Growing up poor as a kid is weird, once you’re an adult. My childhood can be divided into having enough (up to age 9), and not having enough (9-and-a-half to 18).
I moved out of home at 18, with a suitcase and backpack. My bachelor uncle took me in and thus began my drifter lifestyle.
Once I was done studying, I floated between family and friends for years, until I earned enough to share a house with someone who wasn’t a friend or family member.
I was an adult, but I still had the struggles I had when I was young.
I still didn’t have the things I wanted or sometimes needed, but I was a pro at making do. Now that I’m older, I realise that the repercussions of growing up poor are so deeply ingrained in my head, that I just cannot throw things away.
My scarcity mindset is visible in almost everything I do. I make sure I eat every last bit of food on my plate, and sometimes my husband and son’s too, in case there’s no delicious meal tomorrow.
I hoard weird things, in case I don’t have money to buy them in the future.
And even though I have moments of clarity, where I know it makes no sense to hold on to a tattered rug I had in my early 20s, that rug is still in a box somewhere in my garage.
The scarcity mindset is most present when it comes to how I spend my money.
When I’m unchecked and not thinking clearly, I spend all my money because I think I might not ever have money again.
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These are things you only know if you grew up poor.
That’s why I call my husband “Pravin” (Gordhan) when I have a meltdown. He is the voice of reason in our relationship.
He pulls me back from the brink when the poor kid in me goes into survival mode, wanting to hoard everything and/or spend everything.
Even though I know I will probably be okay; I also know that the shift from scarcity to abundance will not happen overnight.
It will take a while to see the change, but once it starts, it will be unstoppable.
My husband’s money personality is totally different to mine.
He has been a great coach. When we met, I had loads of credit card debt. I felt ashamed about it.
The only debt he had was his car repayment. Over the years, he helped me get rid of the debt and helped me shift my shame. He told me I should be grateful for what my shame helped me accomplish.
It got me out of communal houses and into my own little flat.
I was able to take some amazing trips. It helped family in need. It fed me and kept me from having to eat peanut butter sandwiches all day, every day.
Once I was able to wrap my head around that, and change from shame to gratitude, we sat down and made a plan.
I love how he sees things so clearly. He can see to the core of a problem and cut through the drama.
When I’m overwhelmed, and the poor kid in me tells me to spend it all, as I might not have money tomorrow, he is able to pull me back and make sure I make the right decision, with varying success.
Yup, this Pravin also has some fiery opposition at times!
Right now, I have boxes of mismatched socks, magazines, tattered rugs, 80s teen clothes, 20-year-old blankets and handbags waiting to be discarded.
I did the Kon-Mari ritual you’re supposed to do when items no longer spark joy, and they’re being collected over the next few days.
And as for the poor kid in me? I see you. Thank you for helping me survive. We’re okay now. You can breathe out and stand down. The adults have got your back, sweetheart.
Originally published via BrightRock's Change Exchange programme.
What deeply ingrained childhood lessons impact the way you live as an adult and parent?
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