What can “real life” as a busy mom sometimes be like, living with environmental sensitivities to manmade stuff?
The idea is to reduce exposures whenever possible so that it reduces the amount in a person’s “bucket”. (If you don’t already know about the “bucket” analogy which I use frequently to describe this, please go to this post here where you can see a diagram.) Obviously, one can’t totally eliminate every little thing but when people make choices to reduce the problems, it becomes much easier to live with.
Clothing: Of course, when I go out, I generally wear my shielded clothing, including my special glasses or headnet, plus my shielded shirt/skirt/capris-under-jeans or similar. (I used to wear a shielded band around my belly to reduce digestive issues but the capris are more comfortable.) Due to the expensive cost, I sew most of my shielded clothing pieces, sometimes making up part of the pattern, and try to make them work with all-seasons plus, since I’m a mom who changes sizes here and there, I want something that I can wear most of the time with very little adjustments. (I studied sewing in both high school and in an elective course in university.) The rest of my clothes are the ordinary kind like other normal people wear around home. My kids are understanding with what I look like in public although it is tougher for my toddler to kiss me through my headnet if we’re out and she wants to be held. For nursing on travels when she was a baby, I lined a large cloth scarf I thought was pretty and blends in with most of my clothing so that she had shielded clothing around her too while being held. (I didn’t want the RF-EMF to reflect extra right back into her.) For travelling near lots of high voltage lines, I might remove my headnet because it is conductive and does make my head muscles twitch sometimes. I also remove my headnet to eat, switching to special glasses during mealtime. I only wear shielded clothing when I go out. My rural home environment does not require any shielding (unless a parcel comes to the door to be signed – and now the postal lady just leaves things at the other end of the porch and waves so that I don’t have to get close to her. She is very cheerful and understanding too.) I can work outdoors in my yard wearing ordinary clothing as well, however, the headnet does look like (and could double up as) a bug hat.
Due to the MCS side of things, I avoid synthetic fabrics/finishes in all clothing as well as certain shoes. (Yes, shoes. There can be natural materials and natural dyes which don’t make a rash. And I’m not the only person out there who looks at that although when the idea was first suggested to me, I felt like I was. Socks in natural fabrics are good too. I recently found out that arm braces also have to be made from hypoallergenic fabric for me – again, I’m not the only one needing such.)
Shopping: Many places in our town (Ontario) offer free wifi in the stores and restaurants. My acoustimeter shows various levels of RF-EMF depending on the areas within each store, even when other customers with their cell phones are not around me. For example, it can be lower in the perimeter, higher between a pharmacy and refrigeration, higher near a wall of another store (which would have a router on the other side or higher wifi themselves). Each store is different. The mall is very close to a strong cell tower and now, most of the big stores are also near a powerful tower in my current community. Each community is different though – some don’t have cell towers as close to stores or as strong of power. When shopping with others, I have occasionally gone quickly through some aisles or simply sent someone to get the specific item I need. I have also asked for assistance at customer service. For example, when Rob was not able to get groceries years ago and we needed milk, I swallowed my pride and went to the customer service desk with my little children (looking like a very normal young mom) and briefly explained that we had multi-chemical sensitivities to the cleaners arranged on the end of aisle displays near the milk so could one of their staff please bring us such and such kind of milk and thank you! They were happy to help so that is how we got that item that day. I’ve also shopped by putting stuff in my cart, arranging to meet my husband at a certain time in the craft section (a spot I could browse through more while waiting for him to arrive easier compared to other sections), then gave him the cart for him to pay while I left the building. This is because the cashier section generally has the highest RF-EMF in most or all stores that I’ve tested. The idea is if you go shopping, go with a friend or old-enough family member. Almost all of the time currently, someone else (often hubby) does the shopping and I rarely go into stores partly because I’m so sensitive at the moment and can’t spare a lot of my time to recover from the aftermath of doing something that I can delegate to someone else. In a couple of stores before I had my headnet, the wifi was so strong that my eyes could swell up with a lot of stinging and make it hard for me to see by the time I walked to the checkout. It’s a crazy, mixed-up world sometimes when people think that wireless technologies are exactly what they “need” and “must have” in order to “live well”. (I’ll add here that recently, I gave my acoustimeter to a young person to go out to her car where she had left her Fitbit watch and 2 cell phones and to measure it/them because we were curious. Let’s just say that the levels she reported back were equivalent or higher than driving past most cell towers or being near most routers. They were much higher than I expected (although I might assume the signal was just close at hand from one device syncing to another. I have not noticed these levels when just walking past other people myself.)
