The happiness gap

by L

What do Totebaggers think of the happiness gap between parents and non-parents?

For U.S. Parents, a Troubling Happiness Gap


107 thoughts on “The happiness gap

  1. I would give more credence to findings like this IF the countries that the researchers offer as having the happiest parents actually had a childbirth rate at or above the replacement level. As it is, it doesn’t do a lot of good to have supposedly happy parents who are only having one kid. If they’re so much happier as parents, logic suggests they would be doing more of it. The proof is in the pudding.

  2. Milo, as the Mom of an only I disagree. You are a parent with 1. You get all of the joys and struggles with 1.

    They might be slightly happier just because less to juggle schedule wise with 1

  3. Yeah, of course you’re a parent, but from a societal perspective, the purpose of making conditions better for parenting would be to produce more kids. There seems to be a disconnect between these findings and the ultimate results.

  4. I see a difference between “being happy” and the joy that being a parent brings. I’m starting to value being content and having joyful moments over being happy.

  5. I never like things that make options seem binary. It depends so much on the people. I have parent friends who seem to resent the time and budget constraints that kids impose, particularly the limited travel. I have childless friends who are heart broken over how life worked out and focus a lot on what they think they’re missing, and others who choose to enrich their lives in all sorts of ways, including lots of time devoted to community, travel, and animal protection causes. I think people are inclined to be happy or not, and kids aren’t necessary the only or main driver there.

  6. “I think people are inclined to be happy or not, and kids aren’t necessary the only or main driver there.”


  7. While certain aspects of parenting occur regardless of the number of children you have, other aspects are directly related to the ratio of children to parents. For example, assume that all children get sick an average number of days per year. With one child, that number of days off split between two parents is likely quite manageable. But, increase that by a second or third child and you may be pushing up against the total amount allowed for the year. The same for cost of child care, after school care, extracurriculars, vacations, etc. which also depends upon the spacing of the kids.

    Now, I think one should realize that in advance and attempt to plan accordingly, but not every pregnancy results in just one child being born (friend was trying for her second and had twins, now they have 3 children) and the economic conditions you experienced when you had them may have changed for the “worse”.

    I also think that we talk too much about having it all. If you have very high expectations of IT ALL, then you likely can’t have it and are unhappy.

  8. As best I can tell, these studies only look at parents who are actively rearing kids. I’d like to see the data for people whose kids are grown compared to childless people of the same age. It seems intuitive that people with extended families under them would be happier than those without (as a generalization).

  9. I can’t imagine my life without my kids but I can imagine that others might have a different experience.

  10. I think in those countries where people are having so few kids, having children is more of an active choice – perhaps even seen as a privilege -and so those people are happier. Here, many people have kids just because they think they are supposed to, or worse yet, without meaning to. They are probably unhappier. We have a relative on DH’s side who has 3 kids that she swore she never meant to have. She isn’t married. She seems to be unhappy all the time, and does everything she can to escape them for “me time”. On the other hand, her sib has 2 kids totally by choice, carefully planned. The sib seems much happier with parenting.

  11. The proof is in the pudding.

    ObFinn: It’s “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

  12. hijack: I had posted earlier that we were looking for vacation alternatives since I don’t think we can afford our previous plans (biking in France) this year due to unexpected home repair costs. I am looking for something that combines active stuff (bike touring or maybe lots of hiking), cultural and historical sights (and yes, this is for the kids as much as us – they get bored just being active), and cool kid friendly stuff like fancy pools or cool kid oriented museums. We have 3 choices narrowed down right now
    1. Bike tour and camp from Montreal to Quebec City. DH and I have done it before so we know it is a lovely route with plenty to see along the way as well as either end. You mainly bike along the St Lawrence through quaint villages. There are some great campgrounds on the way
    2. Stay somepleace fun at Mont Tremblant and ride the P’tit Train du Nord (famous bike path in the Larentians) asn well as hike, followed by a stop in Ottawa to see the fun museums and do some biking around there. We could also consider biking from Montreal to Ottawa, which I know is doable but I haven’t tried it myself.
    3. Drive to the Smokies and camp and hike, as well as taking in the Cherokee Museum and some of the other historical stuff in the area, and of course a trip to Dollywood

    Opinions? Have any of you been to Mont Tremblant? I’ve never gone there.

