I'm sitting on my couch, watching house remodeling shows on HGTV when a commercial comes on for Lowes, touting the 'need' to remodel a bathroom for a household of 4 people with 1 vanity. And I was struck in the face about the dichotomy of my life. Growing up, there were times that my family used food stamps to make ends meet. I lived in a trailer for some amount of time when I was in 1st grade, where we had to walk down to the shower house to get bathed because there was no running water in the shower in the winter. When we finally lived in a house that my family owned, it was a 3 bedroom, 1 bath, 1,200 square feet, 100 year old duplex that didn't even have a shower. As a teenager, I was privileged to live on the other side of the duplex, where there was at least a shower. Being the oldest and the only girl, I even had my own bedroom on the 3rd floor.
Flash forward to this evening. I'm sitting comfortably in my larger-than-needed, 3.5 bath house, and I'm watching this commercial going "WTF?. Since when does more than one bathroom sink in a house of 4 people become a 'need?'" And I feel so hypocritical. At what point in time did my norm of living go from a single bathroom for 6 people to a toilet for every member of my 4 person household? When did I drink the Kool-aid? I realize that I'm not alone. Average single-family houses have nearly doubled in square footage in the past 50 years1. So it leaves me with this question: What constitutes a 'need'? Clearly. My family doesn't need a toilet-per-person to survive. But somewhere along the lines, that became a just-what-you-do kind of situation. Am I ruining my children by providing them more than what they need to thrive? I'm already acutely aware that they will grow up way more privileged than me, given the contrast between my own and their upbringing. They will never experience what it's like to be made fun of because they went to school in ratty clothing. I'll never forget the moment in grad school, when a well-to-do roommate of mine asked me the question "Is this the nicest place you've ever lived in?" I had to think about it for a minute. I assessed the state of our 5-year old, builder grade2 townhouse and responded with a resounding "Yes."
So here I am. Wanting to offer my kids the opportunities I never had in life, but also struggling with the feeling like I'm betraying the hard-learned, but very important lessons I learned about the true difference between "wants" and "needs." And I suppose I'm not really looking for an answer, per se. Because however we choose to teach our kids those important life lessons will all depend on so many different variables that it's impossible to predict them all.
This is just the most recent instance of what I call "Things that make you go.. hmm."3
1. There are many statistics on this. I've seen them, but at the moment, I'm too lazy to go look them up. But don't take my word for it. Feel free to Google it yourself.
2. The very fact that I know the definition of that phrase means one of two things - either I watch too many home renovation shows, or my privilege is showing. I think it's both.
3. If you don't get this reference, you're either too old to too young to read my blog. ;-) Just kidding. It's a real thing though. I swear.