An emotional update on the relatives: Also, a love note to having money

So, long-time followers of the blog may remember that one of the things we’ve committed to doing is paying college costs for DH’s relatives (5 kids, though technically we’ve only committed to the two oldest) in the hopes that they’ll be able to break out of the cycle of poverty that happens when you have several generations of rural teen pregnancy.

Unfortunately, the matriarch of this family branch is about to be a great-grandmother at the age of 56.  Our connecting relative is to be a grandfather at the age of 38.  The great-grandmother is, in fact, expecting three bouncing baby grandchildren this fall and the grandfather two.  His second oldest is having twins.  (An 18 year old step-cousin is having a singleton.)

This is a real shame, because the second is smart and has a solid GPA and solid ACTs.  She could easily have started a regional state school in the fall with money and would have gotten into the flagship had she applied (though probably not much financial aid there based on her scores).  She’d decided instead to commute with her sister to the community college for a year and then transfer– at that point, with college credit from high school she’d be a junior psychology major.

Instead, she recently found out that she’s heavily pregnant with twins and due in October.  We don’t know if she suspected earlier but was in denial or if she’s been lying– she had a surgery 3 weeks ago on her face that she should not have had if pregnant.

It’s too late for even considering an abortion and she doesn’t want to give the babies up for adoption (she did not think of it as an option).

They’re high risk in many ways– she is 17, she hasn’t been getting prenatal care (wasn’t even on vitamins), lives in a house with a smoker, she and her sister were both premature, twins… twins are an expensive proposition even when the circumstances are perfect.  Chances are these kids could have special needs, though we will hope they don’t.

One thing she has going for her that her parents didn’t was that even though she’s not marrying a boyfriend (hopefully they will work out paternity, hopefully the guy will pay support), her parents aren’t kicking her out of the house.  Her biological parents had to set up shop on their own when they were 16.  Unfortunately the previous matriarch who provided free child care passed away last year, and the current matriarch is still working.

There’s a supportive environment, possibly the more-so because the situation is so common.  The relative tells us that his other three kids and the extended family (on the step-mom who raised them’s side) have baby fever in anticipation.  They’ve been hitting up garage sales for baby things.

The oldest is still doing fine.  Her first year at community college went well and she’s proud she passed (with a B) her super-difficult science class even though most of the class dropped.  She’s still working her part-time nursing home job and the proceeds from that go towards her car so she can commute to school.  At 19, she’s broken the family not-getting-pregnant record.

The grandfather-to-be has no money.  The (step-)grandmother-to-be is finally working again, but as a waitress, so no time but not a huge income either.  The bio-grandmother-to-be has no money and owes years of back child-support.  The great-grandparents-to-be are also in huge amounts of debt– the husband is on disability, they own a farm (that they bought on credit from a scam artist… long story there) that costs them tons of money each year, the kids they decided to have in their mid-30s (instead of say, not kicking their 16 year old kid and his pregnant wife out of the house) are still living at home and not contributing to the family household.  There’s really nothing.  Nothing but family with no money and perpetual hands sticking out.  It’s terrifying.

If we didn’t have our own babies to consider, we’d do more.  As it is, we reminded the grandfather-to-be that we’d still be paying those college costs, so he doesn’t have to come up with $650 in tuition for the oldest or $200 in books.  Or $1000 for the second if they can make her going to school work.  (I think he’s not used to family members keeping promises, so he’s never thought of our offers as more than one-time deals.)

What this really makes us think about is how glad we are that we didn’t have children in our teens.  That we waited until we were out of school and had jobs that paid a good salary and a house and precautionary savings and an emergency fund.  We can handle emergencies.  We can send our kids to private school.  If, God forbid, one of our children becomes a parent in high school, we’ll be able to help without sacrificing our other child(ren).  We’d even be able to pay for daycare for twins if we needed to.  It will never be a question of who gets to go to school, or do we get to keep Netflix, etc.  Our children have a lot more second chances.

I love being upper-middle-class.  I wish everybody had the opportunities that we can give our children.  I wish it were easier to break out of cycles of poverty.  I wish we could do more, but we never know what to do, and there are things we could do that might make things worse.  And sacrifices we don’t want to make, not with us living on one salary and having a baby of our own.

Any suggestions for a 17 year old about to have twins?  Or a 38 year old dad who doesn’t understand why his kids are making the same mistakes he made, even though he’s tried his best to keep them from repeating the cycle?

84 Responses to “An emotional update on the relatives: Also, a love note to having money”

  1. Practical Parsimony Says:

    Anyone in any state can dial 2-1-1 and find the options for help in their area. I think the…okay, I just called it and got the message, “Welcome to 211 of Alabama.” I do believe that if I called from another state, I would get the message with the name of that state in it. This phone number will get you to someone that can tell you services available for pregnant mother, single mother, poor mother, homeless person regardless of gender, all sorts of situations where people need help. Needs can be diapers, formula, beds, help with childcare. I learned of this resource when I worked for a govt program as a teacher.

    Childcare management is a program where the mother can receive help with childcare while she goes to school–hs, GED, college. The relative can actually do the childcare and receive pay. The fee paid is on a sliding scale, depending on the household income.

    There are other options to dropping out of school. Talk with the school. They will accommodate. They sort of have to up to a point. There are online classes for college courses. Her progress may be slow with the last months of pregnancy and the demands of motherhood, but she can progress until she can go back fulltime. You should be very good at figuring this out for her.

    As for the father, he has given the girl no other model. He and his wife have probably never spoken about the girls going to school. In my home, neither parent went to college, but it was something we felt was not only possible but the best path to take and one we were expected to follow. Do the parents of the girl even have a GED? If not, maybe everyone should be studying. That would be a powerful statement!

