I Like The Stereotypical 'Mom Stuff,' But I Can't Afford Most Of It

I Like The Stereotypical ‘Mom Stuff,’ But I Can’t Afford Most Of It

December 30, 2019 Updated May 22, 2020

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Katie Cloyd/Instagram

Have you heard about the Target Fam Facebook group? Target started it, and it currently has over 20,000 members. I love Target, so I joined on day one. People share deals and coupons and chat about their Target shopping experiences.  It’s a really fun and informative way to keep up with what’s going on at the motherhood mother-ship.

Unfortunately, it’s also a breeding ground for comparison, and you know what they say about that. It’ll snatch your joy up quick.

At first, I loved seeing people post about their clearance finds and holiday purchases. After a little while, feelings of inadequacy crept in. I watched all these moms with their kids in Target themed clothing taking photos of carts overflowing (sometimes multiple times per week) with what appeared to be every single thing Joanna Gaines has ever designed for Target, and it was like … WTF am I even doing in here? I don’t live on the same planet as these folks!

Am I the only mom on earth who isn’t in a financial position to walk into Target for a bottle of laundry soap and also walk out with hundreds of dollars of non-essential impulse purchases? I love Target, Starbucks, leggings, and even an occasional glass of Moscato as much as the next stereotypical modern mom, but I have to plan for this. I can’t hop into my minivan every morning and come home with bulls-eye bags draped over my arms like I’m some kind of baby-toting Carrie Bradshaw. We have bills to pay. And my kids want to eat, like, ten times a day. Every single day!

Finally, someone brought it up. A fellow Target-loving mom-on-a-budget posted about her inability to splurge constantly, no matter how much she’d love that freedom. She asked if she was alone.

Six hundred comments later, she found out she was in good company. There are lots of other Target-loving moms like me who go to get things we need, but can’t always walk out with everything we want too.

My husband and I work hard, but there are plenty of times we have to make tough financial choices. We often live a “pay your bills and see what’s left” kind of life.

This family is on a budget, y’all. If I run to Target for hairspray and toothpaste, I am coming out with hairspray and toothpaste. Maybe if it’s payday, I’ll throw in a cute dish towel I found for $3 in the bargain section up front. I’m not tossing an impulse Roomba or an “Aw, what the heck, I’ll take this entire Spring collection of Hearth and Hand” in my cart.  That, for me, is not a thing. Like, ever.

I’m not really sure why it’s so tempting to compare myself to people who are able to splurge so often, and without worry.  I’m already pretty lucky that so far, we have always had money for essentials and a few extras. What am I even doing diminishing the miracle of that privilege?

(I’m also not really clear why anyone thinks it’s totally necessary to share their huge shopping sprees with strangers on the internet, but I digress.)

I don’t know anyone’s real situation based on that careful snapshot in a Facebook group. Maybe they’re as blissfully wealthy and happy as they appear. Maybe that cart full of stuff actually wasn’t in the budget and something else will suffer. It could be that they have lots of money, but they are struggling in other ways.

I don’t know, but I do know that their seemingly unlimited purchases have nothing to do with me.

I need to stop comparing my life to theirs based on this absolutely ridiculous standard. That problem is on me, not the people sharing their full carts. It’s totally normal to wish there was more in the bank. Everyone wants to have enough and some extra to go around. But I need to keep my eyes very open to the fact that we actually have more than we need already, and I need to be grateful for that and not upset that I don’t have more.

Our life is happy. There are millions of people all over the world who would consider themselves very lucky to be in our position. It feels kind of gross for me to sit in my warm, comfy home surrounded by every single thing a person needs and wonder if it’s all good enough because my disposable income is somewhat limited.

Seriously. Get it together, Katie.

There are as many ways to be happy as there are people on earth. It would be convenient to have unlimited funds to indulge my every whim. Even without that luxury, my kids and I can enjoy the same things as people with more financial resources.

Our Christmas budget isn’t thousands of dollars, but we can get our kids gifts that show them that we totally know their interests, love who they are, and want to support their aspirations.

We can’t jet off to Disney World a few times a year like our friends. But we can stop into the Disney store when they have a sale and provide a happy home for a plush Mickey, waiting on a shelf to be loved by a child just like mine.

My kids don’t think they’re missing out on anything. They love the life we live because they aren’t comparing it to anyone else’s. So why do I let myself feel like I’m not doing this mom thing right until I can afford to schlep my family to the most expensive happiest place on earth?

My kids have no idea that their very own muddy back yard with a little swing set, a castle playhouse missing a board or two, and a scruffy dog chasing their heels isn’t everyone’s idea of paradise.

They’re already so happy here.

Part of the magic of parenthood is seeing the wonder in ordinary things by experiencing them through my children’s eyes. I don’t want to spend my life (and their whole childhood) missing the fact that we have plenty just because someone else has more.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a jet-setting, shopping spree kind of parent. If you can swing that, and you’re raising kind kids who care about the planet and their fellow humans, I’m on board with your style.

But I see you, parents on a budget. Your kids see you, too. There are lots of way to get this right. There is no shame in creating your own kind of happiness on your own kind of budget.

Chances are, you’re killin’ it, even if, like me, you can’t afford to spend $100 every time you run into a store for toilet paper.