Family: Isn’t it about…time?

Like wage laborers all over the world, I spent most of my waking hours with other people’s kids. I try to compensate by spending “quality” time with my own when I’m at home by setting aside cares and electronic devices and playing, reading and making music, for example. I like to think this engaged approach makes a difference, though of course it’s difficult to measure the overall impact. Actually, that’s not quite true. In one area in particular—language acquisition—the impact has been quite clear: quality is no substitute for quantity. 

You see, my wife and I are (taking a seat of the pants approach to) raising our daughter bilingually.  I always speak English with her while my wife speaks the local language. The results have been mixed—our daughter understands English just fine but is reluctant to speak it (I am also fluent in the local language so that’s how she usually communicates with me). Our daughter spends most of the day immersed in the local language and, unsurprisingly, feels most comfortable speaking it. But just having spent ten days together over the Christmas holidays, my dear daughter is speaking significantly more English. The same thing happens during our annual two- to three-week trips to the US—it turns out that the quantity of (quality) time makes a difference.

This observation may appear so pedestrian that it hardly warrants mention, but it’s something I always think about during discussions in the third hour of church when well-meaning priesthood holders rationalize their competing roles as fathers and primary breadwinners by noting the importance of spending quality time with their children.

Tight Spot 2

Several fellows who found themselves in a tight spot (reference)

Mormon men are in a tight spot—having determined that their place is out of the home, it’s hard to be the kind of hands-on father envisioned by church leaders:

On a day-to-day basis, fathers can and should help with the essential nurturing and bonding associated with feeding, playing, storytelling, loving, and all the rest of the activities that make up family life.

If time is limited there is no doubt that it should be “quality”; but in light of the challenges posed by competing demands on beings who occupy space and are subject to time, it’s a mystery to me why the counsel that follows (from the talk referenced above) is directed at mothers rather than parents in general:

It is well-nigh impossible to be a full-time homemaker and a full-time employee. […] Taking care of small, dependent, and demanding children is never ending and often nerve-racking. Mothers must not fall into the trap of believing that “quality” time can replace “quantity” time. Quality is a direct function of quantity—and mothers, to nurture their children properly, must provide both. To do so requires constant vigilance and a constant juggling of competing demands. It is hard work, no doubt about it.

My experience passing on my mother tongue squares with Elder Ballard’s counsel: Quality is a direct function of quantity. Making an effort to spend quality time with my daughter is better than a sharp stick in the eye (if nothing else it helps me sleep better at night, I suppose), but I’m not sure it’s enough to achieve the good things I want for her. But with few prospects of being able to live off of anything other than the proceeds of my time, I reckon I’ll have to be content with making the most of my limited influence.

What have your experiences been with regard to the quantity/quality time conundrum?

 

Comments

  1. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    I am very disappointed that this post does not contain the word “paterfamilias,” let alone any modifying adjectives thereto

  2. I would love to see men getting to be in callings where they get to interact with their kids. I had a little taste of that this Sunday. In all of Primary, there was only me (a presidency member), one teacher out of 6, and the Primary pianist. No nursery leaders, and no one had any subs.
    So, the bishopric largely took over staffing nursery and Primary, along with the members of Young Men’s and Elders Quorum presidencies who were in town. The Sunday School president helped by getting snacks for nursery from home. As it turned out, the only woman who subbed was the bishop’s wife as Primary chorister. After a few harrowing minutes figuring things out, it ended up being a lovely day for everyone. I hope every man in an administrative calling gets to sub in nursery a few times.

  3. I am very disappointed that this post does not contain the word “paterfamilias,” let alone any modifying adjectives thereto

    A missed opportunity!

  4. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    Pete, it’s a fool that looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart.

    The bonafide Mormon paterfamilias is going to have to tightrope that line between nurturing like a SAHM, and earning like there’s a depression on and “I got to do for me and mine”

    There’s some room there to operate, but you’re correct to raise the bar of expectation.

