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March 08, 2005

Comments

Amanda

Cait, I don't have children and I certainly don't have the latest greatest anything, but I do have to make mortgage payments and with my boyfriend and my income put together, we manage. Okay, so we have our luxuries but I doubt that if we cut all eating out and all nights out with friends we'd still have enough to provide for children. My house is tiny, my car is an economy car, I am a bargain shopper extraordinaire, so even if we wanted kids, there's not enough corners to cut. And we could never lose the 2nd income. Period. This is a very real issue for a lot of people, and not a matter of skipping the occasional latte in order to save enough for a SAH parent of either sex.

Caitriona

Hugo and La Lubu, thanks. No, I don't have a blog - yet. Our friend who does our church's site administration keeps trying to convince me to put one up, but I've just not taken the time to do it yet. As it is, my husband and I have to completely rework our farm website, so I just may add a blog to it. :-)


I do find a need to respond to the following comments of Trish's:

"I have to agree that the "opt out" applies only to well-off families. Most women, especially those in lower income brackets, simply do not have the ability to stay home because financially their families cannot afford it. They may and often do make great career sacrifices like turn down promotions and business travel because they also tend to take on primary care of the children (they can't be in two places at one time), but they can't outright quit. Their families cannot afford that kind of loss of income."

As a woman who's spent most of her life in the lower income brackets, I can truthfully say that people in lower income brackets *can* choose to have a stay-at-home parent. The "opt out" system does *not* apply only to well-off families, although it seems that in many parts of the country it's a marvelous "new" idea to the more well-off families. Or at least it's treated that way, IME.

A bit of background: I grew up on my grandparents' small family farm in NE Arkansas. My mother was a single, custodial parent of 4. Our house was on a corner of the farm half a mile from my grandparents house. Since Mom had to work, my grandparents took the place of SAH parents. I had friends who didn't have that "luxury" and who were worse off for it.

Because everyone in the area could see the advantages of having someone home for the kids, many of the families chose to have the mom stay home while the dads worked, and worked hard. Most off-farm jobs in the area were in timber or in the factories. I saw a lot of families who were too proud to get public assistance but still made it on one income; and I saw a lot of families who swallowed their pride and signed up for public assistance so that the mom could stay home for the kids. I've also seen a lot of instances where the families couldn't AFFORD to have the moms go to work because child care would take more than the moms would earn. Catch-22.

So we wind up with one parent staying home with the kids while the other pulls as much over-time as possible. Then they have to face the dilemma: Save their pride and avoid public assistance, or take public assistance and feel like others are looking down at them for it. I've seen a lot of families do without because the parents are too proud to seek assistance.

Thankfully, I'm not in that sort of situation any more. We're in a position where I can stay home and teach our kids instead of teaching in a high school classroom, without making major sacrifices. Hopefully at some point, we'll be in a position where my husband can work on the farm full-time, but we're not there yet.

It's all a matter of priorities.

mythago

The differences are primarily in what each family has decided is important. Do you have to have satellite/cable TV? Is it important to go out to eat X nights a week? Do you have to have the latest greatest gizmos?

And we are back to being classist. Gizmos? How about priorities like "Are you able to pay your medical bills? Is it important to have a safety net if the breadwinner is unable to work? Do you have to have heat during the day in the winter?"

This is the same mindset I dinged Hugo on earlier--the implication that one parent's (i.e. the woman's) income is really just secondary, "pin money," used to buy gewgaws that any sensible family could do without. There is a larger, long-term opportunity cost, and sometimes what you are giving up is not merely "gizmos."

I say this as a woman who spent nine years as a stay-at-home mom, and whose husband is now taking his turn. When I hear people talk about how it's simply a matter of priorities and giving up luxuries, I being to suspect they have had such a privileged life that they've never had to go without something other than luxuries.

People worry too much about what other people might think.

If those "other people" are your husband and your family, I don't think you can be concerned enough, frankly. If your husband treats your being a stay-at-home parent as his winning a power game, as "shutting you down," as a brag point with his macho buddies, then I think you have a larger problem than whether you can buy a new plasma TV because mom doesn't have an income.

Caitriona

Amanda,

I'm not talking skipping the occasional latte. I'm talking lifestyle change. :-)

When my husband and I were both working in the computer industry (I'd decided NO MORE public school kids - ever! lol), we were making quite a bit more than we are now. We were living in one of the "good neighborhoods," although it wasn't a ritzy one. Our rent payments there were 3x what our mortgage payment is now.

