Mothering without money…

10 Jul

I can’t shade it any other way – being a mom without money sucks!  (Sorry for the language – I tried to think of a good synonym but nothing really jived.)  When all the neighborhood kids dash out to meet the ice cream man and I have to say “Sorry…no.”  It is not fun.  When invitations to birthday parties are answered not with shiny plastic wonders that shimmer under cellophane, but instead hand-knit presents – your heart hurts as you imagine how the other party-goers will respond to the gift.  When your teen looks up with their best “I’m not disappointed” smile after being offered the prize of Goodwill jeans instead of the mall store style his friends are wearing – It’s disheartening.  A healthy bank account makes it so much easier to round out rough edges during the child rearing season of life.  I know, because not too long ago my children were regularly treated to dinner out, always brought the “Wow” present to parties and had so many clothes (most with name brand labels on them) that we would buy new furniture to accommodate them.  An economic downturn and a commission-based sales income, however, has given us the opportunity to realize the platitudes that we often espoused during more abundant times (i.e. “money can’t buy happiness”).

Several years ago when my now 11-year old was an infant I bought him an exersaucer at a yard sale.  I sat and cried that somebody else’s baby had received the toy brand new, while my poor boy had to have some other child’s cast-offs.  Nevertheless, I cleaned it up, disinfected it and popped my little boy in it – He bounced, he spun, he grabbed and rattled.  His face shone with joy.  He had no idea that he was being abused through the assault of used toys.  Never underestimate the value of the lessons our children teach us.  Looking back I realized how silly and foolish I had been.

In better times, my children were scheduled for as many activities as my calendar could stand.  In addition, they were always well outfitted with all of the suggested and optional equipment, gear and uniforms.  This year when my daughter wistfully examined a poster advertising the swim team in our neighborhood, I flipped through every option in my mind and realized I wouldn’t even be able to buy her the team suit that was required.  Doing my best to not answer, for the nine bazillionth time, “sorry…no.”, I responded, I don’t have enough to pay for it, but maybe there’s some way you could earn enough money to pay for it yourself.  She completely embraced the idea.  She researched what money-making options were available for a nine-year old and asked for help developing a flier.  Within a couple of weeks she had the money needed to pay the participation fee.  This week she won four ribbons, her coaches are impressed by her perseverance and she’s recruited her older brother to a sport that he is also flourishing in.  A few years ago my pride would have been spared, but today whatever knocks my pride has taken has resulted in her pride swelling. 

Before we were faced with these difficult circumstances, our family owned an awesome, decked-out timeshare in Orlando, Florida.  It was a little treat we bought our family after we sold our house.  We have some marvelous memories of vacations to Disney, and it is a little hard to acknowledge that by the time we can afford to return at least our oldest probably won’t be at home any more.  Today, we scrounge for gas money to visit family and typical vacations are not a possibility at all.  We just returned from camping this last weekend – an annual trip we make every Fourth of July.  While, a few years ago, we had been intending to get around to camping with the children sometime, we never actually followed through – despite having stockpiled much of the necessary equipment.  Finally, when faced with the reality that out-of-state vacations where not a possibility any longer, we scraped the money together for camping.  The adventures we enjoy and the quality of the time we have as a family more than match our Disney trips.  Now if given the opportunity, we’d go to Disney again, but when I look forward into my children’s future not only do I know we are making memories, I anticipate we’ve established a tradition they may well carry forward with their families.

So here’s the reality check:  Those days when I can’t afford ice cream man treat, I can recognize that when my eight-year old collects her own dimes and nickles to pay, she’s received more than a popsicle, she’s got the pride of doing it herself.  When we bring a homemade gift to a party, my children feel special that I didn’t run out at the last minute to grab something from the store, but took the time to make their friend a present no one else will bring.  When my son has a chance to buy some new jeans, sometimes he may still want the mall store style, but he will shop from the clearance rack because he can appreciate how many other things the $50 could buy.

Yes, parenting without money can be rough.  It’s a lot easier to be able to fall back on solutions that can be bought.  In the end though, when forced to look for alternatives you can discover no matter how tight things get there are gifts and blessings you can give your children.  There is nothing wrong with spending money on things for your children.  Moms and dads shouldn’t feel guilty for the gifts and opportunities they can offer with their income – It doesn’t hurt to consider though what options are available by holding back the checkbook occasionally.

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2 Responses to “Mothering without money…”

  1. Heather July 10, 2010 at 5:45 pm #

    Great one, Joyce. We feel your pain exactly! Commission-based employment in a bad economy make life very difficult. Like you, we’re learning to appreciate more with less.

    • joycemzrodgers July 10, 2010 at 8:24 pm #

      I think there are a lot of us out there these days…It is nice to find though, that there is something positive that can be gleaned even from often is a really difficult situation.

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