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The High Cost of Living

In response to:

Farewell to the Family? from the March 18, 1982 issue

To the Editors:

After reading Andrew Hacker’s article [NYR, March 18], I hardly know how to think about myself. I am one of those women who left a marriage (after nine years, not his predictable five), have children living with me by that first marriage so my income exceeds his median by several thousand dollars (it is $19,000 per year which puts me in that 9.1 percent making more than $15,000). However, I am one of those women who went to work in what he describes as a “low level people processing job” (counselor). Hacker predicts that my qualifications were superb since I had been trained for my entire life to be unaggressive and take orders from men. Despite this unaggressive attitude, later in the same article I am supposed to be one of those people who help parents feel that they are uncertain how to raise their children since counselors are some of those “professionals who are assumed to know more about child rearing than parents ever can!” While students may like me, I learn in the same article that I have very little impact on the pupils who see me for whom I am no longer a role model. I also learned that if I decide to terminate my second marriage that I have a considerably diminished chance of remarrying than either of my ex-husbands who will look for someone who is a decade younger. However, I probably should give serious thought to being a single parent again since my daughter may become promiscuous and an addict at that: “girls who live with step-fathers are far more likely to have higher incidences of sexual activity, drug involvement, and school related problems than children living with natural parents or with just their mothers alone.” The only thing Hacker left out is that the federal internal revenue system would also treat me more kindly if I ended my present marriage. If I had filed as “single head of household” this year I would have saved $400 on my tax return.

After meeting today with one of those “youthful pregnancies” referred to in the article I reflected on how unaggressive I had to be to get this job which, despite its low level processing aspect, brought forth over fifty resumes and applicants. I do miss the male income referred to in the article since I did not ask for nor later receive child support, even now as my children live with me. It is a wonder that I did not take time out to do that when I worked toward my master’s degree, supported the children, and worked full time in my unaggressive mode. Oh, yes, in two weeks two of my stepsons are coming to live with me too.

That’s just to keep me humble. In my leisure time—there is so much of it—I read some of the professional literature—just to keep my hand in my low level job. I’d like to use this article to start the next fire (we burn with wood to save money on the heat bills) but there is something haunting about it that makes me save it and read it again and again. No doubt it is a sort of self torture I inflict upon myself. Obviously I am psychologically unfit to raise children and even less fit to be in the labor force. Why don’t women just pack it up and go home?????????? Oh, I forgot—there are no homes anymore. Bless you for keeping me informed.

Suzy Hallock-Butterworth

Woodstock Union High School

Woodstock, Vermont

Andrew Hacker replies:

Congratulations.

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