  13. I am far happier now with the kids being older and work/life balance in a steady state. I am happy to continue work. The worst years were the ones where I felt every day – should I stay one more day or just quit ? Things like kid illnesses coming at the same time as work deadlines made things worse. I would have said that I was quite unhappy. I don’t know how I would compare to my child free peers. Several of my friends are partner free and child free but they seem to have different things to worry about. They need to be sure that they have adequate savings as well as someone to rely on in their later years. Many of them landed up as the main go to person for their parents.

  14. *I* would have been sad to never have kids. But the little kid years are tough if you don’t have support/help. And at any given moment, I would probably answer that I would be happier sitting on a beach drinking a drink with an umbrella in it. But I am vastly more satisfied and happy with my life than I would be if it were a series of vacations. I basically think it is really hard to measure happiness in any meaningful way.

  15. In the US we compete, in countries that have policies supporting work life balance – egalitarianism.

    I wonder (and the below link may not be good data) if we have it reversed here in the US. I expect that the more money a household makes, the less children in that household. Indeed, the link below supports that, as does the slate article linked below too.

    So… in the US our system is designed to “pay” people more in the lower rungs to have kids through various programs. The higher rungs must pay for themselves.

    I think that may impact happiness. If you know that you have to support other kids along the way, that could delay other plans and decrease happiness.

  16. More on the happiness topic… this is timely. A friend asked me last night about my happiness with having a kid. I was honest with her. Do I miss being able to run to her house for a glass of wine randomly? Oh yes. I must plan all excursions. I have very little kid-free time. Is my life better? It’s certainly more fulfilled. I do have fun hanging out with my kid. I love mornings when DH brings him to our room and he wakes me up by climbing all over me and playing with my hair. Watching him grow has been an enlightening experience. It certainly has a lot more bright colored plastic than it did a while ago. And my home and life is in a constant state of hot mess.

    Am I happier than I was 3 years ago? I don’t know. I’m happy about different things, I guess. I never imagined my life would include such a full, loud house. But I wouldn’t change it.

  17. My takeaway from the article relates to comments here recently…flexibility in work schedule is key, at least as expressed by the women here who commented. If you have a work environment / boss who measures you by work product quality / timeliness vs butt-in-seat-time you’ll be happier because when the things Austin mentions happen you know you can take care of them with limited repurcussions.

    BTW…and on that note…just got a new boss and we had our first group meeting with him. Top of the list on his handout about how he likes to manage is “we are all professionals so I don’t plan on monitoring when people come in or when they leave” and also “flexibility to manage your schedules but you own the responsibility to hit deadlines”. COULDN’T BE HAPPIER about that dramatic change in m.o. from the prior “face-time, butt-in-seat” management style.

  18. @Fred — that’s awesome, congrats! My DH, alas, has a new pointy-haired boss. DH arrived home at 6 last night so we could take my mom out to dinner for her 70th; he returned home to discover pointy-hair had scheduled a meeting for 7:30 AM today. Wtf? Who does that? And DH of course has morning bus dropoff at 8:00. It’s stupid things like that that add unnecessary layers of annoyance and frustration.

    Milo’s observation is interesting — you would think that, if those policies really do what they are intended to do, people would be having more kids. OTOH, I believe I had heard that some of these policies were adopted only recently, in response to the falling birthrates. So they may not have had time to change things, or it might be too little too late. Also wonder if the socioeconomic differences mean it’s not an apples to apples to comparison — I believe the US has higher levels of inequality than many of these countries, which means our averages hide a lot of variability.

  19. I think it depends on the definition of happiness – is it “satisfied with my life” or “enjoying this minute”?

    Am I happier dealing with bickering preschoolers than bickering litigants? Not always.

    Do I think that remaining childless means you miss a non-essential but important part of being human, or really just being alive and aware that you have offspring? Yes.

    So in that sense, I might have been happier and much wealthier and successful and well-traveled if I never had kids, but at the same time I think I would have found that empty and meaningless in the end.

    Unless I were world famous :) that might have been enough….

    The friends I have had in their 80s and 90s confirm this, but they are a skewed sample set of (a) people who lived that long and still get out enough to talk to people, (b) in a wealthy part of the country.

  20. MM – re: Tremblant, many times, but decades ago and only to ski, so I’m not much help. I favor any trip that includes Ottawa, though. The War Museum is fantastic, and there’s so much more there, including the house where my dad grew up. There’s probably an historical marker out front. Haha.

