One of the most challenging things we have found as we navegate the unfamiliar territory of "parents-to-be" is balancing our hopes and values that we hold dear and wish to pass along to our sone with those of the world around us. Sometimes, it seems there are miles of difference between those two sets of values. Take, for instance, the views as to what items are deemed "necessary" for the care and raising of our son.
We recently read an article in a magazine geared towards parent-to-be about how you can set up a nursery for your little one for about seven thousand dollars. We were shocked. Seven grand could pay for a lot of things: 2000 gallons of diesel for the truck, a decent used Honda to replace the truck, 89,000 miles worth of gas for the Honda, a good portion of Kelly's degree, the completion of many of Otis's "projects," or one hell of a vacation.
The kicker was that they $7000 was just for the "bare necessities," which, the article went on to say, were all needed for your little one to be properly cared for without the neighbors calling Protective Services on you for being a negligent parent. Want something better than the equivalent to steerage in the Good Ship Babyhood? Well, A-List parents could get a nursery with all of the things that a baby should have in order to become the next Nobel Laureate would run you a cool 10K.
Needless to say, we're not buyin' it. Literally.
In this world of deluxe wipe warmers, Diaper Genies, prenatal bonding sessions with certified baby gurus, Baby Einstein toys, all-terrain vehicle strollers with side impact beams and cupholders for Starbucks, and haute couture for newborns, the incessant voices of "Buy! Buy! BUY!" get to be quite scary for new parents. We start the maddening process of questioning ourselves: What if we don't get product X? Will our child be left behind with the rest of the unwashed masses? What about product Y? Do we really need that? What if we don't get it? Are we setting the stage for an expensive therapy bill later on? And on and on it goes.
We have been reading a lot of the new parent and baby magazines and what has really struck us is how our children, even before they are born, are being transformed from "just kids" to happy little pint-sized consumers. The baby gear racket is big business, and new parents are a huge cash cow that is happily susceptible to all kinds of hype. Businesses make big bucks on cashing in on the self-doubt of new parents and the desire that all parents have to give their children more than what they had, or couldn't have, as children.
As future parents, we are trying to be socially and environmentally conscious in a number of ways: in deciding what we really think is necessary for the care and raising of our child, in finding out what products are useful or useless, by reusing or buying used products when we can, by choosing to buy local, by making do with what we have and by coming up with new ways to creatively use products.
So what's this manifesto got to do with you? A lot! We are asking those of you who wish to support us in giving of your time, talent and/or buying power to help us reflect the values we are hoping to pass along to our son.
We appreciate those of you who wish to help us in the acquisition of items to help take care of our little one, but we are asking that you to consider the following things:
- Consult the "wants" list. It's maddening to shop for another person, moreso if that person isn't even in the picture yet. We want to help you pick items that we will actually use, and not just return for something we really wanted to get in the first place. We also know that people pick things for weird reasons, and we wanted to give you some insight as to why we are looking for the things we have placed on the "Wants" list. We guarantee you'll at least be entertained by our comedic line of thinking.
- Shop local second hand stores, resale shops, Goodwill, or Ebay. We really don't mind used stuff! Not only are the items cheaper, but as we know, babies grow so quickly that getting fashionista items at Baby Gap or Posh Baby just isn't practical. For the same amount of money for a trendy onesie at Baby Gap, you can purchase a couple of items at a resale store or off of Ebay. And you're supporting a local business or stay-at-home moms who resale their baby items as a way to supplement their income.
- Don't be afraid to give us stuff that cost you little to nothing. As big fans of Craigslist.org, we are big fans of getting something for ridiculously cheap or for nothing at all. Over 80% of furniture is from Craigslist, most things didn't cost us anything, and it looks great! So if you are fabulous on Freecycle.org, a goddess at garage sales, a king of the clearance rack, or a kick-ass Craigslister, by all means, buy it cheap or get it free. You have our blessings on being a savvy shopper. You're also proving that saving money by getting someone's reruns helps everyone by taking stuff out of the waste stream, helping folks find new homes for things they no longer need, and having more green in your pocket in the end. Everyone wins!
- Ask your friends. Kelly scored a big pile of baby stuff for free from someone at work who wanted to reclaim her garage. How many people do you know that may want their spare room, garage or den back from a huge avalanche of baby goodies?
- Get clothing and toys not only for newborns, but for our baby as he grows up. Kids grow quick and we'd love to have a couple of outfits or items already on hand when our son goes through a growth spurt. Kelly scored a bunch of Halloween onesies in multiple sizes for $1.50 each on clearance - our kiddo will be spookliy attired all year round. (What is it about pagans and Halloween? *grin*) Besides, there's only so many newborn sizes clothes a kid can literally wear out before they don't fit anymore.
- Make it yourself. A gift of handknit clothing, a stack of handmade wipes and bibs you made with leftover stuff, or a toy handcrafted in your spare time are gifts that mean so much more than a prepackaged gift quickly bought as an afterthought at Wal-mart. Handmade gifts are a reflection of the giver and will last much longer than their cheap, made-in-China counterparts.
- Think reusable. As parents who are concerned about the environment, we want to be able to reduce the amount of waste our kid adds to the overall stack. Did you know that when parents have a baby, their amount of weekly trash is increased by more than a third? That's almost an extra half a year of trash! To combat this future bundle of trash, we are opting to breastfeed, using a cloth diaper service, using washable wipes, and staying away from as much plastic, disposible, non-recyclable and throw-away items and their packaging as possible.
- Be careful of stereotypes in clothing and toys. As humans understanding our world, stereotypes help us form quick opinions that sometimes serve us well. Sometimes, they get us into trouble. Studies have shown that we treat newborns differently based on the clothes that they wear: Infants in boy clothes are seen as being more tough, rugged, are future quarterbacks or soldiers, etc. Infants in girls clothes are seen as being sweet, dainty, more fragile, will be heartbreakers, etc. As parents who like to throw gender stereotypes for a loop - Kelly was a race car driver, Otis is awesome on a sewing machine - please don't be afraid to get our kid things that are gender neutral. Horizons are meant to be broadened!
- Don't be afraid to have a sense of humor. We love irreverant baby shirts, outfits and toys. The ability to laugh has served us well through good times and bad and we both have a wickedly wrong sense of humor that has allowed us to enjoy the finer things in life like rude t-shirts, fart jokes, and the holy trinity of Cook, Leary and Carlin. We're hoping our son can be just as funny because there's nothing like watching your kid laugh so hard that (breast) milk comes out of his nose. So feel free to help him get off to a good start with the laughter.
In closing - please don't go overboard buying us tons of stuff we don't need or want, whether its baby clothes or toys or that all terrain stroller. Don't feel like you're skimping out or neglecting your duties as good parents, friends or consumers. We'd much rather you give gifts of the heart or spend time with us. Money can't buy love - regardless of what the baby magazines say.
Otis and Kelly