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May 26, 2009

Recession Obsession

  -7                                               These days it's not unusual for me to come home mentally exhausted from the talk, the news and the statistics of the recession that I'm exposed to everyday. I work in the news business and I'm one of the many people responsible for making sure that we're covering all the angles of this incredibly important issue. As a result, I'm the recipient of more recession information than the average consumer would ever want to hear. Once I've walked through the door of our small, Brooklyn apartment, however, all the constant "recession obsession" makes me feel...grateful. 

     Despite the recession, my family has a roof over our heads, my husband and I currently have jobs, and we've socked away a little money in the event that things take a turn for the worse. We generally don't live beyond our means, and we never have.


My four-and-a-half year-old daughter recently saw "Kit Kettredge: An American Mystery"--which centers around a young girl living during the Great Depression. Her father loses his job, and her parents turn their home into a boarding house. As we watched the film together, she had lots of questions, including, "Why are all those people coming to live at Kit's House? Why did the daddy lose his job? Why doesn't Kit want to plant her own garden? Why is her dress made of a potato sack? Why doesn't Kit want to sell chicken eggs?" I did my best to answer them one by one and I think, I hope, that I helped my daughter to understand about the Great Depression, as well as telling her a bit about our current recession, without giving her so much information that she'd keep herself up at night with worry.

    My husband grew up in a family with six children, and a mother who doesn't to this day, like leftovers. Her kids attribute the lack of leftovers fixation to the Great Depression and the need to not waste food, as well as having thrifty Scottish grandparents. As a result, the kids were used to being aggressive in making sure they got their fair share of food during meal times. They knew better that to come late to the dinner table-that's for sure. My husband admits there were times when he'd sneak out after dinner with his younger brother to go get more dinner at a local fast-food joint. In our house today, we both try and find a balance, and luckily both of us enjoy a good meal of leftovers when we have them.

    Soon after we received our stimulus check in the mail, (not to my husband's surprise because I gave him warning) we made a few bigger ticket purchases, buying a long overdue rug for our living room space and two chairs for the living room. My husband immediately tagged me as a one-woman stimulus package. But, I reminded him that because of the recession, lots of items were on sale--our rug was 60% off and we used a gift card to help go towards the cost of the chairs. What better time to invest in a few quality items that hopefully we'd have for a very longtime to come?

    More generally though, the recession is providing good reason to live more simply and appreciate what we have. For example, we've gone through our closets, drawers and bins and given things away at Brooklyn's Housing Works, a thrift shop in which profits go towards ending the AIDS crisis and homelessness. My daughter and I planted edible plant seeds in our front flower box--our own "mini-garden", allowing for an incredible satisfaction (ok, more satisfying for me than her, as shown each time she tells me to calm down when I call her over to the window box to check the progress) as we watch lettuces and nasturtiums grow and hope that we'll be able to use them in our salads. We're going to work to make stay-cations just as interesting as some exotic locale.

    We've not stopped giving to non-profits and charities because now, more than ever, is the time to give to those in need. Perhaps we can't give as much as we have in the past, but we continue giving, and we've even given to some that we've never given to before.

    The recession motivates me to want to do even more. I've talked with my daughter about spending time helping out at Food Pantry NYC (although we've not yet done it, but I know we will) and personally, I'd like to get involved with an outreach group for mothers and teens in need.

    My husband's been working on a long-term contract job that will likely come to an end this summer and we're buckling down for some tighter times as he looks for his next job. I hope that my husband doesn't feel ashamed, and isn't made to feel ashamed in any way--I know that I'm certainly not. He always works very hard contributing to our family, whether it's at a job outside of the house, or whether he's taking care of our daughter at home. And, if, in light of the recession, he ends up out of work for a while as he figures out what's next for him, we'll work together to deal with it and do what's needed.

    Yesterday, we were at home listening to the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love," when my daughter asked, "What does that mean, all you need is love?" My husband explained that they meant even when things are bad, that love can help you through the hardest times. With that thought, and some cock-eyed optimism, I thought I'd finish up with a short off-the-top of my head list of some things that I appreciate, for free, recession or not.

    -The fact that I love both my parents AND my in-laws

    -Watching my husband dance with my daughter in the living room (yes, on our new rug)

    -Hanging up pictures on my daughter's bedroom wall made by friends and family members who've come to visit

    -A visit from a childhood friend and her children (and using a vacation day from work to play hooky with them)

    -A husband who puts the toilet seat down

So, although I'll be happy when all of the recession obsession subsides, I hope that the lessons learned from this recession will be remembered.

This is an original NYC Moms Blog post.


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