The costs of being a parent

Often I see articles in the media about the cost of childcare, the cost of food rising, the cost of clothes dropping (so long as we are willing to wear clothes made by three year olds in third world sweatshops) but rarely do I see articles about what ‘normal’ people feel obliged to spend on their children. Now, I don’t feel obligated to take them to Disneyworld annually; buy them the latest fashions or the latest gaming platforms, but it would be nice if I could take them, say, to the cinema without my purse screaming out in horror and my debit card developing an aversion to the chip and pin device (OK, slight exaggeration!).

Husband and children and I went to the cinema recently as a treat, after they received excellent school reports. We had decided that this would be a better option than buying them more toys, ass we’re getting near to the stage when we won’t be able to open the front door of our flat because of all their possessions, let alone the door of their bedroom! However, I’m regretting that now, and wishing that I had found them some small item which wouldn’t have taken up much room but that would have been acceptable to them (I’m thinking small diamond, mini platinum ingot?) Instead, we were fleeced TWENTY THREE POUNDS just to see the film that they had chosen. TWENTY THREE POUNDS! We were in such shock after paying out that just for four regular tickets (we didn’t even get the posh seats) that we forgot all about popcorn, sweets and drinks and wandered into the screening room and sat down in a bit of a daze. I remember when I was first seeing my husband and we used to go to the cinema every week, being disgusted when our local cinema raised the admission price to £3! Now admittedly it might not have been quite so up to date as the cinema in Cardiff Bay, and the adverts may all have been for local venetian blind manufacturers and curry houses, but even so, in the dark all cinemas look the same, and the films are certainly no better for paying double to get in and see them! As far as I’m concerned, as long as the cinema isn’t an actual, literal flea pit, I really don’t care what it looks like, but I want the days of £3 tickets in the Commodore back!

Without seeming to be a skinflint and a spoilsport, how am I supposed to get through the summer holidays without pawning all my nearest and dearest (how much do you think I’d get for you, Dad?)? It’s all very well saying that I should take them for picnics, educational walks through parks and playtime in public playparks, but you can’t do that all of the time, and some of the time at least they will want to do things like ride on the water bus, visit the cinema and the bowling alley, ride on the train/rollercoaster/space shuttle which requires a sizeable downpayment before they will be allowed to get on board. I’m not saying that I want to fill my children’s time with activities, or that we can’t have fun without spending money (although it’s getting harder in this society) and I know that it’s important for children to learn that real life goes on and there are jobs to do at home as well. However, what I want to know is, how real ‘ordinary’ people on ‘normal’, ‘average’ incomes manage to achieve a balance between demonstrating real life to their children and also doing fun holiday activities without crying into their pillow every night at the thought of their empty wallet and subsisting on Tesco Value baked beans and noodles for the summer months?

Answers on a postcard please, to the usual address (or you could leave a comment!)

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