Sunday, January 17, 2010

A New Year's Intention

I don't always make New Year's Resolutions, but I do find it useful to stop and reflect on how I want to live the coming year; whether there are any changes I'd like to make or new projects to undertake.  Lately I've noticed that a recurring theme in my life has been the notion of mindful consumption.  I wrote a post in the fall about not spending any money for a month in order to replenish my bank account and think about how I consume (slow month), and I find myself increasingly drawn to blogs and articles that offer Do-it-Yourself recipes or other ways to be more self-sufficient and spend less (I also welcome any links or suggestions you may have!).

There is also a component of my mindfulness practice that addresses the idea of consumption quite explicitly, the Fifth Mindfulness Training.  The Five Mindfulness Trainings are basically guidelines on how to live your life in a way that will increase your happiness and well-being; not commandments as such, but ideals to strive for and to work on (which is why they are called 'trainings').  Here is an excerpt of the Fifth Training, which I'm particularly drawn to at the moment:

"Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming.... I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me...I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption" (for the full text see 5 Mindfulness Trainings).

I've never been a big consumer or shopaholic, but I've had my share of impulsive buys and I spent a year paying down a hefty credit card balance before moving to France. I don't have a credit card here, which helps cut back on the mindless spending, and in general there's less of a culture of conspicuous consumption here than in the US; that makes things a bit easier (The French are notoriously big savers vs. spenders, though that seems to be changing as buying on credit becomes a little more widespread).  Yet I'm still very far from the notion of mindful consumption that I strive for, even as I become increasingly solicited by a new category of consumer goods:  Baby stuff.

I'm expecting my first child this summer, so I've been suddenly plunged into a whole new world of 'needs,' fed in no small part by my own mother who has already started buying stuff for her first grandchild and sends me endless links to different products and websites.   And of course there are plenty of other people around to tell me what I need or should get, and I find it completely overwhelming.  Obviously some baby items are completely necessary, but probably just a fraction of all of the things that are advertized to expecting parents.  How then to make the difference between what I need and what I don't, to avoid getting dragged into a consumer frenzy over baby goods?

I don't have it all figured out yet, but finding a way to stay mindful through this period is my major intention for the year (other than preparing for the birth and parenthood, of course).  All the more so because I plan on cutting back to part-time work once the baby is born, which necessarily means my income will go down.  Luckily France offers a fair amount of financial assistance to parents, so we should be able to get by without too much hardship.  But I'm making the choice to earn less in order to spend more time with the baby, which gives me even extra motivation to cut out all unnecessary spending in my life, starting now. 


vicki hartman said...

wow, baby stuff is the nightmare of all consumption! of course the retailers prey on parents who want to provide the best for their kids. the tough ones for me are these super cute well designed wooden toys. the truth is, those are all about me, not the kids. anyways, i say get diapers, blankets and a couple outfits in the beginning, then go from there as you need it. so excited for and kevin!!!

Rachel said...

congratulations, diana! i'm so happy for you! just a quick note about baby "stuff." i didn't have money to spend on it, and thank goodness. the only "thing" i highly recommend is an Ergo baby carrier if you are the baby-wearing type. Your baby can nurse in it, which is rare among baby carriers and you can use it through toddlerhood (good up to 40 lbs). You won't need it until your baby is a month or two old (I got it later and wore it constantly). definitely don't need pack n plays, baby swings, jumping seats, silly nursery music (babies do well with real music!). not too much clothing-- my baby grew out of her newborn stuff very fast and hardly needed anything besides diapers and blankets at that stage anyway. she skipped on of the sizes (maybe 6-9 months?) because she was growing so quickly too. you have to do lots of laundry anyway, so better to get fewer items and wash more frequently. i am sure your intuition and common sense will serve you well. very smart to avoid the hype and keep it simple. the less stuff you have, the more quality interactions you have with your baby. check out the montessori catalogs for ideas-- for example, isabel slept with me or on a floor bed (a futon mattress on the floor bordered by pillows) and never had a crib-- another piece of unneccesary furniture. it gives the child a sense of freedom of movement from infanthood. ok, that's enough. let me know if you need anything. love ya!

