Childcare: Unaccompanied Motherhood Essay Example
Despite global advancements towards family-friendly social policies, it is clear that the United States is falling behind. Strong evidence suggests that relatively little is done to support the welfare of families, as well as motherhood in the United States. The lack of family friendly policies inevitably leads to significant hardships for both middle-class and poor mothers ranging from substantial barriers in the workplace to inadequate childcare. Ann Crittenden argues that society is unwilling to demand changes to public policy that favor motherhood and the family because we view raising children as only the responsibility of the mother while disregarding the fact that these children grow to become the integral components of society that benefit (or hinder) everybody. Brigid Schulte contends that the workplace often tends to be an unfavorable and even hostile environment for mothers. The standard of the “ideal worker” is nearly impossible for mothers to achieve due to their commitment to their children. Mothers may then be penalized at work for being “uncommitted.” Finally, Stephanie Coontz and Sharon Hays argue against the delusional belief that there was a time in American history where families were completely self-sufficient. In reality, families have been built around the social and economic policies that provide support for hundreds of years.
I will use a blend of the research and analysis of Ann Crittenden, Brigid Schulte, Stephanie Coontz, and Sharon Hays to demonstrate that despite society's complete dependence upon motherhood to create productive members of society, motherhood and caretaking is significantly undervalued in our society. I will argue that American society does relatively little to support families and motherhood because they believe that the government should not be responsible for the family hardships because individuals put themselves in caretaking positions. Consequently, these families/mothers do not deserve perceived “handouts” or policies that “enable” them to work less, which creates unnecessary hardships for both mother and child.
Middle-class mothers in the United States face a myriad of significant challenges within the workplace. These challenges are the result of an ideology that the workplace should not have laws protecting mothers because this will provide them with an excuse to take time off of work. 1950s workplace norms dictate that the ideal worker should devote all of their time and energy towards work, without any distractions (such as children) that could divert focus away from work (Crittenden). Employers view time allocated to raising children as a handicap because the skills utilized in mothering are deemed insufficient job experience that will not translate to real workforce skills (Crittenden). As work becomes increasingly demanding, availability is essential; however, mothers with responsibilities may not have the flexible hours necessary to compete with non-parents (Crittenden). Part time mothers are rarely promoted, assigned to less interesting assignments, and face an overwhelming feeling of marginalization (Stone and Lovejoy). The lack of policies that prevent this discriminatory behavior can be explained by the overreaching view that women should not be rewarded for with time off for having children, which will incentivize them to work less.
The lack of policies to help mothers with balancing work and caretaking in the United States will cause them to face several economic, social, psychological consequences. Employer discrimination occurs when pregnant women and mothers are faced with demotions, medical leave, cut hours, or increased job stress and difficulty, which may entice them to quit voluntarily (Schulte). The “mommy tax” is the income that mothers forgo over their lifetime due to time spent raising children (Crittenden). Lack of policies that fight the “mommy tax” end up costing college-educated women about $1 million over their lifetime and about $600,000 for non-college-educated women (Crittenden). Psychological consequences that may result from these inequalities include emotional disengagement from work, tiredness, high stress, feigning health, increased sickness, and unproductivity. Social policies such as paid family leave time, subsidizing childcare through Social Security credit, and paid maternity and paternity leave may help mothers with the cost of raising children (Crittenden). Unfortunately, as long as people believe that mothers should not be afforded special treatment by the government due to the position that they put themselves in, effective social policies that would benefit working mothers and prevent their discrimination will never become a reality.
