Postcards from Mommywood: What I’ve Learned From the Great Recession
We don’t need much stuff. Even my daughter knows that!
There’s no question that for most of us, until the Great Recession came along, life had been one of plenty for many years. Long summer vacations and a backyard that looked like a theme park somehow morphed from being luxuries into must-haves, along with a list of “essentials” that includes everything from iPhones to Xbox games.
Not any more. At least not at my house.
The now constant barrage of bad economic news and the wildly unpredictable stock market have curtailed the rampant consumerism I’d unthinkingly fallen into. Before I became a parent, I was a hardcore recreational shopper and indulged in more than my share of retail therapy. During my first few years of motherhood, I bought enough baby clothes to open my own store. When the first waves of the recession hit, I scaled back considerably out of necessity. Now that it’s been a couple of years and my priorities have shifted, I find I miss those shopping expeditions less and less.
Recently, I found myself in a children’s clothing store, killing time before a doctor’s appointment. A few years ago, I’d have bought a few pairs of shorts and at least one cute swimsuit for my daughter, who has about a dozen already. This time, I left empty- handed and found myself hit with the realization that I’ve permanently reset my thinking on recreational spending. It just doesn’t do it for me anymore. It got me thinking about what lessons I can teach my daughter from what I learned from our rough economic times.
She’s a bright, happy five-year-old who’s just as likely to be fascinated with a little trinket we pick up from one of those dollar bins at Target as she is with the hot toy of the moment. She loves books, and every night, she asks my husband and me to read her a few of the well-worn favorites she has had for years. While I clean up after dinner, she often occupies herself making sticker collages out of the reams of address labels that seem to come in the mail on a daily basis.
Recently, I took her on a playdate and was amazed when we walked in her friend’s front door. There was virtually no corner of the living room that wasn’t covered with toys. On one wall, floor-to-ceiling bins were brimming with all kinds of dolls, games, and gadgets. Across the room, a giant television was surrounded by stacks of DVDs. The entire first floor of the house resembled a volcanic eruption in the middle of the neighborhood toy store. After surveying the scene for a minute or two, my daughter walked over to the small book case obscured behind two tricycles and pulled out some books. “I’ve never had any child that comes here do that,” said the child’s amazed mother.