Parents make extraordinary sacrifices for their children. But few realize the extent of those sacrifices until becoming a parent themselves.
When I think back to my life before kids, I still can’t get over how lazy I was. I slept a lot and spent an unhealthy chunk of my paycheck on beer and entertainment.
I made few attempts to earn more money at my day job or outside of my career.
Even after marrying Mrs. RBD, leisure and sleep consumed our time. Our idea of a busy Saturday was getting out of the condo before noon.
The drastic change in how we spend our time is just one adjustment we’ve made for parenthood.
Mrs. RBD gave up her career and income for our kids. We’ve set aside $300 per kid toward college educations every month for the past six years. Saturdays = soccer. Cooking, laundry, transportation, bathing, and clothing all fall on our shoulders while the kids very gradually become more self-sufficient.
In hindsight, the sacrifices our own parents made for us becomes more profound.
To honor their sacrifices, we’re compelled to pursue the life our parents dreamed for us. That is to live a better life than them.
And I wish that my kids will live a better life than me.
All parents share this fundamental hope which has driven societal improvements since the origins of humankind.
How to Define a “Better Life”?
Social scientists broadly quantify generational improvements by looking at metrics such as public health, poverty levels, progress in technology, human rights, and peace around the world.
Global social progress on a macro scale has steadily improved over the centuries and we’re currently living in the best time in history as highlighted in the recent book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker (this is Bill Gate’s new all-time favorite book – I’m #141 in line to check this out at the local library).
However, quantifying what a better life means within your family tree is a different story. It comes down to personal values.
Some possible comparisons could include:
- Career success
- Family size
- Retirement age
- Positive impact on the lives of others
- Athletic achievement
What else belongs on this list?
My Dad retired in the early 2000s at the age of 56. I was broke, unemployed and living with my parents at the time. But I set the goal to retire one year younger than he did. In my mind, it was the best way to measure how I could live a better life than my parents.
Though I can quantify that one specific goal I set way back in 2002, retirement age alone is not a good indicator of how to live a better life than your parents. It goes far beyond my silly retirement goal.
Will You Work Longer than Your Parents?
Every year around graduation time, various media outlets declare that graduating college seniors will need to work longer than their parents thanks to student debt, housing costs, lack of pensions, and whatever anti-millennial statistic is en vogue.
Early retirement is just as achievable now as it has been in the past. Perhaps more achievable.
All of us, not just young people, can empower ourselves with the tools and knowledge to earn more and invest money for the future.
The how to’s of making extra money and living below your means are readily available at our fingertips and free. When you earn more, spend less, and invest the surplus (i.e. The Triforce of Wealth) with consistency over time, you can achieve your early retirement goal. And yes, earlier than your parents.
But the internet, with its endless information and opportunities, is also littered with infinite distractions. Internet users choose envy over self-education, trolling over constructive debate, and pornography… lots of pornography.
When we hear that there’s a lack of opportunities, the real issue is a lack of motivation to acquire the knowledge needed to prosper.
That was me before having kids. I wanted to earn more, but I wasn’t willing to put in the effort. I was comfortable but not aggressively pursuing my goal. It took having kids to realize this whole life thing was serious.
People want opportunities to find them. But you need to go and find the opportunities. They’re hiding behind the distractions.
How to Craft a Better Life than Your Parents…
For those of us lucky to be blessed with loving and competent parents, we have high standards to live up to. Our parents’ lives serve as a model to guide us.
Their successes, failures, challenges, and missed opportunities are there for us like a step-by-step instruction manual with a huge trouble-shooting section at the back.
My parents are both still thriving in the lives their parents dreamed for them. So I have my work cut out for me.
Self-education, travel, relationships, professional pursuits, hobbies, and interests all frame our personas. To somehow compare that to our parents seems kind of trivial in the grand scheme of things. Living a meaningful life is about personal progress, happiness, and having a positive impact on your community and the people you meet.
It’s not about comparisons.
Determining if we live a better life than our parents will take a lifetime. Perhaps the simplest metric is whether or not we’d have made our parents proud when it’s all said and done.
…and Inspire Your Kids to do the Same?
Did you know it all at 18-years-old? I thought I did.
As parents, we want to harness everything we know, package it up, and give it to our kids so they don’t have to learn the hard way.
Of course, learning the hard way is the only way to make the lessons stick.
When my son doesn’t listen to me (i.e please put your clothes in the laundry basket), I ask him to complete the task over and over again.
He gets annoyed and asks me to stop repeating myself so much.
To which my reply is, if you’d just listen, I wouldn’t have to keep saying it!
Overcoming those kinds of interactions is a big part of parenting young kids. Kids don’t think like grown-ups. Their attention span is short. They’re easily distractable, and if they’re tired or hungry, all bets are off. Patience is key.
Instead of trying to teach our kids by lecturing, we should consistently instill the basic values that our parents gave to us and that we know to be traits of upstanding people. Traits like hard work, dignity, tolerance, curiosity, respect for others, and trustworthiness.
As they age, they’ll slowly absorb the repeated advice and lessons we want them to learn. Eventually, it will become part of their core.
Most of all, parents should strive to be the person they want their child to become. Teach by example and never stop improving upon who you are. Learn more. Serve more. Love more. Live more. That’s what they’ll see and emulate as they raise their own children one day.
Photo credit: thomasgitarre via Pixabay
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