(Or “Why I Hate Baby Shopping”)
I am four months pregnant, and when asked questions like “How are you going to decorate your nursery?” I have no answer. When my friend sent me her daughter’s birth story, I felt guilty that so much of the terminology she used was Greek to me. When another friend offered to go maternity shopping over a month ago, I brushed her off. When my other friend loaned me a tub of maternity clothes, I was relieved that this was one detail I wouldn’t have to worry about. When my lovely sister-in-law pumped me for my preferences on a baby shower, I also thanked God that she would be taking the burden of planning that off me.
See, when people comment on how excited they are for me to be a parent, I glow with pride. But when it comes to planning the details of actually having a baby—both the birthing and care of—I find myself resisting at every turn.
What gives? Aren’t new mothers supposed to be able to think of nothing else? Shouldn’t they be excited to decorate, and shouldn’t they be drooling over bibs, cribs, and everything baby related?
Whether or not that’s the case—though I think it’s silly to lump all new mothers into one category as I’ve just flippantly done to make a rhetorical point—I’m not. You see, I feel it’s better to focus on the intangibles, rather than the tangibles, and I guess this comes from my personality (and maybe some academic training), as well as my Christian beliefs.
While I realize I will eventually have to deal with a nursery and birthing options and formula and diapers and spit-up and poo, I don’t see the point in getting all worked up over that now. Soon enough my life will be turned upside down, filled with feedings and changings and all kinds of extra housework that doesn’t excite me. Does this make me a bad mother? I don’t think so. Unrealistic, maybe, but not bad.
Like some in the academic community, I sometimes find myself wanting to pretend that the material world doesn’t exist—that the best life is had by sitting in a room somewhere discussing ideas, or writing them down. I have idealistic notions about just communing with my husband over ideas and discussion without the daily intrusion of dishes and dirty floors. Can’t we just eat out every meal? Why do we have to waste our precious energy on preparing food and cleaning up and making messes that also need cleaning? I want to ask (but I don’t because he already thinks I’m too pampered—and I am).
This isn’t productive, this train of thought I’m on. It’s me fighting reality, is what it is, and maybe me thumbing my nose at people who only seem to live for the here and now. I’m talking about the people who are always preoccupied with the current fashions, or the next vacation they can take, or what new movies they’ve seen or the most recent Facebook statuses or their last (most recent, I mean) meal.
When people only bring up to me the material details of my baby’s life, I feel annoyed, wishing they would instead engage me in a discussion of how I plan to raise the child—what values I plan to instill, how I will instruct him or her as to God’s word.
I know kids and teens who have every material need they could ever dream of—a vehicle, a new dress to wear to church each week, money to burn at the theater for each new release—and yet these kids struggle with depression, anger (usually at their parents), and belief in God. And I find myself wanting to ask the parents: “When do you make time to really listen to these precious kids of yours?” “How have you ensured that they are learning to rely on God’s word, and not the world’s?” Aren’t these more important questions than: “Where did you find that cute outfit?” “What changes are you planning to make to your child’s room?” “What kind of car will your teen get?”
I have to be careful here. I don’t want to belittle parents or other who show their love through gifts or acts of service. I have fond memories of one aunt who, in the midst of some of my toughest teen years, brightened my life with some special outward touches, such as a manicure and a set of highlights (at age seventeen, I had never had either). Let me not discount the good we can do unto others by gifts or acts of service. In fact, without these, it would be really hard to know we were loved. I am also writing from a privileged position; if I had to worry where my next meal was coming from or whether the bills would get paid, I’d probably have a different take on this topic.
I guess what I’m saying, then, is that while we don’t need to totally give up attention to material things, we should strive to keep our priorities straight. Sure, go ahead and give your kids good gifts. Have fun shopping for a crib for your baby and clothes for your teen girls and vehicles for your teen boys. But don’t do those things without also taking care of the more important matters. For me, these are a relationship with God, relationship with my spouse, and fulfillment at the work of my hands. (I guess if your work is in making material products, my argument falls somewhat apart.) I find meaning in quality time and good conversation, Bible study and prayer, good music and good books (yes, I mark my own hypocrisy).
Because I know there’s no point in trying to totally write off the realities of material living, my suggestion to myself is this: as much as I can, I’m going to make my daily, material activities meaningful through doing them with others. I want to view my upcoming life changes (like feeding and changing) not as detestable tasks, but as opportunities to bond. Housework, when my child gets older, can become an opportunity to teach him or her about responsibility. Clothes shopping? A chance to teach about thrift (oh, what a fuddy duddy I am! I can just see the eyes rolling!). Decorating projects (how I hate decorating my house!) I can choose to see as chances to collaborate creatively with my family.
I’m going to work at not being so opposed to (or snooty towards) the daily activities of life, 1) because I know I can’t avoid them, and 2) because if I don’t, I will have no common ground upon which to connect with most of the people in my life. The caveat is this: I don’t want to forget that these things are just means to the end of creating real meaning in life–real relationships and real purpose. If you have a suggestion for my baby’s nursery, or clothing, or belongings, I merely ask you to keep the same thing in mind.