Money means different things to different people. Some people place so much importance to money they neglect to see how money creates friction in their lives. Yet others view the value of money with different perspective, depending on whose pocket the money is drawn from. The $100 could be very expensive, or very cheap.

When I was growing up, money has always been a problem to me that I started viewing it with disregards. There were many incidences which shaped my impression on money.

When I was 10, I was given $65 to pay the school bus fare but had promptly forgotten. When I finally remembered it, the money was gone from my school bag. I had a huge scolding from my father. He reported it to the school and a classmate admitted to the theft. She had spent all the money buying all sorts of story books and stationeries, which was returned to us. She left the school soon after. I never knew if she was expelled or left due to shame. Thereafter, every month end, the monthly bus fare weighed heavily in my pocket such that I did not forget ever again.

Pocket money did not come easy to me as a child. Whenever I needed money to buy books or stationary, I wouldn’t know who to ask, my father or my mother. If I asked one, I would be scolded for not asking the other first, all this for a miserable sum of a few dollars. Upset, I often complained to my granny and aunts. They in turn would secretly shoved $10 into my pocket whenever I visit.

Although I had bursery during JC and University from Mobil , the company my mother worked for, I didn’t get the money from her. Copyrights were not an issue then and we could photocopy the whole text-book, which might have cost close to $100 each, and I did just that. Thus I was astonished to see the number of university textbooks Mike brought with him to the new house when we got married. He could afford all those?

Life wasn’t difficult but I felt the lack, but what to do? My mother was a single mother fighting her ex-husband for alimony repeatedly. Girls in university were dressed in lace dresses from Chomel, the trend then, but I had never ever stepped into the shop. I worked, scrimped, and saved in order to fund my travel and to pay for my driving lessons, never once having asked my mother for any extra money other than the allowance she gave me. Granny was different. I told her I wanted to go to Europe during my second year in the university and invited her to come along. She offered to pay for me and I gladly accepted. That offer allowed me another 16 days of Thailand adventure after the Europe tour (with Ken Air).

I remember when I turned 21 and in my third year in University. Mom showed me a letter from my father’s lawyer, informing her that since I was now 21, he was legally no longer needed to ‘maintain’ me. I felt indignant. I was not independent yet and was still schooling. Did he expect my mother to support my education on her secretary salary?

Three decades later, my life has changed for the better. I am swarmed by generosity from the people around me. My husband is so generous, I sometimes have to control his wallet. As a sole bread-winner, he not only supports our family of five, but also his parents. He gives my mother her monthly allowance and even pays for all the groceries in her house, all without complaints. It’s me who gripe whenever I see the grocery list:

Brown rice? Why can’t we eat cheap white rice? After all, I grew up eating cheap white rice. (I can remember because I once picked up a bag of AAA rice that Granny buys and put into our shopping trolley, only to get scolded by my mother, who wanted me to get the cheapest one.)

The toilet rolls I buy is low quality? Go buy yourself then.

(Just happened tonight.) Special detergent for Mom’s silk wear? Mom, do you really need special detergents for your laundry? Can’t you use ordinary one? (Actually in my heart I meant cheap one.)

Because of these money issues, I remain estranged from my father and never really bonded with my mother. I felt she let money rule her relationship with her daughter.

Mom’s skewed view of money was obvious recently. For no apparent reason, the water bill in her house rose 50% and crossed the $100 mark. Immediately she started questioning the maid, ‘Have you been using the washing machine to wash the clothes?’ (The maid is only allowed to use the machine to wash the towels weekly and the bedsheets monthly.) The poor maid denied it yet could not provide answers to the bill. $100, and Mom made a big fuss, yet she accepted a $199 birthday toy car from a neighbour for her grandson’s second birthday. $199 for a two year-old boy which will probably last two years versus $100 water bill used by five people in the house (for pails of water containing different detergents, one to wash mom’s silky wear, another for toddler’s clothes, another pail for the rest of the family, yet another for the maid’s clothes.) – did i miss something here?

Bee hears my gripe and reminds me often not to be calculative with family. So I try not to be calculative with my mother but I count every cent I spent on my sons, so much so that I feel I have become my mother and might have let money rule our relationship. Then I over compensate and ended up splurging on them. I don’t want them to go through what I went through (my granny still shove them $2 whenever they visit, habit I guess!) but I don’t want them to take an easy view of money. My kids are smart. When they want big-ticket item, they’ll go to their father secretly – driving lessons, laptop, etc.

I don’t count pennies (although I should, since it’s Mike pennies I am spending). I have even been described as extravagant by some, which baffles me. I hardly ever buy clothes, not even for Chinese New Year, bags, shoes. I do my hair every 6 months (that’s why it’s in this state). But I do like the occasional spa, books, travel, nice meal. I hope for a windfall from somewhere but I don’t buy lottery or 4D. (I once got a small inheritance from my ex-company CEO who died, a four figure sum, so never say never!)

I won’t say I am generous, but neither am I stingy. If money can make someone a little happier, I’ll try to oblige. I guess my relationship with money has evolved and matured. I don’t let the loss of money bother me, which surprised even me when it was pointed out to me.

Tonight, I learned from my sister that my German friend has decided to quietly pay for our hotel accomodation in Stuttgart for our December visit. His hospitality and generosity overwhem me but I cannot accept. It just goes to show how generous my friends are and how much I mean to them.

To know that is priceless.


About vickychong

Just an ordinary woman.
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