When you fall pregnant, an entire Universe and a half opens up – the one where you’re suddenly scared you’ll do the wrong thing, and that parental panic that makes you worry you may not match up to what you need to be in order to parent effectively.
Nothing convinced me of this more than my very first trip to our local baby store, where – in all of my 5 months pregnant insecurity – I felt useless. Suddenly, there were 85 different types of pacifier
to choose from and I had no idea which one would be the right one for my kid. And the giant advert that scared me into buying an extraordinarily priced DVD box set? It promised me my kid would be putting Einstein to shame before she potty trained. It instantly became a “must-have” in my mind.
I’m not against marketing – not even a little. I firmly believe that consumers need to be given excellent products to choose from. But what petrified me most was the sheer volume of products. I remember leaving the store, feeling quite breathless and dizzy, whilst clutching two bags of pacifiers, breast pads and that DVD box set.
Now, 8 years on, friends of mine are expecting their first child and – with all the excitement that goes with it – they’re furnishing their nursery. So they call me in excitement to ask about some newfangled, sounds-rather-complicated device that they’ve been told is the “must have
” for babies. What is it? A mobile. And they’d bought it, because they were so thrilled and it sounds like it’ll be the very best thing and do I know about it and do I think they chose well and…?
And, I’m suddenly my 24-year old self again – pregnant, petrified and completely overwhelmed by everything. And I get it – I really, really do. As a parent, you want the very best for your precious child, and you do not care what it costs.
The thing that saved my sanity, eventually, was relying on advice from people I trusted, and – reading. Most of us will do that arched-eyebrow “stop Googling it” dance but, I found that by only consulting online resources that I felt comfortable with, and magazines that offered important, easily accessible information, rather than focused on promoting 65 wads of products, I managed to get a grip on that parental panic.
We’re lucky in South Africa, I think. Most of the parenting magazines and South African-focused parenting websites are just what we need – informative, relevant and on point. Some overseas magazines I’ve spied are really just gigantic advertising catalogues.
My advice? New parents, trust the people around you who have had kids, and ignore – as best you can – the latest and greatest contraption that’s been shown to you and that made your bank balance tremble in fear.
Looking back, I want to tell terrified 24-year old me not to fret it. I want to tell her that it will not seem so daunting one day, and that she has resources
and people who will help. Most of all, I want to tell her that – no matter what – the thing her daughter will need most – is her.
What were the baby things that you could have done without?