Thursday, January 22, 2009

The End of Entitlement

To all who've commented and offered support regarding our coupled (such overachievers, we) involuntary exodus from employment into the land of lost jobs, thank you.

In truth, we feel highly optimistic about our prospects ("First one to get a job with benefits wins!"), and appreciate the fact we are being forced to actually walk our aspirational talk.

For years, Scott and I have bemoaned the societal trend of maximum expectation for minimum (if any) effort. [e.g. "I've got my degree, I should have a higher-paying gig." "I exercised for 10 minutes, why are my thighs still big?" "I was on the last place team, and look at my trophy!"]

With frugality now at the fore, I realize how some of my previous parenting practices unknowingly nurtured that instinct for immediate gratification with our kids.

After reading this piece by renowned parenting expert and educational psychologist Dr. Michele Borba, with tips on talking the presently challenging economic times with children, here were my thoughts:

"Our twins are seven; and while we certainly wish to retain their innocence as long as wisely feasible, we feel they -- much like we -- have much to learn about fiscal responsibility and the value of indulgences we've previously (and embarrassingly) taken for granted.

A three+ year freelance gig for me evaporated in December with the proliferation of corporate bankruptcies; and last Friday, my husband's nearly 15 years of employment at Circuit City drew to a close.

Never for one minute did we contemplate "not telling" our children the truth.

We won't be going out to eat so much. We won't be buying books impromptu with every visit to Barnes & Noble. We will think twice about "unnecessary" expenditures -- budget streamlining we could have - and probably should have - done before. As a result, we think we'll be teaching our children the import of hard work, prioritization skills and the all-too-often overlooked"treat" aspect of so many purchases/outings previously perceived as the norm.

We are not fearful, and have voiced that truth frequently to our children. There ARE jobs to be had, and while they may not pay what we were accustomed to, they will help us make ends meet until the "right" gig(s) comes along.

Perhaps I sound in denial, or worse, delusional, but there are facets of our current situation for which I am extraordinarily grateful. Windows for re-defining entertainment and family time have availed themselves already, and I am confident we'll have a clearer, healthier perspective for the temporary challenge."

Is your family confronting economic shift? Have tips, ideas or thoughts to share? Please leave a comment!
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32 comments:

Rebecca said...

I couldn't agree more. I believe that these challenges give parents learning opportunities and the chance to communicate with their children about real life issues. There are too many parents who aren't "real" with their kids b/c they are trying to protect and it really ends up damaging the kids and quite possibly the relationship. That's just me...an 8th grade teacher...who has seen many strained parent/child relationships due to the want/need to shelter from difficulties. Kids need to learn these things in order to grow up to fully functional adults in our society. Thanks for being that kind of parent.

Nicole O'Dell said...

That is a fantastic post! I totally agree with everything you said. Kids today just aren't hungry enough. I was a retail manager for a while and you wouldn't believe how the college students I hired would just QUIT their job if there was a party to go to and they were scheduled to work. Sad!

Anyway, you're doing your kids a big service by teaching them that life is about hard work!

Threeundertwo said...

You are so wise. The lessons you teach now will stick with the kids. It's a delicate balance to inform your kids about the family financial situation without burdening or stressing them. I'm sure you've hit just the right note.

It's also something we should all do once in a while - take stock of our expenses. We've certainly fallen into the habit of eating out far more than we need to. That should be a rare treat - we all like to cook!

Brandi said...

How well put Cheryl. You will make it through this, and come out stronger and wiser on the other end. I find it refreshing that you didn't "hide" what was happening from the kids. Yes, younger children don't really understand, but with practice they begin to. You will teach them many things about buying only what they need and saving up for those special treats. I know you will find the right gig and you will be happier than before!

Rachael said...

cheryl, as always, that was beyond well said. thank you for sharing those thoughts. i couldn't agree more with the value of honesty and truth when sharing with your children.

Jamie said...

You have such a wonderful way with words!

I know the spot you're in, where you want to teach your children something from the situation you're being handed. We're in that spot now. With the two houses, and income tight for one house we've been making changes for a while. Like before, the kids would ask to pick something for lunch if we were at the store. An example would be a lunchable. SO this week was an eye opener for them when they asked and I told them we'd make our own. And we did! We came home, took out our crackers, meat, cheese, juice boxes and fruit snacks. Imagine their surprise that even though it took us a few minutes to MAKE it, it tasted the same!

There is a fine line to walk. My kids have been heard as of late saying "we can't, because we don't have any money" to each other. And I don't want them to feel that its a matter of there being no money there to do ANYTHING. I want them to realize that we're CHOOSING to cut way back on many things in order for them to have a hopefully better brighter future!!!

Your outlook on this situation is very inspiring. I admire that!

Goddess in Progress said...

Very well put, and as with most things, I really admire the way you turn these things into teachable moments with your kids.

I, too, have faith that the right thing will come along for both of you. Sooner, rather than later.

monica said...

