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I was listening to my local radio when they were discussing when was the best time for people to have children. This discussion was taking place the same day as it was announced that the average cost of childcare was more than the cost of the average mortgage. One of the phrases which seemed to be frequently used was that of sacrifice. This made me think about how we frequently use words in common conversation without taking heed of their true meaning. The Oxford dictionary defines sacrifice as follows:-

Verb - Give up (something valued) for the sake of other considerations:

Noun - An act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy:

The definition does seem to perfectly fit the circumstance but it was often the tone of the delivery, almost negative, which makes the phrase seem wrong. It is certainly true that where children are involved we very frequently make decisions which might impact on the conduct of our lives. In modern society most of these decisions are driven by either monetary or time considerations. However, I don't consider these decisions necessarily rank as sacrifices but merely choices.

I look at my own situation having a daughter, now in final stages of education, and think of the simple choices that I and my wife have needed to make again some financial and some time. There have been financial considerations over schooling and fees for college and time issues resulting from her course involving significant weekend and evening attendance though coupled with the advantage of being in commuting distance to home. However, the biggest issue has been her choice of hobby, namely horses and dressage competition. This is not helped as the sole male in the family that my wife also loves horses, or the breeding of them, too. Having horses is not only one of the quickest ways of depleting any monetary benefit but also devours time. So choices are made. No holidays, not just because all the money has gone on new rug, saddle etc, but because all they want to do is get back and see the animals and who will look after them in the absence. The time that is spent looking after them, attending shows and competitions and the plethora of other equine activities means simple domestic chores such as mowing lawns, decorating and simple house maintenance become an issue.

But all of these are not sacrifices - they are just simple day-to-day choices. After all in the religious sense sacrifices are made in the hope/expectation of some higher reward.

Life does sometimes get taken over by these choices; such as last weekend when my daughter was competing some 60 miles away from home on two different horses. This meant I had to drive the lorry across to the venue and watch the competition on the Saturday to then drive home in a car driven over by my daughter so I could much out the remaining horses and look after dogs etc. But, of course, I had to be back in time for the start of Sunday's competing at 9am after already walking and feeding dogs, feeding cars and mucking out and feeding the other horses. Well at least now it is light at 6am! And at the end of a long competition day help clear out stables at venue, load horses up and bring them back on the lorry - at least because we had a car there the others went ahead and did other horses by time I'd got back. But these are all just choices in life are they not? No, when you daughter comes home as the under-25 champion with her young horse it is most definitely a sacrifice. A sacrifice that has given some high reward and a sacrifice I will do time and time again.

Jonathan Russell




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