There are very many pressing social issues that are far more worthy of a blog post, but I don’t have the emotional energy for them, so instead, I’ll tell you some more about our simple living journey. One of the things people often said when we talk about trying to value simplicity more in our lives was, ‘Yes, but wait until you have a kid. Your stuff will just multiply.” Which is true. We definitely have way more junk with a kid than we did without. But, we had life circumstances (some of our own intentional creating, others– it just kind of happened that way) that forced us to have less baby stuff.
- We lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Texas, where our baby was born
- We moved to the opposite side of the states when he was two weeks old and lived with family for the following two months.
- We flew to South Africa when he was two months and had limited baggage
- We are currently living in a one-bedroom apartment and are building a tiny house
- We have a small car.
So, we didn’t really have the option of accumulating a bunch of stuff. While I’ll share a list of what we ended up with, here’s a few truths I try to remind myself of when I’m saying no to something so I can say yes to something better* in the baby-junk arena:
I do not want to parent out of fear. Marketers to first-time parents are trying to manipulate us into buying stuff because of our own FEAR. Some lies I have been told by magazines, facebook ads (scary how facebook knows my life), and even other parents:
- My child will die if I don’t have this $200 monitor that listens to their heart rate and projects it on a flat screen TV next to my bed.
- My child will suffer if I am not constantly stimulating them with the most up-to-date toys.
- My child will not reach his milestones unless I (insert special programme/contraption here).
- My child cannot sleep unless I have an expensive crib, bouncer, singing-light-up-jiggling something.
- My child’s pram/stroller should cost more than my car (REAL THING. There are actually strollers that cost more than our car).
- My child’s head will be distorted forever unless I have some special pillow….
You get the picture. It’s terrifying being a first-time parent. It’s one thing making choices for myself, it’s another being faced with the responsibility of another life. I AM terrified that a choice I make could hurt my kid. But in a fallen world, I probably will still make choices that hurt my kid, and expensive baby stuff can’t keep me from doing that.
You don’t need stuff until your child needs it. If my child can’t sit, I don’t need a highchair. If my child isn’t eating food, I don’t need plates, spoons, baby food containers. If my child is two months and not walking, I don’t need shoes for him… of course, if you’re having baby showers and people are giving you things, it’s nice sometimes to plan ahead so you don’t have to buy something yourself when the time comes. Since we were moving so much, and also don’t have a lot of storage space, this “wait and see if you need it” mentality made sense to us. So far, aside from a high chair, we haven’t had to spend money on ANY baby stuff, so the “wait until we need it” has continued to work even after baby-shower season. Also, we live in a world where we can go out and buy something if we need it.
Make friends with other people who have kids, and just use their stuff. Right now we’re borrowing a car-seat from a friend that’s perfect for our baby, but he’ll outgrow in a few months. But by then, she’ll have baby number 2, and will need it back anyway. Rather than hoarding baby stuff out of anxiety we’ll need it some day, we’re going with the share approach. We’re hoping we’ll be able to make enough friends through mom’s groups, church, the library, facebook baby-share sites etc. that we won’t have to store much baby stuff, but instead can lend out our stuff and borrow others.The world doesn’t need 5million car-seats gathering dust in every person’s attic.
We say no to almost all the toys. I mean, we want our kid to have SOME toys, obviously. But since we don’t have a lot of space, we just have to be resourceful with what’s around, since somehow toys tend to multiply. We do say yes to books- and of course there are libraries for books as well… but when you’re a baby, library books are a little bit scary since babies are still in the chewing/destroying stage. So we have a lot of baby board books.
The best thing you can give your child is yourself. Most toys/contraptions are there to make my life easier. But playing, reading, singing, talking, rocking are all the best things my baby needs anyway (they’re simple, but they require me). CHILDREN HAVE BEEN LIVING FOR CENTURIES WITHOUT ALL THE BABY JUNK. Somehow, parents in the middle of the Namib desert raise babies who walk and talk and know how to find food. The documentary “Babies” was very comforting in this regard. So I remind myself I just need to chill.
Honestly, sometimes saying no to all the baby stuff was a little sad. I mean, when it’s your first kid, you’re surrounded by cute pregnancy magazines with nursery decorating ideas, and the call of “get all the cute and pretty stuff!!!” was very strong. I don’t know if I would have been strong enough to withstand it if we weren’t traveling across the country and world.
*This definition of simplicity comes from The Art of Simple blog, (theartofsimple.net) and I really like it! You might say yes to the decorated nursery. I say yes to travel.
PS: So many parent things on the internet are super judgey. I do not mean this to be. Some people’s kids are super fussy and will only sleep with some kind of fancy something. Do what you have to do to survive. I’m just considering the fact that a lot of times I want to buy into a marketer’s definition of “necessity” rather than taking time to consider if it actually is a necessity.
