It’s hard to believe that I’ve been a dad for almost 7 years! To be honest, it feels pretty crazy. I can barely wrap my head around the fact that my two little girls are growing so quickly into wonderful young ladies.

As a parent, I’ve learned plenty of things that I never imagined learning. With two little girls, I’ve got playing “tea party” and “dress-up” down pat. I’ve also got dolls and Barbies covered. I wish I didn’t know how to remove smeared poop from walls or catch vomit in my jacket…but I do. When it came to getting the puke smell out of my car, I had to leave it to the professionals.

Beyond the gag worthy lessons, I’ve learned how to have a private dance party in a public setting and not care what anybody around us thinks. I know that a Band-aid cures any type of scrape and that whispered words of love and encouragement can make my daughter’s eyes sparkle with pride. I’ve also learned how unconditional love looks when they stare back at me…and how it feels to want to be a better man so I don’t let that love down.

Yes, I’ve learned a lot of life lessons over the past 7 years. But, they’re not all dripping with mushy girly goo. Becoming a parent has forced me to deal with money in a more productive way too. Here’s how.

Money Lessons I’ve Learned from Parenting

It’s Not About You

Before you become a parent, people are always telling you that, “You’ll understand once you have kids.” I didn’t exactly blow that off, but I kinda thought I already had a handle on the situation. Then, I saw my daughter take her first breath and everything changed. I got to see it again when my second daughter was born, and it solidified everything I’d already learned. Life is no longer just about you. It instantly becomes about helping the wonderful little person in front of you get off to the best start possible.

Until I had kids, it was easy to spend money on whatever I wanted. Even after getting married, Holly and I would regularly splurge on meals and nights out. We were relatively frugal, but we didn’t have to worry about anybody but ourselves. Sure we saved money when we thought about it, but it was without regularity or purpose.

After having kids, saving money suddenly became crucial. We had young mouths to feed, and we no longer had the luxury of just scraping by. Saving money was no longer just an abstract concept. Getting our financial house in order became a very real, conscious decision. And, with two little girls depending on us, we could no longer afford to just do good enough. We had to do better.

You’ll understand once you have kids.

(Money) Decisions Have Consequences

Like most young adults, I never completely grasped the fact that my decisions had consequences. Sure, intellectually I understood. But, on an emotional level, I really had no idea..until I became a parent. Suddenly, I viewed all of my decisions through a completely different lens.

I was – and in many ways still am – a dreamer. That’s what led me to pursue a “passion” in college rather than earn a degree in a well-paying field (bad decision). It also helped lead Holly and I to start this blog (good decision). Being a dreamer doesn’t preclude you from making good or bad decisions. Not understanding the potential consequences can.

Every money decision you make affects your children. Sometimes those decisions are tangible, like choosing to save money in a college fund. Other times, those decisions affect the way your child views and relates to money. Additionally, your personal relationship with money has a huge impact on how your child will view money as they grow.

Your children are watching every move you make, and that includes the decisions you make with your money. Don’t shut them out of the money conversation. It’s up to you to teach them how to relate to money in a healthy manner and to become good financial stewards.

Time is More Valuable than Money

Want to know what’s more valuable than money? Time.

Being a wage slave sucks, but it is pretty much par for the course in this country. We work ridiculous hours, to get paid for our time, to make more money, to buy stuff we don’t really need, to make us forget about how hard we’re working to buy stuff we don’t want. It’s a crazy cycle, and it’s all based around consumerism and debt.

My kids don’t care how much money I make. What they really want from me is love and attention. As a parent, I’ve learned that best way to spend my money is to buy more time with my family. Getting out of debt and living below our means has allowed us the opportunity to work for ourselves and do just that.

Poor people sell their time for more money. Rich people sell their money for more time.

Sometimes, I Still Put Money Ahead of Time

Look, I work too much. Unfortunately, that’s the curse of entrepreneurship. It’s true that I have the freedom to go wherever I want, when I want. But, the harder I work, the more money I make. Since I don’t punch a clock, I can work all night to make more money if I wish.

This was a lot easier to do when the kids were younger. They’d keep themselves occupied, get tired, and hit the hay at about 8 PM without even caring what I was up to. Now, they’re much more aware of  when my mind is preoccupied. They know when I’m stressed. They feel it when they don’t receive the usual attention that they deserve. And, I can tell that it hurts them when I have to work longer hours.

A huge part of the reason I left my 9 to 5 was to be able to spend more time with my family. Lately, with a house remodel and some side projects we’ve picked up, I’m failing miserably at it. But, the money has to keep rolling in, and we’re always afraid it could all disappear. That helps keep us motivated. It also drives us insane. As with all of life, the trick is finding a balance…and that can be hard to do.

I’m still working on it.

Money Isn’t Everything…But it Sure is Nice

In some ways, becoming a parent has made me far more aware of how our family handles money. It’s also made me realize that money isn’t everything; but, being in control of your money definitely makes life easier.

Money isn’t worth anything in itself. If you pursue money only for money’s sake, you’ll never win. Somebody always has more. It’s also not a magic elixir. Having more money isn’t a cure-all for everything that ails you.

When it comes down to it, money is a tool to help you get what you really want. By controlling your money, you can do great things – like travel, enjoy your some entertainment, or just rest comfortably knowing you don’t have to worry about paying the bills. If money controls you, it could mean disaster. Debt, greed, and out-of-control spending can cause you incredible stress and increase the pressure to constantly earn more.

Money is not the goal. It’s a means to help you get there.

Wrapping Up

Becoming a parent has been the most incredible journey of my life. As I continue to watch my girls grow, I constantly find myself learning new things. With their teenage years fast approaching (and boys on the not-too-distant horizon), I’m sure I’ll still have a lot more to learn. Check back in a few years and maybe we’ll do a recap!

Did I miss anything? What money lessons have you learned from becoming a parent? Fire away in the comments below!