7 Parenting lessons I learnt from the Urban Poor

The minute I read the much talked about and shared article of past week on Urban Poor, something in my system churned. It certainly wasn’t that I found the article fictitious. I am not going to touch upon how absurd this kind of behaviour sounds because being a millennial I have seen it all happen around me in my extended family and group of friends too.

What has been really disturbing in the hullabaloo this article created is people happily criticizing the existence of the “metro-dwelling twentysomethings”, chiding them, going ahead calling them imprudent. The worst reaction amongst these has been taking a detour from the problem at hand and going on to compare it with the statistics of poverty struck people in urban areas who struggle to make their ends meet.

Too many people spend money they earned….to buy things they don’t want…to impress people that they don’t like.  ~ Will Rogers

While there is no denying to the distressing existence of the problem in question, condemning it, ridiculing the acceptance of the same is certainly doing no good. This is where exactly what has been troubling my mind lies. Being a middle class woman, when I turn around to look at the life I have lived so far, I can safely call it a far cry from those who’ve “internalised the pressures surrounding them, and spend a majority of their salaries on keeping up the lifestyles and appearances that they believe are essential to earning those salaries.”

I have always been a saver. The one who plans everything well in advance, saves earnestly and chooses to shop for everything without availing the magic a credit card can deliver. As brutally mediocre and boring a life that may sound, but this ingrained ‘middle class mentality’ of living within my means is inherent in my being.

Urban Poor

But things are different when I look at life as a parent to a 4-year-old. When it was time for me to admit my child in school, I spent many days pondering over the values my choice of school would inculcate in my child. Like every parent, I aspire to give my child the very best of everything life has to offer. Looking back at my growing up years, I can safely say, I have had the best of everything I ever wanted. The latest models of the gadgets I loved, the finest of dresses and more. But, these were provided to me after helping me weigh my priorities, giving me an insight into what actually went into making it happen, letting me assess the need of owning these pride possessions (in a guided way) and only then granting my wishes in a controlled fashion.

However, am I capable enough to pass on the same sense of analysing before splurging in my child? Is the ‘Urban Poor’ generation too lost in the blinding charm of consumerism to lose the whole point of being grateful for what you have? Is instilling the sense of gratefulness the solution to this situation?

While seeking answers to the above, contemplating over my role as a parent, I felt keeping these lessons in mind as a parent might be helpful:

  1. Let the truth be told: Acknowledging your financial situation in front of your family (children included) is not a bad thing. All my life, I have been well-aware of where my family has stood in terms of our savings. I do not mean knowing the exact figures (for most part of my existence I was clueless about my parents’ net salaries simply because I didn’t feel the need to know the numbers). I mean, where we stand as per our goals in life, what all is within our means without bending backwards.
  2. Faking it isn’t making it: Not telling your child the correct reasons of why he/she can’t have the iPad air to play with like her class-mate only triggers agitation, resentment, tantrums and most importantly making the young mind add unnecessary value to an object that actually isn’t all that important. Letting the child understand why something isn’t important or why following the brand-craze isn’t wise almost always helps them see sense in why we can’t have everything the TV and magazines dish out as in vogue.
  3. Practice what you preach: This is the golden rule that finds its place in everything related to parenting. If we as parents can’t accept a phone other than the iPhone, can’t spend a day without Internet, are snooty, looking down upon people who don’t own the clichéd branded fashion-wear, cars, houses in posh localities how can our children ever do that? Expecting our children to worship us as role models while practising ideal behaviour (that we can’t adopt) is simply ludicrous.
  4. Being over-ambitious is self-destructive: Being ambitious, able to give the competition a run for their money are classified as necessary life-skills in today’s times. While I agree that these do hold prudence in surviving the struggles, controlling the fire of ambition it fans within us is a must. Imagine a couple who is forever chasing their ambitions, leaving no room for enjoying the life they’re living aspiring for more all the time can only infuse the same fire in their offspring. Teaching children to enjoy life well within their means, being grateful and happy with what they’ve achieved is crucial. Always making the child look northwards, inspiring them to become a conqueror can often have fatal side-effects.
  5. Luxury is the cherry on the cake but not the cake: How many of us can be content without shopping for branded goods every time we set out shopping? I am guilty of doing that in many fields of my life but I am always conscious of talking about the quality of a product and not laying the emphasis on a brand label when I discuss it. This is something, I have learnt from my parents. They’ve always emphasised on picking the best, without necessarily emphasising what brand it was. Living in a neighbourhood with latest models of BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes and the like I get frequent opportunities to touch upon the idea of buying what’s best for us in our circumstances. I let Pari see sense in why we must not aspire towards upgrading to an Audi any time soon. Mainly because, we really don’t need it and secondly spending all our hard-earned money on a luxury car is plain foolish when we can do so much more with the same money.
  6. Peer pressure is just an excuse: Handling peer pressure well is an art I sometimes credit myself of. With full credit to my upbringing, I can safely say, till date I have never succumbed to it simply because I have forever been aware of my standing in life. Accepting who you are, as you are helps keep us grounded enough that peer pressure loses its power of disturbing our status quo. Mind you, peer pressure is real but how much you let it press you down is definitely in our control.
  7. Over compensation of attention and time with precious gifts is best avoided: Time crunch and multitasking have been taking a toll on our lives. Things go a notch higher when you become a parent. The overriding guilt of not being able to devote enough ‘quality’ time with children or having them repeatedly complain that you don’t love them because you’re not paying attention to them are forever haunting a parent’s mind. In such times, going overboard to prove our love for our children with precious gifts might look acceptable but have far-reaching destructive effects in the long run. The harmless gift of an iPhone to a 10-year-old to spending equal to a humble wedding for a 8-year-old’s birthday party might appear as a norm but are definitely giving children a wrong view of life.

