Ye Ole 5 Things Meme

I think I'm the last blogger on the planet who hasn't yet done the whole "5 things you might not know about me" thing. I was tagged by my brother a couple months ago and by Jay a couple weeks ago. Anyway, in case the fad hasn't entirely faded (fadded?), here goes.

  1. I'm the oldest of 11 children and Melissa (my wife) is the oldest of 9. This means that our kids have 18 aunts and uncles before counting marriages. Counting marriages, it now comes to 29. 30 if you count committed gay partnerships. Another of my sisters is getting married next month so that'll bring the grand total to 31 aunts and uncles. Geometric progression in action.
  2. I always dream in color and have for as long as I can remember. I can also control my dreams if something goes wrong, with the sole exception of ocean tides for some reason. That means the only nightmares I have any more is when I'm body surfing or walking along the coast and the tide comes in faster than I can get out of the way (uh, guess that means I can't control cliffs, either).
  3. One of my ancestors (mother's side) fell off the Mayflower. Maybe that's where the ocean thing comes from. Fortunately for future generations he caught a rope and held on really tight until they could pull him back on board.
  4. I'm an active Mormon and have been all my life (you may have suspected as much from #1 above). I'm not one to do something just because it's tradition, nor am I prone to believe something just because I was raised to do so. On the other hand, I'm not one to reject something for those reasons either. If that isn't unique enough, how about this addendum: I've never been drunk and only ever even swallowed alcohol while on my 2 year mission for the church. That wasn't so much a lapse as it was a matter of those wily Germans putting alcohol in practically anything and not always being too concerned with identifying it as such.
  5. Melissa and I both love books. We like owning them in addition to reading them. Our library currently consists of just over 3,900 books, though some of those are books we've taken from destitute circumstances and are committed to finding a good home for (i.e. people were getting rid of them and we'll be selling them off eventually). Melissa is involved with the Association for Mormon Letters, so we more or less live in an atmosphere of books. We tend towards Science Fiction and Fantasy, but my favorite genre is actually Romance. If it weren't so hard to find good romance, we'd have more of those as well. I consider good romance to be those books that don't rely on the sex to sell. Don't let the proclivities fool you, though: our taste runs pretty wide, so you'll find just about any genre represented in there somewhere.

Well, thanks for reading (both of you). All the people I can tag seem to have been tagged already. I suppose that means 7 more years of winter or something. I'm not sure. Not that I'm superstitious or anything...

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5. February 2007 11:36 by Jacob | Comments (2) | Permalink

Family Sacrifice

The post-40 mother seems to be the topic of the day, particularly with Mother's Day so near. I watched a late-night women's issues show earlier this week and one topic they covered is the dangers of having babies post-40. They discussed how women don't seem to give enough weight to this difficulty and that they delay having children too long due to career and other achievements. Some of the women (the panel had a good mix of conservative and liberal women, actually--it was a good discussion) bemoaned the fact that men didn't have the same restrictions and could have children even as their careers flourished. Mention was made, of course, of Karen Hughes who recently resigned a high-powered post in the White House in order to be a parent for her teenage son. Supposedly, men don't ever do this--resign a position in order to spend more time with their families. Or at least, if they do, it isn't as extreme as pulling entirely out of the work force. I found a great treatment of the topic by Marianne Jennings. It's worth a look.

But I want to go into the whole man thing. You see, I'm personally in a position to attest that some men make career sacrifices for their families. I met this specifically when I worked at Jenkon. Unlike other programmers there, I went home at 5 or, at the latest, 6 every night. I did so to be with my family. This "lack of dedication" was noted. It came up in conversations with my boss. I'm convinced it played a role in my compensation. And really, it should play a role in my compensation because, frankly, it means that I'm arguably not as productive as I would otherwise be (I believe that I am more productive than other co-workers, and I believe that part of that is the rejuvenation I get with my family, but that's a belief and hardly proven). The call of family is an important one and having a family means making sacrifices. That's just the way it is.

Some claim to perceive the workings of Satan in this pressure on the family. While that may certainly be true (I'm one of those quaint religious people who actually believes in an active force in opposition to good), it is not the whole story. You see, this sacrifice hasn't always been an issue. In past centuries, a married man could out produce a single man on the job. That's due mainly to the amount of home manufacture that was required to maintain a household. Think of it in terms of making dinner and doing laundry. These activities had to be tackled in the home and took a significant amount of work. Eating a balanced, healthy meal required literally hours of preparation. Likewise clean food and healthy living conditions. In the absence of chemical soaps and automated washing processes, it took hours of care and a lot of hard work to ensure a clean home environment. It was weighted enough to the advantage of the married man that single men often congregated in boarding houses--thus pooling their resources and essentially "renting" domestic service.

And it wasn't just having the wife that helped out. Children were also a net asset to the household income with the average child bringing in close to 1,000 pounds net before leaving home--in the study I read about a year ago (I'd reference it if I could--I hate vague statistics thrown out like that, so I'm open to refutation or confirmation). Children worked farms and stores, they did chores, there were no child labor laws. Having children was more than just a personal joy in your offspring, it was a direct benefit to the home in specific material ways--and a form of retirement insurance as well. This dynamic exists still in poor countries. Population controls in countries with heavily agrarian economies is going to continue to run into road-blocks as long as children contribute to total household income. This is why you see the average number of children per household decline in developed countries and birth control initiatives run into brick walls in undeveloped countries.

Contrast all that to today. Home production is a thing of the past. A balanced meal can be had in five minutes and a microwave. Laundry is similarly streamlined and home maintenance is easier and cheaper than it has been in the past. Further, children are now a huge sacrifice on the part of parents costing literally hundreds of thousands of dollars before leaving home and requiring a huge amount of concentrated effort to rear--often incurring the double whammy of requiring the wife to stay at home in addition to their consumption of family resources. Which means that the strains on the family are as much economic as they are demonic. This economic pressure is real, it is harsh, and it requires sacrifice on the part of men and women if it is to be done right.

For me, the trick has been to accept that and move on. I decided to have children, not for their economic benefits, but because I believe that it is right for me to have children. It is a religious conviction for me. It is an explicit doctrine of my church. So I make the sacrifice. I don't achieve the peak of my profession and never will. I'm resigned to that. And I'm happy to support and applaud those others who resign from the full extent of their potential achievements in order to raise a family. So, I guess this is a Mother's Day post when it comes right down to it. Thanks Mom! You pioneered a difficult process and I hope I can live up to the standard you set.

9. May 2002 10:27 by Jacob | Comments (0) | Permalink

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