My sweet kids,

I know there have been times you have felt poor. There are vacations we can’t go on, the hand-me-down wardrobes, the times we didn’t send you to a friend’s birthday party because we couldn’t afford to buy a gift. Little expenses that have seemed to be no big deal to other families have been enough to discourage us from participating in the activities you’d love to do or joining in on events other people are doing. When money is tight, every decision feels more weighty.

But while there are times you have felt poor, we have never been truly poor. We’ve done what we could to shield you from the stress of it all. As adults, we know the reality is that you’ve never been without food or shelter. Our bills have always been paid and we know where to go for help if we need it. We live within our means which have at times been meager.

When one of you children came to me to ask if we were poor because a kid at school had said something to you about it, my heart broke. I never want you to feel like you are less than because our income is less than. I never want you to worry. I don’t want you to be teased or to feel self-conscious about the car we drive or the clothes you wear or what you bring for lunch. But the truth is, I can’t protect you from what the other kids will say whether that’s about our financial situation or your skin color or your weight or your test scores. People can be cruel and in some ways, I’m thankful for this opportunity not to change the world to make it easier for you, but to teach you how to be tough enough to survive it while staying tender enough to love those who are struggling next to you.

When another kid says that you’re poor, you don’t have to own that. Our finances aren’t your responsibility. And you know that while we may seem “poor” compared to some, we are rich in the things that matter. We have love and safety and stability and family. OH DO WE HAVE FAMILY. We have chosen to have lots of kids and lots of kids means lots of expenses. And that’s OK! We knew that would be the case and your needs are always met, but we know we may not be able to do the extras other families can because WE ARE EXTRA. We’ve got extra kids and extra love to spare. 

The truth is, I’m not even sorry for this season of financial struggle. While it has been hard, there have also been lessons we’ve all had to learn. We’ve learn how to eat nutritiously and inexpensively. We’ve learned to be patient as we’ve had to intentionally save up for the things we need or want. We’ve learned to enjoy fun in our own backyard when we can’t afford to travel. We’ve learned to not judge others by their appearances. We’ve learned that some restaurants have a kids eat free night. We’ve learned that if someone offers help, it can be wise to accept it even if it feels humbling. We’ve learned empathy for others who are struggling financially too.

I’m not going to ask you to be proud of our struggles or even to be open about them with your friends, but I trust that they are making you into the person God wanted you to be. As much as I’d love to shelter you from these issues, I think you are stronger and wiser because of them. You are resourceful and easy to please. You are thrifty and thoughtful and even generous when it comes to your own money. You are aware that life can be expensive, but fun can be free. You know our financial worth doesn’t determine our actual worth.

You children are the most valuable things I have. I will never regret the resources we’ve invested in you. I am the richest woman I know in all the ways that matter. And I will work like crazy to be sure your needs are met, even if your wants have to wait.

I’m thankful we are slowly exiting this season of financial struggle. It’s great to have a little breathing room and an ability to not worry quite so much. I hope it has been a time that has a longterm positive impact on your life and I hope you won’t ever be the child who calls another kid “poor” because you know that someone’s financial status isn’t who they are.

Maralee Bradley

Maralee is a mom of six pretty incredible kids ages 8 and under. Four were adopted (one internationally from Liberia, three through foster care in Nebraska) and two were biological surprises. Prior to becoming parents, Maralee and her husband were houseparents at a children’s home and had the privilege of helping to raise 17 boys during their five year tenure. Maralee is passionate about caring for kids, foster parenting and adoption, making her family a fairly decent dinner every night, staying on top of the laundry, watching ridiculous documentaries and doing it all for God’s glory. Maralee can be heard on My Bridge Radio talking about motherhood on "A Mother's Heart for God" and what won't fit in a 90 second radio segment ends up at www.amusingmaralee.com.