Should parents pay for their childrens’ college?: A deliberately controversial post

A common discussion on PF blogs is whether or not parents should pay for a kid’s college education.  The discussants generally fall into two camps:  Yes, we are trying to save for it now (though often they don’t go into why) and here’s how, and No, we think kids should pay for their own education mainly to help build their character.

We at Grumpy Rumblings will flesh out some of these reasons, and discuss why we think some of the reasons may be more or less valid.

Yes:  Graduating without student loans is a great gift and can provide kids with a head start in life once they graduate.  They will also be better able to concentrate on their studies if they’re not forced to work all the time or go into massive debt.

No:  Kids whose parents pay may not take college seriously.  They may be more likely to goof off or drink or skip class etc.  College is expensive and parents should take care of their own wants and needs– kids can work or take out loans.  Learning how to pay off college loans isn’t a bad lesson.

Yes or No depending on your perspective:  Some of the differences in beliefs about paying for college seem to be in part class based.  One potential effect of parents paying for college is that students can follow what they’re interested in in terms of majors without having to think about how profitable that major is.  If you come from a privileged background, then being able to major in anything, even a *gasp* humanities major, is a benefit.  If you come from a less-privileged background, this may be considered to be a waste.  Similarly being allowed to experiment with different majors can be seen as a plus or a minus depending on the parent’s viewpoint.  Is college a coming of age experience vs. career preparation?  Is the goal to make the most money or to leave the world a better place?  One’s view of college depends greatly on one’s background.

What we think:

We do not believe that the best way to get kids to care about the value of an education is to make them pay for it.  The value of education in general can be instilled at home from an early age.  And if it doesn’t take, then we doubt that forcing the kid to work 40 hour weeks is going to make hir any more likely to attend class.  In fact, we think it’s going to make hir more likely to sleep through class if ze attends at all.  If that’s the case, then perhaps ze should be doing something else besides going to school.  #1’s parents paid 100% for her college education.  #2’s parents left her with a reasonable loan load.  They both took college very seriously, seriously enough to get into good graduate schools.

One thing that really bothers us is when wealthy parents refuse to pay at all for college.  The ones who value fancy cars and exotic vacations over paying for some of the kid’s tuition.  The problem is that when your parents are poor, you are pretty likely to get financial aid at some portion of the schools to which you’re accepted.  However, if you’re rich, that’s much less likely to happen unless you luck into some pretty amazing merit or sports scholarships.  That means a poor kid may be on the hook for 10K in subsidized loans after graduation, but a rich kid 40+K unsubsidized from a state school or upwards of 200K from a private school.  Even if the rich kid has had more opportunities K-12, it still seems to be an unfair burden to be on the hook for full-tuition with four years of unsubsidized loans.  Less wealthy parents should obviously secure their retirements first and their kids are likely to not come out with as horrific loan burdens precisely because of financial aid.

No matter what you decide, it’s a good idea to let kids know early on what to expect.  I felt so bad for my friends who applied and got in awesome places but then had to do 2 years at community college because their parents figured Hawaii and/or a new car was a better deal that year than paying some of the tuition at Dartmouth or Notre Dame.  On the other hand, knowing that I could go anywhere because my parents had been saving their whole lives opened up a world that would eventually propel me into a higher economic class.  If I hadn’t known I could go anywhere (and given how little money we had growing up, I wouldn’t have assumed I could), I might not have aimed as high.

Update:  Cherish the Scientist asks about her situation.

Do you think these reasons are valid?  Where do you stand on the paying for kid’s college education question?

A deliberately controversial post: The sins of the parents

should be visited on the kids.

This is a sentiment we often see on the internets.

Schools in poor neighborhoods are often terrible.  If the parents cared, they’d homeschool or move. (Because that’s totally an option for single moms on EITC working minimum wage jobs as best they can.)

We shouldn’t improve the quality of school lunches.  If parents cared, they’d be feeding their kids organic meals full of veggies made from scratch every night so one meal a day wouldn’t hurt them.

Personally we suspect a lot of this sentiment is disguised racism.  Who cares about black kids or Hispanic kids.  It’s their fault for being born something other than anglo-saxon.  But maybe not– the internet seems to think just as poorly of rural white parents from West Virginia.

