Keeping Up with The Joneses by Proxy

“Life is not a race to the finish; it’s about running your own race and finishing well.” – Bob & Susan Karcher

Since the start of the year, we’ve been blogging about expecting greater things in 2018, overcoming the obstacles and fears faced on this journey, and putting a plan together to move your life from where you are to where you want to be.

As we prepared to write our first book, Who Are the Joneses Anyway?, we spent a lot of time studying the cultural phenomenon known as Keeping up with the Joneses. As we did, we discovered that we can all get pretty creative in our unstated goal to appear successful. This creativity is sometimes obvious but, most often, it happens subconsciously. As we view the world around us, we feel like we need to measure up, and our minds start creating ways to make that happen, even if just a little at a time.

One of the most prevalent methods unwittingly used to demonstrate our own success is something we call “Joneses by Proxy.” As the pressure to work hard and prove ourselves worthy develops it naturally evolves into including our children. If being successful means having the best of everything then, by extension, our kids must have the same and providing everything we want our children to have can even start with preschool.

Families that spend large amounts to get their children into exclusive preschools can start the race for parents—and their children—earlier than ever before. While some embrace the race, others don’t feel they have what it takes to put their kids through a high-stakes process designed to weed three-year-olds out of programs in which acceptance can be based more on who the parents are and how much money they have than the attributes of the child being considered for acceptance.

In a Huffington Post article titled “Blowing Off the Joneses”, Mike Julianelle described the pressure he felt to get his child into the “right” preschool. This author wondered if his child was not accepted to the best preschool, would he also not be accepted into the right college fifteen years from now?

While recognizing this pressure, Julianelle pushes it away and says he thinks that “the culture of competition that has arisen around parenting and kids is toxic and I don’t want much part in it.”

Julianelle goes on to frame his thoughts: “I don’t care who else is enrolled, or if it puts him on the right track towards the right kindergarten and elementary school and high school and college and graduate school. I’m raising a person, not a chain reaction…Sometimes it’s better to march to the beat of your own drum than get into a race of ‘Keeping up with the Joneses.’”

All parents feel the pressure to be perceived as loving, supportive parents. We all want our kids to have more than we had—but we also want them to be who they are supposed to be, don’t we?

“We all want our kids to have more than we had—but we also want them to be who they are supposed to be, don’t we?”

It’s time to ask, “Are the very things we are doing and providing actually setting our children up for something other than happiness and success?”

Will they constantly be searching to have nicer things later in life because they didn’t get enough as children? Could all the extravagant birthday parties, expensive toys, and designer diapers we provide really be about living out our own keeping up with the Joneses lifestyle vicariously through our children — a kind of Joneses by proxy?

Our culture has bought into the lie that with money and success we can find happiness. It won’t work — it never does! Neither true happiness nor lasting contentment will ever be found solely through possessions or career advancement. There is nothing wrong with money and success until we think they hold the keys to contentment.

Life is not a race to the finish; it’s about running your own race and finishing well. This is a lesson worth teaching our kids through our example rather than just our words.

Let’s all help our children expect more in 2018. Not more stuff … more life.


Blessings on your continuing journey,

Bob and Susan Karcher

Authors | Speakers | Coaches

Do You Know Her Dreams?

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

This one is for the guys. Sorry ladies, you’ll appreciate why soon enough and might even want to share this article with “your guy” after you read it.

OK men, let me ask you one simple question: Do you know your wife’s or significant other’s deepest dreams? I’m not referring to her desire to get a small break from driving the kids around or curling up alone with a new book.

Those are great short-term ways to relieve temporary stress but what I’m asking you to consider goes much deeper than a momentary break from the pressures of daily life. What I am suggesting you consider are those deepest thoughts and dreams that, when she really thinks about them, bring a renewed sense of hope and purpose to her life.

What? You don’t know what those are? You’ve never thought to ask her? That’s okay, most of us don’t. I didn’t ask or know Susan’s dreams, not for a long time. Us men tend to get so darned busy cranking through our lives climbing the corporate ladder, providing for the family, and trying to be a good husband, father, and friend that we don’t take time to consider our own life’s purpose and dreams – let alone anyone else’s.

That’s a subject for another day but, since this is the “Month of Love,” I’m asking you to think about your Valentine for now. You see, like you, she has likely been so wrapped up working and making life happen for you, the kids, and others that she unintentionally turned her “dreamer” off years ago. Most of us do.

Is dreaming about life just for daydreamers – those that spend their days with their heads in the clouds, wishing for times past or imagining what might one day be? I don’t think so. We all have dreams. Kids do. Teenagers do. And it’s not too late for adults to.

What if you could be instrumental in helping your Valentine’s daydreams become a life-long reality? “But, how would I start?”, you ask. In our Fellows Program at the Halftime Institute, we encourage our clients to have the “Courage to Dream.” For your significant other, that might start with asking questions something like this:

  • If money was not an issue, what would you be doing for free if you could?
  • If you could have anything you most wanted in life, what would that be?
  • If you knew there was no way you could fail, what dream of a lifetime would you pursue?
  • What life values do you most want to be remembered for?
  • What issue in the world would you most like to make a difference in?

What do you think your wife’s/girlfriend’s reaction would be if you took her to a quiet, casual dinner and asked her questions like these? She would probably fall out of her chair. And so might you when you hear her responses.

When I first realized I needed to ask Susan about her biggest dreams, I thought I knew what her answers would be. To be honest, I did get some of it right, but I was also super surprised by parts of what she shared. And now I am as focused on helping Susan’s life purpose, hopes, and dreams become a reality as I am my own. It has proven the greatest gift I could ever give her.

Wouldn’t this be the best Valentine’s gift ever if you could help your Valentine move beyond hope in 2018 and start expecting greater things than she ever imagined?

If you would like some guidance with this, drop me a note. I’d love to help.

Okay ladies, this is where you share this article on social media and forward it to your guy with a little hint that this just might be the best article he reads all year. 


Blessings on your continuing journey,

Bob Karcher

Author | Speaker | Coach


It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.

Ephesians 1:11