To mark the unofficial start of the season, MONEY reveals the results of its summer spending survey. Bottom line: Budgeting for warm-weather fun is no day at the beach.
New York state tops the list, while Indiana remains at the bottom
How does your state stack up when it comes to supporting working moms and dads?
A new report out Wednesday from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research rates the 50 states on a Work & Family Composite Index, which factors in access to paid leave, support for dependent and elder care, cost and quality of child care, and the gender gap in labor force participation for parents of young kids.
The best grade in the report went to New York State, with California coming in at No. 2 and Washington, D.C. at No. 3.
On the flip side, Indiana got the IWPR’s worst grade, followed by Utah and Montana.
You can find the full, sortable list of all the states, including grades, scores and rankings here.
Before residents in the high-scoring states get too excited, it’s worth nothing that even New York, the highest-ranked state, only scored a “B” from the IWPR. The group points out that 40 states scored a zero on the Paid Leave Index, meaning workers have no statutory rights to paid family leave, paid medical leave, or paid sick days.
Support of working moms has become increasingly important as their ranks have grown. Now, nearly half of children in the U.S. have a breadwinning mother who either brings in the money entirely on her own or, if she’s married, contributes at least 40% of family earnings, according to the IWPR.
Paid leave and child care are particularly hot-button issues. Not surprising when you consider this stat from the Department of Labor: 62% of mothers who gave birth within the last 12 months are in the workforce.
The work and family report is part of the IWPR’s larger series, Status of Women in the States: 2015.
MONEY's George Mannes asks people on the streets of New York City how much they spend on wedding gifts.
Financial infidelity and the lies we tell
Several years ago, a friend of mine admitted she had a bank account her husband didn’t know about so that she could spend from her secret stash on the sly. And recently, an acquaintance who owns a luxury jewelry store revealed to me that some of her clients purchase the high-end gems with cash in order to keep their spouse in the dark about their indulgences.
These breaches of trust are surprisingly common: According to a recent survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education, one in three adults who have combined their money in a relationship admit to committing financial infidelity against their partner. And 76 percent of those people concede that their deception has affected the relationship.
Why all the fibs about your finances? We dug into the reasons behind some of the biggest fiscal lies couples tell, and the steps you can take to get back on track.
Lie #1: “Yes, I paid that bill.”
Where it Comes From: There are two primary reasons why people hide money moves from their significant other. Number one: “You might feel controlled by your partner, so you act out as a form of rebellion,” says money coach Deborah Price, CEO and founder of the Money Coaching Institute and author of “The Heart of Money.”
If one person is in charge of the purchasing decisions (picking apart every detail of the credit card statement, deciding what their spouse can and can’t buy, imposing a spending limit), while the other doesn’t have much of a say, anger and resentment can build up — which results in deceptive behavior.
Number two: “You feel ashamed about your financial situation, so you try to cover it up, hoping you’ll be able to get a handle on things before your spouse finds out,” says Price. “You’re afraid that your partner won’t be able to cope with the truth.” Maybe you’re in debt, and are worried your husband wouldn’t want to be with you if he discovers what’s really going on. Or perhaps you feel guilty about splurging, and don’t want your partner to judge you.
Break the Habit: The first step is to get to the bottom of the lie. “Most money problems aren’t actually about money — they’re symptoms, and the problems are truly about something else,” says Price, who advises to look into when and why the behavior initially emerged. One method: Write what she calls a “money biography.” Did the fib predate your marriage or start after you wed? How does lying make you feel — guilty for being dishonest, thrilled about getting away with something, or afraid that your partner will learn the truth?
“Most of our money patterns are formed in early childhood and get acted out in our relationships unconsciously,” says Price. “Once you understand your patterns, you have some power over them and can begin taking measures to correct them.
Next, consider what it would feel like to come clean. Ask yourself, if you were sure that your partner wouldn’t freak out, what would you ideally like to happen? Now, how can you start to move toward that? “In order to tell the truth, it’s important that you feel safe in your relationship,” explains Price. “You can’t be worried that your partner will run out the door.” She suggests starting the conversation by saying, “There’s something important I need to talk to you about, but I’m afraid that it will upset you. Before I tell you, will you promise to stay calm and help me work through it?” Yes it will be a tough discussion, but coming forward will ultimately help you build a stronger bond.
