Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Motherhood and More: Recognizing the difference in wants and needs

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about want and need and the differences between the two.

Growing up I remember my mother saying over and over again “You don’t need that, you want it.” In my young, deprived-of-the-latest-Barbie mind, she was being unnecessarily cruel. But of course she was right.

And still this is a struggle with me. I feel like in the times we live in there is so much pressure to have the things that “everyone else” has, to dress in the latest styles, to buy the latest electronics just because there are a thousand commercials telling you there’s something wrong with you if you don’t. And unfortunately, sometimes I buy into it. Literally.

When I was planning my son’s fourth birthday party last month, I started online researching different ideas and activities for a camping theme. There were so many ideas out there that seemed unrealistic. The food tables were things of beauty and the activities and crafts were out of this world in terms of what I expected. And so I started to feel inadequate as a mother because that just wasn’t in me to do. My food table for parties usually consists of some chips in the red bowls I use for every celebration and boxes of pizza. But at least they’re organized by type. I guess? I do not have custom-made napkin rings made out of driftwood with initials of each guest burned into them. Nor do I have a $200 cake. Or a $200 anything party related, for that matter.

I shut off the computer in protest when I found a family who had bought $40 backpacks for each of the 15 kids at their child’s camping party.

The whole thing just seems a little ridiculous and over-the-top. I want to raise my kids to appreciate what they have and birthdays, to me, should be about seeing family and friends and eating good food. Not so much about the amount of money spent on the party or even the amount and extent of presents received. At this point it seems like parents are trying to outdo each other, to the detriment of their children.

With the information we have access to about what everyone else is doing, it is guaranteed that we will feel like we aren’t living up to some arbitrary standard. I mean, sometimes I get embarrassed about our TV. It’s not a flat panel and it’s pretty small by today’s standards. Plus we only have one. And then I think, this is ridiculous. My self-worth is not tied up in electronics. Nor is it tied up in my other home furnishings or my car or even my whole house.

My self-worth is controlled by me. And while others may look down on my computer that is at least five years old and is kind of slow, by today’s standards, I don’t care. It works.

So much importance is placed on how we look, on how we present ourselves to the world. I want my kids to know that yes, it’s OK to take pride in yourselves and your appearance. But that comes from being a good person. It comes from treating people with respect and kindness. It comes from expanding your mind and learning about the world around you.

It does not come from buying that X-Box because everyone else has one. Or buying those $150 shoes because they’re the coolest thing this month. And we don’t need the latest offering from Apple, even though it looks really cool and Mama kind of wants one.

We don’t need it. We want it. And there’s a difference.

*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on August 22, 2012.  

1 comment:

  1. I bought my children new (target brand) underwear while they were at school b/c they outgrew their others. I got lots of hugs and thank yous and "you're the best mom in the world" statements, followed by "THESE ARE BEAUTIFUL." That's what life is all about. Getting excited about the things we NEED instead of pining of the things we WANT. Ps: I buy all by clothes at goodwill or thrift store. I find GAP clothes, brand NEW gap clothes, with tags still on them, for $3. It AMAZES me the things people just get rid of.


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