What I've learned from creating a family with someone whose entire life experience up to 7 years ago was nothing like my own:
An awareness of how much we waste and throw. I grew up in what would be considered "poor" or at least "lower class" for MY area.
HE has actually brought food to children who had nothing to eat for a few days because their mother's means of providing for them was whatever she could make selling hand-rolled cigarettes on a street corner...she got sick, couldn't go, they didn't eat.
Um....we had food, a place to live, a car. Not a new car. but a car. Clothing. The occasional trip, though not every year and nothing major like Disney or anything.
Cooking. Cooking and food are SIMPLE. He grew up watching his mom cook. I grew up watching my mom come home from work and run back out to a drive-thru. Or brown some hamburger, open a box, and follow the directions. Or I microwaved myself a frozen dinner.
I'm 34 years old, and I can finally say, after watching my husband....that I can now actually COOK. As opposed to following directions on a box or card and having no real clue what to do without my instructions. I still screw up sometimes, some real epic disasters. But, more often than not, I can produce something pretty decent.
My loving husband just informed me a couple weeks ago that he had no real clue until recently that I actually did not know how to cook. He did notice my cookbooks and stuff....he just thought we Americans had catalogs for everything! (that's exactly what he said. Also, until he was recently unemployed, he was not around to see how I got stuff done lol)
It seriously never occured to him that a woman could reach adulthood and not know how to cook. He wasn't being sexist or nasty or anything either...it's just that it never occured to him that a household could exist where a girl grew up NOT seeing her mother cook and the mother didn't have the daughter in the kitchen learning. He doesn't shop the center of the grocery store and the frozen section. 100% never occured to him that people could survive without knowing how to cook...unless you *always* eat in a restaurant.
what have you learned?
lovin DH since 1/04, best mom for my 3 boys 10/04, 11/08, 11/10 one girlie (1/07), one 13 wk (10/13) and 5/15 just your average multigenerational living family!!
Definitely a whole new understanding of the definition of "poor" and the insanity of wastefulness in this country. And honestly? Even people who consider themselves socially concious and careful about consumption really have no idea.
While he would be considered a "workaholic", I have learned to value his need to work. Understanding where he comes from helps a lot. I hope my boys will improve on the way we live, but I wouldn't object if they worked as hard as he does.
I think it encouraged me to re-think what it means to be American. I didn't have kids yet but it started me along the simple living (cooking from scratch, etc.) lifestyle I wanted, slowed my consumption, etc. Now I appreciate what America *does* have to offer but I tend to think outside the box more and more.
I also brought with me from my own upbringing the firm conviction that just because you're poor (by American standards) you are not doomed to a life of Jerry Springer and Wonderbread. My family was poor compared to the majority of Americans, average for the local standard, but everyone was intellectual, well-read, polite, informed about politics, cultured, etc. There was no "well we don't have a lot of money so let's spend what little we do have on expensive sneakers and big-screen TV's." My husband gets very anxious when we can't afford something and justifies big splurges with "don't I deserve it??" mentality. That's directly from his upbringing. I feel bad because he really does feel deprived when we aren't able to afford expensive things. When he was growing up, they didn't have much at all and yet they had designer clothes and electronics. On the other hand, they lived on bologna and food pantry peanut butter because they didn't have money left over for food. He said he saw his mother cook like three times in his life. And he used to say things like "we might as well not budget cos we don't have a lot of money." Um, that's exactly WHY we have to budget!!
ETA: DH was in the Army and he traveled to some really impoverished areas in Africa and Asia. When he starts to get "poor mentality" it's easy to remind him of how lucky we are, and he totally gets it, now after he saw people literally starving to death in front of him and fighting to the death practically for jugs of water.
I do say often, especially here on MDC when it's appropriate to the thread topic, that our family is poor, but it's relative. I don't feel poor, but I know that to many people on MDC we would be considered so.
I'm also a bit surprised that someone could grow up without seeing anyone cook. I'm not judging! Not at all. It's just surprising to me that it's the case. I did see everyone cook in the family, and go shopping, etc. but my mom never "taught" me to cook. She didn't even let me in the kitchen most days. I too had to teach myself as an adult, but at least I had something to aspire to. I know DH didn't see his mom cooking but I thought honestly that his family was the exception instead of the rule. But looking back I realize that even growing up a lot of my friends' moms just heated things up. I admire anyone who takes the time to learn to cook after not being around, pardon the term, "real" food while they were growing up. I'm sorry if that comes across as elitist, I promise that's not how I'm meaning it. I realize a lot of families just don't have TIME to cook and they would if they could. And some have other priorities. To each their own. I'm just such a foodie that I'm surprised not everyone else is too.