Friday, March 10, 2006

Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job

People are latteing and carry-out eating themselves into debt.
Moms work outside the home in order to buy granite countertops and second cars.
Families choose Disney World over health insurance.

You've heard the so-called reasons why families struggle to make ends meet today. But that's not not reality. A recent article in the Kansas City Star (2/25 Middleclass Quicksand) said that costs gasoline, heat, education and healthcare have increased twice as much as household earnings.

Add to that your home mortgage, which studies show require on average an income and a half to pay compared to one income in the 1970s, and, well, quicksand is a good word to describe it.

It is one damn thing after another. A latte would not begin to ease the pain from the "incidental expenses" that arise from week to week: someone not paying you, a doctor's bill that your $400 per month insurance does not cover one penny of, an unexpected bill that you thought was taken care of two year's ago.

We're certainly not unique in this. I only describe our situation because I think it compares to what other middleclass families in America experience. Granted, we're lucky we live here, instead of in some country where you can't even feed your family. And I know we're not the first generation to struggle with making ends meet. Plus, it's no one's fault. With all the advances in medicine, is it any wonder health care is more expensive? We owe my son J.J.'s life to those advances, as he was born by c-section.

But I think it's important to look at the real reasons that families struggle today. If a mom works, she probably needs a car to get her there. She'll rely on carryout because there just isn't time to cook dinner. The basic expenses are what require her to work in the first place.

Of course, some moms want to work. Some moms go to jobs where they make a difference. Some families thrive better when mom and dad both work. But I've also talked to families who wish mom or dad could stay home but, financially, they just can't do it.

I often feel Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder telling me to go back to work. It's wierd to feel like an irresponsible person for staying home with your kids. My husband shoulders too much of the economic burden. Even efforts to be frugal--like shopping at Aldi's--amount to being penny wise and pound foolish.

Last night, I looked at jobs on the internet. After ruling out several that required comprehension of complicated documents or a willingness to take on special projects (that sounds like code for unpaid overtime to me,) I saved a couple.

There's another myth out there that says parents shouldn't have children if mom or dad isn't going to stay home to raise them. I think there are a lot of different ways to raise your children. My boys were in full time daycare for a year and they were happy and I went on field trips with them and we had fun together on my days off. I think they were just as happy with that arrangement as they are staying home. The only difference between then and now is that I cried myself to sleep over the time with them that was getting away from me.

In other words, it is all about me.

We'll tread water a little longer. See if I can drum up the free-lance work I need (without working on it during the kids' waking hours, which studies show makes for the most ill-adjusted children out there, and which I did for two years.) If I do go back to work, don't expect granite countertops in our kitchen. But expect a lot of carryout on our plates.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

great entry bridge. there is no perfect way to balance family and the cost of living, or should i say luxury?:) any angle you look at it, it's so damn guilt provoking. raise kids at home? go back to work? grande 2% latte or venti non-fat...kidding. i wish jiminy cricket would find a blade of grass rather than your shoulder though because that unwarranted "weird feeling of irresponsibility" needs to take a hike. lib

11:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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5:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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5:43 AM  
Anonymous Pat said...

Lib could be a writer - cute comment! Don't feel guilty about being a stay at home mom, I always wanted to do that myself, but wasn't brave enough to give up the income. If you can make it work, I'd go for time over money anyday, especially when I want the best for my precious grands!

7:22 PM  
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9:58 PM  

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