  5. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    Larry, you are BCC’s brain trust.

  6. The problem with relying on quality time is that children and parents define it differently. My parents were diligent about having family home evening when I was growing up. As southern CA kids that traveled the freeways my brother and I were fascinated by the pedestrian walkways that crossed over one freeway near us. One week when my parents told us it was our turn to choose an FHE activity we decided we wanted to walk over the freeway on one of them. We parked and then ran over the freeway several times, stared down at the cars zooming past us, tried spitting through the chain link fence onto the cars below, and then went and had ice cream. Out of the hundreds of FHEs I had growing up that is the only one that I distinctly remember, and I remember it with fond memories of doing something with my family. Yet I’ve asked my mother and she has no recollection of that night. To her it was a throw away night that didn’t involve wrestling with 6 kids over prayers, songs and lessons and was soon forgotten. I doubt that she would have called it a quality experience at the time but as a child it created lasting memories which made it a quality experience for me.

  7. J. Stapley says:

    I travel a fair amount, but when home, I have a home office, and have found that to be a huge win in this area. Just the difference when not spending time commuting. I probably work more, on balance, but the flex time allows for much more family interaction, and it has made a huge difference. My sense is that the traditional Mormon vision of the family will largely be approached through telecommuting and flextime (of both parents) in the near future.

  8. “Quality is a direct function of quantity.” I disagree, and I actually think your analogy to learning a language is a little off; let me explain. I think you are calling quantity quality by talking about the immersion required, the exposure, the give & take in language, to be able to learn a language in context. All good and well, but that’s not quality–that’s still quantity. Quality would be more like using correct grammar, having a large vocabulary, and actually speaking and engaging with each other when you are together vs. sitting in silence. For example, it would be high quantity if you spent a bunch of time with her speaking English, but low quality if you only spoke using English 101 phrases or strictly cockney vernacular (for example). She’d learn English, but a lower quality English. So yes, quantity affects outcomes, but so does quality. They are both important to optimal outcomes, but the quality is not driven by the quantity.

    Now to take that to parenting, let’s say a child has an abusive stay at home parent who belittles the child and behaves erratically and in an emotionally distant way. The child has plenty of quantity, but it’s low quality, even damaging, the opposite of nurturing. By contrast another child has a parent with a career who spends less personal time with the child in the home, but all that time is positive and supportive and using focused listening skills. That’s low quantity, but high quality. Or a third parent who stays at home but largely ignores the child, letting the child play unsupervised, maybe providing meals, but mostly doing independent hobbies without interacting as a parent. That’s high quantity (which is important and in this case not damaging), but lower quality that the career parent who engages more fully with the child in a limited amount of time.

    If the statement was that both quantity and quality matter, I would agree with that. To say quality is driven by quantity, though, is not accurate.

  9. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Agree, wholeheartedly, KLC. My children find some of our most random interactions to be meaningful, and not those I would identify. Quality time is generally defined by the parent, through their own lens. Quantity really is key (while nearly impossible to achieve). The point is that parenting involves actually being around your kids. And, more important than being around when you want to be around is being there when they want you to be there. Obviously, there’s just no way to anticipate when that might be. So, the easy solution is to simply be around…always. That’s the idea behind the SAHM (although, let’s not forget about the many, hidden, SAHFs). I guess that’s nice, if you can manage it. Most of us can’t always be around. Still, I think we shouldn’t get stuck in the trap of elevating the small interactions as quality, as if you can accomplish more in less time, if you just use that time wisely. If you want to increase the odds of having meaningful, and impactful, interactions with your children, it’s best to be there for them as often as you can manage, because you never know when they’ll need you (or want you). Wish it was as easy as a prescriptive directive to sit down together on Monday between 6p-7p for FHE. It’s not.

  10. My sense is that the traditional Mormon vision of the family will largely be approached through telecommuting and flextime (of both parents) in the near future.

