Showroom Showdown.

Anna and I visited the local shrine to unattainable perfection on Monday. It’s called Pottery Barn for Kids, the beautifully lit showroom designed to make you feel like an asshole. I haven’t been there since 2008 because the instant I cross the threshold I feel like I don’t belong. I say fuck, don’t wear single strands of pearls, and refuse to join the PTA. Generally I prefer to avoid places that thrive on impossible standards, but I can’t get a new brain, or ignore Anna’s request for new bedroom furniture. We’ve already been to IKEA and Rooms to Go.

We glided through their glossy catalog on foot for 13 minutes before I started believing their monograms and ironed sheets could guarantee happiness. The fantasy rooms in this store fire up my primal longing for the double fairy tale. The one I wanted as a girl, and the one I want for my daughter. It’s a buy-one-get-one-free mind-fuck.

We visited the store specifically to look at this loft bed, which has a built-in desk and vanity. It’s a “storage solution.”

photo credit:

photo credit:

My brow crinkled when I saw the price of this American Dream: $1,800.

That’s only for the frame. If you add everything else in that room, the total cost is $5,632.

Then Anna pointed out the coveted play kitchen, and I remembered why I broke up with this store five years ago.


I wanted to buy this for her for Christmas. I didn’t because it costs $700, not including the tiny groceries. Now she’s too old for it. It’s a wish that can’t come true.

I started to fret about future wishes. What if they can’t come true unless I buy her the perfect PB Teen loft bed and study, with the mini-polka-dot phone and crystal lamps? Will I regret not buying her the entire room when I drop her off at college? Will she spend the next nine years feeling less-than and broke, like I did as a kid, like I do in this moment?

The smart part of me knows that’s dumb, but logic is no match for retail terrorists. This manufacturer strikes the core of my ugliest fear: Anna will be an outcast, ashamed and miserable, and it will be all my fault for not making more money, for not going to church, for not staying married, for not making her Halloween costumes, for not waving from the carpool lane every day at 2:15pm…for not having the Pottery Barn house.

My emotions were in a rolling boil when the sane voice in my head finally appeared. What in the twisted fuck is going on? SHE’S the nine-year old here, not you. Come back. You’re not living in a motel anymore. You can buy this stuff if you really want to, but is it worth pulling money out of savings? Or opening a line of credit with a million percent interest rate?…Do you really want this furniture because it’s beautiful, unique, and speaks to you? Or are you trying to slay the childhood lack monster with bunk beds?

Oh. Right. I don’t want to spend $5,600 on anything that doesn’t have or involve an engine. Especially not on furniture that will be destroyed or abandoned in five years. What I really want is to spend $500 at IKEA/Target, and keep the rest of my money where it belongs.

I braced myself for Anna’s heartbreak and disappointment and told her my plan. She said, “Okay. I’m not getting pepperoni on my pizza. Are we sharing a sundae or can I have my own? I love our California Pizza Chicken dates. It’s where I was born, you know. Los Angeles. Do you want to go back there some day?”


Anna couldn’t care less about where I buy her bed or how much it costs. Her self-esteem isn’t defined by the furniture in her room. It’s defined by us hanging out together blowing bubbles in our drinks, eating pizza, battling brain-freeze, taking stupid pictures of our cats, and laughing at Barbie farts.

Suck it, Pottery Barn. I win this round.


  1. CombatBabe says:

    Aww I love this post! You are one terrific mama.

  2. She’s a cutie and you’re a great mom. I’m sure one morning, bright and early, when she’s a freshman at the University of Wherever and she’s lying in bed with a soccer player smoking cigarettes instead of sitting through a boring biology class, the memory of not getting this lovely furniture won’t even cross her mind.

    • Arrrrrggggg DONNNN. Don’t say that! She needs to be smoking in bed with a hedge-fund manager. So she can buy Pottery Barn furniture. XO

      • Freshman year it’s soccer players because we’re the most fun. I’m sure by her last semester she’ll have figured out to find a man with a future instead of just nice legs.

      • I respect soccer players – IMO they have more stamina than any other athlete. It’s the only sport I’ll watch (and gymnastics). As for Anna, I just hope she picks a dude who treats her as well as I do : ). I don’t want to have to hurt anybody. It’s against my nature. Mostly.

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  3. A $700 play kitchen? Are they insane? I got my daughter’s kitchen on Amazon for $150 and it’s way cuter than that one. I hate fancy stores that are so far up their own asses. You made the right choice, and I love the way this post wrapped up. Those special moments are worth everything in the world.

    • Right? Que en el fucking mundo? I got her some piece of crap from Toys R Us and she LOVED it. As did Goodwill three months later when she couldn’t be bothtered anymore haha. Thank you for reading and commenting : )

  4. This post is great, and I freakin’ hate Pottery Barn. That bunk bed storage solution pulled me in too though. Buy one get one free mind fuck, for sure!

  5. “It’s called Pottery Barn for Kids, the beautifully lit showroom designed to make you feel like an asshole.” Hahahah, HA!

    I can’t believe that stuff is so expensive. It all looks like it was made from plastic.

