or Connect
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Mom › Parenting › Choosing to live with not very much of anything.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Choosing to live with not very much of anything.

post #1 of 155
Thread Starter 
Okay, so I mentioned in another thread of a family I know who chooses to live very differently than I. I am envious sometimes and sometimes furious. I don't know why I have such visceral reaction and so maybe you smart ladies can liberate me from my narrow thinking.

This family (3 children ages 11, 9 & 5) have one parent work and have almost no $. The sahp could work and is educated (quit a 6 figure job to stay at home), but stays at home instead (the children are all in school). They have no computer, no tv, some toys (mostly books), one car (they bike a lot), one tele, and etc. I guess the biggest part that makes me furious is that whenever the children come to my house (which is a lot) they are ravenous for everything, including food. I don't think the parents actually neglect them nutritionally, but I think they could be a little more generous in thier food preperations. It is actually difficult being their friend sometimes as I have to really kind of corral them in their frenzy to touch every toy and eat every thing.

I get that people choose to stay at home to raise their children. I am one of these. We are a one income household and I totally understand why people make this choice. I also get how much it would totally suck to have to work outside the home for so many hours that you missed out on your children's lives. But isn't there a middle ground? And just because you are choosing a one income household does that mean you have to choose almost nothing for your kids?

I don't feel I am close enough to say anything and don't know if I would anyway. It is really none of my business that these folks are choosing how to raise their family, but I guess I wondered why they are choosing it? Are there certain values inherent in living a monastic life as a child? Why wouldn't you at least earn some $$$ so you can fix enough food? they are all terribly thin.

I just don't get it.
post #2 of 155
I do not see anything particularly weird about the family's lifestyle that you are describing. It's not mainstream, but it's not bad.

I am sure that my IL's look at us and think the same things about us. They feel very sorry for us and are ashamed about the fact that we live in a 700 square foot, one bedroom house with our 2 kids. (The fact that we are walking distance from the beach and in a cool 1920's bungalow on half an acer of land studded with huge live oaks on a street with million dollar homes has seemed to escape them.)

We are planning on selling everything, including most toys, and living in an RV for a year or so. Folks close to us are deeply concerned and think we are nuts. Folks are so worried about the kids.

We don't get it. Why do the kids need to have a playroom full of toys to be happy? Won't the adventure of exploring the country provide all kinds of play opportunities? Will we die with out TV? (We have not had television since 1998 anyway. Just a TV and a DVD player.)

We will just have the one car and our bikes (I so want an electric bike so we can extend our biking range.)

We have 2 phones. My cell is the "house" phone. DH has a work phone that is paid for and used for work.

We have computers, but again DH works on his so mine is the "house" computer. We unschool and I consider it a mandatory tool.
post #3 of 155
I don't really see this as weird, either. It's certainly not what mainstream media and marketing companies want you to do. I commend them for not buying into the marketing machine that tells everyone that the American dream is to have things, things, things, and more things. The more the better. My own father and stepmother cannot understand why we don't have a gaming system, drink soda, watch Disney, and wear everything Hanna Montana. Each family has their own level of materialism that is comfortable for their philosophy. I quit a job that wasn't quite 6 figures, but would be by now if I had stayed. I have an only, that is in school. I would hate to have her in after-school care for an additional 2 hrs./day just because I'm making money to have "things". I am sure that she would rather have that extra time with me daily, on holidays and summer break than she would want toys. I think it's sad that people really think it's better for kids to have a piece of plastic or a screen and controller rather than their own parents around.

If the kids are going hungry, then my question would be if they have explored all the different programs available to them to purchase food. Angelfood ministries, food stamps, wic, food pantries, etc. If they don't make enough money for food, then they need to explore their options. My guess, though, is that the kids are just naturally thin.
post #4 of 155
I'm actually kind of envious of their lifestyle. I'd love to be a SAHM for that long. And I love simplicity- people don't really need much to be happy. From what you describe they have more than we do, and our kids are doing great! If they are in school they have access to reduced price breakfast and lunch. Depending on the school district these can actually be fairly tasty and healthy (the last school district I worked in had great food, nothing like when I was a kid).

But it sounds like there's a manners issue going on here. Would you mind their lifestyle if the kids didn't run amok in your house, if they asked politely before using a toy, and only ate a reasonable amount of food while they were there? I think you are perfectly in line setting some boundaries around what the kids can and cannot do and eat in your house.
post #5 of 155
I don't think there's anything wrong with the way they're raising their children either. What I can comment on is this: my children have loads of toys and they get more than enough to eat. When we go to a friends house, they will eat like they never do at home (sometimes) and ofcourse they'll want to play with all the toys they're not used to. It's just because it's different from the food at home or different from the toys at home, not because they're going without at home. Just a different prespective.
post #6 of 155
I just wanted to comment on the OP's question about why she has such a visceral reaction to the lifestyle choices of these people.

In my experience, I react the most to other people when I feel like their actions / words are an implicit judgment of me and of my choices. So maybe seeing their simplified lifestyle makes you wonder if you consume too much stuff, which in turn makes you feel like you are being judged and found lacking.

I think it's really important to remember, in situations like these, that we are not actually being judged; that what's right for one family isn't right for another. This family probably doesn't give a second thought to your lifestyle-- so maybe focusing on that can help you manage your reaction to their lifestyle.

And I also want to agree with the PP about kids gravitating to what they don't have. My son can act like a complete pig when we go to someone's house and it's really, really not because he's underfed or that he has no toys at home.

Of course, we don't know what level of eating/obsessing you are talking about; if it really is super extreme, you can and should lay down some ground rules.
post #7 of 155
I think you just described my children and my life. Do we know each other?

We do live a very simple life; it's by choice. I tend to agree with Marylizah, perhaps you feel as thought their choices are an implicit judgement of your own. I stayed home for 8 years, we lived on a teacher's salary with four kids. It was more important for me to be home than it was to have a television, cable, nice cars, etc. I don't judge what other people do, though, I just do something different.

We eat gluten free, which for some of my kids is unnecessary. Only one of my boys has celiac disease. So, when we're out and about my kids do eat "ravenously" though I encourage them to use best manners and kindness.

One other thing: my husband and I are both college educated with advanced degrees. If we chose to, we could make triple what we do now. I don't feel that it would make me any more comfortable in my skin or anymore loving a mother to have more stuff, more bills, more money.

Try to be gentler in your judgement of people who choose to live differently than you do. If the food thing bothers you, maybe you can ask the parents to monitor what the kids eat at your home.
post #8 of 155
Well, here's another side of the coin... We are reasonably well off. We don't buy many toys for our kids, but the in-laws, etc buy lots (apparently because they think we're somehow neglecting our kids because they don't have the piles of toys that their cousin has). Our kids don't have many toys (although our living room is still full of them) because they don't really play with the toys we've got. They'd rather carry around the broom or play with my pots and pans than play with the plastic junk that my in-laws buy us. In fact, my kids pretty much ignore the pile of toys they have.... however, when we go to *anyone* else's house, the kids go nuts with the other kids toys. Why? The novelty of it. The kids like their own toys for 3-5 days and then they go in the pile and are ignored. : So, maybe it's not so much that these kids are deprived than that the novelty of SOMEONE ELSES toys just is much more enjoyable than their own. Trust me, even on a very limited budget it's not hard to get toys - there's freecycle, craigslist, garage sales... you can get a huge pile of toys for hardly any cash, but if the kids play with them for a week at the most, what's the point? My son played with our vacuum cleaner for a year straight. EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. There's not a single toy in our house that has been played with even half that much.
post #9 of 155
On the food issue -which seems most to upset you- maybe they eat so differently at home that when they are over they over indulge because your food is more children "friendly" or "excotic" to them. And if they are struggling w/buying food don't you think your friends would choose to do something different and provide for them kids. What i am trying to say is unless thye are really bad parents (but it doesn't sound to me like they are- I actually envy what they are doing and aspire to be more like that) I think they know what is best for thier dc. If the way the children act at your house is such a problem why not try talking to them about THAT issue.

I know my children can be simular in new/not home places espically w/toys we don't have. My children are very very hands on and active- they can be really overwhelming to others that are not used to them.

But from what you described I'd say its more an issue w/them and what you previce as them doing something different or "wrong". To each their own, try not to judge (I am sure there are those that judge things that you do that are "different" IRL) and look at them w/honest open eyes at the things you like about their life style.
post #10 of 155
We have plenty of money and still live very simply by choice. My dds never complain (honestly, never!) about our not having a TV in the house, but the younger one just loves to watch it when away from home. That's ok with us. (My older one frequently reads her book right in front of the TV -- she's totally not addicted to it.)

Our girls are certainly not underfed, either (and nobody would think they were too thin), but they love to eat at other people's houses and usually eat too much if I don't caution them to have good manners. I think it's just the novelty more than anything, but surely some people must think I haven't fed them for a week.

That said, I did once know some people whose nutritional choices were very strict (vegan, lowfat, etc.), and their kids really were hungry because they needed more fat and protein in their diets than the adults. If you are concerned that this is the case, it may be worth gently bringing up to the parents. Some parents do struggle with managing their own dietary choices and making sure that the children's needs are met within those choices.
post #11 of 155
Nothing wrong with living with less, I am going to make a point to not overwhelm our soon-to-arrive baby with too much stuff even though we will be able to afford a lot. I grew up without very much and I never felt neglected for it. I noticed as I got older that we didn't have as much stuff as others, but we had so much fun with what we did have, I very rarely felt even the hint of jealousy. Besides, my parents were the fun ones, everyone wanted to come to our house as my parents played with us and didn't mind rough-housing in the basement and whatnot. The only thing that gives me pause is them seeming so hungry, but it may just be that they are just overly curious about food they don't get at home.

A lot of families live above their means racking up debt like crazy and that to me is much more puzzling than living within or below your means.
post #12 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by aspenleaves View Post
I don't feel I am close enough to say anything and don't know if I would anyway. It is really none of my business that these folks are choosing how to raise their family, but I guess I wondered why they are choosing it? Are there certain values inherent in living a monastic life as a child? Why wouldn't you at least earn some $$$ so you can fix enough food? they are all terribly thin.

I just don't get it.
It really is none of your business. How do you know they have "almost no money"? Why do you think they are not fixing enough food? Some of my kids are "terribly thin" but they eat ravenously, both at home and when we're out. I certainly don't consider myself "terribly thin" but I'm far from fat and I also eat ravenously. It's just the way our bodies work. My kids do not have a lot of stuff. We have legos, blocks, and trains, that's pretty much it. When we go to friends houses, they absolutely love the battery operated plastic toys.. for about 15 minutes. Then they move on to the next one. The toys they have at home are endless and can be played with for hours. When my friends come to visit, their kids are very excited to see our toys. That's just how it goes.
post #13 of 155
We live pretty simply, but it sounds like the family you described is even more simple than our family. I have been trying forever to get my DH to get rid of our second car, and I finally succeeded in getting rid of the TV when we moved. We could easily afford a house, but we choose to rent a small condo instead. We will eventually get a house, I think, but I'm just in no rush. No one I know understands this one bit. For some reason, living in the US means that the second you have the money, or don't have the money in some cases, you get into the biggest house you can possibly finance.

My kids have a decent number of toys, but nothing like some of the families I've visited with. We don't put limits on books, and I spend as much as I feel I need to on food for our family to eat a good variety of healthy foods, and I try to buy local. I agree with PP that maybe you just have different food than they have and they really like it, and that your toys are different than theirs. Or maybe it's just plain bad manners and the family has not taught them that you don't gorge yourself on other people's food when you go to their house (I had friends like this growing up, and I don't think it had anythign to do with the parent's starving them).

Either way, it doesn't sound like anything they are doing is negligent or abusive, so it just boils down to how you perceive the choices they make. I am fully aware that my kids may have a lot of problems with the TV at other people's houses because we are TV free, but I hope that we will have some friends who are sensitive to it.
post #14 of 155
We are a family of six in a very small 2 bedroom house. Our neighbours in similar houses have one or no children and most move once they have one child. We are the nutters of our locality.

My ILs can't understand why we live this way. Many other people can't understand either and think that we must be very eccentric or have some terrible secret or something.

The truth is that I could send my children to daycare and get it paid for by teh state so that I could go to work full time. I could get a full time job and our lives would be easier financially but I don't want to go out to work. I hate going to work and I hate working pushing paper around pointlessly. I don't want my youngest to be in daycare and I home school my 6yo because school didn't suit her. My older children are in school.

I am NOT lazy. I have worked in the past and earned good money. My dh and I now run a business which is not yet making us £££££ because we are paying dh's 10 year old debts from the business profits. We cannot afford to employ anyone to do the work that we do between us so in fact I am doing a lot of work at home during the day and late into the evening to keep the business running smoothly.

Things are hard right now but they will not be this way forever. I have hope that there will be a time when things are less of a struggle but I also believe that once we have money to spare we won't all of a sudden join the mainstream consumer society that exists around us.

I think my SIL feels the same way about us that you feel about this family you have described. She judges me for not working when I could be.She doesn't like telling dh about holidays she has been on because she feels bad that we haven't had a holiday.

