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Reality Check: She Wants My Gear

Q. My best friend is having a baby soon, and she's hinted that she's got dibs on my child's baby gear. She's short on cash, but I'm planning to have a second child and I'd like to hold on to our things. How do I tell her?

A. I know how you feel. I didn't let go of my baby paraphernalia until my second child was 4, and my husband and I were sure we were done having babies. Even then, I still held on to my girls' cradle and the mini-rocking chairs; stuff ceases to be just stuff when it reminds you of your child's babyhood.

Don't apologize or feel guilty for wanting to keep your gear. But for the sake of your friendship, be up front: Explain to her that you need to hold on to your things for when you have another child, and you'd be happy to help her out in any other way that you can.

Since you're the one with the mom contacts, put out some feelers for parents ready to give up their baby things. You could throw your friend a shower or even a hand-me-down baby-gear party. And think about lending her a few items that won't get so much use that they'll be worn out by the time you're ready to let your second child have a go at them. Bouncy seats, indoor infant swings, play yards, and portable cribs are such intermittently used and short-lived items that they can be passed along from baby to baby without showing signs of wear.

Your friend isn't just looking to save money on her baby's gear; she's also looking to you for emotional support as she leaps headfirst into motherhood, a club of which you're already a member. Show her you're there for her in all the ways you can, and the two of you -- and your kids -- will grow together.