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Old 04-24-2003, 09:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Dear Fellow Parents,
We are FINALLY about to sell our tiny 100 year-old condo in chicago and try to permanently establish our home in arizona. We have been here five months and lost our chance at home ownership when our first condo buyer backed out, etc. We have a lot of consumer debt and student loans that equal more than many people's mortgages, etc. We make a better living than my family ever did, but I am home with my kids trying to do my best to contribute. In short, my KIDS ARE FEELING ALL THIS FINANCIAL STRESS and they are really unhappy about it. They simply don't understand that if we can't afford lunch at the mall, then we cannot afford dinner either, and while we might be able to go out sometimes, it usually means that the creditors are going to call continuously and ask for more. I don't think a five year old and a three year old should feel that stress but I also want to teach them to be grateful for the wonderful family we have that send us cases of soymilk and occasional treats and lovely gifts. Also, now that we are certainly renting for the long term, I wonder HOW TO GIVE THE KIDS A SENSE OF PERMANENCE and STABILITY as far as any of us have these things. We got our first television in nearly a decade last year and the kids see that the kids on various programs have much space to move and yards and they have their own bedrooms, etc. How do we establish that these are not the norms and that many children in the world don't even have any toys and very little food and that we should feel blessed? How do I tone down the money talk and abolish the gimmes at the same time. Our children are very generous and always want to give the things they have to others, but I am afraid they are going to resent us for having less than everything they want. Please help...any ideas.
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Old 04-24-2003, 10:22 PM
 
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Where are you in Chandler? That's were we live, and we have a couple of MDC groups going, too. I'm sorry for your troubles. It's sooo hard sometimes. We have a house but we bought it on two incomes and now sometimes it's a struggle to make ends meet with just one income. Dh rides the bus and it's a 3 hour daily commute including walking 4 miles a day, because we can't afford that second car. Sigh. So I can relate.

What made ME appreciate things was going to India and seeing the truly poor and in need. Whole families cooking meals on the streets, kids doing their homework on the sidewalks at night by lamp light while mom cooked dinner nearby in a clay pot. And then there were those who couldn't even afford dinner in a clay pot. It's so sad to experience malnourised children literally grabbing food out of your hands on the streets out of desperation. I couldn't give it to them fast enough. Or old women widowed with no children and no one to take care of them, camping out in front of temples in rags begging for pennies. They don't have social security there.

Maybe you could get books from the library about the poor around the world and also here in the US. Maybe you could drive around downtown and point out the homeless and have them hand out peanut butter sandwiches and oranges to them. When they get older they can help serve Thankgiving dinner in a local shelter (we plan to do that one ourselves). Show them people who live in grass huts in Africa and are content with what they have, or people in India who are lepers, children begging, crippled polio victims. I've seen it all in person, and it's a big reality check.

There's one book and i can't remember the name of it, but it's a coffee table type and they go around the world and take a photo of people's homes with all their eartly possessions out in front. Everything from straw huts with a frame bed and some pots and a couple goats, to a very well of family in the US or Canada. If anyone can remember the title of that book I'd like to check it out again myself.

Anyway, hope that helps some and PM me if you are interested in our local groups.

Darshani

7yo: "Mom,I know which man is on a quarter and which on is on a nickel. They both have ponytails, but one man has a collar and the other man is naked. The naked man was our first president."
 
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Old 04-24-2003, 10:34 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Darshani,
I was one of the first ones to join the ap moms group. we did not make it to the waterpark because my sons and I slept until 10 am like we often do. I know the book to which you are referring, and they have one that I saw an independent book store near my old apartment in chicago that just has women and their stuff, but I have seen both. we just moved from the southeast side of chicago and my children definitely saw the impoverished. my husband and I used to be quite active in volunteer work and they are as politically aware as is appropriate for their ages. i didn't drive until two years ago so we would often walk past the crack dealers and share bus seats with the homeless. and I KNOW HOW BLESSED we are. I guess I am afraid that I will contribute to their money stresses if I keep talking about how fortunate we are and that it will cause some sort of backlash and they will see what others in chandler have and feel like I have lied to them. They know that when we go play at the mall that other kids are buying things and that we are just there to have fun and meet people, etc. I just feel so conflicted. I would love to shed all of our posessions and live like recluses on walden pond, but we have too much debt and I like email too much right now. We will try some of your suggestions, but it was a lot easier to find homeless people in chicago...here they like ot hide them. One of my favorite academic activists for the homeless is an Indian woman, by interesting chance, named uma narayan. i planned to name a daughter after her at one point, but all i have are boys. i look forward to meeting you at the next function...i have enjoyed your emails and your baby monitor rantings, with which I agree wholeheartedly.
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Old 04-24-2003, 10:46 PM
 
