"If your five-year-old has better clothing than you, something is not right."

There is something I’m really curious about when it comes to giving as a parent. Or rather, giving things up. In other words, sacrifice.

Where is the line? When you are a mum — and I’ll talk in mums because I am one — when do you say, “To sacrifice any more of me is just plain stupid, or will slowly kill me”?

Most women I know want a great life for their kids and they are willing to do so much to make that happen: they work hard, chauffeur, cook, clean, stay on top of family admin, talk them down from emotional ledges at 11.57 at night. They google strange medical symptoms in parked cars – just in case. They sacrifice career progression for flexibility. They actually do eat burnt toast.

They don’t just pluck that $350 for a soccer season or music lessons or weird dental extractions out of thin air. They tighten budgets to make it happen. They find a cheaper hairdresser. They resuscitate that dress they swore they were going to retire a year ago. They start making a lot of meals they don’t really like that use mince.

Yes, they do buy cheese rice crackers knowing fully well they are the only household members partial to these little bursts of fake cheesy goodness. Yes, they do claim, when cornered, they thought everyone loved them. It’s a small win, but one they (okay, me) will take.

All of that is just what you do. But this “great life” for your kids is different to wanting the “very best” for your child.

In my experience, children don’t need the “very best”.

The mum who says she isn’t going to buy anything for Christmas. Post continues below. 

I’ve seen 11-year-olds not play hide and seek at parks because they haven’t wanted to “lose their new iPhone”. I’ve heard of kids being teased at school camps because they aren’t wearing the “latest” shorts.  I know little girls obsessed with online shopping lists. All that virtual wanting can’t be good.

I’ve never thought it was my responsibility to give my kids the very best. I’ve thought it’s my responsibility to give them the things they need and then, if we are lucky enough as a family, the things that are important to all of us. That can be anything from education to a pair of good jeans for a child who isn’t asking for something new every week.


That’s why I’m curious about this sacrifice line. When is enough enough? When does sacrificing for your kids go from being what you signed up to when you gave birth to treating yourself badly?

At my local shopping centre, I often see five-year-olds dressed better than their mums. Boys have cool shorts on and glistening new skater shoes and girls are wearing shrinky-dink versions of adult clothing, and Mum? Mum is wearing old tracksuit pants and a shapeless jumper.

I know. I know. Everyone can spend their money how they like. But what message does it send?

I’m a mum so I always come last. How my kids look is more important than how I look. I believe that a compliment toward how my children dress is a compliment to me?

We are not all property tycoons or tech billionaires which means most parents in the world have to do without sometimes so their children can have opportunities in life and then stuff. Yes, stuff. Some parents have to do without so their children have basics.

The difference in bringing up boys and girls. Post continues below. 

I realised a while back I wasn’t prepared to sacrifice for my kids to have the very best. I had a line and it falls somewhere between education, teeth (bloody teeth) and reasonable amounts of life stuff and me standing next to my kids wearing stained pants and a jumper with holes in it while they look as though they’re on their way to a fashion shoot.

It was a decision made looking into the window of a children’s clothing shop, and since then I have stuck to it.

“Those pink boots are so lovely. I really need pink boots,” my then eight-year-old said. I could see she really believed it.

The boots were cute, too. They were lovely, fashionable pink boots the world would love. People would tell me how gorgeous her boots were and she would be so happy. I looked into her reflection in the shop window and said, I believe, as lovingly as a mother can:

“The next person to get boots in this house is me.”

There is only so much a person can give up.

Tags: kids , parenting-2 , shopping
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