I have learned to do online shopping more (over a wired connection, of course). I really don’t like looking at the flyers online and the inks from the paper versions bother some of us. If it’s not online, the shopping for clothing items, Rob can easily pick out things for the guys and we have 2 daughters who can drive and pick up “the girl stuff”. Going to a country garden center was a highlight of this spring for me. There is one local store I know of which purposely keeps the wifi extremely low and unavailable to customers – I applauded them for that. I can shop there. Another store was also very low in wireless but moved away to another town. I enjoyed being able to spend some longer amounts of time there. When I paid for my goods there, I just had to stand slightly off to the side of the counter for the transaction, where the levels were much lower than directly in front. Due to chemical issues in one popular department store, I haven’t been in it since a really bad reaction over a year ago. My kids and I used to sometimes go in and have to turn right around and go back out if the smells were off-gassing too much for all of us. I have a 2-page list of grocery and household items which I began to use many years ago just for organizational reasons when I or my husband shopped. We still use that basic list but one change I made to make things easier for my man shopping for fruits and veggies for our large family and who aims to look for what is on sale, is to ask him to think about colours… to bring home something orange, something yellow, something green, something red, and something blue or purple – but it’s his choice for “what” those items are. This colourful idea works very well for him to shop for things that I like to use in our meals! 🙂
Piano lessons: I was very disappointed when I realized last fall that another cell tower had been activated and influencing my usual route to town and it and others were more powerful than towers used to be. For me, I now burned just driving through town to get to church or piano lessons. And with winter coming on and spending less time outdoors, those skin burns took longer to heal. Another mom in our church offered to help us and so between Rob taking time off work here and there and her driving one way, our kids got to piano lessons without me. Our oldest could drive but was away at university. Our next oldest then got her license and was very delighted in her new role as chauffeur.
Going to church: When we first discovered I had EMF sensitivity and that the church had wifi levels measured on my acoustimeter, there began a discussion for how to help our family to continue to feel welcome in church. Soon after, a policy was embraced to turn off the wifi for church services and youth group meetings (plus it is off long enough for church meals) and to ask people to turn their cell phones off or in airplane modes. (Some churches already do this but for purposes of keeping the attention where it needs to be.) This made it more possible for me to attend without bad reactions. However, with the changes in our community last fall, this also meant that it would be wise to take a different route to church – a much longer one, whenever I go. As a result, my participation in-person is reduced even more until we move elsewhere. Our church has strongly supported us through their encouragement and prayers. See this post for more about real life at church. And if/when I’m home, what might I do during that time? You can see this other post here about that.
Often, I feel fairly well if I’m home – that fact could be difficult for some to accept (including myself sometimes). But it might be that I have to something that needs me to be in wifi that week or that I don’t have much time that week to spend “recovering” from being out so it’s wiser to reduce exposures overall by holding back. It can be a challenge to commit to doing much at church beyond attending it as well. That can be frustrating in a sense but I have seen God use me in different ways of ministry compared to what is normally expected. When our church put in new carpet a number of years ago, we travelled around to other churches for a time. Then, when everyone but me could handle the off-gassing, we went back and I went to church in the foyer instead, Sunday after Sunday. I called it a “foyer ministry” since people sometimes came in from outside or out from inside. So I’m not really in much of a teaching role or music ministry role most of the time these days but I still serve the Lord wherever, whenever, and however He directs.