    My home is completely decorated in “early garage sale”. I have lots of antiques and cool one-of-a-kind stuff that has been around for years, and will continue to survive long after all of that made-in-China shit breaks and ends up in the landfill.

    Love the photo of your daughter. She looks pretty stoked about that brownie!

  6. The “lack monster.” You’ve nailed it again, Molly! Can I link to this post on my “Other Bad Mothers” series? It’s brilliant. (and so are you)

  7. You totally hit the nail on the head. What she’ll remember, and what will make that adorable munchkin who she is, are the experiences she has, not the stuff. Use that furniture money to take her on a trip, to expose her to new things, and to give her amazing stories to tell for years. And, if she decides she really wants some cool new furniture, get some cheapy stuff and then let her loose with stencils, some cut up sponges, and paint to decorate it. My mom did that when I was around 10 years old and had outgrown my baby furniture, and over 20 years later, that furniture with my “artwork” is still in their house and I get a huge smile on my face every time I see it.

  8. I slept on ikea beds and had ikea furniture all my life and made it to adulthood trauma free!

  9. We went through a similar thing with trying to find a loft bed over a desk for Little Man. His room is microscopic. Luckily, the awesomely cool one I saw at Costco and drooled over was too big for his micro bedroom. We actually found a pared down model at a local furniture store. And isn’t it great when our kids don’t have our judgment hang-ups! You’re doing something right, Mama!!

    • Hey thanks for the tip on Costco – it never occurred to me to look there. I have a gift card, which means it would be FREE hooray! I’m glad you got Little Man’s room worked out. Managing small spaces takes patience and talent. Well done : )

  10. “Retail terrorists” — definitely using that one.

  11. Shit. I struggle with this. You put it ppetfectly. Its a mind fuck. And she’s do adorable I want to squeeze her!

  12. Time is more precious than things! Memories of time spent together with fun and laughter are better than pics of things once had … Your daughter already knows it. You are a good mom!
    And there are so many wonderful cheap decorations with which you can do miracles with IKEA-furniture. The thing I like most about IKEA-furniture is that there is space for your creativity, they encourage it – and even inspire it, when you walk through the shop.
    Do you have a sewing machine and can you handle an electric drill? You can make her a four poster bed with curtains! Cloth, some posts for the edges, some round stakes for the top, bolts with nuts, colors, And some fantasy for the details. I bet she’d love to paint the wood and would help you with the other things like holding things and getting you things when you are on the ladder.
    Any ordinary wooden bed will do for this. Even a loftbed.
    Just saying – with creativity you can turn every ordinary bed into a unique cool bed only your daughter has.

    • Exactly and thanks!! I don’t know how to sew, but I do know how to pay people to sew : ). I’m good with tools. This is a fantastic and super creative idea – thank you!!!!

  13. I would spend as much out of pocket being treated in the ER when I fell out of that loft bed during the night.

  14. Oh, mama, I hear you on this and am right there with you. I worry about the same things and am grateful my kids don’t know labels yet. They still like any and all sparkly things and don’t care where we buy them. Here’s to your gorgeous little girl and your wise parenting! Brilliant post – love the term, “retail terrorist!’

  15. It’s so tempting to think you can buy these things and be ever closer to The Perfect Life.

    On the other hand, there’s always Craigs List or vintage stores for people buy and tire of PB stuff or even better creations.

    But Anna will be terrific no matter what you two choose. I have no doubts.

    • That’s what I miss the most about LA – the consignment stores of the rich and famous haha. You’ve inspired me to look harder here in Atlanta. Thanks for chiming in!

  16. Bryn Adamson says:

    Ha! Pottery Barn kids catalogue makes me crazy….the perfection, the cost (the shipping!), the cleanliness, and of course the promise of happiness… but what bugs me the most is the lack of stuff. Like, where is all the kid’s stuff? The much-loved-washed stuffed animals, and the craft projects, the panties, the wet towels, and all the ribbons tied on the knobs of everything. The papers and the markers and the BOOKS! Where ARE THEY? Makes me crazy.

    • ExACTly! In spite of my best efforts, her room still looks like a third world market most of the time. Or an episode if hoarders. Que en el mundo? Thanks for reading and commenting!

  17. Genie Smith Bernstein says:

    Hi Molly, I followed Ashley’s Baddest Mother link to you. One of my favorite yard sale moments happened when a friend & I were rolling our eyes over the high price on an area rug. The owner informed us, “That rug came from Pottery Barn.” My friend said, “Well it’s at a YARD SALE now.”

  18. Ummm. . . win Mom, because she just told you her time with you is more important than anything!!! πŸ™‚ Fuck the retailers and their damn guilt!!

  19. Aww, I love you, and I love Anna! What a sweet girl πŸ™‚

  20. Reblogged this on The Kathy Diaries.

  21. Good job by you. And, yes, Tiny, you will be going back to Los Angeles some day. I will meet you at the airport and we will all party at Disneyland like it is 1999.

  22. Trying not to sound to camp but (with attitude): You GO Girl.


  1. […] post “Showroom Showdown” about being a single mom and wanting to give the right things to her daughter really struck a chord […]

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