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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Math Geek Mom: Non-satiation
March 25, 2010 - 7:50pm

A central tenet of economics is the assumption of non-satiation. This concept says that people will always want more of a good, that there is no such thing as “enough” fancy cars or chocolate cake. Of course, there can be more than enough of a bad thing, such as garbage. This assumption might be summarized by the phrase “more (or a good thing) is better.” Anyone who has been a parent to a young child knows this almost reflexive reaction to something they want. I recall times when my then two year old daughter was delighted with something and simply proclaimed “more.”

I thought of this recently when I woman I know turned seventy, adding to the number of candles on her (imaginary) birthday cake. While some might complain about the number of years in their age, she is taking the opportunity to celebrate. It is a lesson that we can all learn from in our youth-obsessed culture.

Thirteen years ago, this woman was diagnosed with a particularly deadly form of cancer. The doctors had nothing good to say about her outlook. Indeed, they told her to ignore everything she read about the type of cancer. This was a good thing, as the books she consulted in those days before most people got health information from the internet talked about people living for about two years after being diagnosed. Determined to live to see a grandchild, she signed on for a clinical trial that brought her to death’s door, only to bring her back to the world of the living as a healthier person. After several difficult months, she soon returned to a normal life that included not only going back to work but also caring for her elderly mother and, in due time, becoming the beloved grandmother of two little granddaughters.

She is still working at her job and still taking care of her even more elderly mother, all while babysitting for her granddaughters as often as she can and often sneaking off to do some yard work whenever possible. While many may fret at the thought of being seventy, she knows that each year is a gift. As the American Cancer Society says in its ads, without, I assume, knowing of the non-satiation assumption in economics, “there is no such thing as too many candles.” After all, they claim to be the official sponsor of birthdays.


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