Andrew Harmon



The Impoverished Woman's Guide To Wealth

I found myself chatting it up with a few friends on different occasions on how I am juggling all the balls in my life. I will admit that right now life is a bit chaotic. I’m believe that if I took a poll of 100 mompreneurs, or even single moms, that about 70% would say that life is a bit chaotic.

One of the priorities in my life is making sure that my daughter is thriving despite my career chaos. This journey has been totally unpredictable. When I got laid off approximately four years ago, I never thought it would take me this long to financially get back on my feet. I am in the midst of the perfect storm of talent, ability, desire and poverty. Poverty is such a dirty little word. The funny thing is that my poverty doesn’t look like the “stereotypical poverty.”

My poverty means that I am not financially self-sufficient…yet. I have all the promise in the world, but my promise has not yet crossed over to the ability to pay my bills, reduce my debt and buy the small home of my dreams. It is what it is. It is stressful and sometimes it keeps me up at night, but I work really hard at doing what I can, letting go and letting God. I realize that there are lessons to be learned about living in a physical state of poverty.

I won’t claim an emotional or spiritual state of poverty. For me, it’s quite the opposite. I claim abundance. I claim wealth. I understand that there are resources that are overflowing with cash, just looking for the right opportunity to share their wealth. I also choose gratitude for the richness that currently exists in my life.

I am surrounded by wonderful friends and family, I get to do what I love everyday and I have an amazing daughter who helps me see what is important. Sometimes I cringe when she parrots me saying, “It’s not in the budget!” Some days it makes me sad enough to cry, but not often. I’ve met very few parents who wouldn’t want to shower their kids with everything they ever wanted. Sometimes my decisions are based on my values (no, you can not have an ipod touch at 6 years old!) and sometimes they are based on the money in my bank account (no, we can’t go out to eat tonight.)

The hidden blessing in my situation is that my daughter and I see our lives through the lens of wealth. “Aren’t we so blessed to have a great apartment to live in?” “Aren’t we blessed to have so many choices for dinner tonight (even if I don’t feel like cooking any of them),” “Aren’t we blessed to have such a beautiful park and nature preserve where we can go enjoy nature’s bounty at no cost?”

I have been reduced to saying, “We are not spending a single dollar today because I just paid for soccer.” Do I feel badly about being so honest about our financial situation? Sometimes, but the reality is that my daughter is more mindful now when I do spend money. Most of the time she appreciates the things that she gets. Now, she’s just like any other kid. I indulged her in one of her favorite activities, window-shopping at the mall. Seems counterproductive to me, but she likes to check out the stuff and walk around with me.

Justice is the biggest challenge for her. That darn store has a gazillion little goodies and clothes for girls. This last trip was frustrating for my daughter, but I didn’t have any guilt about the turn out. My daughter picked up item after item saying, “Mommy, look at this!” I politely and calmly asked her where her version of what she had just picked up was. Each time her response was that she didn’t know. When we left the store she looked pitiful and dejected.

I sat down with her on a bench outside of Justice and just talked. I explained to her that I am doing my best to secure employment that I love and that will allow me to get on my feet financially. I also explained that my priority was taking care of my bills, debts and eventually buying a house (with the swing set of her dreams), not buying her every needless item at Justice that was going to get lost in our home.
I didn’t let her off the hook of feeling like little orphan Annie. I reminded her that when I found the things that she needed for a reasonable price I would buy them. My daughter may want “stuff,” but she doesn’t need much. That’s the biggest challenge in our consumer driven society, teaching her the value of life – not stuff. My goal is to fill her world with a wealth of enriching experiences, which are usually free. When I can get the stuff, and if it lines up with my values, I am happy to. Doubt it? Just ask the little girl who has proudly been rocking her beautiful, warm and brand new Children’s Place pj’s, which I scored for $6.99. That and her cupcake slippers she hasn’t taken off, which set me back $2.99.

My mom always tried to give us whatever we wanted and I so appreciate her for that. I’ve been known to say that even if I had a million dollars I wouldn’t buy such and such. I hope that is still true when I have a million dollars. I believe that day is coming and I also believe that had it come sooner my daughter wouldn’t be half the human being she is now.

Living the life of a starving artist has taught me to be creative, grateful, driven, savvy and persistent. My breakthrough is on the way. I’m just planting the seeds and learning to appreciate life’s wealth rather than a wealth of stuff!


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