Saturday, November 04, 2006

Getting and spending

Since I got the first of this weekend's two freelance assignments done a few hours earlier than expected, Ess and I headed over to Bullseye and the Evil Baby Superstore. We've been buying diapers at EBS, since we've still got gifts cards that we've been hoarding, and I wanted to check out buntings for the car seat and stroller, plus we needed breast milk storage bags and... something else... Oh yeah, single-serving formula to have in the diaper bag and the house in case of emergency (ie Ess is starving and I'm not in the vicinity, nor is any thawed milk).

So with Ess in the sling (so cozy!) we trundled around and did our shopping. I was astonished at the cost of the bunting -- $35 -- and brought it home with misgivings. Jo(e) has written on numerous occasions about how little you really need to take care of a baby, and that thought was ringing in my head as we quickly strolled the aisles of EBS' palace of consumerism. Thanks to the comments at Ask Moxie in response to my question about keeping Ess warm this winter, I've also been pondering buying some Babylegs. But the fact that the only place they're sold in Maine is at precious little boutique downtown gave me pause; clearly they're just yuppie folderol. (No offense to any Babylegs fans out there...)

So after some thought, I realized that the solution for keeping her warm this winter is simple (and exactly what Moxie recommended): a snowsuit for walks, and a sweater and a blanket on top of the carseat for car rides. And if we need to go for a walk before we get a snowsuit -- which I'm determined to get used, either on eBay or at a local thrift store -- we can just put a pair of our own socks on over her legs, to protect her little calves from the wind whistling up her pant legs. It won't be color-coordinated, but who cares.

The key phrase in that last paragraph is the first one: "after some thought." In our country, the easiest solution to pretty much any problem is to buy something. I feel as though it takes more work to not buy something, or to spend less. So often I get wrapped up in some problem, obsessed with it, and so I dash out and buy something, when it turns out that the best way to proceed would have been to wait and see if I really needed it, to look around the house and see what we have here that could work, to think a bit.

Two recent examples: One of the many things piled on the blue recliner in our home office waiting to be put away is the beach cabana I raced out to buy (well, I raced online to buy) this summer. I was convinced that I could not take Ess to the beach if I didn't have an enclosed shelter in which I could nurse her and she could take naps. We used it once, and the strap unraveled. The seller immediately replaced it, and it hasn't been used since. I didn't anticipate how problematic it would be to take a tiny infant to the beach -- such that I never did it again all summer -- nor did I realize how quickly I'd get comfortable nursing in public. Sure, we will probably use this thing next summer, since we've got it, but, really, a beach umbrella would have served the same purpose, and at about half the cost.

My other obsessive purchase -- it's not an impulse buy, because I convince myself I need these things, then spend days angst-ridden until I can get my grubby little hands on them -- was a pair of jeans I bought in July. I had no jeans that fit and got all worked up about what I was going to wear in the fall. But rather than wait for fall, I went to the mall. I found a pair of jeans that fit and were flattering, and spent $50 on them (more than I have spent on a pair of jeans in my life). Then, of course, August came, and it was hot. The jeans sat in my drawer. Now that it's denim weather, I wear them now and again; they're nice enough to wear to work, which was my intention. Problem is, the damn things are now too big, and in fact my old jeans are fitting again. But in July I decided that I had to have new pants right then and there, and so I plunked down my cash and that was that.

Of course, neither of these purchases was actually about the item I bought. The beach cabana was a product of my angst about taking care of Ess and doing everything right -- making sure my new baby could stay out of the sun. It was about being a good mother. And the jeans purchase was a product of my angst about my postpartum body -- would I ever fit in my old clothes? Could I still be attractive?

But rather than think about the underlying issues -- and, really, it's in writing this that I'm realizing what was going on in both instances -- I decided to buy something to soothe my fears. And that is a habit our culture all too eagerly supports. So the bunting is going back, and we're going to take care of Ess this winter the old-fashioned way: by keeping her warm with inexpensive, practical methods, and lots of cuddling.