Lie #2: “I’m terrible with money — you handle it.”
Where it Comes From: This is an incredibly common phenomenon: People who are perfectly competent mistakenly believe that they are financially inept. “You feel powerless and are fearful that you will make a mistake,” says Price. “Maybe you were told you weren’t smart growing up, or had parents or teachers who made you feel insecure.” She also points out that sometimes there’s a subconscious benefit to not being powerful with money, in that it lets you off the hook about having to be the “responsible one” and sets the stage for you to be rescued by someone more “capable.”
Break the Habit: Is it true that you don’t have a good grasp on finances, or is it a projection based upon your fears that you’ll mess up? To find out, list your fiscal skills: Are you aware of how much you have in your checking and savings accounts? Do you know how much you earn? Are you contributing to a 401(k) or IRA? When you were on your own, did you pay your bills on time and spend within your means? You might realize that you’re more in control of your money than you thought. Or, you will identify what areas where you need need some guidance. (Check out our DIY Financial Planning Guide.)
Even though you haven’t done something in the past, it doesn’t mean you can’t become proficient,” stresses Price. “And while it’s okay for one person to have the role of ‘family CFO,’ both of you should be involved in your finances to some extent.” In the worst-case scenario, if you lose your spouse or get divorced and they have the keys to your fiscal life, you’ll be in a bind — especially if there are kids in the picture. So, no matter who takes the lead with financial decisions, make sure to sit down together at least once a month to discuss where your joint finances stand.
Lie #3: “Sure, we can afford that.”
Where it Comes From: This one might not be an outright lie. Many people simply aren’t connected enough to their daily financial accounting to knowwhether or not they can afford a new car or trip to the Andes. And once you’re married, money cluelessness can get even worse — assuming that your spouse will handle the finances gives you an excuse to grow more out of touch.
Plus, when there are two of you, it’s easy to pass the buck so you won’t be the one at fault for having made an irresponsible decision. “Some people might also avoid telling the truth [that a certain item is out of your price range] in order to avoid a potential fight,” adds Price. (Of course, that backfires: You might end up pointing the finger at each other later on when fiscal remorse sets in.)
Break the Habit: Part of the problem here is that we are hard-wired to want to spend money. “We are largely governed by a part of the mind called the instinctive brain, which is driven by desire and is wholly distinct from the prefrontal cortex, the section that processes rational thought,” explains Price. As a result, money decisions are often guided by emotions, rather than logic. So, before making a major purchase you and your spouse should list all of the positive and negative consequences of the decision. “This slows down your neural processing centers and activates the prefrontal cortex,” says Price. Not only will you be less likely to get carried away in the excitement of the moment, but it also forces you to take a hard look at your financial situation.
Lie #4: “My money is your money.”
Where it Comes From: The survey mentioned earlier found that three in 10 adults with joint finances have hidden a purchase, bank account, statement, bill, or cash from their partner. So what’s with all the covert ops? “Concealing fiscal information is a self-protective response to feeling unsafe in the relationship,” says Kate Levinson, PhD, author of “Emotional Currency.” “Even though you may like the idea of merging your money with your spouse’s on an intellectual level, you ultimately don’t trust that your partner will be there for you.
This sense of insecurity might be triggered by past experiences with someone who abused money (for example, a parent who gambled away the rent or burned through the grocery budget to fund a shopping addiction). It can also be a sign of emotional unrest — if you were betrayed by an ex or had an emotionally unavailable parent, you might have learned that you can’t rely on others. “Money represents an internal need to stay independent, and squirreling it away reassures you that you aren’t overly vulnerable,” says Levinson. Thanks to your cash stash, you feel like you have a way out.
Break the Habit: Begin by investigating the underlying cause of your deception on your own — write about it, talk to a friend or therapist, or meditate until you understand what’s going on underneath. “You need to recognize that your behavior is being driven by elements outside of your awareness,” explains Levinson.
After you gain some insight into the underlying causes, work through the issue with your partner. To begin the discussion, try focusing on the relationship with an opening like: “There’s something that I’ve been afraid to talk to you about. I know you’re going to be mad, but I need you to help me figure out what’s going on because it’s getting in the way of me being close to you.” You may also want to preface the conversation by asking your partner to just listen without interrupting so that you can tell him the story in full. “Keep in mind that the core problem might have nothing to do with money, but rather can shine a light on something that’s missing in your relationship — be it that you need more one-on-one time with him, or want him to help out more around the house,” adds Levinson.
