The Economics of Parenting

Our country’s priorities are messed up. All the talk of “family values” (code words for James Dobson-esque right wing radical Christianity being the Right and True Way) is deeply, deeply anti-family when we look at reality.

The answer to ending bullying (or most serious problems our children face) is a real living wage for all workers and making corporate greed illegal. I’m not anti-profit, mind you. I am, however, quite sure that corporate greed is the root of most of the problems we face in America today.

I’d like to see the Tea Party people spend some time looking at the incomes and bonuses CEOs paid themselves and imagine for a moment that those dollars were instead used to bring minimum wage jobs up to a real living wage.

If families didn’t have to work two or three jobs just to barely make it, they would have more time and energy for more involved parenting. If families could survive on one income, and that income could be made working 40 hours a week, I believe our nation would see radical changes for the better.

As it stands now, if I were to get a “regular job” most of my income would be spent on childcare (daycare for the little one and aftercare for the older one). So, maybe I could bring in a little more money if I worked a 9-5 job. Maybe. That said, as it stands now, my co-parent and I are firmly convinced that the best thing for our children is to make the “irresponsible” choice of my mostly staying home with the little one and our being around in the afternoons and non-school days for our older one. We can not afford to do this.

I’ll say that again. We can not afford to make this choice but we’re doing it anyway because the alternatives not only don’t bring in much more money but also totally sell out our personal values (providing our children the lives we want for them).

I fully recognize what we are doing isn’t what most people will find a reasonable option. It’s totally unreasonable, actually. And when I find myself wiped the fuck out after, say, a two or three day stint of sick children or STBX (soon-to-be-ex) is traveling so it’s 100% me for a few days, or AGHH school vacation comes around, I get tired. Very tired. And the television gets a lot more tempting. The deeper conversations aren’t likely to happen because I’m running around trying to get the minimum done just to keep us all from going totally insane. Too tired to talk, too tired to be fully present with my daughters, and too tired to just “be.”

So I consider what it would be like if every day were like that. (Sometimes I have longer stints of it if my freelance work (hire me!) is particularly busy, but that comes in waves.) If I were a truly single mother, or if I worked a full-time job outside the home and came back at the end of the day and tried to “be there” for my children, god, I get exhausted just imagining it.

Let me be clear here, no matter what a person’s values are, no matter what their intentions, I’m saying that even the best of the best parents are probably going to be too fucking tired to just hang around hand knitting or baking together drifting around unhurried in those times when the rich conversations naturally evolve. But I’m not saying those things don’t happen for those stressed out families. I’m saying that I’m too tired for that kind of idyllic parenting when I’m pushed even a little too hard, so trying to manage that on a regular basis if I were working a job outside the home (and STBX was working a less flexible job) or we were both working a couple jobs, would be nearly impossible for me. As I’m writing this I’m sort of laughing because even though I don’t work a “regular” job I have no “downtime” because of the scramble to try and make ends meet.

Lots of parents do extraordinary things with their children no matter what their financial or work situation. It’s just that I don’t see how it will ever be possible for our society to grow stronger and more secure when we’re all driving so fast we can barely see what’s passing by outside the windows.

There should be tax deductions for parents who want to stay home with their children—not just for people who need “assistance” (which, after I looked into it, is only available in very meager levels and only when people are nearly destitute) but for people who are treading water or better, financially, but who want to make an investment in their children. There should be support systems available for mothers or fathers who want to spend time with their children in their first five years of life, not just the first month or so. Job security. Paid time off. We should be investing in a culture that encourages families to slow down together and connect.

I think it’s a sad state of affairs that we ask our public school system and other social systems (afterschool programs, etc.) to do so much of the family work and then we blame the families for not instilling the proper values in their children.

The way we’re set up right now we need to invest the hell out of public schools and after care programs, into school meals, into bussing, and into lots and lots of adults to provide the structure that children so desperately need.