    As for kids, it’s impossible to answer, isn’t it, since none of us has experienced both a kid-free life and a kid-filled one? So, how to compare? I do feel about as happy these days as I ever have, and I believe the secret formula (for me) at this particular stage of my life is (a) kids + (b) distance. All the life enrichment I want, from 1000 miles away (or 10,000, depending on the kid). After so many years of hands-on parenting, I cherish the breaks that come when they’re away, and the freedom that comes from not having to plan around so many other individuals all the time.

    But I don’t think that means I’d have been happier without them. I believe I enjoy the freedom so much *because* it’s *from other people* and I know those people will be back home again. I don’t think I’d enjoy the serenity and tidiness a fraction as much if it were, and would always be, a steady state. Knowing they’ll all return home at some point, all noisy and messy and wonderful, is one of the reasons I’m so happy while they’re away.

    Of course, I’ll be very happy when they’re back. And also when they leave again …

  21. I know one woman who is miserable child-free. My MIL. She wants nothing more than to have all 5 kids back in her house. She seems to forget that if they all moved back in (or never left) she’d have no in-laws or grandchildren. I think she’s OK with that scenario. I’ve never understood her feelings. I hope to be more like Risley – happy as long as they are happy.

  22. @Rhode – my MIL is the same. Her identity is tied to her family as it once was. It hasn’t evolved to include new (by now going on 20 years) entrants.

  23. Rhode and Louise, you’ve just identified something about my mother that I never identified myself. Thanks.

    I like having kids, though I agree with Rhett’s point that our social structures support low income families but high income families are affected to fend for themselves. Our programs that adjust for family size (FAFSA, federal tax deduction, subsidized health insurance, WIC) are all based on increments for a family in poverty and not a middle class family. I also noted that Rhett’s data didn’t control for age of the mother- many women are low income in the years that they have children but have higher family incomes when they are able to return to work.

    The root cause of planned/unplanned pregnancy probably ties into birth control access. I love the new Oregon law that lets pharmacists dispense birth control pills without requiring working class women to pay $200 for a physician visit and Mr WCE sufficiently deprioritized figuring out costs and medical savings account and scheduling for a vasectomy that Baby WCE exists.

  24. WCE said
    “our social structures support low income families but high income families are affected to fend for themselves. ”

    Really??? Including the miserable schools that poor kids are consigned to, the fact that low income housing is largely in decrepit high crime areas, the fact that decent childcare costs way more than low income people can afford, the fact that enrichment programs like all those fancy STEM camps cost money that low income people don’t have, the fact that it is almost impossible to find doctors, especially specialists, who take Medicaid, the fact that our communities are car based but low income people have trouble affording a reliable car and are thus stuck with with long commutes on buses….
    There are far more social structures that are stacked against low income families and which favor high income families than the other way around.

  25. Half of all pregnancies in this country are “unintentional.” Access to birth control doesn’t seem to change that number, and even the Guttmacher Institute doesn’t claim that lack of access to contraception is a major cause of unintentional pregnancy or abortions. We’ve discussed before that many people who are poor because of poor life choices also make poor choices regarding all aspects of their sexual activity, and also that many low-income single women WANT to have children, even if they didn’t actually plan a particular pregnancy.

    I agree that “happy” is a very vague term, and that it makes more sense to evaluate people’s actual behavior rather than their answers on surveys.

  26. “We have to compete for good child care. We compete to live where there’s a good elementary school,” she said. “We compete for activities because a child’s entire fate seems to depend on where he goes to college, because there’s no guarantee — if we don’t, our child might be left behind.”

    This is such a totebag-centered view. Most parents don’t do ANY of these things. Mom stays home, or drops the baby with grandma or another relative. The kid goes to the neighborhood school, which the parents neither researched nor visited before the kindergarten open house. He goes to a college that accepts most of its applicants. That is how most parents live. They really don’t sweat these things, for better or for worse.

  27. MM – don’t pin that on WCE. She summarized what I said earlier. I looked at stats of family household income and number of births per 1000 women. According to those numbers, and another Slate article, families making less than $10k per year have almost 2x the number of kids than families making $75k or more. AND I admitted that the data/source may be faulty. But it was an interesting sidebar that caught my attention with how the OP was worded regarding competition for resources in the US.

