Wedding Woes

I want the best life for my son and I feel guilty I can't provide it all.

Dear Prudence,
I am a mid-30s educated black woman with a bachelor’s degree. I am engaged to a wonderful man who has a past felony conviction, and we have an extremely loving, rambunctious, highly energetic 5-year-old son together. I majored in communications and HR, but I have been unsuccessful in finding a career in my field and am in an entry-level administrative role. My fiancé is working for a very low wage due to the felony conviction. I would love to expose our son to so much, but the finances are just not there. I am disappointed in our local school district ratings and have decided that for kindergarten I will send him to a charter school. I worry about our son’s future constantly as I see that the opportunities for our young black youth are severely lacking. I feel that we have brought this child into circumstances that are not conducive to his living a better life in the future and I feel so much guilt because of that. My fiancé is of the mindset that he will do fine without our putting a large amount of pressure on him and that our income level will have no effect on him. But at work there are young people who are doing extremely well in life, and they all came from affluent families who could afford for them to live in areas where the school districts are high performing. I want my child to have the same opportunities. How do I get rid of the heartache and guilt I feel at not being able to give our son the best?

—Frustrated Mother

Re: I want the best life for my son and I feel guilty I can't provide it all.

  • I really really really feel bad for her, and while I want to say on some level I relate (every parent wants the best for their child) I know that it doesn't come close.
  • I have a lot of thoughts on this letter.  Y'all know I could relate to the part about not being happy with the school, and DH and I recognize all the time that we were fortunate to be able to just pull up sticks.  And I get the part about her wanting to expose their son to things--this is a big project of ours, and it ain't cheap.  Not everything costs a lot--we love to take the kids hiking, or to the Whitewater Center, and those are both cheap/free.  But soccer, swim class, swim team, summer camp, art class, aquarium/museum admission--that stuff adds up fast.  (Once DS turns 3, I don't think we'll even be able to set foot in the Georgia Aquarium for <$100.)

    OTOH, DH didn't have any of that growing up, and further, as far as he can tell, neither of his parents gave it a second thought.  And he turned out just fine.  But DH is also white, and I'm nowhere near naive enough to think that that didn't/doesn't matter.

    The FI is right about not putting a lot of pressure on their son.  I've yet to see that end well.  I think the most important thing is that the mom is concerned and involved, but I also understand her concerns.

  • She is going to have to find programs that will help her out.  And that is so dependent on where you live that it might not even work.  But my small conservative city is experiencing a severe poverty crisis (we just got put on a list from the federal government b/c 50% of our kids are living in poverty) and even we have these programs out there.  Public libraries and small businesses are great places to start, as well as looking at local charities to see what they offer in return for volunteering.  Local arts groups, if you call, will almost always have a way for you to exchange time/muscle/brain work for tickets and opportunities.  Local colleges/universities/schools usually have something.  It IS out there, but you have to go out and find it and usually exchange work for it, you can't just pay for it and make it happen.

    I hate this for her.  That letter is full of heartache.
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