One year after my husband and I moved into our first home, we purchased our first new appliances: a washer and dryer. This upgrade was more energy efficient, which would benefit our pockets as well as the environment. I should have been content, but I wasn’t.
In this country, we are encouraged to pursue our career ambitions, raise a family/leave a legacy, and buy things…lots of things. It almost felt like a rite of passage to buy new appliances and project a confident air of financial stability. We had earned it, after all.
My husband and I both agree that we were blessed to grow up in homes of frugality. And, unlike so many we know, we have escaped the temptation to overcompensate for our lack of things in childhood with excess in adulthood. In fact, for most of our twenties we lived in poverty as graduate students in Virginia or young professionals in California. Besides our washer and dryer, the only other major purchase we have made together was a car after our primary vehicle was totaled.
You would think that this combination of thrift and life experience would make one grateful, but, the truth is, the older you get and the more you earn, the more easily you feel entitled to the good life. Within days of using our new washer, I found reason to complain about every aspect of its functioning.
For my birthday this year, my grandmother sent me a box full of family pictures, cards, and letters dating back as far as the late 1800s. One letter, written by my mother to her grandfather one year before my birth, convicted me in a way I never imagined:
“As soon as we get our taxes back Fred [my father] and I are going to make a major investment. We are going to buy a washer. We figured if we would have saved all the money we used on the laundromat we could already have had one.”
There I sat, the stereotypical unsatisfied Millennial, with tears in my eyes. For over a year, I had let minor imperfections in my laundry consume me, not even considering the luxury of my ability to purchase such appliances. If my mother, a 24-year-old mother of one (my sister), could find reason to be content and excited at the idea of finally owning a washer, why couldn’t I? Further, my mother did not possess a driver’s license at the time, so I can only imagine her difficulty in even getting to a laundromat. The truth is, she found a way and she didn’t complain.
I am reminded that being content is a choice. Is it more important to equip my children with pristine apparel or inner peace? What I know is this: if we are parents, we are models, and the little ones are watching, even when they grow old.