On finding a balance

Chloe Avery, born 09 July 2016. 6lbs, 18in, 2 weeks early and the joy of my life.

Hi! I'm back after being away for a year from blogging with a renewed sense of purpose. Those of you who follow my Instagram already know that I had been busy gestating  a little chest-burster since last October, and she finally arrived two weeks ahead of schedule. Late night feedings, the inevitable two-week old fussiness and sleep deprivation coupled with dun-dun-dun Chinese confinement practices has left me feeling really cranky and bored out of my skull. There's only so much reading and screwing around on the laptop one can do while housebound for a month. I'll revisit this whole confinement thing later when I'm not as annoyed or tired. Anyway... 

I know most people probably can't be arsed about my shitting out a kid or about babies for that matter. In fact if anything, it's a one-way ticket to hauling ass away from this blog. But here's the thing - there's no other time like the quiet hours of the crack of dawn to think about spending habits, mindful consumption and general state of affairs. In fact, I've been thinking so much about these things that I feel a rambling post is overdue. Long time readers will know that I've suffer from a slew of existential fears particularly ones of a dystopian future marred by climate change, in that uneasy Cormac McCarthy way. In fact, the recent news of the triumph of Trumpian politics, the alarming bouts of terrorism, the random, uncanny shootings, and the fact that it's again the hottest year on record, goes to show that I may unfortunately not be that far off base.

I've had some qualms about bringing a kid into this world and being a bane to the already stressed terrestrial resources. Having kids is apparently the worst thing you can do for the environment, right up there along with sitting in business class and flying around the world twice. With that in mind, I decided that I wanted to really cut down on as much waste as possible while saving as much as I could. After all, why spend too much on clothing that I wouldn't really need after 9 months. I started off wearing my baggiest tops and getting a couple pairs of used jeans from an office mate. I also picked up two pairs of black denims from The Gap for $10 each and a couple of loose, long-sleeved supima tees from Lands' End. The denims lasted me at till I was about 6 months pregnant and the tees lasted the whole pregnancy. Then for the last few months, I lived in a pair of full panel maternity jeans from The Gap, the aforementioned supima tees and my mom's Arc'teryx fleece jacket. I was lucky in that my feet never got swollen or bigger so I could pretty much still wear the all the shoes I owned. My pregnancy wardrobe added up to less than $100 overall for the entire 9 months- something I guess only achievable if you lived in the Pacific Northwest and worked at a place with no dress code. I did cave in in the last month and bought a pair of sandals, a top and a couple of nursing bras during the sales at Nordstrom and The Line.

The Lands' End tees were and still are one of the best purchases I've made. They were each $8 a piece when I bought them but look and wash better than tees that are 10 times more expensive. Ethically made? I'm not sure - but then again, are James Perse and Alexander Wang tees ethically made? The best quality t-shirts in my opinion are the Japanese made ones from Comme des Garçons, but I'm not sure they're ethically made either. After tallying the amount I needed to spend decorating a nursery, building my cloth diaper stash and saving for the 529, I felt that I couldn't justify anything more than $20 on a t-shirt.

As for spending on baby clothing, we received A LOT of hand-me-downs from friends for which I'm grateful, it's a bit of a relief to see clothes being recycled. I ended up not really using much of what was given though because (a) it's 80 degrees these days and the baby only wears her diapers and a top and (b) I hate onesies (whoever thought pulling a top over a yowling, squirming baby in the middle of night is a good thing needs to be shot), the baby hates onesies and I ended up buying a bunch of cheap side snap tops that are god-sent. The tees are made by Gerber in Bangladesh though, so ethics be damned.

It was, however, a little disconcerting the sheer amount of used clothing I received; I have literally 7 or 8 gigantic boxes of clothing from 4 different people sitting in my basement and none of which I will be using mostly because I came to realize that 6 or 7 of those side-snap tees, a few footed pants and a bunch of Green Mountain Diapers Workhorse cloth diapers would suffice for the baby. If anything, having less clothing meant I didn't have to sort through as much laundry in general and it just made bleary-eyed diaper changes much easier to deal with. I guess having a uniform system works equally well for babies. Obviously different strokes for different people.

What I've been finding really hard to balance though is the little frivolous clothing purchases for the wee one. I find myself constantly browsing for baby clothing when I'm bored. My focus has shifted from Lemaire to Makie, from Mill Mercantile to Fawn Shoppe. I realize I probably shouldn't be buying terribly expensive clothing that the baby will outgrow in a couple of months, so I end up shopping for cheaper alternatives at The Gap and Zara. And so the entire story of trying to be a conscientious shopper begins again. I'm still working through trying to close the browser instead of forking over money and to start the kid off on the right foot of buying only what she really needs.

Over the next few months, I'm going to try to put together more frequent posts about trying to balance a finite amount of money with extravagant desires - no longer just for myself but for my living vicariously through another being. I'm also trying to find a balance between budgeting prudently and leaving behind smaller carbon footprints. I do this in part because this blog has been an interesting catalog of my transition from carefree grad student, to a jaded researcher to a (still jaded) working mom, and in part because soliciting advice from an online community of strong and successful women and mothers has always been an upside to Assembled Hazardly.

14 comments :

  1. Two really good friends are having kids this year (one of them is having twins!) and I've been amazed by how much secondhand stuff in good condition I managed to solicit from other parents for them, among them pretty good things like car seats! It made me rethink what kind of gifts to buy for friends' kids - I'm starting to think cash, the occasional well-chosen book or offering to babysit is the way to go. But it's hard, because baby versions of things like Converse high-tops make me melt.