    The smoker in the house should deal with going outdoors ALL the time to smoke. Look up third hand smoke. The toxins are all over the house and could be cleaned before the birth. The pregnant girl should not even be exposed to third hand smoke. Does anyone in the home realize that mothers who breath second-hand cigarette smoke are more likely to have premature births and infants with health problems?

    At any rate, try 2-1-1.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      You’re making unfair and untrue assumptions about the parents. And the father has an associates degree that he got when the two oldest were small, before his first wife left them. The step-mom does not but she has tried and failed to get one more than once (same with quitting smoking). That probably did make a statement but not the one you’re thinking of.

      She’s due in October. Thank you for the information on childcare management, they will have to see if it is available in their area.

  2. Practical Parsimony Says:

    I am sorry about the assumption and being unfair. I do now remember he had the associate’s degree. 2-1-1 is for more than childcare management. She can get diapers. This agency is not solely about pregnancy or women. The operators can give you information for help in any matter.

  3. Kemi Says:

    Welcome to my world, surrounded by a never ending cycle of underachieving and myself as one of the few breakthroughs and a lot of people around me asking for help. The fatal flaw, I am not Bill Gates and I just can’t help a lot of them. I’m glad I didn’t have babies in my teens.

  4. What Now? Says:

    Wow, this is tough all the way around. Good for you and DH for supporting the kids’ college plans; at least perhaps the oldest will break out of this cycle, and then maybe her younger siblings will have another model to follow.

  5. Holly@ClubThrifty Says:

    That is so sweet of you to offer to pay some of their college costs.
    I think it’s just normal within certain parts of society. I have some family members that have made similar mistakes/decisions and it’s heartbreaking. I hope that they can break the cycle with their own children!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We’re paying everything that isn’t covered by the Pell grant. Last year that was (to our pleasant surprise) about $200. I think it’s more this year because the step-mom has been working longer and the oldest has that part-time job, so they’re no longer in the lowest bracket for financial aid.

      The two oldest also have something like 1-1.5K in their 529s that we put in over the years, but I think the dad took our admonition not to pull it out under any circumstances so much to heart that he isn’t considering tapping it yet. I figured we’d wait to suggest to tap it once the oldest transfers to a 4 year school. Right now the costs aren’t hurting us too badly (though they figure into our decision not to prepay the mortgage much next month), but we may be happy they have that 529 money in a year or two.

      This is a reason we’d like to have more money. Forget fancy cars.

  6. Kellen Says:

    Two of my cousins (they are sisters) went off to England to work for a year, and both ended up pregnant around the same time, both moved in with their parents after.
    As a teenager, the risk of me getting pregnant was 0%, so I don’t know how kids end up this way if their family is really interested in making sure that they don’t repeat the cycle… I guess they might not have money for it, but you can make birth control much more accessible to your teenagers at least, right?? As a country, we definitely need to work on making birth control more accessible and acceptable. Abstinence only education is a joke.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I don’t know why they didn’t get her on birth control. We never thought to suggest it when the dad found out she was sexually active and I’m not sure it would have been our place to suggest it. (Instead she spent most of high school grounded.) She couldn’t have gotten it on her own because the nearest planned parenthood is over an hour away and she’d have no money for the doctor on her own.

      They do live in a state with good sex-ed, so it isn’t a knowledge issue in this case. There’s some psychological stuff affecting both her and her now-pregnant cousin I won’t go into on the blog because it’s not my story to tell, but she probably did not insist guys use condoms. Boy do I hate the patriarchy.

      • Practical Parsimony Says:

        I heard a psychologist on some talk show about teen pregnancy who said that she, an educated woman in her thirties, had trouble asking a sexual partner to use protection, so she did understand how an immature teen could not mention condoms.

        Actually, I do think it is the place of any adult to suggest birth control if the parent is not doing so when a child is sexually active. I had a friend whose 14-yr-old daughter was sexually active. When I strongly suggested birth control, the grandmother and the father asked if I thought that would be a good idea. Since the child’s older sister had two babies out of wedlock, I could not understand their lack of comprehension of the situation.

        Maybe birth control is something she needs monetary help with as much as funds for education.

      • morning star Says:

        It’s not too late to have that conversation about birth control, though – with both of the young women. If the one who’s pregnant is now accessing some prenatal care, this is a good chance for her to discuss options with a doctor, even getting a prescription for birth control pills that can be filled once the babies are born. & it’s also a good opportunity to discuss, with the older one, what BC options she’s considered. Especially if access to PP is difficult for them, if you feel able to have a frank and supportive discussion about BC use and/or help them access PP this might be a really helpful way to offer them some of the practical supports they need in order to then benefit from your generous education financial support.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        We live several states away and generally only communicate through their dad. But DH can ask him if he or his wife have talked to them about birth control or made it accessible to them. (Funny story, except not really– their last two kids were conceived while using multiple forms of birth control, and the last one the week before the dad had an appointment for surgery. Thankfully the surgery seems to have worked– their youngest is now in middle school.)

      • Leigh Says:

        There are also, unfortunately, guys in this world who refuse to use condoms. I am very appreciative some days that I have my own birth control for those reasons.

        I hate the patriarchy, but sometimes, in my social circles, I forget that it exists. That’s a good thing :)

      • rented life Says:

        It may not be your place to suggest it, but it can’t hurt–for the future. I knew it wasn’t my place with my husband’s nieces but they lived in the same kind of community. I tried to make it clear I was available if they wanted help getting it, no questions asked, explained how to use condoms and left it up to the girls. The mother wasn’t thrilled with me, but she flat out refused to talk about sex, periods, anything with these girls. She even signed them out of sex ed because she didn’t want them to learn from the school.

