Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Two Income Trap

I recently read The Two Income Trap by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi. It was published in 2004 but is quite pertinent to the current financial situation and, in fact, predicted it to an extent. Elizabeth is a professor at Harvard. I must confess I'm not sure what her daughter does. The book's main premise is that the cause of increasing bankruptcy and disappearing middle class (and remember this was in 2004) is not due to the middle class spending frivolously but instead due to a convergence of risk factors that come together to spell disaster when families are faced with a fairly common array of moderate disasters.

They first make a compelling argument about school funding reform. The current system is mainly based on property taxes which means that the children in the more affluent districts wind up with better funded schools which leads to more people wanting into that school district which causes the housing prices to go up even more. So, parents have a compelling motivator (their children's wellbeing) to buy houses which they can just barely afford. Secondly, since mothers began entering the workplace, it is now the norm to be competing against families with both adults contributing income which has cause housing prices, in proportion to overall income, to raise even higher. This means that not only can the parents only barely afford the house they feel vital to their children's future happiness and prosperity but, both parents MUST be working to have any hope of making the payments.

The authors then go into great detail about the horrible practices of the banking and credit industries which led to their collapse a few short months ago (as the authors predicted). Basically, the more difficulty you have paying back a loan, the more these companies would like to lend to you. The authors make a very astute argument refuting the common assertion that people are simply less honorable than they once were. In fact, it was much more that once people began having difficulty paying bill their credit was cut off, greatly decreasing the amount of debt people could accrue and greatly decreasing the risk factor for the lender. At this point, it seems the creditors are getting exactly what they deserve for lending to people in such a predatory manner.

I found the arguments FOR remaining a one income family rather validating. The authors pointed out the value of having one person not in the job market. First, because of the non-monetary contributions I make to both my immediate and extended family. In addition to providing child care, cooking, cleaning, etc, I am also available to help fill in the gaps should my husband ever loose his job. While I won't make as much as he does, when combined with unemployment we will still be doing considerably better than if our income was abruptly halved with no means to make up for the loss.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Jury of Her Peers

When I was in college I took a class in Women's Literature. One of the works we read was A Jury of Her Peers, as short work by Susan Glaspell. The full text is available here and it's an excellent and quick read. At any rate, I've been thinking about that story a lot lately and the idea of a jury of my peers and what they might excuse. Once upon a time, it never crossed my mind that I might be tempted to thwap a dog but then Penny started barking just as I got Megan down the other day. I never thought I would grow tired of holding a sweet faced baby, especially one that was smiling and loving until earlier this week when Megan had needed to be held constantly for several days- teething and lack of sleep having gotten the best of her. I never understood the motivations of shaken baby syndrome until an epic round of nap battles with Charlie while I pregnant with Megan. Giving into the impulses is still unforgivable but these unfathomable thoughts can be understood by a jury of ones peers.

Mommy blogging gives such an interesting change in perspective to what was once secret. I often think about my mother and her generation as well as those that came before. They seem to have lived up to so much more than I, at least, manage. They had dinner on the table at 5, a clean house, and children that slept without black-out shades and sound machines. I have to remind myself that they also had valium, evening cocktails, and all manner of "help." I'm sure that all manner of things were shared over coffee cake and tea but they were never publicly recorded as they are now. It seems to me that those poor women of our mother's generation were determined to do it all and appear to make it all effortless. I sometimes feel looked down upon by women of a certain age when I point out that I won't be attending x,y, and z because I don't have childcare or that it will be from a box because that's all I have time for. At the same time, it seems that the mothers of our time have a certain level of confidence our predecessors lacked. We can admit to things falling down about our heads, the crazy thoughts you have 45 minutes into a nap that isn't happening, and the dreadful pain of post partum depression. We no longer have to prove that we can earn the bacon and cook it up as well. We have moved past that (to an extent) and can let it all hang out in cyber-space. At the same time, the secret camaraderie that created the jury that secretly acquitted Mrs. Wright no longer seems to exist. We constantly divide over breastfeeding, sleep training, where we will work and what we will label ourselves. While we are all there for a mother struggling through some difficulties there are other times that unproductive criticism seems to come from the woodwork. The public sharing of the many burdens and frustrations of mother hood is so very welcome but where did the sympathetic jury go?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Walk to Beautiful

Today was not one of my favorite parenting days. Charlie didn't sleep well last night and his behavior today showed it and then he didn't go down for a nap this afternoon. Megan is teething and just broke her 1st tooth. She's well into the 6 month growth spurt which is generally alleviated with the addition of solids but Megan isn't wild about solids so there has been lots and lots of nursing at all hours as of late. I was cross and cranky and ready to run for the hills by the time my husband came home today and then I watched NOVA while I nursed Megan.