Before I met my husband, I was making it (barely) as a single parent, living in the city, on a take-home of $1200 a month. Rent was $625 for a 1 bedroom apartment with a washer and dryer. Things would have been a bit easier than they were if the city bus had gone to the part of town where my job was, but it didn't, so I had car expenses, too. Thankfully, my old car was paid for.

What I'm saying is that a lot of people figure out a way to have a SAH parent on a minimal income, and then a lot of people just can't see how to do without the two incomes. It usually comes down to lifestyle and where you choose to live. Each family has to choose what their priorities, and the priorities are different for each family.

mythago

Oh, overlooked this:

I've also seen a lot of instances where the families couldn't AFFORD to have the moms go to work because child care would take more than the moms would earn. Catch-22.

I understand those families simply may not have had the cash on hand to afford childcare--but the "more than mom's income" is a short-term, not a long-term, snapshot, and it doesn't take into account opportunity costs and additional financial burdens.

That is, mom isn't just losing her income for the time she stays home; she's losing her earning potential over time, and her ability to re-enter the paid workforce.

I could take my current salary and multiply it by 9, and say "That's how much money it cost for me to stay home." But that would be incorrect, because my salary wouldn't (barring catastrophe) have been static over nine years. I've lost not only nine years of net income, but nine years of earning potential, retirement-benefit accumulation, etcetera.

There are other, less-obvious costs, like the fact that if my husband had a paid job, I wouldn't have to pay $250 a month for his health-care coverage. Also, if one of us lost our jobs, the family income would drop, but it would not drop to *zero*.

I'm not in any way criticizing the families you refer to, just pointing out the math is a little trickier than it's often presented.

Caitriona

mythago,

When my husband was working EMS, I went back to teaching part-time. Because of our schedules (him 24hr shift every 3rd day, me 2hrs MWF), there was still usually one of us home with the kids. Things were difficult, but we got by.

My comments about satellite and gadgets were derived directly from experience with friends who were also having a difficult time. One family couldn't understand how we were making it, since their income was more than ours and they only have 2 kids at home. The differences were that we didn't have satellite TV, lots of pre-made ezfix dinners and bottled drinks, and a rotating account with a furniture store so that I could buy lots of new furniture. Another family with 4 kids in the home was in similar straights as we were, but they couldn't give up the $120/mo internet connection ($60 for DSL and $60 for the ISP) and the purchasing of the latest, greatest gizmos.

Instead of those sorts of things, we bought chickens and a milk goat - eggs and milk; and we bought a farm for 1/3 the cost of the house we'd previously had. Our priorities were different.

La Lubu

I like mythago's comments too.

I read a book a while back, "The Hidden Cost of Being African-American", and I can't recommend it enough. It's really about far more than race and economic differentials; the author goes into how people acquire wealth and how they manage it--especially how they use their advantages to put their children in pole position in life. His methodology in research was very interesting, and the book confirmed a lot of my observations over the years.

I agree with the posters who note that in having this conversation, the assumption is still made that (a)someone should stay home with the children, and (b)that someone should be the mother. But it's hard to even have a conversation like this without the inevitable pissing match about "what could your family do without in order to x, x in this case being stay home with the children.

The safety net issue is so real. One of the points brought out in the book was how those without a safety net regarded savings as opposed to those with a safety net. Those without spoke of savings as "emergency funds" or "rainy-day" money. Those with spoke of their assets as investments, as something that was movable and could be leveraged to acquire even more positives (such as moving to a larger home in the suburbs for the better schools).

And how did those with the saftey net acquire that safety net? Almost always the old fashioned way: they inherited it. And not just the way we usually think of inheritance, as something that is received when a relative dies, but as gifts that are received by family throughout one's life.

How this translates into how much or how little one "needs" to get by, varies according to what assets they started adulthood with, and whether or not they have a safety net (either of their own assets, or parental or other relatives assets that they have access to).

One particularly memorable interview in the book was of a thirty-something white family who spoke of working their butts off for what they had, and indeed they did. However, at least half of what they had was provided for by the largess of well-off parents. For example, their down-payment for their house was a gift. They both graduated from college with no student loans to pay off, because mom and dad ponied up the cash. They didn't have to make hard sacrifices for the education of their children, because the grandparents were paying the full load of their children's private school education. So, while indeed they worked hard, and paid their own mortgage, car payments, and expensive lessons and extracurriculars for their kids, they could do so because all the financial heavy-lifting had already been done by others.

It's a different picture for those who are truly pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, with no assets to speak of besides their own paychecks.