We also suspect it’s a way that middle class folks feel superior.  We’re not like THOSE people.  Our kids will do just fine because we’re so wonderful.  Our schools are great not because everyone else in our neighborhood is able to pay higher property taxes, but because we made the decision to be (white and) middle class.

It’s parents’ fault is the repeated refrain.  That’s why schools are crumbling.  That’s why kids are fat.  That’s why kids are in bad schools.  Or don’t get enough to eat.  Or get kidnapped or shot.

We at Grumpy Rumblings say:  WHO CARES?

Whether it’s parents fault or not, Won’t somebody think of the children?

Kids could have crappy parents and still get a great education if all kids had access to great schools.  Sure, some kids may be too damaged to benefit from even the best interventions, but what about the bulk of kids who could benefit?  Who through no fault of their own are stuck in poverty with little way out?  Imagine if they had great preschools, safe neighborhoods, healthy food, high quality K-12… the chance to take a calculus class.  Maybe they’d have a chance to live the American Dream.

Even if their parents suck.

Cleanliness is next to cleanser in the dictionary: a deliberately controversial post

Why do we have to train our kids to want to be tidy?

Yes, we need our kids to be polite and respectful of others’ spaces.  They need to know the basics of how to clean a floor or a dish or make a bed or whatever, because some day they may be a guest in someone else’s house and when you’re in someone else’s house you need to be a good guest.   But why do they need to get uneasy, unhappy, upset, etc. when a room isn’t clean?  Isn’t the ability to deal with a little bit of mess a much more important skill than the need to make sure a room is clean?

Many (but not all) women I talk to can’t even comprehend this idea.  They look at me like I’m nuts.  Eyes narrow.  Conversation gets really awkward.  Cleanliness really is next to Godliness and is something we should all be striving for and God hates those who don’t clean up after themselves.  Usually it’s women who are SAHM or who are WOHM but always stressed out and complaining about not having any time and having husbands who don’t help out enough that are most unable to comprehend the idea.   Really, just let things go.  It may even help your relationship!

(For some reason, I’ve never met a man, other than the rare case who has been formally diagnosed with OCD, who seems to have this hang-up.   A pathology in men is the social norm for women.  IBTP.  Also:  think about the implications this situation has for gender division of chores in a game theoretic framework.  The person who cares is the one who does the work.  The one who does the housework gets to relax less at home.  And bam, you’ve just supported a Gary Becker hypothesis about wage-gender differentials.)

But I think they *can’t* let things go because having things cluttered really bothers them.  It gets down deep into the craw.  And yet they want their children to have the same disability.  The same visceral need to have the place be spotless.  As if it’s a virtue.

I don’t mind a house being clean, but I don’t mind it being messy either.  Messy houses are more comfortable.  Clean houses are more like places one goes to visit.  Both have their virtues, but neither one bothers me.  Obviously there’s a problem with broken glass, rusty nails, excrement etc… but that kind of thing is not going to be an issue with the average family (even if news reports make that kind of thing seem more common).

We don’t have a house-cleaner.  We don’t need our house to be spotless.  We don’t need it to be tidy.  If company comes, we clean.  If stuff is in the way on the floor, it gets moved out of the way.   It doesn’t take that much cleaning to make sure that the kitchen and bathrooms aren’t going to be giving anyone salmonella.  Things that need to be found in a hurry are organized (like spices or paperwork).  But that level of cleanliness sure as heck doesn’t require the fly-lady.  Or spending $80/week on a cleaner.

Disclaimer:  We are NOT saying there’s something wrong with you if your house is clean.  If you have the time or the money and it’s something you value, go for it.  But if you don’t have either and it’s stressing you out, we feel bad for you.  Sure, one solution might be to somehow find time, money or family support to get things shiny, but another is to work on being more comfortable with something less than perfection.  And the ability to live with imperfection is a gift we should give all our daughters (and sons).

Does your house have to be clean?  Do you need to train your kids to become neat and tidy?  Does a made bed (Gretchin Rubin’s hang-up) or kitchen sink you can see your face in (flylady’s thing) make that stress you didn’t know you had go away?  Are you unable to function in a cluttered environment?  Do you worry about “what others must think”?  Does a messy house make you feel like less of a person… less of a woman?

