I know of a mother who had a lot of children. In fact, some people looked down on her for having so many, but she didn’t care. She loved her children. She had very little materially, but she would look at her kids and say, “I will put you up there with the best of them.” She had a big goal out there. It was not only to raise good kids, she wanted to raise children who would be hard working and self-reliant. She wanted her kids to go out and make a difference in the world. This was her beacon in the fog.
This family did not have many resources. They lived on a dairy farm at a time when milk prices were dropping. The entire time this family was being raised, there was not one year that their total income was above the poverty level; in fact, many years it was well below the poverty level. But this inconvenience did not deter this mother. She had a set of values she was determined to pass along to her children, and those values guided everything she did. Some of the things she valued were education, hard work, and self-reliance. She did not want her kids to be dependent on society like many other families in their situation.
This mother got creative with the meager resources she had, and she taught her children that if there was something they wanted, they needed to do the same. One of her daughters wanted to take dance lessons like the other girls in her class. This mother talked with the dance teacher; and even though the mother did not have cash to pay for the lessons, the dance teacher happily took milk and eggs from her farm in exchange for those lessons. Another child needed some expensive dental care. The mother went to work at a dental office in exchange for the needed treatment. This family was growing up in the 1970s and ’80s before personal computers were common. As her kids became teenagers, the mother would encourage them to take typing classes so they could get a good after-school job. She then allowed the kids to be responsible for their own expenses and learn how to manage their money. As busy as she was and as much as she stressed self-reliance, she always encouraged them in their homework and helped them seek out scholarships.
Once, one of her children was noticing all the name brand clothes her peers were wearing. She stopped the mother and asked, “Mom, are we poor?” The mother thought for a minute or two and replied, “No, we are not poor, we are just broke.” She wanted her daughter to realize that even though they did not have a lot of money at the time, they could work hard and move up to become whatever they wanted to be. In her mind a “poor” person was someone with a victim mentality, and she did not want her children to feel as though life was just owed to them.
Another time one of the daughters wanted to try out for the cheerleading squad. Both the mother and the daughter knew the uniforms, shoes, trips, and fees cost a lot of money. So they brainstormed together about how to make this work. The daughter got a summer job moving sprinklers and working at Kentucky Fried Chicken to pay for the things she needed. She had to work a little harder than the other girls on the squad, but those things made her strong.
In the end, every one of this mother’s children went to college and then on to productive careers. Each one of these children is contributing to society in their chosen field. One is a doctor, another an engineer. There is a nurse, a businessman, a businesswomen, and a teacher. Now that her children are grown, people say to this mom “You are so lucky. How did you do it?” She smiles, knowing it had nothing to do with luck. She had established her goals and values before she even had children. And those children were clearly shown the road map they should follow if they wanted to achieve success.