach is very honest and highly relatable – something that comes across through Mamalina.

“I’m somebody that does not crave that as much, there are women who really need time alone or moms that need time without their kids – yet, I do enjoy my work, and I find it strangely energising. The only thing I’d say that I do are pockets of exercise, like a yoga class, or a run.”

She has also recently taken up some help to run some admin for Mamalina and maintenance on her website, something far too often we seem not to prioritise when it comes to supporting our businesses.

Being able to balance business and family life is also something Emma has been working on throughout the evolution of her family life: “I’ve brought our kids up to be pretty independent, so I would set them up with stuff to do. They’re pretty good, just hanging out and doing their own thing, which means I can tick off small tasks like doing an Instagram post or replying to some comments”

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You may assume Emma would work on those tasks in front of her sons, and you would be wrong: “I try not to do work while I’m in front of them because I don’t like them seeing me on my phone, so what I can do is leave them in the room, go up into the kitchen, sit there and do some stuff while they’re happily playing between themselves next door. It’s always been a big thing for me just not having them hanging off me the whole time.”

Reclaiming honest relationships

Yet, with homeschooling, spending time together 24/7, and adapting to a new normal, every family has seen a shift in the way we approach celebrations. 

Celebrations bring joy, connection, and ritual, and help us raise up those that we love and allow us to see them for one whole day. It’s a special thing. Emma points out as she’s seen a rise in a more conscious way of celebrating “one that doesn’t involve lots of waste, bulging beanbags, and leftover food or unwanted presents. I think that that resonates with people especially now being in lockdown when they haven’t been able to celebrate in such blown up ways.”

It’s time to move (back) to a time when a simple game of pass the parcel and a homemade cake is what makes a day special: “I think people are wanting to return to kind of a simpler, maybe, more nostalgic way of being and celebrating.”

Her relationship with her kids has surely strengthened, especially since spending time with them homeschooling and at home “each night even each day but like each hour is so different. So many emotions are happening all the time so one minute you might go ‘oh my gosh I feel like I want them to be at home forever’. Other moments, you’re like ‘okay, great, they can go back to school now’.”

“The one thing I’ve noticed is that my two eldest have just become so close” she finishes off “I really feel like they’re going to miss each other a lot when they do go back into school. They’ve become like best buddies.” 

When it comes to herself and her relationship with her kids and family, it’s clear that honest and open communication is at the forefront of the way she is looking to raise her children.  

“I think I’ve just become even more in touch with their needs, and where I can do better as a mum”.  

Being able to educate her children about a low waste and more sustainable life also proves her commitment to honest communication with them, treating them as ‘mini-adults’: “We don’t give children enough credit for how much they can absorb and learn.”

Found out more about Mamalina and Emma on Instagram or on her website

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