Women and the hidden costs of bearing and caring for children

Paula Kirk and I drove out to Amherst, Mass on Tuesday where we had an evening screening of the film at Amherst Cinema.  It was very well attended and a wonderful audience.

girl-on-mom-piggyback2Then, today, I met with  Professor Jennifer Cayer and her class on Feminism and art where we discussed issues such as how to pay for the the work done in the house and with the family.  No one seemed to know how to do this….But, I reminded people that ten, twenty years ago, no one knew how to “value” clean air or intact forests either.  And now, we are beginning serious dialogues and coming up with financial models that consider each and other environmental issu

es as costs of doing business.

We used to think that air was there for the taking.  Industries could use it and dirty it at will.  The same went for the water, the oceans, the forests.  Always more where that came from.  But, now we recognize that there are costs to society for pollution.  Those costs can be

quantified in terms of clean up expenses or in terms of equipment and practices needed to prevent the pollution in the first place.

Okay.   How might this model be applied to  the work of  child Care and Housework??

What would the costs be to society if people refused to care for children? What if every person engaged in child care–bathing, feeding, singing, to, reading stories to, listening to, teaching, showing how to do things,  and the attendant housework–cooking, cleaning, chauffering, monitoring baths, homework, reading, playing with, laundry, buying food, clothing, toys, pets, dishes and on and on and on–what would happen to the world if everyone doing these stopped?

Or maybe the question is how does one quantify the value of healthy and well-nurtured children to society?  How do we quantify emotional health?

Any help out there?  Who should bear those costs?  In the case of clean air, water and intact forests–the cost of cleaning is born by the polluter, who in turn passes it along to the consumer.

Maybe I am on the wrong track.  Maybe childcare and household labor is more like education.  We agree that an educated population is a good thing.  So, we pay for school through public taxation–and we hope for the best.  But, this model lacks accountability. I’d rather value child care and house labor as akin to clean air.  We cannot live without someone putting in the time and labor to take care of our young.  And yet, we don’t pay for this valuable service.  Why does this matter?  Because those who do this work become dependent on the salaries of someone else.  Dependency is fine in a child, not so good in an adult relationship.  It breeds contempt.  Interdependence is ideal and many many wonderful people raise children with an understanding that each parent has a role and that they depend on each other.  But, how interdependent are you when one half of the couple makes a salary and the other does not?  Who holds the power here?

Well, this is truly a ramble, but so be it.  I’d love to hear from you.



3 Responses to “Women and the hidden costs of bearing and caring for children”

  1. wonderful post… i have spent my adult life trying to bring forth the sacred work of childcare. peace begins in the home. it is SUCH important work.

  2. Thanks Eileen:

    have you read Riane Eisler’s book The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating Caring Economics? She is very articulate, and persuasive on this issue of Childcare as vital for society’s well being.

  3. YAA Adding this to my bookmarks. Thank You

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