Hey, you're doing a great parenting job!
I know this because if you have time to read this article, this means your baby is in one piece, healthy, and somewhere safe. Gold star for you.
Before I had my baby, I assumed I would spend my postpartum days in a beatific organic whirl of nursing perfectly, sleeping a lot to recover my strength, crafting a wholesome balanced diet of nourishing homemade foodstuffs to bring roses to everyone's cheeks, and taking my baby for long spiritually-uplifting walks through this beautiful world.
My baby and I would be magazine-cover-fodder, the way we sailed serenely from one all-figured-out simple event to the next, every object in our paths pared down to its simplest and most productive essence.
Then I had my baby and my definition of success shrank to: I know where he is, I know what's in his mouth, and he looks pretty much like he ought. Anything else was bonus points.
Being a parent enlarges one's scope of life to include previously-unimaginably large doses of reality. When you're taking care of a baby, some of that reality is adorable, cute, and snuggly, and some of it brings a whole new level of meaning to the word “frustrating.”
Parenting can be frustrating. The stuff in your nursery shouldn't be. Here are some frustrating items to watch out for, and antidote suggestions for how to handle the same situations in more productive ways.
7 Baby Clothes With A Thousand Little Snaps
It's three a.m. You've been nursing around the clock. There is jam in your hair. Baby needs fresh clothes. Again. This is not the time for sorting through a thousand cute little snaps. Once you're the parent of a baby, the olden-days custom of dressing little boys like little girls—i.e., in smocks that went over the head in a single motion—makes endless sense.
People who are not yet potty trained are not people who should be wearing clothes that take longer to change than your own. I have quite a few pictures of my half-naked son trailing the legs of his onesies behind him like a tailcoat, and, while charming, it's not an ideal default situation.
Magnetic closers now exist! Instead of fussing over a tiny little onesie leg, you can now do something else with your time...like sleep. I wish they'd had these when I had my baby. But extensive interweb investigation of parent reviews were extremely surprising: apparently everyone loves these baby clothes and they work great. Now I want magnetic closers for my own clothes. Check them out for yourself!
6 Anything That Makes Noise And Has No On/Off Button
If you don't know yet, you will soon know this one incontrovertible fact: the wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round. You will know this by heart, in your sleep, upside down and inside out. This information will push out of your head most of the data it may previously have contained. You don't need any well-intentioned musical toy to help you remember this.
Once you're a parent, your deep-seated love of quiet can be rivalled only by Buddhist monks. You will come to view toys, baby furniture, and even shoes with guarded suspicion, as so many things now have sneak-attack music embedded in them that lasts until the battery wears out.
Noise making objects are often given as gifts by well-meaning childless people. Instead, here's a tip: most babies already have plenty of toys.
Why not improve everybody's quality of life by taking care of the baby for a couple of hours and giving their parent a gift certificate for a massage and a facial at a nice spa? Anybody can add noise to a situation. But the person who brings peace and quiet...that's a treasured friend.
5 Exquisitely Precious Baby Clothing
The market for aspirational baby clothes has exploded in the last couple of decades, possibly linked to the growing reality that having a child at all is a status symbol that denotes surplus wealth. Please think twice before buying:
Anything that has to be dry-cleaned
Anything that costs more than your own clothes
Anything with shantung silk, hand-made lace, or snowy batiste hand-embroidered by nuns
Sure, it's fun to put a bow on Baby's head. But these are babies. They make messes on their clothes, all the time, and those messes almost invariably do not match the clothes' colours. They grow out of their clothes roughly every two minutes.
The only benefit you'll get out of spending $600 on a baby dress that will be worn once if ever and stained within minutes of being donned is the benefit of other people knowing that you are insecure enough to use your baby as an advertisement of your social rank.
Save the money and put it in an education fund. Everyone you know is going to give you baby clothes anyway. If you can't resist the urge to buy clothes, there are plenty of dependable brands out there that will charge you a reasonable amount of money and give you a reasonable, machine-washable, multi-occasion-appropriate garment that your baby might just wear again and again.
4 Baby Crocs
These are frustrating and scary for me as an onlooker as well as a parent. They're still selling Crocs, for children as young as one year old, even after they were banned in Japan and numerous articles came out about how many accidents they were causing.
