I am a girl who loves mountains, changing seasons, running, true backpacking, strong coffee, and knitting with high quality yarn.

When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

The purpose of life is to discover and develop your gift. The meaning of life comes from sharing your gift with others. - David Viscott

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Frugal musings

Well, as I ran this morning, I thought about more of a running name for the post. Still on par of a bit on a negative side though. I felt sluggish, bored, flat, not excited, not motivated, achy in hamstrings and glutes, tired, annoyed at drizzling rain and poor choice of music on my iPod...you name it, it wasn't even mind over matter, more like will power over mind and body. I had all the excuses, including that it is simply too early to jump into full training week (with some attempt of both hill repeats one day and speed intervals on another) and then go for a long run - all 2 weeks after a 100 miler. Fitness long gone...there was a time it wasn't a problem at all. I made it, I even ran each loop faster than one before, although it felt like I was shuffling dead...

But another thought process bugged my mind on top of running motivation struggle. My son goes to his friend's house almost every week, and he calls this guy's mom a "cool mom". They have a huge house, mom shuttles around neighborhood picking up various friends of her son, takes them out for lunch, then they all go to the park to skate, then she feeds them a million of pizza's and sodas, while they stay at the house playing video games. Cool mom indeed. I don't have a house at all, our apartment would hardly fit 2 of extra friends for a bit - and that would mean we have to go elsewhere to not be in the way, my car would also fit may be 2 of those friends for a pick-up ride, and I am a complete non-believer in fast food. Period. I am not a cool mom.

Nor am I a cool step-mom. I don't take boys to eat out, I send them to movies with Larry once a month, and always struggle when they demand soda for $5 at the theater. I don't buy extreme amount of toys and games and clothes, or snacks, don't have seasonal tickets to any game, and in general, run from 5am to 11am, and then drive to work for a couple of hours on the weekend, as well as go to school.

How do you raise kids these days? I am sure those of us who are older can bring up the memory of being independent, not spoiled, self-contained, and playing outside far more than inside. Generation, technology and so on...are all excuses, and I am aware of some happy families that claim that they out-bid the society. I wonder though. Did they really? What do their kids think when they go to school and hang out with friends who do all those kinds of things, have all those kinds of stuff and don't feel "deprived" by new standards? Even if they (kids) never bring it up to discussion?

Not only it is generation, it is cultural too. These are the values I have grown up with, and now, at 40, I can't simply break them and turn to abundance of crap because that's what happening here. I truly believe in those values. Not only for financial reasons (which are important, with the salary of a lab tech working in academic science hardly above double of a minimum wage), but for the moral reasons (it's not the things or the outside that is true), and for the "save the Universe" (waste generation is something I feel rather strongly against, I turn power off, don't use dryer or a dishwasher, and reuse every bag/paper I can, even at work, so it's not personal savings).

I have my financial vice. I run races. I can make excuse that half of them are local, what means negligible gas spending, free car sleeping, a sandwich for the road, and the entry is free (thank you Team Traverse for inviting me as a consultant!!!). I am also blessed with having some type of sponsorship since my entrance into ultrarunning scene, thus clothes, shoes and often running foods are either free or subsidized. So, yes, I fly to 100M races. And pay the registration fees. I save on everything else for myself - for that. And it is like having a psychologist for my mental state. I bet it is not more expensive and keeps me sane.

So, what's the say around from those who have kids? Do you fight for what you believe in, and how does it feel loosing the fight simply because you are likely in minority? How do you survive in society while still being true to your own core values? And how do you keep a bond with your kids prosper, trying to teach them what they will REALLY meet once they enter adulthood and stop being spoiled by their folks?


Sarah said...

Fortunately, Bart seems to be taking after Marc and is oblivious to the supposed "luxuries" of life. So far he seems satisfied with our normal, which includes bargain shopping, a modest house, 15+ year old cars and vacations that revolve around races.

I do wish he had a childhood like ours where we spent our non-school days outside for hours on end playing with the neighborhood kids. We did finally allow him to buy a Wii with his own saved money, but he's also always up for a hike.

I brace myself for the day when he turns his nose at our lifestyle or is embarrassed to bring a friend home. But I'm also not yet certain that day will come either.

CoyoteGirl said...

Luckily so far it hasn't been that tough with the girls. They are VERY physically active so they'd rather run around at the park than sit around the house. We don't have computer games and they haven't been begging for them (thank goodness).

I also think that frugality isn't seen as being all that wierd anymore with so many people out of work.

