Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Gear We Need

Okay everyone, the site is up. This is the start of our best chance right now of lighting a fire around family issues. Visit the site. It's filled with info, and ideas about real organizing and politics. You can also download the first chapter of The Motherhood Manifesto, by Joan Blades and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner. When the technology gets figured out, yours truly will be sending Playground Revolution entries over, which is my way of saying once again that I adore Joan and Kristin, and I think they are on the right track. Not everyone, as we know, gets a smile from the Playground Revolution.

And because it's spring and because we need messages out there even when we can't talk three sentences without interruption, buy yourself and those you love one of the fabulous Rosie-the-Riveter plus baby T-shirts with a Moms Rising logo. I'm ordering one tonight. Here's the T-shirt order site.

You know, I get many emails asking me to pitch products. I pretty much reject them all, especially as of late, asI've decided to not accept advertising on this blog. You can trust that if I recommend something, it comes from my true admiration and desire. Let's keep the roll going. While you've got the credit card out, head over to Rebel Dad--which is my favorite site these days, and if I go for too long without posting because life with a baby is so busy, know that Rebel Dad is probably saying whatever I would be saying, so read Rebel Dad. And then check out his line of Rebel Dad clothes. There's a Rebel Dad flask there, too. Can we predictthat such a flask, properly filled, will lighten the mood at your kids' baseball games, soccer matches and swim meets, especially if you share it with other parents. The RebelDad T will be a Father's Day present for the guy in my life.

The light pink Rebel Mom is a keeper, too. Especially now that I've gotten over my pink fetish.

Friday, April 07, 2006

When Others Say it Better

Good thing Entitlement Whores have friends. I am so often recharged by others' eloquence. Here's Andi's comments on the responses we've received after our show. Yes, there's the shock of how many people actually watch Book TV--this, I must say, is enlightening and happy news--and how much effort and time some people spent to track down my email address and write very long, very, very long letters to me telling me how wrong I am. On the sunnier side, many people wrote to tell me their agreement; often these were from men who, intriguingly enough, advised me to begin teaching women how to invest better and make more money. They were clear that when women have more financial control, we'll get what we want.

And on eloquence, I was also energized recently by Marritt Ingman's words. Marritt, of course, is the author of Inconsolable, the book on post partum depression that Brooke Shields didn't write, and better because of it [note from Miriam: this is the book we should all be sending to any mom who's depressed after childbirth, trust me].

Marritt also writes the column Mom and Pop Culture on Marritt wrote these sentences in a different context, which to respect privacy I won't reproduce. Her sentences ring true, though, and are a good reminder of what it means to love our kids and family and fight like hell for better cultural and social conditions. Thanks Marritt, for letting me archive them here.

... I like to remind myself of the Adrienne Rich's
distinction between motherhood as experience and as
institution. . . We can love our individual
experiences as mothers and still chafe at the role
mothers play-- economically, culturally, and
politically--in public life. In other words, we can
still be pretty pissed off about the institution of
motherhood. Hell, I think we should be, even if our
infants do indeed make us ecstatically happy day and
night. It almost sounds like we're not supposed to say
anything "negative" post-motherhood, even about
culture or public policy?

Even to talk about the "dark side of mothering"
assumes that there is a converse, a bright side. I
tend to look at every relationship I've ever had in
those terms. There's a dark side to my marriage, to
most of my friendships, to my work as a writer, to my
status as an American and a white married person--I
mean, I'm pretty ambivalent about everything in the
world because the world is a pretty complicated place.
For me to express that in writing doesn't obviate
another person's experience. If Louise Wener doesn't
find a book on the shelf reflecting her experience of
motherhood, then by all means she should WRITE one, as
we have, instead of writing about her lack. I think
motherhood is the most emotionally complicated task on
planet Earth. To state that it is difficult is not to
say that there's something wrong with the very act of
*being* a mother.

Marritt's blog
,, I'm adding it to my blogroll now)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

"Entitlement Whore"

That, appparently, is me, according to one person who wrote in after my appearance on BookTalk over the weekend. It seems I am an entitlement whore because I dared to suggest that the costs of childcare shouldn't fall on workers alone. I may even have paired that daring statement with an announcement that California now offers twelve weeks of paid family leave, that it's a good thing, and that other states, such as New Jersey, might be following suit.

That's right. Who, we must ask, needs us to be at work so many hours of the week? Not hardworking moms and dads. Many of them would prefer to work fewer hours for more decent wages, and see their kids more. A heavily guarded truth about our society is this: it is not those of us who work who care the most about our jobs, it's the employers. It may seem counterintuitive. It may take some time to get it, but ultimately, that's right, it's those who make a true profit from our work who have the most at stake in our working. They care more than we do. Without all of us working, there is no productivity. Without productivity, there are no profits. You don't need a PhD in economics to figure that out.

One of the many mystifications about caring for young children in our country is that is should be a private cost, a cost shouldered by an individual mom or dad who also holds a paying job. Businesses have lobbied long and hard to keep us believing that. The result is a god-awful system of childcare that's often not so great for kids, anxiety-producing for parents, and pays its own workers barely livable wages. Those who have access to and can afford good childcare, consider yourself lucky. Consider yourself among the top 20% of income earners in the country. Then look around at those other childcare centers, the ones you would never ever consider putting your kids in, and ask about the other 80% who use them. If this sounds harsh, know that I mean it in the best, most generous and caring sense. It can feel unsettling to reflect on what one can afford that others can't; it can be angering to think about what you can't afford that others can. I think this looking around can be uplifting; those of us--myself included--with some economic and cultural privilege in our nation need to keep our eyes open, even when it hurts. Even though we often feel alienated and silenced and powerless, we're the ones who are closer to having a political voice in our nation, and my new goal in life is to help us figure out how to find and use those voices.

But back to topic:

We've been persuaded that childcare is a private cost, kind of like a yearly vacation to Disney World. It's something extra.

Well, it is something extra, and it isn't. The question of who shoulders this extra cost should be up for question. Currently we think of childcare as an extra, not a necessity. K-12 education is seen as a necessity, still, and funded collectively. I'd like to see us debate which category--extra or social necessity--childcare falls in. I think it belongs in the latter category, and that we need to shift from seeing it as extra to seeing it as a necessity. In the long run, childcare costs should be shared by all who pay corporate taxes in America. After all, they're the ones who really, truly need us to work. And they're the ones who have been getting quite the tax cuts lately. Childcare should be seen as part of the employer's cost of doing business in our country. If that cost is shared, then each of us and each of them would barely feel it.

If that makes me an entitlement whore, so be it.

I'm sure I'm in good company.

(And for those who complain about the cost of such a shifting in tax priorities, and are sure we can't afford it, repeat after me ten times: billions spent in Iraq, billions spent in Iraq, billions spent in Iraq.....)