Childrearing

I’m Angsty Around The Rich Moms In My New City

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cheerful-rich-ladiesWhen we decided to move, I was worried about my daughter adjusting to the change, pretty certain it was ruining her life. Well, I’m pleased to say that about two weeks after moving into our new place and a day after school started, she’s perfectly fine and doesn’t appear to be on the road to being a serial killer anytime soon. I, on the other hand, have some serious emo new kid stuff going on. In particular, I’m pretty angsty around all of the wealthy families that populate our new little corner of suburbia.

It’s not a secret that you can get a whole lot of house for not a lot of money in Texas, and at the risk of sounding braggy, that’s exactly what we did. Without a doubt, it’s the nicest place I’ve ever lived, and though it’s hard to believe, that includes the crappy apartment we lived in where there was an honest to God rat living in one of the toilets. But even though I feel like some crazed Marie Antoinette drunk on square footage, we’re nowhere near being the most affluent people around. We’re not even close.

The biggest difference I’ve noticed between our old home, in Austin, and our new one, in Dallas, is the sheer amount of rich mofos hanging out. In Austin, said mofos prefer to stick to their hilltop chateaus far from the peasants below as opposed to Dallas, where it seems to be pretty popular to spend half a mil purchasing a mini-palace in a gated subdivision full of lots of other mini-palaces. My daughter’s elementary school is in one of these terrifying places, and she goes to school with the kids that live there, and for some reason this is giving me major anxiety issues.

Every time I run the gauntlet of Beamers and Acuras and Mercedes‘ in my little Honda, I start to cold sweat. When I pop out of the car in my carefully curated Ross  outfit among mothers sporting stuff from Saks, I get a little nauseous. I feel certain I’ll be exposed for the imposter I am; a polyblend in a sea of cashmere.

I don’t begrudge rich people their money, cars, or clothing. Not one of them has sneered at, sniffed at, or belittled me. And yet, I can’t help but feel very distinctly that these are not my people.

Where I come from, there was nothing particularly awesome about being poor, unlike most places, where being poor is totally bitchin’. There was something even less en vogue about being The Poor Kid Who Went To That School For Poor Kids. Everywhere we went, the locals treated us with suspicion or pity. Other schools made up extremely hilarious cheers when we played their athletic teams; making copious use of racial slurs or trying desperately and unfunnily to rhyme the word “orphan”.

I worry my daughter will experience the same stuff, which is patently absurd, seeing as she isn’t me, a few decades ago. She comes from the kind of family I used to gawk at with wonder – the boring, middle class, two parent kind – we don’t live in poverty and her peers aren’t feather-haired acid-washed denim vest wearing bullies from a John Hughes movie, and yet…

I know I’m projecting. I know it’s ridiculous. That doesn’t make shaking this weird insecurity I feel when I’m walking my kid to school off any easier. What I need to do is try and make some friends. I highly doubt that the Buffies and Bunnies of the Dallas Country Clubs are grown up mean girl stereotypes that will shun me for having the audacity to drive a CR-V instead of an MDX. The question is how?

Maybe I should swing by the carpool lane in my bare feet on a cold day and see if they’re interested in buying some matches.

(Image: Syda Productions/Shutterstock)

44 Comments

  1. candyvines

    August 26, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Don’t worry – many of them are probably living above their means! Their in-ground pools are just so they can swim in their debt.

  2. NotTakenNotAvailableWTFDisqus

    August 26, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    I don’t know if this is any consolation, but as the only child of a practicing M.D. in a hoity-toity suburb of a fairly well-off region (even in the days before legal weed!), there were times where even I felt inadequate at my high school. Mostly because there was one kid who drove to school in his very own BMW Z3 convertible, and I was stuck with my mom’s cast-off Jeep Grand Cherokee. Yeah, I know, woe is me, cue the world’s tiniest violin, etc. But the point is, there’s always someone who’s got something you don’t have, and as cliche as it sounds, if you focus on what they have that you don’t instead of what you do have, you’re just going to make yourself miserable, so consider the fact that you’re living in a place where you never have to stop your car in the middle of the highway to kick snow out of the wheel wells and that your daughter will have scads of networking opportunities with potential investors, and you rock that CR-V and those bare feet.

  3. Guest

    August 26, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    You offer your own solution so you should take yourself up on it and talk to some people next time. Either way you win-if they are total snobs use that as motivation for you and your daughter, if they are nice then you gain some friends.

  4. LadyClodia the Modest Rat

    August 26, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    Growing up I was one of the poor kids from a trailer park going to an upper middle class elementary school, and as a kid I knew my friends had more stuff than me, but I don’t think it bothered me too much. Now we’re probably average or above income for our area, and I don’t really feel competitive, but I do suck at making friends. Like really suck; it’s been over 3 years, and my only friend is my next door neighbor, and we’re not very close. I need to work on it.

    • Theresa Edwards

      August 26, 2014 at 7:47 pm

      I always end up swearing when I shouldn’t.

    • Andrea

      August 26, 2014 at 8:49 pm

      I just gave up on that shit. I try very very very hard not to swear in front of other people’s kids (mine are a lost cause), but adults only? Sorry, it’s part of who I am, take or leave it.
      And you’d be surprised, sometimes being the first to drop the f bomb makes you friends faster!

  5. Lilly

    August 26, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    To a certain extent you don’t really know their true financial situation just their outward projection. You don’t know if they have a lot of debt, or if they are stuck in a job they hate but can’t quit because they don’t want to change their status.
    What you do need to watch is if your daughter is picking up on your reactions that it is better to have a beemer over a honda,

    • Theresa Edwards

      August 26, 2014 at 7:46 pm

      That’s a good point. But I’m pretty incognito about it. Trying not to fuck her up too bad, see?

  6. Michael Weldon

    August 26, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    The author asked “how” so here are two quick suggestions: be involved in classroom & school activities and get into the local sports/dance/girlscouts/whatever your daughter is into scene. Once you have something in common (child activites) it should be easy enough to talk with other parents.

  7. Valerie

    August 26, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    I drive a CR V and I love you. So move here. And one Theresa equals about 47 Basic Rich Bitches. Just sayin.

  8. Jessifer

    August 26, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    I know the feeling. My husband and I live in one of the richest neighbourhoods in the country (it’s an urban area, a lot of it is old money, but also some celebrities). But what people might not know is that while the average house there is probably around $4-5 million, there are also small pockets of apartment complexes within that neighbourhood that are affordable for middle-class individuals such as ourselves. We really lucked out when we applied for the lease because I’ve been told they’re extremely hard to get in. And while 3/4 of the people with kids playing at the park are actually au pair workers, I’ve managed to find some parents who are pretty much in the same economic situation as we are. Luckily, I don’t have to worry too much about my child going to school with the neighbourhood kids because I will be sending him to the French public school board, and since there are few of them in the city, their catchment area is much wider.

  9. Sara610

    August 26, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    It might make you feel better to remind yourself that at least half the people living in the McMansions and driving BMWs are probably not actually wealthy, but rather living beyond their means and up to their eyeballs in debt. Seriously, I’ve seen it all too often. It’s certainly not always the case, but the size of someone’s house or the fanciness of their car is definitely not an accurate representation of their actual level of wealth or financial stability.

    Very often, the person who actually has the mortgage paid off early, money set aside for retirement and no credit-card debt is the person living in the modest home with the Honda parked in the driveway. Whenever I start to feel self-conscious (I also live in a very ritzy area) I remind myself of my broke uncle who lives in the two-million-dollar house and drives a Mercedes, but is literally one paycheck or hospital bill away from financial ruin, and somehow it makes me feel a whole lot better about my own situation. 🙂

    • arrow2010

      August 26, 2014 at 4:15 pm

      What about the ones who actually are wealthy?

    • Sara610

      August 26, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      What about them? I’m not denying that they exist–actually, I said specifically that they do. But their existence doesn’t negate the point.

    • arrow2010

      August 26, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      You obviously listen to Dave Ramsey.

    • whiteroses

      August 26, 2014 at 5:50 pm

      My uncle has always lived over and above his means. Drastically so, even. And with every new motorcycle he buys I remember the fact that my parents once nearly loaned him close to sixty grand to pay off his mortgages. (Notice I said nearly: they’re kind, not stupid).

      Once he retires, he’s screwed.

    • Blueathena623

      August 26, 2014 at 9:55 pm

      My mom worked for Edward Jones in a very affluent neighborhood, and she was amazed and flabbergasted by the number of people who wanted to retire in the next 5, 10 years, and hadn’t paid off their houses and had 30k in savings. Not gunna happen. If rather max out my IRA contributions than drive a new car.

  10. Maria Guido

    August 26, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    I feel your pain. I wish I had some advice for you – but I’ve been here a year and still have made no friends so I’m the LAST person to be giving advice.

    • surfermom

      August 28, 2014 at 1:00 am

      I was raised by a single mom with nine kids with a dad in prison… I love government cheese with some wic tortillas. Yum! And now I am well educated, have a great career and I’m married to a wealthy, successful guy. I love my X5! But, I still love to see what my neighbours toss out on trash day. Don’t worry about the rich moms judging you. You should stop judging them. Get to know people. You can’t tell what people have been through based on the cars they drive!

  11. rrlo

    August 26, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    As most people said, you never know someone’s financial situation just by looking at their house, car and outfits.

    Also, consider that even if these people have double your income, they seem to have more than double your expenses (fancier car, higher mortgage payments and expensive clothes) – so from that standpoint, you probably have more disposable income than a lot of them. This is especially true if some of the “rich” moms are SAHP.

  12. Anon

    August 26, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    Here’s a perspective from the other side (get ready to feel really sorry for me /sarcasm)….

    My husband and I probably come across as rich – we have the biggest house on our block, I stay home with the kids, we just bought a brand new minivan (ironically, a honda), etc. But the thing is, it’s because of my husband’s family money, which we don’t touch unless it’s for an investment (and yes, the minivan is an investment because we intend to drive it until it’s so old that it’s cool again). And while we are incredibly lucky to not have a mortgage or car payment, day to day money isn’t that plentiful because we live on just my husbands salary, which isn’t huge because we’ve made a conscious choice that work life balance comes first. Plus we are screaming liberals and have all sorts of liberal money guilt.

    Anyway, what I’m getting at is that sometimes we have trouble finding our “people” because we come across as rich to “normal” people, and can’t really relate to “rich” people. It’s even an issue within our own families. I know that this is the lamest first world problem ever, but my point is to not assume that you don’t have anything in common with the other women in the carpool line. If they’re anything like me, they shop at Ross too and are eager to share stories of good deals.

  13. ted3553

    August 26, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    A very similar post came up on a local moms facebook page where I live in Canada. It’s a wealthy suburb of a large city and a mom was uncomfortable at not being one of the wealthy. Two ladies commented that they stopped volunteering for the Christmas hamper program because most of their hampers were delivered to the fanciest area with huge houses. One lady said several had hardly any furniture in them. Just because you live in a big house or have a luxury car doesn’t mean you’ve got more money

  14. guest

    August 26, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    Meh. I think your daughter will prob end up like me in getting the best of both worlds. I had friends who were pretty poor growing up that made me feel better about my situation which was just basic middle class- some years we seemed to have no money and other years the opposite. Either way though my parents always had debt and even now are broke folks. I also had rich friends, one whose SAHM loved me and was willing to take us to sit in line for concert tickets at 3am or have fun parties and sit in her hot tub and sauna in their basement. Then I’d go home and still have the realization that I had to work my butt off to have those nice things that I saw but I certainly wasn’t deprived.

  15. chill

    August 26, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    My main advice: stay true to who you are and the rest will be fine. It doesn’t matter how wealthy someone is (or appears to be), unless they are truly good people inside, you shouldn’t care what they think.

    I grew up in a truly wealthy area (even the “average” person is rich in my hometown). On top of that, they were usually powerful (it was a suburb of Washington, DC) so it was extremely intimidating. As a kid, I knew that many of the popular kids were also rich, so I noticed that and rebelled against it. My sister, on the other hand, embraced it and tried to be part of their crowd (my father was a dentist, so we were comfortable but not rich). Both of us ended up in similar places, doing well financially (although I’m sure we got there in different ways). So I hope it will be a good thing for your daughter in that she will eventually recognize that she will want to be like her friends were growing up (in a good way, not in a snobbish way because you seem down-to-earth), and she will hopefully work her butt off to achieve that goal.

    As for you, now that I’m an adult and living in another wealthy area, I am comfortable knowing that my friends are all nice people who I trust and who are good people at heart. Some of them are very wealthy, some are in the middle, some are on the poorer side. Some of them are extremely intelligent (college professors in an engineering school) and some are not so much. But they are all wonderful people who make me feel good and who I would do anything for (and vice versa). So please look past what people drive and how big their house is, and look at what sort of person they are at heart. The right sort of person will do the same for you.

  16. K.

    August 26, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    Food for thought in terms of making friends:

    Everyone likes kind and confident. Be proud of who you are, what you have,
    and what you have accomplished. And then be the nicest SOB you can be–not
    doormat-nice, but really and truly, nice. As in, when you see people (anyone,
    not just Chanel-ies), literally say to yourself, “What can I say to make this
    person feel that I value their presence?” Yes, it sounds cheesy, but I promise
    you, it’ll work. It’ll make you memorable and people will feel comfortable
    approaching you, and you’ll figure out who jives with you and you will make
    friends. Also, remind yourself that just because two individuals might live a certain way NOW doesn’t mean that they have always lived that way. I’m sure
    there are plenty of moms who would love a break from country club cobb salad if
    they could just find someone who isn’t above sharing a bucket of KFC on the
    front stoop (or dining room in their poolhouse–whatever).

    Besides, there’s no reason to be insecure around the people you’ve
    described. People
    with **actual resources** don’t bother advertising. That’s for
    middle-management.

  17. jen27

    August 26, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    I live in an area where a large percentage of the parents around us are far better off (not that I’m complaining about our status). Add to that the fact that I am a good decade younger than the majority of parents here. When we first moved I had all of the same feelings of insecurity and doubts about whether I would fit in/find friends/etc.

    The fact is that *most* people are much more interested in what’s in your head and heart than in your wallet (cheesy, I know, but I’ve found it to be true). I found that getting in there, volunteering, taking my daughter to the park and after school activities and all that other stuff allowed me to meet plenty of “my people”. Sure, I still occasionally have a moment of panic the first time I drop my daughter off at the $2 million dollar mansion when I know that next week I’m going to be hosting in my much smaller apartment. I guess that’s just human nature. But then I take a deep breath, remember how much our kids enjoy hanging out with each other and realize that pretty much no one else gives a shit how big my house is.

  18. keelhaulrose

    August 26, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    My husband and I live with my parents in a rich area, so I know how uncomfortable it is to park in the school lot in a car with more miles than the cumulative total of the next five cars in the row. We’re also somewhat shy, so we don’t talk much to the other parents, and it doesn’t help that we’re somewhat of the rednecks of the area (thanks to hubby).
    We’ve let our daughter take the lead. She makes a friend and we slowly get to know the parents through that friendship. We haven’t made good parent friends, but we haven’t really hurt our daughter with it, either.

  19. aCongaLine

    August 26, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    I taught in one of those rich suburbs (in New England, so different animal, I think). THe moms were either asshole MeanGirls, or really really sweet, loving, do-anything-for-you-because-everything-is-wonderful hippies. With some cross contamination. But mostly Whole-Foods-loving, world-peace-searching, lots-of-money-but-talking-about-money-is-rude-so-lets-talk-about-donating-thousands-to-the-Aquarium-or-going-on-month-long-vacations-to-Switzerland-because-little-Johnny-just-learned-about-it-and-we-just-had-to-go-instead Moms. Who drive Subarus and Lexuses and Hybrids and Priuses and wear Birkinstocks instead of Old Navy Flippies, and Ann Taylor instead of Gap. I guess I’m trying to say it’s pretty universal. 🙂

    In suburbia, you’re going to find the rich and the richer, no doubt. But you really only see what people want you to see. If you look closely, you’ll find the normal humans mixed in 🙂

  20. Rachel Sea

    August 26, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Most of them probably also feel like impostors of one sort or another. Unless they were the entitled bully from 30 years ago, they’re likely to have their own baggage. Go chat them up and you can compare styles.

  21. Layla

    August 26, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    I think if you assume these women are going to be one way it is setting yourself for a bad interaction. Rich people still put their shoes on one shoe before the other. And instead of assuming the worst maybe these people will be super nice. But I think you are setting yourself up for failure going in with a pre conceived notion of these people. Try to lessen your judgements before hand and I think interactions will go better

    Plus a lot of people with only modest means can leaSe super fancy cars. So doesn’t necessarily mean they are super rich.

  22. Lucille two

    August 26, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    I shared those feelings as well when transitioning to a new job and city. Most of my coworkers have two homes and many are millionaries. I work part time and my husband stays at home with our children. I have found that being open about not being wealthy has eased much of my anxieties around other moms and selects for those that are genuine. I bet as time passes you may meet some friends with money and your insecurity may dissipate.

  23. koolchicken

    August 26, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    I personally don’t feel like you need to feel insecure. I mean you’re feelings are your own and you have every right to feel them. But I wouldn’t be wasting my energy on this particular issue.

    Speaking as a Mum in cashmere, I don’t think badly about those who have less. I personally have issues with those who splash out needlessly. I drive a Nissan, have my friend cut my hair, and I only have one dress from Saks- and I used a gift card and shopped their super big sale when buying it. Not everyone with money is a snob and it’s actually pretty hurtful to think you (among many others) have me painted as some evil jerk based solely on the contents of my bank account.

    Try to remember there are jerks in every group. And while a certain tax bracket has been painted as the devil in the media lately, not everyone is bad. Just like all poor people aren’t bad.

  24. brebayVadgeBadge

    August 26, 2014 at 11:58 pm

    The day my youngest graduates, I’m so out of the suburbs. I’d rather have a littler house and a lot of land. The suburbs depress me for some reason. We have few sidewalks, a lot of people eye-balling each others handbags and cars, I’m just not a joiner, I guess. I make good money now, but have two kids to send to college and would like to retire before I die, I just can’t see buying a new car when mine still runs. As someone who lived in my car for a while in my 20’s, I just don’t see it as anything but transport. I can’t even see it when I’m inside. I’m going to try to get 2 more years out of it so it can be my son’s first car when he starts driving. I find when people judge you by your car or your purse, and don’t assume you’re well off, it naturally weeds out people I’d have no interest in anyway. The people who do make an effort at kids’ practices, etc. are the cool ones. It’s like a douche filter.

  25. Heavendip

    August 27, 2014 at 1:14 am

    Holy shit this is a thing? Dammit! Consider yourself privileged enough to enjoy it. There’s too many rich people around is a problem I’d like to have. In my neighbourhood I am the rich people and that because I have all my teeth. Keeping up with the joneses is never a healthy occupation.

