On teenagers’ role in the household

Wow, this draft was last touched in 2011.  I have a teenager now– I think I will finish this post using italics so you can see what has changed in the past 10 years now that I’m less ignorant!  I bet I know less!

Disclaimer:  we don’t have any yet.  Update:  We have one teenager and one almost-9 year old.

Often it is said that your teenagers need you more as a SAHP than they did as toddlers.  This was maybe a bit true last year– the transition from doing nothing academically in middle-school to all of a sudden having AP classes and homework in every class and being expected to know things that weren’t taught in middle-school was pretty traumatic for everyone.  There was also just a ton of hir needing to remember things.  Last year turning in English assignments (last period of the day) was the WORST, and zie kept making the exact same MLA citation mistake on every single paper and getting Cs because of it.  THE SAME MISTAKE.  But this year has been a lot better.  I don’t know if it’s getting more sleep, having everything set with deadlines electronically, the more flexibility that the pandemic has brought or what, but oddly having DC1 home 24/7 has been less stressful and less time for us than hir going to school.  (The same is not true for DC2!)  [Though to be fair, they have never needed me as a SAHP.  I guess technically DH is a SAHP right now, but looking for work and doing unemployment training stuff is kind of a part-time job, so…]

I sure hope that’s not true.

I hope my DC is mature enough at that point to make good decisions on hir own.  I hope I’m mature enough to trust DC to make those decisions, even if they end up becoming learning experiences.  For the most part DC1 is mature and makes good decisions.  Zie just needs to do some kind of extra-curricular and also there are some things zie can work on in terms of project management, but those aren’t bad decisions so much as small mistakes.

Working mom from generations of working moms…  This is still true– the point I wanted to make here was that I had friends/acquaintances whose moms were SAHM and who basically catered to their every whim and made sure they met deadlines and helped them with their art projects and science fair projects and so on.  I was expected to figure this stuff out myself– my mom had work, and school was my work.  So starting in 5th grade or so she stopped going through my back-pack and just expected me to get good grades, which I did.  (In 5th grade we also got school planners and they had to be signed every night– my mom ended up telling me just to forge her signature, which I did.  I still can!  She better not let me near her checkbooks!)

if my mom is to be believed, she cleaned the entire house and got her younger siblings to school every morning..  I never had to do anything like that, but I was expected to be responsible for myself. 

I wasn’t quite that much of a superwoman, but I started helping with hardcore chores by age 7 and was cooking dinner several nights a week by the time I was a teenager…  This is true!  I could cook many things by heart.  Oh hey, it looks like I say what I wanted to say here a couple sentences lower.  I just the patterns of my brain haven’t changed much in the past 10 years.

I was more helpful as a teen than as a younger kid.

This benefited me as well… by the time I was on my own I knew how to cook and grocery shop and do basic cleaning.  I’d been taught.  I had years of practice.  Just because I choose not to do many of these things now doesn’t mean I don’t know how.

As the kid gets older, zie waits on the parents rather than the other way around.  That’s how I was brought up.  I had kind of hoped for this, but alas, DC1 has to be cajoled to empty the dishwasher or make hir one meal a week etc.  The cajoling often takes both parents (zie only does it, with grumbling, when the SECOND parent, usually DH, says zie has to).  DC2 has been pretty helpful on the days that school assignments get done super early.  I think zie gets bored. 

Sure, I went through normal stages of teenage angst… and was treated with sympathetic but amused indulgence that it probably deserved.  DC1 had some rebel-ly angst last year, but sometime last year zie  found out that one of hir friends has a terrible homelife (zie was telling us this this year while in pandemic, not last year when it actually happened– zie hasn’t kept in touch with the kid, otherwise I’d have suggested zie bring the kid home sometimes) and that made hir grateful for us.  And then this year there’s just been no angst at all, which I attribute to being able to get up at 8 instead of 6.  Sleep is important!

I had friends who went through more abnormal stages of teenage angst.  Mostly coinciding with parents divorcing.  Some with SAHM (I’m not sure what I meant by this or who I was thinking about).  My mom bought a pregnancy test for a friend of mine…(huh, was her mom a SAHM?  I have lost that memory!)  Some angst caused by parents, abuse… (There’s a reason kids go away to boarding school…)  When we were residence assistants in graduate school we had a student who was an only child with a very overbearing mom… he was a stress case.  One nice thing about being busy with work is that it’s really hard to cause too much damage through overparenting– there just isn’t *time*!  I mean, maybe if you’re that law professor at Yale who is super messed up (apparently she hosted inappropriate parties this past year in exchange for clerkship recommendations and her husband is not supposed to be alone with law students and it sounds like there’s a lot going on besides the Tiger Mom stuff).  But most of us don’t have that kind of energy! 

So… I wonder how to end this.  Maybe just with a series of questions for Grumpy Nation.

