I am a poor mom living in a rich-mom world. I can also be a judgmental bitch.
I used to stand on the sidelines of my kids’ games, listen closely to the rich moms, and pick every damn word apart:
“You should just do it. Get yourselves a generator. It is so worth the money to have the peace of mind.”
“I love those leggings, are they Lulu? I just got three new pairs for myself. Aren’t they great?”
My stomach dropped and my defenses rose every time I eavesdropped: Must be nice to live that way. Do they have any idea what it is like to have $40 in the bank with ten days left before payday? What the hell are Lulus anyway?
I was righteous. And as twisted as it sounds, I thought that my financial struggle made me better than those who don’t struggle in this way. I believe it is called reverse-ego/pride, when one allows their self-pity to inflate their sense of ego. It made me feel better on the inside to put them down, though I didn’t know that this was what I was doing at the time. But a simple request from my teenage daughter one morning put me on a journey of learning about, and changing, my reverse-pride.
“Mom, I want a pair of Lululemon shorts.”
That same Lulu brand I had been hearing about on the sidelines every weekend. In my mind, I scoffed at her request. Oh, no you don’t, Molly. We are not like them. Why would you want to pay $58 for a pair of shorts? Because everyone else is doing it? Luckily, I bit my tongue, took a deep breath and exhaled, “Maybe with my next paycheck.”
The truth is, the more I looked, the more Lululemon I saw. The shorts were cute and I imagined that if I were a teenager, I would want a pair, too. Before I knew it, I wanted my daughter to have a pair. Hell, I wanted a pair for myself. With $58 carefully budgeted, we went to the store and tried on all the shorts. When I stepped into a pair of black shorts, I looked in the mirror and exhaled. I loved them. And I got it. Sure, they were expensive, but they were worth every penny. These rich moms who I have been judging, envying and labeling have more money than I do. So what?
My daughter got a pair on that day and she got a few more on her birthday. It has become her go-to gift because she loves them so much and that is okay with me. In fact, if I had 120 dollars, I would buy two pairs for myself. This wouldn’t make me a bad person, now, would it? These shorts are fantastic and I love them. I love how they look and feel, I love that I go from the gym to being out and about, and I love that they are teaching me some valuable lessons about my own judgmental flaws.
I was in the midst of this new Lulu learning — trying not to judge others out of envy, trying to reverse my reverse-pride, trying to appreciate what I have — and then something else happened. And my learning continued.
I love presenting my children with gifts they will really love on Christmas morning, but I never really know how I am going to financially make that happen. Last Christmas, I asked for help. I went to my town’s Social Services and signed up for a little Christmas magic of my own. The magic was delivered. Strangers stepped in to save the day as they donated gifts for my children. Gifts they bought with their hard-earned money. Gifts they gave without ever getting an official thank you. These women, who had more money than I do, were using it to spread love and holiday cheer. I exhaled. I couldn’t have done Christmas without their help.
As I was going through the gifts I received, I realized it might have been those women, the same ones I judged so harshly on the sidelines, who donated them. I will never know exactly who it was, and that doesn’t matter. What I know is that the women whom I judged harshly at some time in my past were likely responsible for the magic in my home on Christmas morning.
A pair of shorts and a few presents from my anonymous neighbors forced me to take a long, hard look in the mirror. Who am I to judge? I am a work in progress. I make mistakes. I judge others at times, but underneath my judgments are my insecurities and jealousy, both of which hurt me more than anyone.
I had thought I had them all figured out. Then I stepped into their world (into their shorts, actually) and they stepped into mine and for that I am grateful. Judging others and feeling envy are not things I can change overnight. It takes diligence, effort and purpose and I am working on it day by day.
Finally getting myself some Lululemon shorts reminded me that the size of our bank accounts doesn’t define us. A nice brand doesn’t make you greedy, and how others choose to spend their money is quite honestly none of my business. Chances are, some of my neighbors who are out spending money might just be shopping for somebody else’s children’s Christmas gifts right now. And some of those neighbors’ generosity will benefit me. If you are one of those people, thank you for easing my burden this holiday season and for doing the same for many others.
I’m sorry I misjudged you and your Lulus. From now on, I promise to try and focus on the game when I am sitting on the sideline.
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