Lie #5: “I’ve had these shoes for years.”
Where it Comes From: Denial of spending is a fear-based reaction. “You’re worried that your partner might judge you for being indulgent, selfish, frivolous or undeserving — and that they won’t love you for it,” says Levinson. Your response might be an accurate reflection of your current bind, say, if your partner is financially controlling, or you have a problem with overspending. Or it might be a byproduct of your upbringing; according to Levinson, you could be modeling behavior that you saw play out in childhood (for example, your mom encouraging you to hide new purchases from your dad.
Break the Habit: Do a realistic assessment of your financial situation: “Clarify your financial goals and priorities and establish a specific budget based on your fixed expenses and discretionary spending,” Levinson recommends. Knowing exactly how much you have to splurge will alleviate any fear that your partner might disapprove. Stick to that budget, and review it monthly or bimonthly to make sure it’s still working for you.
Lie #6: “I don’t have any debt.”
Where it Comes From: Thirteen percent of survey respondents said they’d committed a serious infraction, like lying about the amount of debt that they owe. “This fib stems from shame, feeling overwhelmed, or a fear of being judged by your partner,” says Levinson. You might also be in a state of denial — subconsciously, you feel like if you haven’t told your partner the truth, then the debt doesn’t exist and you won’t have to face the consequences of it.
Break the Habit: It’s time to confront your financial situation head-on. “Own your debt,” urges Levinson. “Talk to someone you trust — a counselor, financial advisor, or family member — to begin figuring out how to get debt-free.” That way, when you come clean to your partner (try using the same conversation technique as before), you’ll have a plan of action in mind, which sends the message that you’re finally taking control of things. “You also might want to consider separating your finances to show that you understand the debt is your responsibility,” adds Levinson.
Lie #7: “I don’t have that much money.”
Where it Comes From: On the flipside, some people claim they make less than they actually do. “You may keep an inheritance or large salary from your partner while you’re dating because you’re concerned about being taken advantage of, or loved only for you money,” says Levinson. “Then you hang onto the lie because you don’t want to rock the boat.” This whopper also unleashes a cascade of tough personal questions: How will I be able to handle having so much more than my spouse? What kind of person will I become if I tap into this money? What will it do to our relationship to go from being financially equal to unequal?
Break the Habit: In this case, Levinson strongly suggests seeing a counselor, because it can be unsettling to have huge wealth discrepancies in a relationship. “Some couples are naturally financially compatible and agree on how to spend and save,” says Levinson. “But for many, it’s difficult. Your spouse might be scared of wealth, judgmental about rich people or afraid that having money will turn them into a different person with different values.
There are also questions about how your dynamic changes: If one of you has a lot more money, does what you say hold more weight? “Issues of feeling better than or less than your partner are very tricky territory to navigate, especially when there’s a sense of betrayal on top of that,” says Levinson. “Just be sure to find a couple’s therapist who’s comfortable talking about money.
More From Daily Worth:
Worldwide, kids are pretty darn happy with what they have.
The welcome if not surprising news presented in a global survey is that kids are happier and less worried about money than grownups. And despite how often parents might hear about children needing new toys, video games, electronics, and clothes, the vast majority of kids worldwide report being plenty satisfied with what they have.
According to the new International Survey of Children’s Well-Being, which polled kids ages 8, 10, and 12 in 15 countries, fewer than 1 out of 20 kids report low satisfaction with the things they have. Meanwhile, children in some of the poorer countries in the survey—Algeria, Turkey—worry a lot less about money than one might presume. (The United States was not included in this year’s survey.)
“Children tend to be more optimistic in life,” Norway’s Elisabeth Backe-Hansen, the survey’s lead researcher, told Quartz. That’s good to hear, of course, especially in light of what seems to be the increasingly stressful, high-pressure environment that kids grow up in nowadays.
Yet optimism and the refreshing idea that kids worldwide still get to enjoy fairly worry-free childhoods don’t explain all of the study’s findings, some of which are rather contradictory. For instance, children in Spain—one of the wealthier countries in the study, based on GDP—are among those most satisfied with what they have, yet they rank #2 (behind Colombia) in likelihood of reporting they “often” or “always” worry about how much money their family has.
