Mom, Are We Poor?


What. In. The. Hell.  Not quite the question I expected to get from my eleven year old as I conducted my normal post school day interrogation   Upon further questioning it came to light that a classmate had asked her if we were poor because she didn’t have any school pictures to bring home like some of the others.   If there ever was a time in which I ever wanted to suggest to my child to tell someone to fuck off and mind their own business, this was it.  Um…have you seen school pictures lately?  Horrendous.  Besides, the condition of my checkbook is no business of a fifth grader.  Not even my own.

After drying her tears and reassuring her that we are in fact not poor,  I  felt it the opportune time to inform her that we are not what many would consider rich either.  While we are not financially strapped and are able to provide our kids with the things that they need, it takes some planning on our part to be able to give them the things that they want.  More importantly I  wanted to stress to her that while we may not be monetarily rolling in the dough, we are rich in so many other ways.  Ways that she may not understand at this exact moment.  Ways that don’t agree with her “cater to me right now” mentality.  Ways that maybe some of her friends don’t get to enjoy.

We live in a ninety-year-old house.  Not just any old house mind you, Farmer Bob grew up in this house.  While it doesn’t have sparkly new fixtures, cable TV and brand new carpet, it has things that are so much better.  It has character and memories and an outhouse.  We have a fort in the trees and hay in the barn to play hide and seek in.  We have open space to play baseball in the yard and plenty of room to get away from each other if we need to.   We have food on the table and clothes on our backs.  We have fun together, we fight, we argue, we love.  We are a family.  

Being rich in the monetary sense would be fantastic don’t get me wrong.  To not have to worry about how to cover this bill or that bill, to be able to give our kids a few of the things that are wanted whenever desired would be an amazing feeling.  The question I have to keep asking myself is would I be willing to sacrifice so many wonderful moments  in order to have the financial stability to satisfy what would undoubtedly become insatiable appetites for shit that serves no other purpose than to allow our family to slowly disintegrate into seven separate entities instead of one strong familial unit?  The answer to that…HELL NO.

It is never easy to tell our kids no, you don’t need that.  As parents we have this primordial desire to provide for them, to satisfy their every desire.  We feel as if we are failing them if we can’t serve them everything that they want and need on a silver platter.  Maybe we are actually failing them if we do throw all their earthly desires at their feet with no request for repayment.  Are we raising a generation of entitled assholes?  I hear how kids talk to their parents, my own included.  I see the look of fear in a mother’s eyes of what might happen if she says no to that toy, my own included.   It scares the shit out of me.  Scares me that as parents we allow it.   That it seems that we really are raising the kind of adults that we ourselves can’t stand to be around.

What scares me even more is the thought that these kids won’t grow up to appreciate the things that don’t cost a fortune.  That they won’t understand that you don’t have to be rich in the financial sense to be rich in so many other ways.  That family comes first and the rest of it is just “stuff”.  That we have riches that far exceed anything that money can buy.  That in fact, some of the best things in life truly are free and can’t be captured in some stupid school picture.




  1. I am so glad that you are following your heart and doing what you believe to be best for your family. In the end that’s what matters most. They won’t remember all the crap and so called ‘gotta haves’, they will remember all the fun, the fights and family time they shared throughout their childhood. In an age where there is an over-abundance of ‘entitled assholes’, I flat out refused to raise mine to be that way. I refused to pay someone else to raise my kids in daycare. Sure, being a single income family in this age is difficult, hell it’s downright a pain in the ass most days, and it’s certainly not for the faint of heart!

  2. I am kinda shocked (apparently I am naive) that a 5th grader could take such a leap that not getting your class pictures would mean poor. Wow. Where or how would an 11 year old think it was ok to ask another child this. And your daughter must have had a moment of doubt, concern, and upset. This alone angers me, and I am not even her mom. Kudos to you for explaining to your child what wealth really is.

  3. We kind of poor — overeducated, underemployed, underpaid. Otherwise, I told mine all the things you did. And that there are lots of folks in much worse circumstances than ours, and we needed to remember that when we voted, donated, or even looked at them…. Love your blog!

  4. My kids are too young to have a handle on poor/rich yet. And frankly we’re solidly middle class. But we don’t have many of the trappings of the middle class such as a flat screen TV and one of my oldest’s friends was over for a playdate and was looking at our giant boxy 10+ year old TV and asked, “What is this for?”

    And so it begins…

  5. I sent the spring school pictures back when I saw my baby girl posed like a pin up girl cracked back with her legs stretched out one knee up…

  6. I love this post, and also wonder if schools could be trying harder not to have things like this come-up as often as they do – it’s school photos, school trips, school fundraisers. And my kids act like it’s the end of the world even if I say yes to four of them, but no to one…

  7. Krista Grandstaff says:

    Excellent post… My kids know that we are not even in the realm of wealthy, and actually, as a single parent.. we could even be called “poor” at times, I’m sure. But as I tell them, they have never lacked for food, internet, cable.. decent clothes…we don’t have every new gadget…but we do have wonderful camping trips.. home made pizza night every Friday.. poker/movie nights on Sat (My dad taught my brothers and I to play when I was 6…don’t judge…’s been a fun skill to have!) As my kids get older, one in college, one grad. hs this month, another in hs and a middle schooler.. if nothing else, I know they remember things we have DONE, not things we have owned…pictures of great times, not the stuff we can buy… poor is not a crime :)

  8. Courtney says:

    I love this, Tara. It comforts me knowing that others are like ours. I love how you responded. It was perfect

