Aug 11 2014
You might say that family business is my family’s business. My great grandfather owned a five-and-dime store, one of my grandfathers owned a bowling alley, and my other grandfather owned a few grocery stores and fast food stalls. So it’s not very surprising that my father is also an entrepreneur. Though he got a PhD in economics, he soon after moved his family back east and returned to the family business, which at the time was fried chicken–the very best fried chicken.
Some of my earliest childhood memories are from my time behind the counter, greeting customers and later selling fried chicken, biscuits, and western fries. I vividly remember “pulling plugs” (separating the livers from the gizzards before frying), which perhaps had something to do with me becoming a vegetarian in my early teens (and for a long time after). I also learned a lot of life lessons being part of this family business. I interacted with people from a different world than where I lived and went to school (which was probably at least 90 percent Jewish), I learned what hard work really is and how hard some people’s lives really are, and I saw how a family can go through both good and bad times and still stick together.
My family’s business had some highs, but it also had some very low lows. We opened several stores, and we had to close some stores. After closing the stores, my parents took a hiatus from entrepreneurship and worked for others. Read the rest of this entry →
May 29 2014
In the 1930s-1980s, where did you get your financial news? The smart money was on an insightful journalist and economist with the enigmatic byline S.F. Porter.
Only after nearly a decade of leadership and a daily column did this writer’s full name appear, plus a photo: Sylvia Field Porter. Unmistakably female! In an interview for New Women in Social Sciences, Porter later reflected, “On that day I became a woman.” By the time she died in 1991, Sylvia was a nationally syndicated columnist with 45 million readers in 450 newspapers across the country. Historian Peggy K. Pearlstein tells her story, which goes like this:
Sylvia’s young mother, widowed, changed the family name from Feldman to Field and built a successful millinery business. She lost what was to them a great sum the 1929 stock market crash. Shocked, Sylvia wanted to understand, so she switched her Hunter College major from English and history to economics, graduating magna cum laude. She married a banker and apprenticed at several Wall Street investment firms, building her expertise. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 6 2014
Over at Today Moms there is a story on minimalist mom who “spends nothing on her baby or her toddler.”
British blogger Hattie Garlick instituted a spending freeze on all kid-related items last year after losing her job. Now she says she enjoyed it so much that she is carrying on the plan this year, with a monthly “get out of jail for free” card. (She doesn’t mention how much one is allowed to buy with this card.)
I think we can all agree that as a culture we need to chill out on consumption. It’s not good for our wallets or our planet and most of our kids could do with a lot less. But praising “minimalist mom” without acknowledging the amount of time that goes into procuring hand-me-downs is misleading and wrong. These “free” things she finds? They aren’t free at all. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 20 2014
Our daughter has the lucky advantage of being the first grandchild and having incredibly generous and thoughtful grandparents, aunties and uncles, and friends who have gifted her everything and more than a toddler could dream. She’s got toys, books, puzzles, stuffed animals, Legos, blocks, dolls, Play-Dough, art supplies galore, musical instruments, a kitchen set, a doll house, balls, a scooter, games, her very own swing-set outside in the backyard, and she’s only 2.5 years old!
Not only does she have more than she needs, she also has more than she can handle. She plays with maybe half of her toys, though she likes to pull 98 percent of them out when friends come over to play. I am nervous that we are setting a precedent and potentially creating a child who will feel super entitled and will want more, and more, and more, and NOW. How do we make sure she appreciates all that she has in the world? Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 10 2014
All the parenting news you probably didn’t have time to read this week.
-Do more equal marriages mean couples are having less sex? In short, yes. Or at least those were the findings of a study which appeared in The American Sociological Review last year. Check out the New York Times’ fascinating reporting on the subject, which is bound to be the topic of dinner table discussions for a while. (The New York Times)
-Losing a nipple can be a traumatic side effect of breast cancer surgery. After losing her nipple in a double mastectomy, one Israeli survivor spent a year studying with a silicon designer who specializes in prosthetics and invented the first ever a prosthetic nipple–filling an important niche for women all over the world. (JTA)
-Are Jewish day schools gender-typing our kids as young as preschool age? What is long-term impact of an elementary education that encourages Talmud study for boys and Challah baking for girls? These are the questions raised in a new book by Elana Sztokman and Chaya Rosenfeld Gorsetman titled, Educating in the Divine Image: Gender Issues in Orthodox Jewish Day Schools. Check out Tablet’s fantastic podcast interview with the book’s author. (Tablet Magazine)
-Here’s a novel idea: using beans to talk to kids about money and charity. Since kids often can’t compute number in the five or six digit range, this author suggests breaking down the family pie visually in order to foster a healthy discussion about giving and where the family finances get distributed. (The New York Times)
-Check out this poignant essay by Kveller contributing editor Adina Kay Gross about losing her father when her twins were just 18 months old and how she keeps his memory present in their day-to-day lives. (Modern Loss)
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Dec 12 2013
On Monday, my youngest child, Lilah, was eating breakfast at our kitchen table. She pulled the newspaper toward her and read the headline: “Girl in the Shadows.” She stumbled on pronouncing Dasani’s name, but got “homeless” pretty easily.
