I am excited that today's blog entry is from the lovely Kate Forman Ortiz - utterly wonderful friend and illustrator who lives in New York. If you enjoy her entry please leave a comment.
(This is not Maeve)
My good friend Asta asked me to write a little something about the challenge of living simply with a baby. My daughter, Maeve, is two months old now, and life with her has been a steep learning curve. Part of the lessons have been about stuff.
My Husband and Maeve and I live in a one-bedroom apartment in a Greek neighborhood in Queens, NYC. Our neighborhood is a convenient smorgasbord of good restaurants, grocery stores, small shops, churches and a library. Our apartment is cozy, and very pretty, and very, very, small.
So I felt justified, when my Mom threw me a baby shower, in not registering for a baby wipe warmer. Don’t get me wrong, I get the logic behind the machine, but the reality is: 1. We barely have room for our bed and our daughter’s bassinet in our room, 2. In despite of conscientiously avoiding buying loads of stuff for many years now, there is still a steady creep of plastic invading our lives and I didn’t want to add one more piece to the pile, and 3. Really? A wipe warmer? I know it’s early to regal my daughter with the ole “I walked barefoot in the snow up hill both ways to school” treatment, but apparatuses like wipe warmers make me understand where those generation gap speeches start.
My smug confidence waned a little in the weeks leading up to the shower, though, as friends and family checked out my registry and called me up to talk about the warmer. My good friends Mary and Kara were the first to call, then my Uncle’s Girlfriend, then two second cousins. “Really?” They asked, “You REALLY don’t think you need a wipe warmer?” It shook my confidence. Maybe I was already a terrible Mother. Maybe I was already projecting my own personality in a smothering fashion. Maybe my Daughter would be in therapy for years to come because her poor little tushy was subject to the chill of a cool baby wipe.
The end of the wipe warmer story is this: I stuck to my guns. My Daughter is wiped with room temperature wipes. So far we have made it to two months, and I’m hoping that she continues to survive the ordeal with the classy level of aplomb she’s displayed thus far.
I’d like to note that I am no anti-stuff saint. I like stuff too, there is plenty of stuff, baby and otherwise all over this apartment, and I’m okay with that. What I’m not okay with is that the baby stuff industry seems to prey on new mammas and papa’s fears of inadequacy, and a never ending trail of largely redundant and unnecessary stuff is marketed to those vulnerabilities. Every parent will have to make their own decisions regarding what stuff they need, and what stuff they can reject – for me, practical space issues largely influenced my decision, as did environmental and ethical considerations.
My daughter wears gorgeous barely worn hand me downs from a good friend with a baby girl only a few months older: my friend’s generosity has allowed for a more baby sized carbon footprint in my daughter’s wardrobe, and has kept us from giving more money to companies that use sweatshops to make their baby products. As many sweatshops employ young children it feels good to do anything possible to avoid endorsing that particularly cruel irony.
Stuff rejection seems to have also opened us up to other, nicer possibilities. For example: my Daughter shares our bedroom, she does not have a separate nursery, she sleeps beside our bed in her little basinet, and her changing area is the top of our dresser. When I was pregnant many well-intentioned people asked about our nursery "theme,” and I felt similar wipe warmer rejection guilt pangs when I told them there was no nursery, and no theme. Their reactions ranged from pity to abject horror. However, my Daughter’s corner of our room is sweet, her bassinet is a never-used hand me down from a good friend, the hanging shelves for her clothes my Husband and I built together after a truly lovely time picking up supplies in the local hardware store, and on the wall next to her changing pad are works of art created by my friend’s two young children. If there’s a theme I think it might be: this was made for you, this space was waiting for you, and everyone who knows you is happier because you are here.
In a few months from now we’re moving, my husband is in the military and we are being re-stationed to a part of the country known for much bigger housing. I’m pretty sure, though, that the extra room will not influence our acquisition of baby stuff too greatly. This relationship we have with our stuff feels right, and our ability to differentiate between what we decide we need and want and what a corporation would like us to believe we need and want is something I’d like to continue – and hopefully pass on to our wonderful wee baby girl.