Should kids come first? A deliberately controversial post.

My kids don’t come first. My FAMILY comes first. Kids who come first end up being entitled little pricks with helicopter parents who are PITA in the classroom and in life until they get beaten down when they’re finally away from their parents. Our family is a team with all members equally important (based on need and so on) and all members pulling their weight. My family has produced generations of strong successful responsible middle-class working women and men who are proud of their parents and siblings with this strategy.

You can try to guilt me into thinking I’m a terrible mother, but what I do worked for my mother and her mother and her mother before her and so on. I turned out perfect, as did my sister (as did my mom and aunts). My kid is turning out perfect. If I changed anything, then we might move away from that optimum. My kid is strong and independent and loved and ze’s not going to be the one who is helpless at college when it comes to taking care of hirself. Ze’ll be the one showing other kids how to do their laundry or grocery shop and so on, just like I was. There’s a satisfaction in being able to do things yourself.

You can try to make me feel guilty for being selfish instead of selfless.  You can quote Horatio Storer at me, that 19th century intellectual who worked tirelessly to ban abortion, among other things.  This ideal that the angelic innocent mother should sacrifice herself for her children (her sons, really… daughters are only important if they’re going to bear grandsons) is an upper-middle-class Victorian ideal made possible only on the backs of the starving working class of an industrializing society.  They’re the products of modern surplus.  And one that my family has never bought into– we were too tied to the land at that time, traveling across the Western US in covered wagons.  Pioneer women don’t have time to stand on pedestals or to raise Little Lord Fauntleroys.

And because we all had to pull our fair shares, whether to stay alive or just to make the work-life balance work for everyone, we perhaps grew up thinking that we should spoil our parents rather than the other way around.  We should do chores without being asked.  We should do our best to behave and entertain ourselves.  And it’s much more pleasant spending decades as a mom being treated a little bit like a princess by spouse and progeny after waiting on one’s own mother (though we call it “helping out” and “being thoughtful”), than it would be having to reverse that.  It’s nice having something to look forward to rather than something to dread.  (Guilt-free too!)

And that is definitely not to say that SAHP are, by definition, helicopter parents. They’re not. Most of them have lives outside their children. Most of them know how to discipline their children so they don’t try to brain other kids with tool-boxes. But folks who try to lecture me on being a bad person because I don’t have to work but I do anyway (or who were passive-aggressive at my mom growing up)– IRL at least, their kids tend to be spoiled brats incapable of polite relations with society.  That probably has nothing to do with their choice in work-status.  But the idea that they have to martyr themselves because the children come first and all mothers who aren’t martyrs are, by extension, miserable sinners… well, that’s not really healthy for anyone.  Especially not their daughters.  Or for their sons…

Bottom line:  Family first as a team.  Children first makes for a pretty depressing adulthood for the kids to look forward to and may result in a lack of  grandchildren.

What say you?  Kids first?  Family first?  Furbabies first?

Should we ever make kids do things they don’t want to do? A deliberately controversial post

We grew up Catholic, so obviously we grew up with the underlying philosophy that a lot of things that are good for you are painful.  “It builds character,” my mother would say anytime I’d complain.  “Yes, just think of all the years I’m burning off of Purgatory,” I would reply.

There was also that Midwestern Protestant stoicism telling us what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger.  We’re not sure how much we believe it, but it is in our blood pushing us ever onward.

That’s not the message we hear coming out of the coasts, the NYTimes, the mommy forums… That message is that if kids don’t like something, they shouldn’t have to do it.  Schools shouldn’t give homework.  Kids shouldn’t do extra-curriculars they don’t like (or at all!).  Tiger Moms are horrible people.  Five year olds should be red-shirted so they can play in the dirt another year before starting school.  Kids need to play, not learn.  Why do kids need to read?  (But… but… my kid LOVES reading/learning/math.)  I think Cloud said it best when she talked about adults projecting that they wished they had lots of free time on their kids (and, as a corollary, that they don’t like math).  The Rousseau dream-child concept is still hard at work.

(Somehow when it comes to a gifted kid being bored, then they really need to learn to be bored… it’s ok to force a kid to be bored but not ok to force a kid to do activities.)

