Via imear O’Hagan
This time last year I stood in Toys R Us watching in horror as a friend loaded up a cart with Christmas gifts for her son. Toy after toy was piled in until she could barely push the cart to the cashier to pay her eye-wateringly huge bill.
"Aren’t you buying anything for Ruadhán?" she asked me, a look of confusion on her face as I left the store empty handed while she struggled with several bulging bags. "No, nothing," I replied proudly. "Not a single thing." Both of our sons were seven months old last Christmas, but while hers woke up to a mountain of gifts on Christmas morning, mine woke up to cuddles and an episode of Mr. Tumble on CBeebies.
You might think I’m a stingy mom and a bit of a Grinch, but I happen to think I’m a pretty sensible one. Ruadhán didn't have a clue it was Christmas Day and was more interested in practicing his crawling than unwrapping pricey presents. I knew it was probably the only year of his life he’d have no awareness or expectations about what this time of year means, and I was determined to take advantage of that.
When I got back to work after a six-month maternity leave, I wasn’t exactly full of cash. I thought it was completely ridiculous to dish out on presents for such a young baby who already had a nursery overflowing with toys and books that were bought when he was born in May 2015.
My friend later confessed it took her several months to pay off her festive credit card bill, with most of it spent on her son. She admitted she’d definitely gone over the top and felt pressured to spoil him on his first Christmas. She said most of the toys were ignored because son preferred to play in the empty boxes they came in.
I’m glad I felt no such pressure, because getting into debt to buy things for a tiny person who can’t even sit up yet is crazy, if you ask me. My husband Malcolm, 35, was in complete agreement with me. Babies want attention, cuddles, and to be played with. They don’t care what’s been spent on them or if they have the very latest must-have gadget. I knew that the years of watching a child pore over the Argos catalog and write lengthy letters to Santa still lay ahead, so why not save money when I had the chance?
Despite me actively discouraging family and friends from spending their hard-earned cash on Ruadhán, he was still spoiled with gifts, so he definitely didn’t miss out despite my refusal to open my wallet. His adoring Nana even bought him a rocking horse, which then had to be transported from her home in Northern Ireland to ours in Scotland. Over the top for a baby? Yes. Especially when he was too little to even sit on the horse unaided. But who am I to stand in the way of a grandmother wanting to indulge her only grandchild!
With the money I saved, I treated myself to a new pair of stylish winter boots — a gift to myself for managing to survive the first seven months of motherhood! A year later, and I’ve relaxed my no present rule slightly now that Ruadhán is older and more aware of Christmas.
There will be a small pile of gifts under the tree for him this year, but we set a strict spending cap of $99 because anything more just seemed unnecessary. A baby’s first Christmas is such a special time, but it doesn’t need to be an expensive time for mom and dad.
This post was written by Eimear O’Hagan. For more, check out our sister site Closer.