Algeria also presents a confusing picture. “Despite Algeria’s very low GDP, children reported comparatively low levels of worry about how much money their family had,” the report states. At the same time, however, Algerian children were near the bottom in terms of being satisfied with their material goods and possessions. Only Ethiopian kids were more dissatisfied with what they have.
The researchers theorize that Algeria’s “socialist-egalitarian political regime” may have something to do with the surprisingly low level of children worrying about money. “Many effects of this–such as free education and educational resources, financial aid for poor parents at the start of the school year, free school meals for many children in primary education–remain, which may result in poor children judging their own situation to be similar to that of their peers, and therefore not feeling that their family is worse off,” the report states.
In other words, kids in Algeria may be less likely to be aware of who is poor and who is more well-off. With less obvious means of everyday comparison among children and families, there could be less of a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality.
The researchers admit that there were some “diverging patterns of findings,” and that “it may be important to include a wider range of such questions in future surveys in order to fully capture children’s evaluations.” Based on the data we have, though, it seems like there is no clear correlation between material goods and happiness: Richer countries aren’t necessarily home to happier, more worry-free kids either.
There are as many reasons to not have children as there are to have children
I have known that I didn’t want to have kids for a long time. Like, a long time. My determination to eternally keep my womb as empty and barren as the surface of the moon predates the birth of both of Britney’s babies, the premiere of Gilmore Girls, and the entire existence of nearly-adult human being Elle Fanning.
But I never felt like not wanting kids made up the core of my identity or anything — it was just a thing, like enjoying The X-Files or having an strong aversion to mayonnaise; a small aspect of my overall self. I never felt the need to consult with other women who didn’t want kids because, well, who needs a support group for not liking mayo?
That was, until I hit my 30s — a time when many of my peers were, if not already actively reproducing, at least engaging in some extremely focused pre-planning regarding the wee people who would eventually come sliding out of their lady parts. What had been a small element of my personality was suddenly in the foreground, simply because it was different than most other people’s choices. I was suddenly, shockingly, in need of a support group.
And so, I just as suddenly became obsessed with reading anything written by women who had also made the choice to skip having kids. Sure, we’re an increasingly common species — 19 percent of American women are childless by the end of their reproductive years, a massive jump from decades past — but women in their 30s without kids still get such a hard side-eye from the culture at large, that I felt desperate to learn how other women had dealt with it.
I loved the variety of voices in these pieces, the rainbow of reasons given for deciding one’s own reproductive fate. But even in the essays that I’ve loved, I noticed that many of the authors made a point of specifically noting that they’re not skipping out on having children because they themselves had a bad childhood.
In comedian Jen Kirkman’s amazing book about being childfree, I Can Barely Take Care of Myself, she notes that her decision has nothing to do with her childhood, which featured loving, supportive parents. A 2009 Maclean’s piece on the growing phenomenon of childfree women noted that assuming a “bad childhood” was to blame for a woman’s decision to not bear children is an old-fashioned explanation, one that barely plays a role today compared to factors like increased educational opportunities for women. Lilit Marcus, a fantastic writer who frequently comments on issues relevant to child-free women, even wrote an entire essay about her own ”idyllic childhood,” in response to those who assumed her reluctance to breed must have had to do with some deep-seated childhood trauma.
On one hand, I am thrilled that so many writers are challenging the assumption that the only women who chose to take a pass on motherhood are “damaged.” Many people instantly make a lifetime’s worth of assumptions about you the second that you mention that you aren’t having kids, and the biggest of those is often that you have “problems” — problems that keep you from functioning like a normal (that is, child-bearing) member of society. I understand, and support, the fight to normalize a childfree life as something that any person, with any kind of background, might choose for herself for any reason.
And yet, as a woman who chose not to have kids for those very “old-fashioned” reasons —I had a bad childhood, and boy howdy, do I have problems because of it! — I sometimes feel like I, and women like me, are being written out of the new narrative of healthy, happy childfree womanhood.
I want to make clear that I’m not blaming any of these writers, or any other woman, for being honest about her happy childhood, or any other aspect of her life. I am, however, blaming a society that is still so absolutely suspect of childfree women, that we often feel that we need to develop airtight, logical, precise arguments for why we don’t want to have kids — arguments which we can efficiently whip off at a moment’s notice to parents or friends or some busybody who sits next to us on the train.
The typical airtight narrative goes a little something like this: I never liked dolls; I adore children but don’t have the temperament to be around them all the time; I have never felt the tug of my biological clock; I’m not having children because I like my life as is, not because I’m afraid of them or avoiding something larger.
This script is similar in my mind to how, if you have an abortion, convention dictates that you’re supposed to express some half-hearted regret about how it wasn’t “the right time,” but then confirm that you have never faltered from believing that it was the right decision in the end. It places your experience firmly inside the walls of “normal,” and proves that nothing extraordinary or weird led you to your decision — that it’s a decision anyone could make.
I understand the need for these scripts. A woman’s right to bodily autonomy is still under constant fire — legally and socially — and there is a feeling among childfree women like we need to circle the wagons, to protect ourselves by agreeing to tell a story about our choices that doesn’t make us seem like damaged wrecks making the only choice we could handle, but rather cool, smart, dispassionate thinkers making an informed decision.
I wish I was a cool, smart, dispassionate thinker in any aspect of my life — but I’m not. I do love my life the way it is, but that isn’t why I decided not to have kids. I didn’t look at life’s bountiful options — all the possibilities that are supposedly open to me as an educated, middle-class woman — and choose the one that was most sensible and seemed like it would benefit me the most. Figuring out my life choices has not been like purchasing a pair of hiking boots. I am definitely not having kids because I am avoiding something. I am a wreck, making the only choice that I can handle.
On my mother’s side, I’m the end product of at least three generations of child abuse (that I know of) — abuse that tapered down from booze-fueled violence a hundred years ago, to just the intense verbal abuse, mood swings, and gaslighting that I grew up with as my mentally ill, untreated single mom’s only child.
I did not articulate my decision to not have kids until my late teens, but long before then — before I realized that you were allowed to go through life without procreating — I knew that any talk I engaged in about my future offspring was just going through the motions, trying to keep people from thinking I was even weirder than they already did. When people asked what I would name my kids, I always made something up on the spot, because I had spent zero moments daydreaming about being a mother, and thousands of moments gritting my teeth at the idea of eventually having to become one. The day that I realized that women were allowed to choose to not have babies, I literally wept with joy.
My mother’s mothering was like a hurricane, knocking me every which way during the years we lived together, and once I left her, I knew I was going to have to devote the rest of my life to trying to feel like I was standing on solid ground. Raising kids didn’t mesh with the idea of trying to give myself a sense of constancy — hell, when I first moved to New York, I didn’t leave the city proper for two years straight, just because I needed that feeling of consistency, that feeling that I wouldn’t wake up to a new world with new rules that I could barely understand and had already somehow broken, as I had so often in my mother’s house.
I didn’t want to be a mother because I had seen motherhood in one of its darker iterations, yes, but that wasn’t the only reason. I knew that, should I be so lucky to rebuild my life into something that eventually felt stable under my hand, there would never be any room in it for midnight feedings and tantrums and a person who couldn’t always explain themselves and their actions to me in clear, well-reasoned English.
It was as surely as if my womb had been taken out of my body and placed on a shelf. I had never even bothered to spend a moment contemplating whether I felt that maternal tug these writers were always talking about, or if I liked kids but didn’t have the temperament to be around them all day. My childhood had already made the decision for me. I would never have children. And I felt fine about it. It was a fact, just as true as the color of the sky or the temperature outside.
The urge to distance childfree narratives from the “bad childhood” explanation isn’t just because it’s “old-fashioned” and invokes a lot of ugly, publicity-unfriendly emotions — it’s also because it’s the one reason for not having kids that even people who believe that all women should bear children understand. Those who spend their free time obsessed with the contents of strangers’ wombs give women who grew up with maternal abuse something of a pass — often a pass with a comment like “But you could learn from her mistakes!” but a pass nonetheless.
They are the same kind of people who believe in anti-abortion rules with clauses for rape victims only. They want women who don’t have children to have really suffered for it, to be so potentially deformed by trauma that they are bad risks for motherhood. Older women who would otherwise talk my ear off about how I should freeze my eggs shut down when I casually mention having spent my own childhood alone with a mother who picked fights with strangers, who suspected that she was under secret surveillance, who believed that if I was not in the room and listening to her I did not love her. It gets me off the hook.
