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Buying Your Way Into Perfect Parenting

We all know babies are vulnerable creatures. They can’t feed themselves, hold up their heads or communicate exactly what is wrong when they are upset. You know who else is pretty vulnerable? New parents.

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I know because I was there not long ago. And when I brought my baby home from the hospital and all those nice nurses and doctors didn’t come with us, I was terrified out of my mind. I wanted to do every part of parenting right—I wanted my baby to eat and sleep and grow up to be something more than a rodeo clown or a petty thief. The only thing that gave me any sense of control was buying stuff. If there was a product guaranteed to help with any area of parenting, I bought it.

And guess what? I felt like the master of the universe as I made those purchases—I brimmed with optimism at the cash register or as I clicked “buy” on Amazon because I was deluded enough to believe that my new gadget/book/toy would ease my struggles. That feeling of triumph lasted exactly as long as it took to actually start using the purchase and discovering that I’d been snookered. American corporations were exploiting my desperation and costing me lots of money.

Take that blue bulb thing that has a long tube on the end. Proper name: Nasal aspirator. What we called it: That booger-getting thingy that doesn’t work. I was told it would clear my daughter’s nasal passages so that she would sleep better. I bought two—one for each nostril. But I couldn’t get either one of them to work. Every time I compressed the bulb, it flew out of her nose. Then I tried compressing the bulb before I put it in her nose and nothing happened. Maybe other parents knew how to use those things, but I tried for two years without a single success to make that thing do something more than create a breeze on my kid’s face.

To this day, I have no idea if any of it worked.

Don’t get me started on the sleep aids. We tried a white noise machine, but all it did was prevent my husband and me from hearing what the other one was saying when we were in the baby’s room. “What did you say, honey? I can’t hear you over the noise machine,” I’d say. My husband would answer, “What? That thing is too loud. I can’t hear you.” All that conversation inevitably woke up the sleeping baby, which was so ... not the point.

When my kids got older, we got sick of them coming to wake us up at 4:30 a.m. Everyone suggested we get that special clock you can set to change colors when your child is allowed to get out of bed. When the clock is green, your child can get up; if it’s still yellow, she has to stay in bed. The only thing it did for us was give my kids something new to say when they came into our bedroom before the sun was up. “Mama, the clock is still yellow. Can I have some milk?” I now tell new parents that the only way to make that special clock work is to hit yourself over the head with it until you are unconscious.

Next to bogus sleep aids, I spent a lot of money on breast-feeding stuff. When my supply dipped, I popped so many fenugreek pills that I started to smell like an apothecary stall. I bought special teas, ointments and warm compresses in my elusive search for more breast milk. To this day, I have no idea if any of it worked.

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In the end, my kids figured out sleeping (mostly), and no one died from having a stuffy nose. I hope I am over my compulsion to purchase peace of mind, because it could get pricy to click “buy” every time I hit a parenting wall.

After all, I’m very vulnerable.

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