Fellow moms: I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It’s ok to shop for yourself at Nordstrom and for your teenagers at Target. It’s ok for you and your husband to go on an expensive vacation to Europe and take the teenagers on a budget cruise. It’s ok for you to buy yourself the latest and greatest technology and let your teenager use your old one. I know that seems like a revolutionary idea in 2017, when the majority of a family’s budget is spent on the children. But the truth is, you have the right to be selfish with your money. You and/or your husband probably spent years going to school, working hard to make a living and sacrificing so that you could provide a stable home life for your children. And if they have made it to teenagehood then you have done a bang up job of raising a human for over a decade. But being a good, responsible parent does not mean that you have to sacrifice your own wishes and desires to make all of their teenage ones come true.
In my neighborhood, there are 16-year-olds that drive brand new Hummers, BMWs, and Mercedes. My daughter drives a 10-year-old Honda. There are teenage girls that have their nails done every week and their hair perfectly highlighted. My daughter gets her nails done as a special treat when grandma is in town and her hair done twice a year. There are boys who have their own computer, Ipad, Iphone, etc. My son has a phone that broke and I’m not fixing it for him until Christmas, so he is off the grid for a few months. Because I don’t believe that it is my responsibility to give my teenagers access to all of the luxuries that I have spent 37 years working for. You better believe that I have regular appointments for nails, hair, skin, etc. But these are things that I would not be able to do for myself if I was spending all of my extraneous income on my teenagers.
My husband and I both grew up in working class families. We had the basic needs provided, but our parents would never have considered for a second taking on debt to buy us every nicety that we desired. Big ticket items came twice a year: birthdays and Christmas. My husband and I got married and became parents at 20. We were both in college, in debt, and had no money. For the first 10 years of our marriage we struggled, sacrificed, saved, and only bought the things that we absolutely needed. We slowly but surely paid off our student loans and built a nest egg. We managed to find the money for all the things young children need; braces, sports, vacations, birthday parties (those of you with young children know how much those cost!), school projects, etc. But we would never trade those years of struggle for an easier path, because they taught us the value of money, hard work, and to appreciate every time we are able to move one step up in the world.
As my children moved into the teenage years, the things they wanted suddenly seemed less like needs and more like wants. So what is the problem with spoiling your teenagers and giving them access to the finer things in life? Simply put, they don’t have enough life experience to have any appreciation for how hard it is to make money, to budget money, and to pay all of the bills that keep the lights on in their house. If they are never forced to feel the burden of struggle, they will never develop the hunger to work hard. If they never develop a hunger to work hard, they will never know the joy of true success. And if they never know the joy of success, they will give up and live in your house forever! Just kidding! (But sort of not!)
Listen, I’m not saying I never treat my teenagers to really special life experiences. I truly enjoy parenting in these middle years now that the hard work of babies and little kids is over. I love that my kids are old enough to laugh at the same jokes as me (no more butt jokes, PTL), go to the movies that I enjoy, and go on vacations to really cool new places. But those are EXPERIENCES that I enjoy, not things. I relish the opportunity to spend my money on fantastic experiences with my children, because I know how hard my husband and I worked to get to this stage of life. So I’m depriving my children of some of their desires in order to give them the same opportunity to have a hunger and know the sweet enjoyment that comes from working hard.
Don’t let society fool you into thinking that you need to do what everyone else is doing in order to have happy, well adjusted children. As my dad used to say, “If everyone else is jumping off a bridge, are you going to jump, too?” No, no I’m not. And you shouldn’t either. Go ahead a be a jerk and say no to your teenagers. They just may thank you someday for teaching them the value of hard work and for modeling placing a high value on your own happiness.
All the ❤︎,