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Thursday, December 22, 2005

How did we get here?

In this hectic world, it so often seems that we value what is not important (big car, fancy house) and devalue the most important things (time with our family and friends). And as we spend Christmas with our families in snow-covered Buffalo, this time underscores what is most important to me. Even though I often struggle with floundering, non-existent career, I’m so grateful that I get to raise my son.

That seems like such a strange thing to say. It makes it seem like it's a privilege instead of a right as a parent. But more often that not, parents do not get to raise their kids. In 2004, 70 percent of women with children under 18 years of age were in the work force, compared to 27 percent in 1955. And of those currently working, "only 16 percent say they would choose to work full time if they felt they had the choice," according to the January 2006, Sojourners Magazine cover story called, "Taking Back Our Kids: Child rearing, never an easy endeavor, has become in many ways a countercultural activity." (free registration required)

How did we get here? How did something so valuable as raising our families end up in the backseat? Or how did we get to a place where parents don't feel they have a choice in the matter?

Much of it comes down to our government not caring enough about its future. It has done little to preserve manufacturing jobs in this country. It has done little to curb the "womb to tomb" adverting overload, which overwhelms influential kids with advertising, increasing the wants that families have. And it would rather spend money on war than on benefits that would revamp the way the American families live, such as a separation of job and health care and longer, better-funded maternity leaves. At the same time, real wages have declined by 10 percent from 1973 to 1993, according to the magazine, leaving families with less money.

So what does this have to do with moms working? Families are making less, there are fewer jobs, and advertising has increased people's expectations about what they should have. And many families find that the only way to do this is to have two incomes.

The more I think about the policies of our government--especially the Republican party who claims to be so "pro family"--I'm disgusted and disappointed that the priorities actually sacrifice families and instead focus on short-term gains, personal vendettas, and profits for the wealthy and corporate America.

5 comments:

  1. To answer your BIG question--I have no idea how we got here. Not a clue.

    Commercialism, Left vs. Right debates (like the black vs white with no gray areas)? All of it is down right depressing. I was raised to believe that we could all sit down and DO THE RIGHT THING--but unfortunately, the world has become very polarized.

    And for the effects of media and commercialism? Well... another topic for another day, but lately, I notice its ill effects more and more (I think it is the mother in me)... not saying I don't get caught up in it (hello? I had to get an iBook to write novels)--but that does not mean that I don't find it depressing and am taking action to NOT let it get to me like it does.

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  2. Anonymous9:29 AM

    interesting, for all of the talk you give to the working v. staying home parents, you've still just very nicely stated that working parents don't raise their kids. real nice.

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  3. Anonymous9:33 AM

    i'm sorry, but it is not only about commercialism and government policies. women have fought hard to have the right to work on equal footing with men. perhaps there has been a move to where some are pushed to do so by economic reasons - but that's not everybody, and the alternative was that women who **wanted** to work, and not be home all day - could not.

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  4. I don't think this is really so much about working vs. non-working raising their children or not. It's about the fact that we all make choices. Choices in what we need, how we live and how it affects the lives of our children. I left a very lucrative job to start my own company. I probably work more now that I did before (for far less $$ at least for now) but I'm still there to pick up my kids after school and take them to ballet and soccer. Choices are what it's about and respecting the choices that all mothers make.

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  5. Okay, hyper-sensitive Anonymous commenter, nothing like taking my words out of context. What I was saying was that the need to work makes it difficult for people to choose to be home with their kids, if that's what they would prefer to do. That doesn't mean that people who work aren't good or loving parents. It's just often difficult in this society to have one income families. And I think the government could do more to alleviate some of this. Plus, I'm all for feminism... women can work if they want to. But the numbers I point to say that of the working moms, only a fraction say they'd continue working if money wasn't an issue.

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