21st Century Parenting: New, Better, More

Both friends expressed the same lament: “There’s just so much stuff.” Friend X was seven months pregnant with her first child. Friend Y, visiting from New York City, introduced me to her four-month-old son. X lives in a three-bedroom house but worried that she didn’t have sufficient space for the massive amount of baby equipment needed to raise an infant. She stated that she has a beautiful antique changing table but might not be able to use it because it doesn’t accommodate the electrical cord for a “wipey warmer.”

The what?” I inquired. I’d never heard of a wipey warmer. Friend X explained, in great detail, that infants lose up to one degree of body heat during diaper changing. This loss of heat was presented as dire for babies, but it could be successfully avoided by warming the baby wipes used to clean their tiny bottoms.

To be fair, I don’t have children and cannot draw from personal experience. I might not fully appreciate the demands of parenthood. My friends began to have children in the 1990s when I lived in Boston. Each winter the temperature dipped below zero, and news warnings were issued to avoid being outdoors for more than ten minutes—otherwise citizens risked frostbite. None of my friends in New England used wipey warmers. Nevertheless, their offspring appeared to thrive. I couldn’t understand why a lovely antique changing table might be jettisoned to protect a baby from the cold in southern California. But Friend X insisted—baby required a wipey warmer to safeguard her health.

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Friend Y represented a more laid-back version of motherhood. She lives in a small apartment and reported that loved ones overwhelmed her with baby equipment, half of which she and her spouse gave away. She announced without apology, “We’re minimalists.” I shared my incredulity about the wipey warmer with Y, and she agreed that it might not be necessary.

Modern American society is designed for people to constantly need newer, better, stuff. And more of it. I have a great Mac computer, which I purchased in 2008. Usually I don’t care about electronics, but I love this computer. However, when I call Apple Support for technical assistance, the support staff must pass me on to a supervisor, because my Mac is now considered “vintage” and is beyond the ability of the front-line staff to assist. This expensive component of my home office was designed to be obsolete in roughly five years. Similarly, I kept my Android phone for four years until it was unable to support the apps I needed. My new iPhone, which retails at over eight hundred dollars, will be outdated within three years.

Amazon offers over a dozen varieties of “wipe warmers,” currently ranging in price from $19.76 to  $35.89. The warmers have baby friendly names, like Munchkin Warm Glow Wipe Warmer and Lil’ Jumbl Wipe Warmer Dispenser. My office mate, with whom I discussed the products, commented that “Lil’ Jumbl” sounded like a rapper name. Product descriptions of the warmers state they decrease the discomfort of cold (non-warmed) wipes, resulting in happier, less fussy babies. Safeguards against the dangers of exposure were not mentioned.

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I kept a television I purchased in 1987 until it no longer functioned in 2014. I don’t need newer, bigger equipment in my life. With few exceptions, most notably shoes, I constantly downsize. The less stuff the better. So I’m completely flabbergasted that in the course of one generation, the wipey warmer has now become an essential piece of baby equipment. It’s possible that my instincts are misguided, and wipey warmers are a modern breakthrough, saving twenty-first-century infants from the discomfort and hazards of temperature instability.

If wipey warmers had been available when I considered having children, I’m certain I wouldn’t have listed one on my baby registry. Instead my infant would have lived without the soothing effects of an electrically warmed baby wipe. I don’t want new or better. I crave simplicity. I hope Friend X keeps her antique changing table. It would be a shame to park it in the garage because of incompatibility with a wipey warmer.

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