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If you’re a parent who’s struggling financially, one of the things that may be weighing heavily on your mind is the tendency to feel like a failure in your role as family provider. While such thoughts are understandable, I can also tell you that these shameful feelings are almost certainly wrong.

Such a belief comes about because you’re using a flawed system to measure your status as a provider. You’re taking one aspect of being a provider and blowing it out of proportion – inflating it with significance while simultaneously discounting the other ways in which you serve as a provider. For example …

  • Do you provide love and support to your children? If so, you’re providing them with something far more valuable than any material possession.
  • Do you ensure your children’s needs are taken care of, even if that means arranging for others to help out? If so, you’re acting as a provider.
  • Do you make sacrifices so that they may have things a little bit easier? If so, you’re providing for them.
  • Are you a caretaker to your children, raising them and watching over them? If so, you’re a provider.
  • Are you working to improve your current situation? If so, you’re being a provider. Just because there may be a considerable lag time between the efforts you put in and the payoff, that doesn’t mean you’re not being a provider.

The definition of provider isn’t so narrow that it can only be measured in monetary terms. When you do the things listed above, you’re providing for your family.

Think about the movie The Pursuit of Happiness starring Will Smith. (If you’ve never seen it, see if you can borrow the DVD from someone. It will make a good view during times like this.) In the movie, Smith portrays a down and out father struggling to make ends meet. His wife walks out on him, he gets booted from his apartment, and is later kicked out of a motel room. He finds himself sleeping in the subway with his son and struggling to find a spot each night at a homeless shelter. It’s likely that as this was going on, he felt quite distraught about his failure to provide for his son as he would have liked.

Yet when I watch this movie, I see the most perfect example of a provider that I’ve ever seen from a parent, something that most millionaires could only aspire to. When forced to sleep in a subway, he plays imagination games to entertain his son and distract him from their circumstances. He works hard at an unpaid internship in the hopes of bettering their life and rushes back every day to try and ensure they make it to the shelter in enough time to get a room. He puts his all into everything. He ensures his boy is well loved and cared for, even amidst the most dismal of circumstances. Now that’s being a real provider, and it has nothing to do with money.


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