Once upon a time I used to make my own money. I brought home a decent pay cheque, helped pay our collective bills and then had a glorious luxury called spending cash. Then I went on maternity leave and suddenly the dollars coming in were the same as the dollars going out. I often lamented about how, if we had given birth to our kids one at a time, the government would have given me twice the amount of dollars. Every month the Government of Canada would give me X amount of money and then they would give that same amount of money to all my friends who had one baby. While they were out there buying diapers and formula and all the gear that comes along with new babies, I was buying diapers and formula and all the gear times two. It often felt like I was being shafted. But I reminded myself daily that I was lucky to live in a country that offers such a benefit at all. My husband and I made it work. We budgeted and counted pennies and made lifestyle changes. We still lived comfortably.
Then, after twelve months, that money stopped too. Suddenly, and for the first time in my adult life, I wasn’t making any money. Not a cent. That was one of the most humbling and unexpected side effects of parenthood. Once again, my husband and I re-budgeted and counted more pennies and readjusted our lifestyle. We were forced to redefine what luxury meant to us.
As a stay-at-home mom, I read all the time about the importance of self-care. Going to get your hair done, booking a pedicure or going shopping to cheer yourself up after a rough week. These are all things I would have done for myself regularly before starting a family. Now, these outings are classified as luxuries; luxuries we typically can’t afford. I haven’t paid for a hair cut in two years (thank God for scissor-skilled friends). Get-togethers with friends no longer revolve around a meal or a drink (food doesn’t make the company any better). Organic, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, free-range? Forget it. But out of these changes has come something quite remarkable.
I don’t feel like I’m missing out.I don’t feel deprived. I’m actually…happier.
Now when we really need something or want to go on a vacation, we save for it. I only wear make-up when I’m going out (assuming it’s not to the library or grocery store). Food is almost never thrown out. If it’s going bad, we freeze it and repurpose it in a sauce or soup. My cooking skills have expanded exponentially. I’m sure I’m making my grandmothers proud. The time we spend with friends seems, somehow, more valuable. Maybe because we’re all in the same boat? We seem to have a new found appreciation for the little things. Recently I ran across a phrase that really resonated with me. Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do. Or do without. It is incredibly liberating to live this way. Just the other day, the crotch blew out in one of my favourite pairs of jeans. As I balled them up and tossed them into the garbage, I couldn’t help but smile inside, glad that I’d worn them to the end rather than replace them before it happened. And let’s be honest, I probably wore them a time or two more, ripped crotch and all, before getting rid of them. The idea that we’re reducing and reusing more and that very little is going to waste is truly liberating.
I still worried about depriving our kids in some way. They live in hand-me-downs and Value Village finds. Our house is cluttered with second-hand toys and pre-loved quilts. Our kids share a bedroom because it’s the only other bedroom we have. Our house is small; cramped to some but comfortable to us. When my kids are old enough to go to school, I’m sure they’ll want all the coolest, trendiest, priciest shit every one else has but, call me foolish, I hope I’m wrong. I have a vision for my family. One that involves quality time together making-up games, tending the garden, baking or experiencing our own adventures. All of this can be done whether you have money or not. And likely our financial situation will change many times over the years. But in my vision, money isn’t a factor. Whether we have it or not, we don’t think about it. We don’t fight about it. We don’t stress about it. It isn’t part of the equation that makes up our family. My vision involves living simply, focusing on relationships, not dwelling on what we don’t have and appreciating every little thing in front of us. Learning not to covet what others have or compare ourselves to the families we meet is genuinely freeing. Each day that I stay focused on this vision brings me more happiness and assures me that our family is on the right path. And it’s ok that it’s not currently paved in gold.Tags: appreciation, finances, friendship, living simply, marriage, money, stay at home mom, twins