Monday, August 28, 2006

Pente ... vent, eh?

Have you noticed how things seem to be packaged for even numbers? Specifically: four?

Is this because everyone knows that anyone who is anyone has the perfect family of two kids (one boy and one girl *simper* of course!)?

Seriously. Plates and glasses, picnic sets, round-trip-tickets-for-fabulous-all-expense-paid-vacations, all seem to come in fours. Meat is packaged in twos and fours, snack bars in eights. Even the cardboard drink holders at McDonald's come with four holes.

There are occupancy rules for rental property that prohibit more than two children per room regardless of the size of the room and disallow two parents having more than two kids in a hotel room with them. It's getting harder to find restaurant seating for five or more without moving tables. There are new SUVs that only seat four.

Now, I'm not suggesting that everyone adapt to MY family of (hopefully) seven and have things for kids in multiples of five, but it's irritating and thought provoking. Everything in the world seems geared to that 'ideal' family of four. What if you have no kids? Or one? Or 10?

And while I'm venting about this perceived family ideal, let me ask you this: why do modern people react with such disdain at families with over three children? This makes no sense to me and I suspect it's a money prejudice, a result of our selfish materialistic/consumeristic society.

It's as if modern people can only see the child raising equation as: More Money Equals Better Parents! Have fewer kids and spend more and more money on them, that's the ticket! There's no way the average person could spend obscene dosh on four (or more) kids! They must be baaaaaaaad parents!

Why is it OK to drive your Breighlynn and Zaquery around in an enormous, gas guzzling 8-seater Suburban, and spend insane amounts of money on personal electronics and brand name clothes for them, but your neighbour having four or more children is distastefully excessive?

Why is it OK (and newly fashionable!) to be a 'at home mom' and acceptable to have a cleaning lady, a lawn-care service, and a nanny (so that you can go shopping, hit the gym/spa, stop at Starbucks ... get some YOU time away from the kids) but at the same time women -- whether they work or not, whether they have one child or six -- who actually clean their own toilets, make lunches, and put the kids to bed are jeered at as hopelessly low class?

What's up with the new money-centric parents? They work harder, longer, make more money, get into more debt ... and spend less time with their kids.

I don't know how you feel, but to me, 20 minutes in the car with Mom fighting traffic, little Camryn absorbed in his Gameboy, and Emilee Grayce watching a DVD, on the way to the soccer field is NOT family time!

I suppose I should chalk this up to a consumeristic society where stuff is the key to happiness (and apparently good parenting). You deluge your kids with stuff (To prove you love them! To give them what you never had! 'Cause you can! Pick one!) and you fast track them into a myriad of games and activities and exclusive pre-schools so that they can get a head start and excel at their future jobs so that they can earn wodges of cash so they can buy MORE stuff!

Who cares if you haven't sat down as a family since the last winter holiday (and even then Cayleigh was talking to her friend on her cell and Brisyn had his iPod on at the table)? Who cares if you only use your $400,000 house to sleep in and store your (really fabulous!) things because the rest of the time you're at a restaurant, at the gym, at the mall, at a practice, at work, at school, or on the road in between?

This whole family ideal is ugly in my opinion. Who's to say what's perfect? As an only child I can assure you that folks are equally unkind to people who choose to (or can only) have one. This is another societal prejudice. I can't imagine what folks who can't have any (or choose not to) face.

The whole attitude is extraordinarily unfair to the infertile in my opinion. I have actually seen comments written by morons on infertility blogs to the effect of: "You are spending all your money on ART/foreign adoption now you won't have enough for the baby when she gets here!"

Remember, money equals happiness!

Also, what about the secondarily infertile? Those who desperately want a second (third, fourth, etc) but cannot have one? That must be a treat to hear: "When is Maysyn getting a little brother?" ten times a day.

I'm not for a second saying in this rant that any other arbitrary number of kids is better (or that having two is bad) or that having less money is somehow noble. I'm just saying that it sucks ass that there are ANY societal pressures on family make up and that so much of the pressure that there is seems to come directly from the ideals of the materialistic collective.

Parent how you want. Spend your money as you see fit. Have no kids, have one, have the fabled two, I don't care. But don't suggest to me that because I have five and a middle class income that I'm somehow slighting my children or that people who spend all their money on a bid for a single child through ART are putting that baby at a disadvantage.

