FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Both Parties Ignore Working Parents

by KRISTIN VAN TASSEL

At the conclusion of the third presidential debate, Bob Schieffer mentioned that all three men on stage — Schieffer, George W. Bush and John Kerry — were married to strong women and were the fathers of daughters.

Of course, it was the men, not the strong women, who were asking and answering the questions about U.S. domestic policy. With a few exceptions, men continue to dominate business and politics.

At the heart of this reality is the deep cultural schism between domesticity and professional success. We need policies that make it easier for both men and women to reconcile their domestic and professional lives.

The absence of women with high influence has more to do with practicality than ideology. While fatherhood need not impede high professional advancement, motherhood often does. Evidence overwhelmingly suggests that women remain a minority in positions of power not because men are opposed to their leadership, but because tending children is incompatible with the intense demands of such jobs.

It is not coincidental that one of the most powerful women in America, Condoleezza Rice, is childless.

Despite the rising numbers of men involved in child rearing, far more women remain the primary caregivers of young children. The most recent census reports that among stay-at-home parents there are 5.2 million mothers versus 105,000 fathers.

The number of parents sharing the role is more difficult to tabulate, but the research of Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels, authors of “The Mommy Myth,” as well as Judith Stadtman Tucker, editor of The Mothers Movement Online, suggests that even in these joint arrangements women consistently assume greater child-care responsibilities.

As a result, many of the 81 percent of women who become mothers reduce their work time, or leave or put on hold their careers. This is true even for America’s most successful and well-paid female professionals, as revealed in a recent “60 Minutes.”

The consequences of such decisions can be significant and long lasting.

Two hundred years ago, when approximately 90 percent of Americans were farmers, domesticity was integral to the lives of men as well as women. Because home and work were the same, both parents were with their children throughout the day. Men and women were partners in child rearing. Moreover, the very nature of farming, which requires the care of animals and plants, further encouraged men to develop their skills as nurturers. Domesticity was valued, regardless of sex.

Shared domesticity has gone the way of the family farm. Men are now measured by different standards.

The devaluation of domesticity, a result of the industrial revolution, hurts us all. It reduces the number of smart, capable women moving into positions of social and economic influence, and it discourages men from more fully participating in their children’s upbringing.

A good way to begin rehabilitating domesticity is to legislate paid paternal leave. The United States is one of only two industrial countries that do not guarantee paid leave for at least one parent.

Increased job flexibility as well as pay parity and benefits for part-time work would make creative alternatives economically feasible for both parents. We also need substantial subsidies or tax breaks for businesses that provide day care on location for their employees, which would not only reduce stress for parents and children, but let working parents see their children during the day.

Finally, we must start respecting domestic work as an important national resource, with the kind of monetary value that could be figured into the gross domestic product and, more radically, count toward Social Security.

All of these policies would go a long way in renewing the prestige of child rearing and improving equal access to positions of power.

Unfortunately, such changes remain unlikely as long as the men and women firmly committed to domesticity are absent from the policy-setting arena. As a result, we will continue to have campaigns like our current one — where the issues most challenging to parents are not even being discussed.

KRISTIN VAN TASSEL is a mother and teaches English at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail