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money or your TIME really are THE BEST PRESENTs YOU can give

I recently went to a baby shower. It was my first-ever baby shower. I never had one myself when I was expecting Gary, not feeling entirely comfortable with the idea of inviting friends over to give me baby gifts, which is essentially what a baby shower is all about.

I suppose having a baby is so expensive that if you can get people to chip in, it's a bonus. The only problem is that guests at a baby shower aren't going to provide stuff like baby changers, cots and prams which are pretty pricey when you go to buy them. Instead, they come along with baby clothes that your baby will probably wear only once if at all. Or cuddly toys. Yes, cuddly toys are cute, but they also take up a lot of room in a nursery.

I wonder if you could email people a baby shower list in advance, like some people do with wedding lists? Maybe you could get people to bring along bottle sterilisers and potties? 
Definitely more useful than cuddly toys. But maybe making those types of financial demands from friends would be too crass? I don't know. I remember going to a wedding a few years ago and asking the bride what she'd like as a gift.

"Money," she replied without blinking.

When she had her first child, I was thinking of getting a cute toy bunny as a present. But then I thought the mummy would prefer money. Money or bunny?

I put €30 in a card. That would pay for three hours of babysitting. It's what all new parents would really like as a baby gift if you ask me.

I remember when Gary was born, people said to me: "If ever you need a hand, I'm here." But they weren't. I don't blame them. People have busy lives. It's your job to look after your child and 
nobody else's. But please don't offer if you don't mean it. Just buy a furry bunny instead.

childcare

Honestly, when I look back over the last few years, the pram and the pushchair and all those other costs seem quite low compared with the huge amounts of money I shelled out for childcare. I know many women who had to give up work as it just wasn't worth it economically. It's such a shame that more corporations don't include on-site subsidised creches. It would make a massive difference to employees.

I recently asked a couple of mums at a play date if they'd consider having more children. The 
common answer was that they just couldn't afford any more, and I totally agree. If you work, you 
really need a live-in au-pair or a full-time nanny. So you need an extra bedroom. You even need a spare car if you're not near the local school. Very few can afford such luxuries.

It's hard to believe that it's August already. It seems like it was just yesterday when the summer was stretching out ahead of us. Now it's the dreaded back-to-school time in the shops. Uniforms, shoes and school books all have to be bought.

No more money for a while, so. I recall a time when I spent all my earnings in hairdressers and on holidays. Alas, a distant memory.

> marisa mackle


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