Anonymous said...

This is the first time I've read your blog and it really touched a nerve. Rest assured that although your children my talk (and act) as though other parents are infinitely cooler, eventually they will respect your values. They'll grow up to know the value of working towards your goals, deferred gratification and the deep satisfaction of earning your rewards. Congratulations on following the hard road and being a parent true to your own values.

Pam said...

I always cringe when I hear a mom say "my daughter and I are best friends." Your job as a parent is not to make your kid like you as much as possible, but to make sure you do everything you can to raise them into fine adults. A lot of the time that means being uncool. It took me till I was a parent myself to appreciate my mom who made us buy everything we wanted with our allowance (even though they had plenty of money), made us do chores and only let us watch 30 minutes of TV each day. She was definitely uncool, and now I do the exact same things!

Fast Bastard said...

I really like this post. My daughter said something the other day that was pretty cool. She was taking to her mom on Skype and telling her that we were having leftovers. Again. My Ex replied, "Ew, tell Dad to give you some real food; you never got leftovers when you were living with me".

To which she responded "but mom, it would be a shame to waste all that food".

This is, however, a very rare example of her siding with the frugal lifestyle. Usually, she is embarrassed to be living in an apartment, as the only kid in her class.

Drs. Cynthia and David said...

Don't worry about the "cool" parents. They will be sorry when their kids never quite grow into responsible adults, and become video game addicts or underachieving students (I know from experience). I felt forced into a "cool" contest with my ex, and I can tell you it didn't result in healthy and well adjusted responsible adults. They are starting to "get" it now, but are still kind of helpless and clueless it seems. If they had had to earn anything while they were still in high school, I think they would be more accomplished and confident people now.

It's hard to please teenagers, and you will probably be the best influence on them by being true to yourself and your values. Good luck!


Thomas said...

Well, up to now my kids were always perfectly satisfied with our reasonably frugal lifestyle. But lately the older two (almost 9 years by now) have started complaining that they are the only ones in their class without a Nintendo DS. While I really don't think they are the only ones, it is probably a sign of things to come.

Eudemus said...

My experience, having not raised our kid's from birth, is unique. Less time to instill our values certainly didn't make things easier, but may have made us a bit more aware of the differences. This topic is actually pretty timely for me since my younger son turns 18 tomorrow (though I still see the 5-year-old riding his big wheel around our old condo complex)

My thoughts:

The teenage years are all about pushing boundaries. More than anytime it is these years when you need to remind them of the "what" and "why" of your values. Yet you have to realize that they are still going to test them and push the limits. That's how they learn. If the moral base is there, you have to trust they will fall back on it (though maybe not on your timeline). Our message to our kids throughout the teen years was/is always that our main concern is to know that they are "safe". They'll say they don't believe you, that you are "just trying to control" them or whatever, but remind them enough and they eventually get it.

I think there's always going to be some other parent that causes you grief. Whether it's because they're too permissive, sanction behaviors in which you don't believe or have values which you don't share. Your kids may find this attractive, but ultimately they were raised by you. It may even seem that they confide more in these parents than you. That one we found particularly difficult. Our response was to try to be honest with them and tell them how we feel often including the emotions that go along with it. Our son has a family that he has always gone to whenever he wanted to "feel babied." We know this and, at some level, he does too. However, he also knows that in many ways he is better off than the two kids who were raised full-time in that environment.

While we are probably not as frugal as you, we also are definitely not like most parents--especially in the Bay Area! However, in many ways our son's friends think of us as "the cool parents" not because of what we spend, but because of how we treat them. We talk pretty openly with them. We don't "get in their business", but we do talk about sex, about drugs, about our stupid teenage mistakes. Last night we went out to dinner with our son and his friend. The topics ranged from his friend's difficulties with his girlfriend to what it is like to have a psychedelic drug experience. They know that our discussion of a certain topic does not constitute sanction and we also know that there is nothing we can do to keep them from trying certain things even if we don't want them to. Again, our message is always that we want them to be safe.

OK, I've written a lot more than I intended, but I do want to add one last thing. What I think is more important than anything else for kids in this age of infinite distractions and convenience is to find something that they personally value and to support it. Whether it's athletic, artistic or whatever, let them know that you are behind them 100%. There really is nothing more important in life than discovering your personal values and living them to the fullest. Ultimately, Olga, you are one of the best examples of this and your son sees this. He will probably never admit it, but he is way more proud of you than his friend's are of their mom who drives them to the movies and feeds them junk food.

