No, there’s no typo in the title of this post. It is supposed to say “Janeses,” not “Joneses” per the more popular and better known phrase. We’re talking keeping up with the Janeses, because this post is all about girl envy.
“Jane’s house is really nice. She has such a beautiful bedroom and so many toys.”
“Jane has really cool new running shoes that are really expensive.”
“Jane wears really nice new clothes all the time.”
What do you do when your child has friend-envy and you can’t keep up? Here’s the scoop: my eight-year-old daughter has become increasingly aware of people, places and most of all, things. I guess it’s part and parcel of growing up and I should be thankful that my child is so observant. Of course, with any situation, there are always two sides to the story, and the flip side to this reality is that the “things” that she’s aware of are not always as easily acquired by moms like me.
The reality is that our family lives a middle-of-the-road lifestyle where discretionary income is just that: discretionary. If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you’ll know that I’m all about being frugal, saving money and getting the most bang for my buck as I can. They say that necessity is the mother of invention and believe me, saving money is a necessity in our household because there’s not a lot of it flying around.
That being said, I continue to stand by my love of bargains, saving money on purchases and general frugality. I’ve always been a bargain-hunter and, truth be told, even if I came upon a whole lot of money for some inconceivable reason, I’d still be looking for the best deal. The reason for this long preamble is to paint the picture about how money is spent around our home. If it’s not clear, I don’t believe in spending a lot of cash on what I see are unnecessary purchases. Sure – my kids get new toys and clothes and items that they like, but I’m loathe to spend hundreds of dollars on one pair of shoes for my eight-year-old that she will inevitably outgrow within a few months. This inherent value system is causing me great difficulties as my daughter strives to “keep up with the Janeses.” “Jane,” you see, has designer running shoes that cost three times what I spent on my daughter’s running shoes. She also dresses really well and I believe everything she wears is new. She looks great. She also has a beautiful home, three times larger than mine. Suddenly, I feel guilty and inadequate as a parent.Image of Marc Jacobs, Armani Juniors and children’s Dior dresses courtesy of www.NeimanMarcus.com
I know, it’s crazy, and my more logical side tells me to not worry about what others have and stick to my frugal guns. Even so, the twinge of sadness that I can’t provide the same goods for my girl is there, as irrational as it may be. I explain to my daughter that it’s lovely that her friend has so many wonderful items. I remind my daughter that she, too has many things, so many more than the average child outside the industrialized world (yes, I’m playing that argument now). In spite of these discussions and the truth behind these facts, I still feel guilty.
Is it because as a parent, I want to provide my child with everything they desire, and never have them feel like they are a “have-not?”
Is it because I can’t provide as “well” as these other parents, at least to the tune of designer clothes and shoes that, although impractical, do really look snazzy and cool?
Is it because my worth, my measure as a mom is being weighed in “stuff” – material goods – despite my better judgement? This mom should know better and she does, but it still doesn’t assuage the feelings of inadequacy about her ability to be the best parent she can be. Apparently succeeding at this title means buying your kid the newest, most expensive and best of everything, according to some parents. By their standards, therefore, I’ve effectively failed.
This situation exemplifies how we as parents (and moms in particular) put so many stresses and pressures upon ourselves to be perfect. To give our kids everything they want and to keep a perfect home. Even though we know better, that reality still remains in our heads and is brought to the forefront in situations like the one with my daughter. As a result, the scenario discussed here has forced me to reevaluate my family values, at least when it comes to purchasing.
The lesson here is that reevaluation isn’t wholly a bad thing. Stepping back and sorting out what your value structure is, what things are important to you and how you want to teach your children is always a good lesson. After taking a long hard look, this is what I’ve figured out: I’m frugal (some would say cheap) at the best of times and that’s not going to change any time soon. I enjoy getting a deal and appreciate a good bargain when they come around. Also, this family budget has a cap on it and the “latest and greatest” is not on the radarwhen shopping for my thousands of kids. Because of this, I’ll continue to pass on my thrifty values in the face of a child who wants to “keep up with Jane.” A difficult task, indeed, but I’ll keep trying.