Thursday, April 12, 2007

Growing up rich or poor?

I grew up mainly middle class. I think back about everything I had, was given to me by sacrifice of my parents. They worked hard and felt their children came first. But this came later in my life. My life I think started out a bit on the poor side. Do I think this is bad? Nope, I barely remember the sacrifices made by my mother.

I've never talked about this time in my life before and it's a little strange. My mother was a single parent, thus she didn't have a choice about allowing me to be raised by both daycare and my grandmother. Why? Well my biological sperm donor did not provide any financial or physical support and was out of the picture after a few months. Actually if anything he contributed to more work than necessary. One day my mom came home from work to a baby crying and no husband present. Guess I'm lucky to be alive.

I have to add that earlier this week when I posted about the risks of being a stay at home parent, I'm really offended by people who think that daycare is bad. They obviously have not walked in the shoes of someone whose been divorced, widowed, or living with a disabled spouse. Life is not always how you plan it and to immediately say that daycare is bad and staying at home superior obviously is very narrow-minded.

Were we poor? I certainly didn't feel poor. Fortunately my mother had worked since 15 helping to support her family who were very, very poor growing up. She had worked through college 3 job, and earned a master's in less than 4 years. She had support from her family, including my uncle who took 8 years to finish college to support his younger sisters and parents. He also started picking pineapples at 12 for money. They grew up in a 2 bedroom shack on a farm, which I remember fondly. This shack did not have plumbing, but an outhouse, which was an improvement over my great-grandmother's home which didn't have a bath for years. Instead they used the public baths at a penny a bath. My grandfather drove a tour bus, so money was always an issue. But the love and support were priceless and cannot be measured in $.

But my mom had a great job, worked hard and though we didn't have a lot, we always had food, shelter, and clothes. My mom worked so hard, I remember her sometimes crying because she was so tired and lonely. She would rush back and forth to drop me off/pick me up, and we would often go back to work after picking me up. My grandparents were fantastic, they would watch me at night when my mom would go back to work to pick up extra shifts so she could pay the bills.

I know we often did not have material goods, but my grandfather knew everyone in town and would often barter services for goods. So we were able to get a bed, car fixed, in exchange for help with painting, gardening, etc. He would often find things my mother needed for free in exchange for his physical labor. He really was a good man, he also would find things people were throwing away and fix it for us to use. I saw my biological sperm donor at my grandfather's funeral for the first time in over 20 years, I think I've seen him 4 times in my life (maybe).

At the age of 18 months I developed grand mal seizures, but fortunately my mom had great medical insurance from her job. But she had to cover her portion of the massive medical bills. During this time she would barely sleep 2-3 hours a night because she would be washing sheets from when I was ill and wet the bed. She would also have to wake me to give me medicine and stay with me in case I had a seizure. She also spent time with me in the hospital when I was ill. During all this she was already a single parent. Stregth? Will? My mother had it in spades.

My grandmother would often come over by bus and try to clean our house to help my mom out. She would also try and cook dinner every night so my mom could come pick me up, eat, and drop me off with them so she could go back to work. My grandmother also worked by putting newspapers together, sewing, washing clothes for other people. Working was a necessity, not a luxury. I know my mom often laments over not being able to stay at home with me, but if she didn't work, we wouldn't have had a place to live or food to eat.

Though we were poor my mom NEVER took government help. She cut up all her CCs, after her divorce and didn't pay for anything if she didn't have the cash. We were so lucky to have so much family around to help though. Not financially with cash, but with love and support. We were often invited over to people's houses for dinner, sent home with food, and I was often watched so my mom could work. My aunts and uncles all struggled to make ends meet while trying to help their parents who had never had much money. Their sacrifices have built secure retirements for all, and all could be considered upper middle class with their impressive net worths.

My mom and I are still really close, I call her everyday. Every weekend she would work, but I remember her taking the time to make sure I studied. The only thing my mom recited to me growing up is "education will give you a better life. Education can never be taken away. It is your ticket out of here." My mom meet my now father when I was about 7 years old. During this time we had definitely moved from poor to lower middle class. I could tell because my mom no longer cried.

I remember taking our first trip to disneyland when I was 5. My uncle paid for a good chunk of it, till today I think of the many things he did which were a godsend for us both. And my other aunt also helped us afford it too though she was single. But that's what family does, that's where our strength comes from, our families. I live right now saving money because I hope that in case my mom should need it or my grandmother I will be able to give them money financially to help out with anything.

I am so proud that I come from a line of strong women. Women who worked to support their families, and sure it would have been easier to stay at home and take hand outs, but they didn't. Instead they worked 2-3 jobs both in and outside the home.

