Raising children is “basic work”. It is also lonely, exhausting and expensive

Fourth-grader Lucy Kramer (foreground) is doing schoolwork at home as her mother Daisley helps her younger sister Meg, who is in kindergarten in 2020 in San Anselmo, California.

Ezra Shaw / Getty Images


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Ezra Shaw / Getty Images


Fourth-grader Lucy Kramer (foreground) is doing schoolwork at home as her mother Daisley helps her younger sister Meg, who is in kindergarten in 2020 in San Anselmo, California.

Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

During the pandemic, when schools and day care centers closed suddenly, millions of parents – especially mothers – dropped out of the workforce to take the groin. Author Angela Garbes was one of them.

Garbs was working on a book in 2020, but was forced to abandon the project when the kindergarten for her child closed. And while she loves being a mother, the isolation and exhaustion of being a full-time caregiver is reflected.

“I really had the feeling that I was watching the pleasure and colors flow out of my life,” she says. “I felt like someone who was ‘just a caregiver.’ And even though I knew it was valuable work, I had to face the fact that it wasn’t enough for me. “

In his new book, Main work: Motherhood as a social change, Garbs argues that parenting has always been underestimated and undercompensated in the United States.

“We live in [a culture] who doesn’t appreciate caring work and who doesn’t value mothers and who doesn’t value women, “she said. America has no social security network; America has mothers. “

Unlike other countries that offer paid parental leave and state-subsidized day care, Garbs says the United States often leaves parents of young children to care for themselves. She argues that raising children is a social responsibility – and should be treated as such.

“[Children] need other people. They need a family. They need friends. “They need adults who are not related to them, who have some patience and bring something different into their lives,” she said. “We were not meant to raise children in isolation.”

Highlights from the interview

Main work: Motherhood as a social change, by Angela Garbes

About how you feel about not having daily worries during blocking and quitting work

If you go back to those early days of the pandemic, when we didn’t know what was going on … it became clear to me that the most important thing I could do was not write. He didn’t do podcasts. It was caring for my family, caring for my children and their safety, and caring for my community. And that meant retreating, living in isolation. …

As far as my husband works, he is the man who received a regular salary as a writer. I have deadlines on the horizon. Everything is very foggy when my term of office has expired and, you know, there were no regular salaries, no health insurance coming from my work. We received them from him. So it was easy for me to say, “Let’s prioritize our work.”

But he has always insisted that we have that part of our marriage where we say: My work is no more important than yours. It’s equivalent. So he would say, “Take your time. Go write. Go, lock yourself in the guest room, put on the noise canceling headphones, and do what you can. ” And my children could not respect that limit. In principle, there were no boundaries in our home. But I also felt that my ability to maintain those boundaries was slipping away.

For women who are forced to leave the workforce

The statistics that always stay with me are in September 2020, 865,000 women they were fired from the workforce for a month and that was because schools remained closed. People were essentially saying, “I can’t be a mother, I can’t be an online teacher, and I can’t be a professional at the same time. It’s just too much. ” So I think the anger, this crisis of care is before the pandemic. And many of us were more aware of the financial difficulties of having children in day care. People have been making these decisions and logistical negotiations for years, but suddenly it was a problem that affected everyone. And then we really saw a lot of that anger.

About how the momentum to change the system slowed down

I had the feeling that attention was being paid. There were some articles including minewhich are essentially like “Women are not good, mothers are not good.” And then we saw things like advance tax credit for childrenwhich the government acknowledged, yes, it is hard work, having families and raising children and so we will give you some money every month. And that funding for the CTC was granted for a year, and in December Congress allowed it to be dropped – although funding was set aside. In an attempt to find out Build back betterI guess it’s a side effect or just something we’re willing to give up.

I feel a certain amount of anger towards the legislators and a certain amount of anger towards the Democrats and the administration I voted for, because this administration was also bargaining for paid leave, which was something that guided the Biden administration. I have the feeling that we are losing this momentum and losing some of the energy behind this righteous anger that so many women and parents have been experiencing.

About how she made decisions about her own childcare

When my first daughter was born, we both had a full-time job and it was still very difficult to make ends meet. And so we relied on a mixture of things. My mother helped us and it was unpaid work. We made a babysitter with two other families. This woman was a woman from Mexico. She would take care of two or three babies at a time in these other two homes. And we made sure we had a meeting where we paid her at least $ 15 an hour and gave her a month off every year. And she was welcome to bring her son, who was about 3 years old, to the home where she took care of the children. So I make decisions when I feel like I’m paying people as much as I can, as much as I can fairly, and that I’m giving them free time. I treat it like real labor negotiations. And I have to say that my husband is a union organizer. So these problems came first for us.

On Roe v. Wade will probably be overturned by the Supreme Court

We knew this was coming. Indeed, for many people in the United States, especially the poor in the south, access to abortion is already extremely limited. I think rich people will always be able to have an abortion and the people who will suffer the most are already the people who are suffering. My favorite statistical abortion is this [the majority] of people who have abortions are already parents. They are already mothers. And for me, this speaks so clearly that we know the cost of having children: financial, emotional, psychological, but mostly financial. And I think when we judge people. When we force people into motherhood, we force them into poverty. I think in this sense, what is happening right now is that our system is working exactly as it is designed to keep people in power and keep poor, colored and marginalized people in a life that is more difficult. than you need.

Sam Brigger and Seth Kelly produced and edited this broadcast interview. Bridget Benz, Molly Civie-Nesper and Laurel Dalrymple adapted it for the network.

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