On Moolah. And Kids.

Sraikh from Asaaan put out a really thought provoking post before I went on vacation asking whether people were comfortable saying that they could not afford things.

When my comment turned into a mini-post, I brought it over here, where I normally hatch all my eggs.

Yes, I am more than comfortable saying that I cannot afford something, when I can’t. We both have decent salaries in a country that boasts of an exhorbitant standard of living. A beer will set you back almost 10 dollars. A pedicure? 100 dollars a pop. Go figure. This is why I am constantly dishevelled and grumpy. Yet, if we are sensible and fair, then we have a good standard of living and quality of life.

Yet,  just because I can afford something, that doesn’t mean my children will get it and one of my pet peeves is children walking around hand in hand with a sense of entitlement. So not only am I comfortable saying,

We can’t afford this

I’m equally comfortable with:

Yes, we can afford it, but you may not have it. I don’t think its good for you to get everything you point at and unless you can come up with the wonderful way in which this is going to contribute to you as a person, you can forget it.

or

Yes we can afford it, but you can’t have it unless you figure out how to save up for it.

It is a matter of principle more than anything else. There are birthdays, Christmases, Indian festivals and holidays. They get plenty. Hell, they get Plenty Plus Plus. Our issue is that we think that there is too much stuff. It becomes all about the stuff. Friends are cool or not based on the Wii game they do or don’t have. What? No Singstar at home? L.O.S.E.R. And the bad news? Its endless. You are never going to keep up with the Joneses.

Oh no you didn’t! You didn’t just point to my designer label shoes.

Alright, I am guilty of having splurged on ridiculously expensive pumps – on occasion. And really – I have no sense of guilt whatsoever about that. I work hard for our money (as does any housewife, I need to add), provide for our family and if I want to indulge myself, its my business. As long as my children are not being denied what is necessary to keep body and soul together, I can do this without so much as a twinge. Its quite simple, dear sons – I am earning my Gucci shoes, you are not earning your Pokemon/Bakugan cards. I had to wait till I was gainfully employed to be silly and vain. I expect no less from you.

So, without further ado.

My lovely, lovely sons,

Having new toys or clothes or things (Arvind needs things. He never has enough things according to him) is not a right you have as a child. I work hard for my money and I will make equally hard to make you realise that these things you want are privileges. Why, even this roof over your head or the food on the table is a privilege. Don’t assume that you can diss it. If you do not contribute to this home, by way of chores or duties, you do not get a say in its fiscal policy.

Our love for you and our guidance is a right you have. You also have the right to question our choices, but please come prepared. It is our duty to prepare you for an independent, productive life. If you are getting pretty much all you want on a platter and never earning anything, then we will have done you the greatest disservice.

So feel free to come with a plan as to how you want to save up for your next Super Mario game.

Once you start school, you will have chores. Simple stuff like bringing in the post, taking out garbage and keeping your room in respectable shape. If you are going to bargain for greater power, get comfortable with greater responsibility.

Once you are 15 or thereabouts, hungering for the latest Converse or Nike, snazzy snowboarding equipment or a respectable social life with fun-filled, friend-filled outings, we enter the next charmed stage of life, aka. Its Time To Find Part-time Work.

That’ll be a couple of hours a week, balanced with schoolwork. Exceptions can be made in rare instances like needing to study every minute of the day to get into a tremendously competitive programme, being a member of a enormously promising rock band that needs to practice round the clock, volunteering for the Red Cross and the like. We are open for discussion, but will require serious substantiation as to why we should foot the bill for your fun when Minimum Wage Joy ($10 – 12 in Norway) is all yours for the taking.

We realise this is a bummer. On the bright side, it’ll teach your priorities in your wishlisting come Christmas, birthday and assorted Indian festivals.

Much much love,

Your Unapologetically Biyaatch Parents.

Edited to add: Ultimately, all parents have different sets of priorities. We love travel and I can see us spending a lot of money to travel as a family. I want my children to experience the Indian subcontinent in all its richness. I want to see the Serengeti plains with them, be amazed by Florence, climb the harbour bridge in Sydney. I want to see their faces marvelling at Tsarskoe Selo outside St. Petersburg.

I want them to at least be familiar with their parents’ passion for travel and history.

Whats important to you, dear readers?

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “On Moolah. And Kids.

  1. 100 dollars for a manicure?! Are you serious?

    *gulp*

    In my family, both my parents striked a balance. While my mother would NOT allow us to indulge in expensive clothes, shoes, games etc, my dad would not hesitate before buying us the same aforementioned things.

