When I was a few months pregnant, I decided to make an online registry so we could get baby items from family and friends. Although I have several younger siblings, I wasn't really sure of exactly what was needed. Apart from the cot, nappies and pram, what else would come in handy to keep a newborn happy and healthy? I didn't want to forget anything important so I searched online for suggestions on baby gear from other new mothers.
I found tons of videos of people issuing advice on 'must haves' for new moms. Bassinets, diaper genies, baby food processors, wet wipe warmers, sound machines ... *phew, ohh boy. The list of 'essential items' were endless and it quickly became overwhelming. 😖
Watching new mothers rave about things they 'couldn't live without' left me feeling anxious and totally unprepared. Did I really need all this stuff?
I noticed a common trend in the videos. Many of them were sponsored by various companies and the women would have 2 or 3 of the same items from different brands, discussing which ones worked best. Everything seemed to be in endless supply; 4 different versions of item X, and at least 3 versions of item Y... Meanwhile, I had zero versions of no items.☹️
I allowed myself to panic and what started as a fun, exciting activity quickly left me feeling fearful. Refusing to begin my journey into motherhood in fear, I stopped watching and instead, looked for wisdom from the mothers in my life. I spoke with my own mothers, my aunts, my grandmother, and friends with children. It was a calming experience. Conversations with these women put me at ease and together, we compiled a realistic list of baby products.
My baby girl is now 3 months old 💕☺️ Looking back, I can happily say that the things my family and I came up with (which were very basic items) turned out to be exactly what she needed.
The experience reminded me that we live in a consumer society that thrives on our insecurities and monetises our anxieties. In many ways, 'needs' are created to sell products. It's all too easy to get caught up in these pseudo-needs and throw away hard-earned money on items that won't be used and end up as clutter around the house.
An incredible book
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer was just... amazing! I'm not even able to articulate the tremendous impact that this book has had on my life. I am forever changed. I would recommend it without hesitation to anyone and everyone. A few of the themes that Kimmerer explores are gratitude and consumerism.
In a consumer society, contentment is a radical proposition. Recognising abundance rather than scarcity undermines an economy that thrives by creating unmet desires.
Gratitude cultivates an ethic of fullness, but the economy needs emptiness.
When creating the registry, I remember being extremely conscious of the fact that our loved ones would be buying the items for us as gifts. I was so grateful to have people in my life who would extend themselves to us in that way. I didn't want to waste anyone's money by filling it with frivolous things that would probably never be used, so I selected each item with care and consideration.
In an excerpt from the book, the author had a dream of walking through a market where everything was being given away for free- as a gift.
Had all the things in the market merely been a very low price, I probably would have scooped up as much as I could. But when everything became a gift, I felt self-restraint. I didn't want to take too much. And I began thinking of what small presents I might bring to the vendors tomorrow.
In the end, all the items were bought. I was so appreciative and subconsciously associated each item with the person that gifted it. So now, every time I put her in the baby carrier, bathe her or change a nappy, I remember the giver and I'm thankful. 💐
It's funny how the nature of an object -- let's say a strawberry or a pair of socks -- is so changed by the way it has come into your hands, as a gift or as a commodity.