The cost of staying home

She is birthing something new. Bernie is her voice.
(artist: George Redhawk)

I’m trying my best to stay focused, but this election cycle is so compelling.

I allow myself a 20 minute Bernie break, and then I shut my laptop and walk away.

But the world is conspiring.
SHE is conspiring.
To give birth.
To something new.

My Pandora shuffle of classical music is interrupted by a commercial. About daycare. How it hurts Vermont businesses when parents can’t work.

I woke with thoughts like this. About how the system is rigged.

I hate that expression of Bernie’s. The implication of victimhood.
Empowerment is my preference. (I’m a woman.)

The commercial thrusts me back to the blue arm chair in the small farm house where I nursed my first baby. Daycare so costly. Work barely profitable. His chubby hand twisting my hair. The thought of leaving him, unbearable.

I loved work.

It was then that I discovered how other nations did it. Supported parenthood. Provided for families. Secured jobs.

The only financial support that I could find in my country was a day care allowance, and a tax break for the same. Nothing for those of us who sacrificed our degrees and self-respect and sanity to stay home. My husband’s work did offer paternity leave, but he would be the first man to ever take it, and as a new teacher, he felt uncomfortable doing so.

Within a few years, his income potential would outstrip mine, and soon after, my teaching license would expire. A bachelors degree, once so promising, became a relic. The debt of a masters unthinkable on top of the one earned by my husband on weekends while I was home with our second baby.

We would eventually use my IRA to buy our first house.

“You’re lucky you can afford to stay home,” a college friend says. She would return to work immediately. (Her salary in the office, three times higher than mine in the classroom.)

I cut corners. Never ate out. Never bought new clothes. Stopped sending gifts. Didn’t go on trips. Learned to make and keep a budget. Found every possible thing/opportunity/meal that was free.

I was born to privilege so I knew I could go back. I never wanted. Even as a child when we got by on food stamps and cases of hospital Similac while he finished school.

This was just for now. For the baby. The child. The new baby. The children. Our family. Society.

My earliest glimpse into the rigging was when we needed a car. If we bought a new one, especially a high end model, like the one my friend could afford, we could get it with zero down, and no interest for a year.

It would be safer for the baby too.

It would provide the comfort and ease so desperately necessary for all the feedings and changings and road trips to relatives.

The used car would be overcrowded with projectiles. Rusting. Dangerous. Embarrassing. Requiring a loan with a high down payment, and an equally high interest rate.

It’s my fault, right.
I chose to stay home.

It’s my fault, right.
I married a teacher.

It’s my fault, right.
I didn’t work every night after he got home.

It’s my fault, right.
I didn’t want him to work every night either.

It’s my fault, right.
I moved to a state where there isn’t enough opportunity.

It’s my fault, right.
I can’t have both. A healthy family and a healthy bank account.

The truth is that I can’t bear to be rich in this country because I know that my wealth depends on others’ poverty.

Like this guy. He expects to make $15 flipping hamburgers?
How will we buy them for $1.99 if he does?

More on the US and new parents: https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/video/maternity-leave-how-america-is-failing-its-mothers?utm_source=broadlyfbus

 

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