When I was young, I lived with my mom and step-dad. They both worked full-time. As a kid, I never understood what that actually meant other than they were gone a lot.
I knew we were well taken care of—we had a nice home, beautiful clothes and fancy vacations.
When I hit high school and started applying to college, I filled out my applications and sent them on their way. While my parents limited me geographically, the idea of how to pay for it didn’t really come up much. I applied to and was accepted by a Big 10 University, and my mom immediately insisted that was where I would go.
All my life, I was given everything. While I knew it cost money, I never really gave it a second thought. I knew that my mom had gone back to work after my parents divorced and that it had been hard. Those times had been stretched. But by this time, both my mom and step-dad had great jobs and we never talked about money.
I know, I know…I was very privileged. And, I was dumb. Honestly, spoiled too. But I didn’t realize it until I had children of my own.
Every month my husband and I balk at the amount of money that childcare costs, diapers, clothing. We shake our heads and wonder, “where does all of our money go?” We both work hard, and we too have good jobs. But our children will not have the life I did.
We want our kids to work for it.
I made it through college in four years by the skin of my teeth. I had a part-time job, but mostly for trips to Express and beer. There was no real need for me to work other than the fact that I liked to shop.
I am so incredibly thankful for the life I was given—and the incredible education—I didn’t appreciate it when I was young. It shames me to say it, but I truly didn’t understand. Until I grew up, I didn’t realize what it truly meant to work hard for something and appreciate it.
I vow to do it differently for my boys. I don’t say this to take anything away from all the amazing things my parents did for me. But I want them to have to work for things. To appreciate real, hard work and what it takes to accomplish goals, buy yourself that special something, or pay for college. I think if I would’ve been financially invested in my own education I would’ve worked that much harder.
My boys are young: two and four. But even now, we explain that you can’t just have everything you want. Goals and things require work, and that Mom and Dad work really hard.
We want them to know the value of all the things they receive—toys or education. We teach them that all things require work—tangible or otherwise.
To my parents, I say thank you. I also say I’m sorry and I wish I would have realized all you’d done for me sooner. I hope that the work ethic we are working to instill in my own boys will honor the working legacy you both left for us.