Crocs, with their grippy, clunky design, were getting stuck in escalators all over the world, imprisoning little feet that couldn't escape. The new Croc-specific phenomenon of “shoe entrapment” injured countless children's feet and in at least one case ripped off a little girl's toe.
And yet these bright plastic sandals remain popular. They're not even good for young foot development; toddlers need flexible shoes that let them move and feel their feet. (Actually we all do.)
Try something soft, foot-shaped, and easy on-off, that lets your baby or toddler's feet flex and move freely in shoes that basically stay on but aren't going to cause an accident. Slipper-like shoes are great, and they come in all kinds of winsome designs, just as appealing if not more so than Crocs.
3 Overly Specific Single-use Products With A Short Shelf Life
I promise you that this day, no matter how long it may feel right now, will be over in 24 hours and will never return. One day you will wake up and your precious little nugget will have turned into a Daddy-long-legs with limbs everywhere, and will be adding four-digit numbers. And that day comes incredibly soon.
While it's great to get the help you need and do what you've got to do to make life with a baby more comfortable, it's also frustrating to spend a chunk of money on a bulky object that only does one thing and then is useless.
Baby learn-to-sit chairs, for instance. Only used for a brief development span and then over. Not repurposable. Or my personal unfavorite, the Diaper Genie. We spent a lot of money on what was basically an expensive, finicky, hard-to-use garbage can, and I don't think I once successfully got the diaper to do what it was supposed to do. Just use a bucket.
If you don't want to spend money, get a cardboard box. Unmatched in its multi-use capacities and sturdy practicality. If you do want to spend money, consider buying something that everyone who walks into your house will want to use, every day, whether there's a baby in the house or not.
Something like a Dutailier glider. You'll sit down in one one day to nurse and will never get out again. They soothe the savage beast in everyone, regardless of age, they're machine washable, and they never wear out. In fact, they're so popular, you may want to buy two!
2 Anything Flimsy, Fragile, Or Breakable
Sometimes it seems that the official capitalist motto is, “if it doesn't break, don't sell it.” The Ikeafication of the world has given us a never-ending wealth of brittle plastic corners, delicate pieces that stick out, and way too many moving parts. Children love these items. That's the problem.
The determined strength and rambunctious scampering of curious babies and toddlers out to discover their world by putting it in their mouth a piece at a time wreaks havoc with lesser merchandise. Then you have to worry about your kid getting hurt. Spare yourself the headache.
Some flimsy breakable objects are going to make their way into your home, even if you don't buy them. Sometimes flimsy and breakable are perfect for the situation. But usually not. If you can, spend more money up-front on something well-made that doesn't break, and then you don't have to keep buying replacements.
Ikea excepted, things made in cold countries that use umlauts tend to be good contenders in the “safe and sturdy” race. We have a number of beautifully crafted, brightly coloured wooden Swedish toys that will probably outlast all of us.
1 Anything With Components That Are Choking Hazards, Lithium Batteries, Or Lead-Based Paint
What? These products are still available for purchase in the Western world?
'Fraid so. Caveat emptor. Watch out and read labels. Remember that what's obvious to you is not necessarily obvious to toymakers in varying parts of the world, and manufacturing laws vary from country to country. Do your homework in advance and scrutinize your new object thoroughly before giving it to your child.
Be particularly careful when dealing with old objects. Child safety standards are constantly changing and what was yesterday's standard practice raises eyebrows of horror today. My son's father walked to school alone when he was five years old in a small town in Israel, my mother's ob-gyn kept her on a steady diet of vodka milkshakes to keep me in utero, and I distinctly remember playing with helium balloons well before the age of two.
Somehow we lived. Our children, in turn, will probably look back on something we're doing today and be shocked at how cavalier we are. Use your best judgment, and if something raises a red flag in you, don't do it.
If you're looking at these products at all, you have time to think about something other than the essentials of nursing, sleeping, and diapers. Why not take that attention and place an online order to have a week's worth of groceries delivered? Depending on where you live, Whole Foods and FreshDirect deliver. If you're in Toronto, you can use Grocery Gateway. Food...that comes to you.