This weekend a dear friend arrives from the UK. She is a wonderful friend whom I have missed dearly and am thrilled to see again. In many ways she will be a huge help as she will help out with some childcare while I work. As her stay draws nearer and I hear about her travel plans and desires, I’ve been thinking about how to balance facilitating her trip, when I have my own very large responsibilities (my children) and limited budget. The reality is, now I’m a mother, especially to two children new to the family, with significant trauma in their backgrounds, I have no choice but to be able to admit our limitations/choices which are right for our family (in a gentle way).
So here is the truth, I’m thrilled to be able to host a dear friend, but the boundaries I will need to set for my own family are:
- We will need to continue to eat how we do, I will buy some foods I know she likes, like oatmeal (not something we eat) and I’ll make granola as she enjoys that as a snack, but on the whole our diet won’t change, both because it works for my children’s health (reducing hyperactivity and impulsivity, helps their digestive systems and aids in their gaining weight) and because solo parenting with a full-time ++ job means there is very little room for additional work!
- I will offer alternatives when I can, for example this friend doesn’t eat any raw or cold foods and is a pork chop with baked potato & steamed veggies 5 nights a week kind of eater. Obviously, our being vegetarian means there will be nights where we won’t be eating the same food (slowly I’ve been putting some change away to purchase her meat, I’ve got 2 free range chicken breasts, some organic pork and steak for her).
- We are thrilled she will be here and are so happy to have her stay and want her to enjoy the city, but we can’t accompany her to
every most hardly any tourist attraction. Some (the free/minimal cost ones like: visiting the local beaches, hiking in our favourite park, volunteering at our local farm) will be fine, but many others like some of the major attractions we won’t be able to join her at because my children are still very scared of crowds (and highly stimulating activities like theme parks are not good for my son) and because we simply don’t have the money to. Purchasing three tickets to a major attraction (at $36 each) would provide my daughter with two physiotherapy sessions.The choice is simple. I’m also a very simple parent in terms of the activities I do with my children. We don’t frequent theme parks or indoor play places, or activities like lager tag etc. We hike, swim, bike, run, garden, make art, read, visit the library, listen to music & dance in the kitchen and generally just do simple things which are relaxing and keep my children calm and engaged. Our big treat is an art gallery or museum which we ALL love.
- We won’t be able to go on a vacation with her. Obviously she would like to see more of this great country and it would be wonderful to have a break, but we simply don’t have the money for it. I have strongly encouraged her to take a mini-break on her own, which she would like to do. I’ve researched a few options for her and am pretty confident she’ll be fine! She is ten years older than me, after all!
The old me would be seriously fretting about showing her a “good time”. The new me, who has to put my children’s needs first and knows we are stretched as is, is very happy to share our simple life, our food and home and is not embarrassed at what we can’t do. In fact, despite a quick panic when I found out my friend is only bringing $150 with her for a 3 week trip, I quickly settled into a feeling of: well, hiking, biking, gardening and swimming (our condo has a pool) costs nothing and she can choose what she wants to do with what she did bring; I’ll help her any way I can.
I have already learned one important thing which I would do differently. The next time someone tells me they’ve booked to visit, I will have to talk to them in advance about what we can and can’t do as a family. Thankfully this friend understands budget limitations (I hope!), but it is always good to make things crystal clear about the reality of our lovely, family life, which I have to say, I wouldn’t trade for anything. Just today I was thinking, even if we had an extra $500 + a month, I wouldn’t alter the types of activities we enjoy. I wouldn’t suddenly get theme park passes, or sign my children up for more activities. They now have such a wholesome, relaxed, literacy rich childhood, which is helping fill in the gaps from their previous families, and we all just love our lives.
How do you host guests on a budget? Any tips for me for the next three weeks?