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posted by MrsEvilGenius @ 2:32 pm   14 comments


At 2:12 pm, Anonymous VegaVixen said...

Once again, you’ve raised a great point.

I grew up in a family of five, but we never really faced those packaging issues.

Most of what we ate (without complaint or whining) was fresh produce from the gardens of friends, or home-canned from my maternal grandmother, without whose generosity from her own garden we would have had some truly lean times.

We couldn’t afford to stay in motels, so all of our vacations were spent visiting relatives who had plenty of floor space for the kids and an extra bed for mom and pop.

We couldn’t afford to eat out, and so never had to deal with the table/booth issue.

We couldn’t afford regular jaunts to the hamburger joints, though, once in a while, my mother would take us three kids anyway if there had been some special reason to celebrate with a special treat (and we ate inside, well-behaved, and not in the car).

And, no, my father couldn’t join us. He was working his ever-changing shift (and sometimes split-shift) blue-collar job to afford to take care of us all (my mom had left her job as a telephone operator with the oldest child, and didn’t return to work ‘til the youngest was in high school).

And the family car? A station wagon, and always was ‘til we were all well into school. [And, as an aside, back in the day when seat belts and child safety seats were not yet on the radar screen, we did get T-boned by a drunk driver, the impact of which sent 5-year-old me (who had been on my knees and peeking, mesmerized, as the world flowed away from us through the back window, though not sitting up high enough to obscure my mother’s rear-view) to the floorboard and back onto the seat. No one but the drunk driver was seriously hurt, in part due to the considerable bulk of that old station wagon.]

We might have been a larger family, but my mom had several miscarriages. I think in the end, my folks were happy for the small family they had, in part because there were times when the money didn’t quite get us to the end of the month, but my mom managed to stretch out the food using her amazing skills of gastromical illusion. Nonetheless, I was pretty hungry on occasion, but didn't tell my folks since I knew the next paycheck would be coming soon.

My parents refused to accept credit anywhere but the family pharmacy, since they felt that health was very important, and merited overextending finances when necessary. They had a Shell gas card, too, since my mother often didn’t have an extra dollar or two on her, but paid it in full every month. Otherwise, they only bought what they could afford at the time of purchase. And that weren’t much.

Nonetheless, we were quite satisfied growing up, and had incredible imaginations, using boxes, and bottles, and all kinds of found objects to invent games. We also just played outside a lot. Or read books. Very little television, and even fewer movies. Sure we wanted certain toys, but we knew better than to whine for them since they weren’t essential. And we usually discovered when visiting friends who had those toys that the toys weren’t all that interesting anyway after one session of play.

In short, we didn’t feel disadvantaged by our low family income. We just felt it was normal. And when we came across others less fortunate, it always seemed that we could still find something to share.

I do know personally many who chose to have small families because they didn’t want the welfare of the children they already had to be jeopardized by the sudden financial catastrophes that can happen when living on a less-than-middle-class income, and not because fewer kids meant more “stuff.” And I have no truck with such decisions. Of course, nowadays there are many social and governmental financial and welfare safety nets, so the size of a family has less impact today than it used to on financial security in the face of unexpected circumstances.

Bottom line: I agree that many of today’s parents confuse just spending time with their children with “being” with their children, and often confuse being a provider of all wishes with being a good parent, but this can, and does, happen in any size family. I thank my parents' good sense that it didn't happen in mine!

Sounds like you and EGH are doing a great job in this area. Keep up the good work!

At 5:41 pm, Blogger Irish Divinity said...

I for one am quite envious of your five children and down to earth lifestyle. I only have 3 myself, but wish for more. Sometimes I would catch myself leaning towards that oh here you can have all the cool stuff mode and gave myself a swift reminder that they need more us time than crazy stuff. So I've endeavored to change this by making them do extra chores for money and they have to save their money for any gadgets they're wanting. They receive gifts at christmas and bdays but other than that, I don't buy toys or gadgets. It seems to be making them more aware of the cost of things and more respectful of their things. So rock on thrifty mom! For what it's worth, I personally think you're raising your little people in a wonderful fashion!

At 8:08 pm, Blogger Sharpie said...

Good for you girl. I say have 3 more and then those 4-packs will be fine!! THAT WILL TEACH EM!!

