Interview: Lindsay Ross of Babes in Arms and the zombie apocalypse parenting class

So last week, I sat in on the zombie apocalypse parenting class, held at Babes in Arms in Calgary and taught by the store’s owner, Lindsay Ross. She was kind enough to answer my questions about her store, the class, and the apocalypse!

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Hi Lindsay! Welcome to In Case of Survival! We’re excited you were able to visit and answer our questions. As you know, we like the apocalypse. We talk about what will happen after the world goes to hell, and badgers become sentient and zoo animals escape and try to eat everyone. (We don’t take ourselves too seriously, obviously. I mean, sentient badgers?)

Well, without further ado or rambling, here are our questions for you!

Tell us about yourself and your shop. Why did you open Babes in Arms? Is it hard juggling store ownership/entrepreneurship and family life?

Babes in Arms really just wanted to be opened. In 2006, when my daughter Neko was about 9 months old, I started thinking that it would be great if there were a place in town where parents could go to learn about baby carriers in person. I wasn’t looking to open a business but the idea wouldn’t leave me alone, and things just kept falling into place. By Neko’s second birthday in December 2007, Babes in Arms had opened its doors, specializing in babywearing, cloth diapering and natural parenting in general, with an eye on sustainability, local products and community.

Yes, I’m not going to lie, balance is always an issue. The store was first owned by myself and a partner, Melanie. Melanie left at the end of 2008 and my partner, Jaime and I have been a team ever since. In my opinion, doing this with a partner was the right choice – it allows us to split the tasks and decompress/commiserate over issues that come up. It’s also a bit like a baby – the intensity changes over the years. The initial phase of writing a business plan, setting up shop and getting the name out is not the same as riding the word of mouth and maintaining our product line, which is more the speed we are at now – though there is still always more to do than there are hours in the day! We are blessed to have a great name in the city now and with that comes more customers with whom to communicate and more frequent orders to complete.

That said, this truly is a family business, and it has become a part of not just Jaime’s and my identity, but also our husbands’ and kids’ identities.

Why did you decide to start offering classes at your store? And more importantly, why did you decide to start the zombie apocalypse parenting class?

We have offered babywearing and cloth diapering classes since very early in the store’s existence. This stems largely from the fact that we think of Babes in Arms less as a store that also offers information and product support, and more as an educational resource that happens to sell the products we most highly recommend.

I don’t know whether it’s because we are into sustainability, or because we are kind of hippies, or we just read too much (or maybe we’re psychic or just have a really great sense of humour), but we’ve noticed that aside from babies and parenting, one of the favourite topics of conversation among a lot of the staff members tends to be the apocalypse or societal shift. A specific few of us have spent so much time discussing, researching and preparing that we felt qualified to help others begin their journey to preparedness. We have also noticed that a lot of online prepping resources make unrealistic recommendations for parents of babies and young children (especially in ignoring things like babywearing, cloth diapers, elimination communication and breastfeeding in the way of emergency parenting tools). Last, but not least, it has been really fun to open up the prepping conversation with our customers – I’m sure your readers can relate to that little thrill you get when you learn that someone else is also thinking about these things!

Tell us about the zombie apocalypse parenting class. (After all, it’s why we’re here!) When did you start the class? How popular is it? Do you think you would ever offer the class online, so that those outside of Calgary (or Canada) can participate?

We started the class just this month. (See above for reasons.) The response has been great, though there are definitely some people who are completely thrown off by the zombie reference. We have held one class so far and it went really well! I believe participants left with an idea of where to start with their emergency kits and food and water storage, and feeling better about their options for staying warm in their home in the event of a winter power outage.

We have no plans at this point to offer the class online, but I am currently developing a printed companion to the class that goes into more depth on some of the optional topics such as foraging, fitness, canning and preserving, and bugging out, and includes full lists that people can use to create their emergency kits and bug-out bags. This printed booklet will be included in the class for all participants (they also get a copy of the Government of Canada’s Guide to 72-Hour Preparedness), but it will be available for separate purchase as well, including by mail order.

Are you a prepper, or do you just think it’s a good idea for people–especially parents–to be prepared for anything?

Both, to an extent. I wouldn’t say any of is a prepper in the “Git yer gun, they’re comin’ fer yer food!” sort of sense (we see a lot of that in online prepping communities), but nearly all of us at the store have a sense that things are shifting in the world, and that it’s prudent to be prepared for a variety of possible eventualities. Some of us have a fairly decent stockpile of food; others have a planned location to which they’ll retreat if things really get bad. But as far as the class is concerned, we have designed it to help prepare families – especially parents of babies and young children – for the most likely scenarios, such as power outage, blizzards, or everyday complications, as well as longer term, possibly less likely emergencies.

What do you think a post-apocalyptic (new) parent should have in their diaper bag?

Good question! Skills, mostly! And a good carrier (a woven wrap gives the most versatility and can be used as a sling for an injured arm, a hammock for a child to sleep on, part of a water filtration system, a towel, improvised clothing and more). We think that a new parent would be best served in any emergency situation if they are not completely reliant on convenience items (even if that is what they use on a regular day-to-day basis). For instance, knowing a bit about elimination communication, how to make improvised cloth diapers, and also having disposable diapers on hand covers your basis whether you have electricity and water or not; on foot or hunkering down; or civil services such as garbage collection have been interrupted indefinitely. Knowledge of extended breastfeeding (and the ability to do so) will serve not just a baby or older child’s nutritional needs, but also comfort them in times of stress, fill the need for a separate pacifier (because let’s be honest – those are hard enough to keep track of now, let alone while fighting off our future alien overlords), and cure an endless array of ailments via the magic of breastmilk. We recommend having lots of wool clothing, both light and heavy, for layering – for each member of the family.

