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How Did Our Parents Manage it All?

Mia Cronan


Every so often, I ask my mother how they did it all back in the 50's, 60's, and 70's when we were small. My parents raised six children on a respectable, yet modest income. They sent us all to Catholic schools, from elementary grades through high school, and somehow managed to even slip us a few bucks in college if things got tight for us in the later years. My mother never worked outside the home after my oldest brother was born in 1954. She was always there to greet us at the end of the school day or pick us up when we got sick.

Things were tight financially; how could they not be? I even recall my mother sitting down for a cry after returning home from the grocery store one day back in the late 70's because the bill went over . We always had clothes, not the latest fashions, to be sure. We ate like kings, even though it wasn't steak every night (my mother can cook!) And our home was warm in the winter and reasonably cool in the mid-western summertime.

What is my point with all this? It seems that money is such a stresser for us today, even though we have so much more than our parents did at this stage in life. How can we change that? I think has a lot to do with how we approach our "needs" vs. our "wants." Many of us who came into our own during the prosperous 80's and 90's got spoiled by material gains. The lines between what we need and what we want got blurred.

I would suggest that we as parents sit down and evalute what is really needed to raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted children in the next ten years.

Fashion: Do they need the latest fashions so that their confidence is strong, or would it build their characters to "go without" in this area and learn how to prioritize what is important in reaching maturity?

Activities: Is it important that our children join every club, ball team, and pack so that they are well-rounded (these things are not cheap!), or should they learn to say no to things so that the family unit remains intact and things like Sunday dinners together are not a thing of the past?

Gift-giving: Is it more important to give wonderful, expensive gifts to show our affection to friends and loved ones, or is the gift of our time something that we should encourage and model for our kids?

Hobbies and toys: Should we show our love for our children by getting them the nifty educational toys, CD-Roms, and machines so that they can recognize our devotion to them, or should we encourage their imaginations (which is ultimately what will foster their real growth down the line) by limiting these things that do all the work for them?

You see my point here, to be sure. Maybe part of growing up and making our way in this world means that we struggle part of the way by going without "things." I hope we can look toward a future where parents have a strong sense of what is truly needed to raise children instead of the idea that money will always buy them happiness.

Mia Cronan is the mother of three girls, ages 4, 3, and 1, living in Pennsylvania. She runs the Main Street Mom web site at and writes for her church newsletters while her husband manages a local business. She can be reached at

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