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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s day to all my fellow Dads.  Especially to all the new Dads.  Because I have been able to spend so much time with my children over the last 7 months, I really have developed a deeper appreciation of my kids, and parenthood.  I am thankful for the opportunity to spend so much time with the kids, and watching them grow.  Its hard to believe its already been 5 years since I became a Dad for the first time, and my oldest is now entering kindergarten in the fall.  It won’t be long before they both head to college.  So, Dads take the time to enjoy the moment.

I will quote a role model American Dad, Homer Simpson

I won’t lie to you.  Fatherhood is not easy.  Its not like motherhood.

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This week marks the end of the school year for my kids.  Its only preschool and toddler classes, not even real school yet, but with the end of classes comes the start of the busy summer “activities” season.   My wife has had various community resources catalogs and the calender out for months planning the next 3 months, making sure that there is no “down” time unaccounted for.  I know the other Moms are doing the same thing.  Something about idle hands and minds or something like that.  Our summer is now packed and can be broken down into 3 parts, camps, lessons, and vacation.

Camps

These are daily or weekly camp acitivities such as nature camp, sports camp, and daily vacation bible school.  These activities will eat up a good chunk of the summer.  The plus of these camps is that it is every day and it lasts from half a day to a whole day, so plenty of time to get some rest or work done.  Of course camps are the most expensive summer activity.

Lessons

In addition to the camps, there will several weeks of lessons in such activities as swimming  golf, soccer, tennis, and art lessons.  These lessons generally last anywhere from 1 to 2 hours.  A short break.  There goes most of the rest of the summer, but any free time left will be devoted to family vacations.

Vacations

We are scheduled for a family vacation to Arizona in July, and probably a few other shorter trips.  This is in addition to the vacations we have already taken to Hawaii, Disneyland, and San Diego this year.  When I was young, we had one summer vacation and that was it.  You all know that vacations are not cheap, but traveling with kids, its also a lot of work and not too restful.

So, that basically covers our whole summer.  And that’s not including the “normal” play dates, zoo outings, and birthday parties.  I’m not sure what to make of all this activity.  In my youth, I would look forward to summer days of sleeping in, watching tv, and spending the afternoons, and early evening playing in the neighberhood until it got dark.  Without all these activities, we had to find things to entertain us such as games of wiffle ball, or riding skateboards, or finding and building things in the backyard.  You had to be creative with your time, but these things kept us entertained for hours.  Now, kids have their activites all mapped out for them, and they expect to be entertained.

Of course, all these activities are not free like the lazy summer days of my youth.  Camps and lessons cost money, and it adds up with $75 dollars here,  $200 there, and so on.  Pretty soon, you are approaching a private school tuition not for academics, but for summer “activities”.  A recent Newsweek article estimates that it will cost $1,589,793 to raise the average middle-class child to age 18.  This includes college savings and lost income if one parent stays at home for that time.  I wonder if that figure includes all the “extracurricular” activities we have to pay for these days.  All the middle-class families I know are doing the same thing we are.  How much would this figure be if we cut out some of these “activities”?

I am glad that my kids are able to experience a lot of different thing that I never got to experience at an early age,  and we are fortuante that I am better able to afford these opportunities than my parents.  My kids have travled much more extensively at a young age than I ever did.  Much of the summer lessons are valuable life skills such as learning how to swim, and the sports activities help their physical development.  Vacations are an opportunity for family bonding, and to expose the kids to many new things and cultures.   I can’t argue that the money spent is worthwhile, but still I wonder if we are going overboard in that every day and week is accounted for.   Can we do it more cheaply?  My kids have not even started kindergarten yet.  Will it be like this for the next 15 years?

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Here is my son Marcus playing with a cardboard box, binoculars, and a few throw pillows.  He is playing in his boat, or plane, or rocket ship.  Its called  using your imagination, and you don’t have to pay $200 to go to a camp in order to exercise it.