    J., I think you might be right, for families of a certain education and economic status. But my sense, even while living in a ward with a superabundance of status of all kinds, is that this is a privilege that will remain out of reach for a huge proportion of Mormon families. Tables can’t be bussed and floors mopped or wastebaskets emptied from a distance; furnaces can’t be repaired from offsite; groceries can’t be unloaded from trucks, stocked on shelves, and rung up for customers by telecommuters; and my Amazon purchases can’t be delivered unless someone spends long hours away from home driving a truck between warehouse and my house. The lower the social and economic status of a family — and I think it’s true that probably most of the Church falls into this category, despite the shiny pictures in the Ensign — the less likely it is that parents will be able to telecommute.

    I wonder if the Mormon vision of the family won’t evolve more in the direction of how to have any family time at all when both parents are working multiple part- and full-time jobs, and living under the cloud of having to be constantly on the lookout for the next job in the gig economy, and seeing many of the jobs that were once available to laborers who cannot reasonably be equipped for professional work suitable to telecommuting, being taken by robots.

  11. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    My above comment, in my opinion, is more applicable to parenting with younger children. What we often fail to acknowledge is that things change as they get older (continuing into, and throughout adulthood). Being around them a lot is more useful, and more possible, when they don’t have as much going on. Those teenage years end up being more like random bursts of time, with little chance for high quantity of time, and less margin for error to achieve quality. Seizing those moments is like catching butterflies.

  12. Thank you for this post PeterLLC. It reflects a lot of my own thinking. Spending quantity time with my children was the reason why I requested a release from being bishop after 1.5 years in the calling (which was after 6 previous years in bishoprics and the high council).

    IMO the church goes out of its way to protect family time in many instances, but it does a poor job of protecting father’s time as compared to mother’s. As one example, when I was in a bishopric about 6 years ago my wife and I were called for an interview with the stake president. He explained the need for temple workers and how my wife was could not be called because we had 5 young children (parenthetically, we previously served in the Provo temple while at BYU until our first child was born and we got the auto-release). However, because church policies does not protect fathers like it does mothers, I was available to be called as a temple worker. Of course, this meant that I’d not see my kids all Saturday as the temple is 2 hours away (or during most of the week or Sundays because I’m the primary bread winner and in the bishopric). The SP realized the sacrifice, but explained that we would be blessed and that the temple simply needed more men because women don’t hold priesthood office. Long story short, I accepted the calling and after 6 months returned it because my children (and wife) were suffering greatly. I didn’t feel so blessed either.

    If I had my way, I’d arrange the default rule for church callings that whichever parent gets the majority of contact with their children during the week gets a calling that takes them away from the children. So mostly men in the primary and mostly women in the clerk’s office and bishopric.

    I should also point out that my current calling (YM Pres) gives me lots of time with my children. I’m especially grateful for the calling since it comes at the sacrifice of many others in the ward (particularly men, again because the priesthood office restriction) who serve in callings away from children because someone has to.

    Finally, I just mention that, IMO, the biggest failure with the PotF is not omitting women from the roles of presiding, protecting, and providing, but the omission of men from the role of nurturing. The three Ps are a lesser role because they are temporary. Nurturing has a longer lasting role and is therefore more valuable. So I teach my young men (particularly my sons) that while they certainly have the three P roles, their most important role is to be a nurturer.

  13. it's a series of tubes says:

    Dave, great points. Not long ago, I wrapped up a nine year span where I was clerk, exec sec, or bishopric member the entire time. Especially toward the end, as 1st counselor to a bishop who was often absent, my children and wife suffered greatly and, like you, I didn’t feel so blessed. In hindsight, I did a very, very poor job of protecting what was most important and allowed the machine to chew my family up a bit. It did a lot of damage that I’m still working to unravel.

