As I looked back over my phone photos from the last couple of weeks, I saw one that really maddened me. I was cross with myself really. Tim had taken it & sent it to me as he thought I should blog about it. I was going to; trying to put a positive, funny spin on the fact that after a dramatic week of dealing with poo (Benjamin’s not mine I must add) I’d made him a lovely lunchbox of finger foods in an attempt to get his appetite back, but neglected to pack his bottle & milk, such a bad Mumma that I am. As we were having lunch out, we had to buy single-use bottles (I didn’t even know it was a thing) & ‘on the go’ milk which Benjamin is no stranger to, due to its wonderful convenience (& recyclable bottle). Anyway, what I’m annoyed about is that we’ve always been so particular about what we buy for the boy; ensuring it’s not wasteful, unnecessary & where possible, recycled.
I always thought that everyone loves a bargain, right? But it seems like it’s a dirty word when it comes to babies: even dirtier than ‘single use’ it would appear. Since finding out that we were having a boy (this time last year in fact) we began amassing things we thought we’d need: clothes, bed linen, toys, furniture etc. etc. You know, just as every other excited expectant parent does really. We were incredibly lucky to be given lots of wonderful pre-loved items from friends & parents of the children I taught. Not once did we refuse any items & we were (& continue to be) incredibly grateful for what we’re given. However, I know there are so many parents, who would never dream of having anything that wasn’t brand new. I am sure that this is, in part, due to clever marketing ploys aimed at mainly first time parents; creating a stigma that if it’s not new, it must be dirty, or worse still; you obviously don’t love your baby enough to buy him/her the latest pram, fashions, or nursery furnishings. Ridiculous. At times, that’s how I felt, but after giving myself a good talking to, I never let it stop Tim or I looking for more bargains. Blimey, I think of a pair of trousers at £40 to be a considered purchase, & I have full control of my bladder & bowels, & sadly won’t be getting any taller in the next month. So why would I buy something ridiculously expensive for my rapidly growing & sometimes explosive son?! It just doesn’t make sense.
I think our most ‘frowned upon’ secondhand item & the one I’ve found myself having to justify to others, is our car seat & bases. Being children of the 80s, we didn’t have Isofix bases, or robust safety seats; health & safety didn’t really factor into the everyday sense; rear seat belts weren’t even legal until 1989 for goodness sake! I’m sure I remember lying in my neighbour’s car boot with their children on a mattress on the way back from a holiday(!) & I survived.
Generally, people aren’t going to sell a car seat that has been in an accident, it’s just wrong & unnecessary: insurance companies replace them immediately. We buy secondhand cars without knowing their complete history, but still we drive them. As baby seats are used for such a comparatively short amount of time; surely, in our heightened awareness of obsolescence these days, it’s best to get the maximum usage out of them? We worked out that we’ve saved over £300 in car seats & bases alone & this isn’t factoring in us selling the outgrown items on again. We would rather use the money to enjoy family days out; using said car seat! So why is this not encouraged?
The only brand new items that we bought were: a crib (which was an ex-display model), a mattress, all his bottles/sterilising unit, a few muzzies & sleepsuits (because he was a little smaller than we’d anticipated) & my Dad very kindly bought us a pram; which was also a great price as we got it from Toys ‘R’ Us when they were closing down. We would have bought one second hand, but we just couldn’t find exactly what we wanted & time was running out.
Nothing gives me more pleasure (well nothing else that I’m prepared to talk about on here!) than searching for something on eBay, Facebook Marketplace, charity shop or a highly coveted nearly new sale, finding exactly what I want, then getting it for a fraction of its original price. It reminds me of when I was a child & occasionally used to buy massive job lots of Barbie clothes from car boot sales with my pocket money. I used to love meticulously sorting through the items, categorising, then carefully washing them, before doing a fashion show with my dolls. Same principles still apply now really. Lucky Benjamin hey!
The staff in the village charity shop know me well & back in the early days, when I was trying to build up a bank of toys, the manager used to save me all the wooden things that had been donated, so I could have first dibs! I still love going in there, but not as frequently, as Benjamin has quite a large collection of toys now, thanks to these lovely thoughtful ladies.
I feel like a woman possessed when going to nearly new sales; I literally scour the stalls twice or three times over; just to ensure that I haven’t missed a gem. I’m sure it’s genetic as my Granny was exactly the same at jumble sales. I can’t haggle for toffee though; I’m so British in that sense. But usually I’m more than happy to pay the price; smugly knowing that it’s a darn sight cheaper than it would have been originally. I’m still very picky though: I’m not a fan of ‘character prints’ (I may have to pick my battles when he’s older on that one though, maybe), anything loose fitting or shapeless is a no-no too; I can’t bear baggy jeans on teenagers, let alone babies & I try to avoid red outfits – as it really doesn’t suit his fair complexion! I’m only just ‘allowing’ the boy to wear a trackie bottom, but they have to be ‘smart’ & even better if it has a stripe! Gees, poor Benjamin hey, he has such a fussy, bargain-hunting Mumma! I’m sure I’m going to regret this later down the line, when he rebels by refusing to wear anything other than a gaudy George Pig two-piece with matching wellies, but we’ll cross that bridge when & if we come to it. Hopefully he’ll be sartorial savvy by the time it comes to him having his own choice of clothing?!
It infuriates me that shops tend to stock mainly girls’ clothes & the range of items appears far greater than for boys. It hardly seems fair. Boys have a limited choice of tops, trousers or shorts. High Street shops stock an eclectic mix of separates that just don’t work together. I’d been looking for more clothes for Benjamin for a while (in preparation for when he goes to his fab child minder), when I stumbled upon a wonderful ‘bundle’ (love that search term!) on Facebook late one evening. After a few messages to get the seller’s address & arrange a date, the boy & I had a mini adventure trying to find said house: which is one of the many joys that add to the whole experience. The lovely lady put in more things than I thought I was paying for & the only item that I’m giving to the charity shop is a bobbly Toy Story top (please refer to my character prints policy). Everything was from Debenhams’ designers & we even had a quick jaunt along the beach on the way home. Winner!
I suppose the point I’m trying to make though is that there are some beautiful, stylish, clean & most importantly safe secondhand items out there; with still a lot of life left in them. Things can be washed & sterilised, & if they’re in that bad a condition, then they can be put in a fabric bank, or taken to a local recycling centre. You don’t have to settle for ‘poverty chic’ just because it’s not shop-bought. There should be no shame in buying or re-purposing them, after all we’re encouraged to recycle as much as possible everyday, so why should baby items be any different? Thank you for reading.