Childfreelife’s Weblog

{July 27, 2008}   Didn’t dodge that bullet

I was hoping my positive attitude would keep me from facing a situation where a parented person discriminated against me at work. However, it did happen. I have been pretty stressed about it, I stood up for myself and the management supported me.

Here is what happened. I asked for a long lunch next month to attend to a child I mentor. I was given this day and I told my supervisor about it. She became very frustrated, she felt that my long lunch was going to put her out. She also thought that charity work wasn’t a valuable way to spend my time. She wants me to be more mature and prioritize better. But the cincher was, that my taking a long lunch would somehow affect her amount of time with her family. She said that the only valid reason to miss work is for your own child, not someone elses.

I was devasted, I spoke to management, and they have been backing me up. I stood up to her and told her I saw no reason my charity work should have anything to do with her son or my maturity level and that she is in no position to judge those things.

It has been rough, and many folks wouldn’t be so lucky to have their human resources management backing me up. However, standing up for myself and refusing to fall into the parent trap at work means a lot to me.

Thank you for understanding.


{July 15, 2008}   Happiness

Even after downsizing my living space multiple times, from a large Ranch House, to various smaller apartments, I was still able to keep space for things that are special to me. I have saved the best of my papers and art work from my childhood through my current college courses. I look through all these things once every three to six months and reflect on my life. I even have one journal, from bad years in my childhood, that I scrawled on “do not read, depressing.” I sometimes read it, it is depressing. I also save books that I like or have information I might use again in them.

I don’t scrap book, I file cabinet.

One of my coworkers is a mother, and I told her I had saved my papers from my first term of paralegal courses, and that when my professor had given an identical worksheet a year later, I was able to save myself time by reusing my work. She was aghast, she said, “You will stop saving all that stuff as you get older and have some kids, you won’t have room!”

Now, I do not know if this is true. Do parents have to get rid of the things from their childhood, and even college years that they are proud of or information they might find valuable again to make way for children?

I somehow found that sad. I am somewhat attached to the memories this file cabinet of special papers and artwork. Usually when someone tells me I will do such and such or believe such and such “when I am older” or “when I have children” I get angry. But this time, it just made me sad for a moment that she has had to trash all those memories to make space.

There is a Newsweek article making the rounds about how the childless are happier than parents. There are varying levels of reaction to this article and the subsequent TV newscasts. A lot of childfree people are getting angry at how pro-natal the reaction is.

I often get angry when people tell me I will understand what happiness is when I have children. But thanks to articles and studies like the Newsweek one I realize how much happiness I truly have to look forward to in my following years. Just as my boxes of memories remind me of past happiness–Happiness shall continue for a long life. A life that promises to be happy–even without children.

{July 8, 2008}   Link Love Great job using the child-free flexibility and availability to your advantage. In a parent focused world, there is still great places that appreciate what the childfree have to offer over the average parent. Career vs Kids?  Childfree folks keep busy growing their careers.

Also there is a new issue of unscripted out, it always has a lot to offer child free folks. this post points out a few biases men don’t tend to face involving the choice to be childfree.  We need to get to a place that the choice not to have or raise children is just as powerful a choice of feminity as chosing to have or primarily raise children.

If you want to add hundreds or even a thousand or two to your monthly budget. You can cut expenses drastically, like I covered before, downsize your mortgage or lease, downsize your transportation. Another option, or even better an option to use in concert with the others, is to upsize your income. There are several ways you can do this: In this article I will cover landing a raise; either a traditional raise, promotion, or untraditional raise.

A child-free person’s life is their own to do with as they please. If you are really behind on the bills, want to fund an education, or save up for emergencies, then committing to making more money is a great option. I believe it is best to go forward on all fronts. You can spend your free-time preparing to ask for a raise and committing to get in the most possible hours at work. Take advantage of not having kids to make it into work more often and to stay off the phone with family and focus on productivity.

Firstly, how does one earn a raise? One earns a raise by getting up the guts to ask. One plans how they will ask, how they will justify that they are worth the extra money, and by following through with asking. When you are preparing to ask for a raise. Polish up your resume. Focus on accomplishments not just duties and skills, you will mention these accomplishments to your boss when asking for the raise. And if your boss says “no” to a raise, you are all ready to go looking elsewhere for that raise!

You will need to be spot on for the month while you are preparing to ask. Do your best work, don’t goof off, get to work on time and don’t miss days. Then schedule a review time with your boss. Tell your boss what you have accomplished and improved upon. Ask your boss if he or she has any recommendations for you. Unless the recommendations are crippling, ask for a raise. Your boss won’t likely fire you for asking, and they will likely actually give you a raise or consider giving you one in the near future.

