That One Piece of Paper: Step 4

Step 4 is called, “What Level (Of Responsibility) do you Most enjoy working at, and at what salary?”

The instructions say:

Salary is something you must think out ahead of time, when you’re contemplating your ideal job or career. Level goes hand in hand with salary, of course.

1. The first question here is at what level you would like to work, in your ideal job? Level is a matter of how much responsibility you want, in an organization:

  • Boss or CEO (This may mean you’ll have to form your own business)
  • Manager or someone under the boss who carries out orders
  • The head of a team
  • A member of a team of equal
  • One who works in tandem with one other partner
  • One who works alone, either as an employee or as a consultant to an organization, or as a one-person business

Enter a two- or three-word summary of your answer, on the Level of Responsibility and Salary petal of your Flower Diagram.

This is easy. Having already noted that working by myself or with one other (occasionally) was miserable enough to end up on my working conditions list, the bottom two options are out. My summary on my flower will be: Manager, team leader, and/or a member of a team of equals.

However, salary is harder.

2. The second question here is what salary would you like to be aiming for?

Here you have to think in terms of minimum or maximum. Minimum is what you would need to make, if you were just barely “getting by.” And you need to know this before you go in for a job interview with anyone (or before you form your own business, and need to know how much profit you must make, just to survive).

Maximum could be any astronomical figure you can think of, but it is more useful here to put down the salary you realistically think you could make, with your present competency and experience, were you working for a real, but generous boss. (If this maximum figure is still depressingly low, then put down the salary you would like to be making five years from now.)

Make out a detailed outline of your estimated expenses now, listing what you need monthly […].

I could type you the list from the book, but that seems a little boring to me, and in my opinion, it wasn’t very complete. I like the list I found here after a little Google digging: Free Sample Monthly Budget Template. I wouldn’t download anything from that site, but I like the list.

I pulled out our YNAB4 budget, I asked Tim to pull out his pay stub, and I opened up our electronic bill pay and accounts to figure out how much we’ve been spending in each category, and filled out my spread sheet.

(Apologies with not sharing the numbers, but I am sensitive to potential comparisons.)

 

Next steps:

Multiply the total amount you need each month by 12, to get the yearly figure. Divide the yearly figure by 2000, and you will be reasonably near the minimum hourly wage that you need. […]

Parenthetically, you may want to prepare two different versions of the above budget: one with the expense you’d ideally like to make, and the other a minimum budget, which will give you what you are looking for, here: the floor, below which you simply cannot go.

My income from this career will be the second income in my family. We live comfortably on my partner’s income, and don’t have any interest in having more stuff, or “increasing” our standard of living (though, my knowledge of economics says that is inevitable). Having a small child, we’re going to incur the expense of child care when I work, which is my major concern with salary. And, it would be nice to lower our debt load, and save for emergencies, vacations, and retirement.

I need to work for personal security reasons — Working now will make sure that I have a good retirement income, either from savings or social security. Working is important, in case of the contingency that my husband dies, because entering the job market is difficult, especially after a long break. Also, knowing these numbers is critically important to valuing my own work. I deserve a salary for skilled, educated and qualified workers.

I decided, using math, and considering above, that my contribution salary would need to be approximately $40,000 per year at the low end. Using a little bit of research (on salary.com and cbsalary.com), I found that the upper quartile of people with “Program Assistant” jobs (which is a title I could have) is probably about $75,000.

[Aside: This is so privileged! I’m talking about making four to seven times the poverty level for one person ON TOP of the salary of my partner. Not only is it a privilege to know how much money you’re going to make in a year (i.e. not have to fight for hours), this is before/including benefits like paid vacation and insurance. We so need to put policies in place for the women who cannot make this choice between staying home and working, because working is an economic necessity.]

Finally, the book talks about an optional exercise in which you think about other rewards, besides money, that you hope for — nontangibles that can’t be converted to cash. These include: Adventure, popularity, intellectual stimulations from the other workers there, a chance to be creative, etc.

Adventure is one of my family values, so I’m going to add that to my flower. Intellectual stimulation from the other workers sounds like a nice benefit. And a chance to help others is important to me.
Now my flower looks like this:image

Modifying Lullabies

She's holding it...

Look, a man holding a baby! (Photo credit: BenSpark)

I know it’s not the best blogging etiquette to apologize for not posting. But, I’m going to do it anyway. You see, back in September, I started working on the story of my daughter’s birthing, thinking it would be easy to write. It wasn’t, and I’ve been working on it ever since. Her first birthday is in two weeks, so I’m hoping to have it finished by then, but I’m not sure it will be. In the mean time, I’ve been thinking about this blog and how it functions in my life and as a meaningful force in the world. I recently took a personal development class that helped me think about my definition of success.