        I grew up in one of these communities. I feel for your family.

      • Kingston Says:

        I would like to make the pitch here, in the discussion of birth control for young people, for the IUD as a particularly reliable and perennially-overlooked method. The IUD seems to have fallen out of favor, and for the life of me I can’t understand why, except that it is impossible for companies to make a profit off of a form of birth control that is inserted once and lasts for 10 years. The problems with the IUD in the ’70s are not, so far as I know, an issue today. I myself have had one in for the last 11 years (yes, I’m overdue to have it removed!) with zero problems, and the women I know who have had them have loved them. The great thing about the IUD is that once it is in, there is no need to EVER remember a pill, or find a diaphragm/sponge/condom/whatever, or convince anyone else to do something to prevent a pregnancy. If you want to get pregnant, you have it removed. There need not be any hormones involved (there are hormone-laced IUDs and those without; not sure why people opt for the hormones when the non-hormone variety is completely effective. Maybe something to do with menstruation.). It is a good solution for people (like me) whose judgment in the heat of passion or organizational skills are not infallible. Of course, an IUD will not prevent STDs, so condoms should still be used, but we are talking about reality here — often, in the real world, nothing at all is used. If a girl had an IUD in place starting as a young teen, she’d be protected until her early 20s, which could be the difference between getting an education and breaking the cycle of poverty, or not. I wish the best for your relatives, and I admire your commitment to helping them.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        IIRC Manhattan doctor has a post about the Mirena (hormonal) IUD– it can be problematic and it’s being pushed a lot in media (because it is a money-maker). The regular IUD does not have those problems, however.

      • Contingent Cassandra Says:

        Like Kingston, I was thinking that suggesting long-acting birth control (IUD or implant) to the non-pregnant 19-year-old might make sense. Since there *is* some connection between not getting pregnant and being able to move on with her studies as quickly as possible (and since she’s a legal adult), I don’t think it would be out of place to mention it.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Perhaps. As far as we know, the 19-year old isn’t currently sexually active. But yeah, no harm in suggesting, or even suggesting that she drive her sister to Planned Parenthood. (It’s complicated right now because the 19 year old is spending the summer with her biological mother in another state, so we have no contact there.)

      • GMP Says:

        I currently have a Mirena as of 2 yrs ago, and I used to have a non-hormonal copper IUD when I was young (in my early 20’s), which was very similar to the US Paragard. Hormone-free IUDs are very popular in Europe, and they come in two sizes, one for women who gave birth and one (mini) for women who didn’t. I don’t understand why all this experience is not translated across the Atlantic, but whatever. Periods on the hormone-free IUD were heavier, more painful, and longer than usual, so obviously not a great choice for people with heavy periods already; Mirena, which slowly releases progesterone into your uterus and thins out the lining is likely a good choice for them, as periods become light to nonexistent with Mirena. That said, there’s the intermittent extra spotting with Mirena, also it may affect libido etc.

        My experience has been generally positive with both IUDs, but it’s not like either has been completely nuisance free. I was also on various pills for several years, so in my experience no form of birth control is both effort-free and nuisance-free. (If tying tubes weren’t so invasive, I would love to do it. I still might.)

        One thing we don’t think about much is that when you have easy access to birth control you can change it until you find something that works. Let’s say nicoleandmaggie’s niece gets an IUD but it doesn’t work out, which can totally happen (the side effects take a couple of months to subside and some people can’t tolerate them), what then? If getting an IUD was a stretch both logistically and financially and it fails, what’s next? All sorts of BC should free for everyone everywhere and easily accessible…

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Under the ACA it is, as of August, with exceptions only for name-brand when there’s a generic available. If, of course, you have health insurance.

      • myscientificlife Says:

        Huh, that’s interesting, I tried to get an IUD (hormonal one) and my doctor talked me out of it. She said because I hadn’t had any children that I wasn’t part of the target group. Also, at the time, many insurances did not pay for it.

      • Linda Says:

        So there seems to be a side commentary here about birth control. Like Myscientificlife, I was discouraged from getting an IUD several years ago because I hadn’t had a child and the GYN I consulted said that could make it difficult to insert. Instead, I had a tubal ligation. I haven’t regretted it one bit, although I did have to jump through a few more hoops than I expected. GMP, I’m not sure why you think of it as invasive, since it is usually an out-patient procedure these days. It does require you to go under anesthetic, so maybe that’s what you mean. I’m really glad I did it because it gives me peace of mind and has me off the hormones. It’s not a failsafe, but it is pretty darn close. My insurance paid for the entire thing, too.

      • GMP Says:

        myscientificlife and Linda: I know the mini versus regular size hormone-free IUDs exist in Europe but apparently not here in the US, which is really weird. I heard that insertion of full-sized ones is really painful for women who haven’t had kids (firm closed cervix and all that), but another thing that boggles my mind is that in Europe insertion is done during your period, when the cervix is open so insertion is less painful, whereas they don’t seem to do that here in the US. I really don’t understand these silly differences.
        Linda, re tubal ligation, it’s still abdominal surgery even if’s laparoscopic, and I am honestly mostly afraid of dying from a post-op infection.

