I’m 36 weeks pregnant. in less than a week, this Bump will be a full term baby boy inshallah. Which kind of means he could arrive any day. To date, all I’ve bought him is one pair of trousers and a next winter coat but our bathroom is a pretty sight to behold: Nestled in amongst the array of damp towels a water-obsessed-toddler creates and the piles of to-be-washed/ironed/folded-to-put-away laundry which seems to be its’ current decor of choice, a large clothes horse holds almost all of the clothes M wore from birth through three months. Unlike the last time they were all washed together like this, I had help hanging them out – from the baby who wore them all last, just a few precious short months ago.
We didn’t actually buy all that many clothes ourselves for M inundated as we were with clothes from family and friends, there was no need. In fact, still to date, probably 70% of his wardrobe from birth has been purchased by others. Many a day, I open M’s wardrobe to offer him a clothing choice for the day and feel overwhelmed by guilt for the vastness of choice on offer. No baby needs as many clothes as he has – indeed for next winter, despite G and I having not bought him one, M has four winter coats to choose from, excluding the two rain macs and an all-in-one snowsuit! We’re grateful for this, blessed that others love our baby enough to want to seek out beautiful clothes for him to wear (even if sometimes it would be nice to choose more clothes for him ourselves) but the sheer number of clothes M’s amassed leaves us in a wonderful dilemma to be in: What do we but now for Bump?
For many years, I equated shopping with bringing pleasure and would come home laden with bags of clothes, shoes, books and stuff simply because it had been a bargain price so too good to leave. Too many clothes never had their labels removed, too many shoes never saw a pavements dust and far too many books became dust hogs on shelves. Living abroad forced me to change the way I shopped – when your life is as transient as suitcase to rucksack, your moto changes quickly to “less is more” and it’s surprising how tiresome shopping can become once you overcome the compulsion to hit every sale rail! When it comes to my son, it’s harder to reign myself in when I see a toy he would enjoy or a jumper that would look super cute, but I try to because that’s the only way he will learn to follow the principles we’re trying to instil. An occassional indulgence is of course totally okay, but the balance of being “neither miserly, nor so open-handed that you suffer reproach and become destitute.” (Qu’ran: 17:29) is one we must work continuously on keeping day-to-day.
In practise, we don’t need to buy anything for Bump. Alhamduillah, thanks to the generosity of the people in our sons lives, we have everything we could possibly need, from bouncing chairs and play gyms to babygrows and cute little T’s. In theory though, I want to buy stuff for him. I want to bring him home in clothes bought for him, want to flick through photos and see different outfits than the photos of his brother reflect, but I don’t want to buy very much. Babies grow so fast that many outfits M had were worn once because by the time we’d made it back through the selection of his clothes, the same outfit didn’t fit him anymore, and aside from the few with ingrained baby stains, all the clothes are immaculate – giggling, sleeping, crying and feeding don’t seem to make that much mess. And plus, on top of it all, Bump’s arriving during the heat of the summer – when we’re not around Turkish relatives at all, it’s highly likely he’ll spend his first few budding months in nappies and little else.
But seriously, one pair of trousers and a coat that’s far too big? I fear that’s crossing the line from thrifty to stingy perhaps.
Consumerism is a trap the society I grew up in promotes as healthy – in fact, if you don’t conform to it in some way, taking store cards or acquiring credit, ironically you’re deemed unreliable where money is concerned – no matter how much you have stored under the bed. Western society promotes spending to the limit of what you can afford, and maxing to the banks limit for the extras which you can’t quite. Islamic lifestyle promotes the opposite; living under your means and ensuring leftover for charity – to give rather than take is the moto for money. The idea sits alongside one of the underlying ethos’ of not just Islam, but the majority of religions as well – live a simple life, fulfilled not by possessions but by the way in which and with whom we spend our time. When you’ve grown up believing we should aim higher in terms of purchasing aspirations, being shown that possessions equate to a reflection of the money you earn which in turn grants you a status, a complete u-turn from that way of thinking is hard. I recall being in primary school, aged 7/8 and children passing judgement on each other by the brand name (or not) on the crisps in your lunchbox or the name on the carrier bag you’d brought your PE kit in. I would do anything in my power to shade my sons from such societal attitudes manifesting in these children’s actions and words. In Turkey, attitudes like this exist, of course, and the extent to which depends on which level of society you walk within, but state schools seem (though of course not being there yet this is gaged from others experiences) to show less of it. The attitudes are certainly not prevalent amongst the general adult populus as in the UK and it’s rare for conversations to focus around who bought what where for how much and despite the pomp and ceremony of occasions such as wedding often royally outdoing British attempts, everyone is welcomed to share in the occasions – fascinator and heels or not. Yet whilst it may still be ok for me to wear a t-shirt and join you suited and booted for a meal on a yaught, consumerism is creeping slowly into Turkish lifestyles, even if it’s only on a window-shop scale. The number of shopping malls and outlet shopping centres having been built even since I came here is staggering; what’s more so is that they are all always filled to the rafters. Living a simple life lacks no less temptation here anymore than living in the UK or US. And to entice us even more, this month is Istanbul Shopping Festival, with many shops offering up to 60% discounts on this seasons clothes! Last years’ event, the first of its kind, began just a few days after M was born; this years will end just before his brother’s due to arrive. That’s either a sign or a test – I’m hoping (hubby’s hoping!) that I pass without black marks.