I grew up in a middle-class home. My parents worked extremely hard and provided me with everything I needed—a roof over my head, food to eat, clothing, love and a Catholic school education. But I was not handed anything on a silver platter.
I never got that Teddy Ruxpin I pined for. Samantha the American Girl doll was something that just wasn’t going to happen. I knew it was a huge deal when I went away to camp with my friends because my parents saved money for months to make it happen.
At 13, I started mowing my neighbor’s lawn and sending him monthly invoices. On my 16th birthday, I got my first official job. When I wrecked my hand-me-down car in high school, I had to pay the $3,000 in repairs on my own. In college I went to school full-time and always worked about 30-40 hours.
I was taught to work hard. And to buy what I needed, not always necessarily what I wanted. So I did. That’s how I lived my life.
One of the big reasons I work so hard today is because I want to live a certain lifestyle. There are things we couldn’t afford when I was a kid that I enjoy having now.
I want to be able to get my nails done or go on a nice vacation. I want to get my toddler that toy he just can’t live without and the Paw Patrol comforter for his big boy bed without worrying if we can still pay the bills.
I can afford to spoil them—at times—and I love it. I want them to have more than I had growing up. I don’t want them to have to work as much as I did when I was a teenager. I have realized that one way I show love is by giving. When my 3-year-old gets a superhero action figure and squeals with joy, it makes me so happy.
But then I also have a lot of guilt about it. Shouldn’t I be teaching them that they have to work hard to get nice things?
I want them to have a strong work ethic, but I enjoy giving them things that make them happy. It’s a thin line and and sometimes I don’t know what to do about it or how to set boundaries around it. I certainly don’t want to turn them into spoiled children who have a tantrum every time they don’t get what they want immediately.
So I’m taking a step back. I’m re-evaluating my choices as a parent along with the mountains of toys in the playroom.
I am going to reward my kids when they deserve it.
I am going to teach my kids that not everyone is as fortunate as they are. I want to teach them the power of gratitude.
I am going to clean out the toy room with the help of my children. We are going to talk about the fact that we don’t need to keep toys that they never play with and that we’re going to donate them to children who don’t have many toys.
My child has a big heart and I want to focus that big heart in the right direction. I want him to appreciate what he has. And I want him to WANT to give to others.
I don’t want my kids to work so much they have to stress about finding time to do their homework, but I do want them to have jobs as teenagers and learn the value of a dollar and what it means to save.
I don’t want my kids to think it is wrong to have things you love, but I do want them to be grateful for these things and at the same time—understand that ‘things’ aren’t everything.
One day, I want to see the strong work ethic my parents instilled in me, reflected in my boys. And I want them to know that nothing is more rewarding than a hard day’s work.