January 30, 2008


Mrs. du Toit has a lengthy but good post covering a variety of ideas. One segment I particularly liked:

Take something like a Happy Meal at McDonaldÂ’s. While it might seem affordable to us today, even in todayÂ’s dollars, the idea that someone would spend $3.00 a meal for the kids, when the ingredients cost 50 cents, would have been considered a luxury item. What we have done as a society is put a value on our time, and a willingness to pay someone else to add the value of preparing it. The ingredients cost 50 cents, and if you add your free labor to prepare the same meal, thatÂ’s how much it will cost you (plus about 5 cents to cover the energy costs).

If, however, you do not want to spend the time to prepare the meal yourself, then you have to pay someone else to do it, and that is why we say “a couple can no longer live on one income.” They sure as hell can, IF they are willing to assign to the job description of a wife the same level of labor that was assigned 100 years ago.
My point is that what we define as “getting by” now includes luxury and non essential items. A welfare recipient once said, “I can’t afford a Happy Meal for my kid on the money I get.” Nor should she! She is not working, so she has plenty of time to prepare the meal and save the labor costs.

That last sentence killed me.

Posted by: Sarah at 11:22 AM | Comments (10) | Add Comment
Post contains 262 words, total size 2 kb.

1 I guess the only consideration that is left out of the second paragraph is the desire many women have to work, which, although it puts a premium on time, is pretty fulfilling.

Posted by: Nicole at January 30, 2008 04:45 PM (jyFmj)

2 I'm actually a little offended by the "if they are willing to assign the job description of a wife the same level of labor that was assigned 100 years ago." The most obvious reason, of course, is that I'm not willing to go back to being a second class citizen because I'm female. If a member of a household wants to take on household responsibilities in order to save money, I'm all for it. But it doesn't have to be a wife's assigned duty. I take pride in taking care of my family and finding ways to cut expenses--like cooking at home rather than eating out. That's my choice, not my job description. Secondly, the level of labor which a modern day wife/mother/household adult is no less than it was 100 years ago. The responsibilities have changed, and generally take less intensive physical labor, but we are just as busy as we were then, if not more. Technology creates as many new responsibilities as it alleviates, in my experience. Not only that, but our children have more activities, schools have more demands. Sometimes I would love to go back 100 years when there weren't phones ringing all day with people needing things, and without all the appliances that break or have to be cleaned or demand attention in one way or another. I completely disagree that today's household executives have less to do than their equals 100 years ago. Also, with the Happy Meal example, say the ingredients and energy costs equal $.55 and it takes you an hour to prepare it. My time is worth more than $2.50 per hour. I understand that the savings are cumulative, but time is certainly a factor when considering cost/benefit ratios. I don't buy my kids Happy Meals because they are gross, full of fat and salt and are otherwise nutritionally deficient. I do, however, agree that the last sentence is disgusting and represents an incredible problem in our society.

Posted by: Sis B at January 30, 2008 06:31 PM (qPf1j)

3 I'm not sure I read that the same way that you do, Sis B. What I was thinking about were the families where both parents work, so then they pay for daycare, a cleaning lady, a second car payment, meals in restaurants, etc, and use up all their disposable income and say that you "can't get by on one." It's just an opportunity cost; if you WANT to get by on one, you often can...but we've definitely redifined "getting by." At any rate, I mostly posted the excerpt for that last line, which I had never heard phrased that way and which made me guffaw.

Posted by: Sarah at January 31, 2008 02:54 AM (TWet1)

4 i was on board with the whole thing until the wife sentence, then i got all riled up. and guffaw is an awesome word, and totally applies to the reaction of that lady's comment.

Posted by: Sis B at January 31, 2008 03:26 AM (qPf1j)

5 Yeah, the wife comment bugs me too. But most families have a pretty equal division of labor. I don't think it was intended to offend/piss off anyone. That being said, I have been cooking since I was 9 years old. I had a single mom, it was one of my chores so to speak. I cannot tell you the number of people I know who simply don't know how to do it. It's a life skill, like balancing your check book and knowing how to fill out your taxes. And I am APPALLED at the sheer volume of people who simply don't know how to cook simple things. But I do agree that what we consider getting by today is much different than it was 20 years ago. People need to get a grip.

Posted by: Mare at January 31, 2008 04:18 AM (EI19G)

6 I emailed Sis B and commented that, if you know the du Toits, you would never say that Connie is subservient

Posted by: Sarah at January 31, 2008 04:49 AM (TWet1)

7 Dang it! I wrote a sparkling comment that was eaten alive. At any rate, as to the 'wife' comment, I took it to be gender neutral or as in the definition of what a wife did 100 years ago regardless of who would do the duties now. Plus, I often lament how I need "a wife" even though I am one! My husband does way more than many of my friends' husbands do, but even now, with my crazy school schedule, when push comes to shove & something out of the norm has to be done, it usually is seen as obvious that I as mother/wife will do it rather than father/husband. I guffawed too & immediately thought of the Eddie Murphy stand up (Raw?) in which he talked about his mother telling him she could make him a hamburger 'better than McDonald's.' a RIOT.

Posted by: Guard Wife at January 31, 2008 06:14 AM (20Lnu)

8 Sarah, I loved this part of the post. You and I have spoken before at the cost of being a SAHM. It can be done. If people want it bad enough. I have women tell me all of the time, that they want to do it, but cannot afford to. I would beg to differ. You can do it, you will just live differently than most of your peers. We do not have a McMansion, we cannot go out to eat, I cannot buy books (thank GOd for the library), I do not go to Starbucks, or have a cleaning lady, etc, I get my hair done when we can afford it, I rarely get my nails etc done those are luxuries to us. $3.oo is a lot for a Happy Meal in our home. We rarely go out to a movie. If we do, it is usually the dollar movies on 50cent Monday. I ration my gas, and do errands accordingly. You learn to live differently. I have been a SAHM for 6 years, and although I am looking at getting back into the workforce soon, I do not regret spending that 6 years with my children. My Husband reminds me frequently that I can always go out and make $$, but I will never get that time back with my children. And as I am packing I keep looking through the baby books, and wondering where that time went, it goes so fast. I am glad I have been blessed to SAH.

Posted by: awtm at January 31, 2008 08:36 AM (x5J2q)

9 I guess, from my perspective, I was assuming that many working moms still many of those chores themselves...so in addition to working, they still clean their own homes, cook many meals, and take care of other household chores. The childcare expense is definitely a big one (from what I've heard) and it's true that gas and transportation costs are getting bigger and bigger all of the time. When I hear people (especially dual income families) say that can't live on what they make, I assume they aren't doing a good job of managing the money they have. Maybe that's presumptious.

Posted by: Nicole at January 31, 2008 09:09 AM (jyFmj)

10 I worked until kid #4 was born, and quite frankly we had more money after I stopped working than we did while I WAS working. The reason for that was exactly what Sarah listed above - we didn't eat out very often anymore, I didn't have to pay childcare anymore (except for the oldest, my kids came close together), the gas, the car payments -- and more -- it all added up. Not to mention the fact that I was mentally stressed beyond belief trying to balance the two, work and home, even though my husband has always been wonderful about helping out. Once I stopped working, I was no longer too tired to cook. I was no longer using my credit card to put gas in my car. And so on. So, in our case with a somewhat large family, it saved us money for me to stay home.

Posted by: airforcewife at January 31, 2008 02:09 PM (mIbWn)

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