Medical appointments: One has to judge the risks versus the benefits of going. (But often moms do that anyways. And large family moms tend to do appointments in batches of a few family members at once so I’m not that different than some of you.) Sometimes it’s better to go and sometimes, it is not worth the symptoms that come from being in an area of high wifi. Waiting rooms – I use my acoustimeter and observation of wifi ceiling circles/antennas to figure out where it is best to sit. Waiting rooms can be packed but most places I now go, are not. A secretary might wave and check me in from across the room when she sees me arrive. When my mom needed some x-rays at our hospital, I stayed back while our daughter accompanied my parents there. But I was in the waiting room of the lab with them and it was interesting to get a sudden headache or not, depending on where I sat in the room and it correlated to levels shown on my acoustimeter. And I went wearing shielded clothing to other appointments of theirs as needed. Dental care has been done in our home environment most of the past several years. Going to a physiotherapy clinic can make more sense in order to get effective help within the least amount of time spent in medical facilities. Obviously optometrist appointments are done without my eyes being shielded but he turned off whatever wireless devices that he could because he has seen my eyes often enough when they were burned and peeling! Our family’s foot clinic also has turned off their wifi when I’ve been there. But I do understand when places in general don’t do that. And people understand why I’m not choosing to go to the GTA to see specialists. (Telehealth is sometimes an option but not always – it depends on the clinic’s policies.) Unless I’m truly needed, Rob looks after accompanying the kids to their appointments. But I can talk on the phone or write notes to help with whatever it is. We are thankful for a very supportive health care team.
Business Work: I draw with washable markers, ordinary pens, and pencils for the graphics. But now, my kids or Rob do the scanning part for me. Printing books at professional printers can be done through the internet and someone else has picked it up for me or it has been delivered. Now, I can go into producing e-books instead, which makes designing curriculum for sale much much easier. A lot of my business work is computer-based so once I was able to see enough to return to the screen, we made some changes (that help a lot!!!) – a special screen cover, a low-EMF mouse, a power bar and CPU kept at a distance of a few feet away from my body, and of course, no wireless technology in here. We generally also turn things off when not in use. Our camera is older and not wireless. And despite the marketing urging me to be attached to wireless devices to run a proper business as a mom, I’m not falling for that. I’m definitely willing to learn more about social media in business but am determined to find ways to do so that are truly beneficial overall. Right now, my computer time is spent doing a bit of blogging in the midst of preparing to move and just being a wife and mom. Most of the limitations involving my business are now based on how much time I have to spend on it. The EMF aspects are well managed.
Working from home fits well for people like myself because we get to choose both the time available and our work environment. There are many opportunities nowadays for this sort of flexibility. It is true that many work situations which are home-based are also computer-based but one of the nice things with that is that the training aspects are often online as well. When I was choosing career direction(s) as a single young woman, I did not consider a web-based career however, I am thankful God has led me in this path over the years and to people who can help me learn more of the newer skills I need for this. I am also thankful for the non-computer skills that I’ve learned over the years and enjoy doing so that my life can be more balanced than focusing on just technology all day. It’s good to be a life-long learner! 🙂
Household: In choosing construction materials, we were able to lean towards more eco-friendly and/or natural sorts of products such as wood, tile, and (Roxul) insulation made from stone and wool (avoiding sprayfoam insulation and vinyl windows). Our (IKEA) kitchen cupboards had an eco-friendly finish to them that did not off-gas like traditional ones. The paints used were generally pastels and low/no VOCs. And we had regular lights installed in our basement, not the typical florescent kind. There are no electric baseboard heaters. And because the exterior walls are log, there is less plastic used in the entire building because log walls don’t need a vapour barrier.