Trish Wilson

Mythago: "I understand those families simply may not have had the cash on hand to afford childcare--but the "more than mom's income" is a short-term, not a long-term, snapshot, and it doesn't take into account opportunity costs and additional financial burdens.

That is, mom isn't just losing her income for the time she stays home; she's losing her earning potential over time, and her ability to re-enter the paid workforce. "

Thanks for pointing out the opportunity costs. What you've described is exactly what is behind child support guidelines in each state. They take into account opportunity costs and loss of income potential for custodial parents - mostly moms - who end up divorced. Child support takes those future losses into consideration. That's something a lot of people do not understand when they wrongly say "child support is for the child." It's about loss of future earnings and opportunity costs for the parent who has undertaken the majority of the work of caring for children.

Caitriona

mythago,

In response to your statement, "I'm not in any way criticizing the families you refer to, just pointing out the math is a little trickier than it's often presented," I can only point out that the families to which I referred didn't have the "luxury" of looking at the long-range picture. Families in those positions are usually caught up in the immediate picture, from necessity. They can't afford to lose money each week paying more in daycare than one of the parents earns.

It's not an easy choice for anyone, no matter the income level. But my point was that having a SAH parent *isn't* an option only for well-heeled families, as had been stated by others in the discussion. Many times, low income families find that having a SAH parent isn't just an option, but a necessity.

Trish Wilson

Trish: I have to agree that the "opt out" applies only to well-off families. Most women, especially those in lower income brackets, simply do not have the ability to stay home because financially their families cannot afford it. They may and often do make great career sacrifices like turn down promotions and business travel because they also tend to take on primary care of the children (they can't be in two places at one time), but they can't outright quit. Their families cannot afford that kind of loss of income.

Caitrona: As a woman who's spent most of her life in the lower income brackets, I can truthfully say that people in lower income brackets *can* choose to have a stay-at-home parent. The "opt out" system does *not* apply only to well-off families, although it seems that in many parts of the country it's a marvelous "new" idea to the more well-off families. Or at least it's treated that way, IME.

My best friend is the type of person you're talking about. I don't know what her husband makes, but she is a stay-at-home mom of seven children. She also home-schools. Yes, they chose that option for themselves, but they also live in an area with a cost of living low enough where they can do that. Where I live, the cost of living is so high that it's very difficult if not impossible for one parent to stay home with the children. A lot of the issue depends on where you live.

I don't think the opt-out for well-off families is a new thing, either. I think it's touted in the media to guilt-trip families who would either prefer on their own that both parents work and it's used as a guilt-trip for families who would like to have one parent (usually mom) stay home with the kids but because of living costs they can't afford to do it.

mythago

Caitriona, it's one thing to say that you knew a couple of people who loved their gizmos more than anything. It's another to generalize from those families and assume that it's always a matter of 'priorities' and of giving up goodies.

I don't know of many low-income families where they can truly afford for one parent to stay home full-time. The truly impoverished families I've been around simply do split shifts, as you and your husband did, and one of them is stuck with the worst jobs because they're swing shift or because childcare interruptions make steady employment difficult.

At any rate, the original article Hugo referred to wasn't about lovingly and thoughfully making choices for one's family. It was about one's wife being a SAH mom as losing a power struggle, and about treating that choice as her husband "shutting her down".

Trish Wilson

Caitrona: The differences are primarily in what each family has decided is important. Do you have to have satellite/cable TV? Is it important to go out to eat X nights a week? Do you have to have the latest greatest gizmos?

I've heard this criticism of two-earner families before. The families I'm aware of where both parents work work to put food on the table, pay rent and mortgage, taxes, pay the electric, heating, and water bills, pay medical bills, house upkeep, and keep the car or cars maintained. That second income may pay for "frivilous" items like you describe but that's not all they pay for. It sounds as if you're saying that second income - mom's income - pays for "frivolous" items the family should learn to do without. Two-earner couples pay for much more than that.

Caitriona

mythago,

I read the article Hugo cited. To me, it seemed to be extreme satire.

But then, I've known men wouldn't catch the satire in that, thinking that it was serious and right on the money; and I've known men who pushed their wives to work their butts off so the men could afford to hunt, fish, and drink instead of going to work - the type of men who give "rednecks" a bad reputation. ;-)

Jeff Foxworthy could do make good use of that article.

mythago

Oh, I think it was meant to be humorous--but not untrue.

