Cyber Monday is one of those things that smacks me firmly in the face and shouts, “You are so close!” every year. Having just checked out of an emotional visit with family and a sobering look at what the holidays really can do to people with or without family to visit, (way more on that in another post), we attempt to return to our every day lives ushered on by a tsunami of email and ads promising huge savings coupled with the thrill of convenience. In the past, I have basically finished my holiday shopping by now and that was even before the advent of cyber-anything. I have seriously scored some pretty great deals on previous clicking sprees. Now it only serves to remind me what I don’t have and taunts me mercilessly as a missed opportunity.
Before you start thinking this is going to be more first-world whining about how I can’t afford every sparkly I want, let me tell you that it is exactly that, but it’s wrapped up with something much darker and is part of the holiday shadow we’ve been living in for a few years. I’m pretty sure we’re not the only ones here, but like so many things in our culture, no one’s talking about it.
If you haven’t figured out by now, I’m a fair-to-middlin-aged, white, hetero-married, suburb of Boston living, college-educated, full-time desk-job working, home owning, mother of one. I am just on the north side of the most desirable marketing segment in America. On paper, I am living the dream in just about every way. I shouldn’t have a care in the world, except I do have cares and they are legion.
We live in a modest three bedroom, 2-bath ranch in a really nice neighborhood and I recognize every day that we are so lucky to even have a roof over our heads. We can barely afford this house. Miss O goes to daycare full-time, 5 days a week so we can both work and so she can enjoy the benefit of being cared for by loving staff who do so much more than plunk her down in front of a Baby Einstein DVD every day. In our area even the least expensive daycare costs the same as a reasonable mortgage payment each month. We can barely afford this, too.
Sometimes I wonder if we can afford both in one month. (Hint: Next month = probably not.) That panic sets in and starts a spiral of thinking what else we might not be able to afford and how we’re going to make it happen. Will Miss O have clothes to wear? She’s already pushing out of the 3Ts we got for her birthday (she’s two and a half!) She has to have snow boots for school. Oh my goodness, last year I waited too long and got the last pair of boots in Massachusetts that were under $100 just before the first snow fell. That was when we kind-of had money.
It’s one year later and that spiral of panic now involves a monthly mental inventory of what is in the house that I think I could sell. (I’m looking at you snow boots.) I start to feel guilty for owning things I bought years ago when we had enough to actually put $20 in savings every month. I talk myself off this ride by telling myself it will be ok and we have so much more than we need and we have jobs and daycare is willing to work with us if we have challenges for a while. (They were amazing when I lost my job and we had to debate pulling Miss O out to save the money.)
And then there’s Cyber-Monday. An all-out first world marketing bonanza offering fantastic deals on all the things you never knew you wanted and really can’t afford not to take advantage of just in time for the holidays. This year it seems especially egregious. At the time of (finally!) posting this, it will have been one week since the Monday after Thanksgiving. The funny part is that I started receiving sneak peek emails for this granting me special early access to these deals as early as Thanksgiving. Take that Black Friday sales! As if that weren’t enough, I am still receiving emails with Cyber Monday deals in them. What? You say Cyber Monday was over a week ago? Well, never fear, we’ve extended our deals for your convenience! Riiight. Don’t even get me started on Green Monday. Enough already. Seriously. I get that you’re desperate for my money. So am I.
If I had money to spend, I’d probably be thrilled. I’d probably be shopping my little heart out, especially for Miss O, because there’s not a thing in the world I want to deny her. Which is when the spiral starts again.
It’s been a struggle this year and it’s not going to get too much better too soon. I am getting better at ignoring the noise and focusing on what we have and we do have. I’m worried our Christmas will look significantly smaller than last year, but I tell myself I had my expectations set at a very privileged bar and it wouldn’t hurt to lower it to a far more reasonable and realistic level. If anything it will set Miss Os expectations at a reasonable level and perhaps we can focus on being thankful for what we have and the love we have for each other rather than focus on what we want and don’t need. Isn’t that the point anyway?