The most common emotional state for new parents (or at least for me) is anxiety. I spent the first three weeks of my son Luke’s life worried that I might, you know, inadvertently kill him. (Everyone’s fine.)
Part of this anxiety stems from the fact that you have no idea what you’re doing, despite the small library of newborn literature on the nightstand. (We must have personally subsidized Dr. Karp’s kitchen renovation.)
But you are also tired. Bone tired. Mrs. Tepper wakes up with Luke every night, usually around 2 a.m., and stays up for the better part of an hour. When he rises again a couple of hours later, I bring him to our bed. Luke laughs and smiles and demands to be picked up and tossed around while Mrs. Tepper and I linger in a netherworld between consciousness and nothingness.
Add unending, gut-busting love for the tyke, and it’s no wonder new parents experience ethereal joy between bouts of tears.
Thanks to this unstable emotional cocktail, we need therapy. But since therapy is expensive, and so are babysitters, we need another solution. That’s where baby clothes come in.
On the one hand, baby clothes are cheap. On Wal-Mart’s website I can buy a four pack of Gerber Onesies for $7. This particularly is available for four age cohorts, from newborn to 12 months, which means I could get a year’s worth of clothes for $112.
Expecting parents are also advised by their experienced peers to push baby clothes to the back burner. “Don’t buy too many clothes,” we were told. “He’ll outgrow them.” Plus, the one thing that everyone buys you is a onesie from whatever corner of the country they call home.
Nevertheless, parents spend a lot of money dressing up their kids.
Families with incomes above $105,000 end up spending a little less than $20,000 on clothes for their children through age 17, according to the Department of Agriculture’s “The Cost of Raising a Child” report. That’s about $1,100 per child per year from newborn to two, or three times what I’ll spend on my clothes.
We certainly have done our fair share of shopping. Luke has four bathing suits (I have one), rain galoshes (even though he can’t walk), and sunglasses. He has a sweater that would’ve made Cliff Huxtable proud and a pair of overalls (which fit in as nicely in Brooklyn as they would out on the range.)
As a result, Luke’s wardrobe is vastly more extensive (and trendy) than mine, and in all likelihood he’ll never really need those (Gulp!) $50 baby Uggs.
Before you judge, or claim that you’ll never buy fashionable baby outfits that your child will quickly outgrow, understand that the Uggs and the sunglasses and the sweaters and the galoshes aren’t for Luke. They’re for us.
Remember, we’re hanging on by a thread. We’re exhausted, overworked, and underpaid. We ceaselessly cook and clean and walk three blocks for the laundry. Plus, we have to confront the inhumanity of alternate-side parking.
There is one thing, one small pleasure, which helps us soldier on and keeps us sane. And that’s buying over-priced handcrafted baby garb, dressing our son up, and taking pictures.
Not only is it cheaper than therapy, but the pictures (to future Luke’s horror) will live on.
More First-Time Dad: