By Kim Brooks
8 May 2020
In our country, staying home to raise children is one of the most devastating financial decisions a woman can make. And without any sort of child care system in place, it’s often not a choice at all. All but the wealthiest mothers face what I’ve come to think of as the Cinderella paradox. Of course Cinderella can go the ball, just as soon as she’s finished her chores.
This goes a long way to explain the feminization of poverty. Jenny Brown, the author of “Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight Over Women’s Work,” writes, “Parents, particularly mothers, become poorer because they are not properly compensated for the contribution they’re making to the continuation of society by bearing and raising children.”
What exactly is the value of this contribution? The birthrate in the United States has fallen to a record low of 1.73. People who complain that other people’s children shouldn’t be their concern will still have to deal with the economic catastrophe of an aging population and a shortage of young, healthy workers. If raising these future citizens isn’t socially necessary labor, I’m not sure what is.
And yet our entire economic system hinges on the willingness of women to do this work for free. Caretakers who work outside the home are poorly paid, but those who care for their own kin, in their own homes, aren’t paid at all. They receive a wage of zero dollars and zero cents, no health insurance, no sick leave, no paid time off, no 401(k).
For a long time, I tried not to think about it. One of the ways I was able to not think about it was because I could pay other women to lighten my load. For the time being, those days are over.
Maybe that’s for the best.
Read the full article in the New York Times.