Thursday, July 23, 2009

Stress, Money, and Unschooling

Well, well, well. It seems that the "recession" is finally affecting us. Not only did my husband have to take an out-of-state job he is totally overqualified and underpaid for, but now he's got a 2-month space between jobs, is ineligible for unemployment, and we have no insurance and a son who likely has Lyme disease. With the upcoming move to Wisconsin almost upon us, I feel like quoting an excellent book I just read, called Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain by Sharon Begley:

It has been well documented that adversity ratchets up parents' levels of anxiety. Worries about being unemployed, about losing housing, about where the next meal is coming from do nothing good for parental care. To the contrary, the anxiety and depression that trying conditions induce tend to make parents harsh and inconsistent disciplinarians, even neglectful and abusive. (This is not to say that all parents who live in poverty, in illness, or in dangerous conditions react this way). This is precisely the kind of parenting that can enhance a child's stress reactivity, explains Meaney: "The anxiety of the parents is transmitted to the children." Being poor, jobless, or homeless induces a physiological stress response in adults, which is somehow transmitted to the children. Although that "Somehow" remains to be worked out in detail. Meaney's two decades of studies on how maternal behavior in rats influences the temperament of their offspring points in one direction: parental behavior may alter the expression of genes in their children. In this way, says Meaney, "the effects of poverty on emotional and intellectual development in children are mediated by the parent."

Really, I just like this quote because it makes me feel better because a. it makes me feel like it's NO WONDER I'm stressed and crabby with the kids sometimes. And b. it reminds me of why I have no interest in living hand-to-mouth anymore. That was okay for the last fifteen years, but I'm all done with that now, thank you.

Last summer we were homeless, somewhat voluntarily, but it wasn't until the last few weeks, when we really didn't know where we were going to go next, that we suspected it might be affecting the kids in a negative way. Of course so much depends on the perceptions of the parents. I intend to ride this "problem" out smoothly. I've got a good handle on the packing, and although we have not signed a lease for our new place, we have a good feeling about it. And it looks like I'll be going back to work one way or another, and that's okay, too. Kind of exciting, really.

I don't really feel like writing about unschooling today, because first and foremost on my mind is "how on earth are we going to pay rent?" But maybe that's an extracurricular lesson in itself. If I have a good attitude about it, I could even discuss it with my six-year-old. Having read Rich Dad, Poor Dad (with an open mind), I think it might be a fun activity for us to brainstorm ways to come up with the $3500 we think we will need over the next two months. Fun, fun, fun!

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