There - we said it. The great big secret that will doom the future of all big box retailers, unfair labor practices, and environmentally-harmful manufacturing. Mass-produced, disposable gifts have a finite shelf-life, not only within the small microcosm of a child’s life, but as a sustainable path for the future. So how can you, as the Gift Giver for your niece, nephew, or friend’s baby, forge a new path towards meaningful, thoughtful gifting?
My train of thought was sparked by a story on NPR this morning, showcasing the plight of one middle class family struggling with the financial burden of child care for their two young children:
"We are struggling," says Bauer, whose entire take-home pay goes just to cover the costs of day care and preschool — a whopping $2,400 each month.After paying for groceries, gas, utilities and other expenses, Bauer says, calling the family budget stretched is a big understatement."We feel like we're working so hard, but any minute we could lose everything — you know, if we had some major emergency, we don't have savings," she says.
The overwhelming cost of child care, and the suffocating effect on a family’s finances, is a concern I have heard from every parent in my network (no matter what their economic status). As my friend recently confided in me, raising a child truly does “take a village”. And, a lot of money. Some may say - you made a choice to have children, accept the consequences. But such an attitude trivializes parents who are playing by the rules and working hard to provide for their families. They are making a concerted effort and still falling behind.
So what is the solution? I do not pretend to have the answers and having worked in the policy arena for many years, know the delicate balance between finding a working solution amid partisan bickering and rancor.
But the issue of trying to make ends meet and prioritizing expenses does shed light on our overall mission at rattle me that. We are committed to giving beyond the gift - gifts not just as “things” but as a way to enlighten and educate young minds, with the longevity to live beyond one’s childhood years. If you want to mark a special occasion with a tangible gift, make it a gift with meaning. One that won’t live in the toy bin, or end up boxed and forgotten. Gifts with longevity that can be repurposed or reused for generations to come. Or, ones that support a cause greater than the gift itself. Supporting local artisans and time-honored craftsmanship is that much more important in today’s throw-away, disposable age, where gifts are purchased based on the lowest price.
Gift givers, remember, it’s not about how much you spend, but the thought behind it. I can garauntee a parent would prefer an hour of your time to help with chores, or watch the kids, then with a $10 gift from Babies R Us that is made in China. The more we support - and give economic credence - to businesses and brands that profit from unfair working conditions and low wages (let alone environmentally damaging manufacturing processes), we are all damaging ourselves and future generations. We have to look beyond “stuff” and begin to support a grander cause.
Just ask a struggling parent what they need the most. Ask any parent what they want the most - and they will overwhelmingly say “support”. Lend your time, talents, and a friendly ear to help alleviate some of the burdens, but also in sharing the joys. They will thank you for it - and you will also be a better person because of it.