Don’t take a “no” to hard. You know you are worth the money, and you might have to go elsewhere to find it. If your boss made a recommendation for improvement, make the improvement, then follow up a month or two later and ask for that raise again! I followed this plan with my boss. I emailed him after 6 months of working, I covered my accomplishments in the email, and I asked to meet with him for a review. He passed me off on my supervisor, and she talked things over with me, told me I needed to gab with my coworkers less and offered me a dollar an hour raise. For the longest time, I was the only one in my department who earned a raise. Later on, when I was promoted, I asked for a raise, and I was told “No, not yet.” However, just a few months later when I pulled through on a new pet project for the partner, he emailed me with a new raise.

I kept reading that one of the main reasons women make less money than men is because women don’t ask for raises as much and don’t negotiate as hard. I decided to look into this. My friend was doing a report on the wage disparity, and I asked her to compare child-free/childless men and women. The wage gap disappeared. Perhaps this is because we miss less work, spend less time on emergency phone calls, and perhaps because of this we have an easier time asking for raises. Use your advantages! Get that raise, childfreebie!

You can give yourself an untraditional raise by opting into benefit programs at your work that you have not been using. Health insurance, tuition reimbursement, 401K matching, and etc. You usually have to put a little bit into these benefits. For health insurance there are sometimes employee paid premiums. Tuition reimbursement requires an upfront payment from you that will be repaid if you get a good grade. Be realistic with yourself, if the class is too hard for you to keep up your grade, then drop it before you end up paying full price for it. You are trying to get a raise not throw money down the hole. You can always sign up for a more introductory course and try again. 401K matching programs require you to put in a percent of your income and then your company matches that, but you don’t get to touch that cash until you retire. It is worth it, do it! Find a way to big chunk away expenses so you can afford to contribute the maximum match percentage. If there are benefits that you cannot use because they are for parents, ask your boss to include cafeteria options for folks to pick out: higher matching on 401K, lower premiums on health care, higher tuition reimbursements, more vacation time. Parents whose spouses get duplicate benefits can appreciate a cafeteria plan too.

At my former job, I opted into Health Insurance reimbursement immediately. While most of my coworkers dragged their feet. For every month they dragged their feet, I was making $170 more than them. I used my health insurance to have a surgery, pay for medicines, and get my teeth cleaned. Money well earned and well spent. Take advantage of benefits early and often.

Another way to give yourself a raise is to work more hours. Polish up your act. If you have been missing days or coming in late, stop! Arrive to work on time and ready to get started, come into work even if you are a little bit sick, dayquil can do wonders. If you have a health issue that is keeping you from being the best worker possible, it is time to consider paying to fix that. For example, do you need new glasses? Do you have insomnia? Do you face migraines? These sort of health issues are often treatable. Save up a few hundred dollars to go to the doctor and begin therapy (or get new glasses). If your productivity ups, so does your likelyhood of getting that raise. The extra days and minutes you are at work will add up to extra pay. The few hundred you spend getting your health fixed up a little, will pay themselves back quickly when you make it to work on time everyday. If you are salaried you can use your improvements to argue for a raise, if you are hourly the results in extra income is immediate.

Give yourself a raise by finding a better paying and more satisfying job. You polished up your resume when you prepared to ask for a raise. Now you have a document that is worth money! You have listed your accomplishments that make you a great employee. So go out there and apply! If you have the flexibility, consider applying to jobs in better markets. For example: Seattle is better than Portland for legal professionals. Surf around Craigslist and see what towns are offering the most openings and the highest pay for your career. Apply to many jobs. You have to spend an hour or so a week crafting cover letters and contacting companies. I saved myself a ton of time by adding a craigstlist RSS feed to my google reader and having monster email me openings that fit my criteria. When you are getting the openings right at your google station, (or yahoo, or other email and RSS feed reader combo), you can begin applying right away. Using feeds and emails, you can be one of the first to apply to new listings.

When you get called on interviews, you will have to dress up. If you don’t want to appear suspicious at work, should you work in a casual environment, have your nicer clothes in a bag or in your car. Wear something that can easily be dressed up and down on your way in and out of your work to and from the interview. And I recently figured out that scheduling your interviews as close to lunch as possible turns your interviews from appointments that take you away from work noticeably, and into long lunches that no one notices.

Don’t forget when you are out there applying to new jobs, that your own company might have openings that would spell promotion for you. Apply to those too, and take advantage of references from within the company to get a better chance at them. Go and speak directly your friends in the department and ask them for copies of their resumes. They already successfully landed the position you want, finding out what they emphasized on their resumes could be big help to re-crafting your own. When someone gives notice that they are retiring, quitting, taking family leave or is fired, go see the boss immediately and voice your interest in growing in the company, and your interest in that department. If you already have some cross training or education in that area, mention that too. You might be promoted right away so that the prior employee can train you, and there is no gap in coverage of the position.

Getting a raise is a big chunk way to add more money to your budget. But don’t just let the extra money disappear to random expenses. Keep your goals firmly in mind. Send your extra money to savings, debt reduction or towards goals like improving your health, education, retirement account or even your lifestyle with purpose.

