‘I requested only second-hand gifts and hand-me-downs for my baby shower. I was shocked to learn only ONE guest showed up with a preloved gift.’: Mom shares important lesson on sustainably this holiday season

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“When I found out I was pregnant with my now 13-month-old son, Percy, I knew it would be a struggle financially. My fiancé and I are young parents and neither of us have established careers. Throughout my pregnancy, shopping second hand became a part of my lifestyle. From maternity clothes to cloth diapers and baby toys. Most of my son’s belongings are preloved, either hand-me-downs or purchased on resell sites like Facebook marketplace and Kijiji. When it came time for a baby shower, I requested second-hand gifts or hand-me-downs and was taken shocked and taken aback when only one guest out of dozens showed up with a preloved gift. (Mind you, this was before the pandemic.) It was then that I realized second-hand gifting is not considered acceptable. As though gifting something that’s not encased in plastic packaging or made by an underpaid worker overseas is somehow less than.

Courtesy of Jenna Lee
Courtesy of Jenna Lee

Christmas this year is particularly hard, not just for my family, but for families globally. Many parents have lost their jobs or are suffering from reduced income. My fiancé was out of work for 4 months this year, and I was already on a very meager maternity leave salary. The holiday season puts pressure on families like ours to spend money they don’t have. Like many moms out there, I feel an internal and external pressure to provide my son with the best of the best, especially during the holidays. I love him in a way that makes me want to give him everything I possibly can and more. 

This is where the spirit of the holiday season often gets a bit muddled. In an effort to show our children how much they are loved, we get sucked into this purchasing frenzy. We strive to put the perfect presents under the Christmas tree: the latest gadgets and the hottest toys. We’re bombarded by ads that tell us to BUY MORE! And by the time next Christmas rolls around, half of that stuff has already been put to the curb. The average American shopper racks up over $1,000 in debt during the holiday season. It’s ironic how some of these Christmas traditions push families apart as opposed to bringing them together.

The thing is, Christmas isn’t about money spent, Santa, or how many gifts you can shove under a tree. It’s about time spent together as a family, memories made, and giving back to those who need it most. Christmas shouldn’t be putting families in debt or creating thousands of pounds of dinky plastic toys that are destined for the trash. We have the power to slow down our consumption this Christmas. We can choose to buy fewer things and give more love.

It was this revelation that pushed me to rethink Christmas this year and change the way my family gifts. So far, my fiancé and I have brewed batches of mead and cider to give to friends, and my son and I have made and decorated salt dough ornaments together to give to family members. I’ve also purchased all of my son’s gifts second hand or from small local businesses who are in need of support during these uncertain times. There won’t be a lot under our tree this Christmas, and that’s okay. We’ve got more than enough love to fill the gaps.

Courtesy of Jenna Lee

This holiday season, I challenge you to consider alternate modes of gifting. Look for items second hand instead of high tailing to Walmart. Support a local small business instead of clicking ‘add to cart’ on Amazon. Write a heartfelt letter, make a holiday craft with your kids, plan a memorable outing. There are so many ways to show how much you care without spending a cent.

And, if that second-hand shopping leaves you with extra money in your budget, put a present under someone else’s tree who needs it more than you.”

Courtesy of Jenna Lee
Courtesy of Jenna Lee

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jenna Lee of Kitchener, Ontario. You can follow her on Instagram and her website. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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