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Buying Baby Gear Is the First Rite of Passage for New Dads

A simple stroll through Target reveals everything you need to know about what managing your finances is going to look like going forward.

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Discovering that you will be a dad is a life-altering moment. Yet, you won’t fully appreciate your newly anointed status as a father-to-be until your partner announces it’s time to buy the prerequisites. Well, look at them. That’s the first trip. And what a long, strange trip it is.

“Honey, let’s go look at baby stuff.”

There are countless infant shopping options.

“Let’s do Target . We also need wine.”

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During the drive, you debate the first purchase. Stroller? Crib? Car seat? 

“Let’s look at cribs and see if they have an Amish, 19th-century oak one.” 

They won’t, but you’re in this thing together. You hold hands entering Target. It’s like your first date except there will be no sex. 

This story was submitted by a Fatherly reader. Opinions expressed in the story do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Fatherly as a publication. The fact that we’re printing the story does, however, reflect a belief that it is an interesting and worthwhile read.

As you approach the infant department, you feel anxious. The area is massive, with separate sections for cribs, car seats, and all kinds of unfamiliar stuff. You have a Dorothy-like realization, “We’re not in Home Depot anymore.”

You assumed, wrongly, that a newborn only needs a flat, enclosed sleeping surface. There are dozens and dozens of infant bedding permutations.

Crib, standard crib, convertible crib, crib with changer, and 4-in-1 convertible crib. Pine, oak, walnut, bamboo, and composite. White, pearl white, white lace, white ambiance, rustic white, grey, espresso, and more whites. The product names are so peaceful, like “Dream on Me,” “Sleepi,” and “Dreams.”  

“Honey, this is so exciting!”

It’s not. But you must play along. As she’s uploading crib photographs to Instagram, you peek at a price tag. You reflexively whine, “OMG, this crib is $799!”

Reality is a bitch. 

The reality slap stimulates an adrenaline-driven pricing check of other infant stuff.

    Stroller: $200-$500

    • Really cool stroller: $1000

    Car seat: $100-$500

    Changing table: $100-$300

    Baby swing: $75

    • Glider Chair: $150 and up

As a better-informed father-to-be, you realize your job is to downsize infant shopping expectations and costs. Instead of an Amish oak crib, you pitch a more reasonably priced $299 composite wood knockoff. Sadly, your celebration of salesperson-of-the-year is quickly extinguished. 

“Honey, do you that realize that the $299 doesn’t include the mattress?” 

You turn your cheek so the reality slapping can continue. Infant shopping is like buying a car – accessories not included. For example, a well-outfitted crib requires:

    Crib mattress: $50+

    Crib sheet: $25+

    • Crib liner: $30

    • Crib skirts: $30

    • Crib bumper set: $75

    • Rail covers: $20

    • Mobile: $25

    • Sound machine: $40

    • Crib decorations: Endless

After an hour of crib shopping, you understand why a top-selling line is called “The Million Dollar Baby Classic.” 

You leave Target empty-handed. Yet, wiser. Much wiser. You learned the most critical precept of fatherhood. Parenting is a negative cash flow of epic proportions.

“We forgot the wine.”

Reality is a bitch.

Mark Shatz is a single-dad, psychologist, and author of Comedy Writing Secrets (3rd ed). His favorite pastime is watching his teenage son outsmart “proven” parenting techniques