I think I’ve heard the word “cute” about 50,000 times over the past four months.
And yes, that jumper with the little elephants is cute. As is that sling that hugs your baby close to your chest. No, not the one that looks like a reverse backpack–that’s a carrier. Very different–but also equally cute. Both are incredibly fucking cute.
If there’s one thing a woman likes more than planning for a wedding, it’s baby shopping–and the two experiences are strikingly similar. For both husbands and new dads, it can be stressful, expensive, and feel like we’re just trying to keep up with our ladies.
And for me, I seriously underestimated the amount of gear we would need for our baby. I knew about the basics like outfits, bottles, diapers, car seats, strollers and cribs. But then there’s stuff I didn’t think about like breast pumps, monitors, baby-friendly detergent, nipple cream, and bottle sterilizers.
I’ve even discovered little niche products that I didn’t even know existed like bassinets (expensive baskets), swaddles (expensive blankets), and bouncers (expensive place to stash your baby for a minute so they don’t fall and break).
It’s a lot, man.
There will be mommy blogs
But if you think you can just pick out a stroller or some bottles and start clicking away on Amazon, think again, you caveman.
For every product you buy, there seem to be ten different options. Which means you had better hit the Mommy Blogs for some baby shopping research.
Bottles are particularly interesting. A quick Google search of ‘best baby bottles’ leads you to an article from The Bump on the 14 Best Baby Bottles for Every Feeding Need. And these are just the best! The cream of the crop! Forget about all the other bottles that didn’t make the cut.
Click on that link and strap in fellas. You’ll soon be learning about different materials (silicone vs plastic vs glass), various geometries, which bottles are best for babies that won’t latch, and bottles with patented internal venting system technology to remove…wait for it…bubbles.
But where you really get hit up for cash is when it comes to safety and transport: Car seats and strollers.
Car seats are a true racket. You can’t resell them, you can’t return them, you can’t use them if once you’ve been in any kind of collision, they’re expensive as shit, and yes, they even expire. How about that for a business model?
But strollers hurt the most. They’re basically your child’s first car, and since you’ll be taking that thing out into public, you want to make sure that it’s high quality and instagram-worthy. There’s definitely a bit of a ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ phenomenon here, but what can I say? Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
So why is this process so difficult?
There are a dizzying amount of options for every product, no matter how straightforward they seem. And because new dads and moms have no clue what they’re doing, these options really weigh on the mind of young parents who are scared to death of choosing the wrong product.
They simply want what’s best for their baby and what’s going to make life easiest for them once the little one arrives. But lots of options means more time and stress associated with each decision.
And to make matters worse, the world of Mommy Blogs and YouTube reviews can be just as difficult to sift through. While there are some really good product reviews out there, you have to be savvy in selecting what you read. No matter what, any reviewer’s core motivation is always going to be to get you to click on their shit, which results in click-baity article titles bloated with sponsored content and affiliate links (safe to click, not an affiliate link).
What new dads need to keep in mind
For the dad-to-be…this time can be stressful. While our wives are getting giddy about UppaBaby stroller accessories or finding that perfect $80 accent pillow for the nursery, it can be hard to not get a little anxious about the cost of this whole experience.
Sometimes it feels like we’re preparing to host the Pope as opposed to shopping for a newborn baby, as some of these items seem outright absurd. I’ll admit it. I’ve had my days where I felt the frustration.
Do we really need a sterilizer for bottles? Do we really need a changing table? Do we really need that top of the line breast pump?
But then something changed.
About mid-way through my wife’s pregnancy, she told me she wanted to repaint the room we had picked out for the nursery, and I immediately starting bitching about the cost. That’s when she said something I’ll never forget:
“I wish you would try to enjoy this process with me instead of always thinking about cost.”
She was right. And since then I’ve come to realize a few things.
1. My wife is going through a lot of shit right now
It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that she is literally growing a human being inside of her, and it isn’t always as magical as it sounds. Her back hurts, her feet are swollen, she can’t sleep well, and there’s a miniature person in her abdomen who’s treating her kidneys like a speedbag. Not to mention the hormones, the weight gain, and the unsolicited advice from everyone–it’s a lot to deal with.
And the thing is, I can’t identify at all. No matter what I do–I’ll never truly understand what she’s going through.
Shopping for baby stuff and decorating the nursery–that’s what she can control right now. That’s what brings her joy in what would otherwise be characterized as a miserable experience. It’s okay for me to give a little and not interrupt her excitement with my own fears and insecurities about money.
2. It’s a sign that she cares
She’s not obsessing over baby stuff because she doesn’t have anything better to do. My wife truly, truly just wants what’s best for our baby, and what’s best for us as parents.
So maybe she gets a little too emotionally invested in the design nuances of bassinets. That’s okay. She’s never done this before and is just trying to do a good job. To me, it’s a sign that she’s going to be a great mother.
I’ve also learned that if I just take a second to understand what she’s learning about, it ends up making a lot of sense and I end up hopping on board.
Did I mention I haven’t done this before either?
3. Be calm in disagreements
There are some things that I’ve pushed back on. Take for example, the magnetic footie. This is just a normal footie except it fastens up with magnets as opposed to zippers or buttons. I’m sure it’s easier. I’m sure it’s better. But at $36 a pop…I just didn’t think this was a smart purchase. Let alone the six of them she wanted to get. I had to say something.
I could feel my heart rate rising as I prepared to make my case. I felt like one of Stalin’s advisers about to suggest he shave his moustache. But with great courage I forged ahead:
“I’m sure those are the best, I’m just not convinced that the extra little convenience is worth the added cost. I’d rather put that money towards something we know we’ll really benefit from.
She was cool about it. I think the key is just to meet her where she’s at, state your reasoning, and be nice about it.
If I’m being honest, I wish I could say I always took this advice.
The truth is I’ve had my moments of acting like an ass, but I’m learning to get better with at communicating my opinions. Staying calm and respectful is the way I’m trying to approach it. It works much better than belittling her with an…Are you kidding me???
4. Set and stick to a budget
I’m probably a little late to mention this, but my wife is actually very, very reasonable. She’s not the spend-happy money monster I’m probably making her out to be.
She looks for cost-effective options, always asks my opinion on purchases, and checks in before she buys something to make sure I’m on board. We rarely ever get to a point where one person wants something and other just straight-up vetos it–we always end up coming to a place of agreement.
But the key to getting to that place has been creating and sticking to a baby budget. My whole position (and I’ve said this numerous times to her) is that I’m totally fine with buying anything she wants for the baby, so long as we have money saved up for it. No spending on credit.
This is where YNAB (our budgeting software) has been incredibly useful. With YNAB, we’re able to easily create custom saving categories so we can budget and spend for those specific items.
Each time we get paid, we put money into that category. If there’s money in there, we can spend it. If not, we have to wait.
Trust me, blind spending is THE surest way to get into fights with your wife about money. But if you’re both on the same page, and aware of where your money is, the road will be relatively smooth.
Yes, baby shit is expensive. Get over it.
Yes, there will be items you need to buy that you just shake your head at. Get over it.
What’s important is that as dads-to-be, we try to empathize with what our women are going through. And while it sometimes seems a little silly and excessive that they’re searching high and low for that perfect onesie, just remember that that’s only our interpretation. They are having a completely different experience than us.