What I think should happen, though, is a grand shift. We ought to invest in supporting families who want a mother, father, aunt or uncle, grandparent, or close family friend to be home with the children. A family member or surrogate family member if the parents are drawn to their non-family work (I realize there are a lot of people who love their jobs, or want to be at work not at home with their children all day long, full-time on-site parenting is not a job for everyone).

It’s not a lazy or selfish choice to want to stay home with my babies. It’s a shame that I feel embarrassed to talk about wanting to do this, that I fear all the other parents out there who aren’t doing it will think I’m saying they are making a bad choice. No. I am saying our society is set up so we don’t have a choice. If we want to pay the bills, we have to work several jobs. I’m in a minority where I can’t afford to “stay at home” with my girls but I’m doing it anyway. This may be a minority of the stupid (“irresponsible”), but when I look at what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, there is no doubt in my mind that I’m doing the right thing for us.

Our societal structure makes it impossible for a parent or other family member to comfortably stay home with our young children. My psychological makeup makes it impossible for me to look at that logical picture and make a decision based on those facts. I am a lioness style mother. When it comes to them, nothing else matters. Knowing what’s best for my children quickly makes any logical or “reasonable” choice completely moot. Society tells me I have no choice, I have to use daycare and programs to rear my children. For me, though, the word “choice” hardly fits. No. I’m going to be here for my children when they wake up, when they go to sleep, when they need lunch, when they need to go to and from school, and when they want to stop and talk to a worm.

This is them tonight:

23 years ago today

Most days I don’t remember exactly what I was doing x number of years ago. But, today, on this evening I remember clearly what I was doing 23 years ago. I was house sitting in St. Paul, MN. I was (sorry to our family friends in whose home I was sitting who might read this post!) very, very stoned (marijuana) and a little drunk. I was in emotional crisis, too. I was suddenly truly terrified that I might be an alcoholic.

Three months before, I had wondered if I was an alcoholic. A few years before, even, I might’ve wondered. Back then, though, I was more interested in diagnosing other people’s problems than I was interested in looking at my own.

So, for three months in the spring of 1996, I didn’t drink any alcohol. (I got high. A lot. But that wasn’t drinking, I reasoned.) After three months, I celebrated being not an alcoholic — it was really easy, I was sure, to not drink! — with vodka lemonades alone in a bar in Minneapolis.

That evening, I befriended another 20 something woman who told me she was a heroin addict in recovery. I didn’t know much about substance use disorders and I don’t think it crossed my mind that it was odd that she was drinking with me. We celebrated our non-alcoholism a lot, without a hint of irony. Somehow I got back to the house where I was staying back over in St. Paul; I’m pretty sure I drove. I contacted (via America Online) the hot guy I’d been messaging with and he came over. He was an alcoholic in recovery. I knew that. And, honestly, it made the idea of not drinking a little bit more interesting to me. He was really cute! We made out for a bit and then he went home. He was conflicted about hooking up with someone who wasn’t sober who was also thinking she might need to be. I’m grateful that he left.

July 3, 1996 was the first 24 hours of my life in recovery from alcoholism. I haven’t had to take a drink (or get high) since that time. My life today is happy, joyous, and free.

Since that time, I’ve learned that I have a disease of the body and mind. To recover, I had to not only stop putting the alcohol in my body—putting any alcohol in my body sets off a phenomenon of craving that makes it impossible for me to control how much alcohol I drink. I also had to get honest with myself and do some internal housecleaning so I could connect with a power greater than myself.

See, the weirdest thing about alcoholism is that if I rely only on my mind, it will tell me it’s safe to drink eventually. No matter how much will power or common sense I have, and no matter how many awful consequences follow getting drunk, without spiritual help I will find myself thinking that taking a drink won’t hurt me. It’s a bizarre disease! But, the spiritual solution (of depending on my higher power to remove the idea that I can drink safely) really, really works.

