Tag Archives: parent

Blog Casual Friday: Mr. Potter’s Free College

I’m going to try out a new feature on my blog.  On Casual Fridays, I may post something a little less polished, share a few thoughts, or throw something out for discussion.  Here is something that’s been hanging around in my drafts.

We would do well to take another look at It’s a Wonderful Life now that the holiday happy haze is passing.  It might be useful to take some social-political lessons from this film.

Remember the bank run?  Remember how everyone wanted their money from the B&L because the bank was going to close for a week?  George Bailey had to explain to them all that, although Mr Potter’s offer to pay 50 cents for each dollar deposited at the bank looked like benevolence in a turbulent time, Mr Potter might have other motives. Mr Potter wasn’t selling; he was buying.  He was picking up bargains.

Each person had worked hard for the money in their B&L account.  Mr Potter was taking advantage of their panic (which as it turns out, he created), and returning to them half the value of their money.  He was stealing the rest. He was buying these people.  He would have no competition for control over their lives.

Now we are having free college for everyone dangled before our eyes.  Sounds great and about time, right?  First you orchestrate the need: college under federal funds has become unaffordable. For everyone.  So we want free college.

Do we forget, or do we just not care, that federal funding means federal control—over content, among other things.  The gov’t is not offering you a bargain; it is monopolizing the educational content over your lives and will tolerate no competition in the marketplace of ideas.  The fed gov is buying all influence over your minds.

Public school extended through grad degrees. But public school was such a great deal, right?

As for low-cost college:  don’t give me that anymore.  It was a great idea to spend the first two years in community college, saving thousands of dollars while getting your required basic courses out of the way.  But as the cost bar is raised, it’s raised for everyone.  Community college is no longer the place to go for technical training while you’re working; it’s become grades 13 and 14 for public school grads looking for direction.

My kids (and we) are having a great deal of trouble paying for community college. Not only has the cost gone up, because the industry can smell the money just as well as all the other college entities. They know they have a huge captive audience for their services. The abstruse financial aid maze is really incomprehensible.  You pay up front, and late in the semester, you may or may not receive reimbursement for some of it. Only the Magic 8 Ball knows.  If we had the money up front,  we wouldn’t be applying for finaid.

Also, when the fed gov has everyone occupied at community college, including people who otherwise would be pursuing other things, delaying adulthood for two more years, they won’t be noticing that they can’t get jobs.  Which says to me that the gov knows there still won’t be any. Just get them all gov dependent.  That is the goal.

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A Choice We Don’t Want Americans to Make

The name of my blog has been validated once again. It seems some members of our society really are mythical. Reportedly, you need a fairy-wand if you want a stay-at-home mother, because they probably don’t exist. And we’ve recently been told that we don’t want them anyway.

I could believe what I heard. But to be fair, I played angel’s advocate for a few minutes and tried to imagine what he could really have meant which wasn’t as bad as it sounded.

 

 

 

Nope. There was no way to make what he said mean something innocuous.

With a potentially paradigm-shifting election days away, President Obama pandered in late October 2014,

“And too often, parents have no choice but to put their kids in cheaper daycare, that maybe doesn’t have the kinds of programming that makes a big difference in a child’s development. And then sometimes there just may not be any slots or the best programs may be too far away.
And sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. That’s not a choice we want Americans to make.”

Notice he did not say: “That’s not a choice we want Americans to have to make.” It was an interesting set of words: “That’s not a choice we want Americans to make.”

He presented this option at the end of a descending list of bad options.  As in: This is the worst possible option and only women who are desperate are forced to take it.

Speaking to the generic working woman, the President said that you want a great place to drop your kids off every day that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

And to that generic working woman, this all might sound good if she doesn’t think about it for too long. And a lot of those who’ve bought into the Oppressed First World Woman motif could find themselves feeling thankful that finally some Understanding Government Hero is going to right our slights.

But only in Magic Liberal World can you demand a service which requires highly specialized expertise, competent education and professional commitment which also costs very little. You want high-quality staff, programming that makes a difference in a child’s development…AND you believe you are entitled to have it for very low cost.

