Growing up with a single mother was pretty difficult. I remember kids making fun of my Payless brand shoes because I didn't have Nikes. I had to wear the same pink power ranger costume for 3 years in a row since we could not afford a new costume. My mom had to rent out 3 rooms to strangers after the divorce just to make ends meet so I ended up living with these strangers and calling them "uncle" or "auntie". I had no idea what was going on at the time. I couldn't participate in hot lunch every Thursday at school because we didn't have the money, and since I went to a private school, everyone else always bought 2 or 3 hot dogs/pizza slices/hamburgers for hot lunch. I remember crying as my grandma scrounged around for change in one of our renter's room just so I could have $2.50 for hot lunch the next day. As a Catholic and a morally good person, I didn't know what to think at that time! Was it right for her to "steal" money like that, even if it was just some loose change?
I'm thankful that my mom never made it known to me that we were broke, but she did make jokes about how we might have to move to the Philippines when she was laid off a few times. I'm very grateful that she didn't burden me with her financial troubles but I also wish she would have taught me how to save money since she was so good at it (she is an accountant after all). I now appreciate everything she has done to pay for my education and everything I wanted. Whenever I came home complaining about what the other kids were wearing or what the other kids' parents bought them as Christmas gifts, she never complained or got angry. She would go out and get me all the gifts she could afford and every Sunday after church, we would get McDonald's. I looked forward to Sundays all the time just to get my happy meal. I wish I could go back to those days and thank her for everything she has done for me.
When my mom got remarried when I was 9, my stepdad was just starting his career as an engineer, and he was making less than my mom. Things were still really tight and we were still pinching pennies, which is why I decided that I needed to start working when I was 14. I first started teaching hip-hop classes to kids at the local community center and then moved on to selling cell phones at T-Mobile at the mall. Without that real life work experience, I don't know how I would have turned out. I was exposed to reality and the true cost of living at minimum wage. Then, I started driving and taking care of my little brother and sister. I felt like a teenage mom and was actually mistaken for a teenage mom most of the time but it taught me a lot about responsibility and the love I felt for them is something that motivated me.
When my dad became a captain in the Navy, this is when the lifestyle inflation began. We started going on trips and my parents bought me a new car (not an expensive one, just a Toyota Corolla, but it was still brand new!) when I was 16 and they purchased a new 5-bedroom house, and also started renting out our previous 2 bedroom townhouse. My dad bought a BMW and after my mom got into an accident with our old van, my dad bought her a Lexus. My dad moved up in his company quickly and ended up being the predecessor to the former owner of the engineering firm, and I was so proud of him. The happiness in his eyes as he talked made me so happy. My mom would tell me everyday that she couldn't believe how her life turned out. She looks at her house everyday and tells herself how thankful she is for everything she has been given. I am so happy that my parents worked so hard to get to where they are today, and I can only hope that I can follow in their footsteps.
What troubles me is that sometimes my BF and I try to compare ourselves to where my parents and his parents are at currently. We have to remember that everyone starts off at the bottom and has to work their way to whatever goal they are trying to achieve. We can't just skip ahead without putting the time in to be where they are at today. It's hard when your parents automatically assume that you should be making 6 figures right when you get out of college, but that's life and we have to make do with what we can afford right now. We are both grateful to have jobs and I think that's what is important. At this point, I have accepted that I may not even get to the lifestyle my parents are living, and I'm okay with that. I just want to be able to provide for my future family like my mom did, because I know I appreciated everything even before we were able to afford a lot of things and live comfortably.