    I guess thats why my brother and I are not spoilt and never ask our parents to spend on anything expensive for ourselves. In fact my brother and I are more content when mom and dad spend on themselves much more than they spend on us!

    I totally agree with everything that you said. In fact, if and when I have kids, I would bring raise them teaching the exact same values that you have mentioned.

    Oh and welcome back! 🙂 Missed you and this space! Now get back to regular blogging pronto! 😉

  2. YAY! You’re back.

    You know what we spend on. FOOD..Groceries to be precise. We buy organics salmon, lbs and lbs of fruits, Chinese spices..

    We also spent a bit on annual passes to museums, zoos and aquariums.

    Travelling is right up there next to food.

    And Ashwina is so getting a job when she turns 14? 15?

  3. You said it! My dad calls this as creating *artificial scarcity* of privileges. I love that term although I didn’t love it in practice back then. 🙂

    PS: First time commenter. Was reading you for a few days before you went on vacation. Came over from MiM iirc.

  4. You are SOOOOO back! Was thinking of you yesterday:)

    I applaud everything you’ve written…my sentiments exactly. I guess we spend a lot on travel too, eating out (to keep me sane), books. Everything else is very tightly budgeted. I also don’t have a problem saying “we can’t afford it” and make sure my friends hear it…friendship to me is not about equal economic status! And my kids get that too!

  5. surabhi

    Hey nice post.
    Saying- ‘we can not afford this’, and/or ‘we can afford this but i think its way too expensive’ comes without any hesitation to me and the husband.

    And yes, anyday i am willing to spend that extra on travel and books. she knows that so is pretty okay when i say no to a silly looking toy that costs as much as a trip to an exciting new place!

    and to our peers- saying we can not afford it- easy as hell! i make it a point to tell friends who book themselves into fancy resorts that they are missing out on the fun and adventure- teaching their kids that the world outside their homes is one big manicured resort, and blowing up a bomb that we could not afford in anycase!

    ps the list of places you want to visit with your kids- its a dream list! lovely- hope you do visit these places- and hope we do too with our little girl!

  6. lostonthestreet

    I am not a parent. But that mail is something, I have written in my head many times over, when i see kids having mega bday parties, wearing designer wear and playing ONLY with fischer price (hope i got it correct) toys
    A friend of mine said she got some expensive toys from UK for her 1 year old niece,supposedly the baby loves that brand.
    Are babies that discerning? or was I too dumb to be as happy playing with the shiny packages?

  7. Funny, I’m not rolling in riches but I’ve never had to say that I cannot afford this or that. Maybe the circles I move in are like that? I don’t know anybody personally who buys expensive designer stuff at the drop of the hat, nor do I lust after all that. So far my kid hasn’t asked me for something, so I’ve never denied her either. Let’s see as she grows up what she does.

    But yes we spend on travel quite a bit, and plan to continue that. I buy nice clothes, both expensive and cheap, toys, both expensive (but not maha expensive like Dora’s Kitchen etc) and cheap. It’s a mix.

    There’s really nothing I covet that I cannot afford (jeez are my standards that low, I don’t even covet a $200 shoe)..!

  8. Chuchu

    Yay!you’re back!Please give us a nice long post about your holiday,with pics*pretty please smile*
    About this post,have to agree with you 110%-the kids these days are targeted by brands/what their friends have/ general all round materialism..in our circumstances-having a helper(maid),our kids are expected to do their bit by setting tables,clearing up after meals,cleaning their rooms(and the bathrooms!) when the help gets her day off(did I mention that my hubby’s nickname is Hitler??)They’re 15 and 14 now and don’t seem to mind too much…good performances at school are rewarded(iPod touch,no less,Converse etc)and there’s no expense spared when we want to travel-luckily,their schools believe that travelling is a great part of education so have no probs getting a week off school here and there.
    I indulge myself big time(shoes n bags n spas make me go weak) and I tell them..Amma works hard for this…

  9. Chuchu

    Sorry,just had to add on..your post is so well-written..and we have absolutely no problem in saying we cannot afford something..we have friends who indulged themselves and their kids even when they clearly could not afford to..and now that the kids are working,they don’t seem to have any idea that their parents are struggling financially and still ask them to contribute towards their “need” for an LCD tv!

  10. @All: Jeez! I missed you guys. Like phantom limbs!!! Will get down to replying to all the lovely comments soon!

    @Miss M: My parents were like that too:-) My mother was easy while my father was strict and could ask all the tough questions. And obviously there is more to rearing a child than just giving/not giving them stuff. In our case, this just happens to be the *one* thing we have never had to discuss whether we agree upon.