I did swimming lessons for 7 years, but didn’t want to quit.  I had to do piano lessons for 9 years.  I’m glad I wasn’t allowed to quit.  I did Ballet lessons for 5 years.  I wish I’d been allowed to quit a lot earlier.  I did Catholic Sunday School or CCD until I was in 4th grade, despite constant complaining.  I’m not sure if I wish I’d been allowed to quit sooner or not, considering I switched religions and went of my own volition once no longer forced to be Catholic.

Growing up there were many things I was forced to do I wish I didn’t have to do, and many things I’m glad I was forced to do, knowing what I do now.  Younger me isn’t a great predictor of older me’s preferences, and who knows if parents are better or not.  Hopefully they’re a little better.

So:  Bottom line:  We think that sometimes it’s ok for kids to do things in their best interest even if they don’t wannnna.  We still wish we hadn’t had to go to public school.  Blech.

Not enough controversy here?  Check out the cross-post at Scientopia guest blogs.

Grumpeteers?  Your thoughts?


Enrichment activities: A deliberately controversial post

We at grumpy rumblings are pro-learning.  There it is.  We came out and admitted it.  We think learning things is great!

We also think that in many cases K-12 schooling does not actually promote learning.  Especially for kids who are different from the average (or perhaps, different from the lowest common denominator in class, depending on where the teacher and school are aiming their instruction).

We are pro-learning-outside-of-school using whatever means necessary.  If you’ve got money and time, we’re pro-traveling out of state.  If you’ve got money and no time, we’re pro- summer camp and classes.  If you’ve got time and no money, we’re pro-whatever you can scrape together.

The current trend in the media these days is a back-lash against “over-scheduling” whatever that means.  (In the interest of giving us “opportunities they never had,” my parents had us highly scheduled… yet, we still managed to watch a lot of tv and read mountains upon mountains of books.)

I’m pro-summer activities.  I’m pro-me-working during the summer (more pro- getting paid for not-working, but so far no takers), and I’d rather DC be doing something organized (even something enriching!) than, say, playing with the power tools in the shed, which would also be enriching but dangerous.

My parents valued enrichment activities over stuff, so I took a lot of fun kids classes over the summer at the local community college.  They probably kept my interest up in learning since most of my K-8 so-called education was mind-numbingly boring.  I was usually the only girl and often one of the youngest in the math and science-related classes.

I wonder what kind of activities the other girls were doing.  Or if they were just learning to do chores.  I learned how to do chores too, even with piano lessons and swimming lessons and summer classes and softball and ballet and gymnastics and the play etc.

Even with the scheduling I had crazy amounts of free time.  I started and (sometimes) completed so many crafts.  How many pot-holders does a person need?  Weaving and bead weaving and friendship bracelets and those things you make with yarn that look like carpets and embroidery and knitting and sculpy and shellacing and quilting and goodness knows what else.  Possibly good for my small-motor skills, but did not translate into anything I can do today.  Although being able to mend is still a useful skill, as is cooking.

DH, of course, was learning how to do things like computer programming in his copious unscheduled free time.

There was also the kind of stuff we could do back 20-30 years ago but can’t do without adult supervision today.  Hanging out with the neighborhood kids, bike riding, tadpole catching, exploring, going to the park alone etc.

The best part of free time, of course, is visiting the library and reading.  Mmmm books.  After I ran out of children’s fiction I discovered the humor section upstairs in adult.  Then folk-lore.  Then fantasy, and that changed everything.

So, bottom line:  we think scheduled activities mainly suck for the parent doing the driving.  Kids are mostly still left with plenty of free time to goof off.  There’s probably some line where there’s too many activities but one probably only hits that after adding in a sport on top of everything else (or one goes to a challenging school that isn’t afraid of offending parents with homework).  We also worry that there’s differential opportunities, both scheduled and unscheduled, by gender.

Do you think kids today are too overscheduled?  Too underscheduled?  Where do you fall on the debate?  And do you think the gender divide is important?  If so, in what way?

Disclaimer:  DC is not currently scheduled to do anything because hir parents are lazy and the small town doesn’t have year round swimming lessons.  One of these days we’ll get a piano or a keyboard or something.

Homeschooling: A deliberately controversial post

We are not against homeschooling.

