Monday, November 08, 2004

Out of control?

My life feels out of control. Which is odd because I was working really hard to get it under control. I'm not sure what happened. Maybe it's being in Bushworld. I was thinking as I was making dinner and it was taking longer than I thought and trying to remember where to drop off youngest daughter for the field trip tomorrow and dealing with homework problems again and trying to remember if I paid a particular bill, "What could the government do to make life better?"

I'm not sure if there is anything. I made my choice to work and have kids (the root of my chaotic state most of the time), in part because that's what my parents and a bad Enjoli? commercial told me. Could I have stayed home, in order to feel like I have more control over my home life? Yes, and no. We are not the best financial planners in the world. With both of us in graduate school together and then at least one of us in grad school up until two years ago, we didn't have a huge amount of cash flow. We've made bad decisions--like not buying a house in one town which would have given us capital to buy in the next and then the next. Like living off of credit cards one summer, with one child already. My decision to go back to school at all might have been a bad decision. I had an assistantship, sure, but if I'd had a regular job--or even if I'd stayed at home, things might have been a little better. I chose to work in part as a result of these poor financial decisions. We needed money to buy a house after moving (unexpectedly) to an area with a significantly higher cost of living. Our previous house cost a third as much as our current one. Even if we'd made more money than we did on the sale of the house, I doubt we could have purchased a house quickly.

Maybe there's something in this the government could have done--provided free financial planning, a tax credit so that choosing to work vs. choosing to stay at home is more of choice, encouraging, or even requiring, businesses to offer flexible schedules or part-time jobs.

What tugs at me now is not so much the financial issues (though with a mortgage, they're definitely there), but my concern for my kids. Am I spending enough time with them? Am I setting a bad example for them by putting other things first sometimes--my work or my writing? Will they turn out okay even if homework is not always turned in or if mom (or dad) isn't waiting for them at the bus and they are taken care of by "strangers"? I don't expect my government to take care of all of this, but I do expect it to help create an environment where people feel comfortable with the choice they've made and the lives they are trying to lead.

And I think this idea applies to the issue of gay marriage as well. If I feel threatened by the whole "family values" issue of the "bad working mom" (it's still there--think of Teresa), I can only imagine how gay couples must feel. There are choices that will be made for them as a result of some of these amendments and laws--places they can't work (state governments, state universities), how to deal with many end of life decisions (Social Security benefits, inheritance). How many choices are we forced away from because of the way society constructs its laws to benefit a certain family construct?

UPDATE: See post at 11D about Home Alone America, a new "mommy-war" book.