  14. I lurk far more than I comment, but this ties into something I said just this Sunday, about inviting the Spirit into our new council meetings the church is rolling out. This concept of “quality comes out of quantity” is something I first encountered in Eugene England’s writing, and in my own life it has rung true. I think Angela has an important point that going through the motions is not enough; you have to make an effort to bring it to the next level. However, in my experience you cannot plan those truly transcendent moments. You don’t know which date night is going to be the one where you reconnect at a deep level; you can’t plan for the conversation when you’re washing dishes besides your teen and they open up; you can’t schedule which time you’ll open the scriptures and get that answer you desperately need. You can do your best to invite these moments, but they cannot be forced. And a great way to make that invitation is consistency.

  15. Tubes,

    FWIW, to the degree that blame needs to be placed anywhere I tend to place it on myself too. I always believed that church leaders had the right to receive revelation for callings (I still do by the way). But I never considered that members have a countervailing right and stewardship to receive revelation as to whether a calling would undermine more important responsibilities. That stewardship cannot be passed off to church leaders.

    So while the SP should have given thought to how the temple calling would have affected my family (and he did), the end responsibility to say “no, fatherhood comes first” was mine alone (ok, mine with my wive’s input) and I didn’t say “no” (at least for 6 more months).

  16. Tubes,

    I should also mention that the atonement really is infinite and eternal. It may take longer than we like, but I believe any damage done to family relationships because of church service (especially because of church service) can and will be remedied.

  17. Dave, I’m interested in your following comment:

    “Finally, I just mention that, IMO, the biggest failure with the PotF is not omitting women from the roles of presiding, protecting, and providing, but the omission of men from the role of nurturing. The three Ps are a lesser role because they are temporary. Nurturing has a longer lasting role and is therefore more valuable. So I teach my young men (particularly my sons) that while they certainly have the three P roles, their most important role is to be a nurturer.”

    I wholeheartedly agree that rigid roles impact men as negatively as women (though I tend to see men as disadvantaged differently than women rather than more significantly), and believe the key to turning things around is for more men to believe they are missing out on something. As long as men perceive nurturing duties to be beneath them and\or undesirable, I think we’ll continue to see both genders barred from certain callings and disproportionately burdened with others. Since our current structure only permits men to make significant policy and other decisions in the church, the hearts of enough men will have to turn toward nurturing. Maybe I should get behind (and promote) the idea that men are worse off…it’s certainly plausible and is more likely to secure change than the past and current efforts headed by women; no matter how passionate, committed, eloquent, or even right women are in their quest for change, they do not hold the positions necessary to make it happen. Men will have to have sufficient personal motive. It seems sad but true that oppression of others is rarely enough to motivate people to act–personal oppression (self-interest) is typically required.

  18. The problem with relying on quality time is that children and parents define it differently.

    An excellent point. It kind of reminds me of conscientious parents who carefully select developmentally-appropriate toys only to have their progeny play with the box.

    I actually think your analogy to learning a language is a little off

    It wouldn’t be the first time! That said, if my daughter doesn’t speak English as well as her peers, I’m not going to blame myself for speaking a lower quality English (as a native speaker I come equipped with all the language acquisition expertise needed to get the job done—namely, very little), rather I’m going to point out the obvious—my daughter spent her most formative years speaking German while I was at work. I know several children who have grown up in the same German-speaking country as native speakers of English. The difference is not superior language instruction but constant exposure to a native English speaking parent at home. Obviously parents can rub off on their kids without being around them constantly, but in some cases I simply don’t see how high quality but limited interactions can possibly bring about the same results as sustained, even if mundane, interactions.

    If you want to increase the odds of having meaningful, and impactful, interactions with your children, it’s best to be there for them as often as you can manage, because you never know when they’ll need you (or want you).

    This rings true.

    The lower the social and economic status of a family — and I think it’s true that probably most of the Church falls into this category, despite the shiny pictures in the Ensign — the less likely it is that parents will be able to telecommute.

    This too, unfortunately.

    What we often fail to acknowledge is that things change as they get older (continuing into, and throughout adulthood).

    Indeed. It’s normal, at least for the American nuclear family, to spend less time together as the family ages.

