Friday, July 1, 2011


This is the sixth and final post in the series "PARENTS LIVING UNDER DIFFICULTIES".

"Five years ago our family decided to check out what it would be like to live in Indonesia. We arrived with 2 big bags, 2 little girls (6months and 2years), and a desire to learn and grow. We started out with an Indonesian family. At least 10 of us shared a squat toilet and a kitchen with a dirt floor. It was slowly being tiled as they had money! We still have a squat toilet, but now have 3 girls (8months, 5years and 7years) and a house to ourselves with a lovely tiled kitchen floor!
While our initial savings to get us through our trial year have dried up, money continues to come in at varying rates for things like visas and Indonesian schooling.
The fact that we eat meat and fruit most days - or at least could - means we are generally considered rich here. My girls sometimes try to place themselves on the rich-poor scale, but it's almost impossible to do since they see what life is like for people in such a variety of situations. They come visiting with us regularly, and so they know that the lines are not so clear. It's dependent on who you are with on that particular day! Some of our friends here holiday in popular tourist destinations outside our country and drive super expensive cars. Many of our friends here have no running water in their house, so wash their clothes in the canals that function as drains, and bucket water into their houses for baths. This becomes 'normal' after a while.
 I wonder if our perspective on our financial situation is very important in determining our ability to cope, or even live freely and lightly within the means we have. If everyone we know is buying another car, a bigger house, putting substantial amounts of money away for their children - then our idea of what is necessary and 'normal' is shaped by this. Maybe we need to keep exposing ourselves to people living in contexts very different to our own and make active choices in the way we mentally frame our current financial situation? If our kids have healthy food every day, have access to some form of schooling, have pencils and paper and maybe even a bike ...... then maybe we are going OK?!? Maybe they could actually be happy and fulfilled?! 
After being away from Australia for a few years, our 5 year old daughter couldn't contain her amazement on a trip back. She asked whether there were any 'poor people' in Australia? Of course there are, and poverty has a range of faces, but it's inescapable here.

Having said all this, there are very genuine difficulties with a low income. Thinking about future opportunities like university for my girls sometimes makes me worried. We are not able to be putting away much money for them. If we had a medical crisis - far from the wonderful Australian welfare system, things would be very tough. Making sure that our girls don't get caught up in any stress we may have at times about money is also an issue. While they don't need to carry that as a burden, letting them in a bit at points has meant they have seen God do things we couldn't have contrived. They have seen our own stories of his kindness and gutsy involvement with us on our journey - often using unexpected people and situations.
We use far less money than we did on things like movies, music, cafes and experiences that require money. This is partly because our options are dramatically reduced living here, but also because we are not so financially able. At points this feels like a sacrifice. There is a richness to being able to experience these things. But then the longer I live here, and the more parenting experience I get, I see how easy it is for any kind of 'treat' to become expected and under-appreciated. 
So much can be accessed for free on the internet now that our kids don't have to be limited or deprived of rich cultural experiences. Last week I found on the net a whole lot of resources about "Peter and the Wolf" by the Russian composer Prokofiev. My girls could listen to the music on You Tube and engage with it in a way I never could have done when I was a child.
Like anyone in any country living on a small or unreliable income, we have to ask ourselves questions about whether something is necessary before buying it. A new hair clip, or real milk if it ever happens to be there, are exciting events! We avoid regularly shopping in places where we all immediately feel discontent if we don't go home having bought something new.
Our first child was born when we were still in Australia. We were living in community and doing a small amount of relief teaching to support our voluntary youth and social work. Despite our desire not to be caught up in the hype of what 'must' be bought for a new baby, it was hard not to feel guilty for pushing her cot in the walk in wardrobe (with a small window, mind you). We don't do the decorated, fitted out baby room 'thing'. She however, thrived on lots of love from many people and the sense of being caught up in something bigger than just her.

After these last 5 years of seeing how people here in Indonesia do the baby years, I really believe almost all the hype can be ditched! Clothes come in abundance from others who have older children, breastfeeding costs nothing and there are great washable nappies/diapers now, so the costs involved in having a baby are minimal.
There are many advantages to a life with more limited resources. Engaging with people rather than things becomes a more central activity. 
Exploring the world around them brings children alive in ways money can't buy. We all know this whether we have lots of money or a little!
I hope that in the future if our financial circumstances change, we don't forget how to pursue these fundamental things - that we don't consciously or unconsciously shut ourselves off in our home, our own family, with all our 'stuff', and lose what is so precious about this sometimes unpredictable 'messy' life we lead now!

THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ spend some time asking yourself and watching your kids to see if the desire for things at your house, or your hold on 'stuff' is too tight?
Our attitude to possessions is passed on to our kids. Are you happy with the perspective you are currently living and giving your children, on the place of money, possessions and wealth ownership? Could it help your family to have a regular, clearer idea of how most people of the world live - what is 'normal' for them?


  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I am totally amazed at what you have achieved as well as your experiences.
    I am now following you through RSS feeds and look forward to connecting with you.

  2. Thank you for your encouragement. Not sure if you realize that this post and the others in this series were NOT written by me - I asked people who live in each of these situations to write for me.