Why Are We Still Trying to Keep Up with the Joneses?

The American culture is one in which we are always trying to give the next generation of children a better and more magical life than the generation before experienced. The sentiment is actually quite nice. Our grandparents, who grew up in the Depression, wanted to provide their families with niceties they never were able to enjoy. Our parents, who were raising children in an uptick economy, afforded us with more than they could have ever imagined as youngsters. TV commercials and JC Penney catalogs influenced our Christmas wish lists. Ashley down the street may have had the coolest Doc Martens on the market, and even though we begged and pleaded for our own pair, it didn’t necessarily mean mom and dad would go rushing to Dillard’s to purchase. We received, but it was within reason. The comparison game between friends, neighbors, and relatives existed, but it seemed easy to look beyond.

Now it is our turn. We, too, are trying to give our children our version of a fairytale existence. The difference, however, is we have access to more than our grandparents and parents could ever fathom. In the world of Pinterest, Instagram influencers, and the nauseating social media smoke screen of perfect lives and smiling children, the term “keeping up with the Joneses” never seemed so impossible. In fact, we have moved far beyond the Joneses and are now going straight after the Kardashians. Our bigger and better mentality, which began as a sweet sentiment, has propelled our culture to aspire to always want more, and consequently, to never be satisfied. But at what cost?

Alexa can order new socks with an audible cue and they magically arrive in less than two days. We can access commercial-free entertainment within seconds. Extravagant Disney vacations are expected rather than simply dreamed about. Acquiring the newest technology, wearing only name-brand clothing and filling our garages with the newest toy feels like just another Wednesday, not special gifts received on birthdays or holidays. Kids (and adults) of today are living in a world of instant-gratification. They want for nothing. I am guilty of giving in to demands and going over and above for birthdays and holidays. We are all guilty of it. It’s hard to step off the ever-moving hamster wheel of wanting more. When little Timmy sees his friend down the street received the electric scooter of his dreams, he wants it. And nine times out of ten, he gets it because his parents want him to be happy and fit in.

With the holidays upon us, it is easy to wonder if we have given our families a Facebook-worthy picture of all the magic the season brings. Are your gifts as exciting if they aren’t adorned with the designer labels? Is the Nutcracker musical still enchanting if you had to watch from the nosebleed section or didn’t get a perfect picture next to the starring ballerina? Despite what you might feel when comparing yourself to others, the answer is yes. Another person’s charmed social media post doesn’t negate the fun time you experienced. It does not undermine your lovely gift (small or big).

I aspire to be a minimalist. Unnecessary stuff feels suffocating and expensive price tags have never been impressive. In fact, I would oftentimes consider myself a bargain bragger. Oh, you like these boots? I got them at Wal-Mart for $35! Can you believe it?! We opt to DIY projects around our home more often than hire them. We drive cars for a long time. But one late night look on social media, and it is easy to want the fancier car, a new kitchen or the trendy (expensive) purse. I have had to stop myself from clicking purchase, on multiple occasions.

Why do we give them gifts anyway? All they care about is the box!

It is not the stuff we should be after. Despite the onslaught of shiny images on the “Joneses’” Instagram page, try to focus on what is important to the people living within your own four walls. For us, that means concentrating on experiences, spending time together and giving back to our community. A new Nerf gun every once in a while never hurt anything. Making each other feel special with a thoughtful and highly coveted gift is nice and worthy of seeking out. Knowing it is for a special occasion makes the giving and the receiving that much more meaningful. Shying away from purchasing because someone else has it is the important lesson to pass on.

Perhaps I have reached an age where my level of caring what other people have has stretched to a level of zero. Maybe I am sick of bagging up a truckload worth of unused toys to donate because my children have moved on to the next shiny trinket. Maybe I am tired of wondering if I have done everything I possibly can to give my kids all they deserve. Because I know I already have. Their house doesn’t have to be a mansion to be filled with joy. Their toys don’t need to be expensive to be well loved. When we are happy with what we have, we have all we could ever need. Who cares what the Jones family is up to. No one really likes them anyway.

Kristin R.
Kristin is a Lee’s Summit suburb transplant, after living in the Brookside and Plaza areas for over eight years. Raising three young boys with her husband, Jake, has helped her to embrace the messy, wild side of life where love is expressed in bear hugs and body slams. Professionally, she can be found teaching classes as an adjunct professor in the areas of Business, Marketing and PR. She is able to provide her students with applicable, real-life knowledge as she draws from several years working in the corporate sector. “Free time” (ha!, what's that again?) is spent on an occasional date night to favorite local restaurants, reading blogs on everything from home design to politics, riding her sweet beach cruiser bike and thinking of ways to convince her husband to do yet another home improvement project.