That “Kid-Broke” Hustle

I had one of those moments with my mom last week that I think is funny on many levels. We took a shopping trip down to the brand new Wegmans that opened not too far from me. The toddlers were being toddlers, what with their asking to see/touch/get everything, and their whining over wanting pizza and water and sandwiches and… everything. Like a good grandmother, my mom was patient and graceful. She entertained when needed, was stern when needed, was helpful and supportive in between. And when the shopping was done and the bags and babies were put in the car, we both got up front, purses first, as ladies general go.

Mine: a three-year-old bag I picked up at Target, the pleather now cracking and disintegrating all over my clothes.

Hers: A beautiful designer bag—a little Avant guard, noticeable but not ostentatious. A bag that an accomplished woman should have.

I covet, but I’m not jealous. I see that bag and think to myself, “I hope that I have that kind of style and taste when I have enough money to buy a bag like that.”

Anyway, we get in the car and I look at her bag and I sigh. “It’s tax-free weekend in two weeks, and maybe if I have a little money left over, I’ll pick up a new purse for myself.”

I said this with the full understanding that there is no way that I’m going to have any money for myself. My youngest is going to need a new pair of shoes. My eldest needs a few pairs of pants and a few more short-sleeve shirts. They both need backpacks. They’ve got rain boots but not rain coats… We’re not struggling, but we’re not 1-percenters. I’m gonna have a budget and it’s gonna be tight.

This is my mom, and this is why I share: “Oh! You know, if you need a purse, you ought to just go on over to Macy’s. They have fantastic sales on purses. You could pick you up a Michael Kors for not as much as you think!”

I laughed. I laughed so hard.

“No! I’m serious! They have really reasonable prices! I’m always pleased when I see them… I’m telling you, you can get a real good deal!”

“Mom. Getting a Michael Kors bag at Macy’s on tax-free weekend would literally blow my entire back-to-school budget!”

It was one of those funny moments for me because it made me realize just how far removed Mom was from being “kid-broke.” I’m turning 30 in September and my little sister will be 26 on Sunday. We’ve been out of the house for a while, and Mom isn’t paying any of our bills anymore. Her money is her own money. She gets to do whatever she wants with it. I covet, but I’m not jealous. She worked her ass off to provide for us. She deserves to walk into Macy’s, see a $200 purse and decide that it’s a “deal.”

But it’s funny, because in the same moment that our parents complain about us and our journeys, it seems like they’ve often forgotten their own. They write the articles chiding us for our vocal desires to get on the track toward their stability and prosperity, forgetting that there was a time when their own lives had very strict limitations, obligations often heavier than the haul that they brought home every week. I know that we live in a time when many of our parents are struggling themselves, recajiggering their lives to get them back to prosperity or at least get them into retirement… but those of us who have parents who managed to stay afloat through our economic troubles, some of them seem to have forgotten that hustle narrative of their youth. I’m on that “I got two kids and Stride Rites are expensive” hustle right now. I know Mom went through that, too. She just… for a sweet and funny moment, forgot. Not because she doesn’t care. Lord knows she does. It’s simply because she out-grew it. She’s in another headspace with other goals in mind now.

I write this to make you giggle, because I think that we Millennials, too, forget. We forget that our parents are flawed things, humans cut of earth and prone to folly. If you’re like me, you’re realizing that heroes aren’t heroes, paragons don’t really exist, and nothing is true while everything is permitted. Of course, if you’re a Millennial parent, you’re realizing this just as your children turn their eyes to you and the people you’ve surrounded yourself with. They are looking for their own heroes, looking for their own goals and statuses to covet and strive for. That should either chill you to the bone or give you a prideful smile. If you’re like me, you’ve probably got a little of both.

In the meantime, Back-to-School means broke-as-a-joke in this household. And Nana? She’ll help, I know. There is no Kors bag in my near future. I’m patient, though. My time is comin’.

KC WiseK.C. Wise is a married Millennial Mom raising two bi-racial (B/W) boys in suburban Massachusetts. You can find out her thoughts about mothering, homemaking, writing, renovating a 100 year-old farmhouse and other musings at her blog:


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