Quality of Life

by Pamela Parks

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Have you heard the one about the Swedish countess who says that $43 million dollars isn't enough for her divorce settlement? She claims it's not enough to uphold her quality of life. Are you laughing yet?

Hearing this story makes me wonder, How bad is my own "quality of life?" Many years ago, well-meaning relatives were aghast when my husband and I proudly announced we were going to have a fourth child. "Why would you do this to your other children? Their quality of life will suffer!"

I'm afraid my jaw hit the floor. I said something eloquent like "Huh?" and walked away.

I'm looking around my house right now. It's small by McMansion standards. A paltry 1800 square feet. We have only two bathrooms (gasp). My children are starving because I don't buy any junk food or breakfast cereal. Instead, I force them to choke down blueberry muffins and fresh waffles for breakfast. We never eat out for dinner. Instead we crowd around our small table that seats eight and eat things that I grew in the (ugh) dirt.

We don't have any fun; we don't go out to movies. Instead, we check out free DVDs from the library and invite the neighbors over. Our children probably don't know how to behave in a movie theatre, because we like to sit around for hours afterwards, debating the plot. We suffer through community theatre and local parades. And our children have been robbed of the joy of cable television. Instead, our home is "wallpapered" with bookshelves.

Our kids are neglected because we don't buy many toys. The very best "toy" I ever bought them was a cheap blue plastic step stool from the hardware store. This enabled them to reach the counter and help me knead bread and mix casseroles. Sometimes things are hectic and I am in a rush to get dinner on the table, but they are quite insistent on helping.

We treat our kids like slaves. They each have one chore to do each day. Additionally, my oldest two do their own laundry. (That way, they can't yell at me for mixing up their socks.) My seven-year old is learning to do laundry, too, with a step stool and a little supervision. The oldest three each make dinner one night a week, with a little help from me. Fortunately, they have different tastes, so we don't wind up with nothing but baked potatoes every other night.

My husband likes to say that compared to most of the world, compared to most of history, we are the richest people in the world. Take a moment and look around at where you live and the food in your pantry and think about that.

I mean, sure, there are some big-ticket items I would like. We don't have everything we want. But the most important thing we do have is choice. We can choose to raise our children to expect solid gold-plated X-Boxes, or to have values that have nothing to do with consumerism. We can choose to wear designer clothes and throw them away when the first seam gets frayed, or we can wear inexpensive, comfortable duds. We can choose to buy a new car every two years, or run our old one into the ground, knowing that we definitely got our money's worth. We can choose to drown our kids in plastic lead-contaminated toys, or buy them how-to books about toy making.

Yes, quality of life is important. That's why I say I have the best quality of life possible, and I didn't have to sacrifice anything but knee-jerk consumerism to get it.

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