Childrearing

SAHM No More: Teaching My Kids The Value Of Money Is Hard With All Their Rich Friends

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rich kidsSAHM No More explores the the ups-and-downs of navigating a new world of parenting, transitioning from married stay-at-home motherhood to a full-time working, divorced motherhood. And there are a lot of adjustments being made—a lot of adjustments and not a lot of sleep.

I remember when my son first saw a television commercial. He was about four years old and, for the first time, I was letting him watch a TV show with advertisements. He sat completely transfixed during the commercials and then, when they finished, looked over at me and said, “Mommy, how would you ever know what to buy without commercials? They’re amazing!”

And thus began my ongoing war with materialism and kid-focused marketing and the sort of crass consumerism that I not only dislike on principle, but also just can’t afford. I felt like it all began while I was still pregnant, this onslaught of media outlets telling me what to buy, telling me what my soon-to-be-born baby absolutely needed and couldn’t live without. You know, essential stuff. Stuff like baby-wipe warmers, which are, of course, totally essential. And I’ve felt like I’ve maintained a pretty healthy attitude about the whole thing, even as my kids have been raised in a relatively affluent neighborhood in one of the most ridiculously expensive cities in the world.

The thing is about raising my kids in New York is that although some wealth can be really overt—it’s impossible not to know that your friend’s parents do pretty well for themselves when they live in an airplane hangar-sized loft in Tribeca—most of the time financial signifiers are much more implicit. In their own way, they’re just as insidious as all those commercials that I wouldn’t let my kids watch when they were younger.

When I say the problem is insidious, I mean that everywhere I look, I see toddlers in 1,000-dollar strollers playing on several 100-dollar iPads or iPhones as if this should be the norm, and as if the combined cost of these playthings doesn’t equal or surpass many peoples’ rent. It’s much easier to be sanctimonious, though, when your child is too young to really want things. Oh, I know that no one can throw a tantrum like a 2-year-old in a toy store, a 2-year-old who really, really wants a Spiderman toy, but it’s relatively easy to just pick up 30-pounds of squirming muscle and take all that squirminess out of the store.

There you go! Problem solved.

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7 Comments

  1. Véronique Houde

    October 12, 2012 at 11:59 am

    Stay true to your values!!! Your son will appreciate it later on in life when he has to work hard for the luxuries in life 🙂 he will be proud of his accomplishments instead of just assume that one SHOULD have an iPhone and high end sneakers at a young age.

  2. Sara

    October 12, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Sounds like you’re teaching your son a lot of valuable lessons that he’ll appreciate later. Keep it up!

  3. Helen Donovan

    October 13, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    I think you are great. I’m the first born who remembers when my parents had very little money. Now both they and I are financially “comfortable” (not rich but not worried). Not only did their good habits allow them to put money aside and to teach their children the same, but we still can be made happy by little things – splurging on whole cashew nuts instead of halves (I did say little:) ) or buying a $300 suit for $80 at TJ Maxx. It’s more than just money, it’s a mindset; one I am thankful for, and hope that your son appreciates too when he’s older.

  4. L

    October 13, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    It sounds like you have a healthy attitude about finances and that you’re teaching your son good values. This is very refreshing to read about in a world where people do similar things as the parents of your son’s friends. You’re doing a great job!

  5. Eileen

    October 14, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    My parents could afford to buy us iphones but certainly didn’t; they insisted my youngest sister didn’t need one until she started high school. The conversation doesn’t have to be just about how much money you make, but the fact that you, the (adult!) who is earning the money, get to decide the appropriate ways to spend it. Then encourage saving and charitable giving with his own money from chores/a part-time job when he gets one, but let him choose ultimately how to spend it (and if that turns out to be Fire Island, well, awesome!)

  6. Jennifer Allen

    October 16, 2012 at 9:36 am

    It sounds like you are doing an amazing job. It is difficult, whether you have money or not to teach children the value of it. Worry not, you’re doing just fine. 🙂

  7. March

    October 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Your strength is exemplary. Excellent mothering there. I’m full of admiration.

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