  7. Pamela Says:

    She’s very lucky to have you. I think you can do your best to raise your kids a certain way, but it’s not just parents who have an influence, unfortunately. I’m glad they are sticking by her! This may slow her down a bit but it won’t necessarily stop her–here’s hoping she’s motivated to get her bachelor’s degree so she can support her children.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I don’t know how much we contribute in terms of lucky, especially since we live several states away. Her parents (her dad and step-mom who raised her, at least) are good people and they try to do the right thing. They’ve had very hard lives, especially the step-mom, and it’s easy to see why they make a lot of decisions that they’ve made even though those decisions might hurt in the long-run.

      Re: the bachelor’s degree… there’s that problem again that if she tries to get it she has to move away from family. I just can’t imagine that situation any time soon with twins. But they’ll figure out something eventually, I’m sure. Just maybe not right away.

  8. Dame Eleanor Hull Says:

    I have no advice, but I will say that I love—make that LOVE—my students who are single moms. They know why they are in school: for a better life for themselves and their kids. They don’t always have time to do their homework, but if they’re not doing it, it’s because someone had an ear infection or a tummy bug, not because they were out partying. They set a fabulous example for the rest of the class. Your niece may yet be an example to the kids around her.

  9. bogart Says:

    This is a reason we’d like to have more money. Forget fancy cars.. This. Exactly this. And it’s what drives me nuts about some (not all!) of the other PF bloggers who seem either not to have (ties to?) extended families, or not to have similar issues in their families.

    OK … so for starters and not wanting to downplay the many challenges your niece (?) and her family appear likely to face, I do like to stick to the thought that every baby is a blessing. So, congratulations to the parents- grandparents- and great-grandparents-to-be. I hope that in years ahead they will look back and be astonished at how much joy these new arrivals, however unplanned and ill-timed they might be, have brought.

    Is the expectant mother somewhere where she has access to a good internet connection? Other challenges aside might you consider giving her this (paying for a subscription and perhaps a computer or tablet), and some guidance on ways to use it? I am not, of course, typical, and this may not be her experience, but as a new mom it’s been a great source of information and (emotional/logistical) support for me, and could of course also help her connect with educational opportunities remotely, if she is able/chooses to pursue any of those.

    What life/career goals if any has she identified (prior, presumably, to all this)?

    I’m little if any help on the rest of this, but if I think of anything clever will let you know. Oh, one last thought: knowing what I (we) do about later trends among teen parents, if you can find a reasonable time/way to do it, perhaps it is not (strictly speaking) too late to have positive effects by bringing up the topic of birth control. The data make it quite plain that teen parenthood is not effective at preventing subsequent unplanned pregnancies.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      They do have internet access.

      When we talked to her about college over Christmas, she was planning on becoming a psychology major so that she could be a therapist, and she already had a year of college credit from the high school’s dual-transfer program. So she was planning on commuting with her sister to community college for a year and then transferring to a 4-year when her sister did.

      If teen pregnancy was effective at preventing subsequent unplanned pregnancies, this particular daughter would have been born much later, and probably to a different mother.

      I’ll suggest that DH talk to the dad about birth control and maybe push that long-distance drive to planned parenthood a little more.

      • bogart Says:

        OK. I regret to report that we’ve seen derailments of college and career plans on my DH’s side, similar stories (perhaps), that have not been restored/regained; I hope your niece’s experience will be better. Could you use the internet access she has to set up direct communications with her, even if just a single congratulatory email on her expected new arrivals and a general offer of “please don’t hesitate to email me if you want to talk” or something like that? It’s not that I want to circumvent her dad, but knowing you are out there and available (if you are) could be important to her.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Already did. :) But no response. :(

        Her dad is a good guy and the whole extended family has rallied around and is supportive (has “baby fever”). So it probably isn’t quite so scary anymore. She’ll be ok, and the babies will be ok. But… it’ll be hard for everyone, especially her dad and step-mom.

      • bogart Says:

        OK, but the offer is out there. Maybe one more such email when the babies are born?

        Yes, very hard, and for her and the babies too, of course.

  10. Cloud Says:

    I can’t help thinking that in a different sort of society, having babies so young wouldn’t be the problem that it is in our society. But that isn’t what you asked about! I am also glad I waited until I was older to have kids. But, as Dame Eleanor Hull says… even in our family-unfriendly society, the babies don’t have to be a permanent derailing. With some luck (and maybe a little guidance- or just the example of the life her older sister has), maybe she’ll decide to get her degree and will eventually break the cycle.

    I don’t have any advice, but I will say the 38 year old granddad to be shouldn’t be so hard on himself. One of his kids is on track to break out and the other may yet do so.

    I am also frustrated by how hard it is for people to break out of poverty, and how little help our society gives people who are trying to do it. I don’t know how best to help. Maybe just by being there to help them find their second (and third and fourth) chances.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Did you read that washington post article on food insecurity in West Virginia? (It was nominally about the government school bus summer lunch program, but it was really about poverty and kids.)

      These are the things that wake me up at night. And it’s so connected with government taking away our fertility autonomy– making it harder to get access to birth control and safe abortions. A very cynical part of me wonders if people like the Koch brothers are trying to engineer a society where good help is easier to find and factory workers are cheaper. Or maybe just one in which the uneducated masses are easy to sway by Fox News.

      • Linda Says:

        Yeah, I try not to have such paranoid thoughts myself, but have trouble not seeing all these things as nefariously connected by some loose coalition of powerful white men.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I just can’t make sense of it otherwise.

      • Cloud Says:

        Yes, I saw that. Heartbreaking. No one should have to go hungry in a country as rich as ours. No one.

      • GMP Says:

        A very cynical part of me wonders if people like the Koch brothers are trying to engineer a society where good help is easier to find and factory workers are cheaper. Or maybe just one in which the uneducated masses are easy to sway by Fox News.

