Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Question of Recession — CMB Post

Originally posted on the now defunct Chicago Moms Blog.

News agencies around the world reported Monday that the U.S. economy is officially in recession. Actually, they reported that the National Bureau of Economic Research finally admitted that we've been in recession since December 2007. Duh. Why on earth it took a year to reach this dazzling conclusion is beyond me.

When I say "we've" been in recession for a year, I mean the country at large. My personal "we" — our family — has been in a downward-spiraling recession for years. As small business owners, we've been slammed with everything you've been reading about in the news: outrageous healthcare premiums, ever-climbing energy costs (and all that implies), and a contracting credit market that feels more like a noose than a belt tightening.

Rumor has it that I've used up my complaining quotient, so I'm not complaining — really I'm not. Like everyone else, I'm just trying to figure things out. If we and other families have felt under the financial gun for years, what does "official" recession mean for our immediate and long-term futures?

Here's what I know:

It took a long time to get our family and our country into this financial mess and it's going to take a long time to get us out of it — one step at a time.

We're going to have to make some tough decisions — decisions we no doubt should have made sooner.

Some things are my fault and some things aren't. Woulda, could, shoulda. Who cares? The real question is: now what?

It is not my responsibility to spend our country out of recession. If my incredibly short American memory serves, that's one of the things that got us into this mess in the first place.

Every year we say we are going to watch our spending over the holidays. This year I mean it — it's going to be lean.

I want better for my kids — not better as in more, but better in terms of making better decisions, paying better attention, being better stewards.

Here's what I don't know:

I don't know how to be concerned, vigilant and proactive without worrying myself into a coma.

I don't know how to turn off the worry so I can sleep at night, so I can make good decisions and take productive steps during the day.

I don't know how to teach my children to be grateful for what we have, while understanding what we can't have.

I don't know how to keep them informed and teach them financial responsibility and independence without transferring the weight of my stress and worry onto their slender shoulders.

I don't know how to make them feel safe and confident about the future, while keeping them grounded in the reality of the present.

I know I'm lucky. I'm healthy, educated and able-bodied. I have a strong support system. And I have hope, if not confidence, that the new administration will ask these and other important questions so we can begin to find the answers together.

When Susan isn't feeling queasy about credit card debt, she can be found worrying about other topics at Two Kinds of People and marketing the family business at The Animal Store Blog.

1 comment:

Susan Bearman said...

Comments from the original Chicago Moms Blog post:

Sue said...

Recession has been with us like a shadow forever. In the daylight of prosperity the shadow disappears but when Wall St. runs amok the daylight shadows reappear as the sky darkens with clouds.

Like Spring coming every year, we get through the hard times and the good times return. I think our kids need to learn that important lesson - as they do when they fail an exam, or lose a game. We survive hard times and learn from them and move forward.

It is a good learning experience for all of us - especially our children. As we belt-tighten, our kids learn to have a great time in different ways. We help each other out when we can, we cherish family and friends and when the good times come we remember to sock money away for the difficult times.

But always we remember that it is never how much you earn but who you are that counts. Now that is a legacy our kids can internalize forever.

December 03, 2008 at 08:21 AM

Karen Putz / DeafMom said...

I only watch the news in the morning, and now I'm thinking that's probably not a good idea because lately, all I'm seeing is the downward spiral spinning faster. We have so many friends out of a job. I'm hoping the new administration can turn things around.

December 03, 2008 at 10:34 AM