Diana said...

Thanks for the advice vic and rachel, it's good to hear from other moms! Was definitely planning baby carrying and co-sleeping, so those recommendations are helpful. Will definitely check out the ergo. Gracias!

Lily said...

I second Rachel's sleeping arrangements; I wish I had thought of that. My daughter slept on her baby mattress on the floor beside me. For a while it was in our room, then in her own. I went back and forth as needed to nurse/comfort and then sleep in my comfy bed. Even so, it was so so much easier than a crib. She slept better, and so did I. By 1 year, she was in a single bed with a bed rail. :)

Diana said...

Hi Lily, I see you're a Bonzai reader too! And just took a quick peak at your blog, will definitely keep reading. Thanks for the comment, I'm thinking more and more that a crib is just not necessary at all. Besides, we don't even have a separate room for the baby in our current place, so co-sleeping seems like the best and even cheapest (not to mention ecological) option. And I like what rachel said about less stuff meaning more interaction. Works for me!

Lily said...

Yes, I'm really enjoying Bonzai; I'm glad I came across it! Your blog looks great as well. :)

I never used powder, vaseline, special baby soaps (just made sure that ours were mild)... No change table, no crib, therefore no baby monitor or crib acessories. We used a baby swing quite regularly for naps and the first bedtime place because it was the place she fell asleep best. Unfortunately, I never got the hang of slings. We also used a playpen on occasion between 9 and 20 months.

Something I am interested to try if or when we have another baby, is using an actual toddler potty for EC; have you heard of that? It's quite a long explanation, as is my experience with my daughter about it, but I think it would have helped immensely and made it more convenient, to have a potty right away. :)

Diana said...

Ha, when I first saw EC the association I made was "Emergency Contraception" (I used to work in family planning...). But of course that didn't make any sense in context. And then I remembered the term "elimination communication," which I'm now used to seeing as HNI, the french acronym for "infantile natural hygiene."

Funny you mention it, because kevin and I have been talking about it and I just picked up a book on the subject from the library. I don't know anyone who's done it, but it sounds really interesting - would be curious to hear about your experience. And once I read the book I'll have a better sense if it seems doable for us. I'd love to not even need diapers and all the stuff that goes with them!

JenLF said...

Diana, congratulations! I hope you are feeling well and the pregnancy is going well. Funny to be on the other side of things, huh? I used to love walking into PPLM with my big ol' belly. :)

Anyway, I second the recommendation for an Ergo. I also have a Moby wrap that I'm trying to sell, so take a look at that and if you'd like to try it out, let me know.

Babies outgrow clothing so quickly that there's tons of great used stuff (at least they do used clothing in France?) so you really never have to buy new clothing. I leave that to my mom, for the most part. :)

One thing I did really like, as far as other gear goes, and here I'll disagree with Rachel, is a bouncy chair. Another thing you can get used, and even new they're not terribly expensive. It's a place to put the baby down, and it's how I showered for the majority of my children's first six months or so - I put the baby in the chair in the bathroom and jumped in the shower with the door half open.

The experts say...all you need is a carseat, diapers, and a place for baby to sleep, and even an emptied out dresser drawer (on the floor, of course!) or laundry basket will work for that.

Diana said...

Thanks for the congrats and the advice Jen.

I looked up the moby wrap and it seems great, but similar to another wrappy thing a friend is going to hand down to me. So I think I'm all set on the baby carriers for now, which is great. But thanks!

The bouncy chair sounds interesting - will look into that. Another friend offered to loan me something a bit between a hammock and a chair, perhaps that will do the trick. Washing occasionally is important after all!

The idea of laundry basket as a bed is pretty funny! But I think we'll just keep him/her in our bed, seems easiest in so many ways...

Yeah, it's fun to be on this side, and even more fun as my belly grows. though I sadly don't 'look' pregnant yet (at least to other people). But that will come soon enough!