I in no way want to preach that keeping our children deprived of the best in technology is the way to go. Neither do I pronounce occasional indulgences bad. We do need to march with the times but moderation, open talk and most importantly emphasising on the value rather than the cost of everything in life is the pressing need of the hour.

Wanting to sport Jimmy Choo sandals isn’t wrong, if you’re working hard, saving up for a pair. What’s borderline delusional is trying to have a shoe rack of only Jimmy Choos when your pocket clearly doesn’t allow you to.

Basing self-worth on brand tags is the quickest, surest way of raising children who’ll grow up to become the said ‘Urban Poor’.

It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor. ~ Seneca

What are your thoughts on the topic? 

Is there anything that you’d like to add to the list above?

21 thoughts on “7 Parenting lessons I learnt from the Urban Poor

  1. I’ve had a lot of offline discussions on the Urban Poor article so I won’t analyse it here. I do agree with the life lessons you’v shared simply because we are all part of the middle class generation that grew up knowing, to some extent, where we stood with respect to our parents’ finances. My parents and to some extent my ingrained sense of thrift have always influenced my spending. I try to weigh a purchase and see if it falls into ‘need’ or ‘want’ and buy accordingly. Of course, there are days when I spend with indulgence because I feel like it but those are rare and it’s now, after I started earning on my own.

    It’s up to us to teach our kids that it’s good to be thrifty with money and to also always approach us if they need something- money or support, emotional or otherwise.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your last line very wonderfully summed up what kind of values we must be inculcating in our children to help them grow up into individuals who’ll value life and everything part of it with reasoning behind it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dashy

    That is the best way to bring up your children. Also, when they are of age, they should be made aware of their financial status and savings. Not simply to know, but to give them a clue as to how they must save for themselves in the future. Some parents consider it a taboo to speak to their children about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I too have seen many people steer clear from discussing ‘money matters’ with children for the fear of showing that budgeting et al are things done by the insecure or lest their children might feel that they aren’t ‘prosperous’ enough as their peers. No-matter what the reason, this tendency needs to change. Involving kids in open talk has to be the way about it.


  3. fabulus1710

    “Luxury is the cherry on the cake and not the cake” Brilliantly put!
    I agree with the point in which you state that children must be explained the reason behind not having a particular gadget or a fancy new toy. Just saying a big fat no, or giving into every deman is certainly not the solution.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True that.
      Uttering ‘No’ as aknee-jerk reflex comes rather easy for all parents. But, what is really important is to sit down, take an extra minute to explain why you’re saying ‘no’, that’ll save a lot of heartburn and resentment on both sides 🙂


  4. Aishwarya

    I think checking the phone is like an addiction. Acknowledging it and keeping away the phone to sit and engage with the child needs to be a conscious effort. That sends a strong message to the child to what’s important.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s an important point you’ve made Aishwarya 🙂
      Such small gestures can often mean a lot in creating the right impact on young minds.


  5. Jitni chadar utna pair.. that’s a hindi proverb saying one much do what’s within limits.
    I haven’t seen the article so will go check it now but even I was brought up to value savings and buy things as needed. It’s not about splurging or not being able to but more about what is need to have vs. good to have.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree Parul. It all boils down to making children value the right things and not link money with happiness simply under peer pressure.


  6. Sara

    I can’t quite relate to this but just like you I’ve seen this happen with my extended family and close friends. I think our parent’s generation might actually be the last one who were alien to things such as pampering oneself and indulging. Although I’ve seen a couple of those types too in that gen but that’s not what I’m talking about. Aside from the one rime casual meet up with friends at franchises and bistros which means setting any one back by a good 1000 bucks, indulging oneself in luxurious bath products or branded apparels/footwear/gadgets is something that is disturbing me a lot. When I see my younger cousins spending so much with the normal BPO employee salary I feel very sorry for them. I want to scream, “dude, you’re actually spending 3 months of your entire salary on a phone!!!?” I am thoroughly lost as to where they get such ideas that its completely OK inspite of growing up with parents who traveled by bus because autos are expensive. If that kind of lifestyle was led by your parents how can it not affect one in anyway? Growing up with parents who even bought their first car entirely with cash, credit is an alien of a word to me. Although I know sometimes they go overboard with their saving scheme at the cost of so much discomfort that’s where me and my sis step in to balance it. I secretly think they actually like being used to hardship and a minimalist lifestyle. I’m very glad I was brought up this way.😃

    Liked by 1 person

  7. parijat shukla

    There was this “branded” school whose principal dint have tbe courtesy to ask even my wife to sit (we were kept standing while she talked to us), though kids got selected we decided against the admission.


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