Fancy Cars and Nice Houses
Last week, I drove through a neighborhood near my house to drop something off at a friend’s house. It is a beautiful neighborhood, with fancy houses, pools in most of the backyards and boats and four-wheelers sitting in every driveway. I would be lying if I said that I wouldn't want to trade my humble, ancient farmhouse for one of those fancy homes or to trade my Dodge minivan (paid off) for a souped-up Suburban.
But we, put simply, cannot afford it. It just isn’t in our financial cards.
Admittedly, some days I feel like I am the only person living in 2012 who still uses window air conditioning units in the summer (someone please tell me that you use them too!)
Worse is that as my children have gotten older they, too, have wondered why we couldn’t live in one of those ritzy subdivisions in a house with walk in closets in every room like their friends do.
I am ashamed to say that they have actually expressed embarrassment about inviting a friend over that they felt was ‘richer' than them. "Oh, she lives in a huge and fancy house – she cannot come here!"
As a parent that makes me feel bad.
But I also noticed as I was driving through that coveted subdivision, that nearly every other house there was up for foreclosure. And it got me thinking.
Do you think that some parents today are providing so many amenities for their children in an effort to keep up with the Joneses when they really cannot afford it?
Decades ago, families bought ‘starter homes' and ‘fixer uppers.' My mother in law didn't build her dream house until her boys were up and grown, and got by in a humble house in a middle class neighborhood. I grew up the same way. We definitely were not rich, but we weren't poor either. We had EVERYTHING we needed to be happy. This is exactly how my husband and I are raising our children.
I also wonder if over-extending financial balance and giving kids so much at such a young age sets them up to expect too much from their lives. Won't they eventually feel like they have to live in a home they cannot afford just to be a good parent?
Still, it’s only natural to feel like a ‘have not' in a world of ‘haves’ when you are not the one living in mini-castle.
And when your kids become older, they notice these differences and will wonder why. It won't matter to them that you have stayed home and made sacrifices so you could invest time rather than money into your children. It will not matter to them that you are doing what YOU feel is best as a parent. And your children can make you wonder if you are in fact, doing the right thing.
I have taught my kids that people's homes and cars are not a measure of success. My children also know that while our house may be a 1900 farmhouse, that it is a HOME – and that it is plenty nice enough for any friend worth having. If someone were to judge me by my car or my house – they aren’t people I would want as friends anyways. I hope that one day my kids will see the sacrifices my husband and I have made to do what WE FEEL IS BEST FOR THEM.
And I have also tried to teach my kids that things in the world today are not always exactly as they appear. For me – the metaphorical Joneses mean nothing!
How do you feel? Does your home and car make a statement of worth about what kind of parent you are? Or do you think that people who feel that way are just shallow?