Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The US Government Hates My Family (and isn't too fond of yours, either)

(WARNING -- Pregnancy/baby will be mentioned. Not to mention politics and I'M CRANKY. Be warned).

Like millions of other expectant couples, H and I are trying to figure out WHAT we are going to do with Spunketta, once he arrives.

The problem is, *I* am the main breadwinner, the one with benefits and a steady income. So that knocks ME out of the equation. I must work, or the family will starve. (Okay. Maybe not STARVE, but I think it's good for children to have health insurance. Don't you?)

So H comes up with an alternative: his job is mainly freelance, he can work from home and take care of Spunketta. And Mama too, for that matter.

We get excited. There are all these THINGS that we want to do for Mama that we have never had a chance to. We want to hook her up with a neurologist, and see what the brain doc can do for her. We want to send her to a psychiatrist, to monitor her condition. We want to get her in "aquatic therapy," which we don't know if exists. (Mainly, Mama LOVES to be in a pool. And we've always wanted to figure out a way to get her down to the local Y on a regular basis). And that doesn't even count field trips! The Modern Museum of Art has one day a month set aside for dementia sufferers and their caregivers; the museum is closed to all others. Oh, the places we could go!

And as for Spunketta, we figure he can be right there, handing with Dad and Nona, enjoying it all. Bobbing along in the water, giggling at the paintings, napping at the doctors. It;s going to be perfect, the best life imaginable.

And then.

And then we find out that the United States government hates my family (and isn't too fond of yours, either). Heck, I'll even go one further: the United States government is trying to destroy families.

Let me explain...

I have money set aside at work to pay for childcare (or Mama care, for that matter). DCA, or Dependent Care Account. I let them know my plans, or FAR TOO LATE to change my election, I get a troubling e-mail. "We're not sure you can hire your husband to watch your child," it reads, "contact the IRS.")

So I do. And they say, no. "You cannot hire either the parent of the child or your spouse for childcare and get a tax deduction."

"But if he takes a pay cut to take care of the family..." I restate.

"That's admirable!" says the IRS fella. Admirable, schmadirable. What about the financial toll on the family?

"It's what families are supposed to do," tax guy preaches, "so we're not going to pay you for it."

"So I can hire anyone else to care for my child, and use my DCA funds and/or get a tax credit?"


"I can hire an illegal immigrant who sympathises with Al Qaeda and has pedophile tendencies to care for my child... but not my husband?"

"Well, yes, but you can't get a tax credit for hiring an illegal immigrant," the witty IRS fella ripostes.


So H and I get disappointed. But he refuses to give up hope. After all, Mama gets a Home Care Attendant, and we can still hire him for that, right? (The V.isiting N.urse S.ervice, who lied to me about so much, who botched and bungled almost every aspect of Mama's care, assured me that it could happen).


"If you could get paid for taking care of your ill family members," explains my Geriatric Care Manager, "well, everyone would do it then, wouldn't they?"

Can you imagine? A country where you can not be penalized for taking care of your family? Where you can be rewarded for it? Can you see it?

*I* can't. I live in the United States of America. And they hate families here.

(I actually has a co-worker suggest that H and I get divorced, and then I try to apply for aid. Apparently, it's what she and the father of her children have done. They've been together for 5 years, but if they get married (as they want to), she loses all sorts of assistance with her rent and food. And they can't afford to live without it. So they lie to the government, because the government doesn't support family-building. Only family-fracturing).

So I will continue to work full-time. And H will continue work as much as he can (he's working two jobs for the entire month of March). And we will continue to hire strangers to care for Mama, and eventually for our child. Because even though there's a dozen or so reports that say that it's best to be cared for by your family (both elder and child), and even though every third politician will preach about the importance of family, well, the US government doesn't agree.


Cathy said...

You know, there IS a way to get paid for taking care of family, I'm just not actually sure which department you have to go through to get it. My aunt is somehow getting paid for being caretaker for her adult daughter .. I really don't know the details, but you should keep looking into it more! It does sound ideal for you family.

Bea said...

I loved this little gem: "If you could get paid for taking care of your ill family members," explains my Geriatric Care Manager, "well, everyone would do it then, wouldn't they?"

I tried to snort my breakfast out of my nose (luckily my eggs were fried solid) and afterwards started to laugh. With a deep, hollow, humourless laugh.

Seriously guys.

The government where I come from allows carers a "carer's pension" (according to circumstances) and family members who need care are considered "dependents" allowing tax benefits. Because, um, we want to encourage people to care for their family themselves. Instead of paying illegal paedophiles to do so. In fact, ideally we want *everyone* to do it that way.

Every time I learn something new about the US social welfare system I cry a little for the state of the world.


Katie said...

Huh. This baffles me. I have to say, there are times when I really don't have to wonder WHY our society is having problems.


I hope you find a way to stay married AND get things paid for.

Rachel said...

There is such thing as aquatic therapy, the rehab hospital in my city offers it.

Don't know what to tell you about your husband.

Manda said...

I live in WV, so I know how the rules here work, but I can't be of much assistance there. However, I will suggest that you try out www.enannysource.com and www.4nannies.com. Nannies exist who will care for your elders and your children. I found tons of them when I was nannying in Houston. The joking title used at some nanny-finding websites is "Nanny for your Granny." So it's out there. It's just a matter of finding one that will care for both Spunketta and Mama and that you can afford. BUT! Finding that nanny may very well be cheaper for you than finding a daycare for Spunketta and paying for Mama's care as well. One stop shop if you will. Good luck!

Beagle said...

I'll bet if you divorced him but continued to live together they'd allow it.

Not that's f'ed up!

Beagle said...

OK, never mind, you covered that in your post. I wasn't suggesting that you DO that, just that it's mighty sad that the tax laws are so anti family anti marriage.

Samantha said...

Gotta love the government! I'm sorry nothing's been easy for you.

Familyof2 said...

It boggles the mind doesn't it. You would think that during an election year that all sorts of "red tape" could be cut...but I guess its not that important Big Brother.

Good luck with this quandry! I do not envy your position!