February 25, 2018 Bob & Susan Karcher

Keeping Up with The Joneses by Proxy

“Life is not a race to the finish; it’s about running your own race and finishing well.” – Bob & Susan Karcher

Since the start of the year, we’ve been blogging about expecting greater things in 2018, overcoming the obstacles and fears faced on this journey, and putting a plan together to move your life from where you are to where you want to be.

As we prepared to write our first book, Who Are the Joneses Anyway?, we spent a lot of time studying the cultural phenomenon known as Keeping up with the Joneses. As we did, we discovered that we can all get pretty creative in our unstated goal to appear successful. This creativity is sometimes obvious but, most often, it happens subconsciously. As we view the world around us, we feel like we need to measure up, and our minds start creating ways to make that happen, even if just a little at a time.

One of the most prevalent methods unwittingly used to demonstrate our own success is something we call “Joneses by Proxy.” As the pressure to work hard and prove ourselves worthy develops it naturally evolves into including our children. If being successful means having the best of everything then, by extension, our kids must have the same and providing everything we want our children to have can even start with preschool.

Families that spend large amounts to get their children into exclusive preschools can start the race for parents—and their children—earlier than ever before. While some embrace the race, others don’t feel they have what it takes to put their kids through a high-stakes process designed to weed three-year-olds out of programs in which acceptance can be based more on who the parents are and how much money they have than the attributes of the child being considered for acceptance.

In a Huffington Post article titled “Blowing Off the Joneses”, Mike Julianelle described the pressure he felt to get his child into the “right” preschool. This author wondered if his child was not accepted to the best preschool, would he also not be accepted into the right college fifteen years from now?

While recognizing this pressure, Julianelle pushes it away and says he thinks that “the culture of competition that has arisen around parenting and kids is toxic and I don’t want much part in it.”

Julianelle goes on to frame his thoughts: “I don’t care who else is enrolled, or if it puts him on the right track towards the right kindergarten and elementary school and high school and college and graduate school. I’m raising a person, not a chain reaction…Sometimes it’s better to march to the beat of your own drum than get into a race of ‘Keeping up with the Joneses.’”

All parents feel the pressure to be perceived as loving, supportive parents. We all want our kids to have more than we had—but we also want them to be who they are supposed to be, don’t we?

“We all want our kids to have more than we had—but we also want them to be who they are supposed to be, don’t we?”

It’s time to ask, “Are the very things we are doing and providing actually setting our children up for something other than happiness and success?”

Will they constantly be searching to have nicer things later in life because they didn’t get enough as children? Could all the extravagant birthday parties, expensive toys, and designer diapers we provide really be about living out our own keeping up with the Joneses lifestyle vicariously through our children — a kind of Joneses by proxy?

Our culture has bought into the lie that with money and success we can find happiness. It won’t work — it never does! Neither true happiness nor lasting contentment will ever be found solely through possessions or career advancement. There is nothing wrong with money and success until we think they hold the keys to contentment.

Life is not a race to the finish; it’s about running your own race and finishing well. This is a lesson worth teaching our kids through our example rather than just our words.

Let’s all help our children expect more in 2018. Not more stuff … more life.


Blessings on your continuing journey,

Bob and Susan Karcher

Authors | Speakers | Coaches


Share This:

Tagged: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *