Ditch the Guilt for Being on a Budget
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Budgeting skills are invaluable for your kids
As a Solo Mom with seven kids, sticking to my budget is a daily challenge. I’m happy when the end of the month hits and there is still food on the table and money in the bank, but my teenage daughter sees it differently. She envies her friends’ brand-new iPhones and credit cards, and she gets angry that she has to “suffer” because I’m a Solo Mom.
It was easy to get sucked into a guilt spiral when my daughter told me she resented having to do without the name-brand clothes and fancy gadgets her friends have. I’ve always wanted the best for my kids, and I remember what it’s like to be made fun of for wearing off-brand shoes and clearance-rack sweaters. But I also know it’s important to teach my kids to work for what they want, save their own money, and build good spending habits now when they still have me and my home to fall back on.
No matter how much my daughter wishes I could buy her everything she wants, even she would probably admit she’s learned good lessons because of my budget limitations. When she decided she wanted a fancy new iPhone 6, she lined up babysitting clients and saved up her money until she could buy it herself in cash. Now that she wants to take a pricey driver’s education class that isn’t in my budget, she’s doing the exact same thing. It would’ve been easier for her if I could have foot the bill, but there’s no argument that when she’s out on her own, she’ll enter adulthood with important budgeting skills.
The lessons my kids are learning by working go deeper than just financial savvy. They also see how items such as iPhones and Nike shoes matter in the scheme of things. They may decide they want to work hard and save up for them, but they do so after giving it plenty of thought and deciding whether what they want is important enough to them to work for it. None of them has given up on cool technology or name brands entirely, but all of them have learned to prioritize their wants and they usually spend more of their hard-earned money on experiences such as meals or outings with friends.
Watching my kids build solid financial life skills took the edge off the guilt I feel when they complain about what others have, but it didn’t completely erase it. Working through my guilt was an inside job. I had to learn to stop letting my daughter’s envy erode my confidence in myself and my life choices. Sure, it would be great if we had unlimited funds, but that’s simply not the case for most families, whether led by Solo Moms or not. Our financial situation is tighter because I’m on my own, but I’m not sure my kids would be better off growing up with access to everything they ever wanted. They had that once, and I’ll never forget the day they told me they didn’t need to clean their rooms because the cleaning ladies would do it! If I have to choose between kids who are entitled or hardworking but a little resentful, I will always choose the latter.
Sometimes I splurge just a little too much on my kids. I’m sure we all do it. I would love to give them everything in the world, but I know it’s just as important for them to learn to work hard for what they want. It’s hard to let go of that guilt and trust the process, but my experiences with my teenagers have shown me that no matter how much they complain about having to work, it builds a strong work ethic and instills in them the good financial habits they’ll need to be successful when they strike out on their own.
I’m not in a position to buy all my teenagers brand-new iPhones, but it’s silly to let that define my worth as a parent. No matter what I do, my teenagers will always have something to complain about. The biggest challenge I face as a Solo Mom is tuning out all the noise and learning to trust my gut. And my gut tells me that my kids will be better off for learning to work hard for what they want.
Jody Allard is a writer and mother living in Seattle. Her work has been featured in the Washington Post, Time, and Good Housekeeping, and on Vice, among others. When she isn’t writing, she can be found binge-watching HGTV and embarrassing her teenagers.
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