I have often heard the phrase “I want my children to have everything.” Or at least, to want for nothing. The concept that every child must live in a big spotless house, on a quiet street, with just enough friends to play with, with a huge backyard, and go to a top-rated school, and have a parent home with them 24/7… It’s idyllic. Such a nice idea. And it sounds good—attainable. But I can speak for myself when I tell you that it’s not always a reality.
We actually have less money than my parents had at the same age. My children are well taken care of, but we live in a modest home on a main road, because that’s what we could afford. My husband and I both work. I currently work 30 hours a week, which is just enough hours to maintain our health insurance and benefits, but a little bit of downtime to be able to get all of our errands done and keep our house afloat. I occasionally buy my kids new clothing, but I generally don’t spend more than the clearance rack at target allows. I’m pretty sure the majority of their clothes are hand-me-downs. This is especially true for my second son, who has very little of his own at all.
We want them to be able to enjoy fun extras like swim lessons… But that costs a lot of money, and so we end up asking for things like that as gifts for their birthdays. I don’t buy organic apples because we can’t afford it. My car does not have heated seats. We make our coffee at home because coffee shops are way too expensive. Our friends are going to Disney this year, but that’s just too much expense for us right now, considering we pay 27K annually for childcare. Bottom line, we’re doing ok. But my kids don’t have “everything.”
And I’m ok with it.
There are things I want for my family… I would like a house on a quieter street, mostly because I think about my children’s safety. And I would love a garage… Lugging kids outside in the snow and rain isn’t for the faint of heart. I’d like to have enough extra cash that we can occasionally plan a trip, or that we can afford for them to play a sport that they enjoy, even if it’s an expensive sport like hockey. And I would love it if they never ate another non-organic vegetable in their lives.
But if I want that, I’d need to change some things. I would need to work more… Return to the 40 or 45 hours a week I was working before I had children. That would mean that all of those errands that I do on my day off would have to happen on the weekends, and it would also mean less time at home with the kids. I think to myself, what’s the point of having a big yard if I can’t play with my children in it because I’m too busy working?
I want them to have everything… but isn’t the time with their parents really important as well? With the schedule as it is, we might not have tons of extra cash… But we have quality time in spades. Almost all the errands that we need to finish are done by the time we are together on a Friday night, leaving us uninterrupted family time from Friday night until we go back to work on Monday morning. My job might not necessarily be high-paying, but it is incredibly flexible and allows me to change my schedule if my kids need me. Maybe, for right now, time with their mom and dad is the “everything” my kids need.
It’s tempting to fantasize about having a little bit more money. Sometimes, though, you can’t have everything you want. But right now, I think my kids have what they need.