Many of you live in the suburbs or come from a stereotypical suburban family. Dad has a good paying job, couple of kids, mom is a house wife or maybe works, but in general life is good. You have the same stresses that most people have, but you aren’t worried about losing your home, putting food on the table or being able to afford anything you really need or anything that you want, within reason.
But there is a trend I’ve noticed that seems to happen with these seemingly happy suburban moms more than anyone else is that they are getting arrested for shoplifting. It’s typically something small like a blouse or a piece of jewelry. Nothing that they can’t afford on their own, but something makes them shove the item into their purse and try to walk away without paying.
There have been some studies that show retail theft like this occurs for thrill seeking. That’s certainly true with teenagers, but you’d think a mom with so much to lose would want to avoid the potential embarrassment of getting arrested. Beyond that, if you get convicted you can go to jail for up to a year and face a $2,500 fine. So it’s really not worth it.
The amateur psychologist in me assumes that a lot of these women are bored with their slow moving PTA lifestyle and steal stuff to add some excitement to their life. But doing a little Google search reveals that actual psychologists believe women who can afford stuff still steal because they are depressed, angry or have low self-esteem. For them, shoplifting is really a sign of a disease. If they feel under loved or un-appreciated, this can be like a drug for them that makes them feel better and gives them power. And what I found really interesting is that in some of these studies they discovered that the women would often steal clothing and just give it away to a homeless shelter or thrift shop. It wasn’t the item they were after, but the thrill.
I did a quick audit of the last six months of phone calls I’ve received. I had 43 retail theft calls and 16 of them involved housewives in the burbs. That’s a pretty high number, but certainly consistent with the studies. While the studies I read talked about women who would do this over and over again, only two of my callers had been arrested for a 2nd time. Most had the same story that they “didn’t know what came over” them and they’ll never, ever do it again. Most probably won’t because once you get arrested and finger printed you get scared straight.
As someone who never wanted to live in a suburb beyond Evanston or Oak Park, this has really made me look at these suburban moms in a whole new light. Your PTA leader may be more than you know. She might also be a criminal.
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