  9. Katie@SomewhatSaneMom says:

    Oh my friend, I just LOVE THIS!!!! You are amazing and your children are very very lucky. It is such a challenge to teach our children what is truly important in life. We can only hope that one day they get it.
    Plus she’ll thank you one day when she doesn’t have all of those hideous school picture! I wish my mom didn’t buy any of mine from 3rd grade and up ;)

  10. I often have conversations with my 17yr old about money. She always has these wonderful ideas about what she wants to do and have us pay for. I always inform her that they are wonderful ideas and if she gets a job and saves she can do anything she wants. She gets her allowance and that is it. ( well not always I do pay for other things that come up.) I try to make all my kids aware that the money their father and I have is not infinite. We have to decide when we can afford things and when we can’t. I layby for Easter and Christmas and birthday’s. I save for bigger things we want. For Christmas last year we had our families give us Bunning’s vouchers as we were doing up our yard and wanted to buy plants. We didn’t need stuff. The plants look great and are an ongoing gift. I haven’t managed to kill them yet!. My Mum gave my husband and I money for our birthday’s this year and we used it to by more pavers for the front yard. Money is tight in todays society and my kids don’t get to spend it willy nilly. Even my 7 yr old has learnt that if she wants a major toy she needs to save her allowance for it.

  11. We talk a lot to our girls about the difference between what they/we WANT and what they/we NEED. There is a huge difference between the two and it is important that they understand that for their own money management in the future. I also love that you talked about being rich in others ways – the, too, is so true!!

  12. Did you hear that???

    It was NAIL that you hit SMACK on the head!!!!! Bravo momma! BRA. VO!

    (fyi, I’m also raising entitled assholes)

    • AND….

      HIGH FIVE~

      I quit buying those over-priced crappy school pictures YEARS ago. My kids don’t like it, but I can’t justify doing it.

  13. Oh geez….a 5th grader asked your daughter if she was poor over school pictures? Makes you wonder what that kid is being taught at home. I’ll never forget when our middle child asked me if we were poor. I think he was in about 3rd grade or so. The reason? Our house was smaller than those of his friends. Really?? 3rd grade friends. I told him we lived in the small house to save for a larger house and because Daddy and I decided I should be home with the kids. Today, he is 22 years old and struggles like crazy to make a go of it. And you know what? It’s good for him. And he never questions or complains.

  14. I LOVE this post, and I LOVE you!! I can really relate, Tara. We get, “You live in a trailer house??” all of the time. And, my kids don’t wear the expensive brands of clothing, unless they pay for it themselves, and I truly don’t care, because I want them to learn the value of life beyond “things.” Your’e a great teacher/menor/mother to your kids – they are so lucky to have you!! Keep speakin’ your mind, girl!

  15. I love this post, and I totally agree with you! On the school pictures front, I was saying this year that I’m surprised we still do them. They are sort of superfluous in an era when everyone has digital photography and online photo streams, etc. Gosh, our oldest takes some bad ones!

    As for your house (loves it) and your values…you go, girl. I grew up in a military family where McDonalds was considered a treat. We considered ourselves average and we were – my parents struggled to treat us to the things that made us feel loved and…well…forget the rest! Someday your kids will realize that your greatest gift was keeping them grounded and giving them the best things of all.

  16. I never buy school pictures. They are ugly and expensive and I would rather take my own snapshots in my own back yard.

  17. you have such a way with words. and kids. and the right way to handle things. YOu are right on the money – see what I did there?

  18. Amen – hallelujah!
    I love this so much Tara. We do all fear these fears and wish for more from time to time. But the effort it takes to see what we have in front of us and appreciate the blessings already have at our feet…sometimes its tough, especially for kids. Thank you for reminding us that there is value in that. Love you! <3

  19. Perfect. If someone looks in our windows and sees “poor”, they are clearly missing how royally rich we are in family, food, shelter and love. Poor is relative, but, the things money can’t buy are always the most treasured riches. You have that in spades. Love this and you.

  20. I love this post and it just reinforces what a difficult world we live in sometimes and how important it is to have these conversations with the kiddos. I love that your child trusts you enough to tell you about her fears.

  21. Wow, this is an EXCELLENT post! I saw this linked on Pinterest and was actually expecting something different. Something more… snarky and ungrateful. Boy did you take me by surprise!! For me, this is one of those very rare blog posts where I feel the writer took MY story; I can totally relate to what you are saying and I agree 100%.

    Also, saw one of your facebook commenters mention how she is jealous of those more thrifty than herself; I can relate to that too! Hahaha. It is so encouraging to see other families put family first. So many say they do, but few actually practice it in reality.

    I love the whole post, but one of the lines that just really hit it for me was when you talked about “stuff” causing the ruin of the family and transforming a cohesive unit into separate “entitled assholes”.

    Great work!

  22. Personally, I think being thrifty is awesome. Anyone who is thriftier than I am, I envy. Then you have more money to do the fun things that cost a butt load.

    • I totally agree, I LOVE sharing how inexpensive I got something or the cool ways I repurposed things.. ;) I think thrifty is the new rich! ;)

  23. This post actually resonates a lot with me. I grew up as what many would consider “poor”, and I think subconsciously I buy a lot of “crap” for my daughter to make up for those “are we poor?” feelings I had during my own childhood. This post is a helpful reminder that the most special times I have with her are not related to “things”, but are the times when it’s just her and me – playing, pretending, dancing and doing silly things. Quality one-on-one time free of distraction, and worth more than anything that money can buy. Thank you for such a timely post. :)

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