In my last blog Can making more money make you feel poorer?, I challenged all of us to consider the relationship between making more money and being time-poor. Interestingly, I had several people reach out to comment on this topic. It turned into a meaty conversation with a client the other day.
Jane, her name changed to protect the innocent, grew up in the midwest, watching her parents work hard, provide well for their family, and stay together. Her dad worked in the automotive industry, and her Mom was an instructor at a local college.
Growing up, Jane can’t remember wanting for anything, much less going without a need. Her parents provided a lovely home in an excellent neighbourhood for their family. Jane and her brother had the money for extracurricular activities, clothes, and the little extras that made those school years easier on a kid.
But as my client reflected, she doesn’t remember having meaningful connections and conversations with her parents or brother. As we discussed, her parents worked long hours, came home exhausted, and then focused on getting dinner on the table, dishes done, and ensuring the yard was kept. On the weekends, there were chores to do and homework to be done. Oh, and not to mention laundry, folding, and changing sheets.
Her family was a great team at completing these household chores, but most conversations in her house focused on getting tasks done, following up on school work, and coordinating activities. At night, the family would often collapse in front of the TV to spend a few moments of rest together before turning in for bed.
When she thinks back, she doesn’t remember many moments when she was concerned about money, thanks to her parent’s strong work ethic. Still, she doesn’t have any specific memories of her family having fun together either.
Ironically, she remembers some less successful neighbours who always seemed to have time for fun, although their home was in shambles, and they never knew where their next paycheck would come from. They were constantly hanging out around their above-ground pool or off camping and taking on adventures while neglecting their responsibilities. She remembers her parents calling them “lazy” behind closed doors.
In many ways, she grew up thinking fun was the enemy of a successful and productive life. Her parents never modeled fun for her. She had never seen people she admired prioritizing fun. Somehow she concluded as a kid that you had to choose one or the other.
And she decided that life was about getting things done, not having fun.
Now, as a successful adult, she’s had to teach herself how to incorporate fun and relaxation into her life. It’s taken discomfort and work for her to prioritize a girl’s weekend over wrapping up that project at work. Or to enjoy sledding with her teenagers instead of cleaning up the breakfast dishes and scrubbing that dirty frying pan.
Is this a familiar cautionary tale? Growing up, who taught you how to incorporate fun? Who demonstrated for you how to be time rich? Are you role-modeling this for your friends and family?
So, what do you think? How are you defining wealth in 2023?