Caitriona

Trish,

It's not that I'm saying that the 2nd income only pays for frivolous things. My mother has a saying, "The more you earn, the more you spend." I've found it to be true.

When my husband and I were earning more than we'd ever earned before, we made a conscious decision to do things with the kids that we hadn't been able to do before. It probably would have been much wiser to spend a good chunk of my paycheck paying off old bills from when we were each custodial single parents and to put the rest into savings, but we didn't.

And we don't regret it. We needed that time doing things like camping more, going to nice restaurants, taking trips, and things like that. Now that our income is half of what it once was, it's back to business as usual.

Prioritizing is a hard business, and we're continually re-evaluating. I'm going to go WAY off the original topic from here. For me, a lot of this is faith-based, so be warned.

Since we've not written it down, I won't speak about my husband's priorities, but I'll give you mine. I'm sure they're not far off from most people's, but my implementation is different.

1) Time to do what I feel God's led me to do - work with kids and with families.

2) Teach my children to be good, honest, courteous, productive citizens.

3) Raise our own food and provide healthy, high-nutrition food at affordable cost to other families. (Grocery store food is SO low in nutrition, it's pathetic!)

4) Electricity and propane are MUSTS!! I'm not giving up my electric washer and my gas range, no matter how much my husband likes to tease me about going totally back to basics!

5) Keep all current bills paid and pay off all old bills from when my husband was laid off from his old programming job and went to work for EMS.

6) Find a way for my husband to work from home and/or to switch to working the farm.

Implementation:

Thankfully, God has placed the opportunity to do the 1st thing on my priority list - mostly from home, children along when it's not from home, and with a small amount of reimbursement - directly into my lap via my work with exchange students. In the past year-and-a-half, I've gone from volunteer (hosting a student) to contractor (finding host families for students) to regional director (overseeing my area's operations). In addition, I am now being asked to do some communications workshops and some workshops about how to teach children with ADHD, which may lead to something that helps pay the bills, and possibly may lead to my husband being able to work the farm instead of driving an hour to his programming job (goal #6). If I weren't a SAHM, these opportunities probably wouldn't have arisen.

Staying home has also enabled me to achieve my 2nd goal. Five years ago, there were some issues that made it necessary for me to take the plunge to becoming a SAHM when the opportunity arose. Without that, our children would not be where they are today. Even with the issues that were at hand, it was a difficult decision. I didn't know if we could make it without my income. I didn't want to put all the "sole bread-winner" pressure on my husband. It was a hard choice to make. I prayed long and hard about it, then said, "OK, God. You led me here. I'm going to trust You to make it turn out alright." That was one of the hardest things I've ever done. And God's kept His word.

Now, I'll admit that most people don't have my 3rd goal. But I'm sure most people have some goal of making some type of difference in the world. For me, it's providing food with optimal nutrition, at prices that aren't prohibitive to lower and low-middle income families. Have you ever noticed that the healthiest foods in the store are also the most expensive, and that the less expensive foods are the least healthy?

Fourth goal - 'nuff said! My grandmother didn't have electricity until the 50's. I'm not losing it now. Texas doesn't have enough trees for me to go back to using wood for cooking and heating. Not gonna do it!

Fifth goal - pretty self-explanatory. I don't like having debts over my head. If I could figure out how to earn $200k cash tomorrow (LEGIT!), I'd pay off every bill we have, including the mortgage, and have money left over to invest in farm improvements and livestock. (I love dreaming!)

Sixth goal - Since I doubt I'll be getting any sort of windfall anytime soon (as per above), I'll keep watching for telecommuting jobs and such. :-) I've gotta find a way to get that man home. He'll be so much happier then!

Caitriona

mythago,

Unless he was looking for a divorce, most men wouldn't publish something like that unless he was trying to make a point about how ridiculous those views are.

La Lubu

Caitriona, I still gotta say I'm looking forward to you starting a blog. I'm assuming you run a CSA farm? My CSA provider bit the dust last year from too many setbacks, even though it was their most successful year (they are a retired couple). I'm still mourning the loss of their good food, and so far no one else in my area is ready to start a CSA yet (yeah, I've been contacting area farmers who are on the net and do that sort of thing ;-).

I'm a total food snob, courtesy my heritage. :-) I share goal number three, tho' not to the extent that I want my own farm...I just dig the cooking!

Caitriona

La Lubu,

We're working on building a CSA. We've only had the farm a year and a half, so there's still a lot of work to do. Since we don't have a tiller, we're looking at planting in a whole different way.

