Recently we have been discussing the trend towards coddled kids and helicopter parenting and it is probably no surprise if you have read our blogs that we wish our kids to be independent and to appreciate experience over material goods. I suggested in a previous blog that I felt that one of the reasons this trend towards coddled kids is that the purchasing power of the average family has increased greatly from generations in the past. It is much harder today for a parent to use the ‘we cannot afford it’ excuse because the child knows that you probably can (even if it is on a credit card). Our generation can afford to spoil our kids, buy protection them from the evils of the world, and sign them up for all kinds of activities from gymnastics to tutoring. If both parents work as hard as they can and climb the corporate ladder then yes they can afford these things. We chose a different route and in our world we cannot afford these things.
It has been a year now since we gave up steady income for uncertainty. We decided we needed to build our life around the family and we were going to try and fit our work around the needs of the family and not the other way around. This means we had to prioritize what is really important to us and to eliminate things that we do not value as much. Our kids have toys but do not get everything they see. We have only one TV (now without cable) and the kids will never have one in their rooms. Our kids will stay very active but they will only participate in a limited amount of scheduled activities. Since we are both at home most of the time there is always someone there for them but we are also encouraging independent play time as we still have to work and keep the house somewhat clean. We used to be able to afford babysitters, private schools, numerous scheduled activities, hi definition TV, and to fill our house with seldom used toys. Because of our decisions we no longer can afford these things and we are very happy with our lot in life. This got me thinking…we made these choices because we had to choose…but what if we could have it all?
What would happen if we won a lottery or our soon to be launched business idea takes off and we can live the family lifestyle we have designed AND afford anything we could dream of? If we could have it all would we try and take it all or would we still try and live the modest life we have repeatedly said we desired. Would we still be a one car family or would we buy many cars because we could afford it? Would we still go without cable TV or would we buy a home theatre and order every channel under the sun? Would we still tell our kids to play in the woods when we could afford to sign them up for the greatest organized outdoor camps? Would we still limit gift giving our would we need multiple Christmas trees? Would our kids still attend public school if we could afford the best school around? Would our paranoia for our kid’s safety multiply and we would buy whatever we could to keep them safe? The simple question is: Would money change us back to a family we currently do not want to be or would money allow us to live our modest lifestyle even better than we are now?
If any multi-millionaire wants to use us as an experiment to see what would happen just let us know? I am not sure if we really know the answer to what the addition of money would do to our current lifestyle but I do know how I would like to answer the questions.
I would hope that our ideals would not change and instead of deciding to purchase more stuff we would decide to experience more. I would like to think that we would stay in the same home as it really is great for our family but I can see renovating and re-decorating and while we may get a second vehicle it would be as fuel efficient as possible. I would also like to think that our parenting style would not change. I hope that we could still tell our kids that they do not need everything they see and we would only buy things that are guaranteed to be used a lot. I am not sure if we would look for a different school but I do not think we would turn to organized activities to fill our kid’s days. What we would spend the money on is experiences, namely travel. Maybe we would home school the kids and sail around the world, or simply take a series of exotic holidays. I would also hope that if we could afford all of this that we would choose to help others, not by throwing money at problems but by letting it free up our time to do some real charity work, probably overseas.
There is no reason to do too much dreaming but I do think it is important to test some of your ideals. I would like to think that we feel so strongly about not burying our family with material goods and a highly scheduled daily routine that the influx of money would not change this. Maybe one day we will have the option to prove this theory correct but for now we just have to enjoy the wonderful life we have created for ourselves.