OK, so for those who are interested in a line by line : my actual list of the baby essentials for the first 6 months…
- A carseat. We loved having the smaller kind that is easy to get in and out of the car, so when baby falls asleep, you can just move them inside easily. When he gets bigger, we’ll just get a different carseat. (We didn’t fly with a carseat, and I’m glad we didn’t, since it was one less thing to drag around).
- Wraps: We loved the K’tan wrap for the first 3 months (much easier than long, long yards of fabric that are difficult to put on and off. Also, didn’t look lame for David to wear). After that, the Ergo baby carrier has been amazing- SO comfortable.
- Stroller? We didn’t use a stroller for the first 2.5 months while we were in the States. We just used wraps, and I’m glad of that. But now that we’re in SA and we walk a lot of places, having a stroller has been GREAT. But saying no to a stroller at first was so liberating (I can have a child and not have a stroller… whaaat?)
- We did breastfeeding, so it was low maintenance. We got one bottle, and a pump, but never really used it. Really the only nursing supplies that I needed were nursing tank tops, lanolin, and a giant water bottle. I had this nursing cover, which I really liked at the beginning when I was figuring it all out.
- Now Bram loves his Ikea high chair where he can watch us eat and also plays with food (Ikea = SO COMPACT when it’s pulled apart!!!)
- We used this bassinet, which could be used in the bed with parents, but we didn’t want to do that, so we just stuck him next to our bed on the floor. It folds in half, so it travels super well!
- Swaddle blankets and Halo sleep sak: Some babies love the swaddle, some don’t. It was nice to have both of these options.
- Rock & Play: We borrowed one in the States when our baby was about 2 months and it was the BEST for getting him to STAY ASLEEP. But, people have lived for centuries without them, so I’m sure we would have been fine without it.
- Sleep Tent: We’re going with this instead of a play pen or pack ‘n play. We’ll see how it goes once he is more mobile, but so far it’s fine.
- Dummy/nook/Pacifier: He really loves his!
- Before our kid was born, I really wanted to know how many clothes he’d need. Maybe other people don’t care about this, but I just wanted someone to tell me what the bare minimum was. The internet did not give me a magic number, so here’s mine: 10 onesies with feet, and 10 short sleeve onesies. Then for winter: warmer sleeping sacks, or fuzzy fuzzy onesies as well. Socks are a joke, they just come off. You don’t need shoes, even if they look cute. And as a first time parent, we were given all the clothes we needed! So thankful.
- Spit-up bibs (those were awesome), and spit-up cloths (we just used normal cloths that we now use to wipe-up messes he makes in his high chair)
- Our sweet child had books, a chew-toy, and a jingly toy attached to his carseat, and he’s met all his milestones up to this point. 😛
- We do have a bouncer that he liked a lot before he could sit up, since it propped him up to see things more. But a carseat could work just as well.
- We used disposables for the first 2 months, and now do cloth during the day. It’s actually working great for us! Wipes and coconut oil have done fine, no rashes yet.
- We have the BEST nappy (diaper) bag ever! It’s a little on the small side, but that was kind of intentional so we wouldn’t keep junk in it. It’s been fine for 6 months with one kid… it might be a stretch if we have two kids, but I think we can make it work. It clips on the stroller, doesn’t look girly (so David can carry/wear it) and can be backpack or over shoulder style. It was pretty pricey, but it’s handmade fair trade in Israel, so, you know. And it’s waterproof and just wipes down. It has enough pockets for everything, but not an overkill of pockets.
- The doctor told us small babies do not need to be bathed every day, and to wait a week when we got home… so we might have forgotten to bathe our baby until he was about 2 weeks old! But we just bathed him in the tub or sink, and didn’t use a special baby bath.
- “The Informed Parent” which is all the research on all of these “big decisions” you make with babies (cry it out, not cry it out? Swaddle, no swaddle? Can I drink coffee?)
- “Expecting Better” (which was more about pregnancy, but same vein. Basically, science says yes you can drink all the coffee and eat all the cheese you want, just don’t smoke.)
- Simple Families blog & podcast
STUFF WE SAID NO TO (and have survived just fine thus far):
- play pens, fancy bouncers, expensive crib, bumbos, lots of toys, baby monitors, baby bath, baby swing, mobiles, a nursery, rocking chair, fancy bin for nappies, wipe warmers, special sippy cups, baby oil, baby powder, reading every mommy blog,
OK- those of you who are parents—- what are some of the things you’ve said no to when it comes to conventional American/Western baby stuff? Tell me all your secrets! How can I have a child with less stuff? 🙂