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Two incomes, can't afford child care: Let's potluck this to a better way

I did not have the intended response to the front-page article in the 'O' section of today's Oregonian. The writer meant for me to be sympathetic with the plight of the family depicted; two parents in what seemed a loving, functional marriage with two children under four. I think it was the way the writer approached the story, obvious scrabbling to paint a sad picture of a family left exhausted and strung out, juggling two jobs and only one car.

While I can relate to the stress of the enormous, far-too-dear cost of child care for young children, I came away from the article wishing to share my perspective as a mama of three boys, having drastically changed my work schedule in the past year; though I fear the chasm between the ways we look at life is great. The two parents are working alternate schedules; mom at Costco, dad in sales at a construction and industrial supply company. They pay for only about nine hours of day care a week, or $480 a month, and together make $64,000. They live in a two-bedroom, 800 square foot apartment somewhere in Tigard. No, their schedule doesn't allow for matinees, pedicures, or post-work beer with the guys. Yes, they're "trapped" with one parent, and the car, at work when it rains. The fun for the kids, according to the article: a walk to a toy store, cartoons on 'On Demand,' the shopping mall play area. [The article's writer explained the day she followed the family, it was raining, so they decided not to go to the park; there are parks close by, though the original article wasn't clear on that fact.]

Potluck_urbanmamas
I wish I could fix it for them. What's obvious at first is that we all need a better link to community; to friends who can share childcare providers or swap care for free; to people who can provide that post-work beer experience with the kids; to occasional potluck dinners so each night doesn't seem so harried and lonely. My life today is not perfect (far, far, far!) but thanks to my perspective I can see a number of choices that are worth re-thinking. The sidewalk-less suburb is just one; I know that prices don't vary much from the middle of my neighborhood in inner SE Portland to Tigard, giving the parents far more places to connect and allowing mom & dad to get rid of the car altogether, choosing Tri-Met or the bike for commuting. Then maybe one parent can quit or reduce hours, relieving the pressure and the exhaustion considerably. Harriet calls this concept "householding," and I'm a big fan. (After hearing from the writer who wrote the story, I deleted my comment about food.)

Instead of sitting here frustrated at how isolating, stressful and perhaps more expensive than necessary are the lives we're asked to sympathize with in the Sunday paper, I'll make a challenge. [And judging from the age of the photo illustrating this post, it's a challenge I need badly.] I'll make it easy, because frankly, sharing child care is enormous thing to think about on such a beautiful day. Invite someone over for a potluck dinner -- or invite yourself to their place, if they have more room to set plates and cups. Connect in a simple, relaxed and nonmaterial way. Spend as little money as possible; yes, a carrot and lentil chili and a big salad, with water or homemade iced tea to drink, is perfect. Skip the cartoons and toy stores. Talk about the best place in your neighborhood for nature walks. Make it a regular thing. Start the change small, and see what happens.

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Makes much more sense in more than 140 characters! I accept your challenge.

As someone who had a kid in paid child care and has worked low paying WOHM jobs the whole parenting journey, I found their dedication to keeping the two kids in as little daycare as possible admirable.

I think your post touches unintentionally the reason why it is hard to build community. Terming someone else's life as "wasteful" because they have a car or go to the toy store or watch cartoons. Hard to build a bridge there. Rentals are pretty pricey in close in neighborhoods these days. Maybe Tigard is where the work is or the closest point that works with both jobs.

I'd rather be isolated than share a meal with moms who are looking at me cross-eyed because we're carnivores or have TV. I've been there and it didn't make this struggling single mama feel welcome or supported or any of those things.

That said, I'll take that challenge, 'cept the surly teenager may not participate. "OMG! I hate going to go your friend's houses! They always ask to SAME questions"

ProtestMama: I'm sorry if you felt that I was judging their whole lives as wasteful because of the car/toy store/cartoons (although I will cop to, "perhaps, needlessly expensive" because of those things). I'm sure you can agree that none of those things are *needs*. But the writer depicted TV as a necessary feature in their lives, to stay sane; perhaps there are other ways to maintain sanity that include other families and less spendy pursuits. I haven't been able to toss the TV in my house, much though I aspire to (evidence: my kids know every alien on 'Ben 10,' even the four-year-old), but always feel that my sanity actually improves when I find better ways to maintain it.

also, I, too am a carnivore :) beans and carrots and salad are just way cheaper! now, off to get rid of my own screen and make some chili.

My reaction on reading the article was definitely sympathy. My husband and I both worked part time when our son was born, and we also only had one car. I worked 6-10, he worked noon to four. I worked in Vancouver, he worked in Wilsonville, and we lived in NE. It was a very rough six months until he got a full-time job downtown. These folks are working longer hours and have two kids, so my hat is off to them for figuring out a way to make it work, even if their choices are different than mine.

That said, the parts of the article that made me most sad were the same ones Sarah has pointed out. No sidewalks! Every neighborhood should have safe sidewalks. A trip to the toy store and the mall play area! Everyone should have easy (walking or easy biking distance) access to a library, a park, a community center.

I know lots of families move to the 'burbs to raise kids, and I know cheaper housing is often the attractive factor. But wow, you get what you pay for sometimes. My house is more expensive than something comparable in Tigard, but I have sidewalks, four bus lines within five blocks, parks, libraries, grocery stores I can walk to . . . it's easier to stay connected and raise my kids. I'm not suggesting that everyone move to Northeast Portland, but I do think that this area is a model in many ways.

As for the family in the article, it probably all revolves around their jobs. I think it sounds like they're living close to their jobs. Given the unemployment rate, they're probably not going to find new jobs (close to a busline/maxline; close to a park; close to more affordable housing). So I think they're doing the best they can right now. It's easier to suggest changes from the outside than it is to see them from the inside when you're living that kind of daily grind.

Ahh, yes, the well-intentioned and perennial "just move to inner SE and chuck your TV" solution. Poor unenlightened westsiders, we know not what we do.

Sorry, I don't mean to sound snarky, but give that suburban, one-car Oregonian family even less annual income, and an even larger childcare bill, and you'd have ... umm ... mine. So this hits just a tad close to home.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about community building and creative options (and hey, if you can find me an apartment in close-in PDX that has the same MAX access, size, and cost as mine out here in shameful suburbia, I will pack my bags this instant), but I think it's very, very dangerous to marginalize true economic struggle as wasteful individual choice. And, like ProtestMama, I highly doubt people will be grateful recipients of outreach if it comes with the prospect of having one's diet (both media and grocery) critiqued -- no matter how empathetic and well-meaning the intentions behind the evaluation.

Well said, Jenn.

The thing I found oddest about the lifestyle was that they said the kids had to stay up late because Dad had to take them to go pick up Mom from work. But when they got home from picking her up the kids had baths. Why not give them a bath & put them in PJs before picking Mom up & they could go to bed a half hour earlier? I only have one kid & he is younger then theirs are so maybe there is an obvious reason that I missed. I know reporters are not always accurate in these matters either, so perhaps it was a one time thing. I admire them for doing what they can to keep the kids out of daycare and it is sad that they don't have sidewalks or parks they can walk to.

Yuck. I am a dedicated urbanmamas lover of many years but this post absolutely rubs me in the wrong way. How incredibly sanctimonious and rude.

Anyone that knows Sarah (cafemama) knows that she is a huge advocate and for a carfree and local food lifestlye that she weaves into everything she does! I personally think the judgement that's passed onto her is quite harsh. I don't think that her intention is to wage a us vs. them, suburb vs. city, etc. debate. Frankly I'm growing quite weary of every post stirring those discussions.

Ditto, what Allison and ProtestMama said.

"I wish I could fix it for them." (from the original post)...what???? This is really sounding full of judgement to me...as is this..."but thanks to my perspective I can see a number of choices that are worth re-thinking."

Yeah, I'm in agreement with Allison, ProtestMama, etc. For me this post would have been more palatable without the suggestion to move. The whole world can't live in inner SE or NE. What we need are discussions/suggestions/actions on making life better for where people actually live, no matter where that is.

I am all for community and connecting but community and connecting should be for everyone, not just those who live in the same zip code.
Offering suggestions is cool. Knocking someone down, as Allison said, is rude and not very community oriented.

Some of us work so that we have health insurance for our children and a retirement for ourselves. When moms stop working, they sacrifice both - needed stability and security for her children and for herself. Is there a way we can resolve this issue? Certainly can't rely on OHP nor Social Security.

Honestly Hau? You saw no judgment in this post? I try to be a loyal supporter of this site, but this post rubbed me absolutely the wrong way.

I'm a mama in the same situation but living in close in NE. I've also got 2 kids under the age of 4, I work 20-30 hours a week in Clackamas and my husband works full time downtown.We have been fortunate enough to avoid daycare by juggling our schedules and calling on family when a sitter is needed. My car is a necessity in achieving this on the days I work as we have a 45 minute window between schedules to swap the kids.