    IMO the church goes out of its way to protect family time in many instances, but it does a poor job of protecting father’s time as compared to mother’s.

    Yes. Even in my lowly calling I still end up spending the better part of Sunday and at least one weeknight (which effectively means I don’t see my family for 24 hours since I leave from work and everyone is in bed by the time I get back) in meetings.

  19. Re: time in meetings:

    “A correlation meeting is a meeting where you talk about what you would be doing if you were not in the damn meeting.” — Marion G. Romney (from his private conversation with my brother’s “unimpeachable source” who relayed it to my brother on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to repeat this publicly.)

    “It has to be a damn fine meeting to be better than no meeting at all.” — attributed to J. Golden Kimball who died in 1938. MGR was already in the Utah legislature in 1934; he became a GA in 1941 (Assistant to the 12). I wonder if he knew Kimball.

  20. A couple of thoughts:

    When we talk about quality and quantity time, I often wonder if we do it for the sake of talking about it. The question should first be what we’re trying to accomplish with our time with our children. Are we trying to turn them into well adjusted adults? Are we trying to make sure they don’t leave the church? Are we trying to help them think and live independently? Are we trying to make sure we have a strong enough relationship to last through their lives? Are we trying to assuage parental guilt? I think the answers to these questions are important when discussing how best to spend our limited time.

    Also, this post and some comments seem to imply that every hour of added time will bring extra benefit. I do think that’s true up to a point of saturation. In your language example, there is probably a marked difference between speaking English with your child two hours a week vs two hours a day. On the other hand I would guess there’s virtually no difference between speaking English 10 hours a day vs 12 hours a day. At some point extra time is adding little to no benefit (and may be adding harm, but mostly in the sense that the time could be spent elsewhere on things that would add greater benefit).

    I do agree that kids need their fathers as much as their mothers and both should be encouraged to set aside regular and frequent time to spend with their kids.

    Coming at this from the perspective of a kid who grew up with two professional parents who regularly worked 80+ hours a week, I definitely think quality time is more important than quantity. I’m a well adjusted adult, I have very close relationships with both of my parents, almost everything about me I can trace back to the influence of either my Dad or Mom. On the other hand I’ve got one foot (maybe one and a half feet) out of the church and my mom definitely had mounds of mom guilt, although my Dad didn’t. I spent way more time with my Dad than my friends whose Dad’s worked 40 hours a week and then another 40 on church callings. My mom was a tangible example that I could do and be anything if I put my mind to it. The lessons I’ve learned from my mom’s example have brought me further than any amount of quantity time.

    I think each kid, each parent, and each family dynamic is different. The best solution is absolutely not a mathematical formula where more time always equals more benefit.

  21. nobody, really says:

    My add:
    Spending time taking your child to soccer, sitting on the sidelines at baseball, watching from the stands at football, and serving in the Scouts or Young Women while your child participates, is not the same as spending time with your child. You’re doing the time but not doing the work.

    To put it another way, an hour spent playing *with* your child is far, far superior to ten hours of watching your child play with other children.

  22. At some point it’s quantity that matters much more than quality. A good dad can’t whisk his kids off to Disneyland or London twice a year – if that’s the only time he spends with them – and claim that quality makes up for quantity. I remember my time hiking with my dad saying nothing for hours and hours more than I remember fancy family trips.

    As someone who has served in virtually every (male) local calling including bishop and scoutmaster, I am done blindly saying yes to any calling or assignment. My generation was taught the important of accepting any calling where I think younger generations expect more of a two way conversation. The only thing that saved my marriage during my time as bishop was that I worked from home 3 days a week and I rarely worked more than 50 hours. It is impossible to maintain any balance at all for the more visible priesthood callings. I think the Q15 know this but don’t know how to change it. Every time a meeting is eliminated at the church level, a zealous local area 70 or Stake President gobbles it up with a new meeting.

