I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about parenting lately. How raising a child is very much about raising yourself beyond your childhood. One of the things I struggle with is responsibility. I grew up with almost no responsibilities until suddenly, I was the primary caregiver for my terminally ill mother, a home owner, a fiance, a pet owner and an employee all at once. While the topic of responsibility is a huge one for me, I want to focus that topic into that of money for a second.
When I was a child, I had an allowance. Usually, allowances are a payment for chores done around the house. In my house, chores were few and even more rarely enforced. We were given money without having earned it. My mother and father weren’t great with money. My mother had a bit of a gambling problem, and my father liked to collect everything he was interested in to the absolute extreme. They had limited savings and kept up the appearance of being stable.
When I was a teenager, I stole from my father’s wallet to fund my anime obsession, and when caught, he increased my allowance so that I could afford it myself. When I threw myself into a substantial credit card debt in my 20s, my parents bailed me out without asking for any pay back. When my living arrangements didn’t work out, they always welcomed me back home. I never know how tight things were until after my mother died and I learned that she had borrowed against her life insurance policy simply to pay for her groceries and utilities.
They taught me I was loved. They lifted me up when I fell. They showed me I always had a home and could always count on them. They didn’t, however, show me how not to fall in the first place, or how to pick myself up. They didn’t tell me what to do when that home was no longer mine, or what to do when they were gone.
It may seem odd, talking about this. Especially because finances are one of the true taboos of our society, I think even more so than politics or religion in some ways. It’s important though.
Having a son and trying to figure out how to raise him has made me realize that so many parents miss an important step. They raise their chicks into birds and teach them to fly, but they don’t follow through. I want my chicks to not only fly, but to be able to feed and care for themselves and their own families.
When Pat and I decided that I wasn’t going to return to work full time after Liam was born, I was scared. I was scared about being able to afford our home and our life. I was scared about budgeting. Recently it occurs to me that Liam needs to see this. He needs to see and understand the struggle. He needs to understand its importance. I want him to see it, to participate in it and learn from it.
A few recent changes:
-Try to live more simply. I am guilty of shopping when sad, disappointed, etc… It’s a major lesson for me to only buy what we need and not what I want. We have so much stuff. Too much stuff. (Follow my efforts here)
-Eat healthier foods. In the long run, it’ll save us money and make us healthier. Instead of buying random veg at the grocery store, I joined a CSA and make more of our plates full of veggies instead of carbs and more expensive meats. I want Liam to try new foods and new flavours.
New meals this week included grilled summer squash and zucchini with haddock, grilled chicken breast with local steamed beans, local boiled potatoes and corn. Local salad greens with roasted local beets and heirloom tomatoes.
-Make more, buy less. Pat has been eating at subway and local sandwich shops every work day for lunch. You can imagine the cost of this. So, I suggested making subs. Well, the sub breads we were buying weren’t lasting the week and were expensive, so I decided to try making my own. It was a huge success! Not only was it cheaper, but it was a fun activity for me and gave me a huge sense of accomplishment.
I’m trying to make more of our meals so that we aren’t eating out as much. I hope to do a bunch of freezer meals for those lazy days that I inevitably encounter.
-Buy second hand when we can. Thankfully, I work at a consignment shop two nights a week so most of Liam’s clothes and cloth diapers are 2nd hand. He gets to dress super cute (which makes me happy), but it only costs me 1/3 of the retail price.
-Reevaluate our needs vs. wants and work within those as best we can. I may not NEED television, but I want it real bad. As a compromise, Pat and I dropped cable and now just have netflix. Our phone costs were high so now we just have our cellphones and VOIP. We love pizza, but can’t afford take out so we enjoy pita pizzas now. Instead of a daily starbucks, we got me a Keurig and some great kcups.
Anyway, I plan on writing a lot more on the subject, and sharing our bread recipe. My kid is chasing our dog with a plastic cup so I need to intervene :)