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May 26, 2009

Life's not a day at the beach

Recession It occurred to me this weekend that this might be the first generation that doesn't "have it better" than their parents did.  We took our first day trip to the Jersey shore as a family of four this past weekend.  We were grateful to learn that they weren't yet checking for beach tags in Ocean City.  We weren't sure of the cost per tag, but knew it would have cost us at least another $20.  As I baked on the beach, I was reminded of what someone said to me years ago.  "I love the fact that Ocean City charges for the beach.  It keeps out the rift rafts!" (aka riff raffs)  I sat up as the memory inexplicably popped into my head.  Am I a riff raff?

I don't actually know what type of person qualifies as a riff raff.  But based on the context I heard used, I assumed riff raffs were rowdy people, polluting the beach with noise, empty beer bottles, and other "paraphenalia" that might not fit into a family atmosphere.  There I was, watching my toddler son dig in the sand when I realized that we might not be able to afford Ocean City this summer.  How could this be?  I love Ocean CIty.  It's my favorite of all the Jersey shore points.  We're middle-class, hard-working people.  My husband and I are both college-educated.  I'm currently a full-time, stay-at-home mom.  We've made adjustments, but never did I think we wouldn't be able to sun ourselves for the day on the beach of our choosing.  Little else has bothered me up until this point.  I don't desire an extravagant lifestyle.  Fancy cars, houses, and clothes truly aren't my thing.  I'm a very content person.  But the inability to sun myself on a piece of land that the good Lord gave us is suddenly infuriating to me! 

My parents worked really hard to provide for us.  My father worked two jobs.  He worked over twelve hours each day and spent a good part of the weekend working as well.  We took ski trips to Vermont each winter, weekly trips to the jersey shore each summer - accompanied by unlimited amusement park rides and anything on the boardwalk that our little hearts desired.  We took several trips to Disney, and my sister and I were each permitted to bring a friend along once for an all-expense paid vacation of their own. 

I know my husband and I won't be able to afford these types of vacations with our children.  And I know that this is NOTHING compared to what some families are dealing with.  My husband makes a decent salary and we have health insurance which is paramount these days.  However, if a well-educated, middle-class family, who has already made major financial adjustments in order to have one parent stay at home, can no longer afford to take a day trip to the beach due to the cost of tolls, gas, and beach tags, what's next? 

I was watching my son take apart the cushions of our brand new, $400, fire engine-red sofa this afternoon.  I hate it, but it was the only sofa we could find that fit into our budget.  He was piling the cushions on top of one another and then climbing the "mountain" he had created.  Then he made a tunnel using the cushions and began to crawl through.  There was an endless stream of shrills and giggles coming from the playroom.  Even the baby got in on the action.  I walked in the room and could see they were waiting with bated breath for my reaction.  I decided to jump in on the fun and tickle them instead of ordering the cushions put back.  I know our children may not get to do all of the things I did growing up, but I would hardly say I "had it better." 

This is an original post to the NJ Mom's Blog by Michelle

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