A lot of people who don’t do it are.  Their arguments include:

Lack of social interaction.  Not being with same-aged peers.  Home schoolers can’t possibly get all the academics they need.  Lack of extra-curriculars.  OMG, what about the sports.

These are pretty well straw arguments.

Our major point is that you should compare homeschooling to the alternative… and well, the alternative often sucks big-time.

Little social interaction beats mandatory interaction with Mean Girls, and if one wants voluntary social interaction there are about a million organized after school activities one can do, even if there isn’t an organized home schooling situation in your area.  And who needs same-aged peers when you’re out-of-synch?

Home schoolers tend to do better on average on the SATs and motivated ones can learn faster with an individualized curriculum when they don’t have to wait for their peers or spend all that time transitioning. All that wasted time being bored stiff counting ceiling tiles and the teacher won’t let you read under your desk.

Extra-curriculars can be paid for, as can sports.  If one cares about sports.  Which one doesn’t necessarily.  But public school often cares about nothing else, that and cheerleading.

(Aside:  We are a little creeped out by people who homeschool because they belong to a religious cult and don’t want to introduce evil influences like Harry Potter, but if they weren’t homeschooling they’d be sending their kids to cult schools.  Our little area of the Bible belt even has part-time schooling options for such folks.  Sure, they cost money, but in theory if the money is going towards the church anyway maybe it can count as part of their tithe.  Or some kind of financial aid thing can be worked out for tithing members.  Such folk are not the only people who homeschool, and we’d be creeped out by them even if they didn’t homeschool.  At least if they’re home schooling they’re not trying to ban books from the school library.)

We sure wish we had been home-schooled.  At least through middle school.  Especially middle school.  But elementary school too with only a few exceptions for stellar teachers (and those exceptions for only one of us).  But we weren’t.  And the therapy still hasn’t fixed all the trauma.

So we’re not homeschooling, and we hope we never have to (both because we work full-time and because one of us doesn’t have kids).  But more power to the folks who do.  Especially in this no-child-left-behind everyone-gets-a-trophy environment.  Especially if your kid is different and different is not what your school system is looking for.  Help your kids learn how to think and not have a sense of entitlement, and we’ll be happier when we get them in our classes.

What do you folks think?  Home schooling yea or nay?  Be respectful!  Your answers will be graded for critical thinking and grammar.  (Kidding!  We won’t grade your answers– we will just provide our usual thought-provoking probing questions to increase rather than cut-off conversation.  But still, be respectful.)

p.s.  This list is interesting.

p.p.s.  Confidential to PZ Meyer.  By not trying to fix your local school system you are also just as bad as those anti-vaxers.  In fact, you’re worse than the home schoolers you decry who pull their kids out of dangerous or failing districts because you should have all that extra time to join the school board etc. because you don’t have any K-12 kids to take care of.  Also, you should be donating money to the district to atone for not having (more) kids, at least the amount that they’re not getting in federal funding.  How dare you be so selfish.  We will be ranting this in full at a later date (title:  Stupid “You should be doing more” arguments from people who aren’t doing anything) .  [Update:  In case it isn't clear, this confidential is sarcasm-- we think property taxes are enough mandatory supporting of public schools for *everybody*, with or without children.  If you want to do more, great, but there's a reason we have taxes.  Maybe those taxes should be higher or the federal contribution should be higher to poorer districts, but that's an issue to take up politically, not on the backs of individual children.]

On labels: A deliberately controversial post

Since y’all seem interested in talking about labels, we thought we’d give you the opportunity.

Gifted, fat, frugal, cheap, rich, poor, pretty, female, black, midwestern, Jersey…

The brain needs to categorize things.  That’s why mental accounts work so well for public finance.  Labels help humans organize the world around them.  We’re more than the sum of our labels, but people have a hard time perceiving others without them, at least until they get well-acquainted.

We contend that it’s not the label… it’s what people do with it.

Labels can be used for good.  The can help people get the help they need.   When you have a disease or syndrome, it’s nice to have a diagnosis even if there’s no cure. They can tell us about differences between groups.  And they can help human brains make sense of large amounts of information.

Labels can be used for evil.  They can be used to pigeon-hole people into categories and stereotypes.  They can cause people cognitive dissonance, or to try to become something they wouldn’t be without the label.  People can treat those with labels in ways they shouldn’t be treating anybody.  Mislabeling can cause problems too.

