Over at Today Moms there is a story on minimalist mom who “spends nothing on her baby or her toddler.”
British blogger Hattie Garlick instituted a spending freeze on all kid-related items last year after losing her job. Now she says she enjoyed it so much that she is carrying on the plan this year, with a monthly “get out of jail for free” card. (She doesn’t mention how much one is allowed to buy with this card.)
I think we can all agree that as a culture we need to chill out on consumption. It’s not good for our wallets or our planet and most of our kids could do with a lot less. But praising “minimalist mom” without acknowledging the amount of time that goes into procuring hand-me-downs is misleading and wrong. These “free” things she finds? They aren’t free at all.
I am no stranger to the horror that is charge-after-charge from Diapers.com on my credit card bill each month. Nor am I unfamiliar with the shock first-time parents experience when they enter Babies R’ Us for the first time and come into contact with the 10,000 square-feet worth of stuff available to young parents. I fully understand the desire to make both of these go away.
But getting your hands on all the swaddle blankets, onesies, bunting, Boppys, and bottles, (OK, giving myself PTSD here) new parents need would require many, many free hours, if not free days of hunting and emailing and traveling across town to pick the “gently used” Exersaucer up. When we talk about minimalist parenting, or extending breastfeeding, or elimination training, or D.I.Y. everything for that matter, we must acknowledge the hours and hours that goes into these things. If we don’t, we are just creating yet another standard that most moms can’t live up to because they simply don’t have the time.
I worked hard during my pregnancy, harder than usual because as a freelancer I had no paid maternity leave to rely on. The last thing I had time to do was pour through listserves and Craigslist to find the many material items one needs–yes, needs!–for a baby. This is not to mention the time it takes to go pick up the item and schlep it home on the subway. You know, time is money, and I just couldn’t waste it.
A few months after my baby was born, and life began to feel more settled, I started to seek out a few items this way, and was glad to not spend another $75 on something he would need for a few months. Even then though, I still relied heavily on Diapers.com and Amazon to bring me to my doorstep many a thing because I just didn’t have the time to seek it out second-hand. (Nor did I always want to.) I also learned that a lot of that baby gear that horrified me early on actually made my life much easier–and afforded me the time to do things like, say, pee and drink.
An even if a mom doesn’t work, she still might not want to spend the time it takes to freegan her way through early parenthood. Maybe she would rather nap. Or get her nails done. Or watch “Downton Abbey.” That is totally cool too! In all our work/life “we are all so crazy busy” conversations we often fail to acknowledge that moms are people who need and deserve downtime too.
There is another reason some moms can’t go full minimalist. Not everyone is surrounded by wealthy people who have all the goods and are happy to give them away for free. Many people are not surrounded by the apparent abundance that Garlick is.
I think if a mom has the time and energy to not spend a dime or waste another fossil fuel on her baby, that is really, truly wonderful. I really do. But we must, must pay attention to the fact that these free items are not without their costs.