The job of a stay-at-home mother not respected by society. Stay-at-home mothers are not compensated for their difficult work and contributions since they are not afforded any Social Security credits for the time and energy devoted to nurturing and raising children (Crittenden). Stone and Lovejoy conclude that most mothers are not completely happy about their decision to leave their careers behind because they strongly identify with work as a part of who they are, invested a large portion of their lives to education, and simply enjoyed their jobs. (Stone and Lovejoy). As long as society discredits the work of mothers, subsidizing their labor with beneficial family-friendly policies will not happen.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a welfare program designed to aid low-income families by rewarding or punishing recipients in order to encourage work (Hays). Although TANF sounds promising, poor mothers do not always benefit from this program. For example, most TANF mothers fail to get childcare subsidies despite the fact that they are encouraged to prioritize work over family (Hays). Applying for TANF is very challenging (perhaps to prevent certain people from applying) and limited funds and resources make it difficult for those who successfully apply to receive their payments (Hays). “Making fathers pay” child support may result in significant hostility and tension between the parents (Hays). Furthermore, a buildup of child support may discourage unemployed fathers from working, just to have their income seized (Hays). The improvement of TANF is likely held back by the notion that it encourages mothers to rely on government handouts when they should be responsible for the poor positions that they put themselves in.
The struggle of middle-class mothers due to insufficient public resources to promote family life is amplified in the challenges that low-income mothers face on a daily basis. Many low-income mothers are forced to seek public assistance (subsidies) for cash (TANF), food (SNAP), housing, Medicaid and Medicare, disability, and Social Security, in order fulfill basic needs (Hays). Low-income mothers face pay that will keep them impoverished, few benefits, little flexibility, instability, and issues with childcare. It is likely that the process of signing up to apply for childcare benefits is so difficult that low-income mothers are discouraged from completing the application and receiving the aid that they need (Hays).
Low-income mothers also face substandard quality of childcare due to factors such as overcrowding, long commute, and inconvenient hours. Additionally, working-class and low-income families face issues such as perpetual unemployment, pregnancy, childcare responsibilities, illness, and abusive relationships (Hays). Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) prevents orphaned children by providing low-income mothers a small source of income (Hays). Children are largely dependent on their education to provide them with the tools that they need to succeed as adults, so when public resources such as quality schools and subsidized childcare are not made readily available to low-income children, they are likely to remain poor throughout adulthood (Hays). Unfortunately, existing programs such as TANF and ADC may be viewed as sufficient help to poor mothers. Consequently, the ideology that the government is not responsible for the hardships of mothers and should not provide handouts that will disincentivize work, will prevent additional measures from providing aid to low-income mothers.
A comprehensive comparison of middle-class and low-income mothers reveals several striking differences in the consequences attached to caretaking work among the two classes. Middle-class mothers often have the financial resources to provide adequate childcare and education to their children that will help them to become successful adults. Conversely, low-income mothers are at the complete mercy of the public policies that the United States enforces when it comes to the care that they are able to provide. Essentially, low-income mothers can only provide the quality of childcare and education that the policies that are in place to support them will allow. Consequently, if the public policies are weak, the mothers and children that depend on them are likely to experience poor childcare and poor education, which will create additional barriers that they will have to overcome. This shows that when it comes to childcare and education, low-income mothers (and their children) are much more dependent on public resources then middle-class mothers are. Inadequate public resources will lead to an inadequate education, which will continue the cycle of poverty in adulthood. As long as the ideology that the government should is not responsible for assisting mothers with caretaking by providing adequate assistance, the government is unlikely to bridge the gap between the struggles of low-income and middle-class mothers.
In conclusion, the minimization of the importance of motherhood within society has allowed public policy in the United States to ignore the needs of middle-class and low-income mothers. Although the struggle of middle-class and low-income mothers is not always identical, it is clear that their struggle is perpetuated by an ideology that suggests that the government should not be held responsible for the hardships of mothers. Since mothers put themselves in a caretaking-position, they should not receive “handouts” from the government (through supportive policies) that may encourage them to work less. This damaging ideology effectively degenerates the importance of raising children, which consequently encourages inaction from American lawmakers and the public. Without any urgency for change in the form of public policies to protect middle-class and low-income mothers, negative consequences will continue to impact mothers and their children, such as barriers in the workplace, the “mommy tax,” employer discrimination, low-pay, poor quality childcare, and poor quality of child education. These negative consequences will create significant hardships for the mother while simultaneously causing irreparable harm to their children as well as the adults that they will become.