Land of Plenty

Not where money growsNot only are we not keeping up with the Joneses these days, it seems we’re not even keeping up with ourselves!

Looking back, I marvel at the abundant privileges available to us as kids and yet  seemingly unattainable for our own children.  Somehow–during the same stage of life that DH and I are in now, as members of the same middle class–our collective parents were able to raise us in affluent, suburban communities, provide prep school educations, belong to country clubs, moor luxury yachts, own second homes, take international vacations and send us to a variety of private lessons, and they were not the super rich.

So if we’re in the Modern Gilded Age, I fear we’ve missed the yacht.

No matter how successful or accomplished we’ve been in our lives thus far, for some reason it feels like we’re always just getting by. So it came as a small comfort, while listening to an NPR report about current perceptions of wealth, to realize we’re not alone in our sense of shortcomings; while so many have so much, there are still far more with less. Of course, we don’t fall in to the $250,000 income bracket the report defined for today’s wealthy but based on wealth distribution world-wide, we have no room to complain. Don’t get me wrong here, I am deeply grateful for the blessings we have, it’s just that so much of what we grew up with ourselves still feels remarkably out of reach.

Unsurprisingly, today’s (American) rich don’t consider themselves wealthy because there’s always someone ahead of them and access to that information is just a mouse click away. As the report went on to disclose, beginning in the late 1980’s, the current generation of wealth began an era of conspicuous consumption. In the past 25 years, houses and mansions have grown twice as large and yachts are now three times their average size.

Which brings me to the impetus for today’s ramble. While attending a recent playdate with my four-year-old at the home of a new friend, the other mom was simultaneously busy preparing a full turkey dinner for a family of five. I assumed it was a charitable contribution for a mother in need but when I asked, she reported dryly that it was for a family the next (extremely wealthy) suburb over whom she used to nanny for. This new friend is busy managing the household for her own family of four, which includes homeschooling two young boys, ages three and six. The mother of the other family also manages her household and homeschooled her four children, all of whom have now integrated into the school system, yet she affords the choice not to cook. Instead, the family continues to hire my friend to prepare and deliver dinner to them five nights a week.

OK, so I’m not doing as well as our parents were 35 years ago and perhaps we’re not doing as well as some of our peers in surrounding towns either but hey, at least I am proud about cooking my own meals for my family, even if the fanciest we get is baked (rather than boxed) mac & cheese.

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