August 11th, 2008

ozarque figure

"Working women"...

Thank you for all your comments and responses on this topic -- and my thanks to sapience for posting a link to "Women Are Now Equal as Victims of Poor Economy," by Louis Uchitelle, which looks at women's work patterns outside the home in a very different way and offers a lot of useful information. It's at , and I recommend it.

One of the points it makes is that women who are laid off from $20-an-hour jobs don't see going back to work at an $8-an-hour job as rational -- especially with what it costs them now just to get to their workplace -- and they are therefore putting together intricate arrangements that let them go back to school to learn new skills that will qualify them for $20-an-hour jobs again.

I married for the first time in the fabled 50s, in the Rose-Covered Cottage Days. Nevertheless, I have always had to work, often at two or three jobs. There were times when I had a day job outside the home and ran a business from my home as well; since I "retired," I've been lucky enough to be able to survive with just a home-based business and freelancing. And it has never -- not ever -- been a matter of choice. The hardest part for me was the inadequate daycare arrangements that I had access to for my children when they were small; I didn't have any choice about that either.

I never worked to be able to provide luxuries; I worked to provide the necessities. And I worked because I have always planned far, far ahead. I knew that when my children were adults they were almost certainly going to need financial help -- I knew that not because I had a crystal ball, but because I myself was an adult who needed financial help and it was almost never available. I didn't want my children to find themselves having to work the way I'd always had to work, and I knew that the only way to avoid that was by working hard enough to make it to a position where I'd be able to step in and help them in a crisis. And, like so many other women, I worked because I knew the critical importance of health insurance, which was available only with good jobs

I was right, hard as it was, and in spite of the many mistakes I made along the way. I haven't managed to keep my adult children from having to work a lot harder than I wanted them to, but that is in many ways because of what has happened to the economy, not because I didn't plan properly. My extended family could not possibly have survived if I hadn't always worked.

And things have only gotten worse over the years. I can't imagine how young families today -- or elderly couples on fixed incomes, or disabled individuals on fixed incomes -- can possibly manage even to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads, much less plan for the future, and my heart aches for them.

Times are hard, and they're going to get a lot harder before they start getting better. But our educational system and media don't offer our youngsters and young adults even the most basic information on how to live frugally; they go right on pushing the "Get out there and buy stuff, because you need it!" line nonstop.