Thursday, June 14, 2007

Having it All


I’ve been reading several of the links in the "Woman to Woman" writing collaborative on the topic of “Having the Latest Baby Everything” – referring to parents thinking they have to have every newfangled gizmo and doohickey for their babies/children. It just so happens I’ve been to a couple baby showers recently so I’ve had opportunities to shop for infant gear and to observe what things garnered the greatest oohs and ahs, so I’d been giving some thought to the subject anyway.
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When my first son was born we were living in abject poverty. Having anything beyond the basics was never even a consideration. By the time kid number two came along there was a little more wiggle in the budget, but my heart was still far too pragmatic to care for most of the bells and whistle accoutrements of babydom. But now I am a grandma. I have considerably more disposable income than I did when raising my own brood. So I have, on occasion, taken great pleasure in acquiring fancy or fun things for my progeny’s kids. Yet I will admit to being more than baffled at some of the MUST HAVES that many new mothers insist they surround their infants with.
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I never had a baby monitor or a bottle sterilizer or a Baby Einstein video and somehow my sons turned out just fine. That’s not to say those things are evil, or even entirely frivolous – I just don’t see them as anywhere close to being essential. When it came to toys, my kids would usually rather play with the box than whatever came in it. If I put them on a blanket with a few wooden spoons and a pan to bang on they were happy.
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I think most baby things are like pet products. They are created and marketed to be attractive to the person spending the money to buy it rather than the actual end user.
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I recently spent an obscene amount of money on a couple Polo outfits for my youngest grandson’s second birthday. Part of me felt guilty at the time that I was getting hooked in to that whole fashion madness that I am generally dismissive of. But they were pretty darned cute. Will the young one care? Not a bit. But his daddy, who grew up in yard sale finds and hand-me-downs, does.
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I had a conversations with a couple other women recently about the whole issue of blatant consumption of unneeded products – whether it be too many shoes or excessive toys for kids or owning all the latest electronic gizmos or having a garage so full of STUFF you end up parking your car on the street. I see no sin in abundance. I believe it is ok to have and enjoy nice things. However I think we all can benefit by taking a good hard look at our patterns of consumption and the impact our buying/owning/using has not only on our planet, but on our own hearts.
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Too often we turn to STUFF to comfort, to distract or to make us feel worthy. Too often we give people we love THINGS to demonstrate our caring rather than doing the harder work that takes more time of truly connecting.
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I see nothing wrong with having toys or more cute outfits than are absolutely essential for survival – whether it be for my baby or myself. I DO see something wrong with getting so caught up in the “have to have” syndrome that I become less willing to share with others, or more driven to work outside the home to provide a cushy lifestyle.
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I believe that families, societies and the world benefit tremendously from having a parent put HOME as their primary responsibility. So often I hear people say “well, it would be great to stay home with the kids, but we just can’t make it on one income.” That may be true if “making it” requires large homes, cable tv, meals in restaurants, and new toys and clothes throughout the year. I acknowledge that there are many moms of young kids that truly do need to work to help support their families. But I grieve for the many parents – both moms and dads – who sell their lives to employers to give their family STUFF rather than being present in the home.
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I read an article in Ensign magazine some time ago that spoke about the Mormon pioneers crossing the plains. They said that when the wagon trains and handcarts came to the rocky mountains many of those folks found they were carrying too much load to make it, so they regretfully left large heavy items all along the path. There were clocks and furniture, fine china, and musical instruments scattered along the path from Colorado to Utah. People sacrificed their beloved heirlooms to get themselves and their families to Zion. But no matter how much they weighed, no parent EVER left a kid by the side of the road to lighten up a wagon or hand cart.
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Today, however, we seem to have our priorities backwards. Too many people are metaphorically leaving precious babies by the side of the road as they chase after worldly acknowledgment or STUFF instead. Working long hours at high power jobs does provide lots of fine and comfortable things. But at what cost?
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I don’t say this as a rebuke. I am far from being the perfect parent and I have plenty of areas where my own values and behavior could stand some polishing up. I say this as an observer of families and society. I think we need more loving hearts in homes doing the unglamorous work of wiping noses and butts, helping young ones grow up feeling secure and loved than we do shiny things with name brand tags. I think if we can provide some blocks and good books and keep the kid covered up from the elements, that is sufficient. If you have the resources to do more - great, enjoy it. But the whole idea of having to have NEW everything is troubling to me. I think it sets a dangerous pattern. I think we are ALL better off when we share, loan, pass on our stuff - not just because it saves money, but also because it builds community when we collaborate with our material goods rather than compete.
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A recent Time Magazine had a great photo gallery comparing what people from different countries eat - showing families from around the world with a week's worth of food set before them. It would be interesting to do the same sort of thing showing what we each own, wouldn't it?

I recognize that on more than one occasion I've been a bit condescending with judgment toward those who I thought were overly materialistic. Who am I to say what tools or toys can be or should be of value to someone else? Lately I am trying harder to curb that tendency within me, to be more respectful of our differences, to give my sisters some grace. So enjoy that exersaucer and Baby Einstein video. So long as we all remember what is really important - the BABY - not the stuff, it's all good.

To read what others have said on this same topic, go HERE.


6 comments:

Lei said...

"Today, however, we seem to have our priorities backwards. Too many people are metaphorically leaving precious babies by the side of the road as they chase after worldly acknowledgment or STUFF instead. Working long hours and high power jobs does provide lots of fine and comfortable things."
--- It makes my heart hurt to read that, but you are right.

Better late than never, I always say! Thanks for speaking up. :)

Morning Glory said...

I echo Lei - thanks for having a say in this. Your sentiments are very valid and I agree with your perspective.

Mimi said...

Absolutely true, thank you.

And, hey, we are probably heading your way next month.

Kimi said...

I looooove what you had to say on this topic! I agree whole heartedly with what you have said. It was clever to compare the Pioneers and their possessions, to todays people and the stuff they don't seem to want to give up for the sake of their family. I also agree that it is wonderful to have nice clothes and to provide comfortable living for a families but there it a cut off point. Thank you! Reading your post made me stand a little taller and want to do my job a little better.

Susie said...

Thanks for visiting me. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this. The designer clothes are cute, but I also believe they are much more important to the parent than the child..

SingForHim said...

"Too often we turn to STUFF to comfort, to distract or to make us feel worthy. Too often we give people we love THINGS to demonstrate our caring rather than doing the harder work that takes more time of truly connecting."

This is key. Our hearts can't be filled with things. Great post!

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