The best things in life

In El Salvador, where I was born, there is a saying that ‘Every baby comes with a loaf of bread under their arm’. It sounds silly in English, but basically it means that every baby comes bringing joy to the family, and there is no need to worry about how to provide for him or her, since he/she brings along with him/her the means to be provided for. It may be naïve but I do believe this, because I’ve seen it when we’ve had our children. And also in my own childhood. I know it’s not necessarily like this in every family in all parts of the world, but we really do live in the lucky country.


When I was growing up my parents split up when I was 8, and myself, my brother and sister lived with my mum. We lived in a house from the housing department and we lived on government benefits. My mum loved to study, and did various uni courses, but having come from El Salvador and English being her second language, she found it difficult to find work. She was hard working around the house, which was always neat, she took pride in our surroundings.


We always had food. We all went to private primary and high schools. And I never lacked anything. Sure there were times when I wanted a toy or clothes that I couldn’t have because we couldn’t afford it, and it must have been a little heartbreaking for mum to say no at times, but she never let me know it was because of the money, and she was never bitter. She was always grateful for what we had, and honestly, I think it was good for me NOT to get everything that I wanted.


I started working at the age of 16, because I wanted to, and by then could buy what I wanted with what I earned. My brother and sister did the same. I did quite well at school and got into a career I loved. My mum was able to eventually find work in the government, and has been giving back to this country by working hard and paying taxes. If you are hardworking you will always contribute somehow.


When we had our kids the government provided us with paid parental leave, family tax benefit and public health care when I gave birth. They also offer daycare rebates, public schools and student income support, although we did not utilise them. Accepting what the government offers is not to be a freeloader. When we work we all pay tax, and so we all have a right to accept benefits too when we need them. And the way I think of it is, when my children grow up, they will also work, pay tax and contribute to society in their own unique ways.


When my husband and I were working full time, before we had children, I remember there were a few times I went to pay for things and my bank account had insufficient funds. This hasn’t happened once since we had our children. Why?


Maybe because before kids I used to go out to dinner every week, buy new outfits a lot more regularly (which after wearing once were no longer ‘new’), and indulge in services such as getting my hair done every 6 weeks, getting my eyelashes permed (yes, permed!) and having a gym membership. Things which I don’t do now. Do I miss them? NO. And when I say no, I mean, no, in a resounding, defeaning, 200% certain NO.


I still do these things sometimes, especially when I get more work coming in (I have kept working as a freelance designer, except for the 5 months after having each of our kids). Sometimes we go for breakfast as a family, or do fun things that are free or inexpensive like going to the beach, picnics at parks, visiting friends, having friends over. We get the kids presents for their birthdays, and I buy little things for them quite regularly (play doh, markers, paints, little toys). We live in a house that is a great size for us. And generally we are careful about what we spend.


My husband works full time – so I am very blessed in this regard because I love being at home full time with my kids, but I have long gaps between freelance jobs at times. But we have everything we need and more, and I am so grateful. I don’t miss the things I used to spend money on before having children because now I have my kids which are so incredibly much more valuable. If anything I wonder how I could have wasted so much money on such useless stuff. And I’ve realised that having more money didn’t make me happy – being content with what I have makes me happy.


In my experience a newborn baby doesn’t need much more than their mother’s milk, a cot to sleep in, a car seat (if you have a car), a pram (or baby sling, as I prefer), and some clothes. And the cost of these things, for us, hasn’t amounted to much more than what we’ve received from the ‘baby bonus’ or paid parental leave.


When our youngest was born I bought a pram off Gumtree for $100 which was better that one I bought new for our second child for $700. I’ve saved money by breastfeeding, and then giving them cows milk once they turned one, using second-hand clothes from family members (which have been in almost perfect condition and I’ve been so grateful for), buying cheap nappies, wipes in bulk, learning to plan meals, buying generic brands and shopping at the cheapest supermarkets.


Before we had kids I didn’t see how we were going to make things work – I looked at our bills, our income and it just didn’t look like it would add up. But somehow it did. And now I feel that we really have everything.


Do you have a story like this? How did you find enough means to provide for your family, despite the obstacles?

What situation were you in?
What adjustments did you have to make?
What situation are you in now?
– Thanks for sharing!

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