28 June 2007

Poverty and child rearing

I was filling out some paperwork today and it got me to thinking about poverty. What exactly is the definition of poverty? I looked it up at the U.S. Census site, and sure enough, my family falls into the category of poverty. Is that something I am ashamed of? No. Shame implies a level of self-blame. I don't blame myself or my husband for our rearing our children in poverty. I blame our culture.

Our culture, despite all we claim, does not encourage people to follow their dreams, unless it is pre-approved by society at large. I am living my dream right now, and it has put us in the category of poverty. I stay home and rear our children myself instead of handing them over to some daycare worker or public school system to rear for me while I work. I did work for a few years while trying to rear small children. It greatly boosted our reportable income and lifted us up out of poverty, but the cost to our family was too great. Three years ago now my husband and I had a discussion about my continuing to work. I was 4 months pregnant and working as a temp, and I was miserable. We were paying my brother's girlfriend to watch our 2 children (then), but as a temp, my work was erratic. My last paycheck was for $45 after taxes and deductions, while the daycare expense was $60. So my husband actually had to pay $15 for my going to work for two days. Where is the sense in that? We decided that I would stay home and he would be the sole income for our family. It sounds awful, but really, our standard of living has not gone down too noticeably. I would, in fact, say it has gone up, because now we are eligible for housing assistance, so we can live in a place that is non-toxic and large enough for us. My children all suffered for two years from lead poisoning in our old house because the landlady wouldn't do anything about the problem. We lost maybe $100 per week of actual usable money from when I was working steadily full time, but our expenses went down at the same time. But now we are considered impoverished and there is such a stigma attached to poverty that suddenly people look at you with pity and contempt.

"You should go get a job." I hear that often, and I respond with, "I have a job. I am rearing some beautiful children that will grow up to be healthy, responsible adults." But child-raising has become looked down upon as something that is a bother rather than a joy. "That's not a job, that's being lazy." Tell you what, you stay home for a week and be solely responsible for the care of four small children and see how lazy you can be.

So I guess I am writing to whine about how our culture, which professes to be the land where dreams can come true, has made it so difficult for a married mother to pursue her dream of rearing her children, which a mere few decades ago was the expected job of married mothers.

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