The NOVA episode tonight was A Walk to Beautiful and was about women suffering from obstetrical fistulas. WARNING: We are now wandering into a girl bit heavy post. I don't think it's too terribly graphic but if you flinch when passing the feminine hygiene aisle give a nice donation to the WHO and be on your way...

I was in labor with Megan for 18 hours. It was mostly back labor and was somewhat unproductive. My contractions were significant to wake me up by 7 am and I was fully effaced by the time I got to the hospital at 3 ish. But, I was only dilated to 3 cm. My contractions didn't form a good pattern and I dilated only 1 more centimeter over the next 3 hours or so (my memories are fuzzy). I hung out in the shower for a while but didn't want to get into a tub, which would have relieved my discomfort, because it could slow my labor even more. I finally got an epidural when we decided I should start pitocin around 7. The epidural was only somewhat effective. The doctor discovered that Megan was turned and got her to turn properly which helped rather more than the epidural. Unfortunately, she turned back (most unusual) so I spent the last hunk of labor, aided by pitocin and largely unaided by an epidural with a baby in a very wrong spot. It really, really hurt. Happily, I am a champion at dissociation and can therefore only rememeber that it hurt in the most abstract way. I remember simply focusing on not panicking and reminding myself that I really wasn't in danger or about to die. I went beyond breathing, relaxing, focusing, or coconut visualizations and simply tried to not try and fling myself out of the bed to run away from the torture and torment I was going through. I remember my husband pointing out that I was not relaxing and wanting to Do Something to him because "Duh!!!" but not being able to focus beyond the pain to do whatever it was.

I pushed for an hour. I know they were good pushes. My forehead began to hurt from the pressure of my pushing. I spun on the bed. I felt my muscles move in co-ordinated and strong movements. After an hour, Megan's foot remained in the same spot in my ribs as it had been for the last 2 months of my pregnancy. I was exhausted. I was very ready for a c-section.

After Megan was delivered (the epidural never did work so I was anesthetized), I was told that she was 2 pounds heavier than Charlie even though my measurements and weight gain had been the same. I was told that the opening she would have had to pass through was too small. I was told that she had never actually engaged in my pelvis and that was why she was able to rotate back after being rotated to a correct position. Finally, I was told that she had a 3 inch cone. I had pushed and pushed well but she wasn't going to come out without help. I am very proud of those 3 inches and also so glad I had ready access to high quality, obstetrical care.

The women in "A Walk to Beautiful" didn't have that sort of access. They were in labor for days, sometimes up to 10. Their babies died. They labored and labored and never got to meet a little person at the end of it. Worse, some part of the baby had pressed against the birth canal over and over with every contraction, compressing the tissue and slowly killing it. Eventually, a hole between the urethra and vagina and/or the urethra and rectum opened. These women were then shunned. A hut would be built to keep them "from being eaten by hyenas" where these women would hope for death living a half-life of despondency.

Over time, the women suffering from fistulas in Ethopia can go to one of a precious few hospitals devoted to treating fistulas to get surgical treatment. They can cure 93% of the women and at least help the rest. This is a story worth learning about. The interview with the founder of Thee Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia is an excellent introduction.

There is nothing quite like a bit of perspective at the end of what formerly seemed a very long day.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Motrin Follow-Up

So, tons of mommy bloggers (among others) told Motrin what we thought of the ad- some in considerably more vehement terms than I. And, Motrin has responded with a public apology and withdrawal of the ad. I have to give Motrin kuddos for a swift and respectful response. I have told my husband on a number of occasions that the best apology is a full assumption of being in the wrong. Once you have told someone that they were right about everything and you were completely mistaken they have very little room to quibble or argue. The matter can generally be put behind you both. In fact, it even raises you a bit, even if you were a complete ass previously since it conveys a subtle message of power to be confident enough to admit that the other person was completely the better at you at that moment. Way to give an apology Motrin.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Day In Cuteness

So, today was actually full of moaning, misery, and no naps but there are other days with lots of cute and I thought I would share some of it here...

Charlie tried to nurse his babydoll yesterday. Unfortunately, he used his bellybutton but, as everyone knows, breastfeeding can be difficult and confusing in the beginning and sometimes you need the help of a good lactation consultant. Today he changed his baby's diaper while I changed Megan's and then whipped me up a nice meal of brown sandwich, black plum, and brown chicken cookie. He is going to make some girl (or boy) so happy one day...

Charlie now calls his magazines "Megan-zines."

