The following is a guest post from a reader who asked to remain anonymous
Growing up, my family vacationed in 5-star hotels and spent more at a single meal in a gourmet restaurant than my husband and I currently spend on groceries for an entire month!
Needless to say, the disparity between my financial situation and that of others in my family has led to some pretty awkward situations. While my own struggle with contentment is something I need to put in perspective, I’m pretty sure my family would do some things differently if they understood.
If someone you love has far less income than you, or is simply in a financial slump, they’d probably like for you to understand these concepts, too.
Remember that I Need To Plan Ahead
What seems like no biggie to you may be huge to me.
Let me give you an example: One year, my parents, siblings, and our families were together for a rare long weekend. Someone suggested that every family unit could pay for a couple meals throughout our visit. Sounds fair, right?
The problem was that my family rarely eats out on our own, especially at sit-down restaurants. And even when we do, we plan ahead, have coupons in tow, and usually drink water. We simply could not afford to foot the bill for 8 adults, plus children.
The situation was awkward, to say the least! Others footed the bills, and we felt like absolute heels. However, we simply couldn’t justify dipping into our meager savings or going into debt over a family get-together.
Let Me Serve You, My Way
The next time a family gathering was planned, I suggested (plenty of time ahead) that each of our families take care of two meals, however we wanted to do it.
For our part, my husband and I cooked up a pretty impressive breakfast — if I do say so myself! I was able to make room in our budget and pair coupons and store deals to purchase the needed groceries ahead of time. I also used some Crystal’s freezer cooking strategies to reduce my time in the kitchen that week!
Everyone was impressed, and I was glad to be able to do my part. Some of the others did take everyone out to a favorite restaurant, and that was okay, too.
Realize What I Can (& Can’t) Give
Even if I realize that I make one tenth of what some others make, giving them a $10 gift when they give me a $100 one feels crummy. Seeing my kids receive more gifts from extended family than they do from me is difficult, too.
My one sister was out-giving me with my kids at Christmas — in a big way. I told her how I felt, and that I wanted my kids to receive more from their parents than extended family. She completely understood but didn’t want to spend less on my kids than she did her other nieces and nephews.
She now gets my kids each a gift (usually after asking me for ideas, first), and then buys them savings bonds with the remainder of what she wants to spend.
Know that Conversations Can Easily Exclude or Embarrass Me
I’ll try to be excited for you when you tell me about your home renovation or trip to Bermuda, but I just won’t have much to contribute to the conversation. I don’t want you to feel like you can’t share your exciting news with me, but please realize that if everyone else is spending a lot of time talking about things I don’t have or can’t do, I’m going to feel left out.
I’m not trying to be antisocial, but I’m pretty sure that saying “My husband glued down the part of the Formica countertop that keeps popping up,” wouldn’t quite fit in.
And then there’s Christmas.
In our own home, we try not to make Christmas about the gifts or money, but when you tell me what you gave your kids and ask me what I got mine, it’s hard for me not to feel like a bad mom. It’s also a little embarrassing when people ask my kids what they “got for Christmas.”
I do try to make our celebrations enjoyable, though, so I’d much prefer that we be asked what our favorite part of Christmas was, or something like that.
At the end of the day, I don’t want to be seen as “the poor one” or pitied for my (current) lot in life. I just want to be loved and appreciated and included in the festivities.
The author is a freezer-cooking , baby-wearing, stay-at-home mama who does some freelance writing while her 3 young kiddos nap. She’s married to a wonderful man who’s the pastor of a small country church and prefers to remain anonymous due to the content of this post.