Someone is finally saying what so many parents think but rarely blurt out loud. When did parenting get so expensive and why do our kids need all of this stuff? I'm talking about the luxury strollers and designer layettes that ultimately give way to $100 toddler jeans, homemade baby food delivery services, parenting coaches and preschool scouts.
I remember making several trips to Babies R Us and buybuy Baby when I was pregnant with my twins, and was nearly brought to tears by the infinite choices of strollers, cribs, car seats, high chairs, and play pens. And that was just the gear. Picking out the cutest nursery decor for a boy and a girl, not to mention stocking up on wipes, diapers, lotion, and gallons of Dreft detergent, was a whole other ordeal. Of course, there was the expense to consider. But what weighed on me, in a way I never expected, was what the purchases would say about me as a mother. If my husband and I opted for something less posh or a generic brand, were we depriving the babies or just being practical (even on our registry)? Somehow reason just flew out the window the day we got pregnant.
It was an experience shared by fellow 37-year-old mom of two, Pamela Paul, who told me in a recent interview that her first trip to a baby superstore was downright frightening. "I kept thinking, 'What is all this stuff?' I didn't know the differences between nipples or whether I needed nursing clothes... I felt like I had entered some kind of cult," she says.
In her new book, 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, journalist Paul draws on her own parenting journey as she examines this new phenomenon. She calls it "the anxiety of underspending," and attributes its rise to savvy marketers capitalizing on the insecurities of new parents coupled with a celebrity-mad media which breathlessly catalogues every new toy or outfit sported by Suri or Shiloh.
"People are more worried about spending too little instead of spending too much... They worry, 'If I don't get this mobile for my 4-month-old, is he going to fall behind?," she says.
In the book, the Time magazine contributor reports on what psychologists and educators have to say about some of today's "must-haves," as she pulls back the curtain on the baby business and the estimated $1.7 trillion "mom market." She offers some peace of mind and perspective to those of us dealing with both the sticker shock and the pressure to buy, buy, buy (which, by the way only seems to grow as fast as our babies do.)