Before my son was born, my ex-mother-in-law came to visit and brought with her like, six giant garbage bags filled with hand-me-downs from a friend who had saved all of her kid’s baby clothes. Some of those clothes were not what I’d call “stylish,” but they were free clothes, and we were about to be with baby and without one income, so I was happy to take them. I felt no need for my newborn to be on the forefront of fashion.
It also helped to have two first-time grandmas who wanted to spoil the kid rotten. Between my mom and Seth’s, plus those hand-me-downs, we were totally set in terms of clothes.
Once Oliver was born, I was doubly grateful for the free clothes. It seemed the minute I put him in one outfit, he would spit up on it. Or poop on it. Or I would discover too late that there was a little gap between diaper and leg, and he would pee all over it. And off the garment would go. I had no idea, pre-kid, how many times I would dress a baby in one day.
I learned quickly the value of the multi-packs of onesies from that most fashionable of stores, Target (or Tar-jay, if you’re feeling fancy), especially since he was born in the spring and spent the first part of his babyhood in the heat of our Southern California summer. Most of the time, I dressed Oliver in the very height of baby-fashion: a diaper only, and if we were leaving the house, a onesie.
The one time I did attempt to put him in a really cute outfit, this one-piece little pinstriped jumper thing from BabyGap with like a million buttons up the front? After spending about 10 minutes buttoning the thing up, he almost immediately had what I like to call a “diaper blowout” or “poosplosion.” Right up the back, I tell you. It’s like he knew.
As I was unbuttoning those 10 million tiny buttons to get him out of his now-soiled adorable outfit, I swear I heard him say “Gotcha.”
I vowed from that day on that my kid would only wear hand-me-downs, grandma-bought items and whatever is on clearance at Old Navy. Part of the reason for this had to do with our limited budget; we just could not afford to buy him a gazillion outfits. And the other reason was that it’s just the principle of the thing: The kid wore something once or twice before he outgrew it or pooped all over it. Even if we’d had the income to buy him the latest designer whatever, we would not have, because he was a freaking baby.
But I realize that not all mothers feel this way. I have friends who spend an awful lot of time and money dressing their little poop machines in various matching outfits. While to me, this seems like a futile exercise, I commend moms who do this. Because babies in cute outfits are so fucking cute. Moms who are not me, please continue to put your babies in bear suits, OK?
Our favorite publication, The Daily Mail, claims that 94 percent of mothers spend more on their kids’ clothes than on their own. While I seriously doubt the veracity of this “94%” figure, it’s not hard to imagine that moms of newborns might spend way more money on baby’s wardrobe than their own. After all, not everyone has the good fortune to have six bags of hand-me-downs at their disposal. And in the early days of motherhood, there isn’t much time for anything BUT taking care of your baby, so most mothers probably aren’t out buying themselves all new wardrobes.
But what about moms of older kids? Do they really spend more on their child’s clothing than their own? I guess I must be part of that 6%, because look: My seven-year-old will outgrow any item of clothing in like six months. And you should see his shoes after a month of skateboarding. He rolls around in dirt. He uses his shirt as a napkin.
What I’m saying is he gets whatever happens to be on sale, and anything “fancy” comes from his grandparents. I don’t know how much money I’ve spent on his wardrobe in the last year, but I guarantee it is significantly less than I’ve spent on my own.
And this points to something that is important to me as a mom: taking care of myself first. It’s something that a lot of moms I know don’t do, or forget to do, or feel guilty about doing, but I think it’s essential. I’m not saying anyone should be wearing $500 shoes while her kid walks around barefoot. I’m just saying that the day I spend twice as much on Oliver’s wardrobe as I do on my own is the day you can stage the intervention. And also probably the day I wear sweatpants, aka “give up on life pants,” outside of the house.
I can certainly see where the pressure comes from to make sure your baby looks perfect at all times, what with celebrities toting around cherubic kids who never seem to get their $200 dresses dirty. The Daily Mail points to Victora and David Beckham’s little bundle, Harper: “15 per cent of mothers look to emulate the way Victoria Beckham styles Harper.” (I literally LOLed at the thought of “styling” a baby.)
Also, while I have nothing against family lifestyle bloggers, I can imagine that reading those sites might also contribute to making the average mom feel like she’s practically abusing her kid if she lets him crawl around the house in only a diaper. When I was a new mother, I remember feeling like I couldn’t do a single thing right anyway -- I can’t imagine feeling like that and then reading about all the perfect things some mom bloggers do with their well-dressed offspring.
In a perfect world, parents wouldn’t feel pressure from media, bloggers or celebrities to make their kids look “perfect.” Moms wouldn’t feel bad for buying themselves new dresses or bras or shoes. And children would never get dirty or pee on stuff like un-housetrained puppies. But they do.
Did anyone else feel completely inadequate when your child was a newborn? Do you spend more money on your kids’ clothes than you do on your own? And does anyone out there STYLE their children?