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Image / Self / Parenthood

Becoming a parent for the first time is so bloody expensive


By Lauren Heskin
29th Mar 2022

RODNAE Productions / Pexels

Becoming a parent for the first time is so bloody expensive

Since when is it expected that you spend the same amount on a buggy as you did on your car? The fear economy is very real and it comes *hard* for new parents

There are just so many things! Not just the buggies and the car seats and the teeny tiny human clothes, but also the pram suits and the high-flying breast pumps and the fancy bottle cleaners.

And then there are the bits you feel you’re damned if you buy and damned if you don’t. Sleeping sacks (your baby suffocate under a blanket!), nipple covers (your baby won’t recognise your own nipple afterwards!), co-sleeping cushions (oh you should definitely be co-sleeping but not with this cushion, it should be this cushion – no wait, this cushion!).

There’s an entire industry that is purely based on preying on the fears of new parents – ”you can only be a good mother if you buy [insert product here]”. 

And there’s already plenty of fear when it comes to new parenthood. From the constant pregnancy worry that you haven’t felt the baby kick in an hour or two, to anxieties about labour and just how much your life is going to change when they arrive, how your relationships will survive. Now you also need to contend with the shiny happy Instagram moms with flawless skin telling you about the must-buys and the damages of formula feeding and the right slings to prevent hip dysplasia… *quickly Googles hip dysplasia in terror.

Social media

As you might expect, social media is prime territory for this fear economy. Never have I ever felt more preyed upon by the Instagram algorithm than since I got pregnant. Like one post from an educated midwife about episiotomies or induction and you’ll get ads for baby formula, diaper bags and baby carriers for the next five years. If you’ve been scrolling long enough you’ll start hearing about the Rolls Royce items, for example, the Snoo bassinet that all the yummy mummy London crew are raving about, which basically does everything but breastfeed your child for the low-cost sum of €1,755.

I can’t even venture into the minefield of mixed medical advice available on social media without traumatising myself pre-labour so I’ll save that one for when I have my own war story to share and hopefully a new babe in arms. And dare I even mention it? *Whispers* the breastfeeding versus formula debate. Again, an avenue so littered with minefields that I am too naive to broach just yet.

Peer pressure

However, social media is only a new-fangled tool in this long-existing campaign, which has been buttressed for decades by social media’s precursor: good, old-fashion peer pressure.  Walking along the seaside on a Saturday morning you’re confronted with Bugaboo after Uppababy after Bugaboo prams. Clearly, these are not just the prams to buy, but the prams that everyone has bought.

But should you really expect to spend the same on a buggy that you did on your car? Coming in over the €1,000 mark for the basic model, and then of course you’ll want to be able to put your car seat into the buggy because you wouldn’t even dream of waking your precious cargo. At least, that’s according to the saleswoman. Suddenly, there’s a €1,500 buggy sitting in your cart and you can’t see the cribs from the co-sleepers or the swaddles from the sleepsuits. You wonder if you’ve been guided by an expert or if you’ve just been guided down the garden path.

It’s an endless cycle of excitement and fear and guilt followed, inevitably, by spending.

You might look into buying a few of the larger items second-hand instead, cruising Facebook Marketplace for some local deals that might save you a pretty penny as you try to tighten your belt ahead of mat leave income fall-offs. But quickly, purchasing second-hand becomes a festering quagmire of questionable cleanliness. How often were these items used, should you buy a new cushion and lining? How well-cared-for was the child who used it before yours? Were they left coughing and spluttering in here without so much as a teaspoon of Calpol or a GP visit?

And then, the thought occurs to you. The child before yours was clearly well cared for enough that their parents bought their big items brand new.

And so, we’re back to the beginning. Are you a bad parent for not giving your child the best of everything? Are you setting them up for failure? It’s an endless cycle of excitement and fear and guilt followed, inevitably, by spending.

Friends

Last but certainly not least, there are other new parent friends. And I really mean last but absolutely not least. Other new parents, themselves recently scarred by the fear economy, are wary of bombarding you with more information and tend not to give it unless expressly and frequently requested, yet their advice is usually the most useful and the most honest. 

So now I’ll do the exact same thing. If I have any two cents on this whole terrifying whirlwind of soon-to-be parental guilt, it’s to use your friends. Pester them early and often. 

You’ll likely hear all about the famous post-labour tea and toast, the antenatal clinics and the new mom sweating and the right pyjamas to pack

Who are the good people worth following on Instagram? That algorithm is too advanced, you will not be able to dodge the advertisements for long so just commit to it and tailor your feed to the best, most insightful advice you can. 

What did they buy pre-baby that they loved and what was barely used? A co-sleeper might seem like something you should invest in but a friend will tell you that the baby will only fit in it for the first six months, not including the many hours they’ll be napping on you so maybe buy secondhand and get a new mattress instead?

Ask them about their hospital experience and the first days of new parenthood. You’ll likely hear all about the famous post-labour tea and toast, the antenatal clinics and the new mom sweating and the right pyjamas to pack. Answer: “Cheap button-down nighties – you’ll have a pad the size of a brick wedged between your legs so no pants and you’ll never want to set eyes on them again”).

Who are the best postpartum physios to book? As I enter the home straight of this pregnancy and feel like a teddy bear being fought over by two vivacious toddlers, this has become central to my focus lately. The complete absence of post-partum care in Ireland (again, something you only discover when chatting to mom friends) means that post-birth, you’re on your own when it comes to getting your pelvic floor back into shape and managing that new mom back pain. 

These are the nuggets of gold to hold on to and value. And remember, success as a new mom is mere survival, don’t go setting those standards too high.