Let's face it: being poor sucks. Being poor is better than being in debt - but it still sucks.
It sucks being stressed out about money all the time. It sucks constantly having to crunch numbers. It sucks lying awake doing mental math every night. It sucks trying to make an unbalanceable budget balance. It sucks having to say "no" to your kids because you simply can't afford it - whatever "it" happens to be.
Though I'm not there anymore, I have been. I've been the single mom without support trying to figure out how to pay rent and feed and clothe the kids when my income barely covered the cost of the daycare, gas and car I needed just to be able to work. I've been don't-eat-so-the-kids-can poor. I've been pick-and-choose-which-bills-to-pay-to-keep-the-show-on-the-road-another-month poor. I've been poor. And it sucks.
It is arguably even harder being poor in a community surrounded by wealth - a wealthy neighbourhood with wealthy neighbours, wealthy friends and wealthy peers. A have-not in a community of haves. That's where I was.
But this article isn't about me. This particular post was prompted by my son's soccer team, of all things.
Readers may remember that I hold the position of team manager for my two older sons' rep teams. This year, my oldest son's U11 team is eligible for the first time to travel outside the Greater Toronto Area for tournaments - a big deal for players who have for years listened to the older athletes talk about their weekends out of town up north or across the border, playing new teams, sleeping in hotels, playing with teammates in hotel pools and racing up and down hotel hallways all night long. The boys have been looking forward to this sort of team experience for years - the sort of experience that will really make them feel like a team, like a family, that will drive home the fact that they are elite athletes and representatives of their town, that will help to bring the families together as a team, too.
Heartbreakingly, there are a couple of boys on our team who may not be able to join us on the out-of-town tournament that we have registered for this year.
Because their parents can't afford it.
And that just, quite simply, sucks.
I know, I know. Rep sports are not a necessity for kids. Participating in a sport at all is, perhaps, more of a want than a need. If you can't afford all the costs, don't register. But...it still sucks.
And I can understand how it feels. Sometimes it really is that close to the line - a couple hundred dollars to cover the cost of a hotel for the weekend is literally beyond the realm of possibility. Sometimes you're living on a budget that really is that tight - every dollar is already accounted for, every expense long planned and managed and budgeted - there's no such thing as surplus, extra spending, wiggle room. There is nothing left to cover an extra, unexpected, surprise expense - and a parent is left having to tell their child that they can't participate in a team event. Because they can't afford to pay for it.
It actually hurts me that there are families in this situation on our team - because I know what that feels like. It's even worse because I know how hard it is to be surrounded by people who can afford it so very easily. If I were in a position to just pay for these boys, I would. But I'm not.
And my heart aches for these kids. And for their moms.
It really sucks to be poor.