        DH and I often talk about this, and come to the same conclusion. Poor uneducated and terrified masses are easier to exploit.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I just can’t think of any other reason that these hugely powerful people want to keep creating more poor children that they refuse to feed or educate, and to prevent those kids from stopping the cycle by denying them access to fertility control.

      Because the wealthy will always have access to food, education, and fertility control.

      I can’t believe they want to cut foodstamps. Maybe that’s to try to get people to be more religious? I just don’t get it.

      • Kingston Says:

        I wonder the same thing. What could be the motivation for such cruelty? I tend to think it involves two things: the fact that a desperate workforce is good for the bottom line, coupled with (this is pure speculation and opinion) a simple tendency of the uber-rich to power-trip others.

      • Contingent Cassandra Says:

        Add to that the fact that you have many communities where a significant number of the residents (including children) are suffering from both obesity *and* food insecurity (there’s a brief mention of a sibling in the Post piece who seems to have that problem), and you’ve got a truly mind-blowing picture. Something about the US food system, and our attitude toward where producing abundant healthy food and making sure it’s available to all residents should fit into the national agenda, is really, really screwed up.

        I’m not sure how keeping people hungry would make them more religious. Perhaps more dependent on private/charitable-sector aid? But anybody with any significant familiarity with the Bible should realize that feeding the hungry is a bedrock duty, both for individuals and for communities (which, in our present political system, I would interpret as local, state, and federal governments; it’s not as if we have a king anymore, and I’m not hearing even the most conservative Christians head in that direction just because that’s the political system described — albeit with some suggestion that it has its drawbacks — in the Old Testament). And some Christians are making exactly that argument (see Jim Wallis, more social-justice-focused Catholics, and North Carolina’s “Moral Mondays” movement: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/02/moral-monday-north-carolina_n_3532936.html ). From my perspective, it’s somewhere between hard and impossible to make a Biblically-based case for *not* feeding the hungry (apparently there’s one passage somewhere in the epistles that says — in reference to early Christians who decided to stop working and wait for the second coming — that those who don’t work don’t get to eat. But, leaving aside the historically-specific nature of that rule, it presumably doesn’t apply to children, or who adults who are perfectly willing to work but can’t find a job, or who, like the mother in the Post article, *are* working but don’t earn enough to buy sufficient food for their families). I get conservative Christian arguments against things like gay marriage; even if I disagree with them, I can see where in the Bible they’re getting their ideas from. The arguments for slashing poverty programs, however, I just don’t get.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yeah, the idea is that by not allowing the government to provide food, they have to get it from the churches. I don’t know about where you live, but where I live it’s really a Church Industrial Complex complete with tithe-funded electronic billboards. Religious folks around here will flat-out say that the government should not be providing what the churches should be providing. People shouldn’t have foodstamps, they should get food, but they should be forced to get it from churches. And there should be more tithing, less taxation. (Not realizing that mandatory tithing is a tax… but maybe taxes are ok if you don’t separate church and state.)

      • Contingent Cassandra Says:

        I’d say churches are a bit less culturally central/powerful here. They (we) (along with synagogues, mosques, assorted other faith organizations, and a few secular ones) are still the main runners/supporters of food banks and soup ktichens, but most church-goers that I know think that, in a justly run country, there would be considerably reduced, if not no, need for such help, and view political action to try to increase justice as an appropriate activity for Christians (at least as appropriate as providing food/help directly). I can’t cite Bible chapter and verse, but using food as bait to get people into the church also strikes me as inappropriate/not particularly Christian. Among other things, it offends human dignity/the image of god in each of us. One doesn’t help people in order to convert them; one helps them because they are in need, and whatever we have is a gift from God to be shared, full stop.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yes, yes, I am from the same mainstream religious background. However, you are assuming that the point of Church is Christianity and not money and power.

        And, of course if you believe that those who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior are going directly to hell, offering food is no worse than providing pizza at a recruitment meeting– it’s for the greater good.

        Still, I’m willing to bet it’s the former that is underlying the desire by many of my fellow citizens to return to a theocracy, not the latter. They just don’t know they’re being manipulated.

  11. rented life Says:

    No advice. I feel for you and them. I saw it growing up, but my family wasn’t from that community so they taught us differently than most in that area were. I remember years ago talking at a family picnic about how I had the talk with my brother–just to be sure (he’s 4 years younger) and my one uncle nodding. My other uncle said “really, you would do that?” with horror and disgust. His brother said “well that abstinence talk didn’t work for your son, did it?” Yet that’s what’s pushed in these communities. We had so many assemblies about not having sex. At least she has access to good sex ed, but honestly, I don’t think that’s enough anymore. :(
    I will send positive thoughts their way–twins aren’t easy!

  12. oilandgarlic Says:

    I have no advice, but I do think environment, peers and entertainment/media have a lot of influence on teens and good/bad choices. My parents didn’t go to college but we had plenty of role models via extended family and friends in school. It was more of a question “which college” not “if I should go to college”. My parents pushed us of course but I also benefited from a culture (Chinese) and family environment that values education.

    A friend and I were talking about the cycle of poverty the other day. Her physician husband is so frustrated because his advice to his patients (majority are urban, poor, latino or black) fail to heed his advice on diet or pre-natal care. I think the only way to break this cycle is a sort of mentor program, i.e. like weight watchers or AA where you get long-term, consistent support. I don’t know how do-able that really is but many long-term factors contribute to poverty and that poverty mindset. It takes a lot of determination, luck and circumstance to break out of it.

