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.