    If our social structure doesn’t support those families, why are they having more kids statistically? Scarlett says bad decisions. And I agree. But, even though those families are in areas with poor schools, and poor housing, they don’t stop having kids. Welfare and other assistance is geared towards a formula that accounts for number of kids and household income. How does that not support the theory that if you’re poor, more kids = more money/services?

  28. Why do lower income people have more kids? I don’t really know, but if I am poor and kids bring me joy, I would have more. I will be poor either way. Might as well have some joy.

  29. If our social structure doesn’t support those families, why are they having more kids statistically? Scarlett says bad decisions. And I agree.”

    I’d say that it’s a rational response to their circumstances. If you see no way out of poverty, other than superstar athlete, mega-rap/pop-star, or winning the lottery, what’s the point of delaying gratification when there’s nothing to delay it for? As Kate says, I’ll be poor either way, might as well have some joy.

    It reminds me of this article: “When resources are low and scarce, the rational decision is to take the immediate benefit and to discount the future gain”

  30. I don’t know how to define happier in this context and I have no way to know how low income or low expectations people make decsions. However, for me, kids are and were, life.

    I would likely have made different but equally sketchy early adult life decisions if I had decided to have an abortion instead of forming a family. I certainly would not have been happier, just less envumbered. I would never have chosen a high stress high reward career in my late 30s if there weren’t four other people depending on me. I would today likely be living some sort of over 55 footloose life in a retirement haven if married or working at some marking time job (after caring full time for my mom in her decline)if single and in both cases worrying about what will happen to me when I am old and alone. Not to mention no grandchildren.

  31. why are they having more kids statistically?

    maybe they are hoping one of their kids becomes the next Bill Gates, Beyonce, or Stephen King and can support them in their old age

    on a more serious note, having kids /being a Mom is the career my SIL has picked. She sometimes works, sometimes not. She said she used to enjoy HGTV until she realized she would never have the house she wants. She lives in my in-laws old house. Her ex is around some of the time

  32. “That doesn’t seem to be true”

    There were some serious flaws in that study, such as the fact that it wasn’t randomized and 75% of the participants chose a long-acting birth control method, compared with about 5% of women in general.

  33. Meme how old were your kids when you started your career? you are an inspiration :)

  34. I know I’m echoing what others have said, but I think these studies have a hard time defining happiness. It’s relatively easy to do the type where you ask people to stop at various points during the day and answer “Are you happy at this moment?” but difficult to get a fair comparison across different lives when you’re trying to look at things like a sense of meaning in your life, fulfillment, connection, joy. The “happy at this moment” approach is inevitably going to paint most of us as miserable. I know at any given moment I’m most likely to be at work doing something that in isolation isn’t “fun,” or running errands or doing life maintenance (not “fun”) or dealing with kid schedules or having a discussion with kid(s) about not dropping wrappers everywhere / no plans to buy you that game / I thought you had a project due tomorrow / etc (also not “fun”). Even the little morning workout, though it’s part of my limited “me time,” isn’t “fun” in the moment — I like having done it better than I like doing it. So If my my most reliable sources of happiness on a weekday are when I’m reading or watching a show or playing a game for a brief time in the evening, does that mean I’d be happier if I had no job and no kids and just spent my days watching tv, reading, and messing around on the internet? I’m dubious about that. I think you just need a lot of life’s scutwork to achieve some of the big things (successfully raising a family, successful career) that make your life feel meaningful.

    I mean, sailing around the world is many people’s dream (not Milo’s, I know he’s not a sailboat guy) but if you do it most of your moment-by-moment experience is going to be constant upkeep, tedium, confusion about whether you’re headed the right way, occasional moments of terror, but broken also with the moments of wonder and joy. Like parenting.

  35. 75% of the participants chose a long-acting birth control method, compared with about 5% of women in general.

    Isn’t that the point?

  36. “When resources are low and scarce, the rational decision is to take the immediate benefit and to discount the future gain”

    I am where I am in large part because my parents, and their parents, often did not make this decision.

  37. Mooshi, We went to Mont Tremblant a couple of years ago and had a great time. I would highly recommend the part zip lining part tight rope walking adventure course if you are not afraid of heights. My kid loved it.

    The one thing I did not like about the place was the lack of good dining choices. The food is expensive and not good for the prices you have to pay. Otherwise a fun and active vacation destination.

    Hope this helps.