I remember my grandmother sewing me clothes or wearing boy clothes until I was quite old. My cousins were all boys, and I just wore what my cousin M (8 months older than me) outgrew. I also had a boy haircut because it was easier. I remember eating the farm raised chickens, eggs, and vegetables. I remember my grandparents trading services for food. My grandmother till today washes saran wrap, ziploc bags, and recycles everything. I learned garbage picking from her, when we used to collect cans and bottles for extra money. But I never considered us poor, I thought we were quite wealthy. After all we had a house, a car, and my mom could support me ALONE.

If anything I always felt so rich. I had so many experiences, so much love in our family. We were constantly together, I miss it even today. A day never went by where I wasn't with a part of my extended family. I think that those experiences shaped my life now. When I see single parents I know that their hearts break as they leave their children in daycare. And yet there are people who make them feel "lesser parents for not staying at home." This is a fact because my mom often wonders if she was as good a parent as everyone who stayed at home. These people need to get off their high horse and stop thinking that only you can love your child. They are obviously the same people who only believe families are bonded through blood. But something to consider is that these single parents are doing it to show their children that taking a hand-out from the government is not the answer. That hard work will be rewarded.

My mom remarried when I was 10 and I was adopted by a wonderful man. Our lives changed immediately. We had a lot more money and opportunities. This too shaped my understanding of people. I learned that family is built on love, not blood. That a person can love a child not their own because they participate in the raising of the child. That adopting a child can mean as much as one sharing your genetic material.

So did I grow up rich or poor? I think I grew up rich.

My family has risen from poor to probably upper middle class. We got there from helping each other, giving each other strength, encourgement, and a hand. I believe that families are built from love not blood. I feel bad for people who think that parenting is only done if you stay at home. Obviously that's not true, it's built by the values you instill in your child, the bond you build with your child. You can be at home and not spend as much quality time as a single parent who works 2 jobs. I also feel bad about people who think you can only love your biological children. Or that bond occurs at birth, rather than being nurtured through love, compassion, and participation in their lives.

All of this has contributed to making me a lot more conscious about money, a lot more cautious about life. I worry that if I stay at home and my husband dies or is disabled I will not be able to provide for my children. But I mitigate this by saving money now before we have children so that I can cushion any possible problems.

And yes because I was adopted by a wonderful man, I do not feel pressured to have my own biological children. People always say if you keep waiting, you won't have your own, but I can't say that's important. I already have a 529 started because I know I will have children no matter what. If I am unable to have them I will adopt without hesistation. I even hope that perhaps I can adopt after having a child of my own anyway. And my parents would cherish all of my kids equally. I know that my views are not shared by others, but this is my perspective on money and parenting.


frugal zeitgeist said...

Yay for your mom. I can see why you're so proud of her and all the rest of the family surrounding you two.

kepola said...

I just finished reading your latest entry and I have to admit that when I read your previous entry on the "cost" of staying home to raise children it made me upset.

Your mother had a hard life but she and you were both blessed with a loving and supportive family that was there to help out and for that I am truly thankful. Many mothers who find themselves single and raising their children do not have that kind of support system in place and have to get some form of government assistance so that they can work and still be able to feed their children and provide a place for them to live. There is no shame in that...

I am one of the women who worked after having my first child as did my husband. We worked opposite shifts so that one of us was home with our baby. When I got pregnant again with twins we realized that there was no way that I could work full time after taking care of 3 children under 2 years of age and still functioning. I took the firsst year of my twins life off from work other than doing some tutoring. I did return to work part time later one and we did put our children in a early childhood learning center for 3 1/2 hours a day so that my husband could get some sleep (he worked the graveyard shift and I worked days) while they wre there and also after I brought them home and put them down for naps before I ran off to my other job. Later we made the choice, that our quality of life and that of our children was much better with me staying home with the kids and we ended up homeschooling them for the last 9 years of their elementary, junior high and high school years. I now work at a job that pays much less than I made as a teacher but I have health problems that prevent me from working full time. Teaching in itself is extremely stressful with all that is expected these days of teachers and the lack of support, materials, and all the stupid nonsense that is being pushed these days.

Would I ever trade the time I have had with my kids for more money? NEVER!!!!! My husband and I chose to invest in our children and give them the best possible start in life that we could. We have given them a much better education than they could have gotten in the public schools around here (remember, I am a former teacher so I know what is and isn't being taught there and was appalled at it all). We are much closer as a family because we too had to struggle financially at times but we did it together and my kids learned that you need to work hard in life for what you want and that nothing is handed to you. My husband and I value our children above money and yes...we made the choice to sacrifice for me to stay home. Our income level was around or below $20,000 for years and yet we made it. I am so proud of the wonderful young men that my kids have become and they are all successful, loving, Godly and very generous people who also want their future wives to be given the option of staying home to raise their children if that is what they want to do. They have thanked my husband and I for sacrificing for them just as I am sure you have done by thanking your mother, grandmother, father and the rest of your family for doing the same for you.