  13. Contingent Cassandra Says:

    Mostly echoing others above, but it seems to me you’re already doing a great deal right, starting with supporting what you value, and believe will be valuable for them: education. *Not* withdrawing the offer because the young woman got pregnant, but instead helping her re-work her plans as necessary, while still insisting that education will help her support her family, also strikes me as a powerful message (and a useful add-on to her parents’ decision to be more supportive than their own parents).

    I’d also make sure to pay plenty of attention to the 19-year-old who *isn’t* pregnant (and not only of the birth-control-advice kind). Even if she’s not particularly attention-motivated, it’s easy for the person who’s quietly doing things right (at least by our lights) to feel a bit left out when the whole family is not only rallying around, but positively celebrating, the one who (again by our lights) got off track. So, yes, join in the support for the new family, and for getting them started well, and the mother on track to being able to make a life for them all (regardless of whether the father or any other man plays a role), but also, perhaps, think of a way or two that you could give the 19-year-old some quiet praise, and perhaps a treat of some kind that she would especially value? It sounds like she’s doing pretty well supporting her car (which I hope is in her own name) on her own, and I’m sure she’s proud of that achievement, so there’s no need to meddle with that. But maybe *she* could use a computer, or an e-reader, or something? Or maybe she might just appreciate occasional contact/conversations that are about her life and interests, not her soon-to-arrive nieces/nephews? Besides the fact that she really deserves affirmation/encouragement for breaking the cycle, it also sounds like she might be poised to be a more successful role model for her sister, at least in the breaking-the-cycle-of-poverty department, than her parents.

    • Contingent Cassandra Says:

      And yes, this is what money is good for (among other things, but this is far more useful than consumer goods).

    • plantingourpennies Says:

      I have to second this. Don’t let the achievements of the sister who is doing things “right” get lost or overshadowed because of the twins. I think it would be too easy to see all the congrats going to her little sister and come to the conclusion of “well is that all it takes?”

      Also, did I miss it? Where is the father of the incoming twins in this?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I feel a little guilty about this, only in the other direction. We became interested in the oldest because she’s a reader and loves anime and we immediately hit it off when she was something like 12 years old. I’ve been sending her books a few times every year for years. We sent her to camp in the thing she was interested in one summer.

      But mostly ignoring the second, though we asked her what she was interested in and have tried to support it, the thing she wanted to do was no longer being offered at the camp, and lessons weren’t available in her home-town (I looked). So not much from us directly.

      The second has a fantastic GPA and talking to her at Christmas, she knew a ton of stuff about college already. I could barely believe this was the young woman that her parents were having huge amounts of behavioral trouble with. But she gets into trouble. And there’s understandable reasons that she has gotten into that trouble, and no doubt that’s related to why she wants to be a therapist. But I can’t help but think that despite all that bad behavior, her parents should have been giving her more credit for being such a good student and so involved in things that could have pushed her ahead. And maybe they could have gotten through to her the depth of how much they care about what happens to her so there would have been less rebellion. I don’t know.

      We completely ignore the other 3 kids. (But at least they were never abandoned by their mom.) We completely ignore the 5 kids of the relative’s sister. We completely ignore even more distant relatives with drug problems.

      We get overwhelmed when we think about all of these issues.

      • bogart Says:

        For whatever it’s worth, I don’t think you need to feel guilty. I think it is normal and maybe even necessary to focus one’s energy and resources some places and not others, and when it comes to extended family I think it is just reality that some of us bond with and/or can help out some members over others (and that there’s a limit to how much we can do — it may be better to concentrate resources on a few people or on people at particular stages of life either for now or in general). I’m sure we can imagine extremes on a continuum of such behavior that would shock our sensibilities, but except for the tails of the distribution, I think it’s just the way things are.

      • Contingent Cassandra Says:

        Second not feeling guilty. We do each connect with different people differently, and to different degrees,and it sounds like the connections you’ve made with one of the kids may well have helped make a difference for her. And her achievements may make a difference for her siblings, or their kids. It may be a longer-term project than you (or the parents) would like, or originally envisioned, but it sounds like there is progress, however incremental, in a hopeful direction.

      • Contingent Cassandra Says:

        Also, it sounds like the 17-year-old may have some emotional problems that make her harder to help. Denying the pregnancy, apparently even to herself, and then going ahead with the surgery when she must have had some suspicion that she was pregnant (perhaps out of a hope, on some level, that she’d miscarry, and the decision would be taken out of her hands? choice is, indeed, a good thing, but it also imposes a burden of responsibility that not everybody is willing to accept), while not unheard-of, seems like a fairly extreme reaction, especially in a culture where early pregnancy is not all that unusual.

  14. becca Says:

    You might consider offering to pay for IUDs. It’s the most cost-effective BC option, but also requires the most capital. PP and the like generally offer subsidized options, so it might be like tuition- surprisingly cheap once you get the appropriate aid program. I realize it’s socially awkward if you talk mostly to the Dad (soon to be grandpa), but IBTP. It SHOULD be a topic any caring adult could bring up, same as any other random medical care that can slip through the cracks (you are obviously close enough to know about other surgeries, so I’m taking that into account).

    I think you’ve explained before that it’s expensive/logistically challenging, but isn’t there any way to have them out to visit you from time to time? There’s something about seeing relatives in person that makes their support seem a lot more real. It’s also hard to *really* see beyond the types of life your parents lead without spending time in other households. Though I’d suspect you’ll have to talk to the one in middle school to gain a huge amount of traction on a one time more-distant-relative “wait to have kids” message (though middle school can be a good time to hear that message). Still, I can’t help but think seeing them in person would mean the most for all kinds of reasons.

