Before we had children, it was my dream to see the world. And, while I didn’t set foot in as many places as I had hoped, I saw quite a few places and crossed off a lot of items on my bucket list. I’ve ridden an elephant in Thailand, repelled into a cenote in Mexico, witnessed the Great Migration in Maasai Mara, and swam in the crystal waters of the Bahamas.
If I had all the money in the world, I’d share these places with my children. I’d give them the experiences that I used to dream about.
The cost of fertility treatments and other bills and schedules and just life, in general, have been in the way of doing these things as a family. Don’t get me wrong, my daughter’s first and only trip to the beach was on a cruise to Bermuda and the Bahamas, but that was something we saved for her entire life to be able to do. Realistically, we wouldn’t be able to afford to do something like that again for a few more years.
While my hopes and dreams of traveling as a family have not faded, I know that we are living the best years of our life regardless of our financial situation. I’ve been blessed beyond measure to be able to spend my sons first year of life at home raising him and my daughter. I’ve been able to nurse him instead of pump in the corner of a classroom, hold him, sleep train him, teach him new things, and watch him grow without the fear of missing his firsts while I was at work.
I spent six weeks at home with my daughter. It was just long enough to bond and establish a milk supply. We spent our days apart. She was learning and growing and I was missing it all, I didn’t want that to happen this time around, so I chose my children and our experiences together over the money I’d be making at work. She will start preschool next year. I missed out on much of her first 3 years of life. It has been such a rewarding experience to see her grow and change from a toddler into smart and funny (almost) preschooler.
My life is a lot different than I imagined it years ago. Our summers aren’t spent traveling. We don’t have the money or the time to experience weekend getaways as a family. We spend a lot of time discussing bills, running errands, and cleaning. We aren’t poor, but we aren’t rich and I’d be lying if I said we didn’t stress about being able to pay some bills each month, but we’re making it. Our kids are happy.
Before I made the decision to stay home with them this year, I’d lie awake at night and stress. I didn’t know if I was making the right decision. I didn’t know if we’d be able to make it work financially. I didn’t know if I was ready to let go of the thought of a vacation in the near future. I was scared. I used to talk to my coworkers about my thoughts. I will never forget the day one of them said to me, “you won’t be poor. You’ll be with your children.” She could not have been more right. While, yes, I do wish we had a little more money. I wish the thought of paying bills each month didn’t stress me out. I wish I didn’t lie awake at night and wonder if I’m doing what’s best for my children. But when I get down to the heart of it, I know that all the money in the world would never compare to our mornings together at home. It will never compare to me being able to nurse my son when he isn’t feeling well. It will never compare to listening to my daughter sing and dance to make him happy. I don’t need all the money in the world. I am with my children.
We are busy making memories at home. We don’t live on the beach, and we won’t be spending hours in the car anytime soon to be able to give them a beach vacation, but we do cook together. We go on walks and sing and dance and paint and cuddle.
I document our days together and hang the photos all over the walls because I want my kids to know how great we have it. I want them to be able to recall the memories and tell the stories and think to themselves “I have a good life.”
Target isn’t as magical as Disney World (although some may argue that statement) and our hikes in the woods can’t compare to seeing the world, but our experiences together are worth all the money in the world.
I understand how hard it is to spend money on something like photography. Trust me, I do. And I know that I see it differently because I am a photographer. But these memories that you’re making today will be the stories that your children will tell when they’re older. Their childhood deserves to be documented for their children and their grandchildren whether you make all the money in the world or you’re just richly blessed like I am. So take the photo, hire a photographer, print your stories and hang them on your walls. Because unlike the unnecessary amount of money you spend at Target every week, I promise you won’t regret having photos.