The Push and Pull of Privilege

By Tejal Toprani Misra who is a psychotherapist in part-time private practice and a most-time stay at home mom. She lives in California with her spouse and two young sons.

Is it just me or does every mom stay up at night thinking about how they are raising their kids? 

Maybe it’s being a therapist. 

We think – and then we over think – every single decision. 

Is my goal to make sure my kids don’t talk about how I messed them up when they go into therapy in twenty years? 

Or is it just that I want to raise good kids?

Let me give you some back story: When I became a mom over six years ago, I intentionally decided to give my kids the opportunities and experiences I wanted, but never had. 

This led to burning questions keeping me up at night like, Is privilege “bad”? And what is “privilege”? 

When my six-year-old has a conversation with his friend about luxury cars should I be happy that he found a common interest with a friend or should I cringe that they compare Teslas to BMW’s? At their age, I didn’t know the difference between an Altima and an Audi. 

We just moved to an affluent, predominantly upper middle-class suburb this year. Should we want to keep up with the Jones – those proverbial people with “all the things”? And…should my six year old son even know what a Tesla is?

Here’s another example: I now survey trusted mothers on how many extracurriculars are enough. One friend tells me one or two. The other says as many as you can handle as a parent. The third says something in between. Meanwhile, I keep asking my 6-year-old if we can accelerate getting him his driver’s license. Who wants to drive to all these activities, anyway?

When I was growing up, my family fell into the middle to lower middle class “trap.” There was enough money to have everything we needed and a few things we wanted – but not so little that we qualified for assistance –  or so much that we had money for the extras. For example, when I asked to join Girl Scouts, the answer was an immediate “no”. My parents had full time jobs that prevented them from taking me to activities. And they certainly did not have the money to sign me up for them and  buy all the uniforms and other paraphernalia. 

This fall, when my oldest son asked me if I could sign him up for soccer, I thought this is great, right? Now he can do what I never got to do. This is the way it’s supposed to go. Your child expresses an interest in an activity which hopefully means they will put effort into it, and then gain confidence and skill. 

But then I thought, is one practice and one game a week enough? Should we sign up for a fundamentals class to further his knowledge base of soccer? Should we take a ball anytime we go to a park or encourage him to play when there is down time? Or should we hire a private coach?

It’s a slippery slope. 

When I signed my son up, I paid extra for a partial scholarship so an interested child who might not have the means would have the opportunity to play soccer in a league. I didn’t do this as a “flex” I did it because the child who couldn’t afford to join reminded me of the younger version of myself. My child of course has no knowledge of my childhood. He thinks it isn’t too much to ask for a thousand dollars from the tooth fairy.  

So now I’ve fallen into the ”if you give a mouse a cookie” situation. 

Since I signed the 6-year-old up for soccer then it felt like I had to sign my three-year-old up for something too. So, I signed the three-year-old up for after school soccer.

To be honest I did this to give myself another hour before pick up time. – but that doesn’t mean he isn’t enjoying it. 

I’ve started telling myself that by doing these activities, my kids build connections with others – like Adam Neumann and We Work.

But really, they’re just a six-year-old and a three-year-old who want to play soccer. 

And when I ask my six-year-old about his teammates’ names I get, “I don’t know.” 

So, is it even working?

And the question remains, what will ever be enough? Will tennis lessons be next? Then chess lessons? And how about a second language? 

Where is the balance? When am I just trying to keep up with my upper class neighbors and when am I actually helping my children to have good learning and social opportunities and helping them to acquire grit and resilience?

And THIS is another unanswered question from yours truly.

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