New York Times: As Economy Shifts, So Do Family Roles
It's mostly a write-up of the Berry family of Darien, Connecticut, and the skirmishes caused by Mom's unwavering consumerism in the face of Dad's job loss. I went looking for a paragraph or two that'd sum up the whole mess. I believe I'd have to go with this bit:
“But do you have to buy them at Ralph Lauren?” Scott shot back.
Ah, yes. The angst of affluence rears its ugly head at the corner of Unemployed Avenue and Entitlement Way. Bedtime conversations are a blast at the Berry homestead. You get favorites like this:
On cue, Tracey chimed in. “And I say, ‘How can you complain about my spending when you don’t have an adequate income?’ ”
Wowsers. I've never watched a single episode of Desperate Housewives,, but I always imagined the scripts would contain snippets like that. At least on TV I'd eventually get to see Teri Hatcher and/or Eva Longoria Parker in lingerie. That's worth something.
But with this Berry story we merely get an introduction to ... clickers.
But “the husbands become what I call ‘clickers,’ ” Ms. Reiss said. “These are unemployed men who sit on the couch all day, holding the remote and watching TV, unable to step up and take over some of the household tasks and chores associated with raising the kids.”
I'll say this: Lisa and I feel tremendously fortunate to be able for her to be a SAHM. My income is well above the median for our area — but if that were to change, I'd like to think we could pare down from our current, pretty-modest spending levels. No kid clothes from Ralph Lauren in our house; no Beemer in the driveway. Our house isn't paid-for yet, but it's not the seven-figure variety, either.
I've always believed it's the long-term spending commitments we make that are the most deadly — the "stretch to get it" mortgage, the "I deserve it" SUV payment, the "how'd it get his large" balances on high-rate plastic. Those recurring, high-payment expenses you can't easily back out of are the ones that crush you when job loss or other financial instabilities hit.
Throw a sense of outright entitlement on top of that, and you have the makings of a full-on disaster.
One has to wonder: Will rising divorces, and the fees derived therefrom, count as economic stimulus in the coming months?