The Misconception of Materialism in Creating Happy Families


Advertisements have a way of constantly promising better things. In fact, in both subtle and obvious ways, every advertisement promises we will have a better life if we buy whatever they’re selling. Most advertisements these days don’t even tell you about the product. They sell us something else: a better party… more friends… a better body… a cleaner home…

And often, nestled among these promises is this one: a better family.

Just consider how many advertisements show joyful family scenes with the product or experience at the center—the board game, the vacation, the restaurant, even the new car.

“Buy this product, and your family will be happier.”

This messaging subtly suggests to all of us that the path to family happiness and bliss lies in acquiring more. But, from my perspective, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

As I’ve journeyed towards minimalism over the years, I’ve learned that more is rarely the answer. And less solves more problems than we think.

This sentiment rings equally true when thinking about what our families really need from us.

Consider this, when we fall into the trap of believing that our next purchase or vacation will finally bring our family closer together, we are often led away from the very thing they crave and need most: our time, our attention, and our intentionality.

When we fall into the trap of thinking that buying more will bring true happiness and close relationship bonds to our families, we inevitably end up sacrificing precious time and energy. We pursue the money needed for the purchase that we believe will bring our family closer together—often neglecting the everyday moments of connection and growth that naturally occur within our family lives because of it.

Our children, more than anyone else, are keenly aware of this. Despite what they say, what they yearn for isn’t the latest video game, the next grand vacation, or a pool table in the basement.

What they need, first and foremost, is our time, attention, and conversation. They need parents present in their lives. They need to feel the security and stability that comes from a family where parents are not constantly running the race of accumulation, but are present and engaged with their kids (and spouse).

Of course, providing for our families is crucial, and there is value in hard work and ambition. But a problem arises when the pursuit of material possessions and consumerism begins to overshadow the deepest needs of our family.

But you don’t need to take my word for it, numerous studies have highlighted that what our children need most from us is time and attention. In fact, one study, published just last month, found that “the more time parents spent with children, the higher their children’s well-being will be.” And other research suggests that high consumer debt and the resulting financial stress negatively impact family relationships.

In other words, constantly chasing the next purchase that promises to deliver “the perfect family” may actually be keeping you from it!

We work hard to provide for our families financially.

We must also work hard to provide for their other needs as well. Because more money and more purchases won’t supply all they need.

If our constant desire for the next thing that promises to deliver a happier family is actually pulling us away from our family, it’s time to pause, reflect, and change course.

How do we accomplish this? Well, for one thing, by focusing less energy on what we want to buy next and more on valuing what we already have, we create space for more meaningful connections. We make room for shared experiences, for open conversations, for appreciating the small, everyday moments that, in retrospect, turn out to be the big moments.

As we begin to unburden ourselves from the consumer-driven cycle of seeking more, we’ll find that we have more energy and time to invest in our families.

At the end of the day, our families don’t need more things; they need more of us—our time, our attention, our love, and our presence.

And that’s a promise no product or possession can ever fulfill.

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