This past Mother’s day weekend I made my wife breakfast and presented her with a card that had my and our toddler’s equally illegible handwritten notes on it. The morning was complete with gifts and flowers and the promise to center the day around the center of our lives. In true motherly fashion, when I asked my wife what she wanted to do with the rest of the day, she lit up and responded, “Let’s get Gabby a bounce house!” I’m sure there are many mothers who relish spending their Mother’s day getting their children yet another toy, but I felt the irony was worth mentioning.
I grew up poor, and while these days I would not presume to consider myself even close to financially “secure,” I’d put us in the middle of the ever dwindling working middle class. College had a lot to do with the move from the Bronx projects to the Jersey suburbs, and that detail was not lost on me as I set up Gabby’s 529 account almost as she was emerging from the womb. We had our child 5 years after we got married, pretty much as planned, and a few years after purchased (or rather, mortged) an older but promising Hudson County home in 2003. Both my wife and I have changed career paths in the last few years. She is pursuing the exciting life of Spanish language journalism, and I moved from selling investment products to investment professionals to selling software as services to these same individuals. I readily concede defeat in the cool job category.
I give you this background only because the day before, I had a striking conversation with a good friend of mine from college. He and his wife are a couple of years older than we are, and they are hitting the 5 year milestone of marriage. At this point, I wondered aloud to him, the pleasantries must be long gone within your respective families, and the question of progeny must be the premier subject these days. He agreed, and while he said he would surely welcome children, he and his wife felt they weren’t ready. He had a new job, she had hers, no house yet, etc., etc.
I hear that type of reasoning a lot from many college-educated couples. The 30’s are a crossroads in a lot of our careers, and at first it seems to be the most inopportune time to introduce a new family member to the equation. But I responded to him with a different perspective. “Dude, I don’t think anybody is ever ‘ready’ for a child,” I said. “A child doesn’t really even notice if you own or rent or if you’ve made VP or SVP yet. All they care about is being with daddy and mommy. The rest is a blur and a memory. You could wait, but being ‘prepared’ doesn’t make it any less scary. Besides, our moms raised us with a lot less resources than we have now, and we came out fine, no?”
I don’t know if I convinced him to further consider expediting his application to join the daddy club, but I thought about the irony of that day’s conversation as I assembled this toddler mini-bounce house. Another friend was over for a BBQ that afternoon and we both mentioned how wonderful it must be to be a kid these days, wishing bounce houses were standard issue when we were tykes. I mentioned that the only outdoor toy I could recall was a big 99 cent rubber ball I used to play with on my babysitter’s terrace as my mom left me to go to work. We then went on to talk about charity fundraisers, college reunions, and the real estate market. What a difference a generation makes.
These various conversations last weekend lead me to reflect on and thank my own mother, who gave me everything a child could ever need, despite not being able to provide all that a child would potentially want. She struggled and sacrificed, and above all, showed me that a parent’s love and care is all it takes to raise a child the right way; money could never create a better parent. We stress so much as young, “educated” adults about the material trappings that are considered signs of success, but we forget that in a child’s eye, the job, house, car, or degree mean absolutely nothing. It takes a child to provide this true perspective, or at least remembering what was important in our own childhood. To add emphasis to this point, after about 30 minutes of bouncing and having fun in this hundred dollar inflatable bounce house, my soon to be two year old grew tired of it and started to ask me where her ball was so she could play catch with her daddy and mommy. That’s right, the 99 cent big rubber ball.
So to all the mothers in the world (and mine in particular) who continue to do the best for their children with what they have, Thank You!
Miguel Guadalupe grew up in New York City and currently resides in New Jersey. He is an Account Executive at FirstRain, a search-based research company for investment Professionals, and has worked in financial services for over 10 years. A graduate of Wesleyan University, he currently volunteers for various alumni and community organizations, and is the proud father of a talkative and tenacious toddler.