    Congrats again on becoming a mum to a healthy-looking, adorable baby!

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    1. Unfortunately we can't really re-use car seats here, I dread to think that somewhere, there's an Andes of expired car seats, disposable diapers and worn baby mattresses.

      I think all your ideas for the kids are awesome, I might add that an offer to deposit something into a savings account would also be a great gift. As grateful as I am for gifts of clothes and toys, they're outgrown so quickly and I'm sure ALL parents want to be able to buy those cute Converse high-tops themselves :-)

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  2. Welcome back! I can't wait to read more about your adventures in balancing mindful consumption and motherhood. To me, as a naive and child-free bystander, it seems it often comes down to the difference between being a mom and "performing motherhood", in a way. Like you need a lot of accessories in order to put on the motherhood performance that you most often see on TV and in mommy blogs, if that makes any sense. Not that I know much about any of this :)

    And again, congratulations on the adorable baby!

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    1. Ha, like anything, it's easy to get sucked into wants vs needs depending on what you see on social media. I'm definitely trying to practice what I preach in my own life and the for the baby as long as I can control it (she'll probably want to shop at Forever21 just to spite me when she turns 8). It's hard though because baby things much less - it's easier to spend $30 on a dress for her than $300 on a shirt for me!! Also, the amount of time I can spend playing dress up is finite, so it's hard for me to wrap my head around not consuming as much!

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  3. Welcome back!

    I have to say, this post is particularly relevant as I'm seven weeks away from meeting my own chest-burner (good god, the heartburn). What you said about starting the kid off right by buying only what's needed has really been my main mediation point throughout this pregnancy. I can't even say how many people when they found out I was pregnant said to me "oh, I have xyz that I never used, do you want it?" As much as I appreciate the hand me downs, which for some things I really, really do, it's served as a reminder about just how many things are marketed as "essential" for babies and new parents, and how little of it is in fact necessary. Not to say that considering all of this has made me want those little makie bloomers any less.

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts going forward and congratulations- she's absolutely beautiful.

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    1. Congratulations to you as well! I hope you're no longer tripping over excess baby carriers and car seats! I feel terribly ungrateful that I ended up not using MOST of the things people gave me - from baby carriers to baby bath tubs to Boppies. I eventually just bought the things that worked for me (e.g. Puj tub, Tula). I think the key to mindful consumption is to limit purchases until you're faced with the situation and are able to assess your actual needs more fully. A trite remark that's easy for me to spew, less easy to practice :-)

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  4. Your thoughts on the Chinese confinement practices would be excellent to hear. I haven't personally experienced it but I saw my friend go through it; they had so much soup delivered to her house that she couldn't even finish it. How much of the tradition do you still keep, and what do you think actually helps?

    As the others have said, looking forward to your musings and congratulations and hello to Chloe!

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    1. Ha, I don't know if it helps anything but it's nice having a warm meal three times a day without having to stress out after breastfeeding all night. My mom's a firm believer, and I've had some MAJOR disagreements with her from an environmental and a scientific perspective, but hey, she's doing it for free - getting the groceries, cooking and cleaning. The least I can do is sit around with socks and pretend to be enjoying not showering and being indoors for a month. :-)

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  5. Longtime reader (first time commenting) who also has a baby (9mo, almost 10mo omfg) here. I struggle with the same things and will continue to enjoy your posts. I smiled at your previous post when you talked about the cycle of fashion blogger -> mom blogger/lifestyle, but I find myself seeking out those things exactly as well. So I will be looking forward to your future posts. Best wishes to you and your lovely baby.

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  6. How wonderful! I had a tiny one of my own about 6 months ago. Hope you're hanging in there - I was a blithering mess with sleep deprivation, and I think I have a pretty easy baby. I hear you on the used baby clothes. I've bought mine maybe 5 outfits total (including two wonderful Makie terrycloth kimonos for the newborn stage) and while I sometimes feel a little sad that my child's "daddy's little buddy" onesie doesn't mesh with my aesthetic sensibilities, I know that money would be better spent in other areas. He'll just be wearing the same outfits in every photo!

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  7. Try pulling the onesies on from the bottom to avoid pulling them over floppy newborn heads. They're designed to come off that way if there are blowouts (I'm assuming you have the kind with the envelope necks).

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  8. My little girl is due in three weeks. Chloe is gorgeous! I also tried to spend as little as possible on maternity clothes, think i spent £100 in total, especially as i dont plan to have another baby. So happy that you're blogging again. The amount of stuff you need for a newborn is crazy and mostly unnecessary. I look forward to your tips! Hannah

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  9. yay for blogging again! congrats on the babe. i'm extremely intrigued by the chinese confinement practices, and i thank you for linking. sounds fascinating from an anthropological perspective, but i imagine that it can evoke serious feelings of cabin fever.

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  10. Congratulations and best wishes to you and the baby!

    I'll always look forward to reading your thoughts on anything (whether Chinese confinement practices or minimalism-related or otherwise). I've been following along with your blog for a long time now, and your posts are always thoughtful and educational.

    Someday, if I have a baby, I'm almost guaranteed to have my own experience with Chinese confinement practices (my mom will certainly insist). There will, no doubt, be a few things she insists on that I very much disagree with, though I will (of course) appreciate her help very much in that hypothetical time.

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