You are outraged that our government is not making this happen.

Would you want to be on the other end of that exchange?  Would you like to be the daycare worker who has spent money, time and energy in order to be qualified and then be expected to donate your services at low cost? Aren’t daycare workers entitled to be paid well?

Asking for the service while refusing to consider the reality of the cost is magical thinking. There is no getting around the cost. If someone performs a service, he or she is entitled to be paid for that service. And some one, or many someones, must pay. To deny the workers their compensation would be unfair and unethical, a social injustice of the highest order. How is it possible to imagine that the service ought to be provided but the cost ought not to be required?

Methinks your real estimation of childcare services is showing. It seems like you don’t think it takes a lot of anything to take care of the kids. You really just want to park them somewhere. And you don’t want to pay much for it. Your rhetoric talks the talk that it’s an important job, but your wallet walks the walk that it’s not worth much. We don’t want to pay highly for things we don’t value.

Be honest:  if you really thought the job was highly skilled, noble, cutting-edge, or important, you’d want to do it yourself. Or you would highly compensate those who did it for you–you would want to pay them well, out of your own resources.

I don’t think the President’s pandering to generic people hits its aim much. I don’t think that most women actually ascribe to this stuff. Mr. Obama seems not to have heard that most mothers say that they would a thousand times prefer to be home with their kids if they could only find a way to make the economics work.

Women who work and look hard for the best daycare that they can afford know very well that the tension between staying home with your kids and earning wages is real. Most of them know the real costs to any balancing act, and that compromise means there are costs to every gain. Having it all at the same time is the mythical motif. I don’t think that many women believe in the simple Faustian government solution.

The President is comparing apples and oranges. To equate the dedicated care that happens between a mother and her children with a job-for-hire is addled, manipulative, and shallow.

If caring for children is someone’s job, we should expect job-level care. Expect that the child is seen as a warm body to be maintained and handed back in comparable condition at the end of the work day. Expect the employee childcare worker to leave her job at work when she leaves for home.  Many childcare workers, to their credit, do much more than this. They really care about their charges and take real responsibility.  But that’s an unpaid bonus. You have no business expecting more than what you are paying for.

We expect all sorts of intangibles and ideal benefits and then we want to plunk down minimal wages. This is magical thinking.

Let’s tick down the list of demands for government sponsored childcare: high quality childcare, programming that makes a difference in a child’s development, low cost, government mandated.

Except for the last one, this happens every day in homes where there are mothers and children, working or stay-at-home. Let’s look at just a few of the things a mother does every day.

  • Takes full responsibility for all aspects of the child’s nurture, care, education, training
  • Raises the child with a focus on the long term: his/her future
  • Integrates highly specialized and customized teaching into everyday life from birth through adulthood
  • Does not consider caring for her children a job or a career, but a calling, a vitally important lifestyle of service to her family
  • Performs the service without expectation of actual wages
  • Knows that this calling is inestimably more important and more rewarding than a career, in spite of the fact that it’s also tiring, other-centered, and all-consuming
  • Sacrificially loves the child

I believe the requirements of daycare are met.

By the way, if sending them to daycare costs more than sending them to a public university, the obvious economic option is to skip the daycare and do your own childcare! Thus further validating the growing evidence that second incomes often cost more than they earn.

In our present economic climate, any mother who stays home to be with her children has already made an informed choice based on firmly-held convictions. There are very real sacrifices here. She has calculated the cost, compared it to the gain, and has chosen to be there. She understands the true value of what she’s doing.

The woman who works does all these same things while maintaining a career. When she is away from her children, someone else must be a substitute. She knows better than anyone that no sub can ever be Mom. No sub would be able to do the custom-designed, nuanced, organic care that Mom does. No one would be willing to pour as much interest, engagement, dedication or sacrifice into that task. It’s the living demonstration of a unique relationship between her and her child. She also understands the choice she is making, the losses and the gains, and she is not confusing daycare with mothering.

