Monday, 20 August 2012

Play it forward

I love this little club of sharing and passing-it-on and paying-it-forward that we suddenly gain automatic membership to as soon as we become parents. Nobody tells you about it before you have kids, but as soon you announce your first pregnancy it's like this whole community opens their arms to you - "Oh! Perfect timing! Don't buy baby gates, we just took ours down and can't wait to get them out of the house." "Let me know if you're having a girl, I've got three boxes of girls' clothes with your name on it." "Do you have a baby gym? Our little guy's outgrown his and it's taking up half the basement."

Now, unfortunately I missed out on that with my first two - I was pretty young when I had my first son, a good four or five years before any of my friends and family, so there really weren't any hand-me-downs for him, and when his brother was born only a year and a half later we were already pretty well stocked baby-wise. But by the time Baby was born last year, I had given away a lot of my stuff during one of our many, many moves.

Clothes we kept - clothes don't take up a lot of room. And I was one of those moms who WAY over-bought for the first baby, so at this point (three boys in) I could probably clothe a full classroom of pre-schoolers comfortably for a month without ever having to do laundry. Smaller items, or ones I didn't want to replace - the rocker, the playcentre, the Bumbo, the Snugli - we held onto those. But we got rid of most of the bigger stuff - crib, change table, swing, strollers, safety gates, bathtub, all the larger items. Those sorts of things take up a lot of room. And though Baby was always in the plans eventually, well, eventually is a long time away when you're packing up a moving truck and trying to save space. One of my best girlfriends had her baby shower literally days before one of our big moves, and she hit the jackpot, baby-equipment-wise. I was fully prepared to buy all new everything for Baby.

But I can't believe how generous everyone was. The crib we bought new, and the furniture for his room - I've always loved the Seuss-iness of the Ikea Mammut kids' furniture, so that was always in the plans. But the stroller came from one of my husband's colleagues. The safety gates and exerciser from my brother. The bathtub, booster seat and swing from various girlfriends.

And this is how it works.

Aside from the massive baby-shower-slash-moving-my-God-this-couldn't-be-better-timing hand-off a couple of years ago, I've hand-me-downed zillions of items over the years. Bags and bags of clothes to my brother and sister-in-law. Toys for the cousins (especially those big ones that take up half the bloody playroom), the bassinette and baby clothes and a couple of baby seats to a church drive. Every year we do a purge of the playroom and give everything the kids haven't played with in a while away.

And so does everyone else I know who has kids.

It's not just baby stuff, although because baby stuff is only useful for such a short period of time there seems to be a lot of it floating around - it's toys as children outgrow them, books and DVD's they're no longer interested in, bikes and sleds because they're ready for the next size up. People are willing - eager - to hand off their things to someone else who can use them.

It's as though once we're a part of this community of parents we're all in it together - so why not pool some of the expense and share the cost of raising all these children? Membership to the club is free, just make sure you pass that toy on to someone else who can use it when you're done with it.


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Living on less - how to prioritize
Money well wasted: what not to buy for baby