Enter, bedtime.

I sometimes sing my daughter to sleep. I sing several songs, but the one I am thinking of is “Sleep, Baby, Sleep.” The Lyrics:

Sleep, baby, sleep
Your father tends the sheep
Your mother shakes the dreamland tree
And from it fall sweet dreams for thee
Sleep, baby, sleep

And so I began to think about the message this sent. Daddy works, mommy cares for you. I am more worried about the message it sends that daddy doesn’t care for baby girl than the idea that mommy doesn’t work. So I sing this, too:

Sleep, baby, sleep
Your momma tends the sheep
Your papa shakes the dreamland tree
And from it fall sweet dreams for thee
Sleep, baby, sleep

I know it isn’t much. But I want my daughter to grow up knowing that daddies take care of babies, too.

Actual Risk versus Social Risk

Breastfeeding symbol

Image via Wikipedia

I posted a link to a book review to my Facebook wall, because I was really interested in the underlying thesis of the book, as explained by the reviewer. I haven’t really the book, but I’ve atleast read the review – and the argument was about what the author calls “neoliberal risk culture,” or the conflation of actual risk and social risk. Unfortunately, the example that was used by the author to illustrate her point was one of the most contentious of motherhood debates: bottle versus breast.

The actual risk of feeding your child formula, or the risk of not breastfeeding, is quite small. According to the review, the risk of not breastfeeding is a few upset stomachs. However, the social risk of not breastfeeding (at least amongst middle class women) is high — because of all the propaganda surrounding breast feeding, the decision of bottle feeding without trying to breastfeed is the social equivalent of saying that you’re not doing everything you can to make your baby smarter… and everything else that breastfeeding claims.

Bottle feeding does not carry real risk — rare is the baby in danger because they are bottle fed. That baby would have to have some severe allergies. But in an age of New Momism, the social risk is immense. So immense that women are pressured into trying breastfeeding when it might be better for them to bottle feed — and women who want to breastfeed feel guilty when medication, mental health, etc., prevent them from continuing.

The conflation of small actual risk into large social risk does a huge disservice to mothers, especially, and also society as a whole.

Another example for mothers is bedsharing versus co-sleeping versus nurseries. Bedsharing is considered the most risky, co-sleeping a nice middle ground (if you must have your child close), and a nursery the most safe. However, a close reading of the studies shows that the rates of SIDS is probably equal, and the cost benefits extremely personal, much like breast versus bottle.

I am a bedsharer. There, I said it. Socially, the sleeping arrangement that allows my family to get the most sleep, it’s the most risky. Common perception suggests that I am willingly risking my baby’s life for convenience, even though it was a decision I researched before making. Trust me, I do not lazily risk my daughter’s life.

I’m trying to think of a non parenting example — something where there is a small risk, but a large social backlash. Smoking is probably one, considering how much government propaganda surrounds not smoking. My occasional fast food eating is something I don’t like to admit, so I’d consider that an example of over blown social risk for something with minimal actual risk. I think that multiple sexual partners probably falls into this same category — as long as you practice safe sex, both physically and emotionally, it probably isn’t as risky as our society makes it out to be.

Life is risk, and yes, some risk is more risky than other risks. But, in the end, some things may be more about what works for you.

How to Talk About Chores

Small yellow bathroom

Image via Wikipedia

A friend asked that I write more about the process of choosing which chores are important, and which ones can be overlooked. She also asked about how to negotiate the standards of cleanliness and the sharing of chores so that in partnership, particularly marriage, they might be fair.

Tall order, dear friend.

I think that it’s obvious and perhaps over stated (at least on this blog, I have mentioned it at least two times before) that men and women are socialized to different awarenesses of the work involved in housework, and if men have had the opportunity to care for themselves, different standards for what might be considered clean. The same might be said for what makes up a healthy diet, among other things I associate with adulthood.

I would not attempt these steps unless you have a partner who believes in equality, and is open to dividing the work that goes into the home equitably. (This means hours of paid and unpaid labor should be treated equally.) If you don’t have a such a partner, you have other work to do.

Step One: Shine a bright light on the work that needs to be done to keep your household moving. I found the housework equality scale from EquallySharedParenting.com invaluable for this — it lists chores that happen less often, like post office visits and taxes, so you don’t forget anything.