But I have experience with this confusion. I recently did some temporary childcare in my home for a friend.  I came to understand very quickly that this friend was expecting a lot more than babysitting. She wanted a place for her kids to spend the day…and a teacher to oversee lessons getting done and to time music practice, and a nurse to attend health conditions requiring frequent washing and application of ointment.  There were instructions for how much video was to be permissible for each of three children, requiring me to reinforce her discipline. There were dietary restrictions to follow, and we needed to make sure the youngest had a nap…all while keeping them entertained in an unfamiliar setting for approximately 10 hours.

This woman was expecting a Substitute Mom, but she paid me for child parking. It was nothing resembling enough. How could it be?

There’s a sentence in the President’s speech which puts this into perspective for me; it’s the Bizarro world view which makes it as clear as can be.

“Sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. That’s not a choice we want Americans to make.”

From Backwards World view, a woman who leaves the workforce to care for her children is earning lower wages for the rest of her life. Her career is damaged. She is taking an economic hit.

Like her proper and natural place is the workplace, and it’s unfair that she has to leave it to do something else (less important).

Take note: this is our government’s estimation of parenting.

We don’t want American women to stay home to raise their own children, because it means they will earn less for the rest of their lives. We don’t want people to choose between receiving guaranteed wages and raising their children full-time.

I’m afraid no government will ever possess the power to reconcile the two, but cynical social engineers will count on our hopes that magic wands are wielded by governments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mercy of a Good Opening Band

Another concert, this time with my youngest daughter. My youngest wore a giant pink squid hat with tentacles and attracted some attention. I’m cultivating another concert buddy.

PASSENGER 006 dd with dh (She is a teenager and not 6 as this pic might suggest.)

We were at  the Electric Factory seeing someone who Maddy and her dear friend Hannah listen to.  We were assured that we would not like him. Even Maddy and Hannah didn’t seem to like him too much. So my husband and I knew that we would most likely not enjoy this inexplicably popular one hit performer who shall remain nameless because we definitely did not enjoy him.

But God who delights to show mercy to His beloved showered His mercy upon us and gave us a great opening band.

They are The Once. When Geraldine Hollett began singing, I knew the evening was saved. And when Phil Churchill and Andrew Dale struck in with their gorgeous harmony I was sold. Nothing compares to the stripped-down live sound of an ensemble’s essentials. Voices in harmony, a guitar, a mandolin/lute/banjo, and Geraldine’s hand drum (thing) were plenty impressive. Songs were lovely and evocative. I bought the CD at the merch table.

PASSENGER 008

Even Maddy and Hannah commented that The Once was better than the headliner was going to be.

Set list was: The Town Where You Lived, We Are All Running, All the Hours, and Elvis’ Can’t Help Falling in Love with You (first time I’ve enjoyed that one), By the Glow of the Kerosene Light (tears), and two or three other songs I don’t know yet by title. But I loved every one. I will be getting CD #1, and the Christmas album will be added to our holiday repertoire.

PASSENGER 009

I have endured countless forgettable opening bands, but this not my first pleasant surprise. A really good opening band is like a rare and unexpected gift. In February of 2013, we discovered The Lone Bellow as an opener at a TWLOHA concert; we went because Fiction Family was headlining. We were astonished, and we’ve seen them twice since. I’ll be looking for The Once to appear in our area now too.

We had a blast.

Cost and the Illusion of Everything

Everything we do costs something. You exchange money for something that you need or want. You exchange your time and energy for a few hours each weekday to receive a paycheck. But you have lost that money. You will never regain those hours.

Jesus told us to “count the cost” before we commit to a course of action. Jesus was telling us to recognize the significance and the consequences of our choices. He told us this because there is always a cost.

And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it–
Luke 14:27-28 NKJV

Choose to do one thing, and the cost is that you will not be doing another thing. The years doing a thing are years lost to doing a different thing.

Feminism once offered women a slogan: “You can have it all.” Many have since found that in real time, this is not true. They worked hard at a fulfilling career, but they were not at home with their children when they began to talk and walk. Their children grew up, and there was an uncomfortable disconnect between them. The bonding designed by God for mother and child was sometimes incomplete. They had to give away one thing to obtain another thing.
If you are a young woman, it’s easy to think that you will have all the options, always. You will pursue this field, but you will also be able to do all the other things you want to do…sometime. Someday.

