By Khaula Siddique
As I sit here eating too much chocolate whilst scrolling through the dilemmas posted on the Muslim Moms.ca FB group I groan a little in sympathy with each quandary faced by a worried mom.
The issue that caught my eye this week was the post about how to deal with budgeting for kids’ clothes and specifically how to deal with the peer pressure of owning branded clothes. My first thought was to collectively hire the world’s greatest hacker to take down all the social media accounts of every age, make and type of “fashion influencer” out there doing nothing about nothing and reveling in the amount of ridiculous attention they get for doing… nothing. Unfortunately, I don’t know where to find said hacker. So the next best thing is to find good advice and offer that up, moms can pick and choose, take it or leave it, whatever suits whoever. At least I will be able to sleep at night knowing I tried.
First, I want to acknowledge the many moms who offered wise advice and tips in their comments with a good dash of patience and non-judgement in the group discussion!
Talking to Kids
Not all of us grew up with parents who talked to us, I mean like discussions between intelligent beings where the parent would not yell “have you completely lost your mind?” or throw a slipper at us. My generation was the one who just did not ask a lot from their parents to be honest (we were all terrified of that flying slipper) we just got what we did and sometimes on birthdays or special occasions we got a luxury item. Mind you that luxury item was not something purchased from Vans. It was from clearance at Sears or The Bay rather than the regularly frequented Zellers or Bi-Way.
Kids are smart. If you have a conversation with them regularly you can communicate ideas and facts in a way that doesn’t end in your kid stomping like an enraged rhino through the house to their room and slamming the door shut so hard you’d think Armageddon was on its way. And I mean regularly, get into the habit of having discussions-please note this means two-way communication, not you lecturing. If you are your kids’ friend it is way easier to have discussions around everything. And believe me, you want to be able to discuss everything with them, times are very different from when we were growing up.
Show Them the Money
Discuss finances with kids, not with a “we can’t afford this, that, or anything” attitude though, with a “these are the facts” attitude. This is how much money is coming into the house, these are the priorities; shelter, food, utilities. This is what is leftover for clothing, trips, miscellaneous school things etc. Talk to them about the responsibility of the decisions you as the caretaker have to make, “I would love to buy you a pair of $100 sneakers because I know you really want them, but I have to make sure you have a healthy meal first.”
Start by giving them an age-appropriate allowance and guide them how to spend it wisely; 1. Pay yourself (save a couple dollars) 2. Buy what you need. 3. Treat yourself (ice cream with friends!) Ask them to track their spending in a notebook or on an excel sheet and at the end of the month note expenditures so they can see for themselves how well they managed their money. Nothing hurts more than your own dollar wasted and nothing brings more satisfaction than having your own “wealth” to spend. I feel this is especially important for girls, they need to know how important it is for them to be financially literate, independent and strong.
All That Glitters in Not Gold
People go to school for years to learn how to convince you to give out your hard-earned cash for instant gratification that wears off very quickly. It is called advertising! Teach kids not to be gullible and fall for that, teach them the value of experiences and the emptiness of materialism. Challenging them to outsmart cunning advertising tricks helps! Kids love to outsmart others. My favorite sentence was (and still is!) when it comes to why I don’t buy branded or designer: “I don’t want to fund some rich guy’s trips to his private island! I want to fund my trips to see the world around me!” Talk about strengthening community by supporting better made necessities by local small businesses. “I want to fund that local woman owned business because it means she can put her kids in swimming lessons or healthy meals on her table.”
Stop Destroying the Planet-It is Where I Keep My Stuff!
The amount of awareness there is now about just how much junk we have produced and continue to produce that is causing climate change issues prevents any of us from pleading ignorance. Fast fashion, obsolete gadgets and the need to have the newest, latest and “branded” is killing our planet. Saving our planet is the most important thing right now and it is our duty as Muslims.
There is no shame or anything to be looked down on by “thrifting” we all do the planet a favor when we reuse and recycle. In fact you can find some amazing treasures at thrift stores besides decluttering your spaces by trading in your own loved items that now need new homes. Do a monthly or seasonal swap group get together with friends or community. That money saved? Plant a pollinator garden, take a bus trip to another city to eat their specialties or see their sights, buy something you like from a local small business!
Encourage and set examples of being charitable, the satisfaction of having helped someone lives forever and is good for mental, spiritual and in turn physical health -feel good chemicals produce more feel good chemicals in your body! Sharing the realities of the world around us with the kids is important, they need to know we are very privileged and that it is good to share what we can with those who are less privileged, it always comes back to us in one form or the other.
Raising kids is a challenge and it has never been easy in any era. It is a slow and often heart aching process, but getting it right has effects that will last beyond our lifetimes by becoming Sadaqah Jariyah for us long after we are gone.
About the Author
Khaula Siddique, artist at Khaulas Art, has written for Dawn Pakistan and now bestows her wisdom upon the world at her blog. Last time she counted she had five kids, however the vast amount of laundry has given her doubts. This is a cause of constant distraction as she tries to finish writing the next NYT best-seller.