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I was one of the first ones to join the ap moms group. we did not make it to the waterpark because my sons and I slept until 10 am like we often do
OH now I feel silly! How great to sleep in til 10 AM. My little Miss Wakes With The Sun gives me no rest. How cool about Uma Narayan! I plan to name our second dd Uma Nitara (Uma=Mountain and/or Goddess, Nitara= deeply rooted) if we are blessed with a second child and it's a girl. Hope to see you next time.

Edited to add that you can find a lot of homeless people at that park and pavillion by the County Courthouse in downtown Phx. I've had lunch there during jury duty, etc. and about half the people in that park at the lunch hour are homeless. When I was working I would sometimes pack an extra sandwich and give it to one of those guys who stands at the freeway entrance with a cardboard sign.

Darshani

7yo: "Mom,I know which man is on a quarter and which on is on a nickel. They both have ponytails, but one man has a collar and the other man is naked. The naked man was our first president."
 
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Old 04-24-2003, 10:53 PM - Thread Starter
 
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don't feel silly. i have different names there and here. we go to bed really late, like 11pm for the kids and 1 or 2am for me just so I can be awake when the apartment is quiet. i will have to learn about phoenix more...i never thought i would EVER EVER live in the suburbs, although it is different here than in metro chicago.
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Old 04-25-2003, 12:52 AM
 
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Follow the advice of of two wise counselors: the Buddha and Hannibal Lechter.

The Buddha said, "The root of all suffering is desire." In other words, if we could quit *wanting* so much shit, we'd be happy campers.

Hannibal Lechter said that we desire that which we see all the time around us. That which we see provokes our desire to *have.*

I have a way to solve four of your problems at one time. You can eliminate your kids' greed (the "gimmies") for large rooms and yards they do not have, create more time for your family, get money, and eliminate your kids' sense of dissatisfaction with their lives compared to those they see on the television.

The solution is simple: SELL YOUR TV.


Good luck. Sorry you have to live in Chandler...
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Old 04-25-2003, 03:16 AM
 
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I still remmber my mother telling me I couldn't have something I asked for b/c "we couldn't afford it". I remember how bad it made me feel - like there was something wrong with us, that it ws something to be ashamed of. It meant, to me, that i *could* jave had it, 'cept we had less money than "other people" whose kids could have it.

Then there were times when we really couldn't afford it, but instead she'd say "you don't need that" or "I don't want one" or "ew, that's not pretty" or "i can make you that myself", etc. When she said it that way, I still got the message that I didn't need that "thing", but it wasn't a negative connotation. It was just Mum being a Mum and making decisions that didn't always go in my favour. It didn't make me feel deprived.

So I always said to myself that if I'm in that situation, I won't say to my children "we're too poor for that" or "we can't afford that". Instead I'll give her a good reason like "that's made by poor kids in third world countries" or "that's a waste of resources" or some other such thing. That way, hopefully my kids will learn that you don't always need or get what you want, and it's not b/c you are not better than anyone else.

edited to add: NOT that I think being poor makes you less of a person...I do think it's important kids learn that money doesn't make the person, but I also think it's something they really dont' get until they are older. JMHO.


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Old 04-25-2003, 03:55 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Interesting... I guess I figured that being honest and saying that I would like them to have those things but that we cannot puts it out of our hands somehow and makes the kids see that we are not trying to punish them. However, you are saying that you felt to blame for the inability to pay for those things...like maybe your parents would have money for more things if they didn't HAVE to buy you some things. That is so frightening, but really compelling. I have used humor as it was once recommended to me...the humor of possible indulgence. For example, I wish that we could have 50 pinatas at your birthday party and that we could eat out every night at the great vegan soul food place with the homemade soy ice cream or I would love to give you a million trillion cookies. Usually they giggle and know that I am just being silly and can't do that. Yet, I am encouraging that desire and validating the claim that those things are all GOOD things to WANT. PS our problem is not the TV...I am the only one addicted and that's because we went eight years without one. I like it because I am still trying to find my tribe in arizona. THANKS piglet for the awesome mind candy.
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Old 04-25-2003, 11:16 AM
 
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I agree with what Piglet said, me and dh were just having this conversation earlier in the week. He just lost his job and our financial situation will be strained for a while. I was telling dh that I do not want to tell our kids we can't get this because we have no money, as a child it also made me feel bad and quilty in a way. I try other approaches also, some that were mentioned and sometimes I say that "I did not bring any money with me today."

