Change your mindset and reap the benefits
Is the money monster (your ex) always showing you up? Does life go something like this: He buys the kids everything they want, bribes them with money for good grades, and takes them on trips you would have to save for years to go on? You hear things such as “Look at the awesome phone Dad bought me!” “Dad is taking us to the Bahamas for spring break!” “Why can’t we do that? Dad takes us there all the time.”
It’s exhausting, right? Maybe you can barely pay your bills, or perhaps you can, but you hardly have extra money for every little thing your children want. It’s frustrating and disheartening to feel like you will never win the money game. It’s no secret that kids get super excited about their new gadgets and gush about the fancy trips. Who wouldn’t? Can you blame them?
Kids are opportunists. I mean that in the best way. The frontal lobe of the brain is not fully developed until age 25, so you are working with people who want love and attention from their parents—but, they also want to do what everyone else is doing and that includes “stuff” that impresses people.
For a few years now, there has been a blog circulating the Internet written by a nurse who had worked in palliative care. Over the years, after many talks with her patients, she realized that they all had similar regrets on their deathbed and put them in an article, “Top Five Regrets of the Dying.”
Nowhere in her article does anyone say, “I wish I had taken my kids on more expensive vacations and bought them more things.” Nope. I’ve read the whole thing, and there’s not one mention of money. So, put that worry to rest.
Understandably, this doesn’t change the fact that your ex is still trying to win the kids over with money. Rest easy because you’ve got a secret weapon: you know the truth.
Now, here is how you use it to benefit you and your kids. All that’s required is a simple mindset change. Instead of the ex who is always trying to win the kids over with trips and gifts, think of him as a personal gift horse for your kids! “Why thank you, Gift Horse, for the iPhones for the kids.” They love their new phones, and now I can reach them when they aren’t at home. “Thank you, Gift Horse, for taking the kids to Hawaii.” I’m so glad they were able to have that experience. “Thank you, Gift Horse, for providing the opportunity for our kids to see different styles of parenting.”
Take this real-life example: My ex lives in a house that is four times bigger than my house. My daughter wanted to have her birthday party at her dad’s house. She was trying to be really nice about it, but you know what? I wasn’t mad at all. I’d have my party at the bigger house, too. Thankfully, her stepmom is an awesome party planner. So instead of being bent that I wasn’t in control or it wasn’t at my house, I let them do it all. After all, the party is for our daughter, not me. Mindset change. I let the Gift Horse and Party Planner do it all, and I brought the kid. We showed up to an amazing party, and I was happy to give the stepmom all the kudos. She did a great job, my daughter was happy, and I didn’t spend a dime. Why would I try to change that? For some control? No thanks.
Trust me, you can figure out a way to use your ex’s need for control and spending in your favor. It’s a mindset change, and I highly recommend it.
You’ve got new competition, and it’s with yourself. Can you accept that you can’t change what your ex does but you can control what you do? Once you realize this, you have the power to make your life with your children anything you want!
So what if your ex is taking them to Hawaii? Thank your “travel agent” for taking your kids on such great trip. When they come back, be as excited as you would be if your best friend went on this trip. No need to be sore about it. Trust me, your kids can read your vibe. You are the cool mama who wants her children to not be stuck in the middle of divorce drama.
Perhaps you think your kids are being spoiled by your ex and they will never know the true value of things that don’t cost money or they might get caught up in a trap of material wants. It’s not a one-sided story. When it comes time for you to think about things to do with your kids, dig deeper and make it something you can create together. Talk about more than just a trip or gadget. Maybe your ex spends money and doesn’t think about the earth. Maybe helping other people is more important to you. This is your time to show your kids what values are important to you.
Here are some things you can do with your kids that don’t cost much money, but the family value time is a heavy hitter:
- Picnic in the living room. All you need is a big blanket, food, and some music. Everyone likes a departure from the dinner table. You can make Monday-night picnics the norm and create a tradition.
- Board-game night. There are a variety of games you can play with kids ages three and up. From Zingo to Monopoly, there is something for everyone. Use the phones their dad bought them and play Heads Up! Friday night with the kids just got fun!
- Dance party. This has been a family favorite in my house since the youngest was three. All you need is a speaker, a microphone, and music. A karaoke machine works just as well. Take turns choosing music and making up dances. Have each child perform, and make it a fun competition. Have the kids make up a routine that mom has to follow. Trust me, they will love it!
- Family garden. Do you love to garden? Save money and grow some food. Your kids will love watching something go from seed to food, and you have the satisfaction of knowing where your food comes from.
- Road trip. Bonus, it’s cheaper than flying. Although it sounds like a beatdown, memories are made in the car. I make a goodie bag for each child, and in it I put little games, magazines, a book, and some candy—just little fun things they can get into on the road. My kids have been on fancy planes, and they still talk about how fun our road trips are.
- Bedtime bonding. This is easy and can be done in five minutes, per kid, every night you have them. I started telling my kids these three things when I got divorced: “I love you more than anything.” “I will always come back for you.” (My son was worried when he was with his dad that I wasn’t there.) “We can work out any problem you have.” It’s been seven years now, and they both know it by heart. I have programmed into their brains three things that they will always remember about me and how I feel about them and what I will do for them. That is priceless.
- Nighttime reading. Another thing you can add to your nighttime routine is group reading. Depending on the ages of your children, you can take turns reading a book, or you can read them a book. If you have older children, pick a chapter book, and take turns reading a chapter every night. Let them help pick out the books. Go to the library together. It’s free, fun, and a memory maker.
Raising kids is a lifelong job. I’m going to make a bold statement here: if you want your children to visit you when they are older, you have to put in the face time now—not the money. That’s a fact. If you put in only the money, all you will ever be is a bank machine. The kids will come back to you, but only for money. If what you deposit is love and time, the kids will come back to you for love and time.
You have been released from the money competition game. You’ve got a different game, it’s called raising kids. They are your prize. You’ve got this, solo mama!
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