Why Parents Should Stop Worrying About Fair and Equal

posted by Andrea | 10/24/2014

fair and equal

This is a post I’ve been itching to write for years already — but I didn’t think I would hold any “clout” on the topic until I had at least 2 kids.

So now that the “having two kids” part has been taken care of, I have a few (maybe more than a few) things to say about why I STRONGLY believe parents (and pretty much everyone else) should stop worrying and stressing about making every single aspect of our children’s lives “fair” and “equal”.

For starters… real life is not fair or equal!

In case you haven’t noticed, real life is rarely ever fair or equal — and yet we have all survived and learned to deal with disappointment and hard times. In fact, if I look back on my own life, those disappointments and majorly unfair periods of my life have often prepared me for new (and usually better) opportunities.

Yes, our present lives would almost always be better and happier if we didn’t have to deal with some of life’s “curve balls” but I’ve personally experienced greater rewards as a results of those more difficult situations (obviously, not all the time… but I think you get the idea).

When it comes to our children, life is not always fair either.

Sometimes one child gets a special treat while another might be punished for bad behavior. Sometimes one child is recognized for good grades in school, a musical achievement, or an athletic award while another child sits in the background. Sometimes, as parents, we do one thing for one child and a completely different thing (or nothing at all) for another child.

I don’t think that’s bad! 

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I have a lot more to say on this… but I think it’s more helpful if I work it into few examples from my own life.

PHOTOS:

I’ve blogged about my digital photo albums several times already and almost EVERY SINGLE TIME, I get a handful of emails and comments from readers wondering how I plan to keep up with all the photo albums if we have more children. ‘Am I REALLY going to make one family album plus one separate album for each child every year?’

Well… I don’t know. If I have time, I will. If I don’t want to spend extra time on photo albums, then I won’t. Just because I am currently making Nora her own separate book each year doesn’t necessarily mean I absolutely MUST make a separate book for each child every year. My plan is to keep going with the separate kids books for as long as I enjoy it and am able to make the time to devote to it. If it ever becomes stressful for me or something I no longer enjoy, then I will stop.

Oh, and remember the cute personalized alphabet book I made for Nora 2 years ago? I can’t even tell you how many emails I got from disgruntled readers informing me that I was “setting myself up for failure” because there was no way I would ever have time to make one of those books for all my future children!

And, true story, I’ve actually had someone tell me that I’ll regret getting a 4-generation picture taken with Nora because I won’t ever be able to do that with Simon (Dave’s grandpa passed away several years ago).

Honestly, who cares! If Simon (and any potential other future children) don’t get an alphabet book or a 4-generation picture, I’m sure they will still live happy, fulfilling lives. I doubt they will even notice, let alone get upset. And also, who says I won’t have the time to make alphabet books for future children? Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. Or maybe I’ll come up with an even better idea for personalized books for future kiddos.

2013-photo-albums

MEMORABILIA + SENTIMENTAL ITEMS:

For Nora’s baptism, I had planned to make her an outfit from my wedding dress fabric (yes, I chopped up my wedding dress) but then my mom told me she had saved the little dress I wore for my baptism. Since I REALLY liked the look of my old dress, I opted to have Nora wear that instead of making something.

However, when it came to Simon’s baptism, we didn’t have any passed-down outfits from Dave, so I made a cute little vest and shorts out of my wedding dress.

Both outfits were adorable and sentimental in their own ways — but over and over again, I was asked “Are you going to make something from your wedding dress fabric for Nora now?” or “I hope Simon has an outfit passed down from Dave too.”

Oh my word people — does it really matter!?

nora's baptism

simon's baptism

I can’t tell you how many emails and questions I get asking how to handle memorabilia and other sentimental items (specifically for children or parents who have passed away). I completely understand that those type of items are very difficult to purge, but they can also be a big source of clutter if we hang onto them all.

But… just because we save something for one child (like their coming home from the hospital outfit, their school report cards, a special baseball, or their graduation cap) or one relative (like their wedding dress or special book or photos), that doesn’t mean we absolutely must save that exact same items for all other children, friends, relatives, etc.

The following is taken from one of those reader emails (used anonymously with her full permission):

Hi Andrea,

My son just started pre-K this year and he comes home with papers EVERYDAY and he wants to keep them all! I would love to be able to keep a bin for him so that when he is 18, I’ll have some sentimental stuff from his childhood to give him, but at this rate, he will take over a whole closet! I just don’t know what to keep and what to get rid of. My husband says that I always just want to get rid of everything (which is slightly true) but I am willing to keep items for my son and daughter.

For example, I accidentally gave away my son’s coming home outfit from the hospital. For some reason, I kept the hat from the outfit and the baby blanket from the hospital but not the outfit… so since that appears to the “tradition” that I have started, we will only be keeping my daughter’s hat and baby blanket from the hospital. I felt bad about this for a while but at this point, I really don’t think it’s that big of a deal.

Here is my response to the bolded section above (I also shared ideas about paper clutter, but that’s not relevant to this post.)

As for the coming home outfit and blanket, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not feel like you always need to do the same thing with every kid. I know so many moms who do that and almost drive themselves nuts trying to be exactly equal all the time, spending the exact same amount on birthday and holiday gifts, buying the same number of clothes for each child, saving the exact same things, giving the same graduation gifts, etc. etc.

Your kids will not care so it’s totally not worth stressing about.