Obligatory update:  A commenter reminded me that the mommy wars exist and I forgot to put a disclaimer #NotAllSAHP.  You do you, bro.  Empirical evidence says it DOESN’T MATTER (low SES kids do better in high quality preschool, bad preschools are worse than educated moms… and nothing else makes a lick of difference). That’s another nice thing about having a teenager instead of a toddler– all this stupid stuff people get angry about is years and years away.  I’ve completely forgotten all the stuff that the patriarchy forces women to fight about as if it matters instead of fighting a common enemy.  And I was just reminded the other day when a friend of mine mentioned a facebook war she was watching about whether or not it was ok to call your pets your children and yourself your pets’ mom.  Maybe now that Trump is out of office, we’re back to our own stupidities?  Guys, voter suppression is going on in a huge number of states.  Figure out what your state is doing and make phonecalls.  Also call your federal MOC and ask them to pass HR1.  

What do you think teenagers’ role in the household is?  Were you a help or a hindrance to your parents as a teenager?  If applicable:  Do your kids wait on you or the other way around?  What should they be doing?

Ask the grumpies: My boss is kind of implicitly sexist (or maybe credentialist)– what do I do?

Telecommuting Guy asks:

I work (telecommute long-distance) for a small company as a developer.  The organizational structure is very flat– there’s the owner/boss, then as a developer I have a boss for programming but not for other aspects of the job.  Essentially I have one guy as my boss for programming but in all other aspects, the owner/boss is my direct boss.  Unfortunately the boss/owner is kind of a jerk.  Fortunately I only really have to deal with him when we’re working on grants and a few other things.  Recently we were working on a grant, and, as is the case for many companies in my field, the only woman employed at the company and the only person without a PhD (other than the clerical work that our company out-sources) is the grant-writer.  During our conference calls on this project, it was obvious that the boss was extra jerky when talking with her. (Not explicitly sexist, but frequently short and condescending in a way that was noticeable, especially compared to how he treated everyone else.)  I don’t like this, but I’ve only been employed at this company for a little over 6 months.  I don’t feel like I can address it to the boss directly.  The chain of command isn’t really through my programming boss– he only gets final say on code, not anything else.  I want to be a good guy because I care about making tech more equitable, but when push comes to shove, I find I’m too worried about my own employment stability to make any waves.

I enjoy this job, for the most part, and it would be difficult to find another one that fits my skills and allows me to telecommute (which I need to do because my wife is a tenured [humanities] professor in a small town –we don’t want to go back to living apart).  Is there anything I can do that would help but won’t get me fired?  Also, the grant writer does great work and the company has been very successful with grants.

Oh gee, that’s a tough one.  Probably Wandering Scientist is a better person to ask.

In an ideal world, you’d be able to just go up to your boss (or, better, your manager, and then your manager talks to the boss) and address this issue straight-on, discussing implicit bias, and how important it is that such a great employee as your grant-writer is valued and feels valued.  (Using your Crucial Conversations skills.)  You would help make sure there were systems in place that would encourage a great work environment for everyone.

This is not an ideal world.  You haven’t been with the company long.  Your boss is kind of a jerk and you don’t know how he’ll react if you bring anything like this up.  And, on top of that, you’re telecommuting.

You probably don’t want to bring it up directly with the grant-writer either.  It might make her feel worse (though it might also make her feel less gas-lighted), or encourage her to find new employment, which might be better for her, but maybe not so good for the long-term viability of the company at which you work.  Also, gossip also has a way of getting around and it sounds like you can’t afford it to.

We will say that there are things that you can do to help your colleague feel more valued.  When she says things that are ignored and then repeated by someone else, say, “Yes, that’s just what [grant-writer] was saying,” or “[Grant-writer] made that point too.”  When she does great work, thank her.  Say good things about her work to other colleagues.  After each grant has been sent off, send her a thank-you email detailing what great work she did and cc the boss in.

Other than that, we don’t know what to suggest.  Perhaps as you gain seniority it will become easier to speak up.  Or maybe someone else will speak up and you can back them up.  We wish we had better advice for you.  #2 thinks you should submit to Ask A Manager, and pronto.

Grumpy Nation, what would you do in this situation?  What would you suggest Telecommuting Guy do?

Identity: Who are we, really, and do we care?

People talk from time to time about identity.

One big discussion on the mother blogs we read on occasion is the intersection of feminism and motherhood.  Who does that make them?

In terms of my identity of a feminist mother (for the one of us who has procreated)… I’ve never really thought about it. I have such a strong identity of me as me… and things like “midwesterner” or “economist” overshadow my identity as wife, mother, or even teacher. I have a hard time identifying myself using constructs based on my relationship to other people. I don’t really think of me as a mother or a wife, even though I am. I guess I think of my specific relationship– married to DH, not a wife… taking care of DCs, not a mother. These are things I do but not things I am.

Technically I’m a feminist, but I’m not trained in feminism and it seems like such a part of me that it’s not even an overlay like midwesternism. I don’t think about it. I don’t do things because I’m a feminist like I do things because I’m a midwesterner– I’m a feminist because I do things and think things that feminists do. A certain brand of feminist just happens to be right about things in my mind, and if that label didn’t exist I would still hold the same beliefs.

I’ve been getting away from an identity as “mathematician” but can still converse in that language. I might even be able to still pass. But the econ is now much stronger.