Currently, we have about 50 laying hens (need to buy more chicks!), 95 broilers that are nearly ready for processing, and 16 heritage breed turkeys with which we're helping a friend and his breeding program. We *had* 5 head of sheep, but lambing season is upon us. There are 4 adorable lambs with them now. We have 4 adult goats, plus my milk goat's month old twins, and 12 head of cattle, soon to be more when my heifers calve. Once the calves are here, I can start training those heifers to be milk cows. YEAH!

Then there are our daughter's ducks and heritage geese, plus her 3 pet chickens. OI!! She has one hen that sits on her shoulder as she walks around the pasture. We also have 3 horses, 3 dogs, and 2 barn cats (who actually sleep at the front door of the house).

Trish Wilson

I know what you mean by "the more you earn the more you spend." Although the area where we live is expensive (frankly all the areas around Boston are ridiculously expensive, and I live on the north shore coast), we've also focused on spending that benefits my son. My husband is his step-dad. My son is a geek, so we've made sure that he has computer access. Thankfully my husband's first job was as an engineer so he builds computers from scratch. That saves a lot of money. The thing I liked best about where we live is that it is a small town with a very low crime rate. This is a great place to live if you have children. We don't eat out because restaurants are an expense we'd rather not undertake, plus we've happily discovered my husband's cooking is better. Yes, I've noticed that the most nutritious food is also the most expensive. Even when we keep up with food sales, that's still an expense. We do have a weakness for renting movies, but we don't overextend our credit like lots of other families we know. I have one credit card that I use to hold hotel rooms if I need to travel. Credit cards scare me.

I think a lot of what you're saying is learning to live with the choices you make and living within your means. That's good. I'm just happy that we haven't had any outrageous medical bills to deal with. That would be a disaster. My husband was recently in the hospital, and we had a cancer scare, but luckily insurance covered all of it. We're blessed that his company has an excellent medical benefits package.

cmc

Wow. I didn't have a chance to check in on this thread for a while and I am sorry to have missed so much discussion on an issue near and dear to my heart.

I wanted to respond to Caitriona's query:
"Why do people think that staying at home relegates one to some out-of-the-way closet with no interaction with the greater world?" (It was actually my comment Caitriona was responding to, not Stephen's).

I don't at all think stay at home parents are isolated or precluded from making a contribution beyond their immediate families. My issue has nothing to do with devaluing the roles of stay at home parents. I just don't appreciate the cultural assumption that it is the woman who will be the stay at home parent.

Maybe the problem is that I have been trying to express myself in generalities-- so I will talk about myself. I am a practicing attorney in my early 30s. (OK, almost 34, so I'm in my mid-30s.) I work very hard to make a contribution in my community as an attorney working on behalf of clients. If I were to stay home with children, I would be curtailing my contributions as an attorney. I would substitute those contributions with equally important work of child raising. But that's not the problem. The problem is the cultural pressures that lead women to one particular choice (home with children) and men to another (full-time work outside the home)based on gender.

I am not usually "an angry feminist," but I find myself at times resenting the cultural imperative that I be the one to take on the primary responsibility for child raising and my husband be the one to take on primary responsibility for bread winning when that arrangement does not necessarily suit our individual ambitions, temperaments, professional paths, etc. My dislike of traditional gender roles however has nothing to do with devaluing the work assigned to either gender and everything to do with having our reproductive systems determine how my husband and I fulfill our responsibilities to our children, each other, and society.

maurinsky

Just to second Caitriona, when my husband and I made less money, we found it easier for one of us to stay home, because the cost of daycare was more than the amount of money the second working parent was going to bring in.

It was usually my husband who stayed home.

However, there were a lot of trade-offs. I'm not just talking about priorities like cable TV or eating out. We moved 10 times in 10 years because we rented - on 3 separate occasions the buildings were were living in were sold to a landlord who gave all the renters 6 months to find someplace else to live. We had to live next door to some dicey people, including a woman who had her recently released from prison child molester brother staying with her.

After all that moving, we traded in our one income family for a two income family with some increased stability. My second child has lived in one house her whole life. We don't live high on the hog, but we would be in serious trouble if either of us lost our job.

Caitriona

cmc,

My sister-in-law is an environmental lawyer. During her 30's, she was helping write environmental law on the federal level. In her 40's, she married the man she'd been with for years (a Coast Guard commander) and had a baby. She didn't stop working in environmental law, but she moved to an in-home office. Her husband's job doesn't allow for him to stay home and they don't want their son in daycare, so she works from home.

