Time and Money

by Marnie Macauley October 30, 2015


Dear Marnie: Today I finally blew. I got a notice from my daughter’s Day School that all goods at the upcoming bake fair have to be homemade!  I know it’s a little thing, but I went ballistic. Marnie, my day reads like a to-do list for Wonder Woman, starting with getting three kids off to school, running to work, coming home to clean-up duty, making dinner, paying bills, spending quality time with the children, shlepping to the market, dishes. My husband tells me to “chill.” Right. I’m stressed and stretch to the max. We don’t have the money for regular help in the house. The “homemade” put me over the edge! As a working mom, what choice do I have? Help!
– Going Crazy

MARNIE SAYS: “Homemade??” You’ve given me a scary vision of Martha Stewart planting her own sugar cane. (Not that there’s anything wrong with it, for those of you who can make a babka without a breakdown.) As for cleaning, there’s enough dust around me to allow Lawrence of Arabia to take a shortcut through my living room! Underneath the “homemade” brouhaha, I hear you “crumbling” not over a few cookies, but the crushing weight of doing it all.  Worse, you’re not only getting the crumbs, you’re still sweeping them up. For you, and those like you, I’m offering a few survival skills for Supermoms on over drive.

First, get comfortable with “un-perfect.” So what if the bed isn’t made? If there’s dust on your mantle? Or the dishes aren’t done – for a while?  You can’t “do it all.” Quit trying and prioritize.

Simplify! Toy chests, for example, are vehicles for disaster, as Benjy rummages through and tosses.  Shelves for “stuff” makes it easier for our little ones to pull out and put back. Ditto for advance meal planning, bed-making and other chores.

Delegate! Divide the load, to keep you from overload. Call a meeting. Schedule and assign must-do tasks to your family. Even little ones can do simple, safe chores. Set up rewards (a pat, a pizza, a gold star or my son’s personal favorite, a Porsche – right) and punishments (no allowance, video rental, whatever) you all agree on. If they poop out, no bail out.
Trade and barter: If you sew at night, barter with a pal to car pool the kiddies. Ditto for babysitting.

Guilt OD: OK, yes. In our 3,000 years of DNA there’s a strand for “nurture” and a mega-ton one for “guilt.” Time to quit it. Guilt sends foul messages. That old 1950s Main Street sitcom of mom dusting in pearls while dad dispenses advice in the den is a vanilla myth, especially today with finances in a mess, and downward mobility.  Great moms come in all stripes and schedules, as do rotten ones.

That said, I’m not sure the bake sale qualifies as “a little thing.” I encourage tzedakah and “volunteering” even if it means a slice and bake moment (or in my case, asking a pal who isn’t likely to poison people to help). Participating in school events, beyond signing a check isn’t just about building new Hebrew school library. It’s about showing our children we’re involved; taking time to work with them toward a goal; and modeling participation in their community. Personally, I’d put it higher on my “to do” list than Tidybowling.

Dear Marnie: I’m a widower who’s recently revised my will and this has caused a lot of upset. I have two grown daughters. The older has been married for years and wants for nothing. The younger left her job in PR to pursue her “dream” of being a comedienne. She supports herself with odd jobs and a few gifts from me. In re-doing my will, I left her a larger portion of my estate  (about 60-40). The total is about $700,000 with my house, insurance, bonds, and savings. My older daughter was furious, even though I explained that I felt her sister will need it more. I ask you, Marnie, is my decision so wrong?
– Sam T

MARNIE SAYS: Sorry Sammy. Marnie only deals in “wrong” when discussing things that are completely indefensible – like why a one-pound box of chocolate can add five to my thighs. Frankly, you could leave your fortune to a cantaloupe and while I’d think you’re a seed short, I’d defend your right to leave your bounty to that melon ball. However, if you’re asking whether your decision is wise? In your case, no.

There are more myths about money than there are about the Loch Ness Monster (and some are scarier). Whether these come from heartfelt values or the fear that a tribe of goats will bore through your safe and feast upon your C-notes, they affect how we deal with the world and loved ones. Examine your beliefs. Next to each, add your feelings.
Picture it. Pesach, 2040. You’re on a cloud. Look down. What scene would you like to see? My hunch is, they would be together around the table passing cranberries and loving anecdotes about “grandpa.” That, friend … is your goal.

That said, ask yourself, do I want to be “right” or wise? True, we each hold principles that aren’t bendable. This isn’t one of them. Here’s why:

Wills often represent more than money. The myth is that your last gift signals love (true or not, doesn’t matter).

Most important! You have enough. If you were dividing a recliner, I’d say leave the seat to Laughing Lady. But you, Sammy, can RIP knowing you’ve provided soup into the next millennium for the younger and a tiara for the older.

You, papa, are in the enviable position of being both prudent and fair.


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