I’ve been thinking a lot lately about money. I grew up without much of it. I spent years in hand-me-down boy’s clothing & being embarrassed about my cut-off pants in the summer when many of my friends could afford to buy shorts. We lived in small houses. Eating out meant picnics. I cringed getting in and out of our cars before or after school. We rented the VCR with movies on Friday nights for a treat on paydays. In middle school I wore my dad’s old coat that I thought looked better than mine because the sleeves covered my gangly,long, hairy arms (I was also sensitive about them), and got made fun of for it by the boys in church. I grew up feeling like people knew things about the way the world worked that I didn’t know. I was right.
I’m not a kid anymore. I’m a mother. And we are still pretty poor–money poor anyway. I got caught up in the housing crisis and had to short-sale my tiny townhome. I bought it on a teacher’s salary & kept roomates and waitressed part time to cover the mortgage and outrageous HOA dues. I’ve never worked jobs that would make me rich. Teaching, part-time park rangering, cleaning hotel rooms, working hotel front desks, gardening, waitressing, stocking groceries & cashiering, teaching yoga. I made a very stupid decision to use my retirement to pay for Ayurveda school. I went to Ayurveda school–I mean, besides Deepak Chopra and John Douillard, I don’t think there’s much money in it. Especially when I’m choosing to put my time in being a mother and not building a business. I hate selling things. Even things I believe in. I suck at asking for money for services offered. You want free health coaching? I’m your girl. You want me to spend hours editing your college papers? You got it. I picked the wrong major in college. Fellow starving English majors, can I get an amen? Because I’ve made the choice to be a stay at home mom, we live in an apartment in the city. Not a house. I’m shy about making friends because I’m afraid of how we will be judged for this. I cut my own hair. I consign old clothes to go thrift store shopping. I’m embarrassed about both of these things at times. I coupon. I make meals from seemingly empty cabinets near the end of the month. We could probably do better if we didn’t buy organic fruits and veggies, but I think organic is cheaper than the side effects pesticides might cause in the long run.
There are still things that people born into wealth know that I don’t know. They know what it feels like to pump their gas and stare off into the distance. They know what it feels like to travel by plane with a family or travel for fun! They know what it feels like to not carry a carseat, a diaper bag & 50 pounds of groceries up three flights of stairs. They know how to store money in foreign bank accounts to avoid taxes. They know how to plan for retirement. They know what it feels like to have money to put into savings or retirement or 401ks at the end of their paychecks. They know how to coordinate design schemes in their house, or how to dress with grace & elan, and which hairdressers in the city give the best cut and color, and how to find the best nannies and childcare. I’m not belittling them for this knowledge.
We all know the old adage, money is the root of all evil, but most of the above isn’t evil. A lot of it are things I’d want to know too. I follow this awesome blog if you haven’t heard of it. One of her recent posts is entitled “Why I Want to Be Rich & Why Money Is Important.” And I mostly agree. I want to be able to give my child these things too. I want to buy Easton Freshly Picked moccasins & cool-indie store t-shirts. I want to take him places–the zoo, the botanic gardens, sporting events, different cities, states, even countries. I want to be able to support him in whatever his passions might be–music, art, sports, martial arts, dancing lessons. I want him to be proud of his jacket, & car, & house, & parents.
You know what I want more? I want him to know that he is more important to me than money. That maybe not everyone will accept him if he doesn’t have it, but he can still choose to love & accept himself (I’m working on this one still–hopefully I’ll have it down by the time he’s 3). I want him to know the joy that comes from a picnic in the mountains. From laughter around a table full of pancakes on mismatched dishes. From bike rides to the library. From skinned knees, climbing trees, popsicles, running barefoot through the sprinklers, sparklers, backyard kickball games, forts in the forests made from sticks and imagination, campfire stories. All of these things take more time & creativity and togetherness than money. So I’ve made some tough decisions. I’m not proud that at 35 and with our first child, we’re living in an apartment. But I’d choose it again if it meant staying home with my baby instead of sending him to a daycare. It means going without trips to Starbucks, cutting my own hair, wearing old & tattered clothes in a shiny hip city. It means living lean and small. At least for now. I still have some big dreams to chase down. But for now, I’m resting easy with a heart so very full, so very blessed, so very rich.