I've tried to really build a community for myself and my family. It's difficult to plan playdates around work schedules, embarrassing to not feel like you can host a play date because you live in a tiny apartment rather than a house, and lonely when you feel like you've been trying to connect with different groups of mamas for 4 years but always feel like an outsider because you don't have the time to chat on the phone/online or during the pick up/drop off after preschool, or make it to every get together because of work.

I've done the juggle in the story, two kids, two jobs (luckily ours only totalled 1.5 jobs, adding a little sanity), opposite shifts, one car, same income. I can totally empathize with the folks in the story. It's hard on a family to do it, but there are certainly harder ways to live as well. I guess my response to the story was that when we were doing it, as tough as it was, our whole reason for doing it was not to save money on childcare, but rather to keep childcare down to a minimum because we didn't want our young children with other providers more than a few hours/week. It was, and still is, a gift that we had the opportunity to do it that way.

I hate to see this conversation taking the direction it is because folks have valid points on both sides. Where exactly is the line between judging/sanctimony and having some valid observations about things that might may a life less stressful? I'd much rather see a conversation about how it is that people keep their family/worklife balanced using minimal childcare, whether due to cost or choice.

Hey, I thought maybe Sarah was being a little judgmental at first, but then we "talked" about educating people to know that they have different choices, and building community, and that made a lot more sense.

I know it's hard to build community when you're busy with jobs and child care. It's very similar to my own situation. Heck, what we probably need is to revamp our whole society, not just individual families. But what I see here from Sarah is a suggestion that we help each other to do better, not just a criticism of this family.

My gosh- you guys are harsh. I've often found my 'community' at uM, but you guys really know how to misinterpret and tear apart one of your own.

Clearly the article depicted the family as exhausted and longing for connections. Sarah certainly didn't make that up. She was suggesting potential improvements (it *is* her personal response to the article, by the way. she's not saying she's got the end-all solution to everyone's problems). And i don't think this is a battle of east vs. west, suburbs vs. city, working parents vs. WAHM or SAHM... you guys just know how to make something personal and then twist the knife so you can also be victims. Pathetic.

My suggestion, lay off. Quit eating your own. You've single handedly killed the spirit of support and pro-family unity. It's repulsive and stomach turning. I cross my fingers and pray to the gods that none of you are my real life friends- I would hate to be associated with you and subjected to your judgments.

I'm disappointed by all the negative comments. I'm not saying everyone should agree 100% with Sarah's post, but this is not a healthy and productive discussion debate. I read the article and was sympathetic with the couple's struggle but also see some things that they Maybe could do to make things a little easier on them all. Maybe. I only know what was written in the article, which wasn't a whole lot. But you know, if Sarah's suggestions don't really work for them, they may be applicable to some other family that's in a similar situation. I'm sure there are families going through a similar struggle who live on a busline and choose not to use it, or opt for watching tv instead of going to the park down the street. Sarah's post, while inspired by the family in the oregonian, has a message for everyone.

As a working mom with single friends, I struggled for a long time to find a community of parents that i could connect with. I understand feeling left out my moms who get together in the afternoons and not being able to host playdates because no one wants to come over on a weekend or I'm too tired to clean my house, but you know, I finally did it. I have a fabulous group of people that I have dinner with every week, rotating hosting duties, and it's changed my husband's and my life. We feel supported and connected, just like Sarah suggested in her article.

Sorry Hau, but anyone who reads cafemama's posts know that she often comes across as judgemental. I knew it was a post from you, Sarah, within two lines. I've nearly stopped reading umamas because of posts like this -- and I'm an inner SE living, bulk/whole foods eating, public transport mama. Honestly, this family was brave enough to reveal their lives to the media, to show the ways in which they're doing their best to juggle it all. A critique that offers "fixing it" and a judgement (yes, it is) of cartoons and diet is, like others say here, harsh. Gee, what fun to sit back and question this family's bathtime routine! Tsk tsk.

The "line between judging/sanctimony and having some valid observations about things" is crossed here by tone of the original post.

And the reason this type of debate keeps springing up on urbanmamas is because so many of the posts reek of privilege and offend people.

We are in the same boat but we live in outer SE and instead of renting we own our home (well, the bank does). We don't need a food makeover thank you very much. We have good "portland cred" even though we don't live in inner SE or have chickens. I have lived there, its fine. Its not nirvana.

We do share one car and its much of a cost to us - just gas when we use it and my husband does the maintenance himself.

We have community. We have great community and make it a priority - however we as a couple tend to be involved in it one a time. What we don't have is enough money to pay the bills or enough time together as a couple. We both spend lots of time with the kids since we work opposite schedules to avoid childcare, we just don't see each other much.

I doubt the original poster can fix that with sidewalks or food makeovers.

And I still think that "educating people to know they have different choices" sounds privileged and judgmental. If this family moved into inner SE where would they work? A LOT of ppl work at Costco and similar places. Those are real jobs. While we are fixing their lives do we go back in time and send them to medical school?? There is a lot of judgment implied regarding this families "choices."

Moving to inner SE and working at a local hipster cafe isn't likely help much with their medical benefits and 401k's, let alone paying the bills. And not everyone can work from home designing green energy solutions or freelance writing, etc.

I can relate to both sides (although I don't like the way the original was framed). Our family recently moved to SE Portland in search of all the great things the city has to offer, but as happy as we are, it has not come with out great sacrifice. In many ways, life was easier when my husband (who still works in the burbs and is having a hard time transferring) was only a couple of blocks from home and even came for lunch. Now, he spends half his day on public transit just to get back and forth from work and I often feel trapped in my own little corner of the city when I want to go to playgroups or library events etc. without a car. I walk and use mass transit all the time but lets face it, it is very tiring and time consuming. So, my point is, that everyone has such unique circumstances and that the job market is set up in a way where you don't know where you'll be thrown, I think we must try not to judge each other and that we all have to find our own unique solutions to our given situations.

Sigh.. and if those folks move to one of the magical, walkable neighborhoods... will they also have to drive their kids past the neighborhood school to a better school?

No one wins and the elitism in here is really starting to stink.

I live in outer NE. I'm a cash-poor renter struggling like so many others. I don't think you have to live in the inner SE or on Alberta or Mississippi to have community. And you're right, it does take more than a food makeover, and none of us should be elitist!

What I think could really help families like us and like the family in the Oregonian is the kind of community where people really live WITH their neighbors, not next to their neighbors. The kind of community where you share meals, yes, but also the kind of community where you can trade child care, or ask your neighbor to watch the kids for 20 minutes so you can run (or yes, bike) to the store.

We could also use some societal changes, like paying people a living wage, providing universal health care so that health care isn't tied to the job, and having a better child care system, in which providers are adequately compensated AND parents can afford it. Or, having paid family leave, so that a parent CAN stay home with the kids for a while. Or again, a decent living wage so that one parent can stay home with the kids.

These things aren't elitist. They would help everyone.

As a hopefully-helpful addendum to my original response (which was not meant to throw stones in an eastside vs. westside gang war, seriously, peeps, just give a reality check that choices ain't always simple choices):

Someone above defended the original post under the rubric of advocacy, which got me thinkin' ... If you really, truly want to advocate for struggling families, if you really truly empathize and want things to be different, why not politically agitate for affordable housing and sustainable communities that are truly financially accessible, not just for folks with the few coveted "creative class" jobs in PDX?

Cafemama, I don't always agree with you, but I deeply admire your eloquence (if not always your tone). It just saddens me to see that eloquence used to condescend, when it could be used to rock some systematic change. Much harder and more time-consuming than nitpicking an exhausted family you read about in the paper on a beautiful day, but also much more useful to our community as a whole in the long run, no?

Reading this rubs me the wrong way, and I completely agree with Kathleen.

As a cash poor, about to be jobless renter myself, lets not nit pick at others for doing the best they can.

Lets work on a better system! We need universal healthcare and childcare, we need living wages to be the reality not the minority, and we need to accept and respect other families choices.

We need to be the helping hands not judgmental snobs!

OK, time out...

When this site began, it was very intimate, people disagreed, but they picked there words. You had the chance of meeting these people for coffee so you thought out what you wanted to say. You thought of Sarah as a friend or a potential friend. The intimacy kept people forthright but polite and open and thoughtful. This intimacy has diminished as the site has grown which causes some of us to vent and say things that aren't helpful or thought provoking.

No malevolence was intended by Sarah's post and I think she offered ideas that made sense to her. Some of her ideas hearkened back that old and very sensitive subject of urban vs. suburban life choices which causes people get riled up.

Analyzing food choices can save families money. Walking or mass transiting places will save a family money in automotive expenses, etc., etc. There where valid discussion points in the post.

Love the spirited conversation and I hope Sarah continues to share her perspective.

The article pointed a problem in our society that I do not believe some tinkering will fix, whether it's some more community or a change in a nighttime routine or whatever.

For many families today, much of the model of working/taking care of kids/maintaining ones sanity (no matter *how* they do it, TV or community or however!) just simply isn't working. I would like to think that some simple changes would make it workable, but in this economy, with lay-offs and school cuts and rising prices, it's only getting harder and harder.

