Money, Love, and Food

This is a repost from 2010 back when we had great blog posts but few readers to appreciate them!  Feel free to comment as if it’s new since there weren’t many comments to begin with.

Thought provoking post at GRS, for anyone with children or who grew up with parents.

To sum, a woman grew up with a father who told her they were wealthy but would not spend or let her spend on things.  Now she feels guilty whenever she does spend, despite having a healthy (100K) emergency fund in place.

The comments contain a lot of conflicting arguments about how we’re destroying our kids.  It seems like parents can’t win.

The things her father said to her sounded a lot like the things my father said to me.  I had many of the same experiences growing up.   Yet I did not take away the same lessons and overall I am very happy with my relationship with money.  Sure I felt guilty spending on luxuries when we had no money and we were trying to pay off DH’s college debt, but once we got into a comfortable place, I got comfortable with spending on things I could afford.  Take care of myself and my family first, then spend on luxuries without unhappiness.

Over the past couple of days my mind has been grappling with the question about what’s the difference between my situation and hers.  At first I thought it might be the autonomy I was allowed with my own small allowance (nobody made me save it– though I did learn to save on my own for larger items).  But I don’t think that was it.   It also isn’t talking about money as a family or not talking about it.  Or knowing the parent’s financial situation or not knowing the parent’s financial situation.  It definitely isn’t being denied an ice cream cone out or getting every wish granted.

The real problem is when we associate tools with love. The poster and most of the commenters are taking for granted that how money is spent is a sign of where love lies.  That isn’t the case.  Money is just a tool.  After basic needs are met, you can spend nothing or spend a ton aligned with your family values about what is important, but that is not love.  The child in the post perceived the soda or ice cream as lack of love.  As a child I perceived it as not wanting to spend money on an item that my father did not value.  A commenter talked about how he felt guilty when told that they couldn’t go on a vacation because they were saving for his college.  As a child I saw that as information that my family valued education over trips to Disney World (not that we didn’t travel– we went on countless road trips, but generally on the cheap and often to visit family) and that my future was important enough to delay gratification for (and corporations are really good at getting people to spend money).

There’s a reason I’ve never understood the women who want their husbands to buy them expensive jewelry to prove their love or to apologize for an argument, especially at the expense of quality time as a family or true financial security.

In my family, we were also encouraged to ask questions and test limits.  I think my father was proud when we made a counter-argument about how we were willing to pay the additional money to get a cold drink *now* or that the ice cream in the small pint is better quality than the ice cream in the large tub and we don’t need a large tub’s worth anyway.   It was most important to him that we understand why and how we were spending our money– not to be skin-flints but to truly understand frugality and value.   For my own parenting, I think we don’t have to worry about the money messages we’re sending if we talk them out, encourage communication and even disagreement, and let our children know if we’re worried they’re taking the wrong message. It’s like teaching undergrads, if you encourage students to ask questions in a safe environment, teacher mistakes can become valuable teaching moments rather than a disaster. They can lead to more rather than less learning.

How does this juxtapose with Donna Freedman’s wonderfully sweet column on material gifts from her mother?  It’s the gesture, not the item.  But the gesture need not be a thing at all, and it need not involve money at all.  It really is the thought that counts.  Maybe it’s ok to think of buying a soda as an act of love (though it’s an odd thing for most Americans where soda flows more freely than water), but it is never ok to think of the lack of buying it as a withdrawal of love.  There are many ways to show love, and a homemade toaster cozy or a timer that brought order to a mother’s life are examples of things where the thought is much more important than the money spent.

For me this connection is more obvious with food– emotional eating.  Culturally this is a big problem for us… chocolate chip cookies do cheer someone up when they’re down.  I love it when my husband bakes me a batch.  It reminds me of vacations with my late grandmother or brownies from my mom.  But it is important to separate the thoughtfulness of making the cookie from the cookie itself.    And maybe the few extra pounds is worth it for immediate comfort.  It’s when that emotional food connection becomes a problem, or that emotional money connection becomes a problem that we really need to remember that love is love and money is a tool and food is something to eat.

Do you intertwine love with money or with food?  Do you have healthy or unhealthy associations with money and/or food?

Was I more confident 5 years ago?

Man, so I’ve been scraping the 2010 and 2011 drafts for posts (it is insane how many unfinished posts we have), and I’ve been noticing how much more I dunno, prescriptive a lot of these posts are.

Like… how to do cognitive restructuring.  On the importance of moxy.   That post (It takes a village) from the other week about getting out and being with adults was actually written in 2011.  I even have one that ironically talks about our students getting cognitive dissonance when we tell them they have to think in shades of grey.