    For reference, some of these patterns surface in my extended family. All I can say is that kicking teenaged kids who are about to have kids out of your house? Does. Not. Work. No matter how much you dislike the other parental unit. In general, I’d say there’s a key to stop at one kid. In the case of twins I suppose it’s stop-at-two.
    I think what’s most important about college (with respect to breaking-out-of-poverty) isn’t the education aspect per se so much as the legibility of a path to success. A more applied certificate program with good job placement might well be worth more than the transferable Associate’s degree that you can’t practically finish. Also, a lot depends on whether there *are* good jobs in the area to be had at any level. Twins are hard at any age, and a lot depends on getting good at finding help (both through informal networks and official services). Is she on WIC? Those folks may be able to help with prenatal vitamins and will undoubtably be well positioned to let her know about other resources. They might treat her like she’s much dimmer than she is, but if twins are on the way it’s probably useful to develop patience now anyway? I don’t know. I hate how everything is set up.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Should be free. They do have health insurance.

      • becca Says:

        IUDs were not covered by my health insurance. Not all insurances cover this. IBTP that you assumed they would be free and obtainable.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        When did you last check? That’s one of the new ACA provisions.

        I could make a snippy remark here in response to your statement about “assumptions”, but I’m too tired. It’s not like the ACA’s effect on birth control hasn’t been in the news.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        On top if that, they’re on SCHIP (the second is, anyway, not sure if the oldest aged out), which has covered IUDs for some time, according to the internet.

      • GMP Says:

        I have a Mirena and a good health insurance, and while the procedure was free, I had to co-pay about $200 (out of $900) for the device itself under “medical instrumentation”. The hormone-free one, Paragard, would not have been free either, but it would have cost considerably less.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Again, when did you get it? The ACA birth control provisions are relatively new (as in starting next month for some plans… the internet tells me they’ve been phased in between Jan and August). Your plan may have been grandfathered in in terms of exclusions. Theirs is a form of Medicaid, so it will always have covered IUDs.

      • GMP Says:

        I got mine 2 yrs ago. Don’t know how things look now re ACA.

      • darchole Says:

        Does ACA actually state that *all* forms and *brands* must be covered? I thought that it just provided for some to be covered right away and the other phased in, but I don’t think it said all brands and means of delivery had to be covered.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        No, name brands do not have to be covered. However, IUDs are covered even if not all IUDs are covered.

  15. AnonForThisOne Says:

    I am someone who got knocked up at 18 and had an abortion. It was one of the hardest yet best decisions I have ever made. Had I not, I would have forever been tied to the asshole boyfriend whom I stupidly picked at 17; I have no idea how my life would look now, but I know that in a number of way it would be much worse. Now I have a wonderful husband and kids who were very much wanted. Raising kids is hard even if they are wanted, and when you are doing it with a supportive partner, and you have adequate financial resources; when you have none of these aspects, multiple lives get ruined.
    Abortion is terribly hard, it’s heart-wrenching, but is so necessary for women to have access to.

  16. gwinne Says:

    No advice at all. Just the philosophical musings about why it is that folks who are least prepared to get pregnant are so often EXTRA fertile. I’m sorry your family is dealing with this, and yes, with you on the advantages of being solidly middle class… sounds like you’re doing everything you can to help.

  17. Linda Says:

    My sister and I are anomalies in our extended family because we are self-supporting professionals who didn’t get pregnant in our teens. In my sister’s case, it was close because she had her first of two children at 21, and less than a year into her first marriage. She hadn’t completed her college work and her (now ex-) husband is an alcoholic who never completed college either. Sister did go on to complete her degree, but needed a lot of help with child care from my mom in the early years.

    I think the two main influences to keep us out of the pattern that my cousins continued falling into were 1) to have other role models around us, and 2) to have ready access to birth control and support to use it. My mom was very supportive of us getting access to birth control early because she thought it the lesser sin than abortion (mom is a good Catholic). I also had other female role models in my life who were doing things with their lives that did not involve raising children. Oddly enough, my aunts who were nuns were an influence because it was an alternative to raising babies that was very visible to me. I spent a summer with my one aunt at the convent mother house and enjoyed being around all these smart, caring women (it was a teaching order).

    So, I think being able to directly experience how different life can be when not living in the poverty life style one is trying to break out of can make a huge difference. If you are willing to have a similar influence on the younger, non-pregnant nieces or even help the 19-year old continue to remain on track, maybe having one for a visit with you and your family for a week or two would be a good strategy to break the cycle.

    There’s already been a lot said about birth control, but despite it being affordable and attainable, there are other barriers to accessing/using it that need to be overcome, too. The subliminal (and sometimes outright) message that if a woman uses birth control she’s a slut is still prevalent these days. :-( Young women need to know that is not the case and that planning ahead for the inevitable time when you will have sex is a good thing.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I do feel guilty for never having them out, especially when we were living in the fun city for a year… but we looked at plane fare, and put that amount in their college accounts instead ($500/each). Maybe it was the wrong decision. I don’t know. That was also the year we sent the oldest to camp and she was miserable and homesick. And maybe that was a bad decision. I don’t know.

      Right now with the baby… we just can’t have folks out.

      The youngest daughter does really enjoy hunting, so she’s been bonding with DH’s parents, and they’ve been nicely middle class for the past two or three decades. Maybe that will help.

      Slut-shaming is a horrible thing.

  18. chacha1 Says:

    My suggestion for the 17-yr-old having twins is, as soon as they are born, get a contraceptive implant.

