The Stuff of Which Pre-Baby Fantasies Are Made
One of the hottest new trends in the world of pregnancy and babies is the baby planner: a consultant/concierge who, for $75 to $150 per hour, will ensure that baby has all the right stuff (green, silver spoon, or both); the perfect nursery (hip, healthy, and unique); the ideal baby shower (one that generates the right stuff for the perfect nursery and encourages friends and family members to purchase the services of the baby planner to boot).
Baby planners are selling something bigger than the specific services listed on their baby menus, of course. They're selling the stuff of which pre-baby fantasies are made: visions of after-baby bliss. Baby planners promise to ease the transition to parenthood by providing parents-to-be with the knowledge, the tools, and the gear needed to feel confident and in control every step of the way. There's no need to worry. Someone else is at the controls. You can just relax and enjoy the ride.
If only it were possible to download the worry -- and to predict every parenting curve ball ahead of time. Unfortunately, that's not the nature of the adventure you've signed on for. The thing you need to know about parenting is that nothing is perfect or predictable – and hiring a baby planner isn't about to change that reality. If anything, you might end up with a false sense of security about your readiness for baby and a heightened sense of unreality after baby arrives (the result of downloading all the baby preparation functions to someone else). After all, when you're picking out baby clothes or choosing a color of paint for your baby's nursery, there's something fundamentally important going on deep inside your brain. As you handle that sleeper and pour through those paint chips, you get a chance to prepare psychologically for baby's impending arrival. Outsource too many of those nesting-type functions to a baby planner and you may find the jump from the abstract concept of being pregnant to the physical reality of having a baby in your arms sudden and jarring. Besides, the musing and the dreaming and the thinking and the planning are the stuff of which pregnancy and baby memories are made. You don't want to miss out on the magic. Really.
Here's something else to think about as you mull over the pros and cons of hiring a baby planner. Nice-to-haves can rapidly morph into must-haves and frills can disguise themselves as necessities once you appoint a designated shopper. After all, she has to justify her reason for being. Case in point: "Making sure that all your notes and announcements are unique to you and your family is a top priority," says Time to Nest, a Maryland-based baby planning company. And another: " She deserves the very best, so give her what she wants, diamonds, birthstones, and platinum, oh my!" adds Ohio-based Blue Skye Baby.
Likewise, experiences like the baby shower that were once the exclusive domain of family and friends become part of the post-modern baby marketing machine: "Showers are a wonderful time for the expecting family to be surrounded by loving friends and family. Time to Nest can offer gift ideas and services that are sure to mean so much. Providing the soon-to-be-parents with our Make Your Mark service is also a wonderful gesture that can be included in the party planning."
If your budget can swing upwards of $75/hour for a shot at the fleeting fantasy of post-baby perfection --- a fantasy that will hold up for as long as it takes you to realize that a professionally accessorized nursery doesn't necessarily guarantee postpartum bliss – and what's being offered seems like good value to you, then go for it. Just realize that there are other less pricey and more time-honored ways of achieving the same goal (sans the coordinating accessories). The not-so-secret recipe is to tap into the parenting community in your area, to do your own research about the hot-button parenting issues of the day, and to trust your own instincts as a parent (something that becomes easier as you clock more time as a new mom or dad). And spend the money you would have paid the baby planner on things your baby really needs and invest in a dream with staying power: start trying to make things better for all the babies of the world.
Postscript: Thinking of Hiring a Baby Planner? Be Baby Planner Wise:
- If a baby planner refers to a select list of service providers, find out whether these individuals are screened by the baby planner (e.g., reference and police checks) and whether any referral or kick-back fees move back and forth between the baby planner and the service provider.
- If you're interested in taking a parenting course offered by a baby planner (typical topics include infant and child safety, baby proofing, the do's and don'ts of installing a car seat, making your own baby food) ask about the instructor's credentials and compare the cost of the course with similar offerings in your community. You might be able to find a similar course being offered free of charge (or on a cost-recovery basis) through community or non-profit organizations.