Friday, April 20, 2012

What we'd have to do to have stay at home parents

Normally, I kind of loathe EJ Dionne-- he's one of those milquetoast liberals that is just damned afraid of leaning too far to the left. He's not a passionate fighter and that's what we need right now.

However, that doesn't mean that he never has a point.
There is a profound class bias in our discussion of what mothers should or should not do. The public debate seems premised on the idea that all two-parent families have a choice as to whether one or both work. That’s still true for the better-off. But this choice is denied to most American families. They have had to send two people into the workforce whether they wanted to or not.
Money Struggles, Not Mommy Wars

I'll admit, this hits a little close to home for me. Mr Darkheart and I do not live an extravagant lifestyle-- we aren't wracked with credit card debt, we're not paying off school loans, we only own one car, and hell, we don't even own a house-- and yet, when the discussion comes up of what we're going to do when I give birth in October, we can't come to any conclusion but one: I'm going to have to go back to work as soon as possible.

Anyway, enough about my woes. The solution to the "mommy wars" problem is pretty simple:
So here’s the deal: If you want more households in which one parent can stay home with the kids, you need to boost the incomes of average American families—and especially of poorer families. For millions of American moms and dads, debates about “feminism” or “social conservatism” are irrelevant. It’s about money. 
We're going to ignore the fact that Romney and his ilk don't want a stay-at-home caregiver, they want a stay-at-home mom. They think we should go back to the (imagined) halcyon days of the 50s when dad brought home the bacon and mom had a cocktail and a roast waiting when he got home from work* and that's how gender roles work, dammit.

As much as it really, really pains me to say this, if we want to return to a society where one parent can stay at home with the kids, there's a crapload of work to do. Bad, awful, socialist-y work.
  1. We need strong maternity and paternity leave guarantees. Hell, if we're really going to do this the right way, the first year of maternity/paternity leave should be paid for, ensuring that little bebe has a good start to life, but the family doesn't have to suffer for it.
  2. Living wage, living wage, living wage. How can you expect one parent to stay at home if a full time job won't even lift a family above the poverty line?
But let's say both parents want to work or you're a single parent. Well, never fear! I've got even more plans!
  1. Subsidized day care/pre-school/Head Start. I know, I'm total pinko Communist scum (and probably French, to boot) for suggesting that the great private day care industry should just become another arm of the nanny state. Or paid for by the nanny state. Or whatever. But it would take a huge burden off of families and we could make it easier to regulate the centers at the same time. Total win-win.
  2. If you've split from your partner and you're not the primary caregiver of your children, hey guess what! In Audley's perfect America, your ass will be paying child support. We need to make it easier for single parents to collect money from the, um, deadbeats.
It's quite a pipe dream, isn't it?  It's really too bad that in our current political climate corporate profits and low taxes automatically rule out any rational discussion of making life better for all families in the US. Because we don't fucking matter to the "family values" crowd-- they want an unobtainable version of the nuclear family to become the norm, without doing any work or making any sacrifices to achieve their goal. They want to punish women, and by extension families, for not fitting their bizarre, twisted, impossible expectations.

*Never mind that in my family, my grandmothers both worked. As did my husband's. But, we're talking about the working class, so they probably don't count.

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