Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Budget Woes: Is Vacation a Necessity?

With the start of another year, many are reflecting on personal and familial habits that may need to be re-examined. For families, the top slot on this list is often the family budget.

The budget tends to burst at the seams comes January. December can bring, “It’s a little much, but it’s such a perfect gift for ----,” and, “We can’t stick to the grocery budget, it’s the holidays and we’ve got things to bake/cook and memories to make.”

Every January we sit down with the budget and cut the fat. It’s not that difficult of a job. We know what we’re comfortable spending in each category and it’s easy to see where we are falling short. We look at the numbers and plan out the next year for our family. We think about each month and what our needs will be and everything runs smoothly - until we get to the summer months and one budget category jumps out.

That category: Vacation.

Should we take a family vacation?

No matter how much (or little) money there is, we’re frugal. It’s just how we live. What we have we save because we know there’ll be a time of need. There are student loans that could be paid or a home that could be saved for. Do we spend a large chunk of money over the course of one week in the summer?

The answer for this family is a resounding YES! For us, a vacation is a necessity and something that needs to be budgeted into our lives.

A few years ago my husband, who struggles with a chronic health issue, had a complication after a surgery and I had to rush him to the hospital. There was a serious question as to if he would live or die. I called a few friends to sit and pray with me as the doctors worked and I waited. During that time I didn’t think of our budget, the student loans or if I’d gone over on cell phone minutes. Instead, I was haunted by something my husband had recently shared with me,

“My favorite thing in this world is when we’re traveling and you all fall asleep in the van. I love to drive my sleeping family.”

This memory was interrupted when the doctors came to tell me they had found the problem and that my husband would make it. My friends smiled and looked at me for tears or leaps of joy.

There were tears, but the only thing I could think of to say was:

 “I want to go on vacation for our anniversary.”

Our favorite things are important, especially if they help bond us as a family unit. For us, it's vacations. They are the thoughts that haunt us when we are reminded that this life is temporary and they are the first memories of our very young children.

There is something to be said about cramming five people into a mini-van and living out of a cooler for five days every summer – if it’s done together.

We’re not millionaires over here, so vacations mean other sacrifices throughout the year. We can do vacation on a dime. My husband and I even play “fun games and challenges” to help ensure vacation is possible for our family. You can make dinner for five out of a cooler for consecutive nights and those “free weekend if you take our timeshare tour” trips are actually really fun - and they serve lunch.

Taking his three daughters to Disney World is my husband’s dream. Old age isn’t likely for him, so I’m determined to make it happen sooner rather than later. We even have a code phrase for the dream in our home. “Someday, when we go to the Mouse’s House” we say as we dream while attempting to not tip off the children. It’s a bit early to share our dream with them. We’ll wait until the vacation category in the budget can grow. Until that time, vacation will always have a place in our budget, even if it is a small one.

Does your family have a “Mouse’s House” dream vacation? Does your family have a favorite vacation spot you want to recommend?

Vacation: taking time to climb rocks

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mind your Own Motherhood

If there’s one thing we have as women, its opinions. I’d like to issue a friendly reminder to Catholic wives and mothers that personal opinions on motherhood and issues of morality are two different things.

In other words: mind your own motherhood!

A holy mother has many faces, friends. She may wear different hats. They may be hats you don’t think look good on her.

A holy mother may not breastfeed, use cloth diapers or co-sleep. Or she may. A holy mother may make the baby cry it out. Or not. She may send six kids to public school or stay home full-time and home school one.

There are some popular phrases that some women have been using as weapons on fellow mothers:

“We are the first and primary educators of our children” is slug like mud at mothers who send children to school.

We are the first and primary educators of our children. Education is an important and private discernment process where God may reveal his will in differing ways.

“I could NEVER leave MY kids,” is casually said to mothers who leave the home for work, implying they love their children less than mothers who stay home.

That mother may not be able to leave her kids because she may be called to be home. This does not make her calling superior or her children “better off” then those of a mother who leaves.

I’ve recently been noticing an elitist attitude from stay-at-home (and some school-at -home) mothers in my life and in the media and blog world.

It is only “acceptable” for a mother to be called to work outside of the home if it is financially necessary for her family. When that time passes she can go home, where she “should” be.

Mother’s who leave the home to work even though she doesn’t need to financially may indeed be called to a mission in the world in addition to her vocation at home.

A holy mother may set her college degrees aside and stay home with her children full-time. She may make her husband lunch and have dinner ready when he returns home. A holy mother may have a husband who does laundry and cleans the kitchen.

A holy mother may work outside the home – whether or not her family needs the money.

A holy mother discerns her life putting her vocation as wife and mother first. Her discernment is between herself, her husband and the Lord. A holy mother will do so with a formed conscience. What she is called to is divinely perfect.

Who are we to question how and why God calls anyone, mother or not?

Our thoughts of each other are so disordered they’ve been exploited and are used as entertainment in the blogs and media sources.

Stop it! We’re making Christian motherhood look bad – as if we can’t handle our vocation. It’s embarrassing and shameful.

Mind your own motherhood.

Let’s stop tearing each other down and looking down our noses at those God has called to our same vocation. We’ve got the same goal, friends! Let’s serve each other in the absence of judgment with encouragement and support so we can best serve our vocations.

Mind your own motherhood. I’ll try to do the same.

Mama and bottle-fed baby