Anyone who has kids will always remember the firsts. I know I do. I will never forget the first time my son looked at me and smiled. I will never forget the first time I got to hold him in this big scary new world. And I will, of course, never forget when I put my finger near his little hand and he squeezed it tight. That’s my favorite thing of all time.
Another reason I will never forget all of those moments is that every other moment is a blur of crying, screaming and sleepless nights. And that was just me! Throw in some vomiting, problems with gas and constant laundry, and that sums up the baby rearing experience. Looking at it this way, new parents are gluttons for punishment.
Personally, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Because as time goes on, the baby gets bigger, starts talking and becomes more independent. As my son is growing up and learning new things, I’m trying to grow and learn myself.
And part of that is taking lessons from the most unlikely of places. Watching my son grow up from a helpless little baby into the fiercely independent and loving toddler he is today has taught me a lot of things. And even some things about personal finance.
A great sage once said, “For everything your eyes see, therein lies a lesson.” Here are some personal finance lessons I’ve learned from having a baby:
1. You don’t need much. This is by far the number one thing I’ve been trying to apply in my life. A baby doesn’t care if you wrap him in a $5 blanket from the thrift store or a $500 blanket from some place that sells $500 blankets. It just wants to be warm and comfortable.
A baby doesn’t care if you feed him a homemade concoction of peas and carrots or the most expensive organic baby food from Whole Foods. It just wants to be fed.
And a baby doesn’t care if he wears a hand me down shirt or a $150 shirt. He just wants to be warm and clothed. And he’s either going to throw up on it or outgrow it in a month.
The point is, in the end you don’t need that much to be happy or feel secure. A roof over your head, a warm house, good food and a caring family is all we really need to feel fulfilled. And that’s a lot more than many people around the world have.
2. It’s the journey, not the destination. It is absolutely incredible to see my son learning new things, seemingly every day. I know that one day he will become a walking, talking human capable of higher thinking, while also being able to go to the bathroom by himself.
But the it’s doing the little things every day that will get him to that point. Cuddling with him while reading a book while improve his mind.
Taking him to the bathroom for the tenth time that day will eventually allow him to be potty trained (work in progress).
Striking up a conversation with him will produce a babbling brook of incoherent sounds and spittle, but eventually he will be able to talk to me about anything.
He will most likely be able to do everything a normal adult does, but the journey to that point provides the true memories.
Same thing goes for our finances. While we may have solid goals of having a secure retirement or paying off debt, it’s the everyday things we do that will matter. It’s always important to keep the end goal in mind, but never forget to enjoy the journey because it will make the end all the more sweeter.
3. We can’t do it alone. Despite my son trying to become more and more independent every day, in the end he still depends on his parents. Whether its getting fed or taking care of a boo-boo (official clinical term), my son needs us when it’s important.
He wants to be independent by picking out his own clothes or taking his own shoes off, but when push comes to shove and he needs real help, he will turn to his parents.
In the same way, we need help when it comes to our finances. That could mean we all need a financial adviser, but that’s not always the answer. Sometimes we just need a family member to point out our spending addictions.
Sometimes we need a financially savvy friend to find out how to save some more money.
Sometimes we need a mentor to help us jump start our careers so we can make more money than ever before.
And sometimes we just need to turn to Google to find some answers.
We can’t do it alone, and we don’t need to. We are more connected than ever in this world, but people still find ways to isolate themselves. Something as simple as an email invitation to lunch can open up avenues you never knew existed. Don’t ever be above asking someone for help.
Raising a child can be a harrowing experience, but it’s one filled with ups and downs and everything in between. Most people think that having kids makes life utterly more complicated, but I have noticed that it couldn’t be simpler.