It’s ironic, because I think as I age, some things get greyer.  Like, meta-grey.  I mean, sometimes things really are black and white and not shades of grey at all.  Sometimes people go farther in life if they ignore ambiguity, even if things are grey.  Who am I to say what is right or wrong.  There’s even a post in here somewhere (vintage 2012 or 2013) talking about how people like to be told what to do, they like to be lead.  And… I dunno, do they?

I do think part of it is I’ve spent the year surrounded by everyone being at least as smart and accomplished as I am and most people even more so.  All my coauthored projects finished in the fall.  I haven’t started anything new, no new collaborations etc.  I’m sort of a silo surrounded by amazing people that I don’t often ask for help.  And it has kind of eroded my confidence a bit.  I do like it better being a little fish in a big pond because for whatever reason, I feel a bit uncomfortable as a big fish in a small pond.  But man, have I got imposter syndrome.  Maybe if I were getting more done, making more progress on my projects I’d feel more confident, but right now I’ve got a bit of “will I ever amount to anything” thing going on.  Plus my big projects aren’t working and there’s too many of them and I’m having trouble finding direction.  And I’m going back to teaching and service and things that make it hard to be productive very soon.  If I can’t get things done while on leave, how will I get them done when I’m working full-time?

If I regain my confidence, will it be a false confidence, and will I realize it is so?  Does it matter when moxy is so important?

So, I dunno, a bit of melancholy to add to the lack of certainty.

Or…. maybe those drafts have been sitting there since 2011 for a reason and I’m just overthinking.

Also… I can see that several of these posts were reactions to obnoxious parenting or personal finance blogs that I no longer read and may no longer even exist.  It’s a bit easier to argue the opposite when someone is saying something ridiculous.

So… maybe this whole trying to compare posts from 5 years ago to now is just another lesson that no, it isn’t always about my internal omphaloskepsis; sometimes there’s an external factor.  Usually it’s something else.  Which is kind of comforting, really.

Has your certainty or confidence changed in the last five years?  Have you noticed any other changes?

We live in interesting times

We live in interesting times.

I often think that this is must have been like what it felt for our parents growing up in the 60s.  Marches and riots and violence in the news all the time, but a sense that progress was finally being made.

Life was so much easier during the booming 90s.  Of course, that’s not really true.  Life was easier for us white folk, and we just didn’t know about what was going on elsewhere.  The Rodney King riots were a glimpse into what life was like for others, but the rest of us really stopped paying attention until recently.

One of the reasons Hamilton is doing so well is that it isn’t really about the 18th century.  It is about today.  This musical number really encapsulates it.

Change comes slowly and then it comes all at once.

Change comes with violence.  Or rather, that’s what we perceive.  Those of us who are sheltered and privileged.  The violence was always there.  On the plantations.  Against share-croppers.  Burning crosses on lawns.  Killing people in our cities.  Lynching, rape, murder, beatings.  Those of us who are outside don’t notice.  We believed things were accidents and tragedies or isolated incidents or provoked by criminals.  But that’s not what was going on.  That’s not what is going on.

Like now, change happens when violence is made visible.  Then violence escalates.  Violence escalates because the people in power, the ones doing the terror attacks against minorities, the ones subjugating their wives, girlfriends, and daughters, are afraid.  And they are afraid.  And violence is their only real weapon.

Which isn’t actually true.  Violence is not and has never been their only real weapon.

The Voting Rights Act was in response to their hold on local governments.  They own state and local governments again.  We MUST organize locally.  We must pay attention to downstream races.  We must run candidates even in red areas.

They’ve owned the media before, they own some of the media now.  Fox News isn’t the first news organization to have a racist misogynist agenda.  Not the first media organization to sway angry poor uneducated white men for their own causes.  It makes sense for uneducated white losers to want to keep women and minorities down– if they don’t have them to scapegoat and feel superior to, then they’ll be at the bottom of whatever metaphor you can think of.  It doesn’t make as much sense for the people who control these empires.  Why are there evil rich people?  Is it because they want more power than their horrible rich white associates?  But isn’t it better to be a Philanthropist than a Bond Villain?

Revolution means progress.  But revolutions are rarely easy.  Those in power fight back to maintain the status quo.

It’s best when revolutions occur with the fewest lives lost.  With the least blood spilt.

I think there’s a politician and bureaucrat who can help the revolution shed less blood while moving forward.  But she can only do it if she gets support downstream.  Senators.  Representatives.  State Government.  VOTEWRITE.  Be angry.  Protest.  Support protestors.  Become woke and stay it, even when the media moves on to the next story.  We want a government for all people, not just some of the people.