For my part I judge her and feel sorry that she feels that she needs to work full time and be apart from her 3yo for such a long time each day just to pay for material things and 2 holidays abroad each year.

People choose to live differently and each of us lives with the consequences of our choices. Whether or not this is good for my children is my business not anyone else's. I look at my children and I see their frustration at not always having what everyone else has in terms of material stuff but I also know that they have an understanding that the possession of stuff is not necessary for happiness which is a lesson that many adults in our society could do with taking on board. If as adults they tell me that they hated their childhood I will have to take responsibility for that too.
post #15 of 155
Are they actually hungry or do you just have snacks that they don't get at their house. It may be simply you have different kinds of food and kids react crazy to that.
my kids do this when they go to my friends house. She has so many sugar filled sweets and convenience goodies that they want it all. She knows me well so she knows I feed them but we don't have "those" kinds of snacks so my kids go ape. Other than that they just has different priorities I see nothing strange about it.
post #16 of 155
You might be talking about my family but I only have 1 child so I guess not. DD has a wide selection of good food to eat at all times. Yet when we go visiting she acts like I have not fed her all day. Usually other people have different food than what we happen to have that day. She wants to try everything out and at 4 does not understand that not everyone wants to feed her. I always have something to eat with us when we visit, if you don't want her to eat your food don't have your food sitting out.
Maybe you could bring this up with the parents, maybe their kids could make cookies to bring to your kids for snack time. Are they coming over uninvited ? Maybe this is an issue, they need to ask permission before they come.
Yes my DD could be called thin, we are thin people and she is like that. She does eat, LOTS.
post #17 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marylizah View Post
I just wanted to comment on the OP's question about why she has such a visceral reaction to the lifestyle choices of these people.

In my experience, I react the most to other people when I feel like their actions / words are an implicit judgment of me and of my choices. So maybe seeing their simplified lifestyle makes you wonder if you consume too much stuff, which in turn makes you feel like you are being judged and found lacking.

I think it's really important to remember, in situations like these, that we are not actually being judged; that what's right for one family isn't right for another. This family probably doesn't give a second thought to your lifestyle-- so maybe focusing on that can help you manage your reaction to their lifestyle.

such wise words. they really resonate with some feelings of judgment i've been dealing with (feeling defensive and angry about some choices and comments a dear friend has made). Thanks!
post #18 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by aspenleaves View Post
This family (3 children ages 11, 9 & 5) have one parent work and have almost no $. The sahp could work and is educated (quit a 6 figure job to stay at home), but stays at home instead (the children are all in school). They have no computer, no tv, some toys (mostly books), one car (they bike a lot), one tele, and etc. I guess the biggest part that makes me furious is that whenever the children come to my house (which is a lot) they are ravenous for everything, including food. I don't think the parents actually neglect them nutritionally, but I think they could be a little more generous in thier food preperations. It is actually difficult being their friend sometimes as I have to really kind of corral them in their frenzy to touch every toy and eat every thing.
The bolded part sounds to me like a wonderful way to raise children. However, the food thing might worry me. If they can't afford to eat, that's a problem, IMO. But if they're just feeding them, say, exceptionally healthy yet boring food, I can see why the kids would want to eat different food at your house.

I really don't think you should say anything at all. Seriously, it sounds like they've made choices about how they want to raise their kids which are different from the norm but not in any way harmful (unless, as I said, the kids aren't eating well)
post #19 of 155
It could just be that the OP has different food at her home than the children are used to. We don't have a lot of processed foods, sweets, etc. at our house. However, we made a choice that we weren't going to fight it when we are out. So when my kids hit coffee hour at church, they probably look like they haven't had a good meal in weeks when, in fact, they're just pigging out on stuff they don't usually get. I hope it doesn't make anyone "furious".
post #20 of 155
What is wrong with not having a lot of stuff? Most things people buy will end up in a land fill or polluting our environment in some other way. Everything we buy also takes resources. We live pretty simply too and I think it IS valuable to teach my children that their lives don't need a lot of stuff to be full. I'm not trying to raise another generation of capitalist super-consumers that use precious resources from the other side of the world to make/buy crap that will break and be thrown away in a year. I want my children to be conscious of where things come from and know how to survive without a lot of money and material possessions. ITA with the point that you probably feel judged by their lifestyle and that's why you experience this reaction.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Parenting
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Mom › Parenting › Choosing to live with not very much of anything.