Welcome Little One!
I'm so happy to introduce my third grandson, Liam! After a difficult pregnancy, he was safely delivered a few weeks early late last month. My daughter is well, my son-in-law continues to be a supportive husband and hands-on Dad, and big brothers Elliot and Damien think their baby sibling is "the cutest ever."
You may not be a parent or a grandparent, but babies have something to teach us about minimalism. They are the essence of maximum gratitude and minimal stuff. They come to us needing only love, warmth, cleanliness, and mama's milk. Sure, they don't sleep, eat, or poop on any kind of schedule, but we are thrilled to welcome them even so.
Modern consumer culture has made babies Big Business, and the number of products sold as "necessities" grows every year. Yet Liam is satisfied with so little: his food, a clean diaper, a warm blanket, enfolding arms. Along with his car seat, crib, a few clothes, and a short list of other essentials, his needs will be met for the first couple of years.
"Need" is a challenging word, because it is subjective. One person's need might be another person's option, and vice versa. But the baby business thrives on the desire of parents (and grandparents) to show off that lovely new sweetheart, so it's easy to sell all of those cute, impractical outfits, tiny shoes (and cowboy boots!), high-end nursery furniture and décor, custom photography and more as "needs."
The infant industry also exploits the fears and desperation of parents, especially young first-time parents. You're so afraid that your darling will get sick or be hurt, and you'll do just about anything to get your child to stop crying and go to sleep. Any gadget that promises to protect or comfort a baby is a candidate for big sales, whether it actually works or not.
The reality is that there is often no magic bullet. What works for one child may not work for another, and it's possible to spend hundreds of dollars on baby products that will
- go unused
- take up room in your home
- make you feel guilty
- be passed on or sold to another desperate parent for half (or less) of what you originally paid
- finally make their way into a landfill.
There is an alternative. You could hang in there and stick to the basics that parents have been doing for centuries.
Swaddle the baby. Walk with him. Sing to him. Rock him. Pay attention and respond to him. And one modern approach: Buckle him into his car seat and drive him around. Something about this calms most babies and puts them to sleep.
With all of the money you and other family members save on baby and toddler paraphernalia, you can start a college fund instead.
You don't have to have a baby in your life to appreciate these minimalist principles. They hold true in every situation. When you figure out what you really need, you cut down on clutter, stress, wasted money, and waste in the landfill. You gain freedom, time, and the ability to focus on something more important than shopping and caring for stuff.
Babies can show us the way.
P. S. If you are a parent or grandparent, you might be interested in my books The Minimalist Family: How You and Your Children Can Find More Joy with Less and The Magic of Words: Help Your Child Be a Reader for Life (paid links).
Photo by Steve H. © 2022