Homework

at 11:43 PM

The kids were at school. I was reorganizing a messy drawer full of papers when I came across an old Social Security statement. I’ve been a stay at home father for almost 10 years, and these statements have always been a stark reminder of the income I am bringing in for my family.

2006: $0

2007: $0

2008: $0

You get the idea. But wait, there's more. At age 62, your Social Security payment would be about $340 a month.

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What would that buy me in, uh, 2036? Maybe a 12-pack of Ensure and a cheap pair of flip flops?

And here was the big one, a merciless blow: “Your spouse or minor child may be eligible for a special one-time death benefit of $255.”

Basically, what Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue was informing me was that my death would provide my family with about five tanks of unleaded plus, maybe 50 Littlest Pet Shop toys for my daughter, or a cheap bicycle for my son, Huffy, Mongoose at best.

If I had a real job this wouldn’t be an issue.

My wife is a doctor and works for a large pharmaceutical company. She brings home a nice paycheck. She receives bonuses and awards. She and her colleagues attend important meetings in exotic places. Sometimes I get jealous. I admit it. Mostly I travel around town with a trunk cluttered with sports equipment.

I coach and referee my kids’ baseball and soccer teams. I volunteer at their school and chaperone on the field trips. I do a lot a home too. But, unfortunately these aren’t things that show up on a Social Security statement.

I like my current occupation. I cherish the time I spend with my kids. I’m not sure why I sometimes feel that I’m not doing enough. I don’t think it is just a guy thing. I’ve heard moms express similar frustrations.

I folded up my old statement and decided to save as a bookmark.

Later that night, while reading together, my son leaned in very close. 

“Wow!” he said. “You’ve got lots of hairs up inside of your nose! Do you get those when you get old?”

“Yes,” I told him, “but I’m not that old yet.”

I still had time.

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With a Perspective, this is Jonathan Slusher.

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