I am trying very hard to look at our situation from a positve view point. We have stopped going out to eat and have found other means to "treat" ourself at meal times. We have been making our own pizza on Fridays now that it is getting warmer we eat dinner at the park and tell the kids we are "eating out". I think that if I try to keep seeing all the things we do have like time with each other and really use my brain to find creative ways to make fun memories for my kids then they will not even recognize why we don't have as much as what we do have. I have also invested in year passes for zoos and our childrens museum it gets us into all other kinds of zoos and museums, I look fro free movies in the paper and free concerts, I make theme days out of them and I am really enjoying not having to rely on consumerism to make my kids happy and keep them occupied. I wish you and your family the best I know so well what your are going thru.
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Old 04-25-2003, 11:30 AM
 
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Originally posted by fromscatteredtribe
Interesting... I guess I figured that being honest and saying that I would like them to have those things but that we cannot puts it out of our hands somehow and makes the kids see that we are not trying to punish them. However, you are saying that you felt to blame for the inability to pay for those things...like maybe your parents would have money for more things if they didn't HAVE to buy you some things. That is so frightening, but really compelling. I have used humor as it was once recommended to me...the humor of possible indulgence. For example, I wish that we could have 50 pinatas at your birthday party and that we could eat out every night at the great vegan soul food place with the homemade soy ice cream or I would love to give you a million trillion cookies. Usually they giggle and know that I am just being silly and can't do that. Yet, I am encouraging that desire and validating the claim that those things are all GOOD things to WANT. PS our problem is not the TV...I am the only one addicted and that's because we went eight years without one. I like it because I am still trying to find my tribe in arizona. THANKS piglet for the awesome mind candy.
You sound like an excellent mom to me. I like your style mama.

To answer your first question, I don't think there is anything you can do to relieve your children of stress if you carry it yourself. So work on what you need to do for our own sense of security. It will be different for you than it would for me, or for one who may need to let go of TV. For some it may be finding your way in our society (if your reflex has always been to reject it), for others it may be untangling from society (if you feel like a puppet on strings pulled by society.) It may be getting a job, or losing a job...when you have an opportunity to choose a path at some juncture, what is your typical choice, and might there be something worth checking out down that alternate path? (More damage is likely to be done by never trying the other path than by checking it out and finding it's not right for you.)

Sorry this is somewhat generalized. I just don't know enough about you and your unique needs. We are renters, and struggle financially in an expensive area, but my family is around and a new baby (#2) is on the way, and I can't leave the security of my support network here for the security of financial ease in a more affordable place...at this point in time.

I think I got way off track here. Sorry.
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Old 04-25-2003, 02:08 PM
 
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We were very poor when we were growing up (as in we lived in a house without running water that rented for 60$ a month). Honestly, I didn't feel or experience this poverty until I hit youth culture in jr. high. I "knew" we were poor, but I wasn't affected by it because my parents were relatively unaffected by it. They were very happy playing unmaterial hippies, and rather superior about it, and their contentment became ours.

I NEVER considered that my parents didn't own thier house or drove a beat up car (with holes in the floorboards and a gear shift tied on with a rope) as things that made me unhappy, perhaps because it didn't make them unhappy. Yes I knew other people didn't live like that - that other people had more or less than us, but my childhood felt very full. We went to the library a lot, ate at home, got bags of cast-off clothes from my mom's friends, etc. We were told constanly that we couldn't afford such and such, but it was just a fact of life, not something that upset us or made us feel at all deprived.

So I REALLY think the key is being content yourself. If you don't feel deprived, your kids won't, and they won't even when you tell them taht you can't afford to waste money on mall food. Kids pick up on the parents' attitudes more than anything else. Now, this is only true until jr. high, when what thr parents think and feel becomrs MUCH less important than what thier friends think.
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Old 04-25-2003, 03:16 PM
 
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I grew up lower-in-the-middle-class-than-most-of-my-peers with parents who made saving for college and retirement and minimizing debt their top priorities. We did not have a lot of the Stuff that those around us had. Two tips:

Instead of "We can't afford that," say, "That's too expensive." Then it's not you, it's the greedy business asking too much; why, even if you DID have the money, that business wouldn't deserve it!

