Last fall I was walking through the mall with my daughter for some back-to-school shopping. We took care of basics — sneakers, jeans, leggings, a few tops — and then she told me she needed some new bras.
While my daughter does have a larger chest, we’ve had great luck finding her comfortable, affordable bras. I told her we could take a look at Target or Walmart on the way home, but she had a different idea and led me into the fancy store at the mall. I let her take her time and look. She presented me with a handful of bras she wanted — but when I looked at the price tag of the three bras she handed me, they were over $70 each. That would be over $200 for bras! I held them up and searched for diamonds or gold or something but alas, they were simply very skimpy bras that I could probably roll up and fit in her iPod case. Seriously, kid?
I’m a single mother of three and I’m on a strict budget. In this time when everything is so expensive, I have to watch how I spend every penny, and paying for a name on a bra isn’t a priority to me.
When I asked her why she wanted these specific bras she told me, “Because they are pretty.” Now, she was right. They were beautiful, but also very unnecessary and not very supportive. I was not going to drop that kind of money for “pretty.” I spend about half that on bras for myself and knew I could find something very similar for her.
I told her she was welcome to spend her own money on them but I wanted to shop for something cheaper. She wasn’t interested and we left. She didn’t want to stop anywhere else in the mall or on the way home and decided to pout on the way home instead.
A few weeks later she sent me a text reminding me she still needed new bras with several links to Skims bras she liked. The cheapest one was $60 and I told her I wasn’t going to spend that much. Yes, these bras looked way more supportive but they were also completely unnecessary for a teenager. I sent her back some links to very similar bras that were half the price (honestly, I couldn’t tell the difference between those and the Skims bras) but she wasn’t impressed.
As a single mom to three teenagers, it can feel impossible to keep up. Feeding them is expensive, their extracurriculars are expensive, and helping them with gas money and college is expensive. And I get that they want nice things — I certainly did when I was a teenager. But I had to work and earn that money myself.
It wasn’t until I was in my 20s, working full-time and busting my butt that I could afford something like an expensive bra or handbag. And even then, I had to plan and set aside money.
Ultimately, my daughter took the Christmas money she got from family and went to the mall and bought a few of those bras. She’s very happy and I think a lot of that comes from the fact she had to wait and buy them herself. They meant more to her because she had to spend her own money. Although she disagrees with me, I know better. I was once a teenager who wanted a pair of ridiculously expensive Guess jeans and couldn’t understand why my parents wouldn’t buy them for me. I get it now and I know someday she will too.
Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.