maternity store chats, the economy, and voting

Last week, in search of pants that would accommodate the biggest belly ever to house a petite powerhouse, I ended up in discussions about the economy, neglect of veterans and their families, and the struggle to find good skilled workers.

The new boutique in our increasingly upscale mall is a bit of a surprise – independently owned, unique merchandice, totally upscale. Lots of moms from the Eastside are going to beat a path to their door with the glamorous choices they offer. There’s no discount rack here, so I would look at the pretty items and figure by the time they have such a rack, Little One will be out, kicking ass and taking names.

The owner was at the desk of the little gem, helping me with bras that clearly were not up to the task in spite of their sizing and beauty. We talked a little about the new shop – I had seen her original place and thought it was great – and she started describing the challenges of finding staff.

The pattern of mall employees is often migrant – traveling from shop to shop, not much in the way of wages, often young, often somewhat unpredictable. She knew that she would need to work closely with any new staff and not just train them. The whole issue of getting them invested in working in the store, in a similar way to herself. She was already looking for ways to make it easier for women who already had small children to be able to work and have the baby around. Or to find other flexible ways to accommodate good workers, but it was tough. She was building the business entirely with her own money – a big gamble especially in this economy – and she needed to make sure it would work.

I also went to the chain maternity store. Their merchandise runs from Target pricing to midrange. All kinds of women come here to shop, and there are always markdown rounders for both the bargain and more professional-level clothing. (I know those rounders intimately.)

The women working there are wonderful. Almost always young, many young mothers themselves. From the ones I have met and talked to, it’s often not their only job.

The young woman I met today – let’s call her Mrs 4, for her 4 children (including a niece she adopted) – is like many women with young families. She and her husband struggle to make ends meet – to get their children the things they need, to do well in school, to do well for themselves. Both she and her husband are from military families – her husband enlisted at 17, and did two tours of duty in Iraq.

Tour 2 was devastating. He lost 5 men in his unit, and it took a tremendous toll on him. When he ended his tour, he was in desperate need of psychiatric care. So, after he was placed in a psychiatric inpatient facility, the family received a letter telling them that since he would require more than 6 months of inpatient treatment, they would no longer qualify for military housing. They would need to find a new place to live, stat, but the army would pay to move their things to wherever they managed to find housing. Is this supporting the troops?

Walking away from the register, she kept saying “Go vote! You’ve got to vote! Do you know who you’ll choose?” When I told her there was no question, she smiled and whispered, “Vote Obama! Vote Obama!”

These aren’t people who have time to watch conventions or get bloggy. They are (over)working mothers, trying to make ends meet. They want to see a change in the economy and in the world their children inhabit. It was Mrs. 4 who said “I don’t care what anyone says. We’re in a recession – I see it here in the store.”

With all the media coverage, it’s easy to lose track of what is really at stake in the election. The antidote to tabloid politicking is talking to a real person about what’s going on in their lives, and figuring out what needs to be done, or at least, which direction to take.

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Filed under Motherhood, Politics

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