I'm in Brisbane now waiting for my new baby to arrive and I've been reflecting on the differences in lifestyle of the city person to the country person. It came about whilst I was discussing the current education system with a friend of my mother's. She commented about the stupidity of not being able to keep kids back a year if they were struggling at school. I suggested that parents need to remember that it is their responsibility to educate their children, not the government's, and that schools are a resource that you do not have to use. We then moved on to, "Who can afford to stay at home to educate their children these days?"
I wondered at this because it does seem to be the norm that both parents work these days. My question is: is it really necessary for a family to have two incomes? There are plenty of single parents rearing children on one income despite the laws regarding child maintenance. So perhaps we need to consider our lifestyle expectations.
My city friends seem to live in modern houses with multiple bedrooms, study, media room or formal lounge with plenty of space. They have the latest technology with respect to TV, Computers, IPads, IPhones, and copious amounts of toys for their children. They have dual incomes.
In my district, the only ones with modern homes appear to be in my parents' generation. The ones that have slogged away at farming for decades to save enough for a renovation. Many of my friends live too far out of town to conveniently drive their kids to school and have no other choice but to home-school, making a second income from employment impossible. When I look around at my fellow farmers and graziers, I don't see wealth, but I do see happiness. Like many businesses these days, you have to work it yourself, for far longer than the standard 38 hour week just to survive. Many farmers don't even take a wage for themselves and they certainly cannot afford to pay someone else the standard labour rates.
But our priorities are different I suppose. We don't have the latest gadget or computer. We don't even have windows that shut properly, or a decent paint job on the house. We use borrowed or donated furniture. Our kids are wearing hand-me-down clothes and share a bedroom. We eat vegetables that we grow ourselves instead of buy at the shops. But our lives are completely entwined with our kids. We don't get babysitters for a night out, we take the kids with us. We don't spend all day at work and see our kids for a limited time each day. They come too. The children are just as familiar with the jobs that need to be done daily as we are and they are enthusiastic participants.
People out in the country prove daily that you can live on one income. You can live on a fraction of one standard income. It was not that long ago that people were happy just to have a roof over their head and food on the table. Now many people think they have to live in a McMansion, have all the latest toys and give over the responsibility of raising and educating their kids to strangers and systems that will never value individual children like their parents can.
What are your priorities? Are you happy? Do you have time for a doll's tea party, or are you too exhausted from work?