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The best gift to give your children

May 17, 2013

Think differently about what makes a great Mom

mother and daughterThe 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 will put their children’s needs before their own. It is, after all, your heart that is wandering around out there.

I know many mothers who would go into overdraft to make sure their child had the right clothes to “fit in” or who justify buying their kids the latest smartphone so their child 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 around R600 a month on toys for her two boys.

We want to offer our children the perfect world where they want for nothing, 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 health, but also to our children’s sense of responsibility and independence?

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

Her rationale is that she never wanted her daughter to feel that they did not have enough money, as my friend had felt when she was growing up. Yet in trying to ensure protect her daughter from her own childhood memories, my friend had never taught her daughter the value of money and had, quite frankly, created a monster.

I wonder if her daughter realises that one day she will be supporting her mother in her old age? Because ultimately, all that money spent recklessly on children’s “wants” will be repaid later by the child in some form – and that is usually by supporting their elderly parents financially.

Perhaps the best way to be a great mom during this month when we celebrate 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 family 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 – your financial independence.

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Maya Fisher-French author of Money Questions Answered

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