I have been wrestling with something lately. It’s a nagging feeling of shame. I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from, but it was there, and it seemed centered on our family’s finances.
My teens are starting to exist in spheres where your economic class is more noticeable amongst peer groups and, therefore, discussed more in social situations they enter. This is natural, but they, and I, are feeling pressured. This happens to every family, I know it does. We all need to ‘keep up with the Joneses.” I never came from a family where that mattered. My family of origin was solidly middle class. They had debt, but it was good debt. My parents worked really hard, sometimes struggling just a little, but we always had everything we needed. They balanced it well. I learned the value of a dollar, and not to disrespect people who didn’t have what we did.
So, I couldn’t figure out why suddenly our family’s income is bothering me? Had the kids begun to complain? Not really. More of them are in high school now, but this classism was noticeable in middle school. It isn’t necessarily more prevalent in high school. In fact, in some ways it is better. Kids are more mature. In our high school experience, kids are kinder. They are more mature and see each other more for their human worth versus seeing them for their net worth measured in pairs of expensive sneakers.
More is definitely being asked of me as a parent though. Elite sports are ridiculous. That has been a source of tension in our home lately. Cam’s swim experience has been a mine field of classist nonsense. You absolutely can’t live paycheck to paycheck and participate in this sport. It’s not possible. I definitely feel a tug over that. Our family rides the “low-income” line. We qualify for scholarships for many things because of the number of people in our family, but we have a certain amount of disposable income. Some families don’t. Those families couldn’t hang in this sport. I wrestle with myself daily over whether or not we are truly living our values by allowing Cam to participate in this.
He loves it though, and he needs to blaze his own trail. So, I watch closely, and by all observations, he is largely unchanged in any negative way by this environment, and there are definite positives to his experiences so far. So, I have shut my mouth about most of the scenes that have rubbed me the wrong way.
I decided none of the above was the root of this nagging feeling of socioeconomic shame.
Then it hit me, it’s the adoption.
I know, right?!? I know how weird that sounds. Why would Isabel’s adoption bring a nagging feeling of shame? It is going so slowly that we’ve been able to pay a lot of the costs associated with it without incurring nearly the debt we did with other adoptions where we had to move fast, and therefore, come up with huge sums of cash fast.
I thought about it for awhile and realized the shame is centered around the fact that Joe and I have driven ourselves into that dreaded “lower class” socioeconomic status by adopting this many kids. We depend on **gasp** social programs to raise our family.
Worst of all, we chose that.
I realize I feel shame over that. I feel guilty. My life choices have made me dependent on outside forces to help me raise this family. That is not something I am “supposed” to do. We’re not “supposed” to depend on one another in this country anymore. We’re supposed to drag ourselves up by our bootstraps.
Except, some of us weren’t given boots. My children came to me with no boots. Their medical, educational and emotional needs have taken a toll on our income.
If I am feeling this shame, so many other people must be feeling this too, people without the resources that I have. I have an education. I have built a business that allows me major work/life flexibility. I am raising children I am so proud of.
I am committing to letting go of the shame I feel over the fact that we are now poor. I did do it to myself. It won’t be forever, but it is for now. I drove us into poverty to bring these kids to us. I felt so bad when I had to say it the first time. I felt awful when I thought about my kids, and the fact that this is what would mark their childhood. They will always be this.
But, they will always be part of a family too. They will always have each other. And while I can’t give them every opportunity in the world, I fight hard to give them as many as humanly possible. I can only pray that they see me trying and remember that.
When I was emailed, for the 4th or 5th time, I lost track of how many times it was, asking where my check was for the fee associated for Juliana’s accelerated learning program, I typed back, with my head held high,
We receive reduced rate lunch service at school. This qualifies Juliana for a scholarship. I can’t send you a check for this. I don’t have the money.
Thank you so much for noting this on her account,
It felt better to name it.
–FullPlateMom, who is low income.