Thursday, August 14, 2008

Less is more

Recently, Fly and I took a bike ride to a park nearby. I knew of the park but hadn't been there before. There wasn't much to it -- mostly a grassy area with a stand of trees in the middle, and two half-hearted playground areas.

The park didn't have much going for it as far as Fly was concerned, but it was almost surrounded by a canal that winds through the neighborhood. We followed a path along the water and were surprised by a blanket of flowers there. There also was a covered bench right at the water's edge.

I looked beyond to the other side of the canal and was surprised that the houses that backed up to the water were pretty spectacular. I saw pools bordered by Roman columns wrapped in fabric, a two-story wall of windows, romantic balconies and lush landscaping. The people in these houses looked out their backyards to this little park with its flowers, trees and cute little bench on the water -- a really nice view. All of this was just a short bike ride from my home.

Looking at all this beauty, I wondered why that couldn't be my family and me in a house like that. And I immediately felt ashamed -- as though I'm not grateful for what we have -- and indignant -- because I know we could probably have more if I worked at a full-time paying job.

We don't have the best house in the neighborhood, but it's not the worst, either. JP and I try to live within our means. There are some things we do without, while there are other things we splurge on -- probably like everyone. For example, we've never had cable or satellite TV. (A boss once asked me, in all seriousness, how I lived.) The most I usually spend on an item of clothing is around $30 -- thanks to shopping sales, eBay and being able to sew. JP does most of our home repairs and improvements himself. I use coupons at the supermarket (last week: $6.75 worth). We often buy electronics used. Many of Fly's toys are secondhand, like the Big Wheels-type tricycle I picked up at a yard sale for $3. JP and I have really cut back on our travel, staying in the state for the past several years. You could say we're good consumers, except we don't consume much. (Not to mention most of this is environmentally friendly.)

So, sure, we could have a nicer home with more up-to-date interiors, we could have newer cars, I could have fancy shoes and I could save time by skipping over coupons and sales papers. But for now, I am committing my time to Fly. And yes, I do realize many moms absolutely must work to keep the household running -- and that could be me if my husband ever can't find work -- and God bless moms for doing so.

For my family, though, right now we are content with having less because it means Fly can have more. He has more of me. He has more daily examples of do-it-yourself hard work. I believe having Fly at home gives him more freedom. Having less gives me more, too -- more time watching Fly discover new things, more practice with patience and faith, more chances to appreciate the things that matter most.

If I'm ever tempted again to gaze longingly at a fabulous house, I will just remind myself that less truly is more.

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Blogger amanda said...

perfectly said friend.

and so very true.

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said. If I could stay home forever I would. 3.5 years is all I can do - I have one year left and my kids will be 3.5 and 1.5 when I go back. We live with a lot less now and will still have debt to pay back when I am working again. It's worth it for me to be able to nurse full time and not have the hassle of any bottle or pumping crap. We'd have more if I worked and huz stayed home but we both prefer me to be here for as long as possible. Then, ACK - preschool!

3:36 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

Our neighborhood is flanked by two gorgeous subdivisions, and every once in awhile I start imagining what it would be like to live in one of those beautiful homes. I know that we're doing Tatum a favor, though, by teaching her that we live within our means and how to go without. Great post :)

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen! (clapping hands and nodding enthusiastically...)

5:55 PM  
Blogger Bloggy Mama said...

Fabulous post, lady!!!

6:03 PM  
Blogger Heather said...


7:03 PM  
Blogger Mozi Esme said...

Well said. Whenever I start to get envious of others' toys (and mostly because I want MY baby to have them), I remember that the real values I want to pass on to her do not include materialism.

7:53 PM  
Blogger Awesome Mom said...

The people in those houses are likely in heavy debt to live that kind of life. There are loads of people that look rich but are only a paycheck away from disaster. Besides the less you have the less likely it is that someone will want to break into your house and rob you. If someone breaks into my house they are going to be very sorry.

9:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Less is more. It's less crap, less clutter, less landfill. It's giving manufactured STUFF (toys, clothes, whatnot) a second and third life. Good for you! I hope that when and if you go back to work, you can hold onto some of your lessons in stretching a dollar.

And even though I totally agree with myself... I also look longingly at new STUFF and big houses and get a little jealous.

But yes, your Fly is lucky to have the best gift of your time.

10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful post.

We've had to sacrifice a bit so I can be home with my girls, but it's worth it. Less certainly is more.

12:05 AM  
Blogger Kristi said...

Very true. I need to constantly remind myself of this, especially now, when all my friends and family seem to be taking fabulous vacations that we can't afford. In the grand scheme of things, it's time that matters most, isn't it?

7:51 AM  
Blogger Jenn (Life's Sweet Melody) said...

A wonderful post!

7:54 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Great reminder, Jen. We're fortunate in that my hubby does well without my income but certainly we could be living a much different life is I was back at work. And different doesn't mean better. It just means I'd have more money with a lot less time with the kids, which is a sacrifice I'm not willing to make!

10:29 AM  
Blogger White Hot Magik said...

Amen sister. I often find myself feeling the same way.

11:32 AM  
Blogger ohAmanda said...

Beautiful, beautiful usual!
You stated it perfectly! The time w/our babies now is MORE important! Look how fast it's gone already.

12:53 PM  
Blogger Madeline said...

Too true! I have found that the best blessings often come in packages that aren't as grand as I expected.

1:17 PM  
Blogger said...

There will always be someone with more and nicer things. It's hard to not get jealous.

3:27 PM  
Blogger LBA said...

I think envy is completely normal - but keeping it in perspective ( like you have done ) is best.

That person with the fabric draped columns ? Her husband is having an affair, and they are hocked to the eyeballs. He lost his job earlier this year, but keeps the pretence of 'going to work' up because he doesn't know what else to do. She has a drinking problem and suspects her husband is cheating, and they fight. A lot.

But not so the neighbours hear ;)

8:49 PM  
Blogger dianna said...

You would laugh at the scenario I just left...same situation, same thoughts running through my head.
You are right though...what our kiddos need the most is US*!*

11:10 PM  
Blogger Mamacita Tina said...

Agreed! I am more than happy to cut coupons, shop the sales, cook meals, do our own house and lawn work if it means I can stay home with the kids.

5:36 PM  
Blogger groovyoldlady said...

Amen and Amen and AMEN.

I'm so tired of hearing women whine about not "being able" to stay home, but who wouldn't dream of ditching the dish or the SUV or the pool.

If ya wanna stay home (and they need us home if at all possible), then make the sacrifices. It is SO worth it!

(Disclaimer: My heart goes out to women who WANT to be home, but who'd husbands won't sacrifice THEIR toys to make it happen. I also know that there are some women who simply MUST work. If so, may God's grace be upon you in a special way.)

4:51 PM  
Blogger CaraBee said...

I read this the other day and meant to come back with a comment. But somehow the time got away from me and here it is 4 days later. What I was going to say, though, was Amen. When my husband and I got married, we knew that we would want me to stay home with our as-yet unrealized children so we bought a smaller house, paid off our credit cards and got ourselves down to one car payment. All because we knew that living on one income would be challenging, although my husband does fairly well, and anything we could do to make the burden lighter for him was worth it.

It is sometimes hard when I go over to my friends' grand houses or hear about their fancy trips or the uber-expensive baby gear they use, not to wish we had more. I would not trade a single moment of the 10 months I have been home with my daughter to have all of that, though, because in the long run my daughter will be far better off having spent that time with me than having a $700 stroller and a separate playroom.

8:43 PM  

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