Just crazy enough

I am, as you have likely gleaned, an emotional type of person. Quickly impassioned when things resonate with me I can get far too frustrated when people don’t share my zeal. Despite living a quiet life in a small town I am unable to think small. Ever since I first listened to the incredible Rita Chudnovsky speak of the child care crisis I have been continuously exposed to key messages that compel me to action. ( http://www.straight.com/news/rita-chudnovsky-plan-10-day-childcare-striking-chord-bc) Reading 15 x 15 by Dr. Paul Kershaw a few years back I honestly thought that was it…here it is…let’s get to work. (http://earlylearning.ubc.ca/documents/27/) Then came an incredible HELP ‘connect the dots’ conference where Dr. Hertzman spoke of epigenetics and called Canadian vulnerability ‘inexcusable’…which it is! (http://earlylearning.ubc.ca/people/Clyde_Hertzman/)

Recently I had the immense pleasure of hearing Dr. Stuart Shankar speak of the evolution of the human brain, the newly termed inter-brain and listened as he described the rampant anxiety and depression in high school students that he believes starts with a lack of connection in the early years. Take all this and add the UNICEF ranking that shows Canada at the bottom of the barrel for investing in the early years… and then… do nothing! How can we so passively ignore this and blindly assume that the kids are going to be alright?! How do I contain all this information without going NUTS?

There you have it. I have opened the top of my head and let you peek inside. Why do I do this? Because I can’t not do it. I honestly see a future when the children and families of BC are provided with the services and supports they need to succeed.

He was willing to fight for our kids. Why aren’t we?

The phrase “I would die for my children” is something all parents have said.  We love our children with such unconditional dedication that we know without question that we would sacrifice our own lives to save theirs.  While this choice seems obvious when faced with an unthinkable tragic event it seems less so when we’re talking about vulnerability. No less threatening to our children’s future we seem to allow the growing threat to loom in the corner without much concern and without any action.

Last month the families of Canada suffered a loss that many don’t yet understand.  Dr. Clyde Hertzman dedicated most of his professional life to fighting for our children.  Through his remarkable work with the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) and the Early Development Instrument (EDI) he provided our country with an unprecedented level of insight into the fate of our children.  He was recognised by the international community for this incredible work, participated in the children’s rights work at the United Nations and will soon receive the Order of Canada in recognition of his exceptional contributions to early childhood development.  Those who knew him and his level of dedication to our children understand all too deeply what the passing of this great man means.  http://gensqueeze.tumblr.com/post/42912361008/the-gen-squeeze-campaign-remembers-dr-clyde-hertzman

Dr. Clyde Hertzman

As I contemplate his life, reflect on his work and look at my own children I am filled with a sense of profound appreciation for what he accomplished.  He fought tirelessly to change the story for millions of children in British Columbia, Canada and the world.  Right up until his death in January of 2013 he relentlessly brought to light the political and social conditions which allow childhood vulnerability to grow.  I had the immense pleasure of hearing him speak at the University of British Columbia back in the fall of 2012 and was moved by his unflappable call to action.  He spoke up for the voiceless young children and said “The level of developmental inequality in children is astounding.  This, in a rich country like Canada, is inexcusable!”.

To his family and the many colleagues he inspired around the world I say ‘I heard him and I will honour his fight with my own’.  To those who are reading this blog I say – you would die for your children but will you live for them?

 

Dear BC

Dear BC,

After 8 years together, I can’t believe it’s come to this.  I thought I’d found the one when we first connected, the place I’d be forever.  Now, it’s just not working out between us.

Your rugged good looks drew me to you in the beginning, along with all the opportunities you offered for fun and exploration.  But since starting our family, your handsome looks and adventurous attitude are no longer enough.

We’re supposed to be raising our kids together.  Sure, you promise to put “family first.” But your words are empty in the absence of action. Where are you when I’m squeezed between high housing prices, stagnant incomes, and the need for time at home with our kids?  What are you doing to help pay for child care?  Why can’t you help make this affordable, when you can afford new bridges, roofs for sporting arenas, theOlympics and a highway to the ski hill.

Cars, fun and games!  Truth is BC, you’re just like a deadbeat dad.

Now that we have kids, what do I have to do to attract your interest again?  I’m keeping up my end of the bargain.  I work hard in employment.  I work hard as a small-business owner.  I work hard at home, and as a volunteer too. I stand on my own two feet.  Why doesn’t this look good to you?

Don’t get me wrong – I know that you have lots of fine qualities.  You dedicate much of your time and money to taking care of our aging parents, especially their health care and pensions.  And it matters very much to me that they are supported.

But why can’t all members of our family benefit from your rich resources and wealth?  Supporting retirees can happen alongside supporting our kids.  In fact, if more of my parents’ generation knew how many of our children are failing to be ready for school, or are growing increasingly anxious anddepressed, or are living with low-incomes, they too would ask you to devotemore of your resources to the next generation.

I do love you, BC. I have held on to the dream of raising my children with you for many years.  But as time goes on and our children become increasingly vulnerable, I don’t see you making the changes we need to be successful.

Since I’m not a quitter, I’ll give you 3 more months to shape up.

During this next provincial election, all provincial parties must finally speak to the needs of my generation – a generation in its prime child rearing years.  Sure, keep talking about jobs, jobs, jobs.  But know this focus is insufficient.  I have a two jobs, and they leave me squeezed for time at home with my kids, squeezed to pay for higher housing prices, and squeezed to pay for child care services that cost more than post-secondary tuition.  Unless you propose plans to reduce this squeeze, you cannot live up to the commitment you made to put our families first.

BC, I’m looking for a plan to reduce the squeeze on the generation raising young kids (see gensqueeze.ca).  If you don’t have such a plan in the next campaign, then I am afraid I will have to find somewhere else that does.

Sincerely,

Gen Squeeze Mom & Small Business Owner.

Boomer Hater?

In opening up this dialogue I understand that some may call me a boomer hater. They’ve hurled that nickname at Dr. Paul Kershaw (http://gensqueeze.ca/) and are potentially going to paint me with the same brush. The truth however is quite the opposite.

My parents are boomers and have admittedly enjoyed a life that was built on hard work and blessed with a mix of opportunity and good timing. They are both incredibly smart and cautious and loving and politically active and now enjoy the high quality of life that they have earned.

They eloped in 1969 on New Year’s eve. My dad says the reason they rushed to marry on that day was that in doing so he was able to claim my mom as a dependant for the whole of 1969. This resulted in a tax return large enough to pay for their honeymoon. Mom had been a flight attendant and was able to get free tickets to Turks and Caicos so they stayed the first night in a fancy hotel, got to know all the staff, then moved to a cheap hotel and snuck back to the fancy one during the day to enjoy the pool. Their ‘wedding’ and honeymoon is so remarkably different to the current trend of $30,000 debt-inducing ‘dream weddings’ and is a tribute to the way things were back then. Gen Squeeze is coming of age in a time when marketing forces are more powerful than ever and we need to see that it wasn’t always like that. While we lament the difficult economy in which we are raising our families we must admit that we could learn a thing or two from the spending habits of young boomers.

While my parents made the smart choice to have a wedding that was within their means they were then able to buy their first house, just a few short years later, for $19,000. They were able to do so on a single income while raising three young children – something that is next to impossible for today’s Gen Squeezers. They started their married life without any debt (not even student debt) – something that is increasingly rare for the Gen Squeezers. They had no child care costs whatsoever – an expense that now cripples most of todays parents with fees up to $1,000 per month for one child. In short times were different!

http://gensqueeze.ca/

Is the deck stacked against young Canadians?

As we discuss the then vs now data we must be careful not to vilify those who benefitted from then any more than we can blame those who are struggling now. I look to the Boomers as a source of inspiration, guidance and mentoring as they had the wherewithal to be cautious financially and active politically. In return I’d like the boomers to look at my generation with a sense of understanding and compassion. While Gen Squeeze could stand to be more frugal we are not blowing our money the way you think we are….we are just paying way more for our basic necessities like housing, food and gas and have the added unbearable burden of paying for child care and student loans on top of it all.

All we ask is for open dialogue and understanding about what it’s really like to raise a family in 2013. Once we stop pointing fingers and laying blame we can get to work building social policies that reflect the needs of today’s Canadian family.

Child Care is NOT a choice. It is a necessity.

According to Dr. Paul Kershaw there are two things that the generation raising kids has that no other generation raising kids has had and that is CRUSHING DEBT and necessary child care.   Part of the reason for this is that our household incomes have not gone up in the past 30 years (if adjusted for inflation) but our cost of living has gone up like crazy.  If it now takes two people to make what one could in 1976, and the cost of housing has gone up as much as 120% then most families have no choice but to become two income households.  This means that child care must be factored into the monthly budget as a necessity alongside housing, food and clothing.  Kershaw likens to cost of having one child in full-time child care as equivalent to a second mortgage! Two children in full-time care costs more than university.   When I was a child my parents had a cabin – I have child care.

It’s sad but true – child poverty in British Columbia is the second highest in Canada and has been for far too long.  When families must choose between living in poverty on a single income or spending a fortune paying for daycare sometimes what gets cut from the budget is food and clothing.  This difficult decision is faced by parents all the time and causes a huge amount of stress in the home.

Is there a way out of this cycle of poverty and stress?  YES.  We need to realise that child care is not a choice. With dual income families as the norm child care is now a necessity.  It’s time to see child care as a right and demand that our proud social fabric reflects that.  Please take a look at the  Community Plan for a Public System of Integrated Early Care and Learning here http://www.cccabc.bc.ca/plan/ and consider endorsing it.  By doing so you are saying NO to child poverty in BC, NO to the inequality of  Early Learning and Care opportunities for our children and YES to a Canada that supports our families.

stress       ecebc

Then and Now – why it is not just in my head.

I am an educated 38-year-old woman. My husband and I travelled all over the world for nearly a decade before returning to Canada to start a small business. We are competent, caring, hard-working Canadians. In 2005 we started our family with a healthy incredible baby boy, then added to it with the arrival of another incredible little man in 2008. We were excited to relive some of the magic of our childhoods and share the love and sense of family that our parents gave to us.  The reality of how difficult it is to support a growing family on a single income hit us hard and we found ourselves wondering why we couldn’t make it work.

Raised in the 70s and 80s it seems I got in on the last generation of stay at home moms.  My dad was the sole breadwinner for our family and my mom cared for our home and us kids.  She had a career as a flight attendant but gave it up to stay at home and in so doing she was able to save the family lots of money and provide an environment in which thrived.  When I found out I was pregnant my husband and I determined that I would stay home and he would work.  Despite owning a very small townhouse and running a thriving pub we found it hard to do more than just make ends meet.  This financial stalemate carried on and on and caused us to both grow concerned that we were doing something wrong.  Why couldn’t we enjoy the same level of success our parents saw when they were our age and had young kids?  What is the problem?

Take a look at this diagram created by Dr. Paul Kershaw, associate professor at the University of British Columbia….now take a look again.  What does this mean to the average young family? How does it make you feel?

No wonder it seems so much harder!

No wonder it seems so much harder!

OHHHHHHHHHHH SO IT’S NOT THAT WE ARE HOPELESS LOSERS!  It’s not that we’re lazy bums who spend too much and work too little.  What an incredible and powerful and forgiving revelation this was to me and I have determined to share this message with as many people as possible so that things can change.

How have we adapted to this change in family economy?  We’ve become dual income families, we live at home with our own parents much longer than ever before, we have much more debt than ever before and our children are now increasingly spending their first 5 years in daycare.  What changes in social policy have been made to reflect this massive shift – NONE!

As politically uninvolved citizens we just struggle, pay our taxes and quietly lament how difficult it is to have young children.  It hasn’t always been this hard.  It can change.  We need a NEW DEAL FOR FAMILIES!  http://blogs.ubc.ca/newdealforfamilies/

It’s not my fault?

In the fall of 2011 I attended an event that changed my life.  It wasn’t one of those Tony Robbins inspirational things but it did open my mind to a new way of thinking.

To give you a bit of background I am small town non-profit coordinator and mother to two young boys.  My paid job has me working with a group of incredible people in Golden with a goal to improve the lives of children and families.  My job at home is to provide my boys with the best possible start in life and love them through it all.

The event that changed my life was put on by the Human Early Learning Partnership at the University of British Columbia.  One of their keynote speakers was Dr. Paul Kershaw.  If you haven’t heard of him yet you will soon.  He is blowing the lid off a secret flaw in our proud Canadian social fabric.

I sat in that room on the UBC campus and heard how I, as a parent raising young children, am getting a raw deal. My eyes were open to startling facts about the distrubution of tax dollars, the lack of social support for families and the devastating effects this current system has on our families.  As I listened something strange happend to me.  I stopped feeling guilty and started getting mad.

I invite you to read my blog and follow along as I unwrap the truth about what it’s like to raise a family in today’s Canada.

To read up on Generation Squeezed go to : http://blogs.ubc.ca/newdealforfamilies/