We mop with natural soap or a weak herbal tea, clean with vinegar, baking soda, or other natural products – just like many other moms of today’s generation who don’t trust the once-popular synthetic cleaners. If we make waffles, I can make the batter but the others cook it. I can use our food processor but not the current electric mixer (appliances depend on how they are made and brands too can be different) so if I want something beaten, I have a choice to either mix it by hand or ask for a volunteer and then go elsewhere in the house for a bit. We don’t use “smart” appliances or a microwave. We are blessed with teens who absolutely love to cook and bake, garden and process whole foods – everyone here likes being on the “kitchen team”! I also love to do all those things and sometimes do of course. But I don’t tend to stand in front of the stove constantly when cooking or baking or even using a toaster (if I use one). I step away and keep more of a distance. My stove is an electric coil type which is good. (Induction stovetops apparently are not ideal for EMF sensitive people.) We might use a slow cooker or roast something on a woodstove slowly. We still use a dishwasher but I don’t wash dishes next to it while it is running. If I need a lot of things ironed, I ask a teen to do that. (Ironing is really high in magnetic fields – it’s like a variable speed heater.) The girls or Rob buzz the boys’ hair but I can cut hair with a scissors. I don’t use a hair dryer anymore. I can use our vacuum (but I’m not the kind of mom who vacuums every day). We’ve eliminated electrical alarm clocks and all lamps. We use either ceiling lights (incandescent or minimally LEDs) or battery-operated flashlights. My electric sewing machine is fine to use (in moderation) but I did initially learn how to sew on my grandma’s treadle one. Our phone has been a plugged-in landline for years. At first, it was hard to get use to but Rob found me a long cord for when the children were all young. Now I’m fine with just a normal length corded phone. Our family rarely turns on a cellphone (but if so, then often away from me) and I only use one in emergency (e.g. if the van breaks down). These decisions reduce our overall exposures to things that would “fill our buckets”.
Homeschooling: I would resemble most homeschooling moms except perhaps with:
- Limitations in some field trips and some group activities (e.g. depending on locations and craft supplies)
- No microwaved meals. Our meals tend to be hot though (and not a lot of processed sandwiches).
- No wireless technology, laptops have to be wired and on a desk, not on laps. That also means that I don’t take my technology outside or into other rooms of the house that they aren’t wired into. It gets checked periodically but I’m not interrupted by it nor as distracted by it during a school-time with my kids.
- No scripted lessons or lots of reading to a group (- much too tiring for me and boring; I tried it years ago and gave up). I read aloud some things but in not huge amounts.
- The amount that we print on a printer or photocopier is likely much less: Due to inks and toners (which might or might not be OK, depending on their ingredients), I prefer curriculum which can be reusable over that which is reproducible. But when I do print, I personally avoid a lot of colour ink pages and a lot of ink period. (I offer the same idea to YOU in how I design curriculum for sale – it’s cheaper and healthier! 🙂 ) Sometimes, I have downloaded another author’s curriculum that looks great for our kids but then have to figure out how to print it off for our use if it has a prevalent full-colour design. I tend to go into the pdf and draw “white boxes” around the photos and then print it that way. If there is a lot of black and white printing to do, Rob looks after that in town. We’ve also sometimes put the printer outside through the basement window and let it print away to its little hearts’ content!
- Online schooling – some high school level courses our family works on require a computer but I try to not have any of the kids or teens on a computer all day and look for paper or hands-on curriculum choices instead for most subjects. We do use multi-media (e.g. videos) occasionally and if it is on a large screen, that screen has a special see-thru cover on it to reduce EMF.
- Types of school supplies – a few popular ones are avoided but most things can be happily used here.
If I burn/peel, have a churning stomach or migraine, or am seriously exhausted as a result of way too much of an exposure to EMF, then my “bucket” needs to empty a bit before I can really get to do what I’d like to do with homeschooling. In the time period of when I deal with an exposure, the kids or teens might read the fine print stuff instead of me, help with younger ones to make it easier when I can’t multi-task as efficiently on those days, etc.. They all read quite well at least from grade 1 onwards and the resources I choose to use with our family can generally be understood by students, rather than requiring a teaching parent to explain everything. My kids have been raised to love a good measure of independent learning all along in our style of home education and they still know that they can ask for help from me or the others. And my ears still work fine to listen to them. 🙂
This “real life” flexible approach for education in meeting the real needs of both the students and the teacher, works for our family.
When managed wisely, a life with environmental sensitivities can still be quite “normal”, even if you have to give it a little more thought as to how you might be able to get a few other things accomplished.