  38. Rhett, most women do not want IUDs or other long term contraception devices. The Wash U researchers recruited volunteers who were interested in getting free contraception, persuaded them to get IUDs and implants, and very few of them got abortions. There was no control group. The findings were completely predictable.
    Recent studies have demonstrated that giving free condoms to teenagers actually increases fertility rates. So there you have it.

  39. I believe the US has higher levels of inequality than many of these countries, which means our averages hide a lot of variability.

    In a country like Finland with a low gini coefficient the gap between any two life choices is going to be narrower. In the US, if you have fewer kids and focus on your career more, a totebag level couple might end up with an after tax income of $250k. If you have three kids, a stay at home parent and a working parent who is home every night at 5:30, you might have an after tax income of 50k. However, if this were Finland it might be more like 75k and 150k.

  40. “I mean, sailing around the world is many people’s dream (not Milo’s, I know he’s not a sailboat guy) but if you do it most of your moment-by-moment experience is going to be constant upkeep, tedium, confusion about whether you’re headed the right way, occasional moments of terror, but broken also with the moments of wonder and joy. Like parenting.”

    Yeah, that’s pretty accurate. And you could also compare it to people doing Tough Mudders or Ironmans. Survey them in the thick of it and ask “Do you feel good?” If they’re honest, the answer is ‘No.’

  41. “However, if this were Finland it might be more like 75k and 150k.”

    Then they should be having more kids, as the socioeconomic penalties are much less severe. But they’re not.

  42. Is it possible that the cost of goods (not child care) may be the stopping point? If their income span is $75k-$150k equivalent to US dollars, they may have sticker shock. Gasoline is more expensive there, as are bigger cars, and they may get taxed based on the size of car at a higher rate. I’m guessing, but it seems logical that the reason to not have more kids is something the socioeconomic penalties can’t account for – diapers, formula, larger cars, and other child-rearing-related goods.

  43. I’ll add “housing size” to Rhode’s list. I have often been grateful to live in a house, rather than a condo or apartment, with my noisy, rained-in little boys.

  44. Is it possible that the cost of goods (not child care) may be the stopping point?

    I’d say that’s 20% and child care is 80%. I’ve mentioned my middle income friends who had to take out a high limit credit card to get them over the two kids in day care one of them an infant hump.

  45. Well, it looks like the financial markets have been able to put most of that Brexit unpleasantness behind us.

  46. But if childcare is heavily subsidized, which it is in Finland, if I’m not mistaken, then that 20% becomes a larger piece of their pie.

    Like WCE said, we assume housing is available . It may not be in smaller nations with different infrastructure. And if affordable housing is far from the city/suburbs, then a car is necessary. Those things to a family who’s never had to account for them before become big purchases and chip away at the pie.

  47. “As for kids, it’s impossible to answer, isn’t it, since none of us has experienced both a kid-free life and a kid-filled one?”

    I don’t know, Ris. I’ve come pretty close to having a kid-free and kid-full (yeah, only one, but still) life. I was 48 when Junior came into the world. I was very happy both being a puppy in NYC, then married and a brief stint Upstate (wonderful!) then down here.

    Then the mid-life crisis came along, and I realized that I had done nothing good for anybody in my lifetime. Oh, yeah. I had made rich people richer, but I’m not terribly fond of rich people generally and I don’t much care about their financial condition.

    I find Junior has added some texture or dimension in my life. Parenting is a pain in the ass, mind you, but I happen to love my son. The trick, though– the wrinkle if you will– is that I could afford to be a parent. I made a good income prior to becoming a parent. I was by no means frugal (do you know what 8 hours drinking and listening to music at The Blue Note cost?!!) and my wife and I travelled more like Rhett than was prudent.

    So everything that was hard about parenting, I outsourced, well kind of, until I realized that outsourcing wasn’t working out quite so well. Work at a big firm became impossible. Small law was shaky at best. Being on my own kind of sucks because I don’t believe my own bullshit. I can’t say I am happy being mostly retired at this point.

    But I still love being a parent. My kid is a teenage boy which is only slightly less intolerable than a teenage girl and I am not very good at the task. But I am happier than I have ever been in my life, but it was my childless years that made this possible.

  48. Speaking of the joys of parenting, here is an actual email my mom sent after picking up my kids last night:

    “So [DD] gets into the car and says “A boy asked me out today”–very excited. Then she added “and the first thing I did was tell my mom.” [DS] asked “to ask her permission?” and [DD] laughed and said “of course not; I just wanted to tell her.”

