I love my kids. And I love to shop. Put the two together and you have a potential bank balance disaster. I manage to curb my spending by being very strict about separating the things my kids actually need versus the things I want them to have. But what if you can't tell the difference?
When The Pea was a baby, I remember agonizing over whether to buy a $250 Combi UltraSavvy stroller (we did). When 3Po and CleanBoy were babies, I remember agonizing over whether to buy a $550 Mountain Buggy Urban double stroller (we bought a $250 Target knockoff). Did we need it? Would we have been happy with a $60 Graco stroller? Thank goodness I don't have a baby anymore, because now I would be agonizing over whether to buy a $900 Bugaboo Chameleon.
The number of products and services related to babies and parenting has exploded in the past several years. It's out of control. Consider this: the New Parents Checklist on the Babies-R-Us website 173 items, not including organic baby products. The stroller section alone has 9 items. So what's a new parent to do?
For guidance during both my pregnancies, I turned to Denise and Alan Fields' book, Baby Bargains, a great buyer's guide with honest reviews. Here's another book that I wish I could have turned to for advice: Pamela Paul's Parenting, Inc: How We are Sold on $800 Strollers, Fetal Education, Baby Sign Language, Sleeping Coaches, Toddler Couture, and Diaper Wipe Warmers -- and What It Means for Our Children.
Everyone wants what is best for our children. This book tells us that you don't have to break the bank to do so. As such, it's a must-read for every parent who worries that forgoing Baby Einstein tapes will impede his baby's intellectual development. By tracing the development and motivation behind today's rampant parent consumerism, this book helps separate marketing from merit, benefits from b***s**t -- and ultimately, helps parents make informed decisions about the purchases they make.
I was particularly struck by one of the book's central themes, that catering to our children's every real and imagined need is not only unnecessary, it's detrimental. Just as antibacterial soaps may be robbing our bodies of the natural ability to fight germs, over-pampering children with all sorts of products impedes their ability to adapt to less-than-perfect situations. Take baby wipe warmers: if your baby can't even deal with a cold butt now, how in the world is he going to learn to cope with any sort of discomfort when he's older?
Whether you're agonizing about buying a Bugaboo Chameleon or just want a good read, you'll enjoy this book. And now here's a chance to get it for free: Just leave your comment here and tell us about the silliest baby item you have given or received, and you'll be entered to win a copy of Pamela Paul's book, Parenting Inc. I'll select a winner randomly on Wednesday, April 16 (sorry, open to US residents only). Good luck!