I do not want their pass. I want all reasons for being childfree to be respected, not constantly interrogated and undermined. I want to make sure that, as the public conversation about childfree women rolls on, we who have chosen the childfree life because of abuse and trauma don’t get left behind, as “old-fashioned” examples, people who have nothing to in common with the cool, independent, modern role model women who are choosing to not have kids.
Not only because child abuse will always exist, even among elite Millennials (and to pretend that it’s an outdated as a history textbook is insulting) — but because we need to show how many reasons there are for women to pursue childfree lives. It was never exclusively about bad childhoods in the past, and it isn’t just about being happy with your life and loving your disposable income now. It’s always been both, plus a million more narratives. There are as many reasons to not have children as there are to have children — and just like the decision to have children, sometimes the decision to not have children comes from a place of joy, and sometimes it comes from a place of trying to correct trauma. And we need to open our arms up to all of them.
More from Bustle:
TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The comparisons are inevitable when you're running for a job your sib once held
Welcome to the NFL, Jeb Bush. It’s nasty out there on the presidential campaign trail, isn’t it? You shake hands you really don’t want to shake, make speeches you really don’t want to make, and get asked all kinds of questions you really don’t want to answer. And if you’re feeling especially picked on, well, you’re right.
That, like it or not, is part of a contest you’ve been involved in a whole lot longer than you’ve been a sort-of, kind-of, not-quite-announced presidential candidate. It’s the siblings war, and as with any other person with a brother or sister who ever ratted you out to mom or clobbered you in the playroom, it’s a battle you’ve been fighting for as long as you can remember.
The problem you’re facing at the moment—as every news outlet in the country has delighted in reminding you—concerns the Iraq war, which started and unraveled on your big brother George W.’s watch. Last Saturday, you taped a segment for Fox News—hardly an unfriendly outlet for a Republican—and Megan Kelly asked you if, knowing what you know now, you’d have authorized the 2003 invasion. You answered with three words I bet you’d really like not to have said: “I would have.”
Never mind that you later backtracked, saying you’d misheard the question and thought Kelly was asking you what you’d have done if you’d only had the flawed intelligence that was available at the time. And never mind that the rest of your answer to Kelly seems to support that. “I would have,” you said in full, “and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would have just about everybody that was confronted with the intelligence that they got.”
But that didn’t stop Politico from asking “Will Iraq take down another Bush?” That didn’t stop the New York Times from declaring, “Brother’s Past Proves Tricky for Jeb Bush.” And it won’t stop virtually every other sentient person on the planet from connecting you to George W.—for better and for worse.
That’s the way it is with sibs. Part of the problem is the glib association people outside the family make about brothers and sisters. Teachers, camp counselors, coaches, all assume that if your big sib was good in math or sports you will be too—and if you’re not, they’ll want to know why. And if the same big sib was a lousy student or a behavioral handful you have to overcome the assumption that you’ll be the same.
But a much bigger problem is the dynamic that unfolds within the sibling brood itself. Think of a family as a corporation. Mom and Dad are co-CEO’s and the kids are the products. George W. was the first one to come down the assembly line, and like any sole product in any start-up company, he was the exclusive focus of the bosses’ time, money, energy and attention. By the time you came along, those early resources had gone into the ledger as what the MBAs call sunk costs—investments that can never be gotten back. So if the company has to choose between Bush Son V.1 (that’s George) and Bush Son V.2 (that’s you), it’s usually not even close.
That’s at least part of the reason that even though George had the rep of the dilettante and layabout and you were thought of as The Serious One, he got the first shot at the presidential cookie jar and you’ve now got to work with the crumbs that are left. That’s at least part of the reason too that in 2013 even your Mom, who surely loves you like a son, was dismissive of your presidential prospects, telling Matt Lauer that you’re “by far the best-qualified man,” but that, “there are other people out there that are very qualified, and we’ve had enough Bushes.” That couldn’t have felt good.
