Dear Harlan: I’m a single mom who works two jobs and lives in an apartment with my daughter. I live in a town where there is a lot of money. I’m here because the schools are the best and it’s a safe place to raise my daughter. My problem is my daughter. I’m disappointing her because she can’t get what everyone else has. I know that things don’t define a person, but a middle school girl wants these things. I want her to fit in. I also know that we can’t afford to go on three trips a year and get the latest iPhone. I made a choice to live here, but my daughter feels like she’s the odd one out. I struggle with this. How can I explain to her that things don’t matter when she is always comparing herself with everyone else?
— Working Mom
Dear Working Mom: You should wear a cape. You’re a hero. Your daughter might not see it today, tomorrow, next year or the year after, but she will see it. Your strength, courage, generosity and work ethic will be a driving force for her. Getting things doesn’t solve problems. It just creates another thing to want. Very few teenagers feel like they are enough when they are comparing themselves with others. There will always be someone who is smarter, funnier, prettier or more popular. I’m still coming to terms with this as an adult. Let your daughter feel whatever she’s feeling. Encourage her to have experiences (not things) that fill her with joy. Soon, she’ll be on her own. Then she can get and do whatever she wants. In the meantime, encourage her to work, save money and buy things if something is important. She can learn to earn and take pride in what she creates. Love her and listen to her. And remember that you are an AMAZING mother.