I guess what I am saying is that being a parent does involve sacrifices...your mother knew that well and she did what she had to do as did your extended family to make the best life possible for you. ((((HUGS))) My husband and I chose to keep me at home as much as possible because that was what was best and right for our family. And you know...I'm now in my mid 40's and have alot more years ahead of me to work outside of the home but I only had a short window (19 years) of raising some of the most amazing people that God entrusted me with. I would not trade any of that time for any amount of money in the world. My family is better off for having me here and to be am I. My children are my treasures and for someone who had been told she would not be able to have children they mean all that more to me.

Be blessed!!!!

Never Again Debt said...

My husband left me when my youngest daughter was only 9 months old. I had to go to work and leave my 2 children with a caregiver because I did not have one single family member to help me out. My kids remember me coming home from work and throwing myself on the bed due to exhaustion. Thankfully as my daughters got older they helped out more.
Life isn't easy for anyone. Thinking back, I grew up rich and never knew it. My mother, however died while I was in my 20's and life drastically changed for me. I had bouts of poverty and richness.

The struggles make us stronger and appreciative of the good times. We all experience both sides of the coin.

You are a better person. Horray for you!

Living Almost Large said...

No Kepola, my mom worked for 33 years with people in need, she has a master's in social work. So she does know what true poverty is. She was called to it. Did it pay well? No, but she has always felt she's done good in the world. Both my parents have contributed a lot to society and it means a lot to me to see their examples.
I wonder if more women were not inspired by a social worker helping them who was also a single parent?

But that's my point, here you are saying that it's so short your time with your children. And you are right now writing about the assumption that it's better to stay at home, you're quality of life was better.

DO you see how you are demeaning anyone who works outside the home? DO stay at home parents see how they are debasing the institution of parenthood as only ONE path?

You say you would not trade any money for staying at home. BUT you had an option to even stay at home. You make it sound like people who work outside the home have a choice. And the truth is sometimes the don't. But even if they don't, why is it wrong to have a choice?

Isn't it more wrong to be a parent that is unhappy staying at home? Or not given a choice?

I think people who stay home are often judgemental of those who choose not too. When they feel those people should. But then they forget about all the people who don't have a choice and prefer to not acknowledge them.

This is what stay at home parents have done to my mom forever. Realize that she was single during the late 1970s and early 80s. There were not as many single parents as there are now. More women did stay at home during this time, and here she was "abandoning me". I fight for kids in daycare. I fight for the fact that people assume as a parent you are doing a lesser job by not staying at home.

It seems that people who work hard no matter what their choice should be appluaded as doing what is right for their families.

Kepola said...

living almost large....I think you have totally misunderstood me...I'm not putting down any parent who chooses or has no choice but to work outside of the home. I have worked full time, part time and stayed home all during the years that I have had my precious children here with me. I simply said that for me and my husband, we made the best choice for our family, and that was to have me home and educating our children so that we could give them the best education possible. The school system here was failing our children (one has ADD and all 3 of them are very bright and we not being given materials at their learning level and therefore were bored out of their minds...even the teachers could see it and they were very concerned about not being able to give our children what they needed). It involved huge sacrifices on our part but it was all so very worth it...our sons have all been able to pursue their dreams and are doing great...they also have been doing volunteer work helping people in our community since they were very young and have even been honored with Volunteer of the Year awards and other honors. :) Every family is different and I applaude your mother and your extended family for doing what was best for you and your's in your situation. I'm sure that your mother did inspire many other single moms to pursue their dreams too. Every parent wants "the best" and "more" for their child than they have...your mother sacrificed for you just as my husband and I have sacrificed for our children...we all just did it in different ways. :) And I'm sure that one day, if and when you have your own children, you will struggle with the decision as to what is best for your family just as millions of other moms have done. Believe matter what choice you make, there is always some "guilt feelings" involved about either not being there enough for your kids or not being able to provide them with "better things". :) And for the sister is an amazing single mom to her son and she works full time outside of the home at 2 jobs so that she can support him. I greatly admire, love and respect my sister for all that she does and she respects me and my husband for all that we do for our children.

Be blessed!!!


Living Almost Large said...

Kepola you started your other post with saying you were upset over the cost of staying at home, which I never said cost. I said "risk" which is the way to look at it.

And I feel that you don't support the idea of daycare very much. It seems like you are saying that you choose this way, and it's better. You are saying it's individual's choice, but if you read your posts you IMPLY that it's a better quality of life and a better circumstance to stay at home. You IMPLY this by saying you wouldn't give it up for all the money in the world. This means to me that staying home with kids is the number one priority.

That choosing to work if not absolutely necessary is bad. I've also known parents who have worked split shifts because they didn't have a choice to give up the income, for instance my MIL. She gave up a great career to sort mail for a few years when DH and BIL were young.

How can you not say that the underlying tone of your messages are that time at home with the child is best?