No doubt, the teenage years are tough. However, and we both know this, the second one is actually much easier. They do tend to learn from their siblings mistakes (thank goodness!)

sea legs girl said...


I feel ill-equiped to be giving you lessons about life. But something you taught me is that you should "ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that" :). What a waste it would be to spend your time trying to be like the "cool" mom. There is no doubt you love your kids and do what you think is right for them and above that, the MOST important is that you are happy and doing what you believe in.

Susan Kokesh said...

Someone recently said to me 'our job as parents is to teach our kids right from wrong, teach them how to love, and also teach them how to make good decisions. They need to be self functioning and self managing in all ways by the time they are about 19 and needing to leave home'. That had a lot of truth to it and was pretty thought provoking to me.

Chris said...

Olga, thanks for the parental thoughts. My wife and I are now ready to have children. We have had this talk. I am firm about not spending money or time on thinks that don't matter. I have some what stupidly told my wife that I will try my best to teach my kids from an early age what I believe. In my mind I see my kids embracing life and not buying into the media, the rich kids, the hype of 100 dollar jean. Dare I say that might be easier to do in Oregon than Texas? I know I am being very naive and your post has got me thinking about how I can head this off, if at all. What a difficult balance for those of us who can see it is our responsibility to keep our natural resources and beauty alive for the future!

Rooster said...

I got a letter the other day telling me I am NOT a cool mom and I am mean taboot. All because I limited his TV and Video time. He says all the other kids don't have to live like this. I thanked him for the letter but ensured him he will not get any more TV or Video time and that I am sorry other children don't have to live by rules. "Sorry", he says. I say, "Yep, I love you and want you to grow up to be responsible and well rounded. Parking your butt in front of a TV doesn't work for us." He's 13 and on his way to being in high school. They don't know it yet but we are certainly the Cool Mom's. Teenagers, gotta love em but it's a test of patience and perceverance. Attributes most ultra runners have well honed. As far as stuff, well make em earn it. That's what we do. You work hard you get to play hard.

Backofpack said...

Keep the conversation between you and Stephen going. Don't be defensive, just be matter of fact - different families have different values, and these are yours. Talk to him from your heart about why these values are important to you, and most of all, live them. He'll get it. We didn't allow our boys to have video games, we severely limited TV, we homeschooled. They had chores to do, and standards to live up to. We tried to provide lots of experiences for them - through nature, sports, the Y, 4H, etc. They had friends who had it all, including TV and computer in each child's room, all the latest video games, electric scooters and go carts, and more. We let them hang out and play there, but stuck to our values at home. There were a few times when they felt deprived and asked why we didn't have all those things, but we just reminded them of our values, and went on. They have both thanked us in the past few months for their "wonderful" childhood and for every thing we did for them. They get it.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, you are a cool mom. How many moms do you know who run ultra marathons? Well...maybe in your world, a lot. I was emailed the link to your blog by an old running and b-school friend of mine b/c she thought of me when reading this post. I live in NYC with 3 young boys in a 2 bedroom apartment, no car, no cable, no DS, 20 min. of computer time a day. I am "cool" because I run in Central Park and have lots of energy to take my kids hiking and skiing. The parents I know who have given their kids tvs in their room, DS's and portable DVD players to ease boredom are all complaining about how they can't get their kids interested in reading, they are hyper all the time, and bored! Stick to your guns you are instilling wonderful values in your children!

Thomas Bussiere said...

Great post Olga – Love the honesty. I have a 14 (son) and a 12 (daughter) year old which mean the world to me. We have had this talk before and my wife and I always teach values and character comes from within. We say don’t build your life on the material things or you will end up disappointed and unfulfilled. Material items only last so long, and you can’t buy love. Last night at my son’s wrestling banquet, I heard his coach say something in his speech that was perfect. “Character over comfort.” Together, they built strength and character, on a shoe string budget, and beat the schools that had everything.
Cool Mom is material - You are character. Hold the course.

Kendall K said...

I am not a cool dad. I'm okay with that. My 12 year-old does not have a cell phone and likely will not until she graduates from High School. We hear about this abuse on a regular basis. She will get a car when she can pay for it and afford the insurance. We turn off the TV and insist on some reading, every day. The system has worked for the oldest daughters very well. The oldest two are both married and have good jobs. Even daughter #3 has come around and can put up with mom and dad when home from college. She also finally realizes just how much things cost. We have faith that #4 will come around and see that we're not that dumb after all in a few years.

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