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May 26, 2009

Recession Stinks

J0434131No vacations. No new clothes. Meals at home instead of out. Paying some bills this month, some next month, some the month after that.

And for the first time in our lives, letting our children know what's going on in our financial lives.

This recession stinks. It has changed all of us in ways we couldn't have imagined. It isn't all about the material things we now have to do without. More important, it's about how we define ourselves as not only individuals, but if we have children, parents.

As parents, we're supposed to protect and provide for our kids. For most of our lives, in fact, all of our lives up until now, my husband and I have been able to do just that. It hasn't always been easy. There were times when we scrimped and went without. But it was my husband and I doing without if the need arose.  Never our kids. Never, ever our kids.

Fortunately, our children are older, which in some ways, makes this ugly time a bit easier. With one college student and two recent graduates, our children know what's going on in the world.  They don't like it any more than we do, but they understand it.  They all work, which means they can help out a bit, and they do.

 But they're not supposed to have to.  That's our job. And while they are certainly supposed to go and make their own way in the world, we aren't supposed to need their help. It's the parents' job to pay the bills, to buy the clothes, to handle the necessities, not the kids'.

So the lines have been blurred. I'm trying to look at this as a teachable moment, the way all of the psychologists say you should.  I know logically that it is just that, and my kids will be stronger for understanding and stepping up when it was necessary.  I know they don't think we're letting them down or not holding up our end of the bargain as parents. They certainly don't hold us accountable for what's happening; in fact, they've been quite kind and sympathetic.

All of which makes it that much harder for me. I don't want my kids feeling sorry for us. They never express the sentiment in those exact words, but I can feel it. And I hate it. It's not who I want to be as a parent. I want to continue to be the provider, the fixer of all wrongs. I know it's impossible and it's the natural course of things that they eventually take care of themselves. I just don't want them feeling that they have to help take care of us.  Not yet. It's not nearly time for that yet.

I know that in the long run, this recession will make my kids stronger. I'm just not so sure about me.

This is an original post to Philly Moms Blog.Mary Fran Bontempo also writes at maryfranbontempo.com.

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