An email popped up in my inbox the other day from a friend who’s participating in a charity bike ride. When I reached her donation page, I initially entered $50 in the appropriate box, but then I stopped, thought about it, and changed the amount to $25 before inputting my credit card details.
For the rest of the day, I felt guilty. This friend does the same bike ride every year, and in the past I know I’ve given more. And this wasn’t the only time I’d skimped on charity this year. In March, I gave two organizations $18 each as my Purim gift, whereas the year before I’d given each $36. And in February, when asked to contribute to a campaign to benefit a friend of a friend, I forked over a measly $10 after first deleting the email altogether.
I’m probably not painting a very favorable picture of myself here, and if you’re judging, I understand, because I’m doing it too. Frankly, I’m stuck in a very strange place right now. Back when it was just me and my husband, I was much more liberal when it came to giving charity. But now that I’ve got three kids to consider, there are times when I don’t tend to give quite as generously.
I know charity is important on many levels, and there are some causes that are extremely meaningful to me. Yet there are times where I can’t help but think, “I can’t give X anymore, I’ve got my own kids to think about.”
Maybe I’m being a little extreme, but the way I see it, our expenses have definitely gone up since having kids. And who knows what sort of expenses we’ll run into in the future? If my children all manage to inherit my terrible teeth, they’ll need dental work and braces. They’re going to want to take music lessons, or visit Disney World, or go to camp instead of staying home for the summer. And don’t even get me started on college.
I don’t want to become a less charitable person as a result of having children, especially since I’m so grateful for my kids you’d think it would have the opposite effect. On the other hand, doesn’t charity begin at home? And, OK, I recognize that donating money to aid starving children has a lot more merit than saving up to send my kids to day camp, but then again, am I crazy for wanting to give my son and daughters a happy childhood? Because let’s all face it: These days, a happy childhood costs money. It doesn’t have to cost a ton, but it costs some.
I don’t feel the need to spoil my kids with endless toys and all the latest gadgets, but I want them to have certain experiences–like summer camp–that just plain cost money. I mean, is it crazy to want to be able to take a modest family trip once a year? And is it so wrong of me to be considering college tuition x 3 when contemplating how much to donate to charity?
I don’t want to become the type of person who neglects those in need, but I want to give my children the best of everything. The question is: How? I’m really asking here, because I don’t have an answer. Like all other things parenting-related, this is one of those situations where I’ll ultimately need to feel things out and attempt to strike a balance, but I’m curious as to what other parents did, or would do, in a similar situation. Have any of you cut back on charitable giving after having kids? And do you walk around feeling guilty about it like I do?