Feeling My Age

I AM 49 YEARS OLD.

Seeing that sentence on this screen causes me cognitive dissonance. Just how and when did this happen? I still feel, like, 28. OK, fine, 29.  People who are 50 used to seem… old. Yet time has marched steadily forward, and I have begun my 50th year and will complete it, God willing, next July.

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So many candles. Image from here.

What happened to my 40s?! I remember turning 40 and feeling like, finally, I’m a Legitimate Adult. I fretted about 39 and fretted still more as 40 approached, but that milestone birthday came and went and then I continued blissfully into those mid-decade years where you can forget how old you are and have to do the math to figure it out. (Just me?) I guess I just put my head down and charged forward, responding to the demands of busy family life, and all of a sudden, I’m about to bid my 40s farewell.

Now that my oldest boys are pursuing post-secondary education and the “baby” is in middle school, it’s time to do some planning. Life has kind of been happening to me while I wasn’t paying attention, and there are many pressing grown-uppy things I need to address: Fun things, such as retirement planning (as if I’ll actually be able to “retire”), where to live, where to travel (that’s a long list)… in short, what will the second half of my life look like? It’s overwhelming to think of it all, but these items and more are on my list and I’m slowly checking off the boxes.

Aging is not all bad. People tend to take you more seriously when you reveal your are of a certain age. I have completely earned the right to say things such as:

”I’ve been a mom for 20 years, and…” (and then I think, two decades?? Wait, did my babies grow up, too?).

“When I started work, we didn’t even *have* webmail” (to the employee about to go out on maternity leave, fully expecting she’d check her email daily).

“When my kids were in daycare, they didn’t have apps to send us photos and videos during the workday” (to the mom who just returned to work after her maternity leave).

“My period is such an insult. Why must women have it until their 50s? Nobody our age is having babies!” (To any woman who will listen. And to some men, too.)

Oh, I love babies, but you could not pay me enough to be pregnant again. I’m so happy those days are behind me. I feel damn lucky to have gone 3-for-3, but so certain was I that the last one, at age 37, was going to be The Last One, that at my first prenatal visit I asked the doctor to schedule my C-section and I told him to add a tubal ligation while he was in there conducting business.

But other people’s babies? Oh, how I love tiny humans. I am going to make an excellent grandmother. Someday. Not anytime soon, I hope.  But I seem to have become that doting older woman who will grab your baby out of your hands so fast it’ll make your head spin.

Recently, I was hanging out on an apartment rooftop near the communal gas grill when a young dad approached, balancing all his cooking tools, meat, and marinade on the top of his baby’s stroller. He was trying really hard to do it all, but the baby was starting to fuss. So, I went over and was like, hey, do you need some help? Let me help you. Want me to hold your baby? He hesitated, so I said, my name is Meg, and now that we know each other PLEASE GIVE ME YOUR BABY. And he did! He finished his grilling, I got to inhale the wonderful scent of warm-baby-head, and everyone was happy.

My skin is drooping and my weight is shifting and some days I feel, well, creaky. But I appreciate the wisdom that comes with each passing year and know I’m fortunate to have my health and my sanity. I’m excited for all that life holds in store for me and am grateful for each day I’m given.

Questionable Math

MOM, CAN YOU HELP ME WITH MY HOMEWORK? Eli has been pretty self-sufficient since starting middle school a few weeks ago, but he needed a little assist with his math last night. He started reading aloud:

"Ryan earns a paycheck of $52 per day at Bob's Burger World. Complete the table to show how much he earns depending on how many hours he works." When you do the math, it comes out to $6.50 per hour. 

Then my HR head exploded because of everything that's wrong with this scenario.

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First of all: $6.50 is below the federal minimum wage (not to mention many localities, which mandate a minimum wage higher than the federal rate). Granted, if Ryan is below a certain age, he may be paid something less than minimum for a brief initial period on the job, but otherwise, NO. It doesn't say if he's waiting tables and earning tips, so we have to assume he's in the back doing food prep or dishes or something. 

But the worksheet says Curriculum 2.0, which ought to mean this question is not one from 20 years ago, when $6.50 would have been a damn fine wage for our boy to be flipping burgers.

Second of all, his paycheck isn't $52. He does not bring home $52. Even if he earns less than would require him to pay federal and state taxes this year, he still owes social security and medicare.  On $52, his share is $3.98, so his best-case, net actual paycheck is actually $48.02. 

Unless Bob is paying him cash under the table. (Bad, bad Bob.)

Third of all, this table goes from 1-8 hours then jumps to 12. TWELVE HOURS? How old is Ryan? Do child labor laws apply here? If so, is this during the school year, or a summer job? Does he need a work permit? Furthermore, is this 12-hour day on top of 32 hours already worked in the week? If so, Ryan needs to be paid time-and-a-half for the last 4 hours on that 12 hour day. 

I'm also wondering if Bob charges Ryan for meals, or the logo tee-shirt he's required to wear. I start to get annoyed with Bob. I wonder if Bob could use an HR consultant to help him stay in compliance with employment laws. After all, it's complicated running a business.

This is where my HR mind goes, and even more so since I sat through three days of payroll training last week. But I forced myself to set all of those questions aside, since that really wasn't in the spirit of the homework problem.

Until the next question:

"If Ryan needs to earn $390 to buy an iPad, how many hours would he need to work?"

Well, you know they want you to divide his sub-minimum hourly rate into the total of $390. But that's not really the case, is it? First of all, if Ryan buys the iPad in Maryland, he's going to pay 6% sales tax, so he actually pays $413.40. More, if he agrees to purchase the extended warranty they'll try to sell him. You know he's also going to want a cover for it, and maybe a screen saver. And, he doesn't NET $6.50 in his paycheck. Let's say his hourly rate after required taxes is actually $6.00. So instead of 60 hours, it's actually going to to take closer to 70 hours. Unless Bob has him working 12 hour days, and is paying him time-and-a-half for hours in excess of 40 per week. Or he's earning tips. Or….

MOM! STOP! Eli was becoming exasperated. So we went to the next question, wherein Ryan got a raise of $2.50 per hour, and now how much does he earn in an 8-hour workday? 

Well, at least now Bob is complying with minimum wage law! He'll gross $72, but net only $66.49. Because taxes.

I'm starting to feel bad for Ryan. I bet Bob never even had him fill out tax withholding forms, or checked his work authorization. I wish Ryan would look for another job, with a reputable employer, who pays above minimum wage and appreciates Ryan for his work ethic and attention to detail. After all, he's been slaving away in that hot kitchen for months, and yes, he got a raise, but that's probably only because someone called out Bob on that minimum wage thing and he wanted to avoid a wage and hour audit.

Eli rolls his eyes at me and finishes his homework. He doesn't understand all these questions I've been asking, and thank goodness for that. He's still in middle school. He has a few years before these problems jump off the worksheet and into his actual life.