Saturday, June 14, 2014

We're Broke

I've been considering writing this post for some time now, but always decide against it for various reasons. I have gotten to the point where, I just can't wait any longer. Our friends and family need to know why they hear "No." so often.

The Brooks family is broke. Sort of. We are not broke in the sense that we don't have money that could be dispensable, we do. We are broke in the sense, that it is gone, used, has a purpose. My husband and I, chose to go down the debt-free future path, about two years ago. We have worked hard, and paid off a lot of debt. But selling our house, renting, then purchasing our forever home, put our debt-pay-off-plan on hold for about 9 months. We are finally getting back to it, and have set a pretty lofty goal for ourselves. We want to pay off one of our student loans by this time next year. It is doable, if we stick to our budget......if we say, "No."

Smart Advice from Mr. Dave Ramsey
I hate to disappoint people, especially the people I care about. So when we are asked to go out to dinner, go to a movie, take a trip etc., it's very hard to always say the same two letters: N. O. It's also hard to feel as though we are skimping on things. When we give gifts, they are small, simple, basic. When Christmas or birthdays are approaching, it takes months of planning ahead, and a great deal of budgeting to get the job done. Although it seems counter-intuitive, this a major reason for putting our family on a budget. We want to send our parents on that trip they have been dreaming about. We want to pick a gift, based on the interests of the person, not the price tag. We want to be able to be the generous, thoughtful people, that we wish we could afford to be. We want to travel as a family. We want a future free of the stress associated with debt.

We don't want our friends and family to stop including us (or trying to), we don't want to be thought of as "cheap" or "stingy". It's quite the opposite. We want to give ourselves the opportunity to be the "yes" people in the future. With debt hanging over our heads, we would never truly feel comfortable with larger purchases, family/friend vacations, dinners out without reading every price on the menu, or shopping for ourselves without feeling guilty. Becoming debt-free will help us do all of these things and more, while still being responsible and thoughtful about our money.

Joe and I, own our choice. We stand by it. It doesn't bother us to miss out on these situations for the time being, because the goal is that we will be able to enjoy them in the future. We want to instill smart finances, and financial responsibility in our boys.

I don't feel sorry for us. I'm proud of our choices. My goal is for the people around us to understand WHY we say, "No.", WHY this is important to us, WHY we make the choices we make.

Our Debt-Free Future Inspiration

Monday, June 9, 2014

Judge and Jury

We have all been there. You're at a party, playdate, the park, a grocery store, and your little one throws a tantrum, is "the bossy one", takes things from others, says something inappropriate, etc. You chose the scenario, but we've all been there. It's hard enough, that our job as parents is to be able to decipher this behavior, pull out the mommy/daddy trick that will defuse the situation, and do it all without breaking a sweat. Now, add on the pressure of doing this in front of dozens of judging eyes. We have all felt it.

I had a conversation with an older mommy, over the weekend, when she made the statement that, "she could just start interacting with other moms (now that her children are grown, and have their own babies), because the competitiveness is finally gone." Sad. Our best resource, as parents, are other parents, yet we feel so judged that we sever these ties. Later in the weekend, I was able to have a very insightful conversation with a long-time friend and mama, where we discussed the pressure associated with the prying eyes of other parents.

Being a parent shouldn't be about doing it "best", it shouldn't be about having the "perfect" kiddos, it should be about doing the best we can to raise happy, mindful, caring human beings. But, for many of us, we worry too much about what others think about how we deal with sticky situations. Having the experiences of this past weekend, have put me in a very thoughtful mode. In reflecting on my sons' behavior, my responses to it, my concerns about how others see me, comments that have been thrown my way, etc., I have devised some advise for myself. Reminders, if you will. Things to keep in mind, when I find myself being judged........or.......judging.

1. We've all been there!: We all want to pretend that we haven't, but we have all felt the heat, head-rush, panic, and embarrassment, of tough parenting situations. We have all been blindsided by unexpected behavior. We have all given ourselves the, "In _________ situation, I will do _________......" pep talk. So, get over it. Stop blaming the parent.

2. The judgment you feel is in your head: We all let our minds run wild with, "I bet she thinks I am a horrible parent!", "No one is going to let my son/daughter play with their kids.", "I'm sure, they are running home to complain about how I handled that situation." In many of these situations, what we believe is being thought/said behind closed doors, is probably far worse than reality. Stop worrying about what others think. Do what's best for you and your kids.

3. The judgement you feel is real: We all do it. We see a tantrum, or a grabby kid, and we think "Why isn't she/he doing this?" It's normal. Really, it's an important part of our development as parents. "Judging" a parenting situation, where you are a bystander with a front row seat, but none of the embarrassment, is the perfect time to re-evaluate your possible responses. Unfortunately, most parents don't use this opportunity to hone their own skills, they use it to belittle the parent who is "screwing it up". Judge the situation, not the parent.

4. We all do what is best for our kids, and us: If I have learned anything, since having two children, it's that there is no manual for being an effective parent. There is no "perfect" game plan. What works for one sibling, doesn't work for the other. So why would we ever think, that what works for one of OUR kids, would work for someone else and theirs??

5. Don't offer advise, unless asked: For the same reason, as #4, offering unsolicited parenting advise is a load of crap. It is a mommy or daddy's way of feeling as though they know what they are doing. Don't do it. It's not helpful. I will be honest. When someone tries to give me unsolicited advise, I instantly recount every one of their parenting "mistakes". If I'm asked, awesome, advice away! Otherwise, parents will see it as pure judgement and will tune you out anyway.

6. Train wrecks are normal: Before becoming a parent, I always thought....."My kids won't act that way!", "I wouldn't let my son/daughter get away with that.", "What are those parents doing?!" In reality, these situations are normal, unavoidable (to a certain extent). Kids learn what appropriate behavior is through parental modeling, shared interactions, and yes, misbehavior. Tantrums are a way for kids to process their feelings, before they have learned how to process them appropriately. The fact that these situations exist, is not a testament to the horrible standards/teachings of the parent, but to the normal development of a child. It is our job as parents to teach the coping, social, emotional skills needed for our babies to grow into productive, reasonable, caring adults, but it is a process, it takes time, it takes trial and error.

7. Making mistakes is part of the process: We have all reflected on a parenting faux pas and thought, "I should have handled it this way, or that way." Good! Try it next time. Stop beating yourself up, for not doing it last time. If you keep trying, eventually, you will find the response that works for you and your child. As I tell my students, the only true mistake, is not learning from them, when they occur.

I will try my hardest to be a reflecting, not judging, parent. To be a comrade, not a teacher. To be here for my friends, without feeling the need to "fix" or "change". I will take pride in my parenting philosophy, not shame in my mistakes. I will not judge others or myself, only support and encourage.