I am in awe of you and your ability to give of yourself. I myself am DONE at 2. Sometimes I still want to GIVE one away, is that wrong?????lol!!

At 10:39 pm, Anonymous stacey said...

ahh, Blue, you're back!!

I was just having this discussion with dh yesterday. By discussion I mean I was ranting about a thread I'd read regarding 3 becoming the norm "and so should we have one more? We have 2 dd's, if 3 is becoming the new 2..." while dh listened-lol.

umm are these women serious?!
you would have another child, another human being that you are responsible for, based on whether or not it's the new in thing to do? Holy freeking crap!

We (my dh and I) are planning on TTC #4-YEP! a forth and maybe we won't stop there! We do not spoil our children with material positions, take expensive vacations, drive a brand spankin' new car (hehe I said spankin'), or have 2 incomes.

At 2:21 am, Anonymous Kaewn Walker of Great Falls said...

I don't think it is the EXTRA stuff other people are concerned with. It is the things like COLLEGE for one. How on god's green earth do you intend for your kids to go to college??? If they don't get a scholarship then oh well sorry child 4 we put 1 & 2 through college and now you have to suffer because we are broke. I mean you have no job. your husband is a low paid teacher. You don't have much outside comunication with the world. What is this teaching these kids and sorry we can't go anywhere nice because we had this many kids. I know from # 6 of 6 children and it SUCKED. I had clothes that were so worn down and shoes that had holes where my feet got wet. And when I needed something expensive for school I went without because we couldn't eat otherwise. I watch your kids who never have clothes on and I remember those days. I didn't get to go to college because I didn't get a scholarship. My "what I did this summer essay" Well we went to aunt bertha's and I slept in the tub because there was no room. WHOA HEE what a vacation. You are ruining the lives and structure of these children for your selfishness. And also you do nothing but BITCH about this pregnancy. You did this to yourself. I think you are all shallow and selfish for hurting your children' future and you should be ashamed of your greed

At 8:45 am, Blogger macboudica said...

I get that a lot, too, the stares, the looks like I have lost my mind, the accusations of losing my mind, the unwanted pity for staying home with the kids. And my daughter, especially, complains about not getting lots of stuff. But I want to know when life became a contest: He (or she) who has the most stuff wins! I think it is good that our kids don't get everything they ask for (although they do get whet they need), are expected to earn their allowance by doing chores, and when we do go out somewhere, they savor it because it is a real treat.

At 9:51 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keeping up w/the Joneses seems to be the "thing to do" in my city. Bigger house, bigger cars...the adults play some kind of tit for tat game that is totally useless. They should spend that time and energy worrying about their kids, not their neighbor!
My daughter spent a few days w/her cousin recently and came home wondering why we don't have a TV in the car. She also returned with a bag full of JUNK--toys, toys, and toys that my sister-in-law bought her. The hard part is describing to my daughter how every home is different and convincing her that it's okay NOT to have everything that others have.
Simplicity, where is it???

At 9:54 am, Blogger HomeFireBlue said...

Whoops, it looks like K. Walker of Great Falls is having a bad day!

Thank you for sharing, there, Kaewn. Come again! ;)

At 11:00 am, Anonymous VegaVixen said...

Do we owe our children a free ride to college? That "end-all" that spells success? No.

Is it nice for the child when he or she can "get" an all-expense-paid trip to the Ivy League? Sure.

But sometimes the value of education is lost on those who have it given to them (witness the drop-out rate from FREE high school).

Some of the most serious students I've ever seen were working men and women who didn't go to college out of high school, and who put themselves through school, course by course, over seven or eight years, all the while working full-time, many with kids. They were hungry for it, and their work showed it (that is, no slackers in that camp).

It's a shame that so many people place such high emphasis on "college" as the only ticket to success. Not everyone is "academically" inclined. Some people learn better by hands-on training, and are better suited to do very competently things like plumbing, carpentry, photography, sales, welding, computer-aided design, HVAC maintenance, long-haul trucking, landscaping, construction, auto mechanics, etc.

These types of careers can be had by attending a community college or vocational school, and earning a certificate, diploma, or associate in arts or science. These courses are relatively inexpensive, and classes are usually scheduled to facilitate the training of working people who desire to have a more stable and better compensated, in some cases much better compensated, work experience than that offered by minimum wage.

