Questioning the status quo on the economics of family life

Our Sunday Visitor has posted a new column I wrote for its Daily Take blog, on the economics of raising a family today. In the piece, I question the choice that most young families are forced to make in a society structured to accommodate a two-working-parent home: we must either choose to have both parents work — in which case the family suffers in a variety of ways associated with regular childcare outside the home — or one parent stays home, in which case the family suffers in a whole other set of ways. My main point is that lay Catholics — who belong to a Church whose social teaching insists on the centrality of family life, not only for the well-being of each family and the individuals who make it up, but for the good health of society — should push harder for a conversation about better solutions. I’m well aware, by the way, that my piece does not even mention single-parent families, which are of course quite common today. I had a hard time sticking to the word count I was given for this column even without getting into that aspect of the question. But the fact is, the fact of single-parent families only makes my point stronger and more urgent. Read the whole post here.

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2 thoughts on “Questioning the status quo on the economics of family life

  1. It’s a difficult topic, to be sure. I read the comments on the OSV website you’ve rec’d to date, and the first two both seem to imply that it’s mainly about choice—that we as a nation have chosen over time to make consumerism and consumption the name of the game. Perhaps this is true, but many today have no real choices. In those fabled 50’s, a man could be the only breadwinner and could support a home, a wife and several children; some can do that now, but most cannot. I do suppose there are many who work so as to have vacations and lessons and big houses, but I’d bet you the MAJORITY of people who work do so just to be able to put food on the table and pay rent. You know how we’re always talking about the vanishing middle class? That’s what I’m talking about.

    I’m glad you acknowledged the fact that you were unable to include the notion of single parent families and the challenges they face. Not every single parent family is in that predicament because they chose to do so. (I for one am not). But I have nonetheless been forced by my situation to work full time outside the home my child’s entire life. Do I wish things were different? That I could have stayed home with him? YES! Our life is simple but could not be had without my having a job.

    I’m not sure how subsidies of any kind would work. Wouldn’t they be construed as an entitlement of some kind? If people had real choices, flexible working arrangements, the just living wage often touted, those things, coupled with a simple non-consumerist lifestyle, might make the difference. But I make well above a living wage, have a flexible working arrangement, and only have 1 child, and I struggle to make ends meet.

    • Thanks for this, Lucille. I agree with all that you’ve said — and said so well — here. Yes, the disappearing middle class is indeed an important piece of this problem.

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