Robert and I just spent a week and a half in the Florida panhandle and Eastern Shore of Alabama. We had a great time visiting with my mom and brother, and then going to see my dad, his fiancé, my grandmother, and my sisters. I’m still catching up around the house, so it will be a while before I’m back to blogging regularly.
I also got to spend some time with old friends from my childhood, summer camp, and high school.
It was a fun trip, even though Robert was cranky the whole time and didn’t sleep much. He woke up between 2:30 and 4:30 most mornings and I’m still recovering from the lack of sleep. We went without Tom and I’ll never travel without my husband again. It was too stressful to take care of Robert by myself for a week and a half, even with help from the grandparents. I have a newfound respect for single moms, I don’t know how they do it and stay sane!
My trip made me think of a comment that my mom once made about me being half poor. I had called my mom to tell her that a co-worker of Tom’s was confused about how I could be so cheap when I grew up “privileged”. Yes, he used that term. The thing is, most people assume that you had a charmed life when you tell them your dad is a Harvard educated doctor (yes, Dad, I brag on you). For the most part I did have a charmed life, but there is so much more to everyone’s story that I can’t help but wonder what people would think if they knew all of mine.
So I called my mom and had a good laugh. People only see what they want to see. This man saw me as the daughter of a doctor and wife of a lawyer. All that sounds pretty privileged, right?
What people don’t see is that my mom came from a family that was not wealthy. She loves to tell me stories of having to pee in pots because they didn’t have plumbing. People don’t see that my mom and dad were very frugal when I was born because my dad was still in medical school and they were living off of loans. People don’t see that my mom and dad got divorced and my mom lives on a much smaller household income than she did when she was married to my dad. These are the things I don’t bring up in conversation because no one wants to hear it. But this is my blog and I can explain it here. So why not?
When I called my mom to tell her about that comment, she explained to me that I have a different outlook on life and money because I’m “half poor”. I couldn’t help but crack up because it made me think of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I feel like I have half wizard blood in my body or something. I’ve decided to own it, I’m half poor and proud of it.
Being half poor gives me a completely different outlook on money. I can 100% understand why people make the decisions that they do regarding money. Take this trip to visit my parents as an example. When I stayed with my mom I felt the pressure of not being able to spend money on lots of things. I’m not saying that we didn’t have fun. In fact, my mom and I spend money pretty similarly so I felt comfortable not spending much. But I still able to sense guilt that she felt for not being able to buy us tons of stuff or take us out to dinner. Every purchase felt examined and perfectly calculated. I understand that she makes tough decisions about what to buy because she lives paycheck to paycheck.
Meanwhile, when I visited my dad I felt guilty over every little penny he spent. We went out to eat 3 times, he offered to buy me jewelry and clothes, and his fiancé even bought clothes for Robert. I don’t usually have much fun money so it felt strange to be around people who had enough money for eating out and shopping . Not to mention that they threw away a whole ham because it was dry. The food waste conscious part of me wanted to die. I even suggested they make soup out of it!
It was strange to go from one extreme to another. Not that my mom is dirt poor and my dad is filthy rich, but they are in different socioeconomic classes. Sometimes is feels weird to balance both of those worlds, and when I do it gives me insight on why I behave the way I do. Both of their lifestyles have molded me into what I am today.
So, there it is. Hopefully my blog readers will have a better understanding of my outlook on money. I mostly blog about saving money for our loan payments, but in reality my desire to save money is rooted much deeper. My family dynamics is one of the many reasons why Tom and I live the way we do. It is why I like expensive things, but hate paying full price for them. It is also why I have no problem paying more for quality merchandise, but hate spending money on tin foil and Saran wrap.
I still consider myself privileged compared to many people in the world. I have a roof over my head, food to eat, and an amazing family.
Mom and Dad: I had a great time with both of you! This blog post is not meant to make either one of you feel guilty, it was just a way for me to explain myself and explore my emotions. Love you both!
Have you ever had to spend time with family or friends in different socioeconomic classes? How did it impact you?
I can’t help but think about Ruby Payne and her book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty. It is interesting to see how socioeconomic class affects most everything we do. Do you agree?