So, what do you think:  Are all labels bad?  Are labels necessary?  When?  What would a world without labels look like?  Have you ever been in a situation in which having a label helped or hurt you?

Starting to understand the feminist backlash…

If women do anything other than spend time reaching the top pinnacles of their careers, they’re destroying the feminist sisterhood.  Financial independence is something only men are allowed to strive for.

If women don’t clean their toilets and instead hire other women to clean their toilets they’re destroying the feminist sisterhood.  (Corollary:  You  can only pay men to do household services.)

If women don’t have househusbands, they’re destroying the feminist sisterhood.

If people say, “breast is best,” they’re destroying the feminist sisterhood.

If women talk about their own experiences on a blog, they’re destroying the feminist sisterhood.

If women don’t speak up at work, they’re destroying the feminist sisterhood.  If they do speak up, they’re silencing other women, thus destroying the feminist sisterhood.

If a woman actually admits that she’s a mother and occasionally talks about her children in professional contexts, she’s destroying the feminist sisterhood.

You know what?  I don’t believe any of the above.  I think that folks who say the above are working for the patriarchy.  The patriarchy wants us to have more guilt instead of less.  To not be allowed happiness because we’re too busy striking blows against dog knows what.  The patriarchy wants us to believe there’s one experience allowed.  The patriarchy wants us to ignore empirical evidence and go with our gut.

I could go off on any of the above examples, but I’ll just stick with one.

It’s an empirical question whether or not breast is best.  At the moment, the best scientific evidence is that breast is best (barring medical problems), but formula (which is getting better all the time) won’t kill a kid and is a good alternative unless you’re in a country which has unsafe water supplies.  Effect sizes are generally small in developed countries in the best controlled studies and more research is needed.  Sure, the message is coming on too strong in say, urban mostly-white parts of California where women who were unable to breastfeed because of medical reasons or lack of support are made to feel guilty.  Breastfeeding can be hard.

But the message that breast is best is novel in parts of the country (and world) that are still suffering from formula companies’ stronghold that there’s something wrong with breastmilk and a scientific formula is much better for a baby (my parents have spent a lifetime of boycotting Nestle for spreading these messages in areas with unclean water).  In these areas in the US breastfeeding is looked down upon and there’s no support, even condemnation.  Obviously you’re going to formula feed whether you work outside the home or as a SAHM because only the rich college professors nurse, and not even all of them.  The lady at the local WIC office tells me that they often have mothers coming in feeding their infants Gatorade because they think it’s healthy and nutritious because it is a sports drink.  For these folks, the message that breast is best is a big deal.

(Also note:  in parts of Africa and other places where HIV/AIDS is rampant, the same NGOs that once tried to convince everyone that breast is best are now trying to convince mothers to use formula instead of breastmilk, to reduce the infants’ chances of getting HIV [or more exposure if they are trying to seroconvert] from their infected mothers.  There’s also a lot of research going on trying to get folks in areas without plumbing to make it a habit of always having clean water [there are several mechanisms for sterilizing water, but they all take time, so even when you have the mechanism for cleaning, you may not have clean water on hand when you need it]… HIV vs. diphtheria is a difficult trade-off.)

Yes, there are still parts of the country where mothers who want to do the best thing really do believe that formula feeding is the best thing to do.  They don’t trust their bodies, they do trust large corporations and the doctor who gives them a big can of free formula at birth.  (The nurses thought I was crazy when I gave mine back.  Apparently nobody here does that.  I did keep the formula logo diaper bag.)

The message that breast is best can help pave the way for services and legislation that make it easier for women who do not have the cultural support they need to make a go of nursing to be more likely to be able to.  There has to be some demand before employers make changes or government forces them to do so.  The guilt should never be on the woman, but don’t confuse that with the idea that the message is the enemy.

Breast is best and we should make it easier for women to combine nursing with employment.  Breast is best and we should provide support for women to be able to nurse because it has a steep learning curve.  Breast is best, but we will not condemn women who were unable to do it.  Breast is best, but formula is a fine alternative.

