Growing up, your parents probably never told you when money was tight. They left you out of the loop if they had to pay rent late. Your mom tried to shield you from her stress as she racked her brain for ways to come up with a few more dollars to get groceries any given week. When your childhood is informed by financial struggle, though, you feel it. And in a video resonating with many people, TikTok dad Blake Kasemeier (@blakeoftoday) points out that feeling never really leaves you — even if you’re no longer financially struggling.
When I was a kid, I used to do this weird thing where I would save half of whatever I ate until I got home. ‘Just in case,'” starts Kasemeier. “‘Just in case,’ what? I don’t know. But it felt important at the time. Maybe it was Mom paying for groceries with hot checks. Or fixing whatever sound that the car was making by turning up the Counting Crows in the tape deck.
As parents, we walk an impossibly thin line between making our kids feel safe and making sure they’re prepared for the real world — whatever that looks like to each of us. It’s hard to imagine that Blake knew at 5 or even 10 years old that his mom might be using “hot checks.” Most likely, it was a confession later in life or simply the keen intuition that tips kids off when their parents are nervous, anxious, or worried.
“It is a weird thing for a kid to feel like they need to do that, mostly because we never went without. Moms always find a way,” Kasemeier says. “But it was close most days, and when it wasn’t, that feeling still didn’t go away. It sits inside of you. Kind of like a worry. But a lot like a flame these days. We’re doing alright. Maybe the fire finally went out, but there is a part of me that will always taste the smoke.”
Moms do always find a way. It’s a trip to the Free Store or consigning those clothes you’ve almost outgrown. It’s pitching one more assignment to help cover the cost of tuition or pawning the antique jewelry they never wear. The needs (and many of the wants) are met, and not a word is whispered around their kids.
But despite the finding and finagling, the truth seeps in. Like Kasemeier’s smoke, it finds its way through a crack under the door. And years later, even when things are relatively good, passing a city truck in your neighborhood still sends you rushing to your billing app to make sure they’re not on the block to turn off your water. You do mental math at the grocery store and still set back the roast that seems like a luxury, no matter how many meals you can get out of it.
“The thing about being born rich, or rather not poor, is that when you are broke, it feels like you are a tourist on a bad trip in a place that you don’t belong,” Kasemeier concludes. “And the thing about being born the other way around is that as hard as you work to escape it, it’s always gonna kinda feel like home.”
Oof. That hits — for a lot of people.
“I always have a plan B. And C,” shared one commenter.
“This was my childhood! ‘Just in case’ was our daily reality,” admitted another. “I don’t miss it, but I will never forget it!”
Several shared how this sort of scarcity mindset still permeates their daily lives:
“Man, I live pretty comfortably now, but I am always trying to clean my plate or saving good food containers. Really never leaves you.”
“I have a pantry full of food, and yet sometimes I never think I’m covered. This hit me in the chest.”
And one commenter nailed the beautiful, heartbreaking undercurrent of it all, saying, “Moms are magic, especially struggling ones.”