I’ve always been a fairly frugal person. I am a sucker for a good deal and avoid paying full price if at all possible. I attribute this to growing up with
cheapskates teachers as parents. We weren’t impoverished by any means, but we were certainly eating a lot of ground beef and toast and wearing plenty of hand-me-downs. We were fully aware that new clothes were a twice a year splurge: back-to-school and Christmas.
However, my parents were diligent about instilling an attitude of gratefulness and appreciation for all we had, and just as any child in a loving home, I grew up perfectly content. I can still hear my mom’s compulsory reminder: “Well, there are starving children in Africa.” And she’s right. Get over yourself.
But for some reason, when I was pregnant with my firstborn, all my ideals of simplicity and frugality went out the nursery room window. I was sure that my baby needed new everything. Not only new, but top-of-the-line. Because I don’t want my baby to die. And she will surely die if it’s not the most expensive.
Somebody out there is very good at convincing moms of this and very rich because of it.
And then the clothes. Oh the clothes. How fun to be a mother of girls. The pink, the floral, the bows, the dresses, the shoes. It’s just too much. And then you see pictures of babies on Facebook and think, “Oh my! That baby has the cutest boots on. My baby has NO cute winter clothes. None! And the bows! She doesn’t have ANY bows. I MUST go shopping, lest my child be naked, cold and bald.”
Materialism can sneak up on a new mom like a husband after bedtime. We have convinced ourselves that, though we would never be so frivolous in other areas, it’s okay to spend ridiculous amounts on baby swag, for it’s only because we love our children SO much. They deserve the best. They need these things.
Thankfully, I have a wonderfully sensible husband that calls me out on this bull. When convinced I needed a new $400 stroller, he gently reminded me that my sister, the one that lives literally 20 yards away, has offered to let me borrow one of hers. When I complain about the fact that Charlee has NO toys to play with, he lists every item strewn about the playroom (Not to mention we have a playroom. A playroom.). When confronted with $300 worth of Target gift cards, he reasoned that we should spend that on things we can’t borrow or buy used, such as diapers, wipes, shampoo, etc. (And I might have spent a couple of dollars on clothes…) Sometimes I really hate him. But then I love him so much more.
It’s absurd. The Baby Man has a hold on us moms. Our innate competitiveness (my child WILL be the cutest baby ever) paired with our maternal instincts (my baby WILL be the most loved baby ever) have turned us into raging consumeristic, neurotic, materialistic snobs. And we don’t even realize it.
My family has gotten to know a young African man, Roger, and his family that live here in town. He has four nieces and nephews that live with their parents in a two-bedroom apartment about the size of my bedroom. And those kids are the most grateful, loving, content children I’ve ever been around. Last winter, my sister gave the youngest, 3, one of Ellie’s old coats, and you would have thought she’d given her a lifetime supply of chocolate. The look of joy on that little girl’s face was enough to make your eyes puddle.
On the flip side of that, I was once a teacher. I always told my husband that what was more frustrating than the misbehavior, more than the excessive talking, more than the occasional disrespect, was the sense of entitlement most of the kids seemed to have. When giving prizes or treats, rarely would I hear a thank you, but, more often than not, I would hear some outcry of dissatisfaction (I wanted a BLUE one! I don’t LIKE this kind! I wanted TWO! We don’t get TWO?? That’s not fair.).
Now, I’m not blaming this behavior on the baby gear. However, I do think that the same “because I love my baby so much” attitude can certainly turn into “because I love my toddler” and then “because I love my child.” And then, before we know it, we are dumbfounded, mystified, perplexed as to why our children don’t appreciate what they have.
What do we eventually want our children to be like? As kids? As teens? As adults? These are (some of) the attitudes I want to instill in my children:
So wouldn’t I want them to see those exemplified in our household? Isn’t that the only way they will learn?
It’s not a matter of whether we can afford it. It’s a matter of teaching our children that it’s more important to take care of the needs of others than the wants of one’s self. It’s a matter of showing them that our home is full of love, which is way better than full of things.
And that, no matter what, The Lord is our portion. Not our stuff.
“Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU.’ ” – Hebrews 13:5