Last night, I nursed Megan in the dim light of Dr. Who but she wasn't quite ready to drift off. She was determined to get the giraffe on her foot (don't you just love Carter's, except for the whole tagless causing chemical burns, of course) into her mouth. So, she would work on that for a minute and then nestle into my chest with her thumb only to pop back to the foot issue again. She did that a few times and then gave the cutest little baby yawn, popped her thumb in her mouth and stayed asleep until almost 11. I realize other people would consider that a "bad sleeper" but any baby that goes to sleep without full-on hysterics (on both our parts) is a blessing in my book.

One of Charlie's favorite phrases is "Let's count them." Interestingly, there are 16 of a surprisingly large number of things in our house. The thing I find most interesting about this is that it was clearly learned while he was at "school" (mother's day out). It's so odd to realize he now has a life beyond his experiences with me.

Another phrase he must have heard at school was "I love..." While we say "I love you" with regularity it was only recently that he started using it in the more colloquial context. Of note, Charlie loves the following: fans, trashcans, and smoke detectors. This will make for an interesting Christmas.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Baby Wearing Scandal!

You may have noticed that I'm a wee bit crunchy. I wouldn't say I'm quite granola yet but I could definitely be cheerios with a splash of (locally produced and/or organic) milk.

One of the ways in which I manage to be both crunchy and practical is with baby wearing. We got both a sling and Ergo with Charlie. He hated both with a passion for quite a while, particularly with me. And then, one day, when he was about 8 months old he decided he liked the Ergo and my arms finally stopped aching at the end of the day and we could make it through a whole grocery trip without tears from either of us.

When Megan was born, she was popped in the sling until she was developmentally ready for the Ergo without the infant insert whether she liked it or not. It's the only practical way to manage a shopping trip with a toddler and an infant.

Baby wearing has a bit of a learning curve. You have to have things adjusted correctly and you may have to experiment with different "carries." You also have to be a bit picky about your carrier. Some aren't terribly ergonomic- the baby Bjiorn is notorious. But, within a week, with a well designed carrier you can carry your baby around with no more strain than you would have with a bookbag and less than if you were trying to simply carry the baby in your arms or on your hip. The Ergo is a godsend while Megan is in her all mommy, all the time phase. I can strap her on and do what needs to be done and she's happy and/or napping and I'm not loosing my mind from a crying baby. There are some sticky spots. I don't like to cook with her in the carrier and I haven't been able to change Charlie's diaper with her in the carrier. Although, if she were on my back, these wouldn't be problems. Overall, I'm just not sure what the lady in this commercial is talking about but it does sound like she needs to get in touch with peppermint and get some help. Motrin, shame on you...

Thanks for bringing this little bit of nonsense to my attention Barb!

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I signed up to do daily updates on a breast feeding blog and forgot! I will try to do better. I had been able to update while Charlie napped and Megan bounced (heaven knows I don't want the naps to overlap- Megan falling asleep just as Charlie gets up is some much more restful and refreshing) but Megan has been clingy and the time change killed Charlie's naps and there we are...

Anyway, I have a new project. I think I would like to be a lactation consultant when I get to be something in addition to Mommy again. I have been looking into being a La Leache League Leader but I'm not sure it's for me which is unfortunate since that would have probably been one of the most efficient ways of doing it. So, for now, I thought I would focus on doing something about getting some sort of nursing degree. It's much easier to be employed as an LC if you are also a nurse although, I have to find out some more information since I would rather not take a side trip as an L and D nurse for 3 years while trying to get the requisite breast feeding education experience. I was thinking about an LPN but it appears I can get my RN with about 1 semester more of work so I think I will probably try for that. Of course, not much will start for a bit yet. I would like to be getting a consistent 5-6 hours of sleep a night before stabbing people with sharp instruments for fun and profit. I'm also a bit nervous about if I will do well in my practica. I am sure I can handle the medical aspects of being an LC and I think I could probably swing doctor's office nursing and that sort of thing but I have visions of not handling the OR terribly well but it seems like motherhood is wonderful desensitizer to all manner of bodily fluids so at least I have that going for me. To wander to my point...

I am always hearing about various mothers going back to get their teaching licence when times are rough because then they will have the same schedule as their children. I have to admit that I once thought they had a point but, now that I look into it, it seems nursing has it all over teaching. I am reasonably certain that you can make twice as much as a nurse (easily) as a teacher, have a much more flexible schedule, shorter lead time, an easier time finding a job, and have to bring a lot less work home with you. Per Diem work seems ideal for a mother, if nothing else works out. After all, you will probably need to put your child in some sort of care some of the time as a teacher. Even if you have to put your child in care for half the summer as a nurse, you will most likely still come out ahead. It seems to me that should my DH leave us tomorrow I think I would want an RN after my name way more than my current MEd.