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How Much Money Do You Think Your Kids Think You Make?

I was thinking today about money. And I was thinking about kids and money. When Jason and I were first married, we were broke. I mean, poor, broke. He had lost his job and I was making nothing, so we were struggling to pay the essentials, and even that was hard. I am talking grocery budget of $50 a week broke, including toiletries and dog food. I am talking, no cable no internet broke. Not discretionary income broke - what, what's discretionary income mean broke?
When you have no money, all you think about is having no money. We thought about having no money constantly. Every time a friend invites you out, you have to decline. Every time someone's kid at work wants you to buy cookies for a fund raiser, you have to decline. At the time, we were spending money on gas and driving sometimes 4 times roundtrip 40 miles to get the kids, take them to soccer games, back home. I remember once driving home, almost on "E" before we'd had Avery, praying that we would make it because we didn't get paid until the next day and I hoped to God we didn't run out of gas. I am telling you guys, it was very depressing and not fun.
I can share this with you now because God has blessed us both with better jobs, so no, we aren't throwing money off the rooftops or anything, but it's not nearly like it used to be. At the time, the kids' mom had married a man who took great care of her. She was able to quit her job and they moved to a beautiful house. The kids were going out to eat all the time, or at least, that's what we gathered when they would mention stuff like their favorite dish from Benny Hanna's. Look, I am not broke now and I don't eat at Benny Hanna's, so that was a hard pill to swallow, as we were struggling so much, that so much of our income was going to child support and they were taking the kids out to eat at nice places on a regular basis. I was very upset about this for several months. And I was very upset every time the kids brought stuff up about doing something or buying them something. You know, kids don't need to know how much you are struggling all the time. They are children and deserve a childhood, to a certain extent. But at the time, I never allowed Jason to talk about money with them, mainly because of my pride. I didn't want it getting back to their mom how bad off it was. I don't know what I was thinking we were hiding, we were living in a 3 bedroom apartment and it wasn't like the kids were coming back to her, regaling her with stories of shopping sprees or anything.
In fact, one of the worst mornings happened on the way to church. I think we had Avery then, but we were talking about lunch after church. We decided that we could go to McDs but everyone would be ordering off the dollar menu. Jordan was 8 at the time, I think... but he said to us, "We never go out to eat anywhere at your house and we always have to order off the dollar menu." The way he said it, he should have had his mouth washed out, but for some reason, I just broke out into tears. I barely had clothes that fit, we barely had money to even go to McDs, which was a treat for us, and for him to say that just broke my heart. I sat outside church and cried and prayed because I didn't understand why it was like this for us. Afterwards, Jason has a long conversation with him and he apologized to me, but I was so sad.
I never liked to use the term "can't afford it." They didn't know, but I knew, that it wasn't like we chose not to spend our money on going out to eat, I just knew in my head that I was saying we can't afford it because it's either going out to eat or gas for our cars, you know? Now that things are better, the weird thing is that I don't mind telling them "we are not spending $100 on an American Girl doll. It's ridiculous to spend that much money on something you barely play with." I say that now because I could buy her a doll, you know? It's like, it's my choice not to buy you a ridiculously extravagent luxury, not that I can't, it's that I won't.
So now, when the kids ask for stuff, it doesn't bother to me to joke about stuff or to mention things about money. I know why all of those phrases from our parents like "money doesn't grow on trees," "close the door, we are not paying to cool off the whole neighborhood" was just a nice way of saying, "Hey you little money-sucker, we aren't millionaires, stop wasting my money!" I love it when Jordan says "It's only $10!" and I am like, "Do YOU have $10? When you have $10 to spend, you are more than welcome to buy whatever you want."
In your house, what do your kids know about your financial situation? Do you shield them from those conversations or do you talk to them about it?


Anonymous said…
Jenna, I love reading your blog. I'm a long time reader but not a commenter. I just have to say I love how you keep it real, you're not fake and don't claim to have a perfect little life and that's why I love reading.... My husband and I have been in your shoes too. We've come a long way but those days are still in the back of our minds and always remind us to be careful and cautious with our money
Thank you so much! I am glad we have gone through that early in our marriage, it made me realize that things can be bad but get good and that we can survive together. I think many times, marriages start off easy and when the hard stuff happens, they don't know how to handle it. Thank you for your commment, I am so grateful for your kind words!

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