When I started this blog over 2 years ago (!!), I wrote an inaugural post about Donna Reed. I have since jokingly referred to myself on this blog as The Modern Day Donna Reed: an edgy, inperfect, fumbling version of the Domestic Stay-At-Home Homemaker. Donna Reed, in all her 1950's glory, was the picture of perfection: loving mother, immaculate housekeeper, divine chef, and beautiful wife. Her family was housed in an idyllic cape cod with a green yard and white picket fence.
The Reeds WERE The American Dream.
The American Dream. With so much stupid crap in the media about our government, the state of our country, dirty politics, a slippery economy, the rich, the poor and everyone in between, it's hard to believe that ANYTHING in America is a "dream." Hubby and I have been talking about these things a lot recently. He is a teacher, and of all professions, his has been making a good bit of headline. And with all that is happening in our country, in the world, one has to wonder, does The American Dream really exist?
Whoa. Heavy topic. I know.
And you might wonder, "What does the existence or non-existence of the American Dream have to do with your run-of-the-mill Mommy Blog?"
Now please know, I do not mean this discussion to be political or contentious. But here's the thing: I am a parent. I am currently raising children. In America. And the children I am raising will inevitably become the future inhabitants of our community, of our country, of our world. The start I give them now will make or break not only their future lives, but will impact our future society on a whole. We want what is best for our children, don't we? The American Dream is what all Americans hope their children attain one day when they are gone.
Or is it?
The idea of The American Dream stems from The Declaration of Independence, where we (or maybe it was just men?) were proclaimed to be created equally, with the certain inalienable rights of "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." Not surprisingly, we as Americans seemed to have defined "life," "liberty," and "happiness" as success, fame, and financial prosperity. We are bred to ache for the dream of owning a large Home. With an expansive Yard. And this Home is filled with lots of Things, preferably Impressive Things that will make others secretly jealous of us. We finance these Homes with a cutthroat Job wherein we have climbed to the top (yes, by stepping on other people's backs), working 100 hours a week, every year, for decades on end. And nestled smack dab in the middle of The American Dream picture is a good-looking Ken and Barbie couple flanked by their 2.5 children, like some distorted version of American Gothic.
It seems that the further we go into The American Dream (as American's have defined it), the uglier it gets. The older I get, the less appealing this "dream" becomes. The more I see of our world, the more I realize the unattainability of The American Dream . What is the point of an AMERICAN dream if most people in America cannot experience it? Why feed our children the false hope that such a life can exist?
Depressing, isn't it?
So, where does that leave us? Angry at the government? Stealing and swindling? Complaining and bitter? Work-a-holicism (Yes, I just made that word up)? Struggling to live beyond our means for the hope that an appearance of success and prosperity will someday materialize into reality?
None of the above.
I think we need to challenge ourselves to redefine what The American Dream means to us. Do our lives need to be defined by the amount of money we make? The job we hold? How often we can afford to eat out at fancy restaurants? Where we vacation? The square footage of our homes? The PSSA scores of our schools? The college we send our kids to? How much of our lives we can brag about so that others covet what we have?
Is that the definition of "dream" we want to pass along to our children?
Or, can we paint a different picture? A picture of simplicity: where our needs are scaled down so that they do not exceed our means? Where our wants are modest, and do not involve killing ourselves at a job we hate, keeping us from spending time with the ones we love? Where success is defined as the amount of happiness in our hearts and goodwill in our actions? Where all people can experience said Dream?
I do not know if The American Dream will ever be redefined, at least not as long as the greatest good in our society is ourselves. But I do know this: I want my children to grow up to be happy. I do not care if they are successful, according to society's definition. I do not care if they become butchers, bakers or candlestick makers (or doctors or lawyers or teachers or stay-at-home Moms for that matter). I do not care if they make a lot of Money or own a big House or have a lot of Things. It is my hope that their innocent little hearts never grow into cold hearts that desire such things. My dream for them is to grow up wanting a simple life.
And to be, above all things, happy. Not only with what they have. But with who they are.
That is my American Dream.
What is YOUR definition of The American Dream? Share your thoughts in the comment section...