I’m not rich. Far from it. I’m not like running to the bank to file for bankruptcy or taking up residence in a station wagon or anything like that, but we have to meet up with a lot of ends around here or whatever it is they say about people who are broke. I’ll put it this way, as my late grandfather would always say: if thieves came and robbed my house, all they’d get is practice.
Unfortunately, there are a few things I see a lot of other parents doing all the time that I have to skimp on for my own kids. I can’t help but feel kind of shitty about it, but I don’t think I’m a shitty mom because of it. Here’s what I’m talking about:
Have professional photos taken — I love professional pictures. Look, that baby fits in a basket! Wow that little girl is holding a flower in a field full of…flowers! Professional pictures ARE adorable, and people should do it at least once, if they can. Not for every single holiday (Christmas, Easter, ok. Halloween, alright. Fourth of July, pushing it. Valentines Day, really?). And certainly please do not send out the pictures on little fridge magnets. My own kids aren’t even on my fridge, do you really think yours will be? But this photography stuff is expensive. I have tons of family photo albums that are jam-packed with pictures of my kids doing everything from opening Christmas gifts, and mashing birthday cake in each others’ faces, to posing in front of the tiger cage at the zoo. And guess who took the pics? ME. Guess what else? Didn’t cost me more than the price of getting them printed out at Walgreens. Kind of a win.
Go on big vacations — I wish I could take my kids to Disney. I really do. My son would probably shit his pants if he ever saw a life-size version of Lightning McQueen. And now that social media sites like Facebook and Instagram are all the rage, it feels like EVERYONE is taking their kids to the happiest place on earth but me. I can’t lie, my heart breaks a little every time someone posts that pic of their kids with the Magic Kingdom in the background because I’m not sure that will ever be my own kids in that iconic picture. But I can’t say that we don’t still try to do fun vacations in our price range. We do road trips and we’ve stayed in hotels and we do what we can. I try to remind myself that these kids won’t remember more than three seconds of any family vacation once they are older. Maybe that’s true, maybe that’s not. Either way, they can still see Mickey Mouse like twenty times a day on the Disney channel if they want. Good enough for now.
Own a house — I don’t own a home. I live in an apartment. Not in a swanky, retro urbanite, New York City apartment kind of way. In a my-mother-in-law-is-my-landlord, Staten Island quasi-suburban kind of way. I’ve never lived anywhere but New York so I don’t know what houses go for in other parts of the country, but the average price of a home around here is like over a half million dollars. I couldn’t even afford the down payment for a shack… in a neighborhood where I’d have to carry weapons with me to do my food shopping. I do live in a nice neighborhood, though, which is a plus. But when my kids do play dates I rarely find myself returning the invite because, well, these people have playrooms the size of my entire apartment and I don’t want my kids to get a complex or anything. My son recently told me that he would ask a genie for a new house if he had three wishes, and in my head I was like “ditto!” But in my heart I can’t help but think these slightly humble beginnings will motivate him to work a little harder for what he wants in life, and to show a little more appreciation for what he has.
Purchase organic everything — This one drives me nuts, because it’s such BULLSHIT that we live in a world where you can only give your family the very best if you have the money to do so. I have a budget to at least attempt to stick to when I go food-shopping, and that fancy gluten-free shit just ain’t fitting in it. Sure, I’ve seen the thousands of Facebook posts about the GMO’s making our grandchildren infertile, and the pesticides that are causing cancer in lab rats, and the pink slime vomit-inducing grossness in the chop meat, and the cheap, toxic, made-in-china plastic that’s in all the toys, and all the dyes and chemicals and harsh parabens and nitrates and glutens and sulfites and bisphenol A and the goddamn TRAGHEROPASTICVICBNINTITESICIDES that are all slowly killing us and straight up murdering the environment. I KNOW THIS. But you know what else I’m PAINFULLY aware of? The fact that I CAN’T AFFORD TO DO SHIT ABOUT IT. For me, only buying organic versions of everything is NOT best for my family. Know why? Because of these other little things I need to also afford in my daily life. I call them necessities. Like clothing, gas, and, um, BILLS. Look, I still try to always feed everyone healthy meals with lots of fruits and veggies and all that good crap. I really do. Someone might grow an extra pair of hands out of their kneecaps or something, but at least no one is getting obese on my watch. No way.
Pass on the hand-me-downs — Hand me downs are great. You know why? Because they are free. Really, that’s the only reason. There’s no experience more humbling than jumping for joy when you suddenly locate an article of clothing with a tag still attached after pulling out fifteen spit-up stained onesies in a row. Even if the tag is attached to a hideous, misshapen, green sweater that’s two sizes too big (that tag was still there for a reason). It isn’t like I don’t appreciate the stuff, because believe me, I definitely do. For the record, I give away my kids’ old clothes all the time (sometimes even spit-up stained onesies and all). But who doesn’t love the new stuff? The stuff you got to pick out all by yourself? There are no ugly, misshapen sweaters in those bags. There is something positively euphoric about holding shopping bags full of brand new clothing. Even when it’s for the kids. Hell, especially when it’s for the kids (I’m usually walking around town in Old Navy’s frumpy fall line from several years ago, so clearly I’ve given up on myself). Thankfully, my son only notices his outfit if it includes dinosaurs or Ninja Turtles of some sort, so I still have some time before clothing is an issue. Phew.
Throw big birthday parties every year — I don’t understand how people afford these big birthday parties for their kids. It baffles me. My daughter’s second birthday is coming up and I’m currently researching ways to entertain fifteen kids in a small apartment without committing suicide in the process. Why? Because unlike these so-called party places, I won’t charge myself five hundred bucks to walk around looking miserable and hand out cold pizza to whiny children for two hours at a time. And then give everyone a stomach virus to take home with their goody bags at the end. Screw that.
I love my kids, and I’d do anything for them. In a perfect world, I’d live in a giant mansion adorned with professional photos of my kids wearing brand new, organic clothing, and standing next to Mickey and Minnie outside Cinderella’s castle. But life isn’t pefect, and all the wealth in the world won’t make it that way.
I spend time with my kids. We laugh, we play, we cuddle, we learn, we sing, we dance, we’re together. And we do what we can with what we have. I think, even in a perfect world, that’s really all that matters.