Parental Instinct vs Consumerism: Balancing Baby Stuff

Things, goods, possessions, treasures, crap—call it what you may—the stuff parents purchase throughout a child’s infancy, youth, and even adulthood can accumulate. Some stuff might live a life of extensive use to the point that it clearly exhibits substantial wear-and-tear and the value that it has provided. Other stuff might be passed along from family to family, providing similar value over time. Other stuff might break. And then there is the other major category of stuff that becomes waste, ending up with seemingly no place to go but the landfill after a measly life-cycle of several months or perhaps a year. This stuff might even appear new, but for some reason its characterization as used renders it tainted and subordinate.

In my first few months as an expecting father I have begun to learn about many of the fantastic new products (delights?) that I will need in order to raise my child, particularly during the first few years. During a rather long conversation in which my mother cited a laundry list of items I could not help but laugh, to which my father responded by saying that I could always drop my baby in the field while I tilled the crops. While this didn’t sound appealing I still figured there to be a middle ground, somewhere in between transforming our apartment into a large baby pad and holding the baby at arm’s length during potty time.

I need a crib, a changing table, a high chair, a bouncer—the needs never stop! I suppose I could save all these items for our second child. Still, I wonder what we’ll do when we no longer need the bouncer—most likely we’ll end up bringing it to a secondhand shop or giving it to a friend or colleague. Yet I am beginning to understand (I probably never fully can) that through parental instinct mothers want the best for their children, and best often means new and new means clean, safe and sterile. I fear that my wife will refuse a bouncer that has been bounced in by another child. Will our friends refuse to use our bouncer? Where will all the bouncers go—to Bouncerland? The bouncing aspect of such a magical place seems quite fun.

The parental instinct extends to all things tangible, including other humans. If my wife is going to ask me if I have washed my hands (I hear this could happen) before I hold the baby then she most definitely will not like our baby using a secondhand changing table. I might be going in circles here, trying to sell my secondhand smoke to mothers seeking sterility. Still, I shall continue to advocate…

Share baby items by handing them down, over, across, or anywhere else besides the landfill. Diapers and like items excluded (i.e. not a bouncer), share baby items with other families, accept hand-me-downs or hand-me-overs, and purchase less. Having a baby is not an excuse to pillage Mother Earth for every baby item that humans have come to invent. Some stuff makes life easier while much of the rest is more smoke and mirrors than my advocacy—babies are like (some) adults who cannot take care of themselves. They do not require a unique piece of furniture for every bodily pose imaginable. Once again in the case of the environment, less can be more, this time in the name of baby stuff.

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About Emerging Environments

Thoughts about environmental policy, sustainability, cancer, and more.
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One Response to Parental Instinct vs Consumerism: Balancing Baby Stuff

  1. suburbanlife says:

    I cannot comprehend how i raised my son, now 43 years of age, without the aid of a changing table, designer reusable diapers, a bouncy chair and other purchasable items such as a crib mobile. I made my own crib mobile out of crisp black and white graphic images clipped from black poster paper, and sang snippets of barcarolles while lulling him to sleep, made my own diapers from folded squares of white flannel, with nary a giraffe, cat or toy truck patterns decorating it. The changing table was a bath towel folded with hand towels inside and placed on top of the dresser and the bouncy chair was my hip. where ensconced he contentedly viewed the world we moved about in and from the safe perch of which he observed tasks of daily life. So simple, so unadorned and so unfussy. In the end I have raised a human being who can live and experience outside a box of conventions which are wrongly assumed to be necessities. Much of what is sold these days, and even back then, to parents, were in reality positional goods – i.e. items which had more significance of my stratum in society than in sensible implements and objects which might be constured to be useful labour-saving devices for a young parent. Mindful access to a variety of possibilities if far more useful than the buying of convenience – which at once blunts ability to adapt behaviour to needs thoughfully, and which weighs rather heavily on the pocket book. Think first, then act with consideration of the many ramifications of our actions.
    I liked your blog post – it shows you are a thinking being. Enjoy the parenting adventure, because it is such. G

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