Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Better or Worse?

From Emma Jane, over at Barely Tenured:


Compared with your parents when they were the age you are now, is your standard of living now much better, somewhat better, somewhat worse, of much worse?

This is a no-brainer for mr. delagar and me. Even though we're doing 300% better now than we were a year ago (amazing what declaring bankruptcy will do for you), our standard of living is still pretty sucky. We rent a house on the very edge of an acceptable neighborhood, both of our cars, while they are paid for, are ancient pieces of junk, we own nothing of value, if you don't count a bazillion books (and you'll be interested to know that the bankruptcy court did not -- if we had had boats, or motorcycles, or ATVS, or goats, all of that would have been stuff they would have seized -- but books? Nope. Useless junk, books.).

mr. delagar, as a graduate student with three different ill-paying jobs, though he makes enough to be above the poverty level, as it is defined by our charming government, does not make near what his father made at this age -- a subject which is a sore trial to him. ( I point out that his father was not also being the primary caretaker for a child. This does not cheer mr. delagar up. It ought to, in my opinion.)

I made more than my mother did when she was my age -- she worked for the New Orleans public school system -- but since I'm the primary wage earner we ought to be comparing me to my father, I guess, and no, not near what he was making at my age.

When my parents were my age, they owned a four bedroom house; they could afford summer vacations; they could afford to send my younger brother to private school. They could raise four kids and plan to send them all to universities. They could plan for a fairly luxurious retirement. My mother was working, but she had just spent our childhood at home with us, and my father, after that, had sent her to back to school, to get her B.A. He could afford to do that.

I guess our situations are somewhat similar -- mr. delagar is back in school, he's staying home with the kid, we've got her in private school -- but it's one kid, not four, there won't be a luxurious retirement (we joke that we just won't ever retire, because we're certainly not managing to save much for it), mr. delagar is working all the while he's in school, he worked the whole time he "stayed home" with the kid (we scheduled his work hours around mine, and put her in daycare or preschool part time), not to mention the state, not we ourselves, is paying for his education.

And not to mention the anxiety. I don't know if my parents felt this. Maybe they did. We always know that my job can vanish. (It's non-tenured. This university doesn't have tenure. I'm on a two-year renewable contract. I don't expect it to vanish, but still.) Life in 2005 is so uncertain. Even if your job doesn't go away, there's the health care crisis (despite the denials of the Wingers, it exists): if you get sick, your financial situation will be destroyed. And everyone knows this, on some level. Gasoline prices, ditto. The War. The religious whacks. Global warming. One thing after another, not to mention what's up with the growing rift between the hideously wealthy and the desperately poor. Yeah, the anxiety is the worst of all.

But I'm sure our parents had anxiety too.



zelda1 said...

I am much better financially than my mother was ever. She struggled, which meant that her kids struggled. We wore worn out tennis shoes in the cold winters, usualy by Christmas my toes were sticking out, and coats that were usually too small. Our diet was vegatarian except on Sunday and that day we had chicken. So, I am doing much better but that isn't saying much. If my husband loses his job, which is a big possiblity since his company is sending the jobs to India, we lose our insurance and my medicine will bankrupt us as well as the many trips to the doctor. The cost of gasoline is causing a big dent in our household expense and we are now trying to justify having cell phones and a home phone. One will have to go. So, even though we are better off than our parents, we are not doing that great. Our life revolves around a very tight rope of "ifs" Our health care crisis and the fragility of jobs in this country are of great concern for the have nots. I, for one, am ready for that revolt. Workers unite, we only have our chains to lose. (Karl Marx)

delagar said...

"Very tight rope of "ifs"."

Great line. That's exactly how it feels.