Thursday, October 11, 2007

Barriers to Fertility

I've been concerned for some time about how difficult it is for young couples to start families, and then take care of them properly. I got an e-mail today on this very topic.

Much of what you cover resonates with me, especially as a young mom and a social worker who has worked with many emotionally disturbed children. One of the areas I'm passionate about is reactive attachment disorder, and both treatment and prevention/education in this area.

One of the issues my husband and I have struggled with is making ends meet while spending as much time as possible with our daughter. I believe in the importance of advocating for systems change, which is part of what you seem to be doing in your article on moms in the workplace. At this point in my career, I have left the social work field and luckily have some journalism skills to fall back on and use. I would love to return to the social work field at some point and feel it is very much a part of my vocation. At this time, however, the position I had was simply not conducive to being a mom and taking care of my child - so I went elsewhere....
I would love to stay home with my daughter full-time and recognize both intrinsically, through experience and research the value in doing so. At the same time, my husband teaches in a Catholic school and it just is not feasible for us to live on his income alone. We have cut corners which has allowed me to take a part-time position, and one that allows me to do some of my work at home, taking less time away from our family....
I have a hard time reading articles that carry the implication I'm not fulfilling my obligation as a mom since I'm not at home with my children, even though in some ways I believe it to be true. Falling back on my husband's income and "allowing him to take care of me" just isn't an option for my family, and I'm sure we are not the only ones.

OK. She's right. This is, unfortunately, one of the legacies of feminism. the message to women is: Motherhood is for ninnies. Get back to work. The message to employers is: treat men and women the same, at every point in their lives, no matter what their family situations and responsibilities might be.
The corollaries to this are: we can't take into account the special needs that mothers have for flexibility, although some people are grudgingly beginning to do so. What we really can't do, is to take into account the special needs that fathers have for supporting their families, including their wives, who are trying to take the best care possible of their kids. We can barely even allow ourselves to formulate the thought "Family Wage." We have made the two-earner family a social norm, much to the detriment of many women and children.
Among the difficulties:
The high cost of housing. The demand for housing is highly sensitive to income. High-earning, DINKS push up the price of housing for everyone. Why isn't there more housing for people of modest means?
The high cost of taxes: the median income family pays almost 40% of their income in taxes. That means the secondary earner is working to pay the taxes.
Student loans: many young people graduate with $80,000 or more of college debt. They are reluctant to start families with this kind of debt hanging over their heads.
I would love to see these issues adressed as part of the problem of the collapse of fertility. There is something slightly bizarre about people in the richest countries the world has ever known, feeling that "they can't afford children." These people are not just whining. Something is seriously not right in the balance in the economy between the needs of families with small children, and everybody els.

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