I’m a writer (well, most days I like to think I am) so it should go without saying that I love words. The romanticism of them, how vividly they can describe a lovely moment. Words I’ve written in my journals have earmarked the most important moments of my life. I still have my college journals and letters from my 20s stashed around the house. So, if they are found, I can definitely never be president. I started thinking about how certain words can really rule your life and others can plague you daily. Dear budget, hand-me-downs, and guilt: our torrid love affair is over!
When my singleton was born, he was planned. I even saved two years of my salary in anticipation of his arrival because I didn’t know if I would want to go back to work and I dreaded being forced into a situation I wasn’t comfortable with because of financial constraints. When he arrived, I bought everything new: crib, furniture, strollers, highchair, and mountains of clothes. Even a custom upholstered, overstuffed rocking chair for me (complete with buttercream colored fabric embroidered with honey bees, which was the theme of the nursery and my baby shower). I had a great job and plenty of cash and savings to do what I pleased. I had what I now affectionately refer to as, “first world problems”. Which super cute coat to buy the babies? Both, you say? I’ll pay cash! Bored? Time to shop! Not on sale? Not a problem! I was simply supporting the economy.
Fast forward six years to some major life changes. I quit my big money job in the big bad city and took a 75% pay cut to work from home. Ouch. It turned out to be the best thing I’d ever done for myself and my children in every way — except financially. We had more time together, and I could spend the time I was wasting commuting doing productive things for them, like making homemade food and working on writing and reading with my oldest. The only price I was paying to the piper was to face my toughest challenge: budgeting and the guilt that comes with it.
Thankfully, I have two secret weapons. A great network of friends and a secret stash (unfortunately, not the candy kind.) My circle of friends are a generous bunch and we’ve traded needed items back and forth for years. A bassinet here, winter boots there, and plenty of clothes sharing. Both my son and daughter receive bags upon bags of hand-me-downs of clothes nearly every season and I am eternally grateful for it. How do I make peace with the guilt that comes with second-hand stuff?
Simple. The money that I’d be spending on these clothes I can instead take to buy them better quality shoes, coats, and the needed basics. It isn’t always fair, and many times I wish that I could buy them new, cute things. I deal with it by avoiding shopping as much as I can, which is pretty easy. I’d rather play with the kids than stroll through a mall and be stopped 500 times with the usual, “Are they twins?” round of questioning. I also alleviate that guilt by putting extra thought and effort into their special outfits for holidays and the like that I do buy new. I search out what I’d like in the offseason, and then spend time researching where to get the best price using coupons or sales. I focus on what I can do for them, not what I can’t provide. Only a lucky few of us will ever have kids as well dressed as Posh Beckham!
Also, I do have a secret stash of special items. My oldest singleton is now seven, and I just couldn’t part with some of his baby clothes, in hopes that one day I might have another son. So, I stashed his most special outfits; first Christmas, choice expensive pieces (as I mentioned earlier, I used to shop!) and things given to him by the family that had sentimental value. My boy twin has had built-in go-to outfits, which is a little unfair to my daughter, but I rationalize it this way: she always gets a little more because boys can’t wear barrettes, headbands and cute tights. Well, they can…I joke that I always have built-in Halloween costumes, because if I can’t afford to buy them I’ll just dress my girl like a boy and my boy like a girl! So her outfits are a little puffier and more sparkly which in my mind, makes it as even as one could get.
Life is not fair. You will never be able to do things equally for all of your children. I try to put aside for a moment that they are twins and remind myself that I don’t do exactly the same things for my oldest and the twins — that’s impossible! You provide for everyone in the best way you can at the moment and be conscientious of what is fair. When I think about my own childhood I don’t remember that I had 3 pairs of shoes and my sister had 4 pairs. That is not what matters. What matters is how you make them feel about themselves and building their confidence so it doesn’t matter what they are wearing. This can be done and I am proof. I generally am dressed like a hobo, but am still a confident person. Anyone who knows me can vouch for that. Only occasionally when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and think, “Hello, old lady!” am I reminded that I’m not dressed in cool clothes. Don’t focus on what you are missing. Focus on what you have and what you are doing with your kids. Each hand-me-down that is given to you that can be used equals money in your pocket to use elsewhere.
What I do have: the precious gift of time, the support of my family and friends, and peace of mind that you can spill on the clothes and get them dirty and I will NOT lose my marbles over it.
What I don’t have: cashmere sweaters, panic attacks, the desire to be flashy (although if I ever have grandchildren and any money to spend, they are all getting some flashy stuff). I don’t let guilt get the best of me, because if I ever have disposable income again, designer clothes for everyone!! (myself included!)
Daniele Parris is a work-from-home mom to an upbeat six-year-old boy and almost one-year-old boy-girl twins. She lives in the suburbs of New York City and has degrees in Fine Arts and Philosophy from New York University. She makes her living in the Healthcare industry and spends most of her time with her boisterous Italian family, trying to get a word in edgewise. Her hobbies include cooking and baking, an unholy knowledge of 80’s hair-metal bands and trying, albeit almost always in vain, to guess the monetary value of the items on Antiques Roadshow.