And, for those who ultimately desire to attend a four-year college or university, these types of programs can be excellent stepping stones, allowing a higher income than minimum wage (so that on a given budget, one can save more money for school, if one cannot expect a scholarship), and providing some coursework that may be transferable to a four-year program.

For those who desire a four-year education and who didn't "get" a free ride, community college is still an excellent way to start, as it's relatively inexpensive and convenient for a working person, and most credits from an associate's program are readily accepted at most major colleges. Plus, if one is serious and performs well at this level, there are often scholarships available to "non-traditional" students at four-year colleges who transfer in from two-year schools.

Otherwise, there is a concept called "student loan" whereby one borrows money from the federal government, and then pays it back once one is working at the higher-paying job following college. Of course, one's ability to pay is linked to one's ability to get a job, which in turn is linked to one's performance in school, so one should be truly serious about learning when applying for a loan.

If one is confident in one's ability to succeed in college, there are no barriers. It just takes time, determination, a serious work ethic, and a willingness to sacrifice now for a better life down the road.

It's not a direct path, and it's not easy, but taking responsibility for one's own present and future, and moving beyond placing blame on others is possible, if one is hungry enough for it.

If you can help your children financially, that's great. Most folks can't. But even a parent living in poverty can foster, by demonstration, a strong work ethic, a sense of personal responsibility, and an appreciation for the value of education in a child that will serve him or her well beyond anything that money can buy, and give that child the real tools necessary to be successful in life.

Bottom line: Higher education is not an entitlement. And a child who is encouraged by a trustworthy, firm, and loving parent to solve his or her own problems and to make his or her own way will find a way to walk his or her desired path after high school.

At 1:10 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I'm not having a bad day and I agree with K Walker. Well said Ms. Walker!

At 5:51 am, Blogger Anna said...

Very, VERY well said Blue. I think people today are truly hampered by the notion that they need to be able to afford everything that's featured on tv and magazines. We have talked about this with my husband and even though we'd love to put all of our children through college, university or whatever else they want to attend, we had to face the fact that we just won't be able to. Not even just one or two of them, unless we were prepared to make huge lifestyle changes (me going to work full time, or him switching to a very stressful, high-flying career.) But that would mean so much less time with them now, and is not a choice we wish to make. So student loan, scolarship or vocational training it'll have to be!

When I was growing up (and we were only 2 siblings)we never had much, we always had an old car, hand-me-downs, not always got what we wanted, had to share a room, never stayed in a hotel, almost never ate out. But both my brother and I grew up very happy and close to each other and our parents, and feeling very much loved.

In all honesty, I would only consider having only 1-2 children for financial reasons if I couldn't afford decent medical care for them. Since here in the UK the national health system is pretty decent, that's not a problem, luckily :)

Good luck, you're doing great by these kids.

At 5:54 am, Blogger HomeFireBlue said...

I'm glad you're not having a bad day .. erm, Annonymous, or, indeed a bad, bathtub-sleeping life! :)

I also respect your opinion (and K Walker's, too).

Welcome to the Thriftymom blog! Stay tuned for more pregnancy bitching and naked children! W00t!


At 9:58 pm, Anonymous queenmommy911 said...

Just another voice in the crowd of, "You go, Blue!" :-) I get irritated over the search for a 5-pack of anything, but, luckily, some things come in 10-packs, so each one gets 2, or I buy the 6-pack and have a spare for me. ;-)

Being the older of 2 children of a twice divorced mother who made about $12,000 a year when I was a teen, *I* most certainly didn't have college handed to me. Can't imagine such a thing! Everyone I knew going straight to college on mom and dad's dime piddled away the opportunity anyway...

I'm kinda curious as to whether K. Walker and anonymous have children, knowing how so many of us have one opinion prior to pregnancy and do a 180 when we're living in the day-to-day reality of parenthood. Also, seeing how each of my children up to a certain age have almost always gone half naked, not because we've got too many to afford clothes for them, but because that's how they prefer to be...Please come to my house and try to keep clothes on my 19 month old! It'd be a fun battle to watch! ROFLOL!

At 12:40 am, Anonymous Chorus_Girl said...

Where the hell did this idea come from that parents are obligated to pay for their children to attend college? I'm living proof that a person can pay for his own education (and without getting college loans) by working while attending college. A person who pays for his own education is much less likely to fuck off and flunk out.


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