I have mentioned before in this blog that the minute one becomes a parent, one is targeted immediately by all sort of companies trying to sell The Stuff, by which I mean vast amounts of overpriced baby stuff which is 90% unecessary. I'll refrain from re-listing it in this post but just type 'Baby Stuff' into a search engine and you'll see what I mean. Or, if you are experienced in the wonderful world of catalogue shopping, turn to the baby pages. Or check out eBay where parents try to recoup some of the cash out of which they have been fleeced and at the same time try to buy more Stuff without having to coax their credit cards out from under the bed with handfuls of 0% interest offers.
It has become clear to me that parents are not only targeted blindly by shops and websites and banks and mail-outs, we are also targeted visually. This week, I was twice targeted by charity workers hoping to sign me up for a regular direct-debit to their charity with lines such as 'you look like a caring Mummy' and the more direct 'you care for children don't you?'.
Now, normally I am a bit of a sucker for these charity direct debits and I've treated them a bit like little magic spells. If I'm in need or if I've got something to be thankful for and I'm approached by a charity, I'll sign up as a sort of thank you/luck bringing request to the universe. So, I have 6 fairly random charity direct debits going out of my account each month. Now, I'm not saying I'm Mother Theresa here, they're fairly small amounts however I do want to point up that I'm not normally so Scroogy. But this week, something in me rebelled at being targeted simply because I am pushing a baby in a stroller. And (breaking all the rules my English teacher ever set) I was targeted so quickly and smoothly and with such similar lines that I believe that somewhere there's a charity sellers handbook that says 'target Mothers pushing babies'. And, finally, I am sick of being a target.
Being a parent is the most amazing thing. It rips the surface off the world to reveal a whole new and amazing world below it; however while it's extremely personal, it's also extremely public. You can't keep your parenting stuff in a shed at the bottom of the garden or only parent in the cellar or at an after-hours parenting club in some dingy hall. No, if you're a parent, unless you're a particularly nasty and psychotic one, you have to do it full time and often in full view of the world. As soon as you leave the house with your child, anyone can see you're a parent, they can see how old your child is and they can successfully intuit maybe 50% of your life. They can guess how you're feeling, what you're buying, what you're going to need in the next few weeks, where you might be going and what you might want to read and then from there, work out how to sell you Stuff.
Now THAT's something they don't point out in parenting books. Perhaps because so many of them fit neatly into the Stuff category themselves.
The worst part is that it's easy to be suckered into buying Stuff because of the inference that one may be a bad parent if one doesn't buy it. The benchmark for me is normally to ask myself 'Did this exist when I was a baby? Have I turned out ok without it?' and much of The Stuff is revealed for the flim-flam that it is.
Being cornered by a charity worker with the assumption that as a mother I should care enough to donate money just seemed to blatantly capitalise on this inferred guilt and considering the gamut of obstacles that exist for the average parent out with a stroller (curbs and people and buses and other strollers and stairs and narrow aisles and crowded pavements) I just don't think it's fair to be targeted by all and sundry even if they do have the best of motives.
The fact that I am now wracked with guilt for giving them the brush off (even if ever so nicely) sums up the very reasons they cornered me in the first place and makes me feel manipulated, however not in a nice 'I've just had a massage and oooh, look at my toenails' way but in a guilty, wretched sort of way and now I can't decide whether or not to cave in to the next charity worker who targets me or to turn into a screaming harpy while my baby cowers in his buggy.
Lucky dip I guess!
I think the main thing, if one is to be a target, is to move as quickly as possible. Buggy allowing.