    You are the first person she thought to tell.”

    This. THIS is the joy of parenting.

    And then, of course, we spent a good chunk of dinner reciting Rodney Atkins lyrics (“Cleaning This Gun”) and pulling up “Applications to Date my Daughter.” Which probably convinced her to never, ever again tell me anything. . . . :-)

  49. RMS,
    That study, too, had serious limitations.

    “So how could one attribute the 34 percent decline in abortion rates to the CFPI? Almost the same reduction — about 85 percent of the reduction we saw in CFPI counties — still happened in places where the program wasn’t available. This makes sense because abortion rates have been dropping steadily for years (including among younger women)”

  50. I still think it’s better to provide free, easy contraception to everyone. I don’t share your religious objections, of course.

  51. In the home country IUDs are very effective at preventing pregnancies. The narrative is usually one kid very quickly after marriage then depending on the woman’s education and income level kid # 2 after a few years. Now a days very few educated people are opting for kid # 3 and even among the poorer women there is a lot of thought before kid # 3. Family planning commercials are everywhere. Sex ratio is a big concern so in the past where a family was shown as father, mother, boy and girl. A family with two girls is pictured. The impact of the commercials and education of women has been profound. Birth control pills, condoms don’t work as well because they are more public methods whereas with an IUD a quiet visit to the hospital is all a woman needs to do.

  52. winemama. I enrolled in grad school ft with kids 6, 8, 10 and 14. 14 was not allowed to go to regular school by the town so he was in a special needs outplacement. 10 was assistant mom – not fair to her. I started big 6 acccounting 2 years later.

  53. It is certainly better for those who get someone else to pay for the contraception that they are currently paying for themselves. It’s not clear that it’s better for anyone else, nor that requiring other people to pay for it will entice the stubborn non-users to become users. The research in this area is surprisingly poorly designed.
    And no form of birth control is “easy.” The long-acting forms are very effective, but many women (even those too young to remember Dalkon Shields) are rightly hesitant to have foreign objects and/or hormones inserted into their bodies.
    It is interesting that abortions and teen birth rates have been falling for years, and no one really knows why.

  54. It is interesting that abortions and teen birth rates have been falling for years, and no one really knows why.

    My money is on the phasing out of leaded gasoline (which also triggered the dramatic fall in the crime rate) and Internet porn.

  55. I was in high school during the peak teen birth rate (1990, 72 babies born to girls in my high school during my freshman year) and I’ve spent 25 years thinking about teen pregnancy, because it has so shaped my life, my friendships and my life choices. My Dad just sent an obituary for a man from my class who worked at the plant with my Dad for ~20 years. The man was married to another classmate, and I realized their grandchild is probably older than my youngest child. They appear to have had a stable, 20+ year marriage with three children.

    I have thought about her often because her shoes had holes, her house had periods with no electricity due to unpaid bills and her mother had skanky boyfriends. (And yeah, I know my lack of PC terminology may sic the trolls on me.) Her home life was not happy and I am so glad she married someone who treated her decently.

    People are happier as parents when they’re ready to be parents, even if the birth rate is 2 children per woman either way. I’m reluctantly supportive of government funding for expensive, reliable contraception. The disadvantages of contraception are underdiscussed but at least with subsidy, people can choose freely. I share Louise’s view about the advantages of IUD’s for some women. I agree with Kate that poor women will continue to have children they can’t afford, because children bring joy, but subsidizing contraception can help women have the ~two children they can love and care for, rather than several children they can’t. I’ve previously stated that male contraception and fluids through TSA security lines will be my top priorities as a presidential candidate.

    Family management gets harder with each subsequent child. (I can confirm this up to 4…)

  56. At first I was like, wait, male contraception through TSA security lines? Like they’re not intrusive enough already! Then I realized those were two different initiatives.

  57. We had a wonderful, glorious, utterly meaningless life without kids. Had a cool job. Travelled all over the world–literally, twice a month, every month, for several years, we were flying somewhere fun. Kids grounded us and I am so glad for them and our boring Totebaggy lives.

  58. I like the idea, HM. Folks like Rhett would be sterilized no less than twice each week under your system!

  59. LfB – did you ask for the boy’s resume to see whether he was potential NY Times material ? ;-)

  60. @Louise: Hahahahahahahahaha. No, must have slipped my mind — will have to add that to the next round of review.

    Thank you, I am on a late and interminable conference call, you actually made me laugh out loud. Good thing for mute buttons.

