August 14, 2007

A Woman's Worth

I received my US social security notice today. It tells me what I have paid into the fund and what I can expect to get when I retire. In this climate of fiscal insecurity, with a president who lives by the spend now, pay later credo, I expect to receive nothing from the amount I’ve contributed. My cynicism will be rewarded, I’m sure. You get what you expect.

The fact is I came to this country as an immigrant. I couldn’t work for the first two years as I waited for my green card application to go through, so I volunteered my time working with at-risk youth. My husband was transferred to the United States on a temporary working visa, sponsored by the company that hired him. If he got fired, we would have been sent back.

When I finally got the green card, I started working part-time for a company as a consultant, working for $30.00 an hour, coaching employees of big companies how to be more productive. On the side, I wrote and edited for others. I loved the writing and editing jobs. Problem was they never payed much. So when I retire, my prospects for public assistance are few and grim.

At 45 years old, my pole-dancing days are over, much as I aspire to it on a given night. My prospects for future sustainable income are enhanced by the fact that I used to be employee of the month at Wendy’s, I can turn a phrase, and I have a good work ethic. A thin resumé, at best.

I take solace in the fact that I gave a heroin addict two bucks on Wakiki Beach because he told a good story, sang a funny song, and had a parrot on his shoulder. I need to work on my act a bit, but I figure I could do as well if need be.

Luckily, my husband’s pension is better than mine. He’s been the breadwinner, and he assures me that there’s money there when he eventually gets around to giving notice. But I’m not ready to give notice.

What is a woman’s worth?

What you make of it, I say.

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Anonymous said...

I'm not quite getting what this has to do with being childfree? At all?

- Mary

Teri said...

Laura - Purple Women do not always have the disposable income others thing we do. That's why we blog here, partly to dispel myths. (Gentle Readers, please pay a visit to our Mission Statement; the link can be found in the sidebar.)

We have taken such a different path, and we have no children to keep us reaching for that higher paycheck so we can "pay for college". I always resent the DINK acronym, double-income no kids just simply does not apply to me. I have a kaleidoscope career like yours. You never know what I am going to do next. At age 40-someting, I am loaded with skills, but I certainly don't have something secure as a pension. My husband is in the corporate straight jacket, the major breadwinner, and cannot wait to escape the burden.

You and your husband sound like you compliment each other. You have chosen a creative path, and made a career choices that have given you the opportunity to let your husband's career, the more lucrative one, flourish. I have done the same.

Lynn said...

Laura - I sympathize. I don't know why everyone assumes the childfree (both men and women) have lots of disposable income. It's not as if we don't have living expenses too!

LauraS said...

I think that is the greatest luxury of being childfree. We don't have the expense of children so we are not always a slave to the paycheck. My husband and I have taken huge financial risks as entrepreneurs. We likely would not have risked our home and our financial security if we had a couple of kids at home.

We drive by a decrepit trailer park and we point out the worst looking trailer and joke "that could be our next home." If things went really bad, it wouldn't be a joke, it would be reality. But at least we are only putting ourselves at risk, we are not risking the kids college fund.

M said...

"I think that is the greatest luxury of being childfree. We don't have the expense of children so we are not always a slave to the paycheck."

I think this is only true for some--and as Teri said is really often just a myth.

Many of us struggle financially despite not having kids and don't have the freedom to choose less traditional career paths simply because we don't have kids to support. Many of us are slaves to the paycheck despite not having kids, or perhaps we don't have kids because of our financial difficulties.

I too dislike the DINK connotations. The terms seems to suggest that the "double" income is some sort of surplus, whereas in reality, the double income of DINKS is oftenjust what's needed to get by or might not even be enough to get by.

In many cases the single income of SIHKS (single income have kids--just made that up) might be much more than the double income of DINKS. So much so even that the SIHKS might do much better in the long run than the DINKS, despite the expense of having children.

We are not all living the life of luxury as childfree people, whether luxury is thought of in terms of money, time, or simply having more choices.

I, too, had some trouble getting the exact point of the post--so sorry if I have misread or misconstrued the post or comments.

LauraS said...

I agree that "not being a slave to a paycheck" is only true for some childfree people. My I wrote "we" I was speaking of my husband and I, not the childfree population in general. You are right, some people are motivated to remain childfree, in part, because they don't feel they can afford a child. Some of the people I interviewed for my research are motivated to remain childfree because the job they have, and love, doesn't pay well or is incompatitible with parenthood. They realize they would have to give up a career they love for a higher paying or different job if they were to choose to take on the responsibility of raising a child.

I think if I really wanted a child, I would do the same. I would be sure I had a job that allowed me to afford a child, one that offered benefits and some job security. It may not be my dream job but I would do it, to support my family. That's what my parents did.

britgirl said...

Hopefully this is on point - I also wasn't sure what the point of the article was, so I tried to guess from the comments.

Not all childfree people are rich it's true. Some of us are, depending on what you term rich. We can be low medium and high earners - like most of the population. There are childed wage slaves and childfree wage slaves - and I believe that doesn't really have as much to do with having children (or not having them).

After all, many women decide not to go back to work after having children - for various reasons, or work part time, or start their own businessess - so they aren't wage slaves any longer.

To me, however the greatest luxury of of being childfree is freedom. Freedom to decide what kind of life I want for myself rather than having it dictated to me. Freedom to take risks. Freedom to reach for the sky and advance my career if I want to. Freedom to set up my own business - on the side if I wish.And freedom to remain in the corporation if I want - or until it suits me. Freedom to see the writing on the wall re - pensions and start trying to do something about it - without the thoughts of providing for my "dependents" before all else.

Not having children often means that many ( but by no means all) of us have greater disposable income than if we did have children. We may spend this on other things. I don't like the DINK connotation either (and how funny I wrote an article on my thoughts about it) because of the implication that any income that wasn't spent on kid stuff is spent on frivolities. My husband and I DO however, have a dual income, and no kids. We have a lifestyle that we could not have if we'd decided to have kids. Period. Our beef with DINK is that it's no-one business what we do with our hard earned money.

Many people with kids envy us because we do have more control over how much we can earn than they do.
For them, stark choices have to be made when children are in the picture, where I as a childfree person have the freedom to choose.

Their lives are less their own than their kids. And even when the kids are adult, there is no guarantee that will change that much.

We may not be rolling in the lap of luxury (whatever luxury means). But we aren't all struggling to make ends meet either.

Teri said...

M - Nice tennies! Please give us a Guest Post on the SJ of DINK. Pretty please?

BritGirl - I miss you. I knew you would weigh in on financial matters.

LauraS - You really should've put up a picture of yourself pole dancing here. What were you thinking?! (teasing, jus' teasing...)

My thanks to all for continuing the Purple Women dialogue.