I completely, thoroughly agree with Jenn -- instead of looking at the way others live and hoping to find a "fix," we need to start changing the fundamentals of society. A better, more sustainable economy, green transportation choices, better schools that work to confront racial and economic inequities, a more ecological means of producing food, and so on. Then, regardless of where we live, what we eat, how we transport ourselves, we can all make choices for ourselves(hopefully without our choices being too harshly judged) and our families that work the best.

The first place that you can make change is within your own life... food, transport, etc. These considerations are obviously not the total answer, but the are most definitely a start and shouldn't be minimized. I just gave up Starbucks which is a great start for our family.
Societal change is necessary, but is like turning the Titanic around... it takes time and effort which are in short supply when factoring in day to day family responsibilities.

I have never thought that Sarah is a bad person or a mean person. I think she puts herself out there in a way that no other mod does. She opens her curtains wide to the world. She doesn't couch her words. So sometimes she's a lightning rod. I'm vaguely familiar with that feeling.(smile)

We all have different value systems, that doesn't make us wrong or deficient.

If there was a moderator who believed that all families should have a stay-at-home parent, and those who aren't needed to be helped to get better, would that be okay? Or if a moderator beleived that having more than one child was bad for the planet and weaved that through many of their posts would it be okay?

So, I think it's okay to have people open your eyes to some filters other than your own. And I think if we had an escape valve or maybe someone of a different philosophy posting regularly, maybe there wouldn't be this pent-up frustration. Which could prolly be expressed a little better by all of us.

I remember writing to uM back in 2007 about these privilege issues. The exchange begat some good stuff. Are we there yet? Not all the way. . .but we're movin'

I have yet to meet an urbanmama that I couldn't connect to in one way or another, I really enjoyed the one mama lunch I went to. We were just moms. And that doesn't mean that I can't pull a coattail or have mine pulled, friends do that sometimes.

Wait a minute. I'm not intending to judge the specific family in question here, but they seem to be the example we're using at this point so I suppose it will sound that way. Why does this family, or others in a similar situation" need "fixing" or sympathy exactly? Federal poverty guidelines for a family of 4 is $22,050. Their income is significantly higher than that. These folks have time with their children, food in their bellies, housing, health insurance, jobs. They appear to have a good relationship, despite not having alot of time together. Yes, they're dog-tired at the end of the day. Yes, it's a juggle. Yes, they live close to the margins. Where is it written that juggling life with children and families is going to be easy? And why is it that more childcare is the answer? I'm not going to call foul on the OP choice of words to describe her response because that's just a smokescreen for talking about more important issues here. (In fact, I'm going to thank her for the link to Harriet, because I personally enjoyed what she had to say.) I'm calling foul on the whole idea that somehow or another this family's situation needs to be changed. Seems to me they've got the basics covered and there's alot of mamas and papas out there doing the same. That's the point, isn't it? They're doing it. It's hard and tiring. Is/was your life with two children under the age of 3 any less tiring or hard?

Kim, I like your whole point... I think the "fix" and the feeling of sympathy derives (for me) from wanting everyone to have a relatively enjoyable and workable way of life. These are the lessons of today's economy... redefining what is workable, finding simple pleasure and finding gratefulness for having a full belly and roof.
I look at my Mom, who has plenty of money... she is actually enjoying the sense of needing to buckle down, finding pleasure in simple things, being thankful. She is used to this. Her whole life (minus the last 10 years) and certainly my grandparents life has been simple and thankful and on a itty bitty budget. I am now learning these lessons. There are days I kick and scream through the lesson and days when I find that we have our bases covered and that's enough and I'm okay. Thanks for your perspective.

Really? Everyone's first reaction at seeing Disney Princess cakes and a huge soda in someone's hand at breakfast time wasn't to think that maybe this family could make a few different choices? I don't think it's that judgmental to look at that and think something needs to change. I think the family in the article would be the first to say so. It sounds like their life is not working for them--they are exhausted, they feel trapped and isolated, and they wish things were different. When you end up in that sort of situation, as many of us do at some point, things like finding yourself on the cover of the newspaper feeding your kids and yourself unhealthy foods and noticing your small children watching TV at 9:00 are the wake-up call that despite your exhaustion, you're going to need to come up with a different plan. I'd be willing to bet this wasn't what they envisioned for their family when the started out. As a stay-at-home mom paying for our own health care on one self-employed carpenter's salary with no savings left and no family to help with childcare, I could totally empathize with the family in the article for their struggle and sacrifices, but I also could also see that yes, some things need fixing. It would be great if systems could change for them--maybe more affordable childcare, or a health care system that doesn't eat up one entire salary leaving so many of us without the option to stay home and raise our kids. I think the article intended to suggest that our current systems aren't helping us raise our families. But we do have choices, too, to make things work better for ourselves in the interim. Cheaper food than prepackaged, carpooling, public transit, moving closer to family if someone can help with childcare, investing in and relying on your community...these are all things we have to consider when trying to juggle what so many of us are trying to juggle. We need more systemic change, yes, but we need to survive as healthy families in the meantime, too.

I agree, Kirstin, there are lots of changes I would like to see different for this family, but they're about my judgments, not real basic needs. And, when someone else pointed these things out, she got jumped on for being judgmental.

Having more childcare isn't going to change their breakfast choice. Give the kids some Cheerios and milk and you've made a better nutritional choice with no change in time or effort, and probably actually a savings in dollars. If the article was about systems issues, this wasn't the family to profile. They have the basics covered. Show me a family working the hours this family does with no health insurance or an income of 30K, then I might feel differently. I'm frustrated with the fact that somehow or another a family that works hard and is therefore tired and strung out needs some kind of systems change to make it better. The tired and strung out is about attitude, not basic needs.

The tone of the original post sounds very patronizing and judgmental, rather than supportive. Period.

The family is likely *trying* to do the best for their children and yes, they are worn out. I would venture to say that even those who choose not to own/drive a car and boast about it, eat only organic, etc. are also worn out at times. The original poster seems to think that a way to "fix" things is moving to SE, etc. instead of looking at where the family is (both literally and figuratively) and seeing things as a difficult issue in our society in which many parents don't have sufficient healthcare, childcare options, paid leave, etc. that the author of the Oregonian article may have been trying to point out (who knows?).

Without weighing in on the controversy about whether or not the OP was judgmental, elitist, etc., I just wanted to throw out my agreement with Kim's point above, about wondering a bit about portraying this family as down and out when there are so many in our midst who are in such massive poverty. I felt the same way when last week's Oregonian profiled the unemployed architects (did anyone see this?) who have formed a collective and vowed not to let unemployment get them down. It's at times like these that I fully agree with the statement (which I read most recently in Barbara Ehrenreich's _Nickel and Dimed_) that the poor in our culture are, sadly, made to seem and feel invisible.

To clarify: by "portraying this family as down and out" I mean the Oregonian, not Sarah.

I think what Sarah provided was what the Oregonian failed to do -- a perspective or point of view other than simply viewing this family's hectic lifestyle and conveying how hard it is.

What was the point of the article? Awareness raising? If it was to show family difficulties, any number of situations could have been showcased -- families with severely disabled children, welfare families, etc. So my first issue is with the reporting -- don't tell us something we know, tell us how you as a journalist thinks we can address this. What resources are available. Let every family who sees themselves in this see light at the end of the tunnel, not someone else's brick wall.

My reaction to the article was, "Wow, this family multiplied by how many millions across the country? How will we come together to solve critical, global issues affecting us and generations to come if we don't have the support and infrastructure -- from both community and government -- to lead healthier lives?"

It also reminded me of old friends -- she a nurse, he a firefighter, both worked odd shifts to keep their baby out of daycare. But they managed to do it with neighbors. The mom had a key to the neighbor's house and would drop off the sleeping infant before her early morning shift. I also thought of neighborhood moms who've worked out informal barter systems for childcare, and how much I rely on the generosity and flexibility of these families (not all with young kids -- one neighor is a couple old enough to be my son's grandparent).

There is no single or right answer, but rather than judging I'd like to see Sarah's post spark discussion about active solutions. As long as we stick to the idea, "There is no solution because..." then it never gets better, and there is no conversation to be had.

And I should clarify my attitude comment. I'm not downplaying the real experience of being tired and strung out. I mean attitude in terms of having a sense of purpose for why you're living your life a certain way. These parents could see their situation as "I don't GET to put my child in more daycare to solve this problem" vs. "I don't HAVE to put my child in more daycare to make ends meet." Neither of those makes a person NEED to eat princess cereal for breakfast if I have to tie it back to the specifics in question.

I'm Paige Parker, the reporter who wrote the Sunday O! story about day care affordability and working families. I'm delighted to see the piece generating so much discussion on Urban Mamas.

I just want to clear up a few misconceptions about the Garretts, the family who so generously allowed me and photographer Fred Joe to tell their story.

1. On the day Tim Garrett took the children to the mall play area, it was raining. On the day Megan Garrett took them to the toy store, she tried the park first, but the kids were too cold and a bit too grumpy to play.