You are so very inspiring to me and the words you write are just so great and true.

Debbie said...

Someone should sign you up immediately to write a book about coping with this situation. You are inspirational.
I am concerned about our economy. Especially as I prepare to send two kids off to college this year. I want them to not incur so much debt that they will be years in paying back. And I want them to chose a career that will satisfy them but allow them to eat and house themselves. I hope my concerns don't dampen their spirits at this critical time in their lives. It is hard for me to find balance.

Laura said...

I have no tips.
Just prayers and positive thoughts.

Helene said...

Cheryl, you have such a way with words!!! Maybe you should submit this post to a parenting magazine!!!!!!

I totally agree with you and I've been talking more with my older twins about not being able to just buy things on whims anymore. They're only 4 yrs old and sometimes don't really understand but they are getting better at it.

I'm so sorry about both of you losing your jobs! I hope you both find something very soon!!

LauraC said...

Like everyone else, I am very inspired by the way you are turning this into a teachable moment.

Jon and I were laid off together (on the same day! lesson: never work for the same company as your spouse!) as part of the tech bust after 9-11. We were both unemployed 6+ months and I worked at Trader Joe's after my unemployment ran out. (Awesome job btw, with great benefits.)

The lesson we learned then is to be more thoughtful in our purchases. At all times. We could not believe all the stuff we could do for free. Museum passes, movies, audiobooks from the library. Free concerts. Free trial classes at places. Oprah tapings!

Even now, we are still frugal people. Going through that together forever changed our relationship with money. And going through that, we realized that the most important things - time with loved ones, good food, shelter - were the things we always had.

Jenny said...

Wow, what a great attitude. That seems to be a theme in your posts. Jordan and I both have jobs, and I'm grateful for it. However, since we are expecting again we have had to tighten up. Last time I had a hospital birth which was mostly covered by insurance. We ended up paying $1500-$2000 over a stretch of time, and didn't have to have it all paid off by the birth. This time it's $3500 out of pocket, as the state plan doesn't recognize midwives, even though they ARE licensed by the state. We have to have it all paid by 36 weeks and anything left must be put on a credit card. We are NOT credit card people, so we are going to do everything possible to get it paid on time. Besides that, the university where my husband works has furloughed all employees for five days from Jan-June, so we've seen a small dip there. That is no big deal, but they are talking about reduction in force later this year, and although we aren't too worried, it's not any time to go on a shopping spree either.

We've stopped buying a bunch of expensive (mostly junk) food at the store, and started stocking up on staples at sales. We also cancelled our cable TV and now only have internet, and that's saved us about $50 a month. We hardly ever go out to eat, but I do buy lunch in the cafeteria at work. I'm hoping to bring in a tiny little fridge later and maybe then I will make my own.

One thing that's saved us $$ is making our own laundry and dish detergent. That stuff is expensive! I don't have the recipes because my husband made it :-) I think he found the recipes online, and they basically have boric acid, baking and washing soda, salt, and vinegar in them. Another blogger I read a lot has started using diluted white vinegar for just about any cleaning project, and says it works great. I plan to start that too, once I run out of my Method stuff.

There is this wonderful blog (sensetosave.com) written by a woman my age who got her family out of debt and into savings just by extreme commitment to cutting costs. It is so motivating and has the greatest ideas. And, if you haven't read the Tightwad Gazette by the Frugal Zealot (Amy Dacyzyn), it's a great book on how to run a household for practically nothing.

Sorry for the extremely long comment, and good luck!

A little piece of 7th heaven said...

What a great post and I just know the right 'gig' will come up..
Like you said there ARE jobs to be had.
I know what you mean about tightening your belt. I am on an unpaid leave from my job b/c of the birth of my fifth. And while we are use to saying 'no' to ALOT, I feel it even more with the loss of my part time salary. For the kids it is a way of life, although I must confess I do cringe when we are in the supermarket and the kids say LOUDLY "we can't get it, it is not on SALE!" shh, quietly, not everyone need know!lol..

MereCat said...

As always, you have a brilliant insight well beyond what lies before you. And you are right in every way.

I am taking this economic trap door back to the days of yore. I'm trying to exercise appreciation, and find peacefulness in simple things: Thankfulness for clean water, a warm bed, heathy children, trees, flowers, winter, being able to see and hear, opposable thumbs, I could go on, but I already sound like a big dope. But that's what I think about every day. How to be more observant, thankful, and a better parent through remembering the virtues in simplicity.

Missy said...

Wonderfully written (as usual!) I agree on being honest with children.

amy said...

that was a great post, your words are so inspiring and I wish more people had your look on life. I wish you and your family luck and may your wisdom continue to bring out the best in all of us.

Bia said...

I think you are doing the right thing in being open with your two. My husband and I are not afraid to use the word "budget" with our boys...as in: "As much as we'd like to get it for you, that $50 game is not in our budget right now." We are also very careful to purchase big items only for occasions (birthday, etc.) and not just because...

Anyway, my prayers are with you and your husband...