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There are many advantages and disadvantages of being self employed.  Since I am self employed, I choose to focus on the good points.  One of the great perks of being self employed is the flexibility in scheduling your time.  You are not restricted by the traditional work hours of 8-5.  You can do what works for you.  If you are a night owl, you can work till 3 in the morning, and sleep in.  Or wake up at 4, so you have your afternoons free.  Yesterday was an example of my new found flexibility as I took the afternoon off to take my family to the A’s game.  We were joined by my friend who also had the day off and his daughter.

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I did’nt have to clear it with anyone, or take a vacation day.  I just went.  The freedom to do that is nice, but it meant I had to juggle my time.  The good thing with my work is much of it is talking on the phone, or communicating by email.  I do have to meet people on occasion, but not that frequently.  As long as I have a cell phone, and Internet, I can work.  I did take a few phone calls during the game, but it did not distract me from having a good time.  The weather was warm, but not too hot, and I could work on keeping my Hawaiian tan.  Even though, the A’s lost, it was still a very enjoyable afternoon.

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I also took much of Friday off to spend time with my daughter Mia, while Mom and Marcus went on a school field trip.  It was a good time of father/daughter bonding, and I am thankful my schedule allowed for the time.  I don’t get to spend that much one on one time with my daughter as I do with my son.  Part of it is she is a little younger, but part of it is also Marcus seems to like more of the things I enjoy such as sports.  Its easy to hang out with Marcus because he likes going to the Cal football games, and spring training, all the things I enjoy.  With Mia, she is a budding artist, she loves arts and crafts, and drawing.  Things that I’m not really good at, or have that much interest in.  Today, I had the chance to go to one of Mia’s favorite place, the art museum.  The art museum in Oakland is a place where kids can drop in and do all kinds of crafts and painting.  Basically, make a mess and we don’t have to clean it up.  Mia would go here every day if we took her.  She loves the painting, and making things.  And, she always gets paint all over her….and me.  It was fun being with Mia, and seeing her in her “element”.  Even though, I’m no great artist, I think Mia could be, because she loves it so much.  It was just fun to see her having fun, and learning new things.  After the art museum, we had lunch together in Chinatown and went home for a nap.  It was also a good day, but it also meant I had to return phone calls and emails late in the day.  The flexibility of using your time is great, but it can get tricky sometimes as the the line between business and family time is sometimes blurred.  Sometimes when I am with my family, I spend a lot of time on the cell phone at the expense of paying attention to them, and other times I am interrupted by kids when I am on the computer or phone.  We are still working out the boundaries of home and work, but overall it has been a pleasant problem to have.

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Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s day to all the mother’s out there.  The value of a mom is priceless as we all know.  Since I mainly cover topics of investing and personal finance, I will try to put a dollar amount to the value.  According to a survey by salary.com the value of the stay at home mom is at a all time high.  If homemakers were paid in dollars for the many jobs they perform-from cook to chauffeur to psychologist, they would earn $138,095 annually.  I see these figures from time to time, and I used to think this was an exaggerated number, and that the actual salary should be lower. 

However, after seeing my own wife up close caring for our kids, and networking with other stay at home moms, I now feel as do most moms that this annual salary is on the low side.  First, the salary is based upon a 92 hour work week.  The stay at home mom does not have a 8 hour day or 40 hour week.  They are always on duty for their children and family whether it be for meals, or sickness.  Also, the value of the work done by Mothers is higher than most jobs.  The salary of moms is comparable to executive level salaries, but it can be argued that the value of the work moms produce in our society is of greater value than a mid level bean counter.  The measure of a manager’s productivity may be an economic value to the company and shareholders, but the work of a mom in raising children has a benefit to society for many, many years, and into future generations.

Put another way, it would cost you at least $138,095 to pay someone else to raise your children, and you would not receive near the level of commitment and love  that only a mom could provide.  Take the time today to express your appreciation and gratitude for all our Moms today.

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Parenting  is a hard job, as many of you with kids already know.  The Carnival of Family Life  has a collection of many great blog articles on subjects of interest to parents.  Check it out for tips and encouragement.

My recent article on Tips on Air Travel with Small Children  is also featured there.

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