Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Maternal Digressions

Maternal Digressions
I hope that some day, being a mother will be seen as a normal part of life, and that mothers will be acknowledged as human beings. This site talks about the way women are treated when pregnant, when breastfeeding, and generally in mothering their children. Not well, especially when you consider how important the next generation's health (mentally and physically) is to the world's well-being. Being a mom is a 24/7 profession, and should pay as such. Sure, we are rewarded by seeing our children grow and develop. However, it's difficult to focus entirely on mothering when you have to worry about money because being a mom doesn't pay anything. It should. Society should pay a woman well to stay home (if that is her choice), well enough that she doesn't have to have an anxiety attack every time she spends money for groceries.

In traditional societies, childrearing is a part of everyday life, shared by all, and is integrated into the activities that support the family. Children help gather and prepare food, as well as provide help in making tools and other necessary items. They learn as they go, they are a part of the family and the community as a whole. Sure, they play, but they are enveloped in a constant context that includes all ages and generations. In our society, they are often shunted off to daycare at a few weeks old, and spend the majority of their time once mobile either doing busy work or being ignored and left to fend for themselves with other similarly aged children as models. This is because we have decided that children are best kept separate from adults as much as possible, due to their not having anything valuable to contribute. This dooms them to feelings of inadequacy and feeling abandoned. Even if a woman does stay home to care for young children, she is often so isolated from others that she gets depressed, or ends up sticking the kids in front of a video so she can get some time with other adults. What's wrong with this picture? Plenty!
What's the solution? Homeschooling, or unschooling, at least de-institutionalizes children, but it leaves them cut off from the adult world in many cases, simply because they don't fit in to the hushed, sterile, maze-like world so many adults toil in day by day (the lucky white collar workers, anyway). Is there a way to fit children into the real world without enslaving them or totally disrupting the world of work? Should the factories, offices, stores, etc. be so serious and locked down that children wouldn't fit in? I realize that child labor is not exactly what we need to go back to, in the sense of children being forced to put in long hours in noisy, dirty, dangerous, conditions. But should anyone work like that? Shouldn't work itself be changed, so as to make it less slavery like? Or would that be some sort of radical revolutionary thing? I don't know.

Locked out of the American Dream

So today (actually yesterday now, it's the middle of the night) I was at a mommy's group get together at this woman's house not far from here. They just bought it for a little under $500K, and are putting a lot of money into it as it was a fixer. She is a full time stay at home mom (sahm) like myself, so all the money must have come from her DH's job at the big local employer (the one that makes software that runs most of the computers in the world). Wow, that place must pay really well! And he must be pretty high up there, too. How else could they afford that? Then one of the other mamas in the group mentioned that she and her dh are building not one but two houses! Sure, she's working as a lawyer part time from home, which I'm guessing pays pretty well, but whew! Talk about brushing shoulders with the rich!

I guess it comes with the territory of being a sahm, since most women work and most women who don't work outside the home have husbands that are well paid, but I couldn't help feeling sorry for myself, and comparing our situation to theirs. We just got our bank statement, and it shows that we exceeded our income this month, again, and are now living paycheck to paycheck practically -- and this is without putting anything towards retirement! And we are living in an apartment. I know part of it is that our rent is going up a lot, and part of it is that ds and I took a trip back east to visit the ILs, but mostly it's the diet -- SCD is breaking us! All the vegetables and meats are just too much money! I would bet we spent over a thousand bucks on food. At this rate, with these kinds of housing prices, we will not be able to afford even the smallest, most worn-out house in this area without buying so far out we'd never be able to get to the nice places to shop like the farmer's Market, the natural food coop, much less fun places like the museums downtown. What's a poor girl to do?

I know I should be happy we have a regular roof over our heads, a car we can use (yes, we have only one car, dh walks to work), and food to eat. There are billions of people worse off than we are. We have internet access, a TV (no cable though) and enough clothes in relatively good condition not to have to wash them daily. Why can't I be grateful for what I have instead of seeing what I don't have? So, we have no garage. So, we have only a 2 bedroom apartment. We're not living in tent city, after all. We may never be able to own a home, but at least we can pay the rent. We have heat in the winter, hot running water, and wow, a washer and dryer (didn't have that growing up -- the washer and dryer that is).

Why is it that the homes here are so out of reach for so many? I mean, it's not as if dh works at a fast food place. He has a college degree, has been out in the working world for many years, but he obviously isn't being paid half what these other women's Dh's are being paid. Why not? Sure, his dad was a plumber who died young and left a widow with a high school education to support three boys. Sure, he's a laid-back hippie who would never want to negotiate for more pay or switch jobs a lot to increase his salary. But why should that mean that we are relegated to apartment living? What about all the teachers, grocery store clerks, bank tellers, and non-profit workers? At this point, even if we could find a house to rent for a reasonable amount, we couldn't afford to pay movers and are too old and physically unfit to move ourselves. I feel so trapped! Is this the depression talking?

I had meant to go on about how the median income in the area is almost double what dh is making, and how that meant that either he was underpaid or I was not supposed to be home with a kid, but I forgot about that. Yes, that's right, the median household income here, in our School District, is over $100K! That includes people who work at the grocery store, etc, which means that a lot of people are being paid really well, or else most women are working outside the home, or both. Where do we sign up to be paid like that? King County (our county) median household income is more like $60K, which is more in line with ours, but that must include inner city areas where there is no income along with rural areas where people can more easily subsist on less. I still can't help thinking, what about the Starbucks employees, the massage therapists? Where do they live? Do they have long commutes? Live with their parents?

Anyway, enough obsessing about money. I need to try to sleep!