And after this movement dies down, we’ll still have a long way to go.  But let’s go as far as we can towards equality of opportunity, freedom, peace, and happiness as we can, so that maybe it won’t be as hard or dangerous next time around.  And so people can live closer to their best lives while we wait for the next revolution to bring them closer still.


A village parenting story

The other weekend I was standing in a long long line for a bouncy slide with DC2.

There was a woman behind me.  After letting someone cut in line behind her, her daughters kept running in front and trying to get to the slide.  And she kept ineffectually calling her daughters’ names and making grabs for one of them.

When I got right at the front of the line, I stuck my arm out as one of the daughters made a break for it to run up the slide in front of DC2 who was waiting patiently until it the teenager in charge said it was safe to go up. The daughter ran into my arm instead of up the slide.

This is the kind of thing that parents around here do all the time, catch other people’s kids when they’re making a break for it, because the parents tend to be upper class and the streets are close by and dangerous so parents (right or wrong) tend to have more fear of their kid getting away than of other parents. (I don’t know if I mentioned that DH literally saved a kid’s life earlier this year.  A toddler had wandered from the playground into the parking lot to get something from his parent’s van and was about to get backed over by an SUV.  DH ran his bike in front of the SUV to stop it from backing up, which made the SUV driver upset until she realized what had almost happened.  DH returned the kid to a frantic parent who had been looking all over the playground for the kid.)

In any case, this horrible woman then chewed me out for touching her daughter and she had everything under control etc., but of course she didn’t.

Later that day I recounted this story to our friends out here, and they individually said, “were the daughters names Olivia and Isabella?”  And was the older one Isabella and the younger one Olivia and Olivia a year or two older than DC2?  Did the woman have brown hair?  And the answer is yes.  Apparently this woman has a reputation and it wasn’t me at all.  I imagine she thought my arm was some kind of comment on her parenting (which it wasn’t until she chewed me out about it!)

(After DC2 went down the slide I said no more fair activities because the horrible woman was going to the last thing DC2 hadn’t done, so I was like, let’s go to the library instead.  And so we did.  And I witnessed lots of village parenting and parents thanking other parents for helping out instead of chewing them out and it was nice.  And then we went to another event at DC2’s daycare and I was even more hands on with keeping other people’s preschoolers out of trouble since parents were busy volunteering and I ended up on kid duty somehow.  People seemed grateful.)

I think where we normally live there’s much less of an atmosphere of village parenting, but there’s usually hardly anyone at the park or playground because everyone has a play structure in their back-yard.  And disgruntled women like the one at the park are more likely to be carrying a concealed weapon.  I’m not sure I would have automatically prevented a kid from going up a slide back where we usually live, no matter how dangerous.  But the teenagers in charge of the event would also probably have been better at keeping things safe.

What’s it like where you live in terms of village parenting vs. minding your own business?  How do you feel about other people stopping your child when he or she is making a break for it?


What do you do when someone doesn’t cash a check?

So, our landlord cashed Jan’s rent check (and all the checks prior), and March’s rent, but not February or April’s or May’s…

Would you check in with him to ask what’s up?


update:  he has cashed April and May, so now only feb is missing.  Also there is a $15 check cancellation fee from our credit union if we cancel the check.

Differences between your online persona and your IRL persona?

The blogosphere (including us) has recently been discussing how blogs are only a specific persona that the blogger shows (or curates, depending on your beliefs about the nature of truth and perception and personality).

That got us thinking about how we differ IRL vs. our blog personas.  We thought we’d share some of the differences.

I am a lot nicer IRL.  A LOT.  My snark only comes out with anonymity.  I may think things IRL but I don’t say things unless I can say something nice.  #2, however: I think I might actually be nicer on this blog than IRL.

I’m also more introverted IRL.  I’ve done meetups with groups of forum people and they are surprised that I’m quiet at the dinner table even though I’m super chatty online.  (This same thing isn’t true with people I know well IRL or when I’m at a conference on topics I’m an expert on– I’m perfectly chatty with subject matter I feel comfortable with.)  #2 is super-introverted all the time and prefers online communication.  Or books.

I’m less annoyed about giving an impromptu lecture on my subject matter of expertise IRL than online.  Online it often feels like someone should be paying me to argue with them.  (I know it may seem like this isn’t possible, but I promise, I lecture a LOT IRL.)

