Quite often, my wife and I find ourselves very thankful for the financial situation that we’re in. We’re healthy and of sound mind and we have the financial capacity to afford everything we actually need and we are able to live in a beautiful house with two healthy children. We’re lucky.
One of our closest friends isn’t so lucky. She and her husband have four children between the ages of nine and two. They currently rent a three bedroom house where the two oldest children share a room and the two youngest children share a room. Whenever we visit them, it’s a tidal wave of happiness and playfulness with those four children. They’re energetic, obviously incredibly happy, and yet they’re also well-mannered. The oldest one, in particular, is quite intelligent and a rather free spirit – she’s nine, is obsessed with painting, and has a real talent for painting people’s faces and capturing their mood in elegant, simple strokes.
Sounds like a wonderful family, doesn’t it? But right beneath it, my wife and I know how much it takes for them to keep it all together. First of all, the father of the children has served multiple tours of duty in Iraq in the National Guard and has had duties extended almost without warning. While this has brought them some income, it has also meant that he’s been distant from his children for long stretches at a time while facing the trauma of war – no amount of money can replace that lost time.
This has left the four children at home alone with their mother, and how she holds her life together, I’ll never know. While her husband served in Iraq, she would stay up during the day with her children, catching naps here and there as her only source of sleep. After the children were in bed, their grandmother would come over and sleep there four nights out of the week. Why? So the mother could go to work all night, ten hours a day, four days a week, doing manual labor.
It gets more tragic. She also found time to go through the required schooling to be a nurse, but just as she completed the training, she was diagnosed with a rather severe form of fibromyalgia. This condition actually made it impossible for her to do the work of a nurse, so the money and the time invested in that was lost and she had to return to her stocking job at Wal-Mart. As time has gone on, she has been relegated to jobs that require less and less physical demand, leaving her mostly working as a greeter at the store.
After all this has happened to them, they’re still not in debt, manage to pay all of their bills, are slowly saving for a house, and manage to have raised four wonderful children who fill their home with a special energy.
Every time I ever think that life has dealt me a difficult hand, I think of them. They have played the hand that life has dealt them magnificently and stand out as a beacon for both of us as to how you can avoid the debt monster and can deal with tragic circumstances and still provide an amazing home for your children.
What’s the lesson that can be learned here? Your life choices, financial and otherwise, are a reflection of the values that you truly hold, and the more you understand those basic values, the better your financial and other life choices will be. These two people are the most committed parents I know and their choices always revolve around those children. Being good parents is the most important thing to them by far and every choice they make reflects that. As a result, their house is filled with happiness, even though they have plenty of reason to feel some self-pity. Their values and their financial and personal choices are in complete alignment, and together they can overcome almost any hardship.