Tim and I actually looked at this scale twice over about a period of a year and a half. The first time was really tense — Tim didn’t seem to think that a lot of stuff on the list happened in our home. Truth was, I did it, and he didn’t notice. Even though it was a tense conversation, it was important because it opened his eyes. A year later, he was very aware of the work that needed doing, and who was doing it. Since I am currently a stay-at-home wife and mother, the split was about 70% me, 30% him. I asked him if he thought this was fair, and to his credit, he did not think so. Which lead to…

Step Two: Figure out what chores are actually getting done in your home. Chores are done in my house for three reasons, as far as I can see: for our safety, like washing cutting boards and knives with hot and soapy water to prevent food-borne illness; for our sanity, like clearing off flat surfaces of clutter; and for our vanity, like my husband’s recent desire to wash marks off the wall. This list has the benefit of showing you what’s really important to you, and thus the “standards” already exist. I made a list of chores that needed to be done on a daily, weekly, monthly, and basis — focusing on safety and sanity, and telling vanity to take a hike.

Vanity is beating myself up for not scrubbing the bathroom once a week, whether or not anyone besides ourselves sees it. But if the bathroom is done once a month, the germs are kept at bay (Safety!), and I have the satisfaction of knowing exactly how clean it is. And knowing how clean it is, I can figure out if I need to clean real quick before guests come over.

Step Three: Present the list of chores that must get done to your partner and ask what they think. Ask them if they think that any chore is missing; ask them if they think any of the chores can be taken off the list.

Tim wanted to add vacuuming and dusting to the list. Me? I could care less that things are dusted, and I hate vacuuming. Tim doesn’t necessarily see the need to fold clothes.

Step Four: Divide and Conquer. Once you have a list of the chores that you need to do to keep your household moving, chores that are for your safety and sanity (and not necessarily your vanity), and both partners have weighed in on what chores should be on the list, take turns claiming chores. If there are certain chores that only you can do, or that you’re an expert at, or you really like to do, claim those first — it wasn’t on the list, but since only I can breast feed our daughter, I would have claimed that first. I did claim making dinner first, because after a day of childcare, making dinner makes me feel human again.

Dusting and vacuuming got added to the “monthly chore” list, which Tim is in charge of. I picked up folding laundry. But more on that next.

Step Five: Make a schedule. Schedules make sure that there are time to do all the chores. I suggest spacing the chores through the week so you’re not doing more than half an hour of chores each night. The nice thing about a schedule is that even if none of the chores get done one week, you can do it the next week and start to come out from under a lack-of-chore pile. At least theoretically.

So far, all the chores are getting done in our home, because Tim and I both feel ownership of our tasks — and we do them. They don’t always get done right on time; laundry folding happened on Saturday instead of Tuesday, but at least it happened.

Step Six: If it’s not your chore, it’s not your standard. There are downsides to sharing household responsibilities. Because your partner is an adult who has hopefully lived on their own for a time before coming to live with you, chances are, your partner has some idea how to do the tasks that they named, agreed to, and claimed as their own. (Look how much consensus we built up until this point!) If your partner asks for input on how to do the task, feel free to give it. Otherwise, let them get on with it — you have your own chores to do.

Tim is the one that cleans the kitchen and the bathroom. He also does the laundry. He checks in with me sometimes, but the majority of the time he applies his own standards to the task. And for me, that’s fine — but it’s a serious ego muncher for some women.  Remember, equality is about sharing power. If you claim all the power and responsibility of the household standards, you’re only hurting yourself.

Step Seven: Rinse, Repeat. The same chore list isn’t going to always work for you. Be flexible, and keep the lines of communication that you’ve created here open over time!

What I want from a Non-parental Caregiver

I’m lucky to be starting grad school at the end of this month. I say lucky because I have a small fellowship, because I have an infant, because I have a supportive husband. I’m lucky because my mom is going to take care of my baby; I won’t have to take out loans to pay for childcare.

I wasn’t always comfortable with the idea of my mom being my daycare provider. Sylvie is familiar with my mom and comfortable with her. And I have had plenty of chances to observe the two of them together. Those two things are not something you can sneeze at; everything I have read about vetting facilities says those are things you want.

Not only that, but I was able to broach the idea of making “Nanny Notes” and sharing them with my mom — that way my mom knows exactly how I would like my daughter to be cared for (i.e. I am clear about my expectations) and she knows exactly how to spoil my daughter (i.e. I expect my mom to still be a grandparent and do what she wants occasionally).

Nothing I found on the internet about preparing your child for daycare really approached the subject the way I have in my own preparations, so I thought I would share my list.

What I want from a Non-parental Caregiver:

1. Someone who will love her, bond with her; someone who will build trust with her. I subscribe more or less to the Attachment Parenting philosophy espoused by Dr. Sears, and I believe that attachment is key in Sylvie’s development — particularly the psychosocial development task of infancy: learning to trust. This means that when Sylvie cries, my ideal caregiver will respond, because crying is a way of communicating need. Which brings us to…

2. Someone to fulfill her needs. Her needs, as I see them currently, are: eating, sleeping, clean diapers, play, and love. Since Sylvia is breastfed, this means that I will be providing her grandmother with expressed breast milk. Sylvia is not too keen on her bottle, so we may be switching to more of a sippy cup soon. She will start solids at six months, so those kinds of equipment will be needed as well. Sylvie will need a couple of swaddle blankets and a pacifier for her grandma’s house. I gave my mom a set of cloth diapers already. We’ll need to make sure there are good toys at both home and at grandma’s. And I know my mom loves Sylvia.