  19. First Gen American Says:

    So I was one of the ones who broke out of the cycle of poverty. Actually, it started with my mom who refused to get married and have kids until she got to America. I went to catholic school and was shown abortion videos and taught that abstinence is best but I thought the priests were a bunch of wackos. I did not abstain in high school but it was drilled into my head that teen pregnancy would ruin my life. (Not by my mom, but from peers, doctors, teachers). I also had easy access to planned parenthood and was on the pill at an early age. I think if it weren’t for access to birth control in high school, I likely would have stayed poor and had kids at an early age. I also wouldn’t have raised them as well as I know I wouldn’t have read all those parenting books back then. Plus, I had no access to family units that were role models. Most of the families I knew were miserable and struggling.

    Maybe a bigger picture way to help is to donate to planned parenthood.. In fact , I may write them a letter and send a check to the branch that helped me as a teen. Must add to my to do list.

  20. darchole Says:

    I had to think about this a bit, as I actually have relatives that are/were/will be in this situation, but very few who are in my situation which included going to college. One major reason I see people make these kinds of bad decisions is because they weren’t told not to and what the consequences are. People tell teenagers that being pregnant as a teen is hard, but actually explaining it will mean not having a new car, ever, not being able to buy clothes over $20, ever, not being able to spontaneously take a vacation or even a day off work, ever, and a whole lot of things they will (probably) never be in a position to do. Another major reason for the people whose children are following in their footsteps is that they don’t understand why they made those decisions. And if you can’t understand why you made that choice it’s very hard to tell someone else why they shouldn’t make that choice either. Another reason I’ve seen is that the people continuing to make bad decisions just don’t have good role models or enough good role models. And I don’t just mean parents/relatives/friends I mean on TV or in movies and socially, for example knowing the person in the neighborhood who beats their spouse, but no one ever offers to help or call police, or knowing the person in the neighborhood that sells drugs.

    As someone who did make it out of the trap, it does help having parents who were involved. Parents who explained why they made those decisions (in both my parent’s cases parental abuse/neglect was part of it), and why. Parents who have ambitions for their child to do better aren’t always bad. Some degree of outside help is usually needed because of things people in bad financial situations usually just don’t know how to do. Like completely the FAFSA or getting application fees to colleges waived, or h*ll even just completing an college application.

    • First Gen American Says:

      I second this opinion on role models. Most people in these situations just don’t know there are other options or other ways to live. I didn’t know for a long long time. It wasn’t until I started dating a guy who had a normal loving family that made me realize it was possible. Although he was all wrong for me, I ended up staying with him for 5 years because he had such an awesome family life and they treated me like one of the family. It was hard to let that go.

  21. Practical Parsimony Says:

    Remember to inform either girl that birth control pills can fail when an antibiotic is taken. As for the father, I would let him go. I have seen far too many girls waste their time, physical and psychic energy try to make a guy do what was right. Is it worth it? Having a child with a history of a father who spends time in jail for not caring about his child is not good for the mother or child. I would not encourage “bringing him to justice.” Maybe I have a bad attitude? Whatever.

    I saw my sister fight it for 16 years, get the judgment, court order, and finally after 16 years to get the guy to pay and get him out of her system. Finally, after he came back to claim an inheritance that my sister was claiming, she and her daughter both stopped wishing he would pay what he owed and come back into their lives. My sister wished she had never even tried to get him to be a father. Now, I see girls use all their spare time on some guy who will quit jobs, move out of the state, and generally make promises, and never pay a dime.

  22. Cash Money: $7,230 in June Income, Blog Updates, and Goals | Club Thrifty Says:

    […] Nicole and Maggie wrote a love note to having money. […]

  23. EMH Says:

    My advice for the 17 year old is to just love those children and never blame the twins for the hardships in her life. As sad as it is to see the cycle continue, at least she does have support from the family. That will be needed and perhaps they will help her with babysitting so she can further her education.

    I don’t have any advice for the dad. Hindsight is 20/20 and I’m sure he is already going through everything he did and what he could have/should have changed. I guess giving him a hug would be nice.

    My wish for the world at large is to stop labeling the pill “birth control”. It is so much more than that and maybe a new label would help with the stigma of being on the pill. It is hormone therapy. It can help girls/women with horrific periods, cysts, diminish the chance of ovarian cancer, help with cystic acne, and oh, also inhibit you from becoming pregnant. I was put on ortho-tricyclen to stop my ovarian cysts even before I ever became sexually active.

    Best of luck with your family! You obviously care deeply for them.

  24. Link love (Powered by bikes and BMWs) | NZ Muse Says:

    […] reminder of why having money is a wonderful thing (as if you could forget!) over at Grumpy […]

  25. hush Says:

    Girlfriends, I know all too well what you mean when you say “the cycle of poverty that happens when you have several generations of rural teen pregnancy.” I would not even be here were it not for said cycle. There but for the grace of an unwed, rural, 18-year-old Alabamian getting pregnant in 1941, go I. My parents were lucky enough to break that cycle. Many of their siblings did not. Fast forward 35+ years and here I sit, contemplating adopting the 6-week old son of my 21-year-old unwed, rural, poor, first cousin. So your post certainly hits home for me.

    “Congratulations!” is the truly the only correct response when you get this kind of news. I’m so glad y’all know that.

    Also, demonstrating an Unconditional Positive Regard for all of your young relatives, the mother-to-be, and for her father, too, is the most long-term supportive way to go. (You already know that, too, though.) You’re a real mensch for funding their educations, and you’re so smart to take care of your own first and have such healthy boundaries. How wonderful!

  26. A sad update on the relatives | Grumpy rumblings of the (formerly!) untenured Says:

    […] babies were set to be delivered at 37 weeks, to be induced if necessary.  The smaller twin had had several […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: