DMI Blog

Amy Traub

What Will It Take to Stop Bringing Families Down?

I haven’t yet read Sharon Lerner’s new book, The War on Moms, but it doesn’t take much more than a couple sentences from today’s Wall Street Journal review to recognize that it’s got some powerful, relevant, and very troubling points to make:

After suffering a stroke in utero, a baby is born prematurely, with a hole in her heart, to a middle-class Long Island couple. Five-figure medical bills swamp the couple’s woefully inadequate health coverage. The mother loses her job because she has to take so much time off work. The hard-working young family spirals downward into poverty.

For families with a severely ill child, the scenario isn’t that unusual. And it’s just a more extreme case of the untenable situation millions in which millions of current and aspiring middle class families find themselves. Lerner’s bottom line is that “women need paid maternity leave, good affordable child care, health coverage and flexible work options.” It’s not rocket science: these are policies we know how to provide successfully, from New Jersey’s paid family leave system to San Francisco’s law on paid sick time and other municipal policies that promote workplace flexibility. Yet the economic downturn is taking us in exactly the wrong direction, renewing pressures on American families, forcing cities and states to reduce public supports even as companies reduce employee benefits.

As Lerner points out, while mothers often get blamed for the choices they’re forced to make from among the bad options our economy offers, it’s entire families – and ultimately, our society -- that lose out. A forthcoming article in Parents Magazine makes the case that fathers increasingly face the same struggle to balance family commitments with a lousy employment environment while also coping with expectations (both the outside world’s and their own) that they be “good providers.”

The fact that fathers are feeling and recognizing that stress may be critical to shifting away from our status as an overwhelmingly family-unfriendly nation. Given the obstacles to changing course and creating an economy and society that genuinely supports families, getting there will take the combined efforts of all parents, those who’d like to be parents someday, those who remember the trade-offs of their own parenting years, and people who just think the country would be better off if we provided more support for those trying to raise the next generation.

Amy Traub: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 2:46 PM, Jun 14, 2010 in Women
Permalink | Email to Friend