Single Parenting and the Decline of the Middle Class

Of course you’ve heard all about how the wage disparity between the classes is the worst its been since the days of the robber barons. I needn’t tell you about the middle class working longer hours for less pay nor about how 80% of the national wealth is owned by 20% of the population (if it is even that much of the population; i’ve seen figures showing less).

I’m not going to complain, mind.  I am grateful for the life we are able to afford:

heat (which has been a bit spendy this winter)
whole or organic foods / pastured meats
access to information
personal transportation
clothing as needed
more than adequate housing

but also:

our house is 1400 sf.  This is more than adequate for our family; indeed, I can’t see owning anything larger because….there’s that much more to clean…but it is on the “small” side in our current culture of mega-homes (I see this trend changing even now)
Our cars are at least 10 years old (safety is an issue here for mine; we’re looking to buy something newer/safer this spring, altho not NEW. I’m grateful we’ll be able to do that)
We keep the thermostat at 60 to save heating expenses.  We haven’t frozen yet.
I make as much as possible from scratch to make our food money go further. It means much more time in the kitchen (I’m grateful to be able to do have the flexible time to do it)
The pittance of income that I actually earn sometimes causes a great deal of stress with my child (again, grateful I can do it, however)
We don’t have cable TV (we don’t even have a TV) nor do we have Xbox or Wii or whatever-the-current-thing-is
Our furniture is second hand, cheaply bought or hand=me-down (and looks it!), excepting the few good pieces that have been handcrafted by my amazing stepdad and his wondrous wood-working skills.

the list goes on but what I’m getting at here is that we don’t live an extravagant lifestyle yet I personally am constantly reminded how good I really have it, especially when compared to most of the rest of humanity both in the whole history of the world and currently.

I’m not complaining. My point here is that even the decent, comfortable middle class lifestyle that it sometimes feels we are scrimping for and ekeing out comes at a great cost.  T works for a Fortune 500 company and the job is one he enjoys and that we are glad he has.  But for the past month and a half he has been regularly working 6 days a week, 12 to 14 hour days due to the year-end schedule of accounting.  I think I’ve mentioned that he won’t even be able to take time off when his new baby is born, which is very soon.

While I appreciate that at no other time in history has life been so full of creature comforts and that most men have never had the luxury of “taking time off” (who cares for the animals if you don’t?  who gets the crops in on time if you don’t? that wood isn’t going to chop itself), still it’s easy to be bitter about the excess amount of work that is required of middle class employees these days, when they can’t even fully participate in seminal, milestone events, just to earn their salary (T’s is at the bottom of the range for his position. It’s not lavish but it is certainly enough). 

My Point:  The flipside, of course, is that, while husband works, someone still needs to care for the children. That someone is mom.

There are hundreds, thousands, millions of women for whom this is the default case and you know what? Women get by. They make it. They are tough. But regardless, it is hard to be the sole caregiver. I’ve only been doing it for 6 weeks or so but it is emotionally toll-taking, whether or not the mom admits it.  Again, our society is not set up to deal with this kind of situation right now.  In the past, when you lived next to your mother or your aunt or your sister or your schoolmate’s second cousin, the tasks were easier to accomplish (I guess. However the isolated pioneer women like Ma Ingalls did it, I’ll never know) or if not easier, at least you had the company of other women in your community to ease the path and help churn the butter.  The idea of the nuclear family that is so prevalent and so held as the ideal today is harmful and detrimental to not only the societal fabric but also to mama’s sanity!

There will be an end for me and fortunately I am in the position to be on the recieving end of further help when the time comes to add to the family.  But scrimping, saving and working unconscionable hours, while the reality for most in our society today, is in the long run an unteneable situation. 

Who knows what will come next?  I very much wonder.  Perhaps not a lifestyle that is easier but perhaps a lifestyle that is made easier by a restoration of family and communal contact.

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Across the Road

This is the view across the road. Can you hear the roosters?

Thaw

Mid-February. Time for a thaw.  But here are a few pictures from a few weeks ago, when we had a real, downright, honest-to-goodness snowstorm.  Hardy, intrepid, dumb pregnant, bacon-craving soul that I was, I ventured to the farmer’s market to get a few pounds of bacon:

Last Days

This is the last time I will ever be pregnant and as much as I try to keep that in mind, to keep the perspective that the childbearing phase of my life will soon be over…I’m tired. Yes, I am.  Gestation is hard work, albeit quiet. I don’t complain too much (ok, yes I do) but I’m not one of those women who is in love with being pregnant.  

There’re too many indiginities that come along with it to make it very palatable to me: the weight gain (by the way, I am NOT keen on this new double chin that has developed. Not at ALL), the swelling, the potential health complications, shortness of breath, all the aches, being unable to move naturally. Do you know how stressful it is to almost but not quite make it to the potty with a full bladder…in front of your three year old, who is horrified to see you do something that he does regularly everyday, to wit, wet his pants?  *sigh* 

Sure, it’s kind of cool to feel the baby move but I’m underwhelmed, usually, by all the rest.  I suppose it is a miracle of work that my body is doing, but to me it more feels like biology. Maybe I’m just a cynic.

I am so ready to be done with this…and that is saying something because you know what comes next, right?  Three more years of not sleeping, that’s what comes next. Babies are ok but I’m finding that the older my Tyrant gets, the more fun he becomes.  But maybe it’ll be different this time around, if I’m not so stressed about “OH MY SWEET LORD THERE’S A BABY HERE AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH IT” like I was with the Tyrant.

time will tell. And not too much more time, at that.

To be frank, I look forward to labor and delivery as much for the challenge of it as to get this discomfort over with.  I know. I’m kind of weird that way: that whole, I am woman, hear me roar thing.  I don’t roar too much so I guess popping out a baby all by my ownself is as close to roaring as I can get.

Did you know that the effort of unmedicated childbirth involves the same physical effort and the same endorphin release as climbing a mountain?  Just saying.  it’s the one extreme sport I can do without the risk of breaking another ankle, I guess.

These last few weeks and days have heightened the poignancy of my last days as a dyad with Miles.  it will never again be just the two of us. Of course, the whole motivation for #2 came from providing a playmate, a sibling for him (I have the weirdest reasons for pro-creating…with Miles, it was for the challenge and the growth that can only come through parenting another person.  well, it has been that for sure) so I’m not overwhelmed with sadness nor do I fear that I’ll have enough love to “go around”.  It is just a little bittersweet; he’s been my main guy for the past three years and now it will never be the same.

He’ll always be my first little guy, though.

Look how cute these diapers are though! Thanks, Amber, for the inspiration!

 

Plus some fun new carriers by moi

 

The flip side