FILED IN: Parenting

Recession-Proof Mothering

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (and it may soon come to that, literally, for a lot of us), you’ve probably heard that our economy is in crisis. For the first time, some folks are waking up and smelling the coffee, seeing that it’s a latte from Starbucks, and thinking, “Have I really been paying four dollars for a goddamn cup of coffee?”

But cutting back on expenses is nothing new for me. I feel like I’ve been living in Hooverville anyway for the last eleven years, since I first decided to be a SAHM and voluntarily gave up half the household income. You’re talking to a woman who wouldn’t DREAM of wasting her money on that fancy   Preparation H, when store brand hemorrhoid ointment is good enough.

But other women have been lucky. They were able to fritter away big bucks on individual serving-sized packages of Pringles and name brand diapers. No more. Things are changing!


Can you imagine what playgroups will look like within a few months? No more sitting around, drinking fair trade organic dung beetle coffee, watching the toddlers chew on overwrought educational toys from One Step Ahead and whining about how long that kitchen renovation is taking because the custom drawer pulls are on back order.

Maybe we will be forced to go back in time and learn our frugal ancestors’ housekeeping methods. What’s it going to sound like if modern mothers are forced to adopt a neo-colonial lifestyle? There’s going to be such a clash of cultures. Our lives will become a non-stop anachronism fest.

“Damn, these Uggs really come in handy on soap-making days! Who knew? They really protect your feet from getting scalded by lye.”

“I know what you mean. I never thought these Lucky Brand jeans really were lucky, but Lordy, how they’ve a-held up through the whole haymaking season!”

I don’t think any of us will have time for frivolous scrapbooking parties, or anything else that doesn’t contribute to the household economy. What if we all have to go back to quilting bees and butter-churning gatherings? What will the conversation sound like?

Churn, churn,

“So, my husband is selling our Hummer on Craigslist.”

Churn, churn.

“Really? That’s great! I wish I could get mine to stop watching Law and Order reruns on TiVo, and help me put up those beets for the winter instead.”

Churn, churn.

“Good news, girls! I was able to work out a deal with the country club. They are discounting our membership if I agree to bring our cows to the course to help trim the grass.”

Churn, churn.

“Dammit, Laura, my butter is still a watery mess. How do you get your butter so creamy?”

“Ancient Chinese secret.”

“Show-off.”

Churn, churn.

“Maggie, I hate to say this, but why on earth are your husband’s shirts so damn dingy? Now that the dry cleaners went out of business you had better figure out how to get them cleaner. I saw him the other day thatching your roof, and his shirt was practically gray. Folks are starting to talk.”

Churn, churn.

“I know. It’s so embarrassing. I’ll just have to get down to the river earlier on washday. Melissa grabs my favorite laundry-beating rock before I get there and hogs it the whole damn day.”

Churn, churn.

“Oh, that sneaky Melissa. She’s so perfect. Her butter’s better than mine, and her medicinal herb garden makes mine look like shit.”

I wonder if everyone will start watching The Waltons again, in order to be inspired by all that good-old-days-of-the-Great-Depression fun. We’ll dress our freckle-faced kids in gingham dresses or overalls and send ‘em down to the crick to catch some catfish for supper. JimmyBobJohnBoy, Smucker’s, and Orville Redenbacher will replace Austin and Emily as the most popular baby names.

Actually, I think the nouveau-poor will take frugality and turn it into a sport, just as they once did with consumerism. I can see the mommies who were once so competitive about their fancy strollers competing against one another over who can be more genteelly poor. Whose homemade concoction of bacon grease and cheese curds makes the best anti-aging moisturizer? Who has the best recipe for savory roadkill stew? Who makes the best hoarhound candy, even though no one really knows what hoarhound is?

Eventually, poverty will become the new affectation, the new Holy Grail. Cheaper Than Thou moms will brag about bringing their newborns home and putting them down to sleep in dresser drawers. They’ll brag about covering their gray hair with Sharpie markers like they used to casually mention the $300.00 colorists.

Some lucky folks who remain unaffected by the recession will have to cut back anyway, or at least cut back on stuff that shows, so they won’t be shunned by us Cheapies. They’ll still spend a fortune on home renovations, but only on stuff in the backyard so no one sees it. Some will still dare to buy imported olives at Whole Foods, but they will carry them home in Wal-Mart plastic bags so no one suspects a thing.

I don’t know about any of this, or where the recession will lead us. All I do know is that if you make powdered milk the night before and allow it time to get really cold, it will taste better in the morning on that No-Brand cereal. And I had better build me a chicken coop in the backyard before winter sets in.

I’ll do almost anything in the name of frugality. Just don’t make me field dress a moose.