My daughter is 5, and she can read the headlines in the New York Times. Dasani is 12 years old, and lives in one room of a homeless shelter with her seven siblings and her parents, who are battling drug addiction. My daughter and her brothers get a home-cooked breakfast in their own rooms or at the kitchen table. Dasani stands in line to heat up a packaged meal in the cafeteria. My children chose to give up their Hanukkah gifts this year so the money could go to charity. Dasani stopped wearing her uniform to school because she couldn’t launder it. My daughter is in a private kindergarten and my sons go to a public school with a nice playground, computers, and a PTO that raises money for the arts. Dasani’s school may lose its dance studio–the place this girl feels most confident–to a charter school.
How do we talk about this? As a nation, how do we start to really talk about the divide between Dasani and my children? Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 14 2013
Whatever my kids do, be it school or extracurricular activities, they are either on financial aid, a merit scholarship, or work/study (i.e. they study while I work for the organizations in question).
We simply wouldn’t be able to afford Jewish Day School or after school classes any other way.
The rule of thumb, as I understand it, is that you’re not supposed to tell kids that they’re on financial aid. You don’t want them to feel different.
I want them to feel different. I want them to understand and appreciate that the privileges they have are thanks to some very generous people contributing more than their own fair share, so that my kids can enjoy the same advantages as theirs. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 10 2013
My daughter studied Hebrew for four years, giving up free time after school and many weekend slumber parties in pursuit of Jewish knowledge. After all that effort, she wanted a fabulous party to mark the occasion of finally being called to the bimah as a bat mitzvah.
And I wanted to give her one. She’d worked hard for it. But I didn’t have a savings account marked “bat mitzvah” set aside, nor did I have tens of thousands of dollars open on credit cards. I’m sure that many parents must save for this from the moment they get a positive pregnancy test, but I was a very young parent, a single one until she was in elementary school, and for most of her life I had been struggling to finish college and pay the bills. I wanted my daughter to have a Jewish education. But I couldn’t take out a mortgage to do it.
I was supposed to be excited about this milestone, but as it drew ever closer, all I felt was dread. It became a chore, an obligation, a source of massive anxiety, not a joy. I wanted nothing to do with the words “bat mitzvah” anymore. And that broke my heart. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 18 2013
We married young, had children young, and by the time I was 31, we had two children in yeshiva day school. My husband worked long, hard hours and I was a stay-at-home mom for 18 years, the right decision for our family.
We paid for private schools, including Ivy League colleges, for four children as well as a master’s and a doctoral degree. We managed to pay off the loans about two years ago and left our kids with no debt. I don’t know how we did it and I often consider that God was making regular deposits into our bank account.
We have started small 529Ks for each grandchild and I am the best customer of the day at Gap Kids when I do a big shopping trip twice a year for clothes for them. We try to be generous with our gifts.
So why am I feeling guilty spending money on just us, my husband and me? Why am I troubled spending money to travel with my husband when we never had the time or money to do it earlier in our lives? Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 28 2013
I am really starting to freak out. The logistics of having twins, a toddler, a house too small for all of us, and a home business to run is consuming me.
You see, we have no family around to help. The community here is wonderful, but they cannot possibly be here eight hours a day for several weeks as I heal from a probable C-section, attempt to nurse two newborns, and take care of my son who will be 2 1/2 years old. I won’t be able to lift much for six to eight weeks and I plan to strictly adhere to that. The possibility of popping stitches and hemorrhaging scares the shit out of me. It would be disastrous. My husband left to care for me (assuming I survive), two newborns, a toddler, and a business all to himself? He is indeed my Superman, but I don’t think even a superhero could juggle all of that! Read the rest of this entry →