Opinion · Parenting · Personal

The True Cost of Parenting

The True Cost of Parenting

Some friends of mine and Husband’s are expecting their first child at the beginning of next year, and they had us over for dinner at the weekend. We were going through the usual baby-related chit-chat (and I swear, I have tried to lay off of baby-talk as I know it’s maddening for a Mum-to-be to have the same conversation with every single person she speaks to) and we got to the subject of shopping. Or more accurately what they were planning to buy, to prepare for their new arrival.

The whole thing really got me thinking, and brought back so many memories which were buried, or overshadowed by the birth of Sausage. During the early part of my pregnancy, Husband and I felt a lot like we were holding our breath, right up until the twelve week scan, the first time you see your baby and they tell you that everything looks normal. Once you get the nod that everything is okay, then the thoughts of cots and pushchairs and high chairs and all of the other miscellaneous objects kick in and we start BUYING.

We were quite lucky in the sense that we had a lot of people around us who wanted to help out. Our families were hugely generous, which meant that the travel system, nursery furniture, Tummy Tub, a huge, no ridiculously huge pile of clothes, bibs, muslins, scratch mits, nappies, Sudocrem, baby wipes, cotton wool etc, were taken care of. Not to mention the bags and bags of barely ever used clothes given to us by family members and friends. We had more stuff than we could contain and it was a lovely time, preparing for our little girl. But, did we need all of it?

So much emphasis is put on what we need to buy to accommodate a newborn, and babies are a hugely lucrative business. A recent article estimated that parents will spend over £5000 from conception until their child’s first birthday, £1500 before the baby is even born!  But I can’t help but wonder if this money is spent because it’s necessary or if it’s just the powers-that-be in the newborn consumer market capitalising on our neuroses and telling us that we can’t survive without these items. Does the cost of parenting really need to be so high?

I know for a fact that if we were to have a second child, I would take a very different approach to buying things. For a start, I now know that when people say “You can never have enough bibs/babygrows/scratch mits” it’s absolute bullshit, because twenty babygrows means twice the amount of washing that you’ll need to do. I also know that buying nappies in bulk means that your child will inevitably grow out of the size you bought before you’ve used them up.

Husband and I spent months, I mean literally months agonising over which travel system we should buy. We pored over catalogues, websites and internet review sites, ruling out hundreds of models, before we settled on the one that we eventually bought. We chose a Recaro system, mainly because we liked the idea of buying it from a company with such a stellar record of making safety seats for rally cars. And I do think we chose well, it’s a heavy beast but I can load Sausage onto it and get three bags of shopping underneath without worrying that it’ll collapse. We had a brief foray into the ‘lightweight’ pushchair market, but discovered (halfway round Colchester Zoo) that lightweight usually means ‘flimsy and doesn’t corner well’.

I think a large part of the issue is that, as parents, we want what’s best for our children, and that means we’re easily duped into thinking that the cost of parenting is an inevitability. We’re conned into thinking that the more money we spend, the easier our lives will be, and our kids will have a better start in life. But, with a couple of years of hindsight and parenting experience in my back pocket, I can safely say that it isn’t true. I’m fairly sure that I won’t change any expectant parents’ minds, I don’t think that decades of being drilled by marketing specialists will eradicate that burgeoning sense of parental guilt.

The main thing is, there are certain areas, like car seats, cribs and other safety items, where cutting corners isn’t an option. We want to keep our children safe, at any cost. But if I can just save a few people a modicum of anxiety over whether they should buy Pampers or supermarket own-brand nappies, then I’ve done those people a favour.

It isn’t about how much we spend, which brands we buy, how much stuff your child has. It’s about how much love you give, the skills and wisdom you impart to your little one and most importantly, the quality time you spend with them. So I implore anyone reading, don’t worry about whether you’re spending enough money, just concern yourself with investing your time and love, which is what we should really be measuring the cost of parenting by. Because that’s what will make your child into the great human being that you know they can be.

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