What don’t I share with you?  Mostly boring stuff.  I only online share things if I find them interesting and/or funny.  I also try not to share things that would hurt other people if our blog and real identities became front page news.

I’m often not as witty because online you only get the good stuff, not the stuff that failed at being funny or brilliant (at least IMO).

Who is the real us?  Well, what is reality anyway?

How do your IRL and online personas differ?  Who is the real you?

Why I want to make enough money to support myself (and my family) even though I’m a woman with a high earning husband

I mean, besides that I like having lots of money and enjoy my career.  Which I do.  I love having 2x DH’s salary instead of 1x.  But we could totally live on 1x.  I just don’t want to.  And I’m sure after a while I would start writing novels or taking over local non-profits or something.

There’s been a couple of recent articles going around about women making sure they only pick high earning potential husbands.  (“It’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich man…” to quote Marilyn Monroe’s character in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.)  Money matters because you’ll want to stay home with your kids, they say.  Or you’ll want to live a better life than you can on your income alone.  So don’t pick the 40K/year guy, pick the 100K/year guy with upward mobility potential.

Part of it is that I do not ever want to be in a situation in which I have to scramble.  I don’t want to be a 50 year old widow (or divorcee) having to go back into the labor market after an extended absence.  We have life insurance, but getting life insurance that would provide me with true security in a situation in which I could not find a fantastic job after DH’s demise forced me to work again would be a huge drain on just DH’s salary.  And I have complete trust in DH, but if I were married to any other person, that looming potential of being divorced or trapped in a horrible marriage because I needed the money would just be awful.  I never want to be helpless or trapped, especially with children depending on me.

The second reason is not about me.  My BIL is trapped in his current job and his current career trajectory because he has a SAHM wife and two kids.  He has to always make the safe choice.  The one that keeps him employed.  He needs to stay with his company because it’s union and he’s no longer last in/first out.  Contrast that with DH.  When he didn’t like his job he was able to take unpaid leave at first and to just quit without another one lined up later.  He was able to explore working at a start-up and then on his own company and then compare competing job offers that paid 2x as his “safe” job.  Eventually we might have needed him to bring in his own money so as to keep the stress off me (for example, me being on half pay this year in an expensive city would have been a lot more difficult to pull off!), but he had plenty of time to explore different options and was able to wait for one that made him really happy.  If/when this job evaporates, he will be able to go through the process of finding a job he likes again.

A third reason that doesn’t apply to me (but might if I had a husband who felt money more) is that for most people, money is power.  And that means that the person who brings in the money is the one who gets more say in how things turn out in the household.  He (and it’s usually he) gets to say what luxuries get bought, what the household allowance is, and so on.  And for the few months when I was the sole breadwinner, DH did take on more of the household responsibilities (which was nice for me!).  Being married to someone who greatly out-earns you can mean golden handcuffs.  I am much happier having an equal marriage.  And I might be willing to exchange money for power if I had to, that is, me being the one making more and having more say, but not so much the other way around.  (I suspect though that this gets back to point one– I’d rather be unmarried than to be in a bad relationship, but for that, I still need to make my own money!)  (Note that since DH doesn’t really feel money, he could make many x as me and we would still have equal bargaining power, but that isn’t true for every one.)

That’s not to say I want to be married to someone who lies around the house and plays video games all day.  But because I make money, I can value productivity more in a partner than the actual cash he is bringing in.  I would rather have DH produce value than be a hedge fund manager making 5x what he’s making right now (though I suppose if that were the case we could be more active with charity!)  And I’d rather be alone than married to someone who wasn’t making the world a better place.

If I made less money, we’d need to be more frugal, but part of why I chose the profession I chose was because of its potential for income and financial security.  And we’ve saved a lot as a couple to allow ourselves more freedom in the future.  Perhaps if I was less skilled and/or scared of math I might not have the luxury of looking for a productive husband (or having no husband at all!) rather than a high income one.  Caring only about love is a luxury that having enough money makes possible.  Still, I don’t think that finding a prince to rescue me would be the direction my thoughts would go.  I know how to be frugal (partly because great swaths of my childhood had my mom supporting the four of us on less than what a high school teacher makes) and I have ambition.

Of course, I married a guy who had virtually no income in the years we were dating before marriage because we were still in high school and college.  (And who had very little income during the first years of our marriage because we were in graduate school.)  I have no idea what I would be looking for if I, heaven forbid, had to go on the dating market as an actual adult.  But I would still want to keep my career and my income, not just because I love it or just for the money, but because I don’t want to give up that freedom and power.

So how about you?  How do you balance the importance of your salary with the importance of your partner’s?