Politics, Power, and Responsibility: a Book for Parents

Wow, that's quite a title up there, isn't it? It's enough to make you not want to read this post at all, if you're like me. But don't do that, because what I am going to say, while maybe not saving lives or anything, is about something that certainly gave me…pause.

First, the full disclosure: the book I am going to tell you about is written by a very close relative of mine. VERY close. So, it may just be that I'm completely biased by knowing her, and knowing how smart she is, and all my critical faculties have just zipped out the window.

But I don't think so.

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This book is about what it is to be a parent—not just a mother—in a country where the policies that might support this whole parenting endeavor simply don't exist. It's about parents who have low-income jobs with no parental leave, parents who have emerged bloodied and bankrupt by collisions with work policies, illness, and insurance companies, parents who come face to face with the reality that there is no reasonable way to make enough money to stay afloat when you're trying to pay for child care, so you can work to stay afloat, so you can pay for child care….

Here's what's so excellent about this book: she makes the powerful gleaming point that if you're a parent and you're overwhelmed by all the responsibilities and pressures of working all the time, and taking care of your kids all the time, and you get that feeling that all parents get that you're not quite making it, you can't seem to balance everything and make it all work, well guess what? It's not your fault. It's like getting mad at yourself because you can't win the ring toss at the carnival: of course you can't win it, because it's not a game anyone can win. It's fixed. And parenting? It's not you, it's a systemic problem. No one can manage when there is no policy support.

If you read this book, you can bandy around terrifying information like this: we are one of maybe 10 countries—in the WHOLE WORLD—without a parental leave policy. It's not just Sweden that has it all over us, it's the Czech Republic, it's freaking sub-Saharan Chad. It's EVERYONE.

If you have a job almost anywhere in the world, it means you get to take at least 14 paid weeks off that job when you have a baby, then you get to come back and start working again.

But not here.

Anyway, you can see I am getting all hot under the collar. So if you're someone who likes the chance to get all hot under the collar yourself, or you want to get a massive and amazing sense of what is possible, or you're just trying to figure out what the hell to buy for your own mother, may I suggest taking a gander at this book?

It's smart, it's thoughtful, and it will give you a wider perspective on the world.

7 thoughts on “Politics, Power, and Responsibility: a Book for Parents

  1. Wow. I am having one of those days. And reading this made me burst into tears – to think that MAYBE I’m not the only one who can’t seem to make it work.

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  2. Oh! I know, I know, that’s how I felt the first time I read her book. There is always this sense not of how many things I am doing, but of how many things I am failing at: being a mom, a worker, a writer, etc. etc. And the sense that it was a policy question, that maybe there could be a different way where failing didn’t seem so inevitable, was amazing.

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  3. Mine would be single parenting. I have never been so angry as when it started to hit home to me exactly how screwed all parents are in this country, never mind single parents. It *is* truly impossible.

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  4. I totally agree, but I also love that you posted this because I FORGET that I agree sometimes. We are so raised, as women, to blame ourselves for not achieving the impossible.
    A few months ago I was telling my husband how embarrassed I felt that, among all my college friends, I’m the only one without a Ph.D. or a professional degree–except for one woman. He then reminded me that that one woman is the only other one who has two young children.
    That’s definitely not the only reason I don’t have a Ph.D… but it sure doesn’t help.

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  5. Yes, yes, yes! More people need to say this out loud … then let’s DO something! I read her book this summer, and I’ve read a few since on similar topics (Joan Williams, Susan Douglas). Lucky you to have such a smart relative. 🙂

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