How do you think parents will improvise in the post-apocalypse? There may not be any disposable diapers, washers or dryers, or baby formula–how will people adjust and survive? (I’m assuming a bleak post-apocalyptic future, here.)

Hmmm, bleak post-apocalyptic future. We have spent some time thinking about this. We’ve mostly thought, though, about how we would adapt, and how we can prepare now. I think that parents who rely completely on disposable diapers and formula and strollers will have a much tougher go of it – not meant to be a knock to those things at all, but when stores are empty, there’s no electricity, and the sidewalks and roads aren’t being cleared in the winter… well, you’d be well-served to be adaptable in your parenting practices. I know that the topic of breastfeeding can be fairly contentious, and to be clear, I am of the view that it’s a choice but that a vast amount more support is needed for moms who wish to breastfeed. That said, for parents who think there might be big changes around the bend, I would be working hard to establish breastfeeding and keep that relationship well-established to two years of age and even beyond. I won’t get into all the intricacies of the benefits of breastfeeding, but I will say that the nutritional and health benefits extend for as long as a child continues to nurse, and many of the benefits are quite surprising. Parents wishing to do more research can start by checking out a La Leche League meeting or visiting the KellyMom website. I even know moms who are prepared to relactate if we find ourselves in an apocalyptic situation, because of the lives it could save (babies who have been separated or orphaned, even nutritional or medicinal applications for any age). For parents with knowledge of how to wash diapers without electricity, homemade flat diapers may be the best option long-term, though knowledge of elimination communication would save a lot of laundry! (Char’s note: relactating moms would be great, because I, for one, could not breastfeed, no matter how hard–and how long–I tried. I just did not make enough milk. I know I’m not the only one affected by this fluke of an issue.)

What do you think the post-apocalyptic family will look like? How will children be raised? Do you think a survival group will come together and raise the children communally; or will it be like it is now, with children being raised by separate families?

I’m not sure about community structure – I have a feeling we’ll see all types. Some may form communes (it sounds like the best option to me!), some may isolate themselves out of paranoia, others may attempt to continue on with a social structure more like what we have now (best of luck to them!). Personally, I think that the post-apocalyptic family will look a lot like a pioneer family. Everybody will have to work hard to pull their weight, issues like co-sleeping and breastfeeding won’t be debated because they’ll be necessary for survival.

Let’s talk about the apocalypse for a moment. What does your apocalypse look like? Do you think a gradual societal or economic decline is more likely, or a sudden apocalyptic event? (Personally, I’m hoping for invading space pirates who may or may not be evil space monkeys. But that’s just me.)

I’m not opposed to the idea of space monkeys. Honestly, we really don’t know. Each of us would give a different answer. My co-teacher, Jen, and I both feel and hope that there will be a positive outcome, kind of a “restart” button, where things will be knocked back to almost nothing so we can rebuild them – rethink what economy means, rethink what community means, rethink how we live on the earth. I think that this probably means economic and social collapse, and personally I think we are well into that right now. We are teetering on the edge, in my opinion (that’s also my argument for naysayers that say “nothing is going to happen” – plenty has been happening for years!). I tend to think that a major event or any number of major events will push the US in particular over that brink – whether that is “The Big One” on the Pacific coast, the eruption of the Yellowstone volcano, civil unrest over the election or economy, the collapse of the US dollar due to continued quantitative easing, an EMP, alien invasion, or a variety of other exciting possibilities (she says, tongue firmly in cheek). So, short answer: the slow societal and economic decline are what we’ve been living for the past decade; bring on the sudden apocalyptic event and let’s get this party started! (Note: Babes in Arms does not mean to make light of large disasters nor any loss of life.)

What scares you the most about the future? (Societal, economic, long-term, or otherwise? Just the future in general, really.)

Being wrong – having a negative outcome instead of a positive rebuilding. Zombies. Gun-crazy preppers who think societal collapse means every person for themselves. Not having a yardlight when the coyotes get too close to the house. Being hungry. No wine. No coffee. No chocolate. No MP3s to have all-night dance parties in the living room. (See – these are the things we are working on provisions for. For instance – memorizing all the lyrics to our favourite dance songs so we can just have song-and-dance parties.)

Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you, your store, or the class?

That we don’t normally admit this sort of thing to our customers? No, seriously though, we are just generally an awesome resource for anyone looking for information on babywearing and cloth diapering. We love to chat about these things and pragmatic parenting ideas in general. We welcome parents who need help with their carrier or cloth diapers, even if they didn’t buy them from us. And follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/babesinarms)!

Zombies or vampires?

Ugh. Zombies, for sure. Enough with the vampires! (Char’s note: OH HALLELUJAH!)

Well, those are all the questions I had this time around. Thanks for letting me pick your brain! (But not in a zombie-eating way.)

char

I'm Canadian, which according to movies and TV means I'm part of the group that's almost always wiped out during the apocalypse. I’ve watched too much Star Trek and Stargate over the years and spend too much time at my computer. Now, I'm waiting for the arrival of (and human enslavement by) the Borg or the Goa'uld. That is, if my computer doesn’t swallow me first.

2 Replies to “Interview: Lindsay Ross of Babes in Arms and the zombie apocalypse parenting class

  1. This is a great idea. What a lot of people don’t realise that zombie apocalypse prep is just as useful for any natural or unnatural disaster, so it’s a fun way to stay prepared.

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