  26. AP

    August 27, 2014 at 2:47 am

    I think you should consider this a good thing in disguise. I was the “poor” kid in a well-off town. I was not poor by a long shot, but my family could not afford stuff like the designer handbags with the giant logos emblazoned on every inch so everyone can tell from 20 feet away that it was expensive, or European Teen Tour Camp, so I was considered “poor” in school.

    When I got to college, I had a best friend who had grown up very, very poor. And this is where the blessing in disguise comes in. If a doctor told her something she felt was wrong, she wouldn’t question “because doctors are rich and smart.” (This led to her having serious health problems when something got left too long.) If someone did something nasty to her but had a fancy car, she’d assume they were “better” than her, and take it. If someone offered her expensive presents, she’d put up with anything, because expensive presents or financial comforts were something that could never be turned down for any reason, even if the strings attached were awful.

    I, on the other hand, had learned that you can buy plenty of fancy things, but you can’t buy character. And that is a very good thing to grow up knowing.

  27. She Loves To Craft

    August 27, 2014 at 2:54 am

    The Little Matchgirl was my shit! <3

  28. KatKaBoom

    August 27, 2014 at 2:58 am

    As someone who grew up in Dallas, went to college in ATX and am now back in Dallas, I get this. Bravo.

  29. Jezebeelzebub

    August 27, 2014 at 4:42 am

    Whoa, this one got my attention! I went to Jr high/ high school with a bunch of “rich kids”. I was not one of them by any means. I would have liked to have been able to fit in with them a little, you know, because they all looked like they were straight out of a teen magazine or a TV show, but I knew I was never going to be able to be like them. My family couldn’t afford that shit. So I became ANTI. Anti… what? ANTI-EVERYTHING. Anything. All the things- whatever those rich kids had, I didn’t want it. Of course I totally did, but I would rather have died than admit it. I would rather have died than let anyone know that I not only cared what they thought of me, but that I cared A WHOLE LOT. I became perversely, vehemently opposed to whatever it was the rich kids said/did/thought/purchased/whatever. It was completely important to me that these people saw me not giving a fuck all day because I gave all the fucks every day. You know what I mean? I was determined that nobody could ever be able to call *me* a poser.

    Anyway, you know that saying “fake it til you make it”? I did. I faked not giving a fuck all day and then one day…. I noticed that I really didn’t give a fuck ALL DAY. It didn;t matter anymore if people saw me being weird and contrary- I had faked being weird and contrary for so long that I became what I portrayed. the good news is that that quality has served me pretty well as an adult. I never have to worry about hoping I fit in or becoming upset if I don’t.

    Anyway, i am hoping to pass on the No fucks given thing to my daughter. So far so good.

  30. Courtney Lynn

    August 27, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    GIRL! I’ve lived here in DFW my whole life. “Dalla-tude” is very real. Also home of the “30K millionaire”. I much prefer Fort Worth over Dallas any day. A lot less pretense and less of trying to “keep up with the Joneses”.

    • Elizabeth Wakefield

      August 30, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      Yes! The thirty-thousand-aire. They slay me.

    • Courtney Lynn

      August 30, 2014 at 2:54 pm

      They are a fascinating creature.

  31. LittleBird

    August 28, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    I feel the same way! I take my kid to the park and I see this pack of gorgeous moms stretching in their $200 workout clothes, each with THE SAME $700 stroller. It doesn’t help either that I look young for my age so they have one more thing to comment on, with “pity” tingeing their voice. Yes, this is my kid. No, I’m not his nanny. It feels like highschool. Ugh…

  32. Elizabeth Wakefield

    August 30, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    Theresa, we’ve chatted elsewhere and I am in a similar predicament to you. We live in the ‘worst’ part of our town, which is still a nice three bed, two bath home with a pool. But welcome to DFW – we’re not all like that. Let’s make our meet up happen!

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