  61. Growing up, our neighbor and my Dad worked for a semi governmental org, making same money etc. But neighbors lived a little different life from us in subtle ways. They shopped often, took a few more vacations, bought more jewelry and fancier cars etc. My mom wondered how they could afford it and the conclusion was that they did not worry about drawing on equity etc to finance these things. My parents being risk averse and highly debt averse, made do with what we had. Both were totebaggy families.
    Presumably, the neighbors modeled a risky behavior and the kids were supposed to follow suit. And what do you know- all kids are prudent, very successful and make a ton of money. More money than us.

    Well, I wanted to tie this up with the discussion, but I have lost my train of thought. Oh well……

  62. Is it possible that abortion rates are falling because the people that want them are unable to get them in a clinic or surgery center? There are states that only have a handful of places to get a legal abortion. There are other states where there are only a few doctors that can perform a legal abortion. In addition, if someone can’t afford to travel to one of the available clinics – they can’t get an abortion. Some of the poorest people would need to travel hundreds of miles to get to a clinic. They might need to miss work, or find childcare for other children at home. They might need to stay overnight, or come back 2 or 3 times just to comply with the state laws. The hurdles required to get an abortion for some of the poorest Americans in more than 20 states may contribute to the falling abortion rate.

  63. “Bank’s Brexit layoffs begin, and they’re not all in London”

    Mr. Icahn, your excuse is calling.

  64. These financial firms will take any reason for a layoff. DH firm isn’t having a great year, and they are doing some layoffs. They’re also talking about salary cuts, and I’ve never experienced that in financial services. I’ve received a drastically reduced bonus, or no salary increase. I just hope they don’t cut salaries across the board.

  65. On topic:

    “Today my patience has run thin and all I could think about was having a few minutes to myself, but as you fell fast asleep on my chest, it was an easy choice despite a list of things needing to be done.
    Because instead … I held you.”

    I look around my house and life – I’m a hot mess 90% of the time. But DH stayed home from work today because DS just wanted to be held. This is a kid who has no time for snuggling because it takes away from his time tearing up the house and chasing the dog. I’m leaving early to relieve DH and maybe have my kid want to be near me (he chose DH this morning). I can say I’m happy parenting because it made me slow down. Work can wait 1 day to comfort someone sick.

  66. Rhode,
    Thanks for sharing. Sorry your DS chose DH this morning, but how great for DH to be chosen. This time.

  67. Rhode your DS sounds like he is on the go like mine is. So thankful for the snuggle time I got in when he wasn’t mobile LOL

  68. Has anyone used prepaid Visa cards? The only times my credit card info gets stolen is when I use it at Walmart or Sams Club. Nevertheless, I’d like to shop online at Walmart occasionally. But there are probably weird fees and stuff for prepaid cards, aren’t there? Anyone familiar with how to find out?

  69. Lauren,

    Deutsche Bank stock is at a 30 year low and it’s trading at 39% of tangible book value. Is it a buying opportunity?

  70. Rocky – When I get them as gifts, I convert them to Amazon gift cards, because otherwise they’re a PITA to me to keep track of the remaining balance.

    Why don’t you take $1,000 cash to Walmart and purchase a gift card?

  71. RMS,

    Is it still a problem after they switched you to a chip card? Also, do they accept Apple or Google Pay?

  72. “Why don’t you take $1,000 cash to Walmart and purchase a gift card?”

    I’d be scared to death of losing a gift card with this balance

  73. “I’d be scared to death of losing a gift card with this balance”

    Keep it in your desk at home, then.

  74. Is it still a problem after they switched you to a chip card? Also, do they accept Apple or Google Pay?

    Yes, still a problem, and I don’t know if they accept Apple or Google Pay.

    Milo, that gift card is an excellent idea. I think I’ll do that.

  75. Just look carefully at your receipt, and hold on to it. The protections have probably gotten better over the years, but DW’s old office, when she was pregnant, pooled some cash and bought a couple items at Babies-R-Us, and a $100 gift card. But since it was a cash purchase, the cashier never activated the gift card.

  76. Yes, still a problem

    And you know that using you chip card at Walmart is the culprit? I’m wondering if it’s not something else that is actually the problem.

  77. I was at a 7-Eleven ATM yesterday, watching my older two still in the car because #2 was sleeping. I entered a withdrawal request for $400, and I noticed that the progression was running more slowly than normal. After the final Confirm button, the screen just turned blank, and then dark. I waited well over a minute, and then I called to the cashier who was busy and had no clue. I hit Cancel about 10 times, waited some more, and still nothing. I was just about to leave when the mechanical parts started spinning and it ejected $400.

  78. But Rhett, if it’s tied to my credit card, it’s still at risk.

    Twice, I tried to get a Sams Club* credit card, and twice it was instantly hijacked. Twice I ordered from Walmart online, and twice my entire account was hijacked. Apparently the Wallyworld empire just tosses the customer credit card numbers to the employees as a bonus.

    *Yes, I know it’s morally evil to shop at Walmart/Sam’s Club, and I also shop at Target and Costco. Get off my back.

  79. Twice, I tried to get a Sams Club* credit card, and twice it was instantly hijacked. Twice I ordered from Walmart online, and twice my entire account was hijacked.

    Did you do all this from the same computer?

  80. RMS – I’ve used prepaid Visa gift cards. Usually you have to spend the entire balance, or know exactly how much is on the card. We’ve had times where the card had ~$3 and we couldn’t use it at all. Recently, this has eased a bit – we’ve used the card and the machine has said “You still owe $X how would you like to pay?”

    I second the gift card idea. To Wine’s point – I’d buy denominations you wouldn’t mind losing if your wallet gets stolen because store gift cards are like cash. Take 1-2 of the cards to the store, and leave the rest at home. If you shop exclusively online, just keep it in your desk, like Milo said.

    Milo – how do you convert the cards to Amazon money? buy a gift card for yourself in that denomination?

  81. Rhett, the credit card apps were on paper at the Sam’s Club. The Walmart account was from home, but enough years apart that I am betting it was two different computers (I burn through computers).

  82. “Yes, I know it’s morally evil to shop at Walmart/Sam’s Club”

    Amazon is a worse employer than Walmart.

    “buy a gift card for yourself in that denomination?”

    yeah. but there’s no actual card. you just do it electronically and the balance is maintained online, and when you make a purchase, they automatically apply it until it’s depleted.

  83. have we discussed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) here before? I was going to send in a post

  84. RMS – That happening at Walmart online is strange. I shop occasionally at Walmart online and in the Walmart store, haven’t had an issue. We used to shop at Sam’s Club too with no issues.

  85. have we discussed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) here before? I was going to send in a post

    Not really. That would make a great post.

  86. @Rocky — if it makes you feel any better, my SIL’s Walmart account was just hijacked, too.

  87. RMS, is the Sam’s/Walmart problem you’ve had just with shopping online?

    If so, I have a couple of suggestions:

    1. Clear cookies just before and just after shopping.

    2. Use a card that allows you to create a new credit card number. My BoA Visa lets me create new numbers with lower credit limits that I specify,. I can also specify the expiration dates, to one year from the date of creating the numbers. Each of these numbers will only work with one merchant. So you might be able do something similar to Milo’s suggestion (e.g., creating a number just for Walmart) with a $1k limit, but without the risk of getting a gift card stolen or giving up your cashback rewards.

  88. The worst job at Walmart may be better than the worst job at Amazon. However how about the average? Top quartile? I’m reluctant to accept that there is a objective measure that Amazon is worse than Walmart. I don’t know the balance of skilled employees vs unskilled, but my guess is that Amazon wins.

  89. “I don’t know the balance of skilled employees vs unskilled, but my guess is that Amazon wins.”

    By wins, you mean Amazon offers fewer opportunities to unskilled workers, and when it does, employs them only through third-party contractors on a temporary basis so that they can be dismissed as soon as they are too physically tired to fill enough orders, or as seasonal demand dictates? If that’s your metric, then yeah, I guess Amazon wins. I don’t think that’s what Rocky was referring to, though.

  90. FInn, it isn’t just online, but I’m interested to learn about your BoA credit card and that capacity to create new numbers. That sounds very useful.

  91. RMS, it’s called ShopSafe®. More info here:

    We’ve been using it for a while. It’s usually pretty seamless, but sometimes some merchants aren’t able to accept it. Amazon can be a problem, because the numbers generated only work with a single vendor, and a lot of the stuff on Amazon isn’t sold directly by Amazon, so there have been Amazon orders for which we’ve had to generate additional numbers when a number previously used for Amazon only worked for some items on the order.

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