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Making Do – Then and Now

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I’ll admit it, it’s rather hard for me to proclaim our current situation loudly and with exorbitant pride.  Honestly, I’m a little embarrassed that here we are – two marrieds in their late 20’s, with a new baby living in my parent’s basement.  With the new up roar about the “boomerang generation” who wouldn’t be.  Obviously my husband and I are total slackers who can’t cut the apron strings.  Shouldn’t we have a big new house, with big new furniture, a big new car in the driveway (or two), along with a big new wardrobe and big new toys?  That’s what a married couple in their late 20’s with a new baby should have right?

PfffSsshhh…. (this is the sound of milk shooting out of one’s nose at the concept of something ridiculous).

Whoever is controlling our societies expectations of my generation must be walking around with their hands covering their eyes saying “LALALALA…. I can’t see you!” .  They are ignoring the basic higher education most of us need to get even the most basic entry-level job, not to mention the higher-higher education you need to get ahead in competitive fields – which is almost everything right now.  They are ignoring the time and money that takes, and the time it takes to work up the ladder and lets face it most of us are not fortunate enough to land those big paychecks at the age of 22/23 particularly if we want to be in fields like education, or live anywhere except a large city.

Since when did it become expected for us to have everything right out of the gate?

Luckily I have a lot of great reminders from a lot of great people who had to do a lot of making-do themselves.

My grandparents remind me that when they were new parents in the 50’s they lived with my grandfather’s mother and spinster Aunt for 5 years (with a growing baby!) because they couldn’t afford a home of their own… and that was okay, expected even because my grandmother couldn’t work (she had to help take care of her child, in-laws and invalid mother) and my grandfather had to work his way up the ladder in the little mining community they lived in.

My parents scrimped and saved for years as they finished graduates schools and landed their first professional jobs, never having enough to update their college furniture until their mid-thirties and that was okay and even expected.  As my mother pointed, when she was a kid no-ones parents acquired their “good” furniture before they had been married and work up their ladders for about 10 years.

I had a great-aunt who lived with her husband and child with her father until he died because it was expected that someone stayed around to help take care of aging parents and the parents in turn helped out with their grand-kids.

This all seems to wise, helpful and caring a way to live yet here I am finding creative ways to explain away my living situation and constantly fretting about what people are thinking when we explain our situation.   I just want to repeat until their ears bleed “Hey!  50 years ago this was totally normal!”,  “Hey! We have a loving, supportive family and we’re all mutually benefiting from this arrangement!”, “Hey!  We’re swallowing our pride because we’re making wise financial decisions!”

What do you think?  Is the way our grandparents and parents lived truly a thing of the past?  Should all current 20-somethings be able to have “it all” before they turn 30?


7 responses »

  1. Hear, hear! It makes me sick when I hear overly-privileged young adults talk about how our generation just won’t grow up, blah, blah, blah. They never stop to question the fact that someone else paid for their college, offered them all kinds of support so that they could get extraordinary good jobs etc. etc.

    But for most of us, there is simply no way to meet there incredibly materialistic standards which masquerade as “good, conservative family values.” You and your husband have to live with parents in order to support your baby, it seems most days that I am still incredibly far from having a child because there is still so much work to be done, and others are delaying higher education because of their situations.

    I am glad that you are being open about your mature choices. I think that too many of us have to cower in silence because those who can’t understand having less have to spew about what it means to be an adult.

    Good for you, and your husband, and your baby, and your parents!

    • Thanks Rae (glad you found the new site!) I wish I could say the reason I share this is 100% to inspire others, but it’s about 75% to get feedback like this the remind me that I’m making good decisions. We’re so close to being debt free I can taste it and I try to remember that this will mean that we can have so much “more” in the future – heck “making do” makes those special days when you can spend a little more and get something special (like my first mothers day) that much better because we’re truly doing things we normally don’t let ourselves do!

  2. This post was really encouraging to me because sometimes it’s hard to remember the struggles of past generations when all you see is the veneer of your friends doing oh-so-well.

    My husband and I are pretty blessed. Between the two of us we are able to use the educations we were given to both earn a paycheck that currently covers our expenses. Yet we still often follow the strategy of “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” In our extremely high cost of living area if we ever want to buy a house and enable me to be our hoped-for future children’s primary caregiver we simply have to. We shop sales and coupons for everything from groceries to clothes to the crafting supplies I use to decorate our home. Our furniture is beat up Salvation Army or on loan. Where our friends have new sport cars and expensive name-brand purses we have things like a 21 year old vehicle that we plan on driving until it dies.

    And even with this philosophy and how very blessed we already are it is hard to figure out what the next wise steps should be. It’s comforting to know that these struggles aren’t just because we live in a time when there are more “necessities” to eat up our discretionary income (cell phones & computers, anyone?) and wages don’t buy the same cost of living as they did in the 70s. They’re just the normal parts of starting out life.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Katie, perhaps if more of us stand up to these expectations our children’s generation will have a more realistic idea of wealth and material possessions.

  3. Molly, I think it’s great that everything’s working out for your (entire) family! And what an important perspective, that this isn’t like some unprecedented situation.

    I do have to cringe and apologize, because I know in the past I’ve rolled my eyes at people in their twenties still living at home. But I feel like as I’ve grown I’ve realized just how lucky I was – we have no debt because our parents paid for college and living expenses throughout that time, and even helped us in grad school until we got married! At the time I didn’t think much of it, but now I am so thankful.

    And I think it’s great when families live together to help each other. We lived with my FIL for eight months after my MIL died, and there were benefits for all of us. He wasn’t all alone in that big house and had someone to cook for him, and we were able to live in a nice neighborhood and more importantly not pay any rent for that time. Interestingly, almost everyone else thought it was a bad idea, because we were young and needed our space.

    Oh, and if we moved in with my parents now that we have a baby? I think my mother would explode with excitement about getting to be with her granddaughter so much 🙂 So I’m sure your parents are enjoying your company!

    • Thanks Elizabeth! It’s one of the reason I feel the need to defend our choices is that it’s true that a lot of our generation is having a hard time “growing up” and part of that is seen in the “boomerang” phenomenon. If we’d had no debt from school (and ours is only just from the loans we had to take out for tuition and little room and board when we lived on campus, we NEVER took out loans just because) it’d make a big (400-500 dollars a month) difference in what our living situation is right now.
      My Dad has a co-worker at work that is convinced this is a terrible arrangement too, he keeps awaiting for my Dad to come in one day spouting how miserable it’s making him, but my Dad loves it.

  4. Pingback: Financial Expectations « Molly Makes Do

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