    @Sraikh: we are big on the food spending too:-) And unfortunately our sizes are starting to mirror that:-( But sounds sensible to me. As for kids working, I have seen the sense of self-esteem my nieces and nephews have had when they have worked and saved up for their laptops, skis and the like. Not child labour when it lights up their faces like that!.-) So go, Ashwina!

    @Average Jane: Welcome! Artificial scarcity of priveleges? LOL! I likey. Count me in.

    @Starry Eyed: Right, its not a pissing contest, is it? I have never forgotten the words of a friend’s mother who showed my friend the 100 or so people who had come from all over the world to celebrate her 50th birthday and said, “Now do you see how rich we are?”

    @Surabhi: I agree. Its really about each family defining what works for it and I think once parents are comfortable with choices, kids sorta fall in line too. As for the list, I have been to some of these places, but never with the kids. I can’t wait!

    @LOTS: Well, I can’t speak for all babies, but I don’t think they care a great deal to be honest. But, if a garishly coloured Fisher Price toy is in your face all day, I guess you’d play with it to ward off boredom. We have fisher Price stuff and we also have woodden toys and in the long run, the woodden ones have generated a lot more interest, esp. a train set. But again – parents are different and kids are different.

    @Poppy: Actually, I’ve never been in that situation either of saying I can’t afford something, but I have defended why I won’t buy certain things for my child. You hit upon something crucial here – the problem is children demanding stuff – and getting it. We know kids who “need” presents every weekend during regular trips to the supermarket. WTF?
    Otherwise we fall in the mixed category too..our tastes aren’t too high end – apart from the odd pair of shoes;-)

    @Chuchu: Wow. Am sending my kids for boot camp to your place with Hitler! LOL. Gosh, they sound like they are well brought up. I guess the challenge is to balance their need for “things” with a respect for hard work and an appreciation of people. Aiyyo! tightrope!
    And I can do no more than wince at your last comment. They are kids who do this to parents who have already done so much?

  11. I worked when I was a teen(sigh I feel old) and there is nothing like earning your first paycheck and spending it on something you want.
    Plus I did waitressing, worked at fast food,did telemarketing(13-18) and I always am very nice and kind to the people doing those jobs NOW. Because I was once in that position and I know how shitty people can be.

    That is lesson that everyone needs to learn.

  12. I am so saving this post to show Pratik!! To be fair, the child is too bhola for his own good and meekly agrees with whatever I throw at him!!!

  13. RM

    Excellent post. And yeah, same big 3 in our home – Travel, Books and gifts for others(!!). And every time the ugly “But ABC has it!” complaint is raised, I play my trump card of “Different homes, different rules. Their mom travels for work, would you like me to?” For some reason that always scares them off 🙂

    Welcome back. You were missed.

  14. Absolutely with you on this one!
    My girls still remember my general strictness with spending with a lot of respect. The boys are still learning!

  15. With you totally.My daughter is surrounded by over indulged kids and its such a minefield to have to explain to her why she cannot have everything she sees, just because her friends get away with it. Shes very reasonable, bless her, and likes the idea of earning her prizes.. but still, rocky road ahead.

  16. I have never understood peoples reluctance to discuss money. Everyone wants it and has too less of it. I have yet to meet anyone who has enough money. Someone wants a new handbag, new DESIGNER handbag, then a new car, a new BMW, a yatch..you get the gist.Especially in Bombay, people are almost embarassed to admit when they cant afford something and even buy counterfiet items.
    I have never been shy about discussing what I can or cant afford. But what gives me most pleasure is telling people of the cheap bargians I have scored.
    I am glad you are not my mummy ;)God know I have enough scrubbing and cleaning to do now, Imagine cleaning and scrubbing to earn a new barbie doll 😉

  17. Anj

    Agree wholeheartedly. But do you feel your kids already have more than you did at the same age? I certainly do, and my parents agree. I didn’t set out to buy her a lot of stuff, I want her to appreciate what she gets and not take it for granted. I don’t think I have gone overboard yet either but the fact remains that I had less than her at her age and was equally content. Blame it on easy availability, better monetary status than parents at the same age, research and reviews telling you certain toys make your kid super smart (yes I am swayed by that )..but the fact remains.. she does have more. Have I got it wrong or is it just a sign of the times? I defintely had more toys than my parents did.

  18. Dottie

    *nodding my head vigourously*
    yup. no problem saying we can’t afford. we can afford, but you can’t have just because you want it. birthdays, holidays are crazy. he has a lot of “stuff”. a lot and then some more lot.

    you have gucci shoes?? naaice.

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