Fending off the Consumer Economy: Expecting a Newborn Baby

“You will always be your child’s favorite toy.” – Vicki Lansky

I had a meltdown last weekend at Babies R Us. We were there doing research on the things needed come December. This is when our baby arrives. We’re adopting (in case you aren’t current with our two year fertility saga) and December is when the birthmother is due.

Friends, neighbors and family members have offered to host three separate baby showers. The sheer enthusiasm about our pending parenthood is quite sweet, but the concept of a baby registry is completely foreign to me. Hence, the trip to Babies R Us to get the lay of the land. And that land, my childless friends, is bizarre.

First of all, 90 percent of this world is composed of plastic (see Jennifer’s post at Queercents on how to minimize the plastics found in the lives of our young children!). Second, it taps into the consumerist culture that personifies many Americans. Susan Gregory Thomas, the author of Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds expressed some notable things in a Salon.com interview last year including:
Noam Chomsky said it best when he said the consumer economy takes our concerns, commodifies them and sells them back to us.
This pretty much sums up Babies R Us! New parents beware. Before entering the store, we printed Mombian’s list of essential Baby Gear to keep us focused on the basics. It was an excellent guide. And as Susan Gregory Thomas emphasizes:
Life itself is very stimulating — children don’t need a lot of this extra stuff. Just being with your parents and getting to relax and hang out, or even just sort of sitting in the bouncy seat and watching your mom type on the keyboard as she does her work, or going to the market, or just taking a nap and cuddling, is all the stimulation a baby needs.
Ok, I get it! We need the bouncy seat, maybe the Baby Bjorn, a good stroller, a car seat, a Pack & Play (which can double as a bassinette in the first couple of months), and a crib. But most of the stuff located in the other forty aisles just taps into the fears of new parents.

We left without buying a thing. As I said, we were there doing research and once we were armed with a baseline on prices, we went home and I spent the rest of the afternoon doing searches on Craigslist. I’m certain some mothers would be horrified at the thought of buying anything second hand for their new baby… but Jeanine and I are in total agreement that second hand is fine and preferred for things like nursery furniture.

So we made our first few purchases and I’m proud to say, a week later, we couldn’t be more pleased with our decision and the results. We bought a Pali crib from a nice family in Laguna Beach. The crib is Italian-made, aesthetically in line with the rest of our home furnishings, and was less than half the price if we had purchased it new. Total cost: $350 and this included a high quality mattress (which would have set us back another $100 at Babies R Us!). Of course, I first read up on the ins and outs of selecting a baby crib.

We then went to the consignment shop and bought an antique rocker for $150. Next on the list is a mahogany dresser that will act as the changing table. After all, does he really need furniture specially made with blue bunnies stenciled all over it!?

What do you think? About our consuming culture and raising consuming kids? About new vs. second hand? About marketing to young parents? About what is the right amount of money to be spending on preparations for a newborn? The philosophy behind the baby registry and baby showers? My new parent preparing mind wants to hear your thoughts in the comments section over at Queercents.

Photo credit: stock.xchng.