Lovely boyfriend and I are bargain hunters. We are never happier than when we can find the thing that we need for the best price ever. We look through selling sites and are always happy to rehome other peoples preloved treasures. As parents we have not changed our point of view and the children have lots of things that other children loved before them. Our garden is full of toys and only two things out there have been bought new from shops (and get played with the least obviously)
There have been a few things that we didn’t do that with when we found out that we were expecting our son. He got a brand new moses basket and cot bed. Brand new changing mat and bouncy chair. Brand new highchair, bibs, bowls, spoons and bottles etc…
Upon the arrival of our second child however most of those things were just reused on her or second hand ones picked up.
Our son travelled around in a top of the range maxi cosi car seat until he out grew it and we bought an awesome dinosaur print cosatto seat (well two actually, one for each of our cars) which will last him until he is twelve. When it came time for our little lady to arrive I got the maxi cosi seat out of the garage where we had stored it. There had been a leak in the garage and it had gone mouldy. I nearly cried as lovely boyfriend took it away to the dump. Luckily for us one of my wonderful friends offered to buy us a car seat for her as a baby shower gift. Although it is a brand new seat it is from the budget end of the Mothercare own brand seats. I know that it has been safety tested and wouldn’t be on sale if it wasn’t safe for her to travel in, but I have experienced some guilt that she has not had it quite as good as he did in this respect.
Now I am looking for (two again) the next stage car seat for her. We are not in a great financial position right now due to our cars repeatedly breaking and forcing us to spend our savings on repairing/replacing them. I know that we can’t afford to get her the same brand of car seat that we got for our eldest. I have found some really cute ones (there is a hello kitty one that I love and is in our price range, I really hope that she loves hello kitty as much as I do…) but as I search through safety ratings and customer reviews I can’t help but notice those same feelings of guilt coming back.
I have used lots of our eldests clothes on her, I don’t see why little girls can’t wear things with trains and dinosaurs on them. I have had a few times when strangers have peered into her puchchair (which is the same one that I pushed her big brother around in) and told me what a gorgeous boy she is, but that has happened even when she is in a dress, a grey cardigan is enough to convince some people that a child must be a boy. I am not the type of mum to festoon a baby in bows etc and I don’t care if people aren’t sure what gender my children are, it is always nice to hear that other people think they are beautiful.
It seems stupid to me that I even have these moments of guilt. My daughter is loved, safe, dressed, fed and developing well. She has no idea what money is. She doesn’t care how much things cost so why should I? Why do we associate more expensive with the best?
I know lots of parents who will only use pampers nappies even though the Aldi own brand ones always get voted the best by mums and are half the price. I don’t subscribe to designer labels in my life usually, I buy clothes in charity shops and on eBay and love it that I have snapped up a bargain. It is really odd to me that as a parent this is different in my head.
My email inbox is full of messages from childrens product companies and parenting websites. I read all the time about what the “best” things are going to be for them. I KNOW this is marketing designed to turn me into a customer but it must be infiltrating my brain on some level.
I want to free myself from this. I would only buy my son shoes from Clarks as I had convinced myself that any other shoe was lesser and would not protect his growing feet properly. At £30 each this was getting very costly as his feet have been growing at an alarming rate (I have worried that he is going to end up looking like he is wearing flippers dragging around enormous feet for the rest of his life, the rest of him seems to be keeping up so its ok though). Then I learned that an F width fitting is a standard size that all shoe shops make their shoes to. And guess who’s child has a F fitting? Mine does. So I went and bought a £5 pair of summer shoes to see how we got on with them. They were great. And they had skull and crossbones on them. He called them his pirate shoes and was probably happier with them than he had been with his sensible expensive shoes.
I spent a decade of my life working as a store manager in retail. I know how marketing works. I know that businesses are focussed on increasing average customer spend and foot traffic through the door. I know that high priced items are kept by the till point to try and tempt us while we wait and that the staff are set targets to sell a certain amount of them. I can apply all of this to shopping trips for myself and ignore it. I must learn to do the same when shopping for my children.
As parents we will all fret over our children and worry if we are doing the best for them. I think that it is completely normal. But I for one am going to do my best not to put a price tag on this. After all children only become aware of money when we make them aware of it. Just as long as my children are safe, happy and know that they are loved it shouldn’t matter if we can’t afford to spend as much on some things as we did on others.