Best gift to give your children?.?.?.

2013-05-14 14:00

A sense of responsibility, independence and value of money, writes Maya Fisher-French

The truest thing ever said about becoming a parent was by author Elizabeth Stone, who said deciding to have a child was to “decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body”.

Most parents make supreme sacrifices to provide for their children and research shows that mothers, in particular, put their children’s needs before their own.

It is, after all, your heart that is wandering around out there.

But not all sacrifices are healthy.

I know most mothers who would go into overdraft to make sure their child had the right clothes to “fit in”, or who justify buying their children the latest gadgets so they won’t be ostracised at school.

I recently spoke to a woman who was worried that she did not have a retirement fund as she had no money to save, yet she was spending about R600

a month on toys for her two boys.

We want to offer our children the perfect world where they never feel shunned or feel they are not “good” enough. Yet, do we fully understand the damage we do not only to our own financial needs, but also to our children’s sense of responsibility and independence?

I will never forget witnessing an argument between a friend of mine and her 18-year-old daughter over a dress she wanted.

My friend had given her daughter a budget and told her to go and have a look at some dresses while we had coffee. The daughter returned and said she had found the “perfect” dress but it was nearly double the budget.

Her mother replied: “I am in overdraft, I can’t afford the dress,” to which her daughter responded: “I don’t care about your overdraft.”

And why should she care? Her mother had never put her own financial needs ahead of her daughter’s. My friend lives in overdraft, has no pension and no financial plan on how to change this, yet her daughter gets everything she wants.

My friend’s rationale is that she never wanted her daughter to feel, as she had felt growing up, that they did not have enough money. Yet in doing so, she had never taught her the value of money and had, quite frankly, created a monster.

I wonder if her daughter realises the true cost of that dress – that one day she will be supporting her elderly mother.

Ultimately, all that money spent recklessly on children’s “wants” will be repaid by the child in some form, and that is usually supporting their elderly parents.

Perhaps the best way to be a great mum this Mother’s Day is to learn to say “no” and to put your financial needs first.

The children may not understand it now, but, in 10 or 20 years’ time when they have started their own families and are struggling to make ends meet, as all young couples do, they will be forever thankful for the greatest gift you ever gave them – financial independence.

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