A few weeks ago, I wrote a post for The Forward titled “Occupy (Working) Motherhood, Anyone?“, which generated a, shall we say, interesting comment. The post began like this:
Susan B. Anthony was born 192 years ago today; we share a birthday. I am 43. The late great suffragist once said: “Our job is not to make young women grateful. It’s to make them ungrateful so they keep going.” Much of my Jewish practice these days is about gratitude. But in light of our shared birthday this week, I’ve decided to dwell on some serious ingratitude.
I grew up in the 1970s listening to “Free to Be You and Me,” and singing joyfully that “Mommies Are People.” Who would have guessed, now that I’m one of those people, that the dilemmas my own working mother struggled with would become mine? In middle school, when I’d call home sick my mom would try to talk me into returning to class, so that she wouldn’t have to leave work or find a sitter. I’m pretty sure that’s what I’d do, too….
The post ends with the following birthday wishes:
1). Affordable quality childcare, paired with a change in the cultural expectation that women’s careers are expendable. That ingratitude is owed to President Nixon, who vetoed the Comprehensive Child Development Bill. That piece of legislation would have provided a multibillion-dollar national daycare system that would have circumvented much of our struggle.
2). Workplace structures and a society transformed to allow for the fact that workers have families, too. Though we’ve made progress, we’ve still got a ways to go. Ingratitude to employers who put paternity on the books but support a culture that makes The Daddy Track anathema to all but the bravest men. And why does it have to be a track, after all? Haven’t we learned that the women who opt out eventually, in various ways, opt back in?
3). A future so bright on the work/life satisfaction front that neither my daughter nor my son will have to write this kind of post.
The comment in question was in response to the wish for more affordable (meaning, yes, subsidized) childcare. It went like this:
“By ‘affordable,’ I assume you mean ‘subsidized by others outside my family.’ Thanks, I’m spending enough on my own kids (and my wife chooses not to work outside the home) without having to subsidize your parenting choices.” -morganfrost
Now, there’s nothing I appreciate more than when, just as I’m considering a response, the perfect retort pops up in my Inbox. In this case, a number of folks emailed me comments directly, though they experienced technical trouble posting them on The Forward’s site. Here’s what some of them said:
“‘Affordable’ means ‘subsidized by all of us.’ We need to have a society where people can have children AND careers without having to face too many impossible choices. My career isn’t optional–it’s what pays the bills in my family. The same is true for my husband’s career. So we must have childcare, and we’d prefer that it be quality childcare, because our child–like EVERY child–deserves to be well cared for. This should be a value that our entire country embraces and will help to support.” -Alison Piepmeier
“Susan B. Anthony did her job well. I’m glad you make the point that childcare should be subtracted from parental income, not maternal income, one of my pet peeves. what matters most in a relationship, I think, is not necessarily that domestic/parental tasks be divided evenly but that each partner respect the other’s contributions, whatever form they take. That’s harder in a society that, for all its talk of ‘family values,’ makes childcare the responsibility of individual familes.@morganfrost, relax. We’d like fewer predator drones and bank bailouts, not a crack at your piggybank. And keep in mind that your wife has a choice that many do not.” -Ashton Applewhite
And hey, morganfrost’s comment also inspired a wonderful post by Cali Yost over at Forbes, titled “Think You Don’t Benefit Directly from Childcare? ‘WIIFMs’ That Will Change Your Mind”.
So thank you, morganfrost. You inspired some great stuff.
And thanks Alison, Ashton, and Cali. I get by with a little help from my friends.