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May 31st, 2012 by wrekehavoc

just read this article in the Washington Post. it makes me want to run screaming. with scissors in hand, too.

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here you have frugal mama (check out her site.) she has some neat recipes and ideas. she also has some lovely photos of her beautiful children. i’m sure she’s a really excellent mom, and i don’t take issue with that end of things. such a clean, nicely-decorated house! such well-scrubbed kids! and how big of her — she saves money by sending her children to the public schools. that’s what passes for down-to-earth, you know.

there’s this wonderful fantasy moms, especially urban ones, foster: the one about the simple life where they grow their veggies for the kids, watch little to no TV, and have this contained existence over which they have perfect control. this seems to be the idea this mom blogger is perpetuating. la la la — see my house, organized with categorized mason jars, toys all contained in container store containers, my kids eating natural veggies and fruits from the farmers market. pinterest feeds on this sort of thing; i’m guilty of harboring the fantasy myself at times. and who doesn’t want to spend more time with their family? (okay, let me rephrase that: who doesn’t want to spend more quality time with their families?)  however, as a mom (and a blogger since 2002, long before most of these mommy bloggers were mommies, i would add), i find some aspects of this existence head-scratchingly irritating.

for starters, i cannot bring myself to take any sort of financial advice from a woman who has no retirement savings. unless she expects her children to come circle Marmee and support her in her old age, she’d better start contemplating that idea or else hope that these frugal ideas get kicked into high gear for her future blog where she extols the virtues of being a frugal senior citizen (with hopefully no medical issues to speak of.) i don’t know how fashionable it will be to eat cat food while waiting for your social security check to come in.

secondly, life can be controlled (to a certain point) until kids hit their teen years, when pop culture and hormones intermingle in such a way where you may ultimately be making the choice: have your kid conform to your TV-free lifestyle (not that TV is a treasure, but put yourself in the shoes of the average teen) and be ostracized socially, or relent and let those new demons into the home. lady, do you remember middle school? it’s tough enough because everyone is different (and different, as we all know, is so horrible at that age) — but you might be setting your kids up to be sitting alone in the library at lunchtime… well, maybe they won’t be alone. they may have the tiger moms’ kids in there, though they’ll be too busy studying to talk to your kids.

you don’t go grocery shopping anymore; you do all your shopping online with amazon prime. i know that’s a tip that will work well for folks on food stamps.

finally, how freaking frugal are you, really, when you can afford a house in NW DC and afford renovations? Why not move into a less tony area and see how much you enjoy the perks of frugality. not saying that frugality isn’t a noble idea. but I do wonder about this patina of elegance that this sort of idea has gotten these days. it’s a frugality that appears to come straight out of a Pottery Barn ad. like your home decor.

let’s call this all what it is: upper-middle-class fluffy fantasy of slowing down your family life. that’s nice if you can afford it. unfortunately, a lot of people in this world cannot. they are actually working to earn money for things, and not just $1000 tables (which you just had to have. hopefully, you aren’t one of those who frowns on welfare families who buy things that are frills when they cannot even afford the necessities.)

it’s awfully easy to be frugal when you have money.


15 Responses  
  • Elaine writes:
    May 31st, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Sing it, sister!

  • Rebecca writes:
    May 31st, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Well said!

  • wrekehavoc writes:
    May 31st, 2012 at 9:45 am

    thanks 🙂

  • mtb writes:
    May 31st, 2012 at 9:59 am

    THANK YOU. all i could think while reading that article was, “the gall of some people.” you hit the nail on the head. and the lack of retirement or other substantial savings with four kids while buying a $1000 table and renovating the home is unbelievably irresponsible. sadly, the post will just perpetuate the fluff with this article (though i do love the post). thanks for calling out what it is so perfectly.

  • Kay writes:
    May 31st, 2012 at 10:25 am

    Thank you so much!! You articulated exactly what I was feeling after reading this article.

  • Christina writes:
    May 31st, 2012 at 10:27 am

    There is not one shred of her life style that relates to mine. Oddly, I never viewed myself as THAT far out of the mainstream. I mean, yes, I know I am but even in relation to all of the dual income SAHM families that I know – frugal mama is off the reality train. Not sure that makes her something to aspire to.

    No, I think most of us would rather have a retirement fund even if that means messy cabinets and a kitchen table as old as my youngest child 🙂

  • wrekehavoc writes:
    May 31st, 2012 at 10:30 am

    In the live chat, she rationalizes in an answer to a question regarding whether her kids had a vote over whether she should have bought the $1000 table versus taking the family to, say, Williamsburg… but it is sooo important to buy quality furniture. Uhm, right. Things are so important. She can pretend they aren’t all she wants, but clearly, she is contradicting herself.

