Thursday, March 13, 2014

The other mother

Years ago, I got in the habit of making financial decisions by thinking of someone I thought of as the Other Woman. Not a romantic rival, just a woman whose life is very different from mine. She's a mother somewhere in Africa, working hard to take care of her children. I think of how difficult it is for her family to get the basics: clean water, enough to eat, a decent dwelling, safety from disease, fees and uniforms for the children's school.

I think of what that woman would want if she knew I was considering whether to spend the money on another pair of shoes or to give it to her. Maybe she would laugh at the absurdity of it, the excess of what I have compared to what she has. Maybe she would cry at the tragedy of it.  But I am almost certain she would want me to share some of my abundance so that her children could have the basics.

My first child will be born in a few weeks.  My life is about to change in a lot of ways.

People warned that parenthood would change me. Some of them said there was no way I'll keep up my level of giving when it's my child screaming for sweets in the grocery store. Some of them indicated that it would be monstrous for me to even have children if I would potentially give money to help other people's children instead of spending it entirely on my own.

And of course parenthood will change me. The joys and fears will grip my heart like nothing else. My daughter will get more of my time, energy, and money than anyone else. She will want for nothing that she actually needs. But I reject the idea that I am responsible only to my child.  Not as long as the Other Woman has trouble buying food for hers.

Because I am a little closer to her now. That woman loves her child like I love mine.

New family, southern Somalia.  Photo credit: Trocaire / Foter / CC BY