Anyhow… I also don’t believe that the majority of feminists believe the above statements about destroying the feminist sisterhood.  Or at least not all of the above statements.  I think there’s a small vocal minority who do, for reasons that I do not understand, but could speculate on.  I wish they wouldn’t.  Let’s let empirical evidence and logic guide our recommendations and try to make the world a happier place.  Because I sure wouldn’t want to live a life like the ideal person not destroying the feminist sisterhood (80 hrs at work, then come home to clean), even if it were possible and not self-contradictory.

Your turn.

Why do I have everything?

I’m so sick of posts talking about how women can have everything, just not at the same time (a Claudia Goldin quote, I believe… she was talking about the generation of women who are now retiring).

I especially hate the way that disagreeing and saying, “Hey, I have everything” makes me look like a jerk.  Folks should be able to say, “I have everything and you can too.  You may not have it now, but if you keep trying it can happen.”  People shouldn’t have to apologize for being awesome.  People shouldn’t have to say, “The only reason I’m awesome is because I have had advantages that you don’t (so don’t even bother trying).”  The truth is that we can all be awesome, or at least awesomer than we are now, but some of us have to work harder than others at becoming awesome because of differences in advantages.

Here’s why I have everything.

I’m smart.  I have good genetic material.  A family that values intelligence.  My mom ate crazy healthy when I was in the womb.  My parents were active with me as a baby.  My house was full of books.  But smart isn’t just an inborn trait, it’s something you have to use and nurture by growing dendrites and taking on challenges.  You can become even smarter, starting now.  (Read Mindset by Carol Dweck.)

I’m focused.  I know what I want and I make plans on how to get there.

I’m well-prepared.  I’ve sought out and taken many educational opportunities.  I understand the culture I’m working in (I didn’t at first, but I learned and changed).  I had solid training.  My parents also gave me tools to navigate the adult world… I can budget, invest etc.  If I can’t do something I know how to find out what to do.  The best thing my mother ever taught me was how to use the library.

I’m determined.  I’m not a shrinking violet.  I know I’m valuable.  If I’m not getting what I want, I figure out how to get it.  I don’t have everything I want, but I’m going to keep trying until either I do or I decide I want to try a different game.  I realize that often opportunities don’t fall into my lap, but I can ask for them (firmly and politely).  And if some people think I’m not staying in my place, that’s their problem, not mine.  Sometimes I strike out, but I still go up to bat.

I’m hardworking.  I no longer work 80 hour weeks, but I sure don’t work less than 40 hrs/week either.

I have a growth mindset.  Set-backs are simply set-backs.  We learn from them and work harder to get ahead.

I have the perfect partner.  We don’t fight.  We don’t guilt.  We shoulder the load.  We comfort.  We support.  We look for solutions together.

I’m not a martyr.  I don’t see any reason that I should have to sacrifice myself for anybody or anything.  Yes, I did all the “right” things when DC was a baby, but never at huge sacrifice to myself, and I got to decide what was “right,” after a lot of research.  I did what I did because that was what I wanted to do because I thought it was the right thing, not because I wanted people to think I was a saint or because I was trying to convince myself not to feel guilty for whatever reason.

I’m lucky.  Also privileged by geographic and demographic virtue.  I have to work harder than a white male from a tony family but I don’t have to work as hard as an equally perfect female from an underrepresented minority family would to get to the same place.  I don’t have to work as hard as someone from another country, and being an American gives me untold advantages and safety.

Perhaps most importantly:  I get to define “everything.”  My goals are achievable.  I don’t want to work 80hrs/week and be at home for my child 168hrs/week.  I want a happy independent kid who works to hir own chosen potential.  I want to be respected in my career and to do good work.  I want to be continually growing.  I want to make enough money (and spend reasonably enough) not to have to think about it unless I want to.    (#2 thinks that the ability to have it all depends on how you define “it” and “have”.  Do I sound Presidential?)

Anyhow.  If you’re feeling unhappy about your lot in life, instead of complaining about how women just can’t have everything in yet another blog post… well, ask yourself what you can do to get what you want.  Changing the game is difficult, but there are still strategies you can use to get ahead as a player.  And it’s not fair that it takes more effort for some groups than others, but if that’s what it takes, then that’s something you can do.

What can you do to make your life better?  Are you trapped?


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