I’ve been watching the Free Our Kids project with some interest over the past few weeks and my feelings are a mixture of ‘hoorah’ (for the effort) and a smug ‘so what?!’

I don’t mean to be smug, really. I am genuinely interested in what Harriet is trying to do, but overwhelmingly I feel like the whole thing is such a middle class problem to have (and I say this knowing that I creep ever closer to middle-class with my organic veg box and my barefoot shoes etc). When I was growing up we had mum-haircuts and 2nd, 3rd, 4th hand clothes because that’s all there was.

You didn’t get to choose between a labelled kids snack or a ‘proper’ grown up snack, you had to wait til mealtime and that was your lot. We didn’t have boxes and boxes of noisy toys and electronic gadgets, we had a bunch of formula scoops on a keyring and a saucepan + wooden spoon from the kitchen. Nobody was bored, nobody needed an iPad to learn to read, nobody starved because they didn’t have organic rice cakes to chew on.

So yes, hoorah to Harriet and her family. But some of us have been raising kids without spending unnecessary money for ages – welcome to our world ;)

(God I sound like my mother.)

Comments

    • says

      That’s it, isn’t it – it’s not a bad thing, because growing up with bugger all meant I’ve been more careful with making sure my kids have what they need and not necessarily what they want (or the shops want me to buy) so.. now we’re properly skint, nobody is losing out anyway!

      Which is the point I was going to make in my post but somehow got lost because I started moaning about my tooth again. :'(

  1. says

    Yeah… living in the middle of nowhere like I do where there’s not even the OPTION for paid kid entertainment (museum, bounce house, aquarium, zoo, roller rink, Gymboree classes, etc.) sort of forces you to spend $0 on activities.

    I think I’m with you – I appreciate her work as it’s a great goal to have, but some of us live like that normally. :)

  2. says

    This is foreign to me. The parents I’m around spend like crazy on their children. Their kids wear very nice clothes (nothing’s secondhand), have a million different lessons, and a good deal of them have smart phones (3rd grade and up – I haven’t seen any 2nd graders with one yet). Some of the younger ones have iPads, though. But you’re completely right in that this is only a problem for those who actually have the ability to spend money on such things in the first place.

    If I’m honest with myself and have the money to spend, I know that I’ll spend it on unnecessary clothes, toys, and lessons. Whenever I think of of having children, I always involuntarily picture piles and piles of money blowing away even though I know it doesn’t have to be that way. It probably shouldn’t be that way either. Regardless, the one thing I really want to do with my children is take them places (e.g. parks, museums, libraries, theaters, beaches, forests where long walks can be taken, countries where they can experience cultures vastly different from their own). Taking children to foreign countries is expensive, but there’s so much to be gained from traveling at a young age as long as they’re not too young like a kindergarten student or something. ;)

  3. says

    As someone who grew up in the American middle class (lower middle class as a toddler and then upper middle class as a teenager), this is indeed an enormous problem! Where my parents live, Chantelle’s description is quite accurate, and many of the kids I knew growing up are spoiled brats who cannot appreciate the blessing that their socioeconomic situation is. Money is both a blessing and a curse – with money comes more stupid temptations, but without money, some aspects of life are harder. But there is so much stupid drama where I came from; if it weren’t for the fact that the public schools in that town (and other similar towns) are awesome and the fact that richer towns are safer, I would never want to raise my kids around people like that. (People in high school complained about not getting a nice car! They’re lucky that they even got their own cars as high school students!)

    As a Buddhist, I think that Harriet’s concern is important for everyone, even for the lower socioeconomic classes who can’t afford that sort of lifestyle. Becoming like that once you have the money is no good (“just look at what’s going on in China!” is what my Chinese roommates will say). It is the material manifestation of suffering.

    The only reason I am not like those people is because
    1) I was fat in high school and couldn’t get nice clothes shopping anyways.
    2) My family was a poor-ish immigrant family in my childhood. I remember being denied lots of toys that I asked for.
    3) I was socially awkward/inept (still am to some extant) and just didn’t pay attention to “who had what”.
    Those three aspects of my life were a blessing and a curse, but ultimately, I think that I’m doing quite well!

  4. Juliet says

    Am torn between thinking “well, we buy 2nd hand already and L has never encountered a child snack”; & being uneasily aware that I have a list of “really cool toys” waiting for relatives asking about it for his birthday, go to water babies and baby sign classes, and definitely use “2nd hand” as an excuse to buy neat stuff without thinking too strenuously about it.

    I do mostly try to think about it, though. We certainly don’t have the piles of plastic toys that some kids have, and the only clothes he gets firsthand are presents. I am a sucker for things I find lovely (Grimm toys!), though…

    (And let us not think about the sling habit ;) )

  5. says

    I see a lot of these kinds of things – sort of “poverty stunts”, I guess. In the end they’re always like, “This was lifechanging, I learned so much, how do people live like this”, but… people do. And then they usually go right back to their old habits, maybe with SOME modifications. So I totally understand your reservations here. I’ve actually been following this series at xojane.com where this woman (also recently laid off) shops only at the dollar store for three months, which I have similar feelings about. I guess it just feels icky because PEOPLE DO LIVE LIKE THAT. Or worse. It’s not some revolutionary, enlightening thing. It’s just a reality, and one that is generally ignored, sometimes in favour of these artificial situations.

    I will admit, I am definitely coming to this from a place of privilege – my family was often broke growing up, but never really poor, and I never felt it when things were harder than normal. So I definitely don’t have the same experience as you (and many others!), but I do genuinely understand and agree with the concerns people might have about this type of project.

    • says

      That’s how we are now I think: broke, but not poor. I know that certainly we’re better off than I ever was as a kid (financially speaking) but not for want of trying – both of my parents worked their asses off for us.

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