My Privilege Makes me Feel Guilty

5:38:00 PM

This is part 2 of a series started by my mom and I to discuss topical issues across our generational divide. 

Kelsey (daughter)

I am a really lucky girl. I grew up living in a nice house, going on some amazing vacations and I’m about to enjoy the benefits of a college education that is completely paid for allowing me to graduate debt free. My parents have provided so much for me that sometimes when I think about how fortunate I am I can't help but feel a little guilty.

Even though they’ve gone above and beyond providing for me, my parents also packed in one heck of a work ethic. Do I have to work? No. But I've work all throughout school, often holding more than one job at once. I want to be able to provide for myself as well.

My mom has told me a bit about her life growing up and she had a good childhood, but her parents definitely weren't in a place financially to be able to do a whole lot for her.

I remember when I was in middle school I wanted to go back to school shopping at Abercrombie (because t-shirts with a moose on them were EVERYTHING at that time.) My mom wanted to make sure I knew how lucky I was that we were doing any back to school shopping at all. When she was growing up, she and her sisters didn't have the same luxury. They had a certain budget between them and that was that. This was back in the day when Jordache jeans were the coolest things ever and everyone needed to own a pair. She and her sister Nikki ended up combining their money and had one pair of jeans to share. Nikki was smaller, so she wore them first and then my mom could wear them next. Every week they cycled through their one pair of designer jeans.

I never, ever want to be considered ungrateful. As I've mentioned, my parents do a whole lot for me, but there were also things that they decided I would have to work for.

When I decided to compete for Miss North Carolina Teen USA back in 2013, my parents told me they supported me 100% in my decision to compete, but that the (very expensive) gown, wardrobe, and entry fees were on me. I knew that it was my dream, so I worked as hard as I could taking on tutoring and babysitting jobs after school to make my dream a reality. I sold a couple of old pageant gowns and made it work. When I won I was so completely, entirely proud of myself. I knew how hard I had worked for it. I even think it's part of what led me to win that year. I told the judges in my interview that I funded myself competing and I think they were impressed that a 17 year old had the drive to make that happen. Like I've said, it is EXPENSIVE.

Pleased to death with myself because I was signing the contract I had worked so hard for!

I am lucky, but it's not just because my parents can afford to give me money for school and rent and groceries. I feel lucky that my parents thought to teach me the value of working hard. I'm lucky because I can always count on my parents for support and advice, especially when they're making me work for it. It's made me a more discerning consumer and has set me up to help me manage my own financial future.

Julie (Mom)

It brings me tremendous joy to be able to provide so much for our kids, especially since I definitely did not grow up that way. It’s too funny that Kelsey remembers that Jordache Jeans story. My sister and I did love those pants and it sure felt good to fit in at school! Which is one of the reasons I understood why Kelsey believed it was so important to have that “moose on her shirt” when school started.

So here’s the thing, she feels guilty at times for her good fortune but on the flip side of that, I’ve had periods of time where I worry that we’ve done too much for our kids! I’m a firm believer that a little hardship and some failure is not a bad thing. If we hand everything over and make life easy all the time, how in the world will they ever understand the value of hard work and the satisfaction that comes from wanting something bad enough that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to make it a reality?

I’ll never forget the time our younger daughter wanted to take horseback riding lessons. She’d taken them for years and after having been on a long break from it, she decided she wanted to start riding again. It was no longer within budget for us to pay for the lessons so we had to say no and it was so hard! Our neighborhood happens to be near some homes that have horses on the property so guess what she did? She wrote a letter to one of the homeowners saying she’d like to offer to help them take care of their horses for free and she put it in their mailbox! Sure enough they called her back to take her up on her offer. For several years after that she would walk over there a few times a week to help them take care of those horses. They were thrilled to have someone ride and exercise them and the best part about it was that they ended up paying her for her help - talk about win-win!

That’s why even though it was sometimes hard to say no to our kids, I also derived a certain sense of satisfaction on those occasions when we did say no to some things and then sitting back to see what would happen. They either figured it out themselves or let it go. It still brings tears to my eyes when I think about the years of losing and everything Kelsey went through before finally winning that pageant and making her dream come true.

One of the most important lessons I hope our kids have learned is that life isn’t always going to be easy. Kelsey is about to graduate from college in May and based on the conversations we’ve been having about her future she’s pretty terrified. More than anything it’s the uncertainty that’s bothering her because she doesn’t have everything figured out yet. All we can tell her is that things will work out as long as she’s putting forth the time and effort to make it happen.

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