This is an illusion.

First, you will spend time doing one thing at the cost of all other alternatives that you would have been doing at that same time.

Second, each life choice will place you on a path which may be difficult to leave. I think that many young women have pursued careers expecting that marriage and family would happen later.

Is family life the default, something which just “happens” to everyone at the expected time of life? Decades later, many of these ladies are unmarried still, without having chosen to be so. Could the requirements of career have placed some of those women on a path away from the development of family life? In some cases, did two paths diverge too dramatically?

Conversely, a woman who has put her career “on hold” while she raises her children for a few years will encounter a whole new world when she tries to return. She will not find her job and all its circumstances intact. The world has moved on and the path she has walked has transformed her.

Third, time is limited. There comes a day when you realize in a real way that you will not have time to do all those things you were planning to do. Will you be content with what your life has been about?

Young women are given expectations that we can obtain without cost. No downside is suggested for our life choices. No cost. That is a lie.

There is a cost to every choice, good or bad.

A person who is trying to live an honest Christian life finds that even when we do a thing which is very good, even when we choose to do the best, the most noble, the most holy thing, there is a cost. We work hard to achieve a good thing, but we lose something in exchange. That’s the world’s economy.

“But I was doing exactly what God asked me to do!”

Don’t the acts of obedience and self-sacrifice cost as well? Do they not cost more? If it is a very worthy deed it may take more from us. If it’s worth doing well, we strive with our minds, our emotion, our strength, causing wear and tear and aging to our physical bodies, making us more emotionally fragile, diminishing ourselves.
As we work to provide for the unending needs of those who depend on us, we age and wear out. Time passes. We really do get used up and poured out.

John Mark McMillan’s song, “Economy”, expresses the economy of the world we live in and the entropy which plagues us.

Raise your voice
Chase away the ghosts
The pain that haunts a heart
The things we fear the most
The entropy of life
The slow decay of time
That wars against our bones

All these sinking ships
Are rolled against the wave
The raging of the tide
The tyranny of days
And sleep would chase us down
Sleep would have its way
And night would fall upon us all

But I believe you can overcome my economy
You can dig me out of the grave
I believe you can overcome my economy
You can dig me out of the grave

The weight of love
It rests upon us all
The people we’ve become
The people that we’ve known
Longing for a day
Arrested by a hope
That death could not foreclose upon

I believe you can overcome my economy
You can dig me out of the grave
And I believe you can overcome my economy
You can dig me out of the grave
I believe you can over come my hearts economy
Yeah you can dig me out of the grave

 

This world works this way because it is a fallen world. (See Genesis 3) The sin of human pride and selfishness distorted the world. The fabric of the universe became what we in our self-centeredness wanted it to be. We chose the way the world works.

But we did not count the cost.

The cost in a fallen world is that we die a very slow death all of our lives. We tire, our bodies are destroyed, and we feel frustration, loss, despair, boredom, futility. Our work is constantly ruined and dismantled. In time, our accomplishments vanish. Finally, we die. That is the economy we live in while we’re in the world.

But God’s economy still exists, and will prevail.

The world as God originally created it is hard for us to imagine. All things would be perpetually new. Not only would there be no death, there would be no aging, no illness, no decay. The violence of nature would be alien. Think about a world without sin, no one ever committing an act which is self-serving. We can’t even imagine this.
And in a future age, all will be restored to the way God wants it to be. He will bring his economy back to our world when He returns, making all things new. Our world will end, righteousness will be brought to bear, and all those evils and sadnesses will be no more.

God’s perfect economy is different than the world’s. He will renew the lost years. C.S. Lewis wrote, “They say of some temporal suffering, ‘ no future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”

Yes, God can overcome my economy; even though I have been subject to the downward spiral of worldly decline, he can dig me out of that grave, alive!

We are called as believers to see beyond the world’s economy. We are expected to see as God sees, to see God’s economy working in and through the world we live in. To understand the true economy behind, beneath, above the world’s economy. God’s ways, hidden from view except to those who trust Him.

