Hello. This is me, Harriet. That’s my son, Johnny, and the other one’s the Hub.
Why do we look so happy? Well, it’s his second birthday. It’s also twelve days before the start of a brand new year: 2013. And just six days before Christmas. Oh, and unbeknownst to us, one day before this email dropped into my account and turned everything a bit upside down:
So that’s how we came to look at our bank account, our routines, the insides of our fridge, wardrobes and toy box… and realise that we were being taken for a ride that had started on the day we discovered I was pregnant.
That £400 buggy with cappuccino holder that everyone in our NCT class had nervously queued up to shelled our for… Did it make Johnny’s colic any less earsplitting? Had it made us or him any happier? Most of all: did I want him to learn that his happiness depended on this mountain of accumulated crap?
We looked into it and the statistics looked kind of… embarrassing. Average annual cost of a child rises to £8,307! screamed headlines in 2012. A typical baby owns 56 outfits worth £327… 13 million toys in landfill every year… Infant ready meal market growing by 23% year on year…
Grown-ups, give yourself a slap and ask yourself: when did we become so dependent on all this spending and all this crap to raise our kids? And isn’t lots of it, really, getting in the way of the real job: just… you know… interacting with them ourselves?
What does it all teach them, after all? According to UNICEF, British kids are the most unhappy in the western world. Do we want them to learn that maxing out credit cards and keeping up with trends is the meaning of life? Does that sound like a reliable strategy for making them happier?
This blog is the story of my attempt to stick to the new year’s resolution we then made: to try to raise a child for a year without spending ANY money (but having just as much fun).
Will 2013 be the year we said “No” to the Ocado lorries full of tiny smoothies apparently blended with flecks of organic gold and rice cakes at double the price because they are half the size… and all ate the same meals as a family?
The year we told soft play centres where to stick their germ-smeared ball ponds and made our own fun at home with friends?
The year we realised he didn’t ‘need’ yet another tractor, or a scooter, or a toddler iPad. What he needed was the space and help to use and develop his imagination. And to do that, he didn’t require this season’s Baby Gap. He required, basically, to be warm and dry in hand-me-downs to explore the (still, for the moment, free) world around him.
The year, in essence, that we asked ourselves the big question: Can we raise one small child without the help of an army of big corporations? And realised that the answer was…. Um, durrrr.
Some of our mothers did it. Most of their mothers did. Mothers all over the rest of the world are doing it right now.
Yes we can, ladies, yes we can.
(At least I think we can. I hope we can. Can we? Oh god, this is going to be hard work, isn’t it?)