Peacock tail feathers up close.
Peacock tail feathers up close.


It’s hard to explain how the recent government shutdown impacted our family. It happened suddenly. In the few days leading up to it, it looked like a deal had been made, and by the King of the Deal himself.

Christmas is a time when we spend money. I love it. A more disciplined person, or wealthy person, might save up for Christmas, but we do the opposite. We buy with credit cards and then pay it back over the next few months. We’d planned to take the kids skiing for their present this year, and so we went. Shutdown or not. We all had cabin fever.

Our oldest was visiting home after her first semester of college, and we were anxious to see her, and not be bogged down with worry.

As the shutdown dragged on and the tone deaf statements coming from the wealthy cabinet members of the current administration dripped out, I started to feel angry. Angry because the timing was bad for our family with multiple tuition bills due, and angry because we were being subjected to repeated attacks by the government that we have chosen to serve. The articles I read about “entitled government workers” and how they make so much more money than the average other worker do not tell the whole story. The federal government workforce is represented by highly skilled engineers, atmospheric scientists, lawyers, and economists. My husband is one of only two lawyer/pilots in the Coast Guard and we had the student loans to prove it! If you compare those jobs to the private sector, the federal workers are paid less. This is a fact.

Anyone running a business knows the value of keeping your employees, especially those that are highly skilled. Federal government employees have been repeatedly demoralized and used as pawns. I have witnessed this over the last twenty years. It is a fun game to cancel out the raises of the federal workforce. It happens almost every year.

This does not even address the Coast Guard. I remember when I was a young Coast Guard officer’s wife. I remember going to the grocery store with my toddler in tow, not sure how I was going to pay for it. I got to the checkout that day, and was told I had won my groceries for free. I was astonished and went home with the organic milk I could not afford plus $100 in free groceries. That summer, I won my groceries at Harris Teeter twice. I still shop there in gratitude.

Every month the mortgage ate up the whole first paycheck. The paycheck that came in the middle of the month was for everything else. I generally tried to avoid the commissary on pay day because the line stretched passed the milk. It was so crowded. That second paycheck paid utilities, food, gas and diapers. My mom paid our student loans. We could not afford to miss even one paycheck.

This time was different for us because I was working. The backpay we will get will help. But the contractors will not get backpay. The restaurants and lost business revenue will not be paid. The mental anguish and hardship will not be erased. And we will dig out again, probably just in time for Christmas.

©Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise

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