    I – of course being a know it all – have a few suggestions. Allowing women to hold some of the traditionally male callings that can be worked from home might marginally improve available time for many faithful LDS men. Women as clerks, executive secretary, Sunday School President, Ward Mission Leader among some. A happy side effect might mean that women feel more included.

  23. Nobody, I’m going to disagree a bit with your thoughts.

    You are right on when it comes to my Child A. What she needs is for me to listen. She talks (and talks and talks) and I give feedback, encourage her, guide her to pathways that I think would be good for her. Watching her perform isn’t meaningful to her at all, having me involved in her clubs ends up being more about me than her (a necessary involvement though for most kid hobbies to exist).

    However, my Child B is the opposite. She has very little desire to talk (and when she does talk it is about the direction of her hobbies and interests, which she expects me to be up to speed about), but it is deeply meaningful to her that I watch her competitions and accompany her to all her hobby events and get neck deep in the things she likes. She wants me to show up and be involved as her sidekick and super-mom. This makes her feel deeply supported.

    Different kids, different needs – different ways of nurturing.

  24. Also, this post and some comments seem to imply that every hour of added time will bring extra benefit.

    I’m not assuming that sitting together 24 hours a day is what makes happy, healthy children. But there’s no getting around the fact that people who spend time together rub off on each other. I don’t know how much is good, bad or indifferent; as some have suggested it no doubt varies. In my experience, just being around for a week or so makes a noticeable difference in my daughter’s willingness to speak my native language. I suspect this is not a cosmic fluke.

  25. I agree with most commenters that quantity is a significant factor in quality. When trying to figure out how to structure family life, including the often competing goals of providing for the family (paid work), and spending time with family (nurturing), I don’t think most people ask themselves, “Which should I choose, being a neglectful and abusive stay at home parent, or a working parent that is usually not with my children but when I am there doing “high quality” things, like reading and music?”. People who have limited skills as parents aren’t usually going to be made better by adding more outside responsibilities to the mix. As a working parent myself I get the defensive feeling of wanting to minimize any negative aspect of working away but the truth is nothing is perfect.

  26. Mormons need a version of Goodwin’s law for Socialists/Communists:
    Apocryphal Stalin quote: Quantity has a quality of it’s own.
    Derrived from this concept:
    “The general principle that quantity begets quality is a key tenet of the Marxist theory of dialectical materialism, as formulated by Marx and Engels, phrased as the law of the passage of quantitative changes into qualitative changes. ”

    Ergo BACK has proved itself to be Communists again.

    //Just for fun!

  27. Wait..so now fathers AND mothers are supposed to feel guilty about working?
    Seriously?
    This is some very privileged thinking.
    And y’all are going to raise some awfully smothered children.
    SMH

  28. And y’all are going to raise some awfully smothered children.

    And you’re worried about me heaping on the guilt? Some people’s kids!

  29. Kids in America have never spent more time with their families than currently. But are they better off because of it? My kids spend much more time with me and my wife, as compared to my childhood with my parents. I was off playing outside, with friends, in the woods, in friends’ homes. All from a very young age. Kids these days don’t do nearly as much of this. https://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2017/11/daily-chart-20

  30. All along I’ve been assuming that parents rubbing off on their kids is a good thing, but if parents themselves possess undesirable characteristics or lack the qualities they want to instil in their children, it’s conceivable that more time together could be a net negative.

  31. The author of this blog post could presumably take a large pay cut to have more time to spend with his kids. Yet he chooses not to. And verbally wrings his hands instead. Most of us guys that work full-time will just keep working full-time and not sweat it out.

  32. Since you asked, Mike W., I have taken a large pay cut to spend more time at home. Just not enough, apparently. Give the guys a high five for me, wouldja?

  33. I remember reading a book (possibly Pinker’s The Blank Slate) the covered research showing that parents are not the primary influence on kids anyway. Their peer group (starting much younger than I would have expected) is much more influential.

  34. Since kids begin to spend most of their time with other people’s kids at a young age, I can’t say I’m surprised that this would be the case. Maybe I have the causality all wrong, but such findings seem to reinforce my experience/hunch that we rub off on the people we spend our time with. I’m a little surprised at the resistance this idea has encountered, but go figure—life is a learning experience.

