“And the craziest part: They all thought it was normal.”
As we shared our Who Are the Joneses Anyway? story with others, it became more and more apparent that we were not alone in experiencing some of the things we went through in our old “Keeping up with the Joneses” lifestyle. Not even close! So we began interviewing some of these folks and taking notes along the way.
Leann and Charles were one of the couples we interviewed and they allowed us to share their story. The following is an excerpt from our book Who Are the Joneses Anyway? (names have been changed).
Leann and her husband, Charles, had just moved their family into a new, nicer neighborhood. She and Charles decided on this particular neighborhood because they were looking for some of the same things a lot of young parents want: better schools, sports opportunities for the kids, and a newer home. However, after one particular day, Leann wasn’t so sure this new neighborhood was as nice as she thought.
One afternoon at her kid’s school, Leann had just loaded the kids into the family car when one of her newer “friends” literally yelled to her from across the parking lot: “Hey, Leann! Are you wearing Lee jeans right now? Get those off, and don’t ever wear those again! That’s embarrassing!”
“I wanted to crawl into a hole…I just cried when I got home,” Leann told us. She went on to admit, “Until that moment, I didn’t know there was a difference between Lee jeans and designer brand names. I just bought what I could afford and what fit me. But, I’ll tell you what, it made me become more mindful of what I wore. From then on, I was really careful about what I bought because I was so worried that I would receive more negative comments, especially in front of my kids.”
This wasn’t the only time their family felt the sting of social comparison. Leann also told us about a time they were left feeling unwelcome in their new neighborhood and school—all because they brought a case of sports drinks that wasn’t the leading name brand to a local soccer league game their kids were playing in. They dared bring an off-branded sports drink!
They wrestled with feelings of inferiority over that incident too. Leann recounted, “I thought they were saying, ‘Oh, there’s that family who couldn’t afford to bring Gatorade.’ In fact, we couldn’t. We had to live within our means. But slowly we started living beyond our means, just to keep up.”
These were the beginnings of a new life that Charles and Leann had never experienced before. And with this new reality came something else: pressure. As they put it, “We felt compelled to keep up with the lifestyle we now found ourselves surrounded by. It added a whole new layer of stress to our lives that made it difficult financially and emotionally, and, at times, it affected our confidence.”
“I don’t think we even knew what was happening right away,” Leann explained. “But before you knew it, we felt like we needed to drive a newer, larger, ‘better’ car. Everyone around us seemed to drive a Suburban or Escalade.” And that was just the beginning.
The pressure mounted. Leann recalls, “All the good people and the friends we met were living the same life—the rat race—and nobody could breathe. Everyone was exhausted trying to make it all work. And the craziest part: They all thought it was normal.”
Can you relate to Leann and Charles’ experiences? If so, reply to this note and let us know. We would love to hear from you and we may even share your story in a future article like this (with your permission of course).
Want to know what happened with Leann and Charles? Be sure to read our next blog post and we will share the rest of their story and how they worked through their predicament.
Blessings on your continuing journey,
Bob and Susan Karcher
Authors | Speakers | Coaches