Every week, I regale you with tales of my attempts to save money while saving the planet. Economize! I exhort you. Resist consumerism Reduce, reuse, recycle! Resist the temptations of Buy Buy Baby. Think before you click! Did a child laborer get carpal tunnel making that cheapo onesie? Is that ‘clear’ infant soap really organic? Do you really need that plastic tchochke?
Kill your TV! End consumerism! Turn your kids on to real values!
Yet I, your environmentally conscious, feministical, conservationist, anti-materialist, and above all, CHEAP Queercents parent have fallen pray to the seductions of the expensive, the poorly-made, the wasteful, and yes: the non-recyclable.
To save you from a similar fate, I’ve compiled a list of the Worst of the Worst purchases that I made for my baby. So here is my list of pricey, environmentally unsustainable, and all-around wasteful purchases made during my baby’s first year.
1. Five different, utterly useless thermometers.
Every baby book will tell you that one ‘must’ to purchase before your baby arrives is a baby thermometer. What they don’t tell you is which one to purchase.
We should have researched this more thoroughly. We purchased five—count ‘em, five!—utterly uselessly baby thermometers that measured under the arm. The problem? They don’t give an accurate reading! At first, we were alarmed when our baby’s temp, according to cheapo #1, was 96.7! “Oh, those thermometers aren’t very good. The under-the-arm reading is usually a full degree or two below the actual temp,” said our doctor.
Umm, isn’t the whole point of a thermometer to give an accurate reading? And our baby hated having something shoved under her arm. After four other cheapo failures, we finally hit on the brilliant idea of purchasing a scanner-style thermometer, similar to the one the doctor uses.
Total cost: $45
2. Four cheapo onesies of whose labor and materials are of questionable provenance.
Okay, so I’ll admit it: I was roaming the mall (I needed a cell phone thingy that only the Verizon hut at the mall had), always a dangerous money-sucking site. And a magical purple dragon dragged me into Sarah Jessica Parker’s new cheapo line of baby clothes, “Bitten” (okay, there was no dragon; only a blood sugar crash). And before I knew it, that dragon forced—forced!!—me to buy three really cute, non-pink, non-blue, 100% cotton super-cute onesies that actually fit my daughter (she’s only 11 months old, but fits two-year-old onesies at this point!). I couldn’t stop myself; the dragon pointed out that the onesies were only eight bucks each—less than a large bottle of organic detergent. So I caved: I bought four. Boy, were they cute! She looks just adorable in them.
Perfect fit, all cotton, cheap—so what’s the problem? Well, child labor. They’re made in third-world countries. For a total price of $8. Now, there’s no evidence to my knowledge that child labor was used in producing these onesies. However, we do know that SJP lent her name to the Gap, a notorious user of child labor. The Bitten website and other sources are mum on the labor sources/practices/pay scale. So while I will assume SJP is innocent until proven guilty, something tells me that an $8 onesie is, at the very least, not produced under living-wage conditions. So shame on SJP.
But shame mostly on me for not doing my homework before being seduced by a cheap price and a gorgeous pattern. Do I really want my daughter enjoying a onesie made at the hands of someone else’ exploitation?
Cost $32, plus my conscience
3. Three highchairs, each one plasticier, tackier, and more hated by my daughter than the last.
This may be an idiosyncrasy of my daughter’s: she’s a highchair hater. The only highchair she’ll eat in is the $35 cheapie plastic low-chair we picked up in desperation.
We’ve tried three models of high chairs, each cushier, fancier, and pricier than the next, to no avail. Two were returnable; one—of course the priciest—wasn’t. We’re holding on to it for now, in hopes that before she’s two (and toppling her tiny low chair), she’ll deign to eat from it. Otherwise, it will be a baby shower present to one of my four pregnant friends.
I’m not naming brand names here, because I fear this is just one of my baby daughter’s idiosyncratic whims, but please, dear readers: try out the high chair before you buy it! And make sure it’s returnable.
Cost: $180, plus at least two carloads of bitterness and frustration
4. Two plastic bouncers
As I’ve discussed before, we are addicted to our oh-so-ironically-named Rainforest Bouncer. In fact, our baby used it as her bed for, oh, her first ten months on this planet!
Since she loved this one, we thought we’d buy her a bigger, better one to accommodate her growing frame, and place downstairs in her play room (she sleeps upstairs), so we wouldn’t have to lug it up and down the stairs. Well, you guessed it: she hated the larger bouncer. Rainforest or bust! she declared. So we returned it. Again, this may be an idiosyncrasy of our gal, so I won’t name brand names, but let this be a cautionary tale to you bouncer-purchasers: stick with the rainforest!
Cost: Gas to and from the store, return counter annoyance time
And the wasteful piece de resistance:
5. One overpriced, underfunctioning crib.
This one we researched. After comparing and contrasting, we went for a beautifully designed, European-level safety featured, cute French-named, super-comfy crib: the Oeuf. Between the organic, US-made mattress and the elegant frame, the total cost was (gasp, sigh, cry) $1200.
There were some nice cheapo models at Target, but we figured we might as well get the best for our baby. After all, this was a one-time investment. An important purchase, like a car, where safety and quality trumps cost (from our perspective, at least). And hey, with the $150 converter kit, it converts to a toddler bed!
The trouble began when the frame arrived. It was missing several pieces of hardware. Minijake, the fabulous store/site from which we purchased it, was most helpful in providing these, but still—for $1200, you expect to get all the pieces with a minimum of hassle! Then there were the inscrutable directions, which took hours to decipher. Finally, we had it: our crib. Somehow, it just looked like…a crib. Not an elegant piece of Eurofurniture. A crib, much like any other crib. In fact, almost identical to some of the $300-$400 cribs we saw at Target.
I try hard to resist the siren songs of advertising. But I fell deep and hard for the Oeuf catalog copy. It’s perfectly serviceable, and seems to be safe and comfy. There’s nothing wrong with it, but was it really worth over a grand?
Total cost: $1200+customer service drama
So those are my hall of shamers. How about you—do you have any embarrassingly expensive, useless, eco-unfriendly, child-labor sporting, or otherwise cringe-worthy baby or kid purchases you’d like to share? Can anyone top my five-thermometer tale of pricey woe? Post your New Parent Money-Wasters here!