Blessings,
Bia

Barbara Manatee said...

Wow Cheryl - what great perspective. As I was just saying a day or two ago - your wisdom, strength and character shines through your kids already - and this just adds to it.

As parents, we obviously want to give our kids all that we can, but also teach them responsibility and ethics. My parents raised us well, provided what we needed and helped when they could, but they raised all 4 of us to be hard workers and not to take things for granted. All 4 of us have ended up doing jobs that we help others...2 of us are teachers, 1 a paramedic/firefighter, and one a Navy officer. I know they are proud of us, but they should be proud of themselves...for what they helped us become.

I know Darren and Sarah will learn lots from this and I can tell you already - I know they'll handle it with grace and trust in you and Scott.

On the flipside, I thank God every day that we continue to be safe from the economy at this point. My job is *thankfully* very secure and Paul has avoided cuts so far...but we know his job can go at any time esp since HP just bought out his company. We hope and pray that we stay safe and can continue to provide what we can for our (growing) family of 5...

Nancy said...

You rock :) As always, your writing is inspirational. I strive to be the teacher to my kids that you obviously are to yours.

in time out said...

yes, we are clipping coupons galore, and thanks to mom's loot i know how to better use them. sorry for the troubling times. glad to know we are not alone.

Honey Mommy said...

I may lose my part-time gig after spring semester is over. So we are putting money in savings BEFORE we spend it and trying only to buy what we really need.

I have also turned into a coupon shopper. It's amazing how much you can save. Check out pinchingyourpennies.org

Cynthia said...

Were you at our house last night? Because hubby and I had the exact same conversation. Good for you for keeping your kids in the loop. By seeing you make smart choices they will only be stronger. I know my parents were always honest and forthcoming with my brother and I. As an adult, I can really appreciate how helpful that was.

Sharlene said...

Cheryl you are 100% right. I think people give kids enough credit. Well they give them too much credit with Amex and Visa but not enough as people with coping skills and the ability to show some maturity. My recent move into the land of entitlement reaffirms everything I will not be giving my children.

noble pig said...

You are wise beyond your time. It is so important to teach them these lessons in a good environment. Life is learning and this will teach them lots. But I hope for you and your hubby to find the fattest paychecks to be found! Keep us posted.

cat said...

Such great words girl - our kids live in the instant gratification society and this certainly has to change - note to self - make this happen! In any event, I am sure you will find something soon. Keeping you in my thoughts all the time.

Gibson Twins said...

You are very wise to teach such important things to Sarah and Darren. They will very much appreciate it later.

Ryan commutes 40 miles each way simply for as he put it, job security. He could easily work closer to home and/or make more money but the thought of possible lay off or business shut down was enough to make the commute tolerable (on most days!). Part of our budgeting philosophy was to never buy a house we needed two incomes to pay for and never incur credit card debt. We are at times too frugal, but it is about prioritizing in my opinion.

We have figured out how to use many coupons on the smallest quantities (vs using one coupon on a value size), and rarely eating out (that could also be said for toddler tantrum reasons lol).

I'm sure we'll have even more frugality come our way as we plan a possible #3.

Elle Charlie said...

Wow, I love your outlook! How fantastic that you're teaching your kids to be financially responsible and work with what's available while still instilling them with hope that if you try, you will make ends meet even if it's not what you were previously accustomed to.

Tracy said...

I don't really have any tips that aren't obvious...I have become the master at finding a bargain, clipping coupons, and utilizing rebates. I've also become good at making the more economical choice in given situations. All part of my transition from dual income earner to SAHM.

On top of that, we want to build a new house this year. Certainly not something we NEED, but a goal we've been working towards nonetheless, so we've been cutting corners where we can. Reprioritizing is a big one...do I want this, or would I rather save towards the house?

I saw a commercial the other day (I think it was Allstate) that talked about how after the Great Depression, people shifted from consumerism (or what it was in that day and age) to valuing the small things in life...back to the basics. I think that is a good thing, so no, I do not think you are delusional at all. It's a good lesson for everybody.

You'll land on your feet. Not a doubt in my mind.

Snickollet said...

Wonderful post. I've got my fingers crossed that something great work-wise comes to both you and your husband sooner rather than later.

clearframe said...

This is such a wonderful post. Thank you for this. What a healthy, positive, optimistic post. Such great lessons for the kids. Keeping fingers and toes crossed for both of you.

Jen B. said...

You really are an inspiration! I wish there were more parents (people) in this world like you!
I think it's wonderful that you are not hiding things from Darren & Sarah. I think it's good for children to learn that not all things are handed to us & sometimes you have to cut back. We decided to cut back some on Christmas & we were very clear about that to Hannah. We told her that while we both have good jobs, the economy isn't great right now & we felt it necessary to cut back some. You never know what the future may hold & it would be wise to cut back on the unnecessary spending. Although she wasn't totally thrilled, she did understand.
I hope the perfect job opens up for the both of you soon!