It works so well that I forget how hard it was for me those days. Living was difficult back then because I didn’t know how to be in the world with all the feelings we humans have. I lived in fear most of the time, but was convinced I was afraid of nothing. These days I’m still human, so I have my ups and downs, but for the most part I find myself in what Thich Nhat Hanh and other Buddhists call “the Middle Way.” My Quaker practice and my other spiritual practices help me stay grounded and present in this day. Life feels like a gift, even on my worst days. (Okay, on my worst days maybe I binge watch something on Netflix and don’t feel much of the giftishness of life, but because I’m living in recovery, I always know things will get better!)

I love living in recovery and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If anyone who is reading this has any questions about it, please don’t hesitate to ask!

wordpress weirdness (old posts republishing)

With a new plugin here on wordpress that finds broken links, I took some time the other day fixing links and saving the updated information. Apparently, this sent out posts as if they were new to some of you. I’m honored that you elect to receive my posts! but I’m sorry you’ve been flooded with old — extremely personal, I now see! — posts from a decade or so ago!

question for my fellow William H. Hall High graduates

Is my denial more intense than I even realize? I’ve been digging into my own racism for a few years now, and I simply can’t recall memories of overt racism when I was in high school. I am confident that my absence of memories is NOT proof of the absence of overt racism. I suspect strongly it’s just proof of my obliviousness as a typical white suburban girl.

There was lots of indirect racism — just as real, but it’s not the kind of racism I’m thinking about at the moment. Like, I’m sure that most of us white kids assumed Black people were arrested more because they committed more crimes rather than the truth that they were targeted more. Or we believed it was possible and good to be “color blind.” There was the racism involved the way we socially segregated ourselves, but “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, and other conversations on race” helped me understand that a little better. For sure, our high school and we white students were racist (we benefit from white supremacy, so unless we were actively working against racism, we were part of the problem). But my question is about overt racism when white people were alone. In the wake of yet another ivy league-bound kid being exposed as using overtly racist language, I am asking myself again, did I witness overt racism when I was growing up?

Did kids use the N word or make overtly racist jokes when Black people weren’t around?

If I did, I definitely don’t remember it. I’d like to remember, though. I want to know the truth.

I’d love to know your memories of our high school’s racism. Commenting here is fine, or emailing me at heather at grantwinners dot net works or messaging me on any of the social media platforms where you’ve found this post also works. Thanks in advance for your help in building my memory!

Elizabeth Warren *almost* has my vote; her racism around Native/Indigenous people is still a problem.

Even though she was a Republican until the 90s, I like Elizabeth Warren. I like so many of her policies — I even just like that she has policy ideas — but the Native people I follow on twitter still consider her aggressively racist. I am listening to them. I’ve been trying to find more writings by Native/Indigenous people about what Elizabeth Warren should do to begin repairing the harm she has done and continues doing.

There are many articles explaining how and why Warren’s actions have been racist against indigenous people (Google it if you haven’t heard), but I haven’t (yet) found many stating what she should do to begin making real amends.

On twitter, someone replied to a thread — someone, it turns out, who is a freelance writer and co-author of this amazing piece explaining Warren’s racism! — with what seems (to me, at least) like a decent summary of what Warren should do. I’d love for Warren’s campaign staff to read these suggestions and take them seriously, perhaps reach out to this person and talk with them more:

In text (images follow), tweets by Cole DeLaune @ColeDeLaune1:

What would be the beginning (not the end) of the conversation re #ElizabethWarren fostering a relationship with Indigenous America that’s not aggressively racist:

1) a mea culpa that accounts for all components of her decades-long anti-Indigenous record


2) denunciation of the bigotry of her supporters (like the #Brokeahontas hashtag) + acknowledgement of how she contributed to that dynamic

3) inclusion + representation of Indigenous/CNO perspectives in leadership team even if inconvenient 4 her personally

#ElizabethWarren 2/2

Affirming the existence of Indigenous America in her broader at-large policies (ie publicly including tribal institutions in her higher ed overhaul) would also be helpful