by Vanessa Blackford
Last week I listened as a mother cried to a friend about how she feared being a bad mother because of their current financial struggles. She said, “We are not used to being poor. I don’t know how broke parents do this.” She talked about how her daughter had asked for a playhouse, and they couldn’t afford to buy one. She felt like she was ruining her little girl’s childhood by not being able to provide a playhouse or even a vacation this year.
So here is a word to parents new to this struggle from someone who grew up as a white-trash, trailer-park child.
Your children know when you try. Growing up, we were very poor. There were multiple times that we did not have what we needed. I remember two of the worst times: one time the power was off and there was no money to pay the bill, so my mother cooked potatoes—scratch-made hash browns—over a fire in the backyard. Another time was when we didn’t have money to fix the heat in the house, so my mother put us all in front of the open electric stove and turned it on to keep us warm. I remember that my mother tried.
One summer my biological father brought home scraps from a construction job he had been working on. My mom went out there and spent the entire day crafting the scrap pieces of lumber and painted drop cloths into what felt like a castle to me. I played in that playhouse for years. It survived two hurricanes, and living on the coast of Alabama that meant something. I knew I didn’t have the fanciest playhouse, but I didn’t care, because my mom tried. It was a gift from my mother’s heart.
There was a time when my mother couldn’t afford to buy us Christmas dresses, so she sewed them. I could always tell when I was a little girl that my mother was trying, and as long as she was trying I appreciated it and was content. There also came a time a decade later that my mother quit trying, and I could tell then too.
I want to remind you that hard times build good character and strength. Teaching your children to stand with confidence with whatever the Lord has chosen to give them is a strength that they will need and will be blessed by for the rest of their lives. To understand that none of their worth is wrapped up in material things, but is 100% based on the character they have; and the value of simply being made in God’s image will save your child from a lot of other forms of emotional and mental stress down the road.
Don’t give up. This isn’t a time to be racking up credit card debt or to give in to depression and frustration. It is a time to become resourceful and creative. Just because you can’t afford to give your child an expensive, store-bought playhouse doesn’t mean they can’t have one. It may mean making one from leftover materials from daddy’s job, or maybe a tent made from sheets off the clearance rack.
Just keep trying. Showing up really is enough.
Today, my three princesses and I built a “café” for $20.
I’m praying for all the parents struggling to make ends meet right now.