I understand “traditions” and how fun those can be, but they should never be something that makes you feel guilty or bad if you don’t do it for one year or one child. You are right, it’s not that big of a deal and if you feel like keeping your daughter’s coming home outfit, just do it. I’m sure your son will survive and thrive even if he only has a hat and his sister has the entire outfit 😉

Anyway, that’s what I have to say — I bet you’re sorry you asked now!!
Have a good day!

She responded back immediately and explained that she was an only child so she just figured that with two kids, everything should be equal. I’m happy to report that she is now planning to keep her daughters entire coming home outfit even though she only has her son’s hat! 
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GIFTS:

Oh boy… here we go (in case you can’t tell, I feel somewhat strongly about this topic!)

PLEASE do not feel like all of your children, grandchildren, friends, or any other family member need to get exactly the same number of gifts or the same price-point value of gifts. That is not the purpose of Christmas or birthdays or weddings or graduations or any other special occasion.

Let’s say you bought your 15 year old an iPod (which he wanted) but your 5 year old only got a couple of board games and a new sweatshirt (all of which she wanted). Do you think the 5 year old is going to have a tantrum because her shirts and board games didn’t cost the exact same amount as the iPod? Probably not. In fact, she might be even more excited since she go to open multiple presents and your teen only got one.

And just because you give one friend or neighbor something, doesn’t mean you need to give all your friends and neighbors something, or that you have to continuously give those friends and neighbors something every single year from now to the end of time.

The majority of people will never notice or care about this — and if they do care, they might not be the type of people you want to be exchanging gifts with anyway! Please consider this as we approach another holiday season 🙂

christmas gifts

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Now, before you start thinking I’m a big Scrooge, I want to make it very clear that I LOVE traditions and the ideas behind saving certain sentimental items. I think it’s great when you have fun things to look forward to and fun traditions to uphold year after year; or when you can figure out a way to repurpose something sentimental to use in your own life (I’ve done this many times and it’s so rewarding!)

I have no issue with you buying your girls their first American Girl Doll when they are 7, or throwing each child a special “Sweet 16” birthday party, or giving the same number of gifts to each person at the holidays… as long as it’s not stressful for you. However, when you’re obsessing about finding another $2 item to add to one person’s gift pile so everything is totally fair and equal, THAT’s when I think it goes too far. 

If it so happens to work out where everything is “even-steven”, great! If it doesn’t work out completely fair and even, I have a feeling that, more often than not, you will be the only person who notices or cares — so please don’t stress yourself out about these types of things.

Fair and equal are not requirements for our children (or other family and friends)… and I know my life has been simplified by not stressing over this.

What are your thoughts on this topic?

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67 comments

  1. Lindsey

    01/06/2019

    Thank you for writing this! I am a first time mom and anytime I have done something for my daughter, such as make her a baby book, make her the ABC book you made for Nora, take milestone photos, etc., I am told by relatives with multiple children that I am “setting myself up for failure” because I will never ever do those things for my next children. Umm…first of all…how do you know I won’t? And if I don’t, who cares? I am enjoying my daughter today. Why should I be concerned about what hypothetical children will or won’t get special from me?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh yes, just don’t listen to them. I’ve kept up with all my digital books for ALL 4 kids because it’s a priority to me. My house is also clean and I arrive on time (even with 4 kids, and even though everyone told me I wouldn’t be). It’s just a matter of what your priorities are!
    And yes, any future potential children will survive just fine, even if you do an ABC book for one child and not for every child! hahahah!!

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  2. Katie

    01/03/2018

    Hurrah – I wholeheartedly agree.

    I have two sons, five years between them, and have never spent the same on them at Christmas. The eldest has far more spent on him than the youngest but his ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ are different. I bought my eldest a laptop (he needed it for his school work) but I never spent the same on my youngest because he would have had a ridicious amount of presents. I know that when the time comes my youngest will probably also get a laptop. I think it is a complete waste of money to match – over the years they will probably end up getting the same spent on them. I believe good parenting is adapting to their personalities and needs which are not always the same because they are different people!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, I never even track how much I spend on each child — one might get more now, but another might get more later. Makes like so much less stressful for me and helps give our kids a little extra dose of reality too 🙂

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  3. Courtney

    11/03/2014

    love this! I am one of three kids and I’m so thankful my parents didn’t try to treat us all the same! Like you said, life isn’t fair and so when you go into it expecting it not to be fair it goes so much smoother. As a kid we never counted how many presents someone had or the cost of the gifts. The only thing we actually did compare was candy in our Christmas stockings…the ONLY thing my mom made sure was equal. 🙂
    I’m not a parent yet, but I know for sure there just are some things one child will get that another won’t. And why would I ever deny my child a picture of 4 generations just because their sibling might not get the chance? That’s ridiculous!
    Love your stance on this Andrea! Keep up the good work!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    amen Courtney — and, for the record, the candy in our stocking was always equal too 🙂

    [Reply]

  4. Mary

    10/28/2014

    Dead on! This nonsense comes from our entitlement society in which everyone must have equal even if the only work they did to earn it was walk to the mailbox and get the check! When my kids ever say “That’s not fair!” I say “Neither is life, better just learn that now while you’re young!” Good post.

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  5. Shelby

    10/27/2014

    Oh my, this topic makes my head spin! Yet another reason we decided to have one child! It blows my mind that people feel the need to take the time to point out things like the 4 generation photo and that it’s unfair to Simon!! What are you supposed to do..not take advantage of the fact Nora has a great grandma? Geesh, people really put thought into stuff like this???

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