You made the inevitable comparisons to your big brother much worse by going into the same line of work he and your father did. Family psychologists call this—straightforwardly enough—identifying. Your big brother or big sister gets all kinds of family attention for, say, starring in school plays, so you start going to auditions too. The problem is, the goodies start to get spread a little thin. No matter how many starring roles you land, you’ll still get only 50% of the parental applause for being the family’s performer. Better then to choose a different route—what the psychologists call de-identifying—play sports or join the chess club and get 100% of the laurels for those achievements.
But the most powerful—if least quantifiable—sibling dynamic you’re struggling with now is the business of love, loyalty and guilt. Take that nasty moment on May 13, when you were at a Reno, Nev. town hall and a 19-year-old college student said to you, “Your brother created ISIS.” Did you need that headache? No you did not.
You could have answered that charge by disavowing your brother—a simple, “Yeah, can you believe the mess he made?” would have done it. Certainly that’s the way any Democrat would go, as well as some Republicans trying to get a little distance from the serial messes of your brother’s two terms. But you can’t do that—not if you want to feel comfortable at the Kennebunkport Thanksgiving table next fall.
So you hedge and you elaborate and you decline to answer hypothetical questions—even if they’re fair and entirely predictable questions. And you sometimes get sick of it all and say, as you also did in Reno, “First and foremost, I am proud to be George W.’s brother. I can’t deny the fact that I love my family.”
No one doubts that that second statement is true. As for the first one? Well, only you know. But get used to the questions, get used to the problems, because they’re not going away. Presidencies are short; campaigns are even shorter. But the wonderful, awful, loving, vexing job of being a sib is forever.
TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email email@example.com.
You can't put a price on love -- but you can budget for unexpected pet expenses
A few months ago, I brought home a ridiculously energetic black lab mix from the local humane society. While the other dogs quietly waited by the desk to have their adoption papers stamped, my new doggie friend strained at the end of his leash, barking and howling and jumping as my partner dragged him to the car.
“That’s the dog you picked?” an older man asked me with incredulity, as his dog sat stock still, panting at his side. What I’m getting at is that my dog — I call him Peanut — is quite a handful. But the joke’s on you if you pick out a pet and think being its owner will be a piece of cake. If you love your pet, you will rush him to the vet in the middle of the afternoon when he gets a swollen paw. You will make him special food when he has a tummy ache. You will spend countless hours walking and entertaining him. And, when he steals a cinnamon bun off the counter and then — out of fear of being caught — loses all control of his bowels and leaves a smelly mess in the basement, you will clean it up without being too mad. And, finally, when he needs something, you will pay for it with lots and lots of your hard-earned money.
Of course, when you bring a pet home, you probably assume that you’ll have to buy it a few basic things. Food. Some toys. Treats. A bed. According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent more than $55 billion on their pets in 2013. But for many pet owners, that’s just the beginning. Here are a few unexpected expenses to budget for.
1. Stuff You Said You’d Never Buy
I always assumed I’d be one of those pet owners with a stiff upper lip. I wouldn’t be spoiling my dog. Oh no. Not me. But suddenly, when you love your pet, you’ll probably find yourself rationalizing all kinds of (highly overpriced) pet paraphernalia. If you’re able to steer clear of the temptation while you’re picking up your standard pet food, more power to you. The line at my local pet shop (and my own experience) suggests that most people cave.
2. Less Dirty/Damaged Versions of Things You Already Have
Whether you have a cat or a goldfish, pets have a way of making a terrible mess of your house. So far, Peanut has destroyed: one running shoe, a picnic chair, a garden hose, a sprinkler, a dog bed, and a Persian rug. And, while replacing those things posed a significant expense, I actually think I’ve gotten off quite lucky. I mean, have you ever seen dog shaming? Or cat shaming? When you get a pet, expect to replace a few things. It’s a given.
3. Vet Bills — Big Ones
Perhaps before you had a pet, you thought you had limits. You thought if your pet required medical care to the tune of thousands of dollars, you’d decline. After all, it’s just a pet, right? And then you met Mr. Fluffypants, the pet extraordinaire who kept you company when you were sick. Or made you laugh. Or helped you through tough times. Chances are when it’s your pet, you’ll be willing to shell out just about anything to save its life. If that means emergency care, medication, or surgery, that can get very, very expensive. According to the American Pet Products Association, surgical vet visits cost dog owners $621 and cat owners $382 on average in 2013. If you have an accident-prone pet or are really worried about unexpected pet expenses, consider getting pet insurance.
