Growing Up Poor
“I’m sorry love, I just don’t have enough money!”
Growing up poor I unwittingly absorbed my parent’s beliefs about money. The struggle, the worry and the stress that comes with not knowing how you will be able to pay the rent and feed and clothe four growing children, had an enormous unconscious negative effect on me that would impact most of my life.
I know very little about my parent’s history, Mum told me later that she came from a wealthy family of Tea -Planters in Sri Lanka, that both of her parents had died before she was twenty, and she hadn’t seen her brothers for many years, nor knew where they were. Dad never divulged any of his history, apart from knowing that he came from Bristol, he never revealed anything about his past, he was a closed book to us all. Amazingly in 1984 we found Mum’s brothers in Canada after a ten-year search. Happy endings do happen sometimes!
Interestingly Mum and Dad were both well spoken and refined and had excellent manners and grooming even though we were poor and had few clothes. They insisted that we become the same. Everything we wore, even though most of it was second-hand, was carefully washed and ironed. Even though we only had a bath once a week in a tin-tub in front of the fire, we had to have a strip-wash everyday to keep ourselves clean and smelling nice. It was evident to me even as a young child that Mum and Dad had ‘fallen on hard times’ and that we were ‘different’ from the other families in the caravan parks and council estates we lived in. It was somehow like we were ‘better’ than everybody else. Not that Mum and Dad were snobs, far from it, we were as hard-up as the rest of them, but it felt more like we didn’t really ‘belong’ there.
This difference was also clear in the way we spoke, we were raised to speak the ‘Queens English’ and the way we ate our food was also very important. Dad used to say “Manners maketh man” and “If you can speak and eat properly you will be able to dine with royalty and commoners alike”, trite phrases that used to make me roll my eyes behind his back. He proved to be both right and wrong. Some people thought I was a ‘stuck-up snob’ and others thought I came from a wealthy family and had been to private school.
So I grew up ‘believing’ that I was ‘different’, that I ‘didn’t belong anywhere’, that ‘money was hard to come by’ and that I would never have what other people had and the fear that I would inevitably end up like my parents – broke and alone. Because I always felt ‘not good enough’ I spent most of my life trying to prove that I was ‘as good as them’. Having removed many of the negative beliefs my parent’s unwittingly foisted on me, I don’t need to prove anything to anyone, least of all myself.
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©Annie Moyes –January 2013- All rights reserved
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