TL;DR - Your family needs you much more than it needs your money.
Both my mom and dad both cared deeply for my brother and I and they worked hard to make sure that we became happy, healthy, productive members of society. They taught me a great deal, but one lesson that made a deep impression on me, which don't think was taught intentionally, was the value of money.
When I say the value of money, I'm referring to what a person is willing to sacrifice in order to get money. This value is determined by comparing what you have to give up to what you get in return. Exchanging time for money is the basic transaction that fuels our society and economy. Depending on a broad spectrum of factors, the exchange rate can vary wildly.
My parents were great. I think they did a good job raising me and my brother. We had a pretty adventurous childhood having spent time in Papua New Guinea, Australia, Montana, the Pacific North West, and the northern tip of Alaska.
From the time I was in Kindergarten to 2nd grade, my dad worked a job that required him to leave the house before I was awake and to return home as I was getting ready for bed. The pay wasn't great and the working conditions weren't great either. Mom and Dad decided that the exchange rate wasn't sustainable and that things had to change.
My parents had landed jobs in Alaska as teachers when I was starting 3rd grade. Given the remoteness of northern Alaska and the relatively harsh living conditions, the pay for a teaching job there was very good. Especially when compared to the salary of a teacher in the Pacific Northwest. Additionally, the isolation would force us be close to each other.
For the next 11 years, we spent the school year in Alaska and spent the summers in Washington or Montana. The pay was great and we were able to be close to each other. What I didn't realize at the time was that though we had accomplished our original goals, achieving them was coming at a cost that I wasn't aware of.
The living and working conditions that my parents were dealing with were harsh and hostile. The constant grinding that they endured in that environment took a heavy toll on them that, at the time, I only recognized as them being mean parents. In the years since, though, I see it very differently.
The money they were making was so good that they felt it was the best course of action to stay in this bad situation and tough it out for another year. Then another. And another. Four years turned into eight and then ten. Each year eroded a little bit of the spark of who they were.
I graduated from high school and moved away to go to college. With some time and distance between us, I was able to develop a new perspective on the situation. I saw more clearly the impact that had been made on Mom and Dad and how worn down they had become.
With this new understanding, I thought back to the times when I had wished that Dad had been in a better mood or that Mom hadn't been so tired. I remember wanting to spend time with them or talk to them about something or show them something that I had figured out in a video game.
I'm thankful for their sacrifice and recognize that they were doing it for my brother and I. However, when I think about the sacrifices they made and compare it to what they got in return, I don't think it was a good exchange rate. Certainly, it could have been worse, but trading health and happiness for money is a bad deal.
Sure, there are situations where this assessment doesn't work. I'm sure that we can come up with "what-if" scenarios in which making the sacrifice is worth it. But in my case, there were other options available that would have provided our family with the financial resources we needed without the need for the sacrifice of my parents health and happiness.
Your kids need you much more than they need the money you can provide.