Sometimes I wonder if traveling and attending an expensive college were big factors in me ending up childless. I was exposed to beauty and freedom and leisure but, not being independently wealthy, I could only keep a modicum of those qualities in my life by either finding a wealthy husband or remaining childless. This did not escape me during the decades of my prime fertility.
Two comments on this review of Badinter’s book (http://www.salon.com/2012/04/29/freedom_from_cloth_diapers/singleton) reminded me of this again.
Not all women or men can afford to leave work. The household needs to two paychecks and the healthcare that might be included. Since our society provides little in the way of putting our money where our mouths are on this particular front, we’re stuck. Whichever way we go, we’re screwed. We are criticized for not living the way only a select few can really afford to live, and wait for it, if we point this out, we’re told, “Well, if you can’t afford it, don’t have a baby.” Which isn’t even an accurate statement. Most people can ‘afford’ it, as much as anyone else, but they need two paychecks. They need, more importantly, healthcare choices in a society where healthcare is crappy and expensive. Duh.
Whenever I read these articles, I hope for something different. But, always, it’s 1) lip service to ‘Do what you want’ 2) But I sacrificed!!! And we’re just a-okay! Implicitly implying something entirely different 3) No need to work, which is not a reality for most people.
How about we read one on a family where going back to work isn’t a choice, because the family wants to retain their health care? How about one where the author says, “I wanted to continue to breastfeed, but honestly, the situation in our society is still bleak, and I had to go back to work.” Or, “I liked going back to work! It gave me time to refresh and rejuvenate my mind and spirit. Here’s how to pick a good daycare!”
These same points of view are being rehashed over and over. Salon’s readership can’t all be privileged upper middle. There aren’t that many of those people left!
In addition, we live in a country where the majority of mothers work–and the majority of them work not out of some feminist ideal of having both a career and family, but out of mere survival. However, we act on a policy level as well as a cultural one as if this isn’t the case–as if mothers are stating at home in droves baking cookies, being there 24/7 for their kids in summer, and generally not having anything else to occupy their time except childcare–and that they’re really really happy with that!
It’s maddening to see mothers pitted against other mothers, when the economic playing field is so wildly shifted against ALL mothers. If we really cared about kids, as our national rhetoric constantly goes, why not have universal childcare, universal summer camps, and universal health insurance so every working mom can have more time actually *being* with her kids and not being completely frazzled trying to do this with the inadequate patchwork of help that is often the only thing available to moms of any stripe? Instead, we have these inane wars over whether to breastfeed or not, whether to cloth diaper or not, and the folks in power just keep laughing.