3. Someone to keep her safe and secure; provide limits. This means that my mom and I will work together to make sure that my mom’s house is appropriately child-proofed, but it also means that we will have to work jointly on discipline issues. Right now, discipline isn’t too much of an issue — after all, she is only an infant. But by the time I graduate, which is when I foresee this arrangement ending, Sylvie will be old enough to be willfully disobeying.  We don’t want to give her mixed messages about what is and is not appropriate, which will require communication. Also, I want Sylvie to be disciplined with positive methods, which will also require communication, so that my mom knows what I mean when I say this.

4. Someone to play with her, and to be her partner in learning. I believe that play is the key to learning, and so I think it’s very important that Sylvia plays. Of course, she can and does play on her own, but play with an adult is important too, because it provides Sylvie and opportunity to stretch her skills with a technique called scaffolding. The play should be directed by Sylvie, if at all possible, to give her a sense of efficacy. Reading is play too!

5. Someone who respects our boundaries as her parents. I am the momma, and with my husband we are ultimately responsible for Sylvia’s care and upbringing. How we want things done matters. However, this means we are also responsible for communicating those boundaries. A major way we’re going to do this is through “memo” type of correspondence; I like to have things in writing.

The thing about this list is that it’s basically what I expect from myself as a parent. I think that’s as it should be — the care for my daughter by non-parental caregivers should be as close to what her parents provide as possible.

Making SMARTER goals starting Grad School

I start school in just over a month, hurrah! I’m really nervous about it, because I think that work-life balance is really illusive. I want Tim and Sylvie and I to have time for ourselves, each other, our jobs, and not live in squalor, and I wonder if that is too much to ask.

But in hopes of accomplishing this, I am going after some SMARTER goals to prep myself and my family for this transition.

The first goal is to make chores and family obligations explicit and a habit by the time school starts.

I’m going to start by consulting the website on equally shared parenting. I’m going to download their equality scales and have Tim and I take them seperately. We may disagree about how equally we are sharing parenting, housework, etc., so it will be important to use my interpersonal communication skills to talk through the lists and the expectations with Tim.

Then, I will do a walk through of our home, thinking about the chores that need to be done on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. I will use my judgement and critical thinking skills to come up with this list. The list will reflect my values of meaningful work because the list will be about the work I do for my family, which also reflects my value of relationship, because my family is important to me.

I will then talk through the list with Tim. I anticipate that the list may seem overwhelming. I will keep an open mind as we talk through the list with Tim to prioritize what is truly important, and so we can work together to get these things done in partnership. Together we will turn each chore into a reasonable list of steps.

After that, I will make us a chore chart. We will then use the chore chart to build our daily and weekly routines and habits around taking care of our home. Sometimes things will be forgotten because of circumstances or for no reason. In those cases we will learn from our mistakes and learn to schedule in chore time, or we will forgive ourselves and try again the next day,  week, or month.

The most important thing to remember is how good it will feel to have our chores explicit. It will make keeping our house clean an easy thing to talk about, hopefully minimalizing fights and frustrations over expecting something to be done a certain way, or expecting someone else to do something.

It will feel good to work together with Tim, being fair in our relationship. It will feel good for our home to be a sanctuary, and when it gets dirty, have an easy plan to fix it.

#momtweets harrassment

I won’t pretend that being a mother to a small child is the most stimulating thing in the whole wide world. After all, the little being you’re caring for is still developing — and unable to carry on a conversation.

The first several weeks before baby Rocketship began responding to my flirting were the hardest. I found myself doing inane things, like shaking a rattle in her face, hoping she would follow it with her eyes. I ended up tweeting this, and days later getting this response:

I went and investigated this guy –I have a stalker, and so I was afraid that he had found me, for all that I don’t do much to disguise my identity on the internet. It appears that he’s just an asshole who decided to look at the #momtweets hash tag and make fun of women, and that for some reason, he aimed his ire particularly at me, and only me.

I tweeted the discovery of my daughter tracking her eyes simply because I realized how ridiculous it was to spend so much time shaking a rattle for her. It was making fun of myself. But this mysterious stranger clearly hated women — and he seemed to hate me i for being in on what he seemed to think was his private joke.

I reported him to Twitter for spam, but otherwise did not respond.

Have you been harassed on the internet? How did you deal with it?