Living in a material world

August 30, 2011 Sandra Dawes

While the title may have you thinking of a Madonna song, it seems like a material world is where many of us are living, now more than ever!  It would appear we live our lives simply for the accumulation of “stuff”.  We want bigger homes, nicer cars and the “right” brands of clothes.  What I find interesting is that this growing desire to keep up with the Jones’ has led the world to the current global economic credit crisis!

Although I have yet to be blessed with the opportunity to be a parent, I am always intrigued and an active observer of parenting around me with friends as well as strangers.  A trend I have seen is the indoctrination of kids into this mindset.  Children today seem to be more concerned with image than ever before, and now marketing people would have you think that they influence the buying decisions of their parents as well!  I saw a commercial a few months ago for a mini-van where the young boy in the ad pretty much said that the vehicle being pitched was what all the “cool” parents were driving – I couldn’t believe it!

I see parents who feel pressured to oblige their children’s desire for expensive items such as iPhones, name brand running shoes and clothes that are considered to be the latest fashion.  Parents feel guilty about not being able to provide the things that other parents are getting their kids, often considering it a reflection of their success or failure as a parent and an individual.  The financial, emotional and eventual physical strain of it all makes me wonder “is it all worth it?”

Growing up, I was fortunate enough to be raised by two parents who were both gainfully employed.  Because I was an only child, most people assumed that I was spoiled rotten.  While I wouldn’t say I was denied a lot, my parents were not big on granting my every wish.  My desire for Roots sweaters and Nike running shoes were rebuked.  I was told that frivolous expenditures on clothes I would soon grow out of were never going to happen.  I often heard the line made classic in the DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince song Parents Just Don’t Understand: “you go to school to learn, not for a fashion show”!  In my teens, when the pressure to be cool was at its utmost, I was told if I wanted things bad enough, I would have to get a job and buy them myself!  The funny thing is, when I started working, I wasn’t that eager to spend my “hard-earned” money so easily!

Don’t get me wrong, my parents were not opposed to obtaining “stuff”.  They owned our home and we always had a car.  The thing that sets my parents and a lot of the parents of my generation apart from some of the parents I see these days is the fact that my parents weren’t actively seeking my approval.  If I was going to be upset about not getting a toy or a new pair of jeans, too bad!  As far as they were concerned, their responsibility was to make sure there was a roof over my head, food to eat, and that I was loved.  As far as material things were concerned, they gave what they could afford to give.  They never used “stuff” to appease me or alleviate any guilt they were feeling.

Perhaps that is the crux of the issue – guilt.  I think a lot of parents today feel guilt for the lack of time they spend with their children.  But the question is why isn’t more time being spent?  Is it because so many of us are working beyond the average 40 hour work week in our journey to have the “cool” stuff our friends have?  I’m not sure about you, but I don’t want to live in a strictly material world.  The reality is, I like stuff – but it’s not what brings me happiness.  When I think of my childhood, I don’t recall the toys or clothes my parents bought me, I remember the time spent, the moments of laughter, and even the moments of sadness.  It is those experiences that brought me to the place that I am now, made me who I am and I will forever be grateful for all of it!  I hope that more and people realize that it’s time to shift our focus from obtaining stuff to reconnecting with spirit. ♥



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