letters: The American Family and Working Moms

letters: The American Family and Working Moms

To the Editor:

Re “Who Will Defend the American Family?,” by Helen Andrews (Sunday Review, April 28):

Ms. Andrews suggests that a large number of women want to stay at home to raise the kids, but we should acknowledge that often they don’t have many other good options. What would these same women say if they had job opportunities that paid them well, afforded them flexibility to pick up their kids when they got sick and allowed remote work options? What if there were affordable child care and more comprehensive sick and paid leave policies?

For those parents who want to be home with their kids, I agree that there should be policies to incentivize that decision. But there are also mothers who want to have financial independence from their partner, and/or who want to do work outside the home that they feel contributes their skills, experience and passion to making society a better place. By neglecting those mothers, she erases the experience of many women who want to work meaningful jobs (or just earn some money) but can’t find a job with enough flexibility to participate in their children’s lives or enough pay to make it worth their time.

Until government and businesses create family-friendly policies and practices both for stay-at-home parents as well as working parents, most women will not have enough options to truly decide how they and their families would be happiest.

Jennifer Kessler
The writer is executive director of Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls and a mother.

To the Editor:

Your article on the social value of a decrease in female participation in the work force fails to consider the rise of no-fault divorce. Women who have left the work force to be caregivers within the home face poverty and desolation in middle age if their marriage breaks down and they have no career path or workplace skills or retirement savings to keep them financially afloat. It is in short hugely dangerous for women to “choose” not to work in favor of marrying working men and staying home.

Patricia Loughlan
Glebe, Australia

To the Editor:

Helen Andrews argues that “the American family is once again in crisis.” I agree, but that crisis does not stem from women’s increased participation in the work force or shifts in marriage rates.

American families are in crisis because of mass incarceration, which has disproportionately affected poor people and people of color. American families are in crisis because of skyrocketing health care costs. Americans are in crisis because they increasingly do not have the means to decide whether and when to have a family in the first place.

Yes, American families are in crisis, but to blame the entry of women into the work force and declining (heterosexual) marriage rates is as sexist as it is shortsighted.

Elizabeth Arend

To the Editor:

No paid work I’ve ever done has ever come close to bringing me the satisfaction I’ve received from being a mother and raising my children full time during the years I stayed at home with them. But that is irrelevant where equal pay is concerned. I am white, liberal and highly educated, and even with financial help from family it was difficult raising my two children as a single working mom. A husband who made more than I did was not the answer, and never will be. What I wish for my daughter and son is a world free from gender inequality.

To answer Helen Andrews’s question: No one has stepped up to fill Phyllis Schlafly’s shoes because nobody wants to wear those shoes anymore. They are too painful.

Kate Rose

To the Editor:

Helen Andrews argues that policies like paid parental leave, supported by the A.E.I.-Brookings Working Group, would implicitly encourage (force) women to be in the labor force even though many would prefer to be stay-at-home moms. This mischaracterizes our report and thinking.

We believe that allowing women access to eight weeks of paid parental leave would enable them to make better choices relating to work and family. As opposed to a situation where women are often forced to return to work earlier than they would like, having paid leave would allow them time to spend at home with their children as well as allow time for recovery.

We have no problem with women choosing to stay out of the work force to raise kids if that’s what they want. However, for many low- and even middle-income women, this is not a choice. Allowing women who want to work to be able to work is good for the family as well as the broader economy.

I would ask Ms. Andrews in turn: Do social conservatives simply want mothers to stay home and not work, or do they want families to have the flexibility to raise healthy children in their own way? I hope the latter.

Aparna Mathur
The writer is co-director of the A.E.I.-Brookings Working Group on Paid Family and Medical Leave and an economist at the American Enterprise Institute.

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