Monday, 3 February 2014

Why I will keep spending money on my children

On Facebook recently a few people have shared an article from the Telegraph about a woman's quest to not spend anything on her son for twelve months. In summary, the woman's goal was, for an entire year, not to spend money on kid-specific food, clothes, toys, activities, nappies or haircuts.  The shared article (and her blog entries) are then usually followed by comments by women noting how little they've bought their children and how often their children wear hand-me-downs. Or, how guilty they feel about the money that they do spend.

Now, as a disclaimer, I do agree that kids probably don't need half of what is bought for them, and that in theory it's wasteful to spend loads on clothes that are worn for a short period of time when they can be acquired second hand relatively easily. There are also loads of things to do with your children that are free, nature is the best playground and so on, and that landfills being filled with disposable nappies can't be a good thing.  According to my Facebook feed, I know some people who haven't bought anything for their children at all, and I know women who very rarely use disposable nappies. Good on them, I say.

But, after giving the issue some thought, I have very clearly decided that this path isn't for me and I will keep spending money on my children. Here's why:


About half of Amotai's clothes are hand-me-downs, a number which was much higher when he was younger. Even more of Lily's are secondhand - she wears lots of Amotai's old clothes, plus others we've been given.

But, I still feel uncomfortable about a blanket 'no spending money on clothes' rule. First, there are always gaps in what we've been given. We've not been given many PJs smaller than size 2, for example, and have had to buy a number of woollen unders. Other clothes haven't quite worked out in terms of the seasons, and Amotai gets so attached to his shoes, it's easier for everyone if they last until he grows out of them. Plus, it's fun to dress babies in clothes I love, and to buy them special outfits every now and then. And how else can I force  my love of polka dots on my daughter? 

The one time I tried to cut Amotai's hair I gave him a mullet by accident. Enough said.

Of course, there are loads of free things to do with kids. Amotai loves running around in circles and Lily's favourite thing to look at right now is look up at trees. Amotai also loves playgrounds and the beach. We've also been regular attendants at the local library's Rock'n'Rhyme, regular stalkers of local ducks, and have gone on many a bush walk.

Paid activities though still have their place, and I'd hate to give these up as well. Amotai's gotten a lot from going to gym at the local recreation centre, which has facilities we wouldn't be able to recreate at home without investing a small fortune. Soft play centres like Laughalots are great for a rainy day, when the only alternative is going quietly crazy at home. It would also be a shame not to take the kids to other places that cost money, like the zoo. Of course plenty of people can't afford these things, and we're lucky to be able to do so. It's the idea that some people spend money on themselves then feel smug about not spending money on their children I don't like. Not to mention the fact that for some people, transport to the free things ends up costing more than paid things in the community anyway. Te Papa is fabulous and free, but would still cost either a $7 bus trip or $8 in parking, so it's cheaper to go to the local pool, which I can walk to. I wonder if transport costs count toward the 'no spending' rule. 

We are members of and frequent users of both the toy library and regular library, and have generous friends and relatives. So, we don't tend to buy many toys at all. Of all of the things to stop spending money on, I would probably find this the easiest. Nonetheless, I wouldn't want to institute a 'no buying toys' rule just in case the perfect toy comes along. Like this one we bought after getting it out of the toy library and Amotai played with for months. I also wonder if people who refuse to buy toys for their kids spend a lot of money on gadgets for themselves, and how they justify that. 

Nappies.   We use re-usable nappies for both kids, but they have their limitations. Like, when it rains for a week and they can't be easily dried. Or when you're travelling in the car. Or, on those days when being a stay home Mum to two kids is making me feel slightly insane and the thought of soaking yet another poopy nappy is about as appealing as banging my head against a brick wall.

As I said earlier, respect to people who are doing their bit for the environment by not spending money on their children. But, for the above reasons, it's clearly not for me.

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