From the Farm:
Published in the Casper Journal April 12, 2011
I had an argument with my husband last week. It was about our family budget. He wanted to cut spending. I wanted to expand it. He thought we should spend less on oatmeal. I wanted to spend more on paper plates. He threatened to shut down our family. I threatened to stop making meals. We held a conference behind closed doors. The kids waited outside, breathlessly. Finally, we exited the room with an agreement in hand.
“Well,” my husband began, “instead of cutting out oatmeal, we’re just reducing to once a week.”
“And,” I added, “we’ll now be using paper plates every weekend.” The kids cheered. The compromise was accepted and signed into law.
Really? No. Although I do fix more oatmeal than my husband cares for, and we all wish we could use paper plates every day, I doubt that either issue would shut down our family. Besides, how do you shut down a family? No matter what disagreements are had, people need to eat, sleep and be clothed. I’d suggest that the government act a little more like family.
Does money matter? Of course it does. However, money may not matter as much as some people think. I remember when we were expecting our sixth child, one well-meaning friend asked, “But how will you afford another baby?” Others questioned, “What does your husband do for a living?” For some people, “children” is synonymous with “money.”
I’ll be the first to admit, children do cost money. It takes resources to keep 10 people going. We often subsist on hand-me-down clothes, second hand furniture and large doses of homemade bread. However, I don’t believe we’re any worse for the wear. Daily entertainment involves playing outside or with siblings, while the X-Box doesn’t exist in our house. All of our babies have slept comfortably in the same wooden cradle (the one I slept in) and shared many of the same blankets and sleepers. Birthdays are simple, with lots of cake and singing, and a few memorable gifts. Weekends are rarely spent at the roller rink, but at the nearby park or building a fort in the back yard.
Yet, despite our lack of “worldly goods,” we’re all rather happy. In fact, I’d say that our happiness comes in large part from our simple lifestyle. Singing together while washing a stack of dishes, a good family swim and a side-splitting game of charades are memories likely to last a long time.
As you can imagine, anyone with eight children qualifies for every government program under the sun (unless, of course, you’re a millionaire.) Still, I was raised old-fashioned and taught to do without government handouts. Our family chooses liberty over dependence. We don’t mind eating beans for a few meals at the end of a month.
I also appreciate the work ethic my children are learning. When my son went to the National Scout Jamboree, he sold popcorn and did odd jobs for nearly two years to pay his way. My daughter bakes homemade bread to finance her violin lessons.
I’m certainly not opposed to money. I love quoting Mark Twain who said, “I despise people who have money, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.” I wouldn’t mind a little extra cash to take a trip to Disneyland or go out to eat on nights I don’t feel like cooking. Sometimes I’d rather purchase name-brand clothes at the store, instead of saving hand-me-downs. These things would be nice, but would we be any happier? I doubt it.
Money can buy convenience, but it doesn’t buy happiness. Wasn’t that what the Revolutionary War was all about? Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Those opportunities are priceless and cost little.
Then listen up, folks in Washington. We depend on you to ensure our rights. Leave the other details up to us. We can choose our own financial compromises along our pursuit to happiness. It’s time to get in, get out and get on with it. I’m sure most people would agree. Our family would.