  35. The other thing that definitely did come from The Blank Slate is that the primary factor in predicting the life outcome for a child is the life outcome of the biological parent, rather than the life outcome of the parent who raised the child (studies done on adopted children. Life outcome covers a ton of topics). Genetics plays WAY more of a role that we like to admit. Of course, a whole tone of awful things have been done in the name of ‘My _____________ is inherently better than yours’ so there is a danger there.

    I’ve run into the genetics idea more regularly lately in pop science podcasts/books so it seems the idea is being pursued. Seems like a good idea to do so, as if it is correct it doesn’t make sense to pretend it is wrong.

  36. ReTx makes a good point, and I’ve been reading a lot of those studies, too. It makes me wonder how much of our parental advice and wisdom is really just designed to focus on what is in parental control (how we spend our time) rather than what is uncontrollable by human action (genetics). But the byproduct of that is that parents feel guilty for what was in our control and don’t acknowledge that we were sandbagged all along.

  37. I’m really not trying to beat up on anyone for their life choices. I’ve simply observed that spending time with my child yielded some pretty clear dividends with regard to language fluency. I think there may be some wider applications here in nurturing children, and I don’t see why this job should be left to mothers only, but I’m not denying the role of nature, peers, etc. in how people turn out.

  38. No one need leave it to the mothers. Downgrade your lifestyle by 50%, get a part-time job. Become a school teacher, don’t work in the summers. Some guys pat themselves on the back – “I chose to no longer work at the Big 3 consulting firm”. Or “I no longer work at the downtown law firm and all those billable hours.” Or whatever. Good. That means you’re sane (my humble opinion).

  39. it's a series of tubes says:

    Become a school teacher, don’t work in the summers.

    It must be sweet to live in a fantasy world where teachers can afford to take the summer off.

  40. I wonder if the ‘down-grade your lifestyle’ is really as possible as it used to be. How do these families get all five kids through college (without leaving the kids too debt ridden to avoid the 70 hour work week themselves), save for retirement, afford healthcare for a large family? Our family lives a very modest lifestyle, but its these big-ticket, long-term items make it necessary for us not to have just one spouse in a full time job, but two.

    Also tubes is right. Every single teacher I know who is a primary bread winner for their family works through the summer (summer school, construction on the side, etc.) and often holds part time jobs as well to make ends meet. And this is true in both expensive areas and middle-of-nowhere rural areas (although admittedly I know no teachers in Utah, so perhaps it is better there).

  41. I’ve downgraded my lifestyle beyond what I imagine most Americans would find acceptable (“only” 300 square feet of living space per household member and no car, to name the two biggies, the latter not much of a sacrifice because of the excellent public transportation that is available), so I feel like I make modest attempts to walk the walk that go beyond virtual hand wringing.

  42. Here are some other helpful steps:
    1. Live in an area with a low cost of living. The Salt Lake and Provo areas have seen housing prices skyrocket over the last couple of years, so it will need to be someplace else.
    2. Obtain either a STEM degree or a graduate degree that will allow you to earn good money while working reasonable hours. Science teacher doesn’t count because the pay sucks (believe me, I tried it).
    3. Find a job that isn’t demanding, hours-wise. This may require one to become self-employed. In the right field, it’s also possible to get a part-time job with benefits.
    4. Live in a less-expensive home. The home doesn’t necessarily need to be small, but a mortgage payment under $1,000 can still mean a decent-sized home in an area with a low cost of living.

    I’ve done all of the above and am the sole breadwinner for a family of five. I spend maybe 30 or 35 hours per week working. I’d work another ten hours or so per week if I could, but we’re getting by just fine. We drive reliable but used cars, don’t buy fancy toys, grow some of our own food, and go on one big trip each year. I spend a lot of time at home with the kids and wife. It’s a good life.