Dear New Mom,
I have this unpopular opinion that I need to share with you. Everyone is talking about “how expensive babies are” allll the time, but I believe babies don’t have to be expensive. Kids? Yes. Kids are expensive. Especially if you buy them high end clothes, gaming systems and sign them up for traveling sports teams at age 5.
Just a little background on my entrance into motherhood — I was 20 and single when I became a mom for the first time. My (now) husband and I were practically strangers when we found out we were going to be parents. We had a choice to work together and start a family, or go our separate ways here and now, 3 months into our relationship and 6 weeks pregnant. We both decided we were “all in”.
Our gorgeous baby girl, Lucille, was born on a Tuesday and I held her at her daddy’s college graduation ceremony that very same Saturday. That same month we moved away from our families, bought a house and my husband started his first grown-up job. Somewhere in there I celebrated my 21st birthday and leaked boozy breastmilk through my shirt. You could say it was a lot. You could also say we were young, naive, and most definitely broke.
Side note: Maybe later in another post I will tell you all about how my “baby daddy” turned out to be the man of my dreams, then my husband, then we had three more little people, paid off a bunch of debt together and dedicated ourselves to serving others through the same pre-marriage counseling retreats that set the trajectory for our marriage, blah blah blah… I will just say that we have come a long way in the last ten years and my life is bigger and richer now than I ever knew it could be. Don’t have pity on that young girl who dropped out of college to become a stay at home mom, I am so grateful for who I’ve become and everything that has gotten me here.
I tell you all of this background to paint you a picture and tell you that I had to be frugal as a new mom. Like, really frugal. With the exception of a clearance high chair I bought at Target, all of my big items were generously given to me at my baby shower. I was given a car seat, stroller and rocker. I was offered 3 hand me down cribs. I don’t think this is just because of our situation. Parents everywhere are desperate to pass on the things their babies have grown out of.
In hindsight, I’m glad we didn’t know I was expecting a girl, because I would have been gifted with lots of pink clothes instead of the neutral, basic things I needed. (Also, I’m such a snob about how I dress my kids and like to pick those out myself!) I reused all of the basic necessities for my second, third and fourth babies. They didn’t mind being bathed in a sink versus an expensive bathtub.
Instagram, the well meaning older lady at church and advertisements that come in the mail will all feed you the lie that you that you need more. You need more stuff to care for your baby. It should be beautiful, expensive stuff (for your baby to have an explosive poop on) and your nursery should look Pinterest worthy. You need to invest thousands of dollars in the highest quality organic cotton everything. You need hundreds of blankets. And if you don’t spend and buy into this lie, you’ve already lost your place in the running for best new/expecting mom.
The message new parents are being bombarded with is more stuff = better equipped parent. Of course this lie is closely related to the lie that more and new stuff = happier life. This isn’t just a lie being told to new mothers. This is being sold to all of us all the time. We are being told that we should buy more stuff, fill our home and our lives with more stuff. This stuff will lead to more abundant, worthy lives which means we will be happy and feel more loved. I call bullshit, you guys.
The reason this is especially damaging to new moms is because we are so susceptible to believing that we are less of a parent or love our babies less if we don’t buy all the extra (unnecessary) stuff.
We want to do this right and we are being told that buying more is the “right way” to parent. This is stealing our joy and filling our precious space (space in our minds, in our homes…) with clutter.
Somehow babies have been surviving for thousands of years being fed with (free) breastmilk and sleeping in dresser drawers-turned cribs. How did people even parent before rock-and-plays, papasons and swings with 20 settings and even more “soothing sounds”. I was pregnant and nursing my 4 babies for almost all of my 20s. My youngest is now 3 and somehow there are already thousands of new products in the Target aisles that I don’t even know what they do.
Now I will not judge you when you go research and buy your baby a safe, highly rated car seat. Spend what you want on the “necessities” — IF you have the means and can pay for them without starting your new family with crippling credit card debt. If you can afford to buy some conveniences to make your life easier, go for it. But Mama, your job is not to provide extra stuff. And if you don’t have the means for all the bells and whistles, you are no less legitimate as a mother for not buying it. You are an adequate parent even without the latest and greatest new baby gadgets. Can’t afford much? Ask for help – there are resources and pregnancy centers with free swings and newborn clothes. There is Craigslist and there are always garage sales.
Please, don’t let your pregnant-at-the-same-time-as-you friend intimidate you because she is convinced nobody is able to parent without one of those baskets that goes into your dishwasher. You know these? The little $10 baskets that hold pacifiers and bottle nipples in separate compartments and does the exact same job as your silverware holder in your dishwasher’s bottom rack. I bought this little dishwasher basket lie and had extra clutter on my countertops and $10 less in my wallet. Your job is provide love, shelter, safety and nourishment. But the higher price tag on your stroller does not make you a better mother.
Let’s not pass down an unhealthy relationship with things to our kids. Stuff and things will not make you a better mom or a happier person. Stuff cannot love you the way you might love or worship it.
Friend, I want you to know you were fearfully and wonderfully made by our creator to be this new baby’s mama. Your qualities were handpicked by God himself. He has equipped you with everything you need to be the best mother for your children. You are a worthy and amazing mother. This is true if you brought your baby home to a mansion with a custom made crib in a designer nursery… or a tiny 1-bedroom apartment above a dirty college bar… like I did.
The Target “baby sale” flyer won’t tell you this, so I will — you are enough without the stuff.