Warning: This post does not contain a recipe for anything delicious.
Since giving up Facebook for Lent, I’ve been spending more of my online time looking into what I need to prepare for baby V’s arrival. And more and more all I’m finding are the same things that irritated me about the wedding industry 7 years ago. Constant bombardment with more stuff you “need” for this big event, OR ELSE. Your entire wedding will be completely ruined without a monogrammed ring bearer pillow! Your baby will NEVER FORGIVE YOU if you dare to wipe her bottom with room-temperature wipes! You want to use some other natural unscented (cheaper) laundry detergent rather than the kind specially made for BABIES? She will shrivel up and DIE!
No. Just no. It’s consumer culture run amok.
A wedding is only a one-day event, but a baby most certainly isn’t, and that adds the anxiety of “WHAT IF SHE’S INCONSOLABLE FOR WEEKS BECAUSE I DIDN’T PURCHASE XYZ???” Which leads to even more pressure to treat everything on “registry checklists” as a NEED.
Problem is, all babies are different. Baby V will have her own preferences, and acquiring every variety of item that could possibly soothe/entertain/pacify her before we become aware of her preferences seems like a colossal waste. Of both space in our house and hard-earned money.
There’s also the frustration of having a house that’s filled up with stuff “just in case.” This type of clutter is a major source of stress in my life, and I am making a concerted effort to eliminate many of my own non-essentials before baby V arrives. How often do I cook a quantity of food such that I use three glass 8×8 pans plus one metal 8×8 pan all at the same time? (Answer: I’ve never needed more than one.) Why am I keeping this spatula that has a half-melted handle when I have 4 others that are perfectly good? (I have no idea. Do I even need 4 spatulas? No.)
I read “the myth of multiples” on The Minimalist Mom a few days ago and I realized I’d never thought about “backups” this way before: having multiple of the same item (like 6 spatulas) doesn’t actually lead to reduced work, just delayed work. Either way, I’m still washing/cleaning the same amount overall. Obviously soft things like burp cloths or clothes or bedding require more since washing these types of items takes longer than 10 seconds. But things that are quickly wiped down/put away? I can get by with a lot fewer (maybe even just one!) AND have less crowded storage spaces as a result.
Along with getting rid of identical/similar multiples, I’m looking at my stuff and asking myself “how else could this be used?” Storing one object that can be used three different ways is far preferable to storing three objects that each have one specific use. Why spend $20 for a plastic drum toy when my baby will likely be just as happy with a saucepan and a wooden spoon? (Or one of those spatulas, haha!) Why register for a nursing cover when a swaddle blanket can attach around my neck with a clip? Why buy special plastic “baby” bowls for solid food feeding when we already own several small (non-breakable) mixing bowls? The baby won’t care that they don’t have cute pictures on them.
I’d love to skip the traditional American baby shower entirely and have a “meet baby V” party some weeks after she’s born, but I’ve been told by several people that I’ll end up with even more unnecessary stuff if I don’t register for anything at all.
So to minimize the level of consumption, we are registering for some essentials that we’ll need for the first several weeks, and only stuff that I don’t already plan to buy used. Hand-me-downs/Craigslist/consignment in most cases are just as good as new, since baby stuff is often used for such a short time that it’s still in mint (or at least very good) condition. Better for the environment and better for the wallet! A win-win for everyone!
Please don’t misunderstand – I really am super grateful for everyone’s desire to help out when baby comes. I know I’m going to need a lot of help and I don’t want to turn any of it away! But since people go to baby registries first, I just wish there was a way to register for used items, or once-weekly bathroom cleaning, or home-cooked meals for the freezer, or an hour of baby-watching so we can go out for coffee… Hmm, maybe there’s some way I can fool Amazon into letting me do that via their “universal registry” option… :)