23 "Toxic" Norms In The US That Are Very, VERY Messed Up

We recently asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell us the standards that have become "normal" in the US, even though they're actually toxic. Here's what they had to say:

1."No affordable childcare. No paid leave, so if you need to go back to work, your kid is in daycare. (Don't even get me started on women shamed for sending their kids to daycare.) That can cost up to $2,000 per kid per month. It varies, obviously, but it's ridiculous."

"There is a daycare opening near me, and the waitlist is at $1,500, and it hasn’t even opened for business yet!!! Not only is daycare expensive, there just isn’t enough of it."

—36, Virginia

Children engaged in an interactive activity in a classroom setting
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2."The pursuit of becoming a multimillionaire. The 'you, too, can be rich' idea has always been a part of the American Dream, but obtaining material wealth as quickly as possible has become priority number one. I'm a teacher, and many of my students just want to become rich fast — those who I’ve talked to about this have career goals that aren’t necessarily easy to attain or don't have an immediate monetary payoff."

"Some want to become social media influencers, others professional streamers or sports superstars. Financial stability is important, but so is being realistic."

—44, Florida

3."The ridiculous price of healthcare. One broken arm later, and you're $10,000 in debt. It's so normalized how expensive healthcare is, and it's causing people to die or not seek treatment because they are worried about the costs."

"It's a terrible system, and it makes me so angry; if you need constant medical appointments, such as psychology or general GP for prescription refills, the cost is absurd."

—19, Illinois

A doctor discussing with a patient, in a clinical setting, for a travel health consultation
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4."The credit and loan-based culture has become nearly a necessity if you want to have even the basics of a house and car. And the 'keeping up with the Joneses' mentality also feeds into the credit system."

"Constantly buying a bunch of stuff, but it's all cheaply made and breaks in two weeks."


5."For working women, especially mothers, there's this expectation that you gotta have everything under control and doing everything perfectly. Like, you're supposed to be able to take care of the baby, nail that conference call, cook dinner, and clean the house all at once, all while doing it perfectly with a smile on your face, no complaints."


"Women are so overworked to a point where everyone around them expects them to get 'used to it.' Fathers don't help around the home. Instead, older children are left responsible and then ridiculed for failing when they're being a 'mother' at the age of 15."


Woman multitasking with ironing and holding a baby, in a home setting, symbolizing family-oriented travel experiences
Fluxfactory / Getty Images

6."In high schools, college applications are ruining all the teens' intrinsic motivation. Everything they do is for the college apps, and competition between students has gotten toxic. Because of this, academic dishonesty is also on the rise (ChatGPT is not helping). Teens aren't engaged in classrooms."

"Teens don't sleep enough due to their workloads, and social media has destroyed their mental health."


7."Extravagant birthday parties for children. What happened to inviting some friends, baking a simple cake (or buying one), and letting the kids play? Nowadays, parents spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on parties with (wasteful) balloon arches, character appearances, professional catering, special outfits…the list goes on."

"Why does a 5-year-old need a spa birthday with robes, hair, makeup, and pretend mimosas? WHY???? I have a 10- and 6-year-old and have seen my fair share of ridiculous parties — and it's only getting worse. Letting our children lose sight of what's actually important (spending time with those you love) and replacing it with a bunch of superficial B.S. is setting them up to be spoiled brats."


A baby shower decor with balloons, butterfly, and "BABY" sign, no people visible
Serhii Sobolevskyi / Getty Images / iStockphoto

8."Hustle culture. Not everything needs to be monetized. You're allowed to do things just for fun, or just do nothing after a long day at work."


9."The cost of living for middle class is to the point of legalized stealing. All the wealthy know, and they don't care. This is why I am more deliberate of where and what I spend my money on."

"Also, the lack of a balanced life is the crack in the entire foundation of our overrun lifestyle. Our cognitive abilities to make decisions, everything from day-to-day to long-term planning, are highly impacted by the fact that we work five days a week or more. I only count weekends as time spent with family because the two whole hours I get with my son after work each day are just enough to get basic needs met. The wealthy and powerful have SET UP middle-class lives this way, so it's impossible to get ahead. Need to go to the doctor? You'll need to take PTO or go without pay. There will be no PTO left for 'vacations.' We are set up to fail — so no, we are not the problem."


Man at a laptop reviews documents, expressing concern or concentration, possibly planning travel
Fg Trade / Getty Images

10."Acting like being poor is a result of laziness or stupidity; instead of addressing the root of wealth and income inequality, we vilify being poor. It's either because they 'don't want to work' or are 'bad with their money.' Even in times of low unemployment, so many jobs don't pay enough to make ends meet, even living frugally. They are also typically part-time and incompatible with having another part-time job."

"And oftentimes, 'smart' money decisions aren’t possible for someone with no savings because they often require spending more money upfront to save money later. And why do they have no savings? Their job doesn't pay enough, and they can’t get ahead of bills and expenses. Yet we act like this is all their fault."

—41, Minnesota

11."The obsession with having a four-year degree. My generation was pushed to get a degree just because. Yes, it opened up opportunities for some people, but many others spent all this time, have all this debt, and can't even get a job in their field. Now, we have an entire generation of people who are very book-smart but have to hire someone to do every repair around the house or on our cars."

"I tell my kids that I'm totally behind them if they want to get a workable degree, but that's not their only path. For their generation, the real money will likely be in the blue-collar jobs; everyone needs these jobs done, but no one wants or knows how to do them."

—39, Texas

Graduates wearing caps and gowns at a commencement ceremony
Chuck Savage / Getty Images

12."Tipping culture. Pay the employees, please. Some employees guilt-trip you if you don't."

—17, USA

13."Over-committing your children to extracurricular activities. Everyone thinks their kid is 'the best' at something and forces them into countless extracurricular activities. We've lost the art of having dinner around a dinner table, doing homework, and spending time together. Everyone's always on the move and stressed past appropriate levels."

—38, Florida

"The sports obsession, especially when it comes to being hard on your kids about them."


Young baseball players on a field, a batter at home plate, and a catcher in position, with a game in progress
Peopleimages / Getty Images

14."Feeling like you can't call out sick because of the financial and emotional burden of 'being part of a team.' You're manipulated from childhood to adulthood that working hard is what you must do; if you're not, you're inconveniencing others. Forget that there can be enough people on a shift to cover your spot or that it's a bigger disadvantage to having someone sick on a shift — productivity and teamwork are what matters!"

"It sucks knowing that a common phrase in the American workplace is 'if you collapse, I'll step over your body and continue working!' I've heard it at every job I've ever worked at, and even my family shames me for wanting to call out."


15."This might be a generational thing, but I don't understand why some American parents abruptly stop supporting their children once they turn 18 and expect them to be fully independent after that. The children didn't ask to be born; if you don't want to take on the burden of childcare, then don't have children. You don't suddenly stop being a parent because your child is a legal adult — you still have a responsibility to love and support them and encourage them in their pursuit of independent living."

"I've heard of people being kicked out of their parents' house the day they turn 18. That's WILD."

—29, Sweden

Person sitting on the floor, surrounded by moving boxes, using a device with earphones
Ableimages / Getty Images / fStop

16."Lack of paid parental leave. ZERO days. ZERO hours of paid parental leave. Twenty-five percent of women go back to work TWO WEEKS after giving birth. Parents get ZERO days of guaranteed leave to be with their newborns. And we live in a society that will absolutely chastise you if you don't breastfeed. How can anyone do that if they're immediately back at work?"

"Some European countries start maternity leave eight weeks BEFORE the baby is due. Can you imagine? We don't get eight weeks, period. Then, depending on the place, they get anywhere from six months to three years of leave. Even if it's not entirely 100% full pay...doesn't matter. Your job is promised to be there for you when you get back. And guess what? Even if you get live in the US, people you work with treat it like you went on a vacation."

—36, Virginia

17."Working yourself to death. In my family, 'dying at your desk' is considered the greatest way to pass away. My grandfather worked right up until his death at 87, and it was considered a great honor in my family that he canceled his business appointments before dying in the ER that morning. Later, I realized that meant he never was able to slow down and enjoy the last years of his life because he was needlessly working up until the end."

"And part of the reason he was still working was because of a two-year stint recovering from an injury when he lived with us and had to keep working to pay off the medical debt he incurred. It didn't occur to me that this was odd until I grew up and met people who had retired in their 60s, and that was when I realized that no one in my family ever really retired."

—42, Georgia

Person holding a clock with "WORK" and "RETIRE" text replacing numbers, symbolizing work-life balance
Dilok Klaisataporn / Getty Images

18."The pledge of allegiance. That is just indoctrination getting little kids to pledge their lives to their country as if America hasn't got any problems at all."

"Also, healthcare. How can you call yourselves a first-world country with people bankrupted by medical bills and dying of preventable causes?"


19."Federal minimum wage has been $7.25 since 2009!!!!!!!!! It’s just accepted."

—36, Virginia

A smiling waitress takes an order from a woman sitting at a cafe table
Ems-forster-productions / Getty Images

20."The loss of community and a lack of leisure time and free public spaces to spend time in."


21."Turning higher education into such a hard and expensive competition, especially when you aren't going for a particularly competitive position or know what you want to do initially. There's no sense in going into debt because you want to prove yourself by getting into the 'best school,' when honestly, you tend to get out of education whatever you put into it."

"Consider staying at home and going to community college to take core curriculum because English Comp, Algebra, Foreign Language, P.E., etc. are close enough to the same class everywhere. Want to learn from Ivy professors? Do your four-year in-state and watch the Ivy professors' lectures online for free, or check the books they wrote out from your school library. If you want or need extra money, consider earning it by working with a team instead of competing for scholarships. Programs like AmeriCorps, NCCC, and VISTA offer education awards equal to a year of Max Pell."


Person filling out a form on a plane, likely preparing for travel procedures
Fg Trade / Getty Images

22."The standards for women: Must be thin, young girls 'must' wear expensive skin care products, oh, and the misogyny!"

"Just because I'm female doesn’t mean I don't know what I'm talking about!!! Especially about cars, welding, farming, technology, using my strength, cultures, or the military!!!! I can know and do stuff!!"

—17, USA

And finally...

23."If you can't afford rent, all the blame is on you, not your employer. Corporate officers own mansions while the rest of the employees struggle to pay for an apartment without getting roommates. The wage gap is just way too substantial, and it's negatively affecting market price. A studio apartment costs $1,400/month because of the $6 billion McMansion down the street."

"Another is the expectation that I should just move. I was born here, and if I had the thousands of dollars it required to pick up my entire family and move, I wouldn't have to worry about the looming threat of homelessness."


Suburban street with rows of similar houses, clear sky, perfect for a peaceful neighborhood stay
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Wow. What are some other standards in the US that have become normalized, even though they are toxic? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Or, if you prefer to remain anonymous, feel free to use this Google form.

Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.