  • Savanarola writes:
    May 31st, 2012 at 10:33 am

    This very accurately reflects the swelling anger I feel when I read these articles. This one falls into a long line in the WaPo (remember the one about how difficult it is to get your kid into the right summer activities? [massive eye roll]).

    Nice on this lady that she’s teaching her kids her values, but the concept that she’s “frugal” is completely insane. “Frugal” is, apparently, what rich people thrifty. I cook all of our meals, garden, bring my lunch every single day and pack lunches for my kids, creatively rework the leftovers, GO to the grocery store with coupons (and teach the kids how to shop at the grocery store – which is worth dragging them to the store), clean my own house with my kids, wash and iron my husband’s shirts, buy clothes and toys second hand – all while working full time. I generally scrape like crazy because we don’t have a choice, not just because it’s trendy. We rent. I have a disabled child, and it’s damn expensive.

    And when these upper-middle ladies play at being rural farmhouse moms because it feels retro and virtuous, I feel slightly ill. And then I think maybe I should be teaching a course on composting, or canning, or some other nutty thing that I do out of necessity that is suddenly hot again because these tanned, tall, skinny women with means have discovered it.

  • wrekehavoc writes:
    May 31st, 2012 at 10:37 am

    Amen, sister. A-effing-men.

    File this lady under the “Problems of Upper-Middle-Class Women.” I mean, wow, she Sends. Her. Children. To. The. DC. Public. Schools. fergawshakes. Which, I would add, in her Q&A on today’s WaPost live chat, which i am reading as i work, is just such. a. sacrifice. (according to her:

    “I don’t feel public schools are cutting corners, but a lot of people might, especially in D.C. (which is notorious for having bad schools). I am committed to public schools, and I feel my kids have always gotten a great education whereever we have lived (even though some people would move away to avoid the schools we went to).”

    oh, thank you, brave, brave woman.

    ::smacks self in head::

  • Lisa writes:
    May 31st, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Love this post, had the same reaction to the post article ! You go!

  • Murph writes:
    May 31st, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Oh, good Lord, she’s not frugal; she’s just making the same common-sense decisions that we all do when faced with buying decisions–although the sliding board on the balcony doesn’t exactly smack of common sense. If she wants to see frugal, I should introduce her to my friend Sherri and her husband, who have raised two kids (and sent them to private parochial school) on the salary of a librarian and a part-time social worker. These are people who rinse out and re-use ziploc bags. Now that’s frugal.

  • wrekehavoc writes:
    May 31st, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Your friend Sherri FTW!

  • Casey writes:
    May 31st, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Real frugality is not that cute. It doesn’t involve pottery barn or choices about the source of organic vegetables. It involves making magic happen with close to nothing to work with and making meals from the bottom of an increasingly empty cupboard, doing acrobatics in the gaps between income and expenses. It involves tears and hard work. It involves things breaking and worrying about them getting fixed. It involves long hours of work coupled with worry about anyone getting sick. Like you and the other commenters here have said, if your life resembles a pinterest board, you are not qualified to discuss frugality.

  • Elizabeth writes:
    June 1st, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    BTW – her kids go to my kids school. Believe me, it is not a typical DC school (i.e., it’s amazing). She’s not making any sacrifices.

  • Jackie writes:
    June 2nd, 2012 at 7:52 am

    Erm… it’s easy to stay home when your spouse makes $250k+. Please.

    I compost because it’s better for my veg gardens. I like canning because I like strawberries and tomatoes in December. I walk whenever I can because otherwise all the wine and ice cream I eat go straight to my ass. I make ice cream and sorbet because it tastes better than store bought. I buy off the farm because I live in a place where *I can* and I like supporting local businesses, like that there’s no nasty shit in my food, and like that it tastes better. I buy fresh, organic, free range eggs…for $2 dozen, from the vet up the road. I hike and camp and snowshoe because that’s what there is to do when you like 100 miles from the Canadian border in a state that is 80% forest and has a total population equal to DC, Arlington and Montgomery county combined.I rinse and reuse ziploc bags because I feel bad throwing them away. I make hummus because I like to cook. I eat wheat berries and farro because that’s what my Italian grandmothers made. I make dinner every night because eating in a restaurant every night would make me sick…and fat(ter).

    I don’t do these things because it’s cute or trendy or “frugal” — I do them because they make sense, or because I like to. Real people Just Do It. They don’t sit in a $750k house on a poststamp lot in DC and blog about how wonderfully simple their sacrificial lives are.

    Excuse me while I go vomit into my composter.


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