Baby Shower Shock

Baby FaceManaging well involves using the proper tools for the task at hand while keeping the costs down and quality as high as possible. Hmm…how does that correlate to parenting?

How about baby and kid stuff? There is a huge industry which has sprung up around trendy ways to care for, maintain, train, and restrain your bundles of joy and much of it will empty your pocketbook (and those of your generous friends and family) when the “tried and true” will do just as well in most cases.

Are you getting “Kids and Debt” deja vu yet? 

You will.

Parenting.com says that a 2010 survey indicated that middle-income families spend an average of $12,000 the first year of a baby’s life, and the costs just keep rising.

I recently attended a baby shower for a neighbor who was having her first child.  I thought back to my first baby and tried to recall the most useful thing I received at the numerous showers thrown for me by co-workers, family, and friends.

It was a tie between a diaper pail full of disposable diapers, wipes, cream, liners, etc., in one lovely package; and a generous supply of hand finished flannel pads my mother made for me.  The pads were in colors that went with the nursery, measured about a yard square and could be used as burp pad, changing pad,  swaddling cloth,  light towel, doll blanket or a variety of other uses I came up with over the years.  When they finally wore out, they became dust rags, car cloths and finally disintegrated from loving use by a growing family.  With great nostalgia…the decision was made.

I discovered my friend was having a boy and her nursery colors were yellow and green.  My mother and I went shopping for some soft flannel to make a unique gift for the new arrival.  Mom’s skills and sewing machine had improved over the years, so she could even add coordinating appliques, and the lucky little guy got giraffes and hippos and elephants on his solid color cloths and then print cloths that had these fun animals in his colors on them as well.  In addition, I found a couple of unique onesies that suited the couple’s interests and I was ready to go to the shower.

Wow.  Technology had really changed since my children were babies!  I cringed, guessing what some of the gifts cost, considering their features and brands. It is no wonder it has gotten so expensive to raise a child, particularly since many items can’t be reused due to safety regulations, changing codes and the disposable nature of our society.  Non-BP bottles, strollers with more features than I remember being in my car in 1988, special equipment to make your own baby food…well, you get the drift.  Everything was the very best and top of the line with all of the bells and whistles.

There were only a few of us who brought primarily organic (i.e. handmade or custom) gift items, so the manufacturers won out at this particular shower and I suspect at most of them these days.

I found myself wondering how much of it new parents used and found indispensable, and how much they probably could have lived without.

My point is, when you are expecting, watch out that the excitement of it all doesn’t lead you down the uber-consumer path.  Use that same brilliant brain you used in your career and think about alternatives to expensive options and then make some discerning consumer choices when you fill out that gift registry.

The mom-to-be asked each of us for a copy of our children’s favorite book.   She opened them and asked us why our children liked it so much.  That was my favorite part of the shower!

When my husband and I were starting out in our grand experiment of “stay at home motherhood,” there wasn’t a lot of money to waste, so I didn’t.  Coupons were clipped and bargains were sought after.  I don’t think it was a bad way to start and it gave us a sense of perspective that has served us well as things got better and money was not as much of an issue.  We still saw no sense in just wasting it. I would still avoid paying top dollar for designer anything.  I always make the trade-off of quality over trendy but you also need to think about how long you will really be using an item or whether it has the potential to last through more than one child safely.

Of course, you are reading the blog of the mother of two children who, although they loved their Rocking Horse and Barbie Dream House (don’t get me started on what it takes to put that thing together!), totally adored the cardboard box the washer came in and played with it for months.

Cost – $0.00… Pictures and videos of them playing peek-a-boo, house, fireman, scary monster, kitty cat surprise and more…Priceless!

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