When I was in college, my parents added a room onto their house so they could enjoy a big dining room for family gatherings. When my dad brought home a table big enough for ten chairs, I remember my mother saying that she had waited years and years for this wish, for a space where all her children and grandchildren could fit together. When this memory came back to me recently, I reminisced about all the other times my mother had commented about her joy in a new washing machine or a new-to-us car she had patiently waited for, not just for a little while but for long stretches of time.
Here I am, turning into that mom.
As I would imagine is the case in most relationships, my marriage has a saver (the hubs) and a spender (yours truly). We are fortunately not governed by complete disregard for a budget, but I often feel impatient about waiting for the right time on certain purchases. For example, when we bought our current house three years ago, I realized that it had a very loud older dishwasher that I put on my mental list of things we would certainly replace in no time. Surprise, surprise—we still have that annoying old thing three years later because it just won’t die.
Just the other day in an online group, I was reading stories shared by moms who wanted to celebrate one thing that had made them happy that week. One sweet wife shared that she and her husband had moved several times over the last few years and had a tight budget with no room for non-essentials, and now they were in a better financial position and could buy brand new pillows for their bed. She hesitated to sound silly, but we reassured her that it was totally OK to be excited about it. Sometimes when you have waited and waited, the little things feel like huge treats. We all chimed in with support for Pillow Day.
Were you also raised in a household that didn’t buy something new until the old version officially kicked the bucket? Only got new shoes when the old ones had holes in them? Or found yourself using up every last drop of a hair product you weren’t crazy about, but dang it, you spent $15 on it and you weren’t gonna waste it?!
I feel ya, moms. And I want you to know that you are not crazy. Money can seem tight even when we aren’t jetting off to Paris twice a year. So if you find yourself ever feeling frustrated about the months (and maybe even years) that you end up waiting before you get a new vacuum or purse or humongous dining room table, let me encourage you. Here are three awesome things about being a mom who waits:
1. You exemplify the practice of delayed gratification to your children.
This past week, our youngest dude decided he wants to get in on the allowance deal we have with our other kids. They all have specific household contributions they are responsible for AND they must complete those tasks without having to be told/reminded 8,000 times. The motivating factor was that he wanted a specific toy that cost $8. I told him that he would have to save up two weeks’ worth of allowance to get it, and I have NEVER seen him be more helpful and obedient. The only problem was that he finished his tasks and then proceeded to ask me every day when he was going to get the toy. We had many conversations about buying things only when we had ALL the money to pay for it. When he finally reached the last day and had completed all of his tasks again, that toy seemed like it was worth a million bucks. It is not the easiest lesson for me or my kids, but it is really healthy to understand that we can’t always buy things right when we want them.
2. You will be more satisfied and appreciative.
For at least 10 years, I cursed the clunky plastic agitator in the middle of my washing machine. It took up space and often ripped holes in my more delicate fabrics. I vowed that when I finally got a new one, its stainless steel drum would be a vast expanse of emptiness that I could fit a gazillion towels in. When we finally had the money saved up, I did my research and bought one that checked off every box on my wish list. Please don’t anybody tell my husband this, but sometimes I still stand in front of my washer and dryer and smile. It makes me appreciate how fortunate I am to be able to do laundry in my own house and not have to do small separate loads. Waiting for so long gave me plenty of time to decide what would serve us best, and I had zero chance of buyer’s remorse when it was go time.
3. Your future self will thank you for your budgetary restraint.
My husband and I took an anniversary trip this year. Four days of delicious food and relaxation with no kids or schedules to worry about. It was my first time to visit California and I loved it, but it was an expensive four days once we added up transportation and meals and entertainment and hotels. My frugal husband can sometimes find it physically painful to spend more than $500. Every time we spent $40 on a Lyft ride, I thanked my past self for painting my own toenails rather than going to the spa that time. Our fancy $50 brunch overlooking the ocean could have instead been a random pair of jeans or shoes. There is nothing wrong with spending money on those things, but it’s easier to avoid little expenses when you remind yourself about a big expense that you are looking forward to.
Hang in there, waiting moms! Though it may not come in one huge swoop, I hope that you are rewarded for your self-control with something you can truly treasure. We will celebrate with you when the day comes for that new set of dishes or piece of furniture. Big or small, may it remind you that patience makes the heart grow fonder too.