Encourage your kids to treasure stuff that doesn't cost much. I hear that you have limited space, but make some space for treasures. My treasures when I was little included things like a piece of ceramic power-line insulator I'd found on the sidewalk. Make sure your kids have opportunities to find and keep things they think are cool, and when they beg for new toys take them to yard sales or thrift shops or arrange trading w/friends.

Hang in there! The kids may complain about being deprived when they're pre-teens and/or teens, but as adults they'll realize the value of the intangible things you gave them.

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Old 04-25-2003, 10:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks folks for all the responses. You can tell I am missing the classroom, with all of those interesting debates and studies. I feel a little hypocritical in my nice chair at my computer with a full belly and clothed lovely fun children acting as if I have too little. I would love for this to continue on the theoretical for everyone's benefit. Tiffany
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Old 04-27-2003, 06:50 PM
 
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is
Material World: A Global Family Portrait

http://www.booksmags.com/books/shop5...s_Photography/

and another good one is

Children Just Like Me

http://www.booksmags.com/books/shop5...s_Photography/


For mom and dad I reccomend

The Complete Tightwad Gazette

http://www.booksmags.com/books/shop/...e&mode=blended
and

Your Money or Your Life

http://www.booksmags.com/books/shop/pd0140286780/

as well as:

Living Simply With Children





I didnt read all the replies but I think if you put a positive spin on this and as someone else said, dont just say we cant afford it but make the decision to live consciously and embrace voluntary simplicity. Get rid of the TV first! When we used to have tv about 3 yrs ago my then 5 yr old dd had a new desire every other day and I still hear about the Angel Barbie occasionally- a life size 150.00 Barbie Doll. I said no, not because we couldnt afford it (although we couldnt) but I explained that the plastic was bad for the environment, Barbie was too focused on looks and not other qualities and we didnt have room for such a large toy in our tiny apartment at the time. All advertising is intended to make us feel bad - inadequate and unhappy unless we can obtain "fill in the blank" and I think it should be kept away from kids. I would work to get out of debt as soon as possible but even if you were out of debt would you want to be eating dinner at the mall? I would much rather take a peanut butter sandwhich and a picnic blanket out to the park and look at the stars and read ghost stories by flashlight or something. Get creative about living simply and enjoying the things in life that cant be bought. The lady who wrote tighwad gazette was able with her dh (who was in the military so no huge paycheck) to buy a large farmhouse with barn and land and her kids surmised that people who lived in big houses wore second hand clothes and people in small houses had new clothes. I think it is all about priorities and QAULITY of life issues in terms of the choices we make. Eating out at the mall or having name brand clothes does not make you more fulfilled than anyone else, really. It will be a wonderful gift to your kids to teach them to be happy with less, walk lightly on the earth and be fulfilled by doing and not just "having".
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Old 04-27-2003, 10:22 PM
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This may not apply to your financial situation, but in your original post you mentioned consumer debt and student loans as being major drains on your income.

I used to work for a bank, and I have an MBA, so I know quite a bit about how consumer debt works, and I'll let you in on a secret: you have all the power when it comes to determining your monthly payments. All it takes is conviction and a phone call.

If your payments are eating up so much of your income that your family is suffering, then pick up the phone and call your debt companies and tell them that you need the payment reduced to XXX for 3 years, 4 years, 5 years, however many years you need ... and then stick to your guns. They will threaten you with all kinds of horrible things, and it's all a load of %$@#. In actual fact, making smaller payments over a longer period results in MORE money for the creditors - as long as your payments cover more than the interest on the debt, they are coming out ahead.

The same goes for your student loans. Creditors would much rather receive smaller payments over a longer period than have your default on your loans altogether. Threaten them with bankruptcy if they get real ornery.

As long as you have an end date in sight - I will resume regular payments in 60 months (or whatever), they should cooperate. It might be worth a try ....
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Old 04-28-2003, 12:43 AM
 
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It's also worthwhile looking into getting interest rates reduced on your credit cards and consolidation on student loans, particularly through the Department of Education.

This has been an inspiring thread, thank you all!

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