2. They've tried to take the bus; it ended up adding hours of day care and they couldn't afford it. They live where they do because the rent fits within their budget and the apartment is located between Megan's work in Tigard and Tim's in Portland.

3. If you read the caption to the photo where Megan is fixing breakfast, you'll see she was giving the kids pancakes and dried cranberries. For dinner that night, they had a vegetable curry. (Megan's a vegetarian) She bought those princess cakes as a treat for the kids, and in that photo, she was showing them to me as an example of a bargain she found at Grocery Outlet. Having witnessed the thought that she puts into her family's diet, I can assure you, she can do without the meal make over.

4. But couldn't they somehow be more frugal? Make better choices? Frankly, couldn't we all? They are doing the best they can. Eating differently, taking the bus, picking up stakes and moving (at great expense, no doubt), into inner East Portland -- none of that would bring quality, affordable day care within their reach.

As a reporter, here's what I wonder: could we -- should we -- as a society look to either government or private industry for systemic changes that would make child care more affordable for working class parents?

Appreciate the extra notes from the author of the article, but now I'm questioning, among other things (agreeing fully with Suzame here), the CHOICE to prominently place the Disney Princess box if this was not somehow supposed to define our view of the family...

Whoa, I go away for an hour and find we're now adjudicating what income brackets deserve societal overhaul. Mercy!

Just because these folks make $64k doesn't mean they're in fabulous shape, and even if they are, it's because of the insane tag team gauntlet they're running. I don't think any family should have to do that because of a lack of affordable fulltime childcare. Period.

And yes, while I do agree that assistance resources should be prioritized for the most needy, I think the net needs to be widened. DHS, for instance, seems to think every family who makes over 36k a year can magically afford fulltime childcare. They must live in that magical inner SE neighborhood with rents as cheap as Tigard's.

I make less than 36K a year and I still wouldn't qualify for assistance from DHS. I remember when I earned $11 an hour at 30 per week in 2002, my share of my monthly childcare costs with DHS assistance was around $300 per month. This was for before and after school care for a school aged child. The state would anything over $300 per month. So they mostly paid nothing. And then I got a 50 cent raise and we were over-income.

I was prominently featured in an article in the Oregonian around that time about child care. THe headline and slant made our sitch look pretty dire. Yes, we were/are poor-ish, but dang. . . . that headline was pretty embarassing for my family.

Thank you Paige for clarifying.

This site can get really disgusting. If someone took a random picture of something at your house, would you want your family's lifestyle choices to be judged based on that one photo? I applaud the mama who, despite being tired and taking the kids to the park, tries again and takes them to the mall playground. In reality, what's the difference? Is it bad because it's in the mall? Are your children better and happier because you take them to a neighbor's house? I'm not saying that this family (and all our families, really) could use some more support in the way of community, but it sounds to me like they are doing a pretty good job of raising their kids. Maybe a photographer taking a picture of you (or me) spending hours on the Internet would prompt some serious debates about why you should be outside yourself rather than sitting on your duff staring at a screen. I think we all need to step back a bit and realize that just because you eat organic / local and use mass transit doesn't make your family life and better or happier than those mall-park going families.

I'd like to chime in on ProtestMama's comment about moderators and their opinions.

I think of a moderator as someone who facilitates group discussion, keeps the threads clean of abusive language, and other administrative privileges. UMamas has grown a lot, and I sometimes wonder if the moderators (founders) realize that it's grown beyond them in many ways ... Which means their responsibilities, and the ways in which they "own" this space -- are different than they once were.

Given how this site has evolved, Sarah is not the best moderator -- because much of the community feels lectured to or judged. Her posts tend to be proclamations of opinion. I don't think moderators of an online community should throw down quite so much personal opinion as a conversation starting point (nor should the *other* moderators then jump in to defend their moderating friend, as so often happens here). I think a good moderator should be largely neutral, except where violations of community rules are concerned.

This community is "owned" by its community, and I think a good moderator should let the community craft the discussion. Since UMamas touts itself as inclusive, the moderators have to be especially careful. Sarah could have said, "Did anyone read the article in the O? What did you think? Here's a link to the full story. Let's discuss."

Instead, she loaded this "conversation" down with her own judgments and assessments, using words like "fix" and "makeover." Those words would inevitably come up in the comments from someone, but at least the uMamas wouldn't be setting the tone from the top down (and risking losing community members because of it).

When I read the O article, I felt exhausted. I think we all know that feeling of exhaustion, regardless of our class, salaries, location of home, how many parents work outside the home, how many parents in our family. Being a parent is completely exhausting.

When I read Sarah's thoughts, I remembered even more poignantly my feelings of isolation. We moved to Portland with our 3 yr old, and I was 7 months pregnant. We knew one other family, my husband's colleague. They lived 10mi from us & we had a hard time leaning on them for support. We earned much less than the featured family earned. And, we were spending our limited money on sending our 3yo to preschool in anticipation of me finding a job soon after our baby was born. I felt lonely. When my husband worked late (as he often did/does), I had a quick dinner with my 3yo and my pregnant self.

When we started uM, we were looking for community because we felt isolated in one way or another. Through yahoo groups and through uM, we found each other. The photo above was taken probably 4 or 5 yrs ago now, when we were exhausted by work, our marriages, our children, and our households. We came together and potlucked so we could feed our children together with less effort and we may have also plopped multiple kids into the bath together so we could at least unwind with one another. I really needed it, and the community support helped me.

When I read Sarah's comments, I thought about those times, when we would get together at someone's house (we drove) and eat a big communal dinner (can't remember what you all brought but I think I would bring papa murphy's pizza or frozen food). Her suggestions to make big pots of food, to try to locate somewhere where you can find some kind of community to rely one, to break bread with, and to communally bathe the kids is an ideal. It is something I strive for still. I did not read: "move into the SE and eat only organic". Sarah is constantly pushing me toward new ideals that I never even considered before, and I appreciate her muchly for that.

What exhausts me is when we are just a bunch of mamas, working full-time either at our homes caring for kids or outside of homes or both, regardless of income - we just want to help ourselves find ways to make it better. I admire the featured family in the O for what they are doing. I agree that they are making it work and the seem to be very level and loving, albeit exhausted. We all are.

The suggestion ("challenge") is to find a way within our own microcosms to make it easier on the mama next door. I accept. I want to support, and I want to help support.

Now the conversation is coming down to how we, the moderators, are flawed in our "moderation". I know there are hot-button issues we talk about here. We are all entitled to our opinion: we as moderators and you as readers and myself as just another reader. We impose our slant when we write, and the community has grown in spite of our slants. We are increasingly constantly 'policing' ourselves and are trying to be more acknowledging of our privileges. We all are so privileged that we can even discourse this stuff. We do still want to continue to conversation, remove the judgment, and move on.

I am an urbanMamas.com moderator. I have brought my kids to the mall and toy store to play. I have Disney plastic bispehnoal-A leeching toys in my house. I have Spongebob bubble bath in our bathroom that ranks a "7" outta 10 (for worst) on the http://www.cosmeticdatabase.com. I own two motor vehicles, one of which is a minivan. Everyone in our house has a lot of clothing, shoes, bags, accessories; we are not minimalists. I buy processed food, including Cinamon Toast Crunch cereal. That's a LOT of refined sugar.

But, aren't we allowed to write about what we strive toward? To write about those ideas as an attempt to support others in that pursuit, should they choose to make the same pursuit? Can't we dream of the carfree life, of city infrastructure that would support it, growing our own gardens, having other families for support within very close distance (whether it be driving, walking, or biking distance), living somewhere where all the schools are great and everyone in the neighborhood went to their own schools.

I am another uM moderator who will stand up for Sarah because I laud her for her commitment to pursuit of ideals, even while her life is far, far, far from perfect or easy in so many ways.

I felt a lot of kinship with the mother in the story because, like her, I'm just trying to make it through every day. Aren't we all? And, I am a SE Portland living, organic buying, hybrid driving, gardening, super involved in my community, mother.

I wonder how some would judge me? Letting my younger son eat cheetos so we can make it through Trader Joes? Letting my kids watch TV now and again? Driving at all? The Zbar as a snack instead of something homemade? Oh, how I could go on...

While I appreciate Paige's clarifications, why, really, should it matter? I have soda for my caffeine fix sometimes. When dealing with my very picky eater, there have been days when I've just been very happy he ate anything at all...maybe I shoulda tried Princess Pancakes. There but for the grace of God...

I appreciate how hard the mother is working to give her kids the best she can. The last thing she needs, the last thing anyone needs, is to be judged.

Thanks Monica in Cali for putting in to words my feelings about UM. I visit for the varied ways of looking at life in Portland, parenting, eating....existing.

I work at a large corporation (not really my scene) and the other day we had a conference call with a "bigwig" who is known to be provocative and pushy. Halfway through the call he said "Just because we have heated discussions and differing points of view-- it doesn't mean we aren't working well together. If two people in a company agree all the time, then one of them needs to go!" I was really impressed with his perspective on conflict and I've found myself thinking about it a lot.