If you are reading this now, and you are still savable, do not get this much in debt! Right now if things are tough, cut back now, and even ask for help if you need it. Don’t get into debt that will compound with interest and keep you from having fun years down the line. Don’t get deep into debt out of pride or laziness. I am not asserting that poor people are lazy. What I am saying is that it takes effort to find resources to help you through hard times

I have read blogs about single or childfree people living off of Ramen noodles to get by and save a few cents here and there to radically pay down debt. This makes me cringe because Ramen is so bad for you; it is full of salt and has almost no nutrition and it is mostly empty calories. I think you can grab a can of tomato paste or stewed tomatoes for a 50 cents at a discount store and a few pounds of whole wheat noodles for a dollar and have a more healthy dinner. At least it has two food groups!

Don’t live so broke that you damage your health. Chances are you will lose more money on medicine for hypertension and weight loss programs for those years of eating Ramen then I am sure you saved cutting a few dollars or cents out per meal. Keep in mind that food banks and food stamps can provide you with healthier options like beans, soups and canned vegetables for free.

I had a few friends who were poor and had food stamps, free lunches, and food baskets at holidays when I was a teenager. Watching them eat decently despite poverty taught me something too. My first husband and I lived in a tiny two bedroom apartment with a roommate. I was the only one gainfully employed during a recession. In order to get by all of us were on food stamps and received food from food banks so that we could eat healthily and get back on our feet.  Though a lot of holiday charity is for kids, like Christmas present drives, even childfree low income families can request a holiday food basket.  We were quite happy with our turkey and gravy, thank you!

When a dental emergency hit, I called my religious organization and asked for help paying for the bill, I painted them a religious icon as thanks. I gave back my time, I worked at food banks as a volunteer, and I really showed I appreciated the help. I gave back in a meaningful way in order to not feel crushed by accepting charity. The aid of these organizations did get me on my feet. I am now a successful professional. And I did it without getting into serious debt. Another way I can make it up to the organizations that helped me, to be a success story and to pay it forward.

A graceful way to accept charity is to consider it a loan to get you on your feet.  You will have an opportunity to pay it back someday!  You will pay back the food stamps with taxes, you will pay back the charity by paying it forward or donating to those organizations once you are are successful.

If you are reading this now, and you are still savable, do not get this much in debt! Right now if things are tough, cut back now, and even ask for help if you need it. Don’t get into debt that will compound with interest and keep you from having fun years down the line.

I am all for full disclosure. I have to admit, I am not one of those radical cases who went in deep debt and pulled out of it. I am sure it can be done, and I read inspiring stories of folks who pull out of the deepest worst debt without going bankrupt. I am not one of them, I struggled through squalor, all the while staying out of serious debt. How did I do this? I didn’t get that broke, I learned ahead of time to just not go there.

I have read many personal finance blogs–especially blogs of parents with small children–who have gotten so broke that they have to turn debt reduction into a hobby and give up other hobbies to get out of debt. I read about a mother who everytime she even thinks about spending money, she pay down her credit card instead. She doesn’t go to free activities with her family, but instead stays home and puts the money she would have spent on gas to get to the events into debt reduction. Some of the childed people’s blogs I read are having another child–meanwhile paying down debt obsessively using radical techniques that really limit their free time activities.

One reason, at this stage in my life, I don’t want kids and am unlikely to have them ever is that they are very expensive. I know my family taught me a lot by getting this broke. We were unable to enjoy the nicer things in life because we were a slave to our house in a fancy neighborhood. My parents never went out to eat or on vacations together. Life was just parenting and working for them. Struggling with debt is still a depressing issue at the family home for my parents and my adult brother. Part of why I am not having kids is I don’t want to do that for 18-30 years my life.

It might be a fun hobby for some people to pay down their debt creatively and due to circumstances it might be their only hobby. However, I want my activities to be more pleasurable and intellectually stimulating than that. So my advice, if you are facing hard times now, take the hit now, reduce your lifestyle now. Maybe you will put off having kids, or you won’t have kids. Maybe you will take charity and do unpaid work to build your resume. Maybe you will live in a tiny apartment with a few roommates to keep in the black and out of debt. But your time living cheap won’t be forever if you leverage your options to get ahead, to get out of poverty. Don’t get so broke that you have to live cheap forever.

{July 2, 2008}   Guilt

Guilt is a somewhat useless feeling.  It makes people feel bad for not doing things they don’t want to do.  It makes people feel bad for doing things they want to do.  I person who’s ethics line up with their desires will eschew guilt when they take actions in line with their desires and ethics.  A childfree person might find some conflict, they might feel pressure from outside ethics that say it is a moral mandate to have children.  A person who caves to the first glimmer of guilt and does not stop, reexamine their ethics and put their desires and actions in line with those ethics, will fall further and further into guilty feelings.  First you cave in and have children, then you cannot or do not care for them as is best and you feel guilty, and so on.  The same people who pressured you to have kids against your will might even pressure you to raise them a certain way, and so on.  Don’t let guilt control you.

Stop all the guilt at the first glimmer.  Remember why you are childfree, because it is in line with your ethics and desires.  We all have our individual reasons.

et cetera