And we are called to act on the truth that we see, regardless of what others in the world do.

12Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.
16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. I Cor 2 NKJV


So what’s a Christian young woman to do?

I want you to realize, now, that you do not have the ability to have it all, do it all, or do everything “someday.” Someday will never come. You must make wise decisions concerning which things in which you will invest your time and energy. Choose carefully what you will spend your life doing. Neither your time nor your efforts are endless. In our world’s economy, you cannot be in two, or twenty, places at the same time.

Please have an honest conversation with yourself. What really matters to you? What do you feel you must do in your lifetime? What must you become?

More to the point, what does God have planned for your life? Maybe finding that out ought to be the first step.

The world will relentlessly insist that you had better get your career ducks in a row before you make the sorry mistake of diminishing yourself into that cookie-cutter mold of wife and mommy. Because then you won’t have an identity, and let’s face it, you won’t matter.

Do you believe that?

Recognizing the cost, how will you invest your time and energy? What will your life be about?

Whose economy do you live in?

(John Mark McMillan is highly recommended artist—his song lyrics, most profound poetry, speak to the very real experience of a disciple of Christ living in a fallen world. And he is awesome in live performance!)

Projects, Pets, and Full Plates

If you are a woman with a child, don’t look for projects. You already have a project that requires all your attention and talent. You already have a built-in full-time career.

We all feel more comfy with tasks or jobs. They come with objective measures for how well the job is done.  The measures tell you when the job is completed and you can move on. These jobs are things to do which have a finishing point, about which we can feel a sense of accomplishment. Things which we can exert our power over and receive no willful resistance. Things for which we receive feedback about our performance from coworkers and superiors.

But if you have children, you have an ongoing task built into your life which calls for different methods. That person, or those people, require that you engage with them, act toward them, behave around them. They require that you constantly acquire wisdom about how to teach and guide them. You need to learn on the job.

This task is never done; it is life-long.

You will receive a lot of resistance to your work. You are struggling with an autonomous being who is your equal in will, and hasn’t yet learned to be master of himself.  He is still learning self-control, other-centeredness, and courtesy. You may have several of these beings to relate to, each different from the others.

There are only subjective and open-ended measures for your work; you can never know whether you are accomplishing your job well. Results are as permanent as sand beneath the waves. In fact, you will probably get the worst resistance and hostility when you are doing your job best.

I understand why women with children opt for careers rather than staying home full-time; in some ways it’s easier.

But I find a puzzling thing among women with and without careers.

Working women with demanding jobs and children find themselves stressed and obsessed with a third task.  It can be a ministry, a demanding pastime, or a demanding pet. The notable thing about these third tasks is that they are optional.

Women who believe that it is preferable to be full-time stay at home mothers, and even homeschool, because that lifestyle allows them to be engaged in their children’s lives…who have chosen to be the primary teachers and disciplers to their children…also find themselves engaged in a third task.  It might be a ministry, a family hobby, or just the need to be involved in the endless opportunities available to a woman who has complete prerogative over her schedule, and who has a car. With these optional tasks, these women are also adding stress and distraction to their already-full plates.

Any and all of those things will crowd out the real eternal task you have in front of you: raising your child. Loving your child takes everything you have.

Raising a child offers little reward in a material sense. Many times you will feel very alone.  You will not feel a sense of accomplishment so much as an awareness of how badly you have done the job compared to how it ought to have been done. You will not be paid or be treated to any system of job reviews. There is no system to provide you with feedback from co-workers or superiors. And you cannot quit this job, ever.

It’s relationship you are tasked with.  Building a relationship with each of the children you have is your responsibility. You are called to it the day your child is born. It’s open-ended, subjective, unpredictable, exhausting, and thankless. It’s humbling and absolutely necessary.

And please don’t mistake pet ownership for relationship. Pets are not eternal beings who will forever be influenced by the quality of your discipling. You are not answerable to Almighty God for how faithfully you lived out your calling to bend them toward a lifetime of faithfulness. Pets do not have an eternal destiny. Preferring pet training to the call of loving and shaping your child is so sad I don’t know where to go with it.