Thing is, in a work conference, you are face to face, and more likely to be polite, kind and be respectful.

I salute all the writers at UM for taking the time to build the site, having the courage to express opinions, and the guts take on all the comments from us smart, passionate women.


I don't think there is any right way to be a moderator. Please keep sharing opinions.. judgey, brilliant, pie in the sky opinions.
Of course, you won't enjoy everyone's perspective. Why would any of us regularly visit a website that served only to validate our exiting views or worse... so pc and touchy feely that no one feels empowered to say what they really think? Silly.

I'm too exhausted, and late to get to the bank, to respond appropriately to all the comments. Thank you for those who have lent your perspective. and thank you, Paige, for clarifying the points that were left out in the story. it's comforting to hear that the family is able to walk to the park on a nice day.

yes, we could all be more frugal. we could all eat better. none of us really want an enormous photograph of *right this minute* in the paper for us all to pick apart. I think only by constantly re-assessing our lives and choices can we find the best solution. I think that sometimes we *do* need judgment; not judgment of how wrong someone else is compared to us, but judgment of the sensibility of our choices and how we can do it better. heck, I've changed my perspective vastly since my oldest was a toddler.

as for the comment about using my voice and platform for social change, that's exactly what I want to do. I have a hard time keeping my tone even when I'm passionate about something; and I'm passionate about our need to vastly rethink our values. the problem is that, despite all my endless blogging to the contrary, our legislators don't give a hoot what I ask for unless you -- you all -- vote with your dollar. I really see a crisis looming in our country that is not going to be solved by tax credits for hybrids or six weeks of paid family leave. hey, I'm all for both of those (and I'll happily send long winded emails to all my congresspeople and other elected representatives in support of them), but business interests are aligned majorly against them. I firmly believe that change starts here. right here. with me. with me making friends with all my neighbors and sharing my figs (let's hope I get some to share this year) and teaching other people how to make bread. with me making plans for a play date with another mama whose child has some of Everett's struggles (even though it seems an insurmountable task for me to negotiate a get-together between two kids who ten toward anger in social situations).

honestly? I'm not a moderator. I'm a writer. and I don't mean to, but often I come across all wrong. totally judge-y. I agonize over every word, hit "publish," and then kick myself when someone takes it the wrong way. sorry! but that's me. imperfect as hell much though I'd love to be otherwise. please do stop reading if I make you want to throw things at the computer screen. that can't be healthy.

and neither can bouncing a check. so I'm off to the bank. on my bike. and I'm totally going to buy organic food on the way home. because I just got paid. ;)

Totally agree with Kim.

I read that article and wondered (again) just how out of touch the Oregonian is. It reminded me of the story about the "postmodern potluck" that turned out to be a situation where well-off people paid a personal chef to cook for several families at once.

The family that Paige profiled made $64,000 per year (working one job apiece), had health insurance, benefits, vacation time. They had to juggle schedules and were tired at the end of the day, like most of us.

I don't care about their "choices," or their diet, or any of that. It's a free country.

But there are thousands of people in Portland and millions in America who would swap for their problems in a second. There are families who work the same hours and take home less than half that money, don't get health insurance or vacations, and run the risk of being fired if they get sick.

I read the Oregonian and I feel like either I'm out of touch, or they are. It feels like the Oregonian editors and reporters have their greatest empathy for those who are just like them.

I have to admit that the tone of this piece did rub me the wrong way. Mostly, I think, because you can tell that the family discussed is trying to do the best they can and I hate talking about people behind their backs. I am sure that this was not Sarah's intend and we can't learn without people sharing knowledge they have aquired.

That being said, I have no idea how to complete such a challenge. I find myself wanting to connect with other mothers and other familys but I am at a loss on how to obtain this. I am anti-social by nature and have no friends with children. I don't get home until 7 o'clock on most nights and only get an hour to spend with my 8 month old daughter before I tuck her into bed.

How, exactly, am I suppose to go about creating some sense of community in this situation? It's all I can do to keep myself going day to day.

We live out in the 'burbs but are lucky enough that my husband works from home and is able to care for our daughter. She is in part time day care in the mornings because that is his heavy phone time (and we pay dearly for this).

I guess, I would love to apply this to myself but have no idea how to.

My hubby brings in just under $40K per year. I stay at home with my 3-year old, have kept our Westmoreland home and live with our one car.

We don't have money for eating out, but we love our life. I wish more people could realize that you don't have to earn and spend so much money to raise kids and have a nice life.

Against my better judgment since I can barely keep a coherent conversation going in person these days as well as online, I feel the need to respond to the negativity. Every day, I question my sanity for working with the other mamas behind the scenes to keep the site going in spite of all the criticism of privilege, elitism, etc. Having help create, contribute, and maintain urbanMamas (in our spare time!) over the last four years we've developed a thick skin and pretty much let the posts self-moderate. Frankly, lately the judgment police has been out in full force, and perhaps in my post-partum sleep-deprived state, I have little tolerance for it.

Yes, Kat, we (Sarah included) have known for years that urbanMamas has grown beyond the handful of mamas who are juggling the site with full-time jobs, children, etc. We regularly wonder what the hell we are doing with the site. The very personal voice that helped to grow this on-line community is the same thing that we trying to temper these days. Sarah puts herself out there for all to scrutinize, while I and some of the other mamas don't have nearly the bandwidth or stamina to weather the personal criticism and attacks that seems to surface quickly these days.

I am running on fumes as with many mamas these days, but the thing that forces me help keep the site going is that for every negative comment and accusation of elitism & privilege, we get dozens of emails and comments on how urbanMamas has helped them connect with other mamas on-line & off-line, and the resource they use for parenting questions.

Hopefully we can be more supportive rather than focus all this judgment crap. To quote one of my favorite commenters / posters (Tony), peace out!

I've been following this discussion all day...wondering what, if anything I wanted to contribute to the discussion. I read the article and like others, can feel the exhaustion that these two parents live with. They've made the choice/sacrifice (personal and financial) to forgo full time childcare, and I'd venture to guess it's a decision they won't regret. Yes, they are exhausted, and I'm sure they could use some more time off together as a family, or even better, a date night now and then. But to be able to spend so much time with their kids while they are young is an investment, they will never get these years back. I applaud them for making such a sacrifice to be able to ensure they have this time with their kids.

I made a different choice when my first babe was born, gave up my lucrative job in sales to be home full time. I'm exhausted. I wonder on a daily basis what I'm doing, why I'm driving myself crazy raising these crazy little boys when I know I could go back to work, make a pile of money and hire a nanny to do it for me. My husband makes way more than the family in the article, we're lucky for sure, but no less exhausted. He just joined a new company with a very different idea about work-life balance, and let's just say there's no balance. In some ways I envy the family in the article, yes, they're exhausted, but those parents are taking a very balanced approach to raising their kids and running their household. We're exhausted too--I work a 12-15 hour day chasing after a 2 and 4 year old, and husband works a 12 hour day at the office and doesn't get more than 45 minutes at the end of the day to read stories and tuck them into bed at night. I could use some balance these days. Having said that, I'm not changing a thing--we're happy, we're lucky, life is good--we're just tired!

I don't think I've ever agreed completely with any of Sarah's posts. But most of them make me think or cause me to reflect, at least a little. And many have caused me to make changes to the way that I do things or think about things. These are the things that have made me come back to urbanMamas everyday for years. I don't see the "bossMamas" as moderators at all, I see them as mamas and friends doing their best to raise their families, create community, and share experiences. Please don't "moderate" a thing. I need other mamas to share their experiences, give me some wisdom, remind me that I'm not the only one going through this, and push me to think about things differently. I've always believed that when we're uncomfortable, we grow. I appreciate the uncomfortable, sometimes confrontational discussions that have taken place here, they've provoked a lot of reflection for me and in some cases have inspired change, in other cases have provided confirmation for me.

Here's what I've taken from this discussion: We're all in the same boat at some level, do what you can to reach out to other mamas around you, figure out a way to share the load now and then. We're all tired, but a little community and support goes a long way to restore a fellow mama's sanity. It doesn't matter what neighborhood you live in, or where you do your grocery shopping--there's probably a mama very nearby who could use a hand, or could help you if you reach out.

Well said, Leah. It now looks as though maybe the orginal post has been altered/edited a bit, likely as a result of this ongoing conversation. Parenthood comes in all shapes and sizes and is definitely a learning & growing experience for each and every one of us and our children.

Hau, Olivia, Sarah, and all the other umama leaders.
Please don't let fights like this discourage you. They can be painful and cruel but they are also an interesting and honest revelation of opinion. From where I sit, this is the best, most useful parenting site around - something I bet parents in most other cities just wish they had.

I was one of the first to raise a dissenting voice on this post. I want to be clear that I adore urbanmamas, and have benefited in many ways from its presence on the interwebs. I absolutely appreciate and applaud what the moderators & writers do to keep this machine running.

I gave the negative comment because I had such a strong reaction against what Sarah wrote. Knowing that the two golden rules of UM are to treat each other with respect and to be honest, I couldn't let this post slide without calling it out as being utterly *disrespectful*.

This is not a vote against Sarah, nor against uMamas or the people who run the show, but against this particular piece of writing which I found to be hurtful.

I am an inner SE working mama....

Just today I was at my local park - Mt Tabor at the play structure and immediately sized up by my fellow mamas - one that was blatant to ask about my son - his age, if I had "only one", am I a SAHM, where do I work... all in the space of 2 minutes. No she was not being nice - it's just like when within a minute or two of meeting other mamas that they ask if I circumcised my son - what? This same woman when on to ask a pregnant woman at the park how many months a long she was & how many pounds they gained & she was huge apparently with her first & gained 32 lbs... blah blah wah wah .... oy vey.

This happens a lot and it's usually not done in the spirit of building communities but under the daily sizing up & comparing that many of our fellow mamas unfortunately do.

I feel for this family & I too feel like some judgement was being cast by Sarah in her assement of "the problems". I think mamas should be able to share their POV - good or bad. We don't always agree nor need to.

Keep posting Sarah. I love your posts and the thoughts it provokes. It makes me look outside the box and think about different ways to get the same job done. Love the chickens, city farming, and biking posts. Thanks for sharing your family stories with the UM

Only about a once a week reader of uM these days, since I moved from PDX now almost 2 years ago, I just happened upon this thread this morning (continental Europe time), and I have been thinking about it ever since. Actually wondering I should comment or not...but I have decided to throw my 2cents in for what it is worth.

My attention is most drawn to the clarifications given by the Oregonian writer of the article. In just a few sentences perhaps the image of the family could be altered. Just a snapshot of one day at the mall, watching cartoons does not tell the whole story...perhaps on another day they are playing at the local nature center, at the library, eating Pirate booty or whatever. The same could most certainly be said of my family....

I appreciate Sarah's challenge for some grassroots help-thy-neighbor.

And furthermore, and perhaps the even bigger issue...The author of the article posed an important question about society's role in providing assistance with childcare. My answer: MOST CERTAINLY!

A few short comments on my experience here in Sweden. All childcare placements are run through the communal government. You are to visit several places and rank your order of preference. It costs only about $300 (for 2 children) per month for full time care. We actually get more money from the govenment for a child benefit than the cost of the childcare. Do we really pay more in taxes? Well, my first tax return here was 31.7%. There is a sales tax of about 25%, but again, sacrifices in that area can be made at personal discretion. And with the savings from no health insurance premiums and no child care, we are actually the most "wealthy" we have ever been. My children are enrolled in a Montessori preschool which is affliated with a school through age 16. I can not even image what such a school would cost in America.....

Sweden is a model to be followed. Of course it has it owns problems and its population is different from USA...so things would never be exactly the same...but I think that socialist policies are in the interest of ALL Americans and am hopeful that the political climate there is ripe for such changes....if only BO will be strong.

Not to get on too much of a tangent, but Paul Krugman of the NY Times has written about this in his book "The Conscience of a Liberal"..fantastic read. I only a hope a New New Deal with subsidized childcare can become reality....

Interesting to hear all the thoughts and comments on these issues. It looks like the original post has been slightly changed and edited to reflect a less judgmental tone than it had at first--someone reading it now might have a different reaction.

Liz, maybe that mama was just trying to make friends. Maybe she was lonely and needed to talk to people about the one thing they obviously had in common, looking for other commonalities. What else are you wanting from her? Would you feel better if she just didn't talk to you?

I don't know any of the moderators here personally, but I can tell you that what I know OF them is that they're willing to share more of themselves, warts and all, than most of us would ever dream of doing. Especially when the whole concept of throwing your pearls before swine comes to mind when the fallout comes. Sarah has opinions, like all of us, about values she holds dear. She speaks her truth and she owns her failings. It seems to me that people here get so worked up anytime someone dares to speak their truth and claim it as their own values. That's the honesty part, people. If you disagree, fine, disagree. Speak your truth. I'm a strong, thoughtful, woman. I don't need to minimize everything I believe in by watering it down lest it sound judgmental. If you can't hear disagreement without feeling judged, than perhaps the issue lies with you, not someone else.

How can you tell me that I’m not just being friendly, trying to get to know other moms, by asking about their work and kids and pregnancy? Actually I’m not sure what exactly I ask other moms I meet in the park, but I know I’ve been asked questions about my working situation, and if I have other kids, and have never imagined there was some incipient evil behind the questions. I’m also surprised to hear when people think that moms are being competitive when they share with others what milestones their kids have accomplished. I can’t imagine what you think this other mom in the park was up to, but it sounds like the problem is your perception, not hers.

And the other mamas viciously attacking cafemama, lay off! What’s wrong with you just saying, “hey, you know, I live in the burbs with no sidewalks, and that’s not how I feel about where I live, and here’s why…..” or, “I live in the burbs with sidewalks, and I like it better here than close in and here’s why…..” or otherwise help others misconceptions you see/feel. Why the personal attacks? Would you want someone to do that to you if you said something you didn’t realize put someone’s back up? And if you go to People’s Co-op in close-in SE, I’d be interested in seeing if you still think they are privileged and elitist because of their shopping and location.

Cafemama is actually echoing things that have been talked about by lots of people concerned with the lack of sense of community in our communities. She’s pointing out things that maybe hadn’t occurred to *some* people about why families feel isolated and stressed.

Back to topic, I grew up in a suburb of Seattle that had no sidewalks, pretty poor density, a mile to walk to poor service transit (with cars going by at 40, and no sidewalks), and basically it was something of a chore to do anything but stay at home. My friends lived in planned suburb neighborhoods that had cul-de-sacs and sidewalks, and they and their parents were definitely more social with neighbors , but they still drove everywhere else.

Now we live in close-in N. Portland with sidewalks, a park, public transit, good density with clustered homes, a cluster of interesting shops , cafes, services, and events nearby, a library somewhat nearby, and lots of people walking and biking and interacting. Recently some friends wanted to move close in from Beaverton for these reasons, but also had to admit that on paper, they had these things in Beaverton too. The culture and diversity of close-in Portland suited them better.

I think cafamama has a great and important point that we should be kicking back with buddies, beer, AND kids. That’s what my parent’s generation in the suburbs DIDN’T do. Kids stayed at home with sitters or by themselves after school, and got themselves dinner, or were playing off by themselves, while adults did adult things. Parents weren’t interested in their kids! Why can’t parents do both, and enjoy friends and kids? It made me feel worthless as a kid, and I missed out on learning and sharing.

We try to reach out to people and do potlucks, but we don’t have too much luck keeping it going, it just seems to fizzle out, and people say we’ll get together again soon, but then we don’t hear from them. And they say they get busy, etc. etc. and we do too, it is actually a big effort to break the inertia of the daily grind and plan ahead. We have about the same income as the family in the O, but we have 1 child in daycare, me working FT and dad FT student working PT. I feel like our income is pretty good, and can’t figure out why things always feel strained and stressful.

I appreciate new ways of looking at the roots of this, and ways of breaking out. A lot of things didn't occur to me about the effects of the environment I group in until much later, and I'm still learning. Thanks cafemama for keeping up your contemplations! I know you work exceptionally hard as a mama and professional, and admire your striving spirit.

I value the commentary AND the posts on this site. It was one of the first things I found when we started considering our move to PDX a few years ago. I detest the almost completely negative and hateful comments on online newspapers: they're not helpful at all! Urbanmamas, despite some growing pains, IS helpful - both as a model for online community and as a support for facetime relationships. It's a place where people can get called on their attitudes and have their horizons broadened without being harassed. I love hearing the viewpoints from around the globe - it inspires me to keep pushing my comfort zone out (tho I don't think I'm up for chickens: reality check.)
I come from a family with "judging" issues - not only do I have to work hard to avoid using that language, but I have to train myself to not overreact to comments from others. It's not easy, and I'm not always successful but it's worth it... but don't let it stifle your Voice!
Keep up the excellent site work, Mamas - you are all (founders, writers, moderators, commenters) making a difference. Thank you.

As has been mentioned, the "food makeover" and other fairly judgmental terms that were in the original post that caused such a stir appear to have been deleted and changed and other things have been added and modified, thus making this discussion a bit, if not completely, different now. Not sure about the protocol of such a practice, but I guess online editing & blogs allow writers to change after the fact--if they decide to rethink what they originally said after publishing something??? Oh well.

I want to pick up where keenbeen (and others) left off and ask the question: how do we make connections, no matter where we live or what our personal parenting approaches are?

Like several others who have posted here, I (and my husband) struggle with making connections with other parents of young children. I actually consider myself to be pretty outgoing by nature. Time and the mental energy it takes to cultivate follow-through seems to be more my problem.

I live in close-in SE. I've got sidewalks, places I can walk to, an organic garden in the front yard. And yet,when I go to the park, I don't seem to be able to make very good connections with other parents either. I usually try to strike up a conversation, and mostly get weak smiles. But, I'm sure I've been the one to give the weak smile back, too, at times.

I know there are tons and tons of parents with young children in my neighborhood (I seem them walk by in strollers, Burleys, wagons, etc).

What is stopping us from making connections?

Time, I think, is one thing. My life is planned out to the minute, with full-time work outside the house, and parenting (my other full-time job). Which makes me feel very emphathetic for the family in the O article.

But what is the solution to this? For me, child care is not the issue.

I think the main issue for me is a work world that is still based in Industrial Revolution ideals. It's either a "respectable" full-time, professional job, or its a (usually) marginalized part-time job. There's no in-between.

It's upsetting to me that the moderators (yes, that is what you are -- you own administrative privileges on this site) have now altered the original text of this post. Sarah, if you stand by your "warts and all," why not let this post stand for itself? As readers and commentors, we do not have the power to edit our own contributions. We hit "publish" and that's that. You hit publish, and you can then go back and revise the record at will. We do not have the power to post something at the top of the page, with authorial ownership, in an immediate voice, as the up-front speaker on this site. This is not a personal blog. I would read your commentary completely differently on your personal blog -- it would be *your personal opinion and reflection.* I see this site as a community, and community "owned." As the administrators of this site, I believe you have a responsibility to keep your personal value judgements very tempered. If you want to make those judgments known, post a subject for discussion *without your own judgments* and then post your *own* comment down below. I really think this would help even the playing field and help readers feel less attacked and offended when they open up this trusted resource and read hurtful criticism about living in the suburbs, owning a car, or eating sugar.

I think what bothers so many of us is that this should feel like a safe place to come for information, and yes, interesting debate and conversation. But that means the conversations should be started with some care by those who have the primary power over the voice of this site.

I have deeply appreciated the moderators' exercise of power when comments have been wounding (the recent post from the mama returning to work is a great example of how you all exercised your moderator power to protect this community). I would also deeply appreciate it if you'd use this power to temper the main content of this site, which you author.

Boy, some people are never happy. You get mad when someone says something that offends you, and you get mad when they take it back, too?

And what's going on when you hear someone advocating for more community ties and mindful consumption of resources and characterize it as "hurtful criticism"? Are you also "hurt and offended" when writers advocate saving money, or giving to charity, or quitting smoking? It's one thing to read an article championing a particular lifestyle or value set and think, "yeah, well, preach all you want, but that's not for me". Be indifferent, or be annoyed even, but I see no reason to be hurt and offended. When Nicholas Kristoff writes about helping starving children, is he stepping on your toes? At worst, people who urge us to examine ourselves are sanctimonious, but at best, they can open our eyes to new ideas.

Personally, I agree that the family in the article shouldn't be picked apart and criticized when we really don't know anything about them (and even if we did, it's not our business). But I honestly believe that Sarah's intent was not to wound them with criticism but rather to share helpful ideas from the perspective of a working mother who's lived through similar challenges. By the community's reaction, I think she recognized that her words didn't have their intended effect and decided to temper them. Now let's give the lady a break.

I feel a lot like SJ, both in our neighborhood interactions, and in the cultural mentality and economic challenges that weigh us down. I’ve pondered the same thing, wondering how we got here. I feel it’s the industrious mentality, but also that it’s rather new in some ways. I listened to an interview by Terri Gross in which the interviewee had been writing about conservative women’s groups. One started in the ‘60s by women who were afraid that with the equal rights and women flocking to the professional workforce, that homemaking would be devalued and no longer a respected position. It felt strange to agree somewhat with a super conservative group, but I think it’s more along the lines that for most households, it’s now a real struggle to live off of one income. $64 K sounds like a high paying job to me, but only in the context of a two-income family. We’re living off of about that, and we live fairly frugally; no traveling vacations, no saving for retirement or college, both cars are paid for (one’s 25 yrs old, not worth getting rid of), no cable, no fancy foods, we don’t eat out much, except breakfast once a month or less, we don’t go out to shows or dinner and get sitters, we aren’t doing needless remodeling or buying stuff that we don’t use regularly, no video games, no regular electronic upgrades, etc.etc. When I look at our expenses, I wonder how other families do it. I look at our basic, undeniable bills, and basic things for having a modestly enjoyable day to day life, and just don’t see how we could do it on much less. Things will change when my husband is working full time again rather than being a student, but the one ½ income is not very comfortable, and life always feels harried and stretched. I know one mom who works 32 hours a week and still feels like that, but not financially because their family income is fairly high. I talked to a neighbor in her fifties about this sensation of constant stress, and she said it didn’t used to be like that in the late ‘70s, when she was in her late twenties and a new mom. So I think there are some things to contemplate about our culture, and also look at Europe. But I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Sarah, Kat, see you at codependents anonymous. I offer that in the most loving and supportive spirit. Thanks for sharing your passion.

Maybe mine will be the last comment in this heated discussion.

First, re: how to make connections (SJ's comment) -- I had to return to work when my son was 8 wks old due to an emergency situation that could not be ignored. By the time I took a break to be with him, he was almost 14 months old. I felt totally jealous of all the SAHMs who were lucky to have regular playdates, meet at the park, etc.

We live on a corner near a park. I literally parked myself outside with the boy a lot and intercepted parents. I made dates with old friends who had older kids. One of my mom friends was introduced to me by a former co-worker's wife, who thought we might like each other (even though she and I hardly knew each other). I started showing up at Book Babies and joined a strong, welcoming neighborhood playgroup. I actually call my time off, "The year I started dating other moms." It's like that -- dating. I wasn't desperate, but I was hungry. Not everyone will connect, and you have to have more patience because we're not in college with all the time in the world to hang out. But, it does happen. You just have to not take things personally and keep putting yourself out there.

Lastly, I enjoy this blog for the unique values and perspectives of its founders. If there were simply a discussion posted, "What do you think?" I suspect we might have had the same results, but with commenters arguing with each other vs. people directing their frustration at Sarah. I don't come here for a neutral, "What do you think?" I come here to have my thinking challenged, to learn from others and to be inspired. I don't always identify or agree with those who post which to me adds value. These are core qualities of UM that I don't want to see fade because of the success of the site.

One suggestion -- in the future, I'd suggest if a post is edited once new information is available, that the writer strike out the old text but leave it there.

UM founders own the site. We're invited to join their community and conversation.

My name is Megan Garrett, and my family is the subject of the article in question. The author contacted my husband today and suggested that we check out your site. I'm glad that I did. I was not familiar with urbanmamas before, but I am very impressed with the intelligence, passion and thoughtfulness of the posts here. I have no desire to defend myself, our lives, or our choices. Just to join the conversation.

A few points of clarification. First, we are relatively new to Portland. Tim's job transferred us here a few years ago while I was pregnant with Bailey (our second). We have no family here and had a difficult time meeting people at first. Now we have many friends, mostly through work (I have 400 co workers) and I don't really feel isolated so much anymore. Harried, yes- but isolated, not really. Our problem is that we don't have many friends with kids.

We live off of Barbur Blvd./Hwy 99 very near Multnomah Village. Our apartment is $650 a month and we moved here site unseen with no knowledge of neighborhoods. The park we go to is in the village, about a 12 minute walk via stroller. The toy store we went to the day of the article was Thinker Toys, a very eclectic and cool store with many "play stations" and educational toys throughout. The kids never expect to buy anything.

Personally, I welcome all suggestions, and feel malevolence from no one here. I'm just happy that there is a discussion at all. Happy to answer any questions- as long as we're picking apart my life, let's do it!

Kudos to you Megan, for being so frank and open. And a second kudos to the great women who run UrbanMamas. We also recently relocated to Portland, and I found your site to be immensely helpful when looking into neighborhoods, and finding out about what Portland has to offer families. While I don't always agree with the opinions here, I love the conversation. THANK YOU for all you do (on top of being mamas!) to keep this site up and running. Keep up the good work!

I've opted to stay out of the convo. so far, but I just have to say, Megan Garrett, you are one brave mama, to open your life up to so many strangers!

Hello Megan and all,

I have not made time to read the O article but have read most of the comments. I am not a regular UM visitor as I spend most of my free time on Portland housing/RE and financial/economic blogs. I am an RN so I do not claim to be an economics expert! I am not a very good writer/verbal communicator and do not choose my words wisely thus I rarely post for fear of being misunderstood/un-intentionally insulting someone. I feel I am well informed in regards to the Portland real estate bubble and given my personal experience with it over the past 7+ years that's where my perspective/opinions are rooted.

Some of the previous posts have touched on $ and questioned how folks are/were getting by. Well, I had been pondering that same issue as the spouse and I made the choice to sell our home back in '06-'07 and re-prioritized: career change and babies and maybe a house again if it ever works out. With Portland metro area housing prices going through the roof I marveled at the fact that people were buying. Did they have a lot of help from parents/grandparents? Did they get their schooling paid for? Did a relative babysit for free? How can they afford two newer vehicles on top of a $350K+ house? Why can't we figure it out and make it happen. Especially since I make a good chunk of money as an RN.

Well, I soon discovered that people were making it happen by NOT contributing to 401k's or emergency funds, they used creative loans (neg am, interest only, etc) to get into their homes, they bought too much mortgage just to be in 'hip' areas and even non 'hip' areas because RE only goes up, right?, they maxed out their credit cards, they took out HELOC's...

And now it's all crashing down bringing non-participants of this bubble with it. Anyone see the latest Portland unemployment numbers? And those are just the U3 numbers, how about the U6 numbers....the true unemployment figure:O(

This financial crisis has wreaked havoc on families and family values over the past 8+ years.

I do hope we can get our financial house back in order and I mean that at not only an individual level but on a world wide level. (That was a general statement and not pointed at anyone specific:O)

As for trying to find community...I had lived for 9 years in the Buckman area and now for the past 2 years in Forest Heights as a renter...2 different worlds. In SE I felt isolated since I didn't use clothe diapers and only managed to breast feed for 4 months and didn't wear or eat organic. Now looking back I see that this was a self imposed feeling and I should have just tried harder...like someone previously stated, it's like dating, sometimes you click with other mothers and sometimes you don't. In Forest Heights I initially was looked down upon since I was 'just a renter', funny how the conversation changed when that was out in the open. Unless, of course, their spouse was a realtor or mortgage broker cuz then I had something to offer...income;O) I also didn't have a $600 stroller. There were a few times that I tried to strike up conversation at the playground and the mom didn't even acknowledge my presence. Maybe if I didn't wear sweatpants and instead looked more like an underfed fashionista?!?hahaha

Well, it's been two years in FH and I have connected with a few mommas but don't try to plan anything, it's all by chance meeting at the bakery or playground. The 2 FT jobs make it difficult as everyone knows.

So I guess my dream is that we all walk into a potential encounter with open arms and open minds...myself included, as we have no idea what someone's past or present situation is and at what point does it matter.

Peace, Leigh

PS if were all the same this would be a VERY BORING world:O)

egl,
Before I had kiddos I managed to watch some grownup TV. I caught Oprah a few times and vividly remember the show where a family opened up their lives to their friends and eventually Oprah and her audience. It was a show about keeping up with the Jones and how it's digging folks into debt. Mind you this was at least 3 years that I saw this show. The family looked like they had it all: big house, 2 new SUVs, the trips, the clothes, etc. Well, they also had 100K in credit card debt.

It would be interesting how our society would be different if it was known how many people are pretending that all is well. Maybe our society would have better social policies to support families if more folks like the Garrett's situation was made public or at least made known among their own circle of friends and associates. Sure it's personal crap but may be there would be less pressure, more understanding, more help?

Since when is parenting young children NOT exhausting and isolating? Nap schedules, moods, colds, allergies, etc. all get in the way of free-flowing, close-knit community. I don't care what choices you make, or how you structure your life, you're still gonna be tired when you have little ones living in your house.

I'm all for making our society more family-friendly, but sometimes I wonder if we all think life is supposed to be sheer bliss 95% of the time and if it's not we must be doing something wrong. I tell you, I totally get why my grandma had that vial of valium in her medicine cabinet!

I've been writing a comment in my head and every time I come to post it there are new comments that make me want to go away and think more! I took Sarah's original post to heart (as I do most of what I've read of hers) and started trying to approach things differently in my day. Bam! The very next day I met a mom while we were walking through the neighborhood and instead of just trading war stories (she has 2 children with Down syndrome, I have 1) and walking on, I gave her our family card and put my cell number on it and made sure to put her info into my phone. I'm shy by nature and it was VERY hard for me to get out that card, but I did it and she didn't seem put-upon or think I was weird. Yay!

I've struggled out here in Hillsboro to live the life that I thought we were going to have when we "ran away from home" in Sacramento. One of the streets that I regularly walk with and without kids to get to a MAX station has no sidewalks for 2/3 of the way. And, yes, that makes things harder, but I've decided to use it as an opportunity and wave and say "Thank You" to everyone who drives around us carefully. It's a little thing, but makes me feel more connected. I've also started really talking to people on the MAX or bus who ask about the kids. Maybe it's a temporary link, but it's something and helps me get more comfortable putting myself out there.

So, it's possible to be carless in the sticks. Not that we aren't trying to figure out how to get into PDX proper, but I don't think we could have done any better when we moved with the info we had. We've learned a lot about ourselves, and a huge part of that has been fueled by me reading Sarah's writing and letting that percolate in my head and then coming to my husband with some brand new "what if's" that then lead us to try things we never would have if we had stayed put in Sacramento. We had huge social networks and a big family to lean on there, yet were not happy. It wasn't a place we wanted to be. I felt like I was born there just because the Singer Company transferred my grandpa there in 1960. That's not roots, that's random. And going carless there? Ha! Only downtown, not even in midtown -- where I lived in my 20s -- would that really work. The more I experience life here, the more I realize I don't want to go back.

I really truly hope that no one censors their opinions, whether posting or commenting, because that is where I get my food-for-thought. Thanks for sharing, Everyone.

I was reading about yet another family where a husband and father kills his wife, and his kids then himself. He earned $97,000 per year and was more than $450,000 in debt.

I'm in debt, for real. I know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you look at the bills and your income and feel like you'll never make it. If I internalized messages like "People are only struggling because of bad choices .. ..", that would make it harder to separate my circumstance from myself.

I think it's time to stop judging how folks got here. And do a little of what Sarah said and reach out. Maybe a pan of mac and cheese can change the world.

If I sound judgmental my apologizes. My point was that this housing bubble and the mentality that got us there made housing unaffordable for most and now the bursting of the bubble and the economic crisis is taking EVERYONE down with it, even those who did everything right. As if life isn't hard enough.

I agree with Kathleen - here here! I live in inner NE and we are struggling badly. I have gone back to work and school part time since the birth of our baby last year and have found some limited reasonable child care through a friend - but even the reasonable price is out of our budget. What does one do? Myself and my husbands job/earning was very different when we decided to have a child. Since then, due to economy and other circumstances we have lost 75% of our monthly income. We have no family in the area, and although we have some friends with children, most don't. The ones that do have opposite schedules from us, so getting together is nearly impossible. Not to mention that its hard to plan seeing other people when you hardly see each other. We need for me to work more so we can afford our rent and basics, but we can't afford the childcare. Its like the rock and a hard place. Its a constant source of stress and anxiety.......I guess on the plus side I am grateful for my beautiful child and the time we get to spend together.
Sorry, I guess I got to thinking about my situation.....I relate.

Let's face it. Life isn't easy. And when we grow up and have kids, it's exhausting.

I admire this family for prioritizing their children. When we make the choice to have children, hopefully we understand the many many sacrifices that come with it. Yes, I would love to have some more ME time or more time just with my husband, but now I have a child. Most of what I do during my waking ours revolves around her mental and physical well-being, whether it's going to work, skipping that party, or turning off the tv. I appreciate all that I can give her, and I realize many people, mostly in other countries, have it much much harder.

Life requires work. Relationships require work. Having children requires work. All of these things have tremendous rewards if we take a look of what we have. And we have so much.

SJ, Liz and other working mamas (and stay at home, PT mamas, too!) although, I have my own personal feelings about the tone of the original post (which, I notice, has been been edited)--I am going from where things are now. If you feel that you need to make, as you say, a "connection"...get in touch directly if you want! It really helps--I have learned! :) As both a PT/FT working mama (I LOVE my job and feel it's a good choice/schedule for our family), I am always happy to get together for playdates, hikes, mama outings, etc. when time allows and it feels like a good idea... kmwad at yahoo dot com
There are SO many great mamas, people, families in Portland, you don't need to feel isolated! Oh, and BTW, I live in SE, if that matters... :)

Ewwww. This whole post and discussion makes my stomach turn.

I have lived in portland for many years, and been an on and off uM reader since it started.

I will say that I've stopped coming here in the past few years because of posts like this. I don't need the judgement and the name calling and the constant "you need to do this and this and this" from the uM community. I have found uM on the whole to be totally "holier than thou" and it reflects IMO the whole of the Mama Society in Portland.

God, Portlanders and uM in particular are so full of themselves and their 'perfection' sometimes. Who really knows what goes on in another parent's household? who really knows their struggles of why the live, work, eat, play the way they do? Why are we judging our neighbors instead of getting out and INVITING them to OUR HOUSE for play or dinner?

What about those of us who live in the "right" urban areas, eat the "right" diet, do the "right" activities, and yet havne't found moms here to be AT ALL welcoming or friendly! Even though we put ourselves out there time and time again? So what to do if we don't have a huge gaggle of mommy friends to socialize with and create these moments? I've had a hard time making close friends here in portland, and maybe THIS is why. Maybe I'm trying to make friends with the judgemental ones here, and that's why I don't mesh well with them.

Eh, I'm over it. Funny, I hadn't checked this blog in a long time...kinda wish I hadn't!

Thanks for writing about this info on your site. I like it, and I'm certain every person will too

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