Friday, February 11, 2011

Parenting's Extra Expenses

Amy pointed out this article on the effects of poverty on social capital, the ability to connect with community by joining in community rituals and relationships.

" The frustration of poverty is not the lack of things or money rather it is the social pressure that comes in the most subtle forms."

This is making me think about things in our community and how to accommodate those going through financial difficulties. I just e-ed our principal to ask about band and instrument rentals, for example. Are there some children who are being excluded from band because their families can't afford the rentals? (Music education is becoming a big deal for me as I see my son thrive from learning an instrument.)

Our PTO does a great job of doing free or very cheap events, like Bingo Family Night (the kids *love* it) and a Spring Fling where 90% of the fun is just seeing everyone. But then there is also stuff like the Snowflake Ball, a father-daughter "dance" that costs $45 for a dad/daughter.


MH said...

Our school is just now asking for help for the family of a student whose house burned down. If the kid weren't young, I could see how that would get a little awkward.

Amy P said...

I liked this quote from Cindy's post:

"In middle-class Christian America the Joneses absolutely demand that you keep up with them because otherwise they feel guilty."

I also liked this quote from the Deputy Headmistress (another homeschooling mother of a large family), in her thoughts on Cindy's post. She gives a long list of suggestions for how to take the sting out of economic inequality. Here's one:

"Be mindful that what seems a small amount to you is unobtainable to others. Don't speak disparagingly or dismissively of costs- 'anybody can afford ten dollars," 'we all waste five dollars a week,' 'we all spend that much on a latte each week...' No, we don't."

I have a lot of thoughts about Cindy's post. Here are some:

1. At the Deputy Headmistress's blog, there's been a discussion of the cultural differences between (conservative) Protestant and Catholic church culture. To put it very crudely, with the exception of Catholic ethnic parishes (which tend to have a very vibrant social life), the Protestant churches can be a lot like private clubs, while non-ethnic Catholic parishes can be a lot like the DMV. You show up, you do what you need to do, but you don't necessarily know anybody there, no matter how many times you visit. Here, as elsewhere in the world (as Putnam would tell us), there is often an inverse relationship between diversity and community life. That is a very uncomfortable fact--how do you go about balancing a warm community life with an openness to outsiders?

2. This stuff isn't purely a church or school issue. Related issues are perennials on the personal finance/frugality blogs. What do I do if my friends only want to get together at restaurants or the mall? My family's Christmas traditions are driving us to the poorhouse--how do I cut back without being the Grinch?

3. We often talk about "keeping up with the Joneses," but people rarely consider the fact that they themselves are Joneses to many other people they know. Our social circle intersects with a lot of grad students and junior faculty and larger families, so I try to pay attention to this and not accidentally drive our friends into expenses that they can't afford.

Amy P said...

Here's another one. You'll sometimes see personal finance writers advising young marrieds not to try to immediately enjoy (sorry, split infinitive) the same lifestyle their parents have after 30 years of work. However, what they don't tell you is that some of those parents are pushing the kids in that direction. Having themselves become accustomed to a certain level of empty nester comfort, they just can't deal with the fact that their kids can't independently afford shiny, spiffy everything.