Dear Mary: My biggest budget-busters are enrichment activities for my four children. I want to spark their joy for living, providing opportunities to sample different sports and hobbies.
Currently, they attend a private school that is academically aggressive. Each takes piano lessons, and the boys take karate and the girls, ballet. They are also involved in sports, as well as theater productions at school -- none of which is free. We are a one-income family, and I stay home with the children. Our finances are very tight, and we end up using credit to make it through the month. It sounds simple enough to just put my children in public school and drop all the extras, but my mommy-guilt says NO. I want the best for my kids. Any advice? -- Tricia, email
Dear Tricia: The definition of "guilt" is "remorse caused by feeling responsible for some offense." You have not committed any offense, so I don't think this is about guilt. You are most likely fearing that by not providing experiences and opportunities to your kids, you are failing as a parent.
Experts tell us it is not good for kids to be overstimulated by things or activities. You can push kids to the brink of despair by over-involving them in sports, music, karate, dance and academia all at the same time. That you are going into debt to enable all of this is even more troubling.
Twenty years from now, your worth as a parent will not be measured by the number of their activities, their SAT scores or their trophies. It will be measured by the depth of their character and the way they live their lives. As for school, don't ever assume a teacher -- public or private, secular or Christian -- can take your place when it comes to passing values to your children.
I suggest you allow each child to pick one activity and then make sure they have plenty of free time to just be kids. As for school, I am a huge proponent of public schools and encourage you to get involved with yours should you send your children there.
Dear Mary: My daughter is engaged to a man who refuses to find a job. He is 23 and lives with his parents. My daughter pays all of their dating expenses, her car payment and insurance. He sleeps until noon, plays computer games all day and then waits for her to pick him up. She is expecting me to pay for their wedding. I say I'm not putting one solitary dime into a wedding to a man who won't work. What do you think? -- Kendra, Illinois
Dear Kendra: Hold your ground, and tell your daughter all the reasons you cannot support this marriage. Is there a therapist or family counselor she would speak with? There's some reason she is willing to settle for so little in a husband and father for her children. I hope she figures it out before she makes the biggest mistake of her life.
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