4. Vacation Costs
While a winter vacation in Hawaii might be really relaxing for you, most pets don’t travel especially well. Airline travel is expensive for pets and can be very traumatizing and stressful. Plus, many hotels prefer that you leave your fluffy family members at home. When you get a pet, consider who will take care of it when you’re away — and how much that’ll cost you.
5. Your Time and Energy
If you have never owned a pet, you will drastically underestimate the amount of time caring for it will take out of your day. No matter what kind of pet you have, it’ll need some combination of exercise, training, entertainment, care, and clean-up. If you have a dog, you will (or should) invest plenty of time in working on obedience. (Otherwise, you’ll spend lots more time chasing after your dog and posting photos of half-eaten couches on dog-shaming sites.) And, just when you think you have things under control, your adorable fluffy will remind you just who exactly is in charge.
You can reduce some of the potential expenses you might incur by ensuring that your pet is vaccinated, gets all the required preventative care, and is well cared for on a daily basis. But no matter how healthy your pet appears to be, you should always be prepared for the unexpected. Animals are full of surprises. Fortunately, many of them are the kind that make your day, rather than empty your bank account.
More from Wise Bread:
In its 101 years as a national observance, Mother's Day has made its fair share of enemies
Campaigning against Mother’s Day is a surefire way to sound like a grouch — but that didn’t stop Anna Jarvis.
That’s because if anyone could get away with it, she could. After all, Jarvis invented the whole thing, and then it ballooned far beyond what she had been imagining. As TIME wrote in 1938, it was May of 1907 when Jarvis persuaded a church in her hometown, Philadelphia, to hold a special church service on the anniversary of her mother’s death. The next year the governors of Florida and North Dakota issued special proclamations inspired by the service and it went national in 1914 when President Wilson made one, too. It wasn’t long before businesspeople across the country figured the day could be a great way to sell the nation on flowers, cards and other tokens. Jarvis, the article explained, was not amused:
Anna Jarvis is the 60-year-old Philadelphia spinster who invented Mother’s Day. Whenever she thinks of what the flower shops, the candy stores, the telegraph companies have done with her idea, she is disgusted. She has even incorporated Mother’s Day to help keep unscrupulous florists and confectioners from using her patented trademark for commercial purposes. But “nobody,” she says, “pays any attention to law any more.”
Once she was arrested for disorderly conduct for interrupting a Philadelphia meeting of American War Mothers, whom she accused of profiteering on Mother’s Day carnations. In 1934 she kept James Aloysius Farley from putting “Mother’s Day” on his special 3¢ Whistler’s Mother stamp, which she said was just another racket. Last week on Mother’s Day she contented herself with denouncing a Manhattan “Mother’s Peace Day” parade and a “Parents’ Day” meeting in Central Park. (One of her current slogans is “Don’t Kick Mother out of Mother’s Day.”) Then she dedicated an eternal light to the Mothers of America and went to a service in her honor at the Church of the Saviour.
It didn’t stop there. TIME reported that Jarvis sent violent telegrams to President Roosevelt and mostly shut herself inside her house–emerging only to hand out flyers about the evils of commercializing Mother’s Day.
But rampant commerce wasn’t the only objection to the way Mother’s Day was celebrated. In that same TIME story, Eleanor Roosevelt urged that Mother’s Day also be turned into a public awareness event about the maternal mortality rate, which was 14,000 deaths a year at the time. That idea was an echo of an earlier campaign by physiologist Thomas Wilcox Haggard, who in 1934 reminded the world that “lives of mothers can be saved only by facing gruesome realities, not by holding out the promise of a potted plant.”
And finally, history has seen its fair share of those who believe that Mother’s Day is all well and good, but doesn’t go far enough. In 1950, TIME wrote about Miss Dorothy Babb, an advocate for a National Old Maids’ Day. “Many spinsters, she pointed out, don’t even get birthday gifts, so eager are they to avoid the subject of age,” the magazine reported. In the ’70s, that cry was picked up by the National Organization for Non-Parents, which advocated for Non-Mother’s Day to be a holiday.
Read the whole 1938 story about Mother’s Day and Anna Jarvis, here in the TIME Vault: Mother’s Day, Inc.