Scalzi recently talked about what makes a person a professional writer– he said you have to get paid.  Some folks in the comments mentioned that it was important to identify oneself as a professional writer as well, as many of us get paid for our writing, but consider ourselves to be things like professors or researchers etc.  But why is it important to have that identity?  It makes sense for professional organizations to have specific gate-keeping rules, but the label of professional writer is not so important to those of us with other labels already.  Professor.  Scholar.  Social scientist.

Who are you?  Are you what you do?  Are you what you think you are?  Is your identity important, and if so, how?

Is it better to have loved and lost or to have never loved at all?

Another installment in our ongoing series, deep thoughts from our chat logs.

#1: http://zenpencils.com/comic/theodore-roosevelt-the-man-in-the-arena/

#2:  that cartoon is kinda sad.

#1: how so?  I suppose it’s like saying tis better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all, which is debatable.

#2: it seems like it’s saying the man could have been more, could have been great, but instead he drinks beer and watches TV. I like to stay home.

#1: oh, I think they’re saying that man is a critic
not that there’s anything wrong with staying home and drinking beer and being an accountant
but that if you do that, you shouldn’t criticize people who do more stuffs.  Personally I am a big proponent of temperature control.  Climbing mountains seems dumb

#2: but being a critic is important too; otherwise how would we know which books are crap? I mean, I have some problems with professional critics, but sometimes somebody needs to say that the emperor has no clothes.

#1: point taken.  ok, you win.  The context I’d seen it offered in was “if you don’t get rejected from time to time you’re not aiming high enough” which is a totally valid suggestion, especially for women.  But you are right, it doesn’t fit that at all

#2: I agree that if you don’t get rejected you aren’t aiming high enough. That part is right. Making it sad to be an accountant is wrong.

#1: yes
though honestly
being an accountant is kind of sad
except for people who like that sort of thing

#2: maybe they like it though!
maybe it’s like solving a big puzzle for them

#1: but being a mountain climber is also pretty sad.  Except for people who like that sort of thing.  Like, what’s the point?

#2: mountain climbers are kinda dickwads, from the books I’ve read

#1: at least accountants provide value

#2: YES

#1: except the ones who work for arthur anderson or enron
those provided negative value<

#2: went over to the dark side

#1: yes

So… who do you agree with?  Are we misreading (or reading too much into) a cartoon?

Does forcing kids to be bored teach them useful skills?: A deliberately controversial post

Related: does forcing kids to be with sucky people teach them important life skills?

We argue: no

Boredom leads to trouble and increased drop-out rates.   It would have to be an important skill to make up for the negatives.  But it isn’t.

As an adult, you have more control over your environment, so learning these skills (such as they are) may not be as applicable as we’d wish.

Better: give kids skills to manipulate their environment, so they know they can change it.

If they do have to be occasionally bored or to deal with sucky people, why not learn that on the job as adults? It’s an easier lesson to learn when you’re making the choice to deal with it because you’re getting a higher paycheck or other perks to your job.

And nobody should have to put up with a sucky work environment as an adult. That’s why we work so hard so we have options and freedom to change things, even if our parents sacrificed in their own work environments for us.

This post was brought to you by our childhood selves, who were bored as crap in school and got nothing useful out of grades 1 – 8.  [#2 says, except 4th grade with Mrs. A.  She was AWESOME.]

Ask the grumpies: Tightwad vs. frugal

First Gen American asks:

I believe that the difference between being frugal and a tightwad miser is knowing when to throw money at a problem. What is that tipping point for you? Define, elaborate, ponder.

This is a really popular personal finance topic, especially with frugality bloggers.

For us, frugality has to do with efficiency and value.  As a frugal person, you may buy a more expensive model of a needed item, but that item will last longer and give more pleasure while you use it than a cheaper model would.  Frugal people do not have false economies.  They are happier with less stuff, but they buy what they need and some of what they want.  They don’t waste money on things they don’t really want, and they make sure they’re able to afford what they do buy.  Frugal people are mindful of their purchases and their true desires.

Misers practice false economy– they save pennies and lose dollars.  They lose horses for want of a nail.  They fail to make purchases that would increase their overall happiness and even those that would increase their overall income or wealth.  (Not knowing when to throw money at a problem.)

Tightwads and cheapskates neglect their personal and social capital.  They go against social norms in ways that can hurt other people.  They may practice petty theft (see: ketchup packets), under-tipping, and so on.

Grumpy readers, how do you differentiate between the different types of low-spenders?

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?

 

On brown rice

Plain brown rice can be pretty bad.  But mixed brown rice is wonderful.  Since #1 can no longer eat white rice because of her insulin resistance, she’s become something of a connoisseur.

This stuff is good and is what we get at our local grocery (it’s in the fru-fru aisle, not with the other rices).  TJ’s has some California blends that are similar and Whole Foods has a similar blend in its bulk aisle.

We also like quinoa quite a bit.

If you have leftover brown rice, it might be better as fried rice or in something like soup or a fritatta.

#2 hates brown rice.  HATES IT, MY PRECIOUSSSSS.  Also wild rice.  That stuff’s not fit for birds.   Yukk.  Quinoa is ok though.

What are your favorite grains?  Have you tried fancy mixed brown rice?