Affluena, this possibly is my new favorite word. I got an email forward in my inbox recently that reminded me of it. I had seen a documentary years ago about it and the topic seemed especially appropriate considering that we are about to enter the holiday shopping season. **warning** this is a long winded post.
Affluenza: A painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from dogged pursuit of more, Because clearly what you have is never enough. Otherwise known as "keeping up with the Joneses".
Before we had kids, both Brian and I were definitely not consumers. We have always tended to value intellectual pursuits, or ideas about things. We are SOOO nerdy that way, which is probably why we have 7 bookshelves that are bursting with books. We were pretty simple people, and we lived a pretty simple life.
But enter kids into the picture and we found ourselves having different feelings, we wanted to give our children EVERYTHING and it made us feel like such good parents. I mean sure, for those five seconds when they were "so happy" we all got some immediate gratification. But later, those same toys were forgotten, and months later I was trying to figure out where to store them. And all the time I spent shopping, really, could have been spent in a better way. Well and factor in that our family is mixed religiously, and we have Hanukkah to negotiate too.
I realized that with our lavish generosity, we were breeding greed and unfullfillment in our kids. We were robbing them of a sense of purpose, meaning, and contentment. What we were doing, if we had kept it up, was damaging to them. We were teaching them how to be bottomless pits that were always waiting for the next great thing to be dumped in their laps. In a way, we were teaching them to never be content, to never be satisfied, that it was quantity that counted. Plus, we were giving up our power to the "Joneses" whomever they are, and we are just too stubborn to do that.
I also have found that when I am most susceptible to this Affluenza, its when I feel the least confident, and the least grounded (like as a new Mom). Sometimes, when we are the most insecure, we need to surround ourselves with swirling chaos and materialism in an effort to find something outside of ourselves that will satisfy ourselves. It seems like people are a little terrified sometimes of being quiet and slowing down, of getting to know themselves and who they really are, what they really want.
As someone who has recovered from Affluenza, I can tell you that we are MUCH happier (but not in the transient way, in the content way), we have a much better quality of life since we have embraced a simpler, slower way of life. Our family has never been so close, or so perfectly content.
When I decided enough was enough (which was about a year ago), I sat down and made a list of priorities for our family based on what I wanted to teach my children, the values that we as a family would hold to. I didn't count anyone else's opinion (well, other than Brian's) and I have found that this had trickled right into every other area of our life, Especially how we spend our time. We are a little more jealous of our time together. We also turned off the TV, and we stayed out of the malls and shops, we started being very conscious of shopping locally.
Here are some interesting facts.....
- On average, we shop an average of 6 hours a week and play with our children only 40 minutes a week. (and for those of us stay at home moms who think we are off the hook, this is quality time, playing time not just being in the same vicinity time).
- In 1998, more than 1.3 million Americans declared bankruptcy, more than graduated from college.
- We work more hours than we have ever worked in our history on average, so we see our families and spouses less in order to fund a more materialistic lifestyle... it really is no wonder that so many families have "grown apart"
- In 90% of divorce cases, arguments about money play a prominent role.
- The number of "very happy" people peaked in 1957, and has remained fairly stable or declined ever since. Even though we consume twice as much as we did in the 1950s, people were just as happy when they had less.
- The most affluent countries are the same ones that are experiencing the most stress.
- In a society that values people based on what they own, is it any wonder that self esteem is at an all time low?