Babywearing Affluenza

When I read the book Affluenza, by Oliver James, I initially felt smug. Our society may have been wallowing in a mire of depression, caused by its addiction to acquiring material wealth and social status, but I was happily immune. We were living a simple, non-materialistic life and the condition definitely didn’t affect me.

Then I started to think about how many baby carriers I owned. I was getting by comfortably with four carriers for two children, while living in India, and yet had several more carriers back home. I would spend more time than I cared to admit online, looking at carriers for sale, most of which I would never buy, reading reviews and daydreaming about which I would buy if money were no object. I had reached a point where I had great carriers that worked well for me, and yet I always felt the need to try more.

Why do we feel the need to acquire so many carriers we don’t really need?

The myth of the perfect carrier

Somewhere out there is a carrier that will make your 15kg toddler feel weightless on your back. We have online access to thousands of reviews and recommendations – “You have to try a….” So we keep buying more, hoping that we will find that babywearing holy grail.

Completing the collection

Just as a fanatical collector of stamps or trading cards searches for that last item they need, we believe that we have to try everything, or at least a representational sample from the baby carrier world. We define ourselves as ‘babywearers’ and feel the need to have the broadest experience in this area possible.

Peer pressure

Online babywearing communities tend to be dominated, to varying extents, by gushing comparisons of people’s latest acquisitions. We have a culture of coveting carriers based on aesthetics and rarity. It’s easy to feel like you’re not part of the babywearing ‘in-crowd’ or not a ‘real babywearer’ if you don’t have regular ‘fluffy mail’ to show off or can’t contribute to discussions about the latest cool carrier.

Status carriers

They’re expensive… but you deserve it, right? This will be your last baby and she deserves to be snuggled in silk/hemp/moonbeams or whatever…

Fear of missing a great deal

You have to try this carrier before the waitlist is two years long or the maker stops doing customs/puts up prices/sells out of that gorgeous fabric. We have to get that great bargain on FSOT in case it never comes up again. This is classic shopaholic behaviour, which many of us can identify with to a lesser extent. FSOT is essentially a list of one-of-a-kind opportunities, so it feeds this compulsion perfectly.

The allure of aesthetics

There are so many beautiful fabrics and styles to choose from, and custom carriers available from many manufacturers. It’s too hard to choose just one…. And anyway, you can never have too many beautiful things, right?

Reluctance to get rid of old carriers

We are sentimentally attached to baby things that have snuggled our children and beautiful objects. We’re afraid to pass on a bargain or hard-to-find carrier in case we regret it.

Acceptable indulgence

As parents (mostly mothers) we have pressure on us to meet cultural expectations of being self-sacrificing. We feel guilty if we spend too much money on ourselves. Buying carriers is an acceptable way of indulging ourselves. It’s for the baby! It’s also a lot easier than buying clothes, and carriers are much more likely to fit.

So what’s the problem? You can afford it, and it’s your hobby, right?

The problem is that it’s often unsatisfying. Just read the messages in any FSOT forum – everyone seems to be worrying about missing a great deal or being tempted by a great deal or a new release; or planning how to explain the latest purchase to their partner. And if you buy new carriers for any of the reasons above, you will never feel that you have enough – it’s a bottomless void to fill.

How much time and energy do you spend thinking about or researching new carriers, how to fund them, where to buy them and which custom fabric to get? Of course, you can always sell the carriers again, but how much more time will you spend taking and uploading photos, tracking and answering email and pm’s and going to the post office?

It’s time you could be spending on so many other things.

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6 Responses to Babywearing Affluenza

  1. Esther says:

    Very true, Sarah and so well written!
    Good on you for putting that into words.

  2. Susie says:

    I agree with you.

    On the other hand, the collectors and enthusiasts provide a great deal of information and enthusiasm, and I’m not sure where the babywearing movement would be without them.

  3. Nat says:

    Alas, Sarah, you have doomed Kate’s Lana to remain in Canberra 😉

  4. Christie says:

    Had to laugh at the “snuggled in…moonbeams” reference 🙂

  5. Vanissa says:

    Thanks Sarah.

    I was thinking last night it was time to move on from FSOT, I’ve spent so much time trying to get my stash just perfect…

  6. Rosie says:

    oh dear…….i am feeling guilty right now…… but wait! i thought we were all trying to move on from motherguilt! just when we think we’ve beaten the urge to buy yet another carrier, thus avoiding the buyer’s guilt… we start to feel guilty for not indulging our feminine selves sometimes! (or masculine – sorry paulus lol)

    well well well. i am still eyeing the rainbow maya. so well said but bleh! the heart has its reasons that reason knows not of (pascal) 😉

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