Top Kid-Spoiling Cities

Top Kid-Spoiling Cities

 Tired But Happy Mom on the Survey Cities That Spoil Their Kids Most (and What Is “Spoiling”?)

A former senior editor at U.S. News & World Report, Tired But Happy Mom is, naturally, a sucker for statistics, ratings, and rankings. People love to criticize such charts, complain about their inherent unfairness, and generally declare them wrong, but Tired But Happy Mom not only loves the way they assemble disorderly and confusing variables into a coherent package, but she also likes to think that she can spot those that are thoroughly researched and meticulously tabulated.

Having said that, she’s not sure that this one is, but its title and contents were utterly irresistible: “Cities That Spoil Their Kids Most.”

First, a word on the methodology. A media site called tabulated the spending of American households with children at toy stores, and others selling kids’ clothes and various services (classes and so on). The site claims it then gathered up the cities for which it had collected a reasonable sample size and calculated average spending per household over the past three years. Using numbers from the behemoth parenting sites and—which calculate that the average middle-income family spends about $12,000 on child in the first year of life, and up to $500,000 from birth to age 18— created its list. And, with a drumroll, the top 10 U.S. cities that spoil their kids most are: 

1)   Manhattan

2)   Brooklyn

3)   Miami

4)   Minneapolis

5)   Tulsa

6)   Dallas

7)   Atlanta

8)   Los Angeles

9)   San Diego

10) Fort Lauderdale

Like you, the first thing Tired But Happy Mom noticed is that Philly didn’t make the cut! Hooray for Philly parents! The next thing she noticed was that the top two locales are those where Tired But Happy Mom lived, combined, for nearly a quarter of a century—and where she became mother to Oldest Daughter, Younger Daughter, and Little Boy. And she can tell you that, based on experiential evidence,’s chart is dead-on—and that the child-spoiling culture is one of the reasons Tired But Happy Mom left New York. 

By the time she left Park Slope, Brooklyn—infamous for its Bugaboo stroller ($600 apiece) gridlock traffic on its boutiquey sidewalks—Tired But Happy Mom’s daughters, then 8 and 10, were feeling deprived because their friends were flying to Paris for long weekends, taking guides of China with personal tour guides, and spending summers at eco-camps in Bali. Given that Tired But Happy Mom could barely afford even to pay the mortgage on her 1,100 square-foot hovel, and that she herself had never had a vacation abroad until she was 30 years old, she was speechless. Then, she was ear-smoking mad.

It was tempting to lecture Oldest Daughter and Younger Daughter about how most of the world’s children are happy if they get to eat a bowl of rice every day and don’t have to work at a factory or more exploitive venue. To be honest, Tired But Happy Mom did do that. But clearly, it wasn’t her daughters’ fault for feeling out of it. They were, after all, living in a culture in which money—a lot of it—was spent on extravagant adventures, real estate, fancy schools, clothes, and much, much more. Perception, as the Buddha says, is reality. For Oldest Daughter and Younger Daughter, they perceived themselves as different, and so they were.

Tired But Happy Mom switched tactics and asked her daughters if they had ever met any of their friends’ dads (and, in some cases, moms). Very few, and maybe only once, was the response. Tired But Happy Mom’s point was that, given their father’s and her own set of professional skills, Oldest Daughter’s and Younger Daughter’s parents were able to work from home—make less money, but be with their children a lot. These were choices. What would they prefer? Maybe Tired But Happy Mom didn’t want to know the answer. Maybe Oldest Daughter and Younger Daughter didn’t want to be asked.

But as her children get older and begin to notice in ever more nuanced and difficult ways that they do not have the stuff that their friends do—and may never have them (even in unspoiled Philadelphia!)—Tired But Happy Mom has to remind herself, and her kiddos, that we can be disappointed, sad, and jealous together. We can also play games, garden, take walks, cook meals, and just hang out together. The point is: We’re together.

Does this make a difference to them now? Would Tired But Happy Mom’s children prefer to be spoiled? Probably. Tired But Happy Mom herself wouldn’t mind a shopping excursion to Neiman Marcus or a summer in Bali, even if it meant that she didn’t see Awesome Dad all that often. But that’s only now. In time, she would mind it—a lot. And in time, she can only hope that her children will make the same value equation. Though if Oldest Daughter wants to go out and become Mark Zuckerberg, Tired But Happy Mom won’t object. She’ll just move into her daughter’s giant house—and take care of the grandchildren.



Tired But Happy Mom is also known as Susan Gregory Thomas, author of In Spite of Everything: A Memoir (Random House: July, 2011) and Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds (Houghton Mifflin: May, 2007). Thomas writes for The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, Marie ClaireParents, and others. She lives with her family in Philadelphia.







1 Comment

  1. Tiffany

    You are such an inspiration! I just finsihed you book In Spite of Everything and find your observations so thought provoking. Glad I found your blog.

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