September 13, 2010

About This Blog

In March 2001, something happened to our family. As abruptly as the slamming of a door, my husband’s work stopped coming in.

For 25 years before that, my husband had been a designer of plastic molds and the sole financial support of our family. Since 1995, he had been a self-employed designer. From the first day he started out on his own, he had more business than he could handle. In fact, there was never a single day that he didn’t have work to do for someone……until that March day when he finished a mold and realized he had no other jobs waiting for him.

By then, America was in a recession that had been building for some time. But as the spring and then the summer passed by, the phone remained quiet. When he checked with them, my husband’s clients expressed concern at how little, if any, work they were being hired to do. We began to realize that something was different from the previous recessions we’d been through. As one of the many families whose living came from the manufacturing segment of our economy, we were accustomed to slowdowns; we were well-equipped to deal with less work. But to have no work? It had never happened before.

Finally in September 2001, the work started to trickle in, though much more slowly than before. But then came the national tragedy now infamously known as 9/11, and the entire American economy shuddered for months afterward. We felt it as much as anyone else.

As the mother and homemaker in our family of six, my immediate job was to stretch the dollars as well as I could, which I did. But as a freelance writer and former reporter, my reaction to difficulties has always been research. (Somebody’s sick? I’ll find out everything I can about the disease.) When our youngest son was born with Down syndrome, it took only a few months before I had amassed my own mini-library of Down syndrome books. This is how I cope with uncertainty: I research the heck out of it.

So I began to search for answers to the questions that were spinning around in my head:

What’s causing this loss of work?

Is it true our manufacturing base is evaporating?

Why is so much work going to other countries when people here are unemployed?

How does China manage to wipe out so many of our factories?

Is it time for my husband to bail out of plastics and find a new line of work?

My research confirmed my suspicion that we’re in the midst of an enormous shift in this country. Those of us who grew up expecting the long-term jobs and resulting financial rewards (not to mention company-paid health insurance and pensions for our old age) that our parents had are in for a nasty surprise. Those kind of jobs are evaporating quickly, and in many cases are being replaced by temporary jobs and outsourcing. The more I read, the more I realized the old way of doing things was not coming back any time soon.

This brought a new concern to the forefront. As difficult as it was for my husband and me to determine what to do next, it was even harder to think about how it would affect our children. How could we prepare them for this new and rapidly changing economy, where entire industries disappear? What kind of skills and abilities would be needed to work in an economy that’s dramatically different from the one to which we’d been accustomed?

Once we figure out the answers to those questions, how do we teach those things to our children? And is it possible that we can prepare them so that they won’t just survive, but thrive? Everything I’ve learned since I started asking those questions suggests that it is most definitely possible.

What I’ve learned over the past nine years led me to the conclusions I’ll share in this blog and in my upcoming book, Thriving in the 21st Century. As parents, we’re completely responsible for our children. It’s our job to prepare them to become hard-working, independent adults. Even though many of the assumptions and rules we grew up with have changed, our responsibility to guide our children has not. So to every parent who’s concerned about preparing their child for the new economy we find ourselves in, this blog and my upcoming book are for you.

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