I know another lady who does family law. She and her husband didn't have any children of their own and wanted a family, so they adopted 2 sisters. Their daughters need full-time attention, so she also has a home office. She's still doing family law, but her schedule is centered around her own family. I don't recall what her husband does for a living.

For my family, it's not about our reproductive systems determining what we do, but about ourselves as a whole. "And two shall become one." A portion of that one-ness is child care. There are a lot of other aspects to that one-ness. For us, one aspect is farm labor.

My husband and the boys can do all the lifting and hauling. Our daughter to, if she's in a mood to show the boys she can out-work them. But I don't care for all that anymore. I've no need to show the boys I can pound more fence posts than they can, and do a better job of it. Time for them to learn to do it right. I'll stick with running the financial end of things. And with milking my goat. They'd best leave their hands off my goat. ;-)

lol... I'm getting nearly as bad as my grandpa was about his favorite animals.

fiat lux

I'm sure if my brother and sister in law decided that having her at home with their 2 daughters full time was important enough, they could go live somewhere like rural Arkansas and afford to live on one salary. Given that their entire network of friends and family live in the greater NYC area, though, they'd be pulling the plug on their entire social and support network in order to live somewhere else that's got a lower cost of living.

That too is a 'lifestyle choice' and it has nothing to do with whether you have cable TV or go out to dinner. It's about the people in your (and your childrens') lives. Some people think it's more important that their kids know their grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc via daily or weekly interaction with them, rather than a once a year visit.

Barbara Preuninger

I get so annoyed when people act like my income pays for "satellite TV" or an "SUV" or whatever nonsense, and here's why:

When my daughter was quite young (~5 years ago), my husband made about 1/2 of what I made. You would think that the logical solution (assuming that it's best for one parent to be the primary care giver) would be for him to stay home, right? But NO. *I* got the advice that *I* should stay home. *HE* had people telling him he should get a *SECOND JOB*. Around this same time, I hated my job - it was extremely stressful, high-pressure, I was trying to pump breastmilk, etc. (irrelevant side note: I now have a different job) I would have LOVED to quit (at least that job). I was trying to come up with all kinds of creative possibilities where I could quit. CAME UP WITH NOTHING. There are NO part-time jobs in my field that pay 1/2 a typical salary (let alone have any sense of security) And keep in mind, we have never had credit card debt or anything like that (we don't even have a cell phone). We do pay for various "luxury" items like cable internet & eating out, but trust me, when I was trying to come up with a BARE-BONES budget that included no cable, meals of lentils and rice, etc. it was simply not panning out.

All the while, my husband gets credit for "supporting" our family, but I get criticized for doing the same thing. I can tell you it's very painful to put up with a job you hate (because you know you have to) and then being regarded by others as doing what you do for "selfish", "superficial" &/or "materialistic" reasons. And as long as people see it that way, there's going to be very little in the way of VERY NEEDED government reform that supports working families.

BTW, In my "perfect" life, I would have a "career" (not just a "job") doing what I really "want" to do for however long I want to during the day, and we would have a nanny and housekeeper. I think a huge majority of people want this! But those ALL require money that many (most?) people simply don't have.

Caitriona

fiat lux,

When I lived in rural Arkansas, the $20,000 I mentioned was considered *really* good income. My first teaching job, in rural Arkansas, paid an impressive $18,000/yr, on which I was able to pay all the bills and set back $200/mo savings. I still don't know what my ex-husband did with the money he earned at the time. But that was 10 yrs ago.

Now I live near Austin, TX, where the wages are generally higher if you're in the right industry, but the cost of living is a *lot* higher. Housing is outrageous, especially since most people who own rental property in the small town we moved to want to charge Austin prices. It doesn't help when many of the people here make less than I made teaching back in Arkansas, including the medics on the ambulances.

FWIW, if we hadn't purchased our farm here and if we had been able to find a telecommuting or programming job for my husband in the area where I grew up, we'd have purchased my mother's and my aunt's interest in the family farm and moved back there. Then we would be close to my grandmother, our youngest would be close to his bio-dad and paternal grandparents, and we'd be half as far away from my husband's parents as we are now.

It's all about choices. From the information on this website, http://www.thejournalnews.com/pricedout/8hsg04.htm , your brother and sister-in-law wouldn't have to move too far outside NYC proper to significantly cut their housing costs. But they have to do what they feel is best for *their* family. They'd probably go nuts with the life we lead. My husband and I wouldn't want to live somewhere like NYC. It's a great place to visit, but...

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