I had $20 a week to spend on groceries—period. Even in that day it was only about half what others spent, even those who thought they were living closely. I bought one piece of meat or poultry a week and made it last four or five days. A whole chicken (19 cents a pound) provided the breasts for our one splurge meal that week—we actually had a whole chunk of meat on our plates. The next day I used the thighs for a casserole of some sort, and with enough filler like rice or noodles it lasted two nights. Then I boiled the backs, wings, and neck in a huge pot of water as a base for chicken and dumplings, a copious amount of dumplings, for another two night meal. The other two nights that week we filled up on meatless meals—cheese omelets, pancakes or waffles, black beans and rice, pinto beans and cornbread, lentil soup, or on really tight days—biscuits and gravy, the gravy using only bacon drippings, flour, and milk. Don’t ever judge a person’s wealth, or even their self-control, by their girth. Poor people food is fattening food. Only the economically comfortable can afford fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, and fish.
Besides learning to stretch a dollar, I also learned to eat more slowly. My little boy may have been a toddler, but he still needed to eat to grow. I gave him the small plateful I thought he could eat, but often, when he asked for “more,” the only “more” was on my plate. I had already rationed Keith to the point that I worried that a grown man working that many hours a day had enough to survive. So I willingly scraped off what was left on my plate onto my child’s. I was more than happy to do that for him. When we chose to have these children, we automatically took on the responsibility to feed them and care for them, even if it meant we didn’t eat.
I am afraid I am seeing parents who don’t believe that any more. I know many fine young Christians who automatically sacrifice for their children, but the world doesn’t seem to think that’s normal. Have you looked at the magazine rack in the grocery store? Have you heard the discussions with people who think that everyone but they themselves should pay for their child’s basic necessities? But let’s keep this personal instead of political.
“I’m so tired.” “I’m so stressed.” “I don’t have time for me any more.”
No, you don’t. Yes, it’s exhausting, it’s frustrating, it’s completely overwhelming. That’s what happens when you take on the care of a completely helpless human being. That’s what you signed on for when you decided to have a child. That’s the commitment you made when you decided to enjoy the act that might produce that child.
You may not have as much time to primp and preen as you’re used to. You may go weeks or months without being able to enjoy your favorite pastime or hobby. You may go seven years without a single new article of clothing because any pennies you can squeeze out of the paycheck go to the three shirts, three pairs of pants, four pairs of underwear, four pairs of socks, and one pair of shoes you must buy for a growing child every six months at yard sales, outlets, and consignment shops. You may even scrape the food off your plate.
That’s what loving, responsible parents do, and they never begrudge the sacrifice, especially not the time, because one day, far too soon, you wake up and it’s over. No more babies to rock, no more stickers to put on the potty training chart, no more little fingers in the cookie dough. You’ll have all the time in the world for yourself—your career, your hobbies, your hair appointments and shopping sprees—but no amount of wishing will give you back the time you could have spent teaching, training, nurturing and loving your children into a happy, productive adulthood, and they will probably pay for that neglect in one way or another.
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. Psalms 127:3-5