I was having a conversation by text this afternoon with another homeschooling mom of several kids and we were both talking about how we felt our children didn't really, truly understand that our time is valuable and our money is hard-earned. No, we don't earn money for being their mother and teacher, but our time still has value and their daddies aren't just working for fun!
It's easy to feel taken for granted when a child wants you to take them all over creation or to be involved in an activity that will require multiple hours per week of driving time, without any consideration of the impact on me as their primary caregiver or on the family budget when a tank of gas in a 12 passenger van is more than even Ben Franklin can cover.
In an effort to combat a sense of entitlement that very quickly can overtake us, my husband and I have started explaining to the older kids a little bit more about our reasoning behind decisions that we make. Not because we want the children to feel guilty at all, but because we want them to understand that we're not just making decisions willy-nilly.
You want the family to get frozen yogurt tonight? That means we can't go out to eat with our friends after church next week. Make a choice.
You want me to drive you to your friend's house across town, which costs $15 in gas and two hours of my time? How can you help me get my work done so that I have the time available to do that.
You lost your math/piano/science book? That's the equivalent of the cost of a family meal at home. Better break out the piggy bank.
You want to take a family trip to Disneyland? That is outside our normal family budget. Are you prepared to drop all extracurricular activities for a year to help pay for it?
Obviously we don't let our kids make all the decisions, but we want them to be aware that everything has a cost - either the cost of time, money, or other resources. When we say yes to one thing (like getting frozen yogurt as a treat) we are saying no to something else. There are times, like with the request for Disneyland, when the child will quickly say no, it's not worth that sacrifice. But there are other times, like when wanting to see a friend across town, that they will work hard to help me so that I have free time available to help them.
There are still occasionally tears when someone doesn't follow through on their end of the deal and I have to say no, I'm sorry we can't do xyz. It's tough being the mom, but someone has to do it.