Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A Recent Interview with My Five-Month-Old Daughter

Me: Your mom and I have been having a hard time balancing childcare, work, and taking care of ourselves. I feel like I’m failing.

My Baby: Daddy, you’re not alone. The problem is structural, not one of your own personal failure. Capitalism has turned time into a series of opportunity cost calculations. You and Mommy have to “spend” time on me by not making money through market labor. Mainstream economic models assume that any time “spent” outside the market is leisure. Although I know that you enjoy my cuddly goodness, much of the childcare you and mommy do is not leisure. It is unpaid and unvalued work.

Me: This is exactly what your mommy and I were afraid of. That you will think we always want to be doing something else besides taking care of you and that you have to compete for attention.

My Baby: Don’t worry so much, it’s probably good for me to have the need to compete for attention hardwired into my brain. Odds are that the world I have to navigate on my own will be at least as competitive as the world is right now. Our society and economic system take unpaid, caring labor for granted. We’re supposed to believe the market will magically solve every social problem, but what’s really going on is that women are expected to do childcare, breastfeeding, eldercare, housework, and civic work. Since you’re committed to sharing responsibilities with Mommy and you want Mommy to contribute to the family income, you’re getting a taste of what working women have experienced for decades. The double shift. Watching you and Mommy struggle is a good education for me.

Me: Where are you getting this from?

My Baby: You know how you like to use me as a book holder? Do you think I’m just looking at my chin or something?

Me: Oh baby, my moochie foochie poo, you can’t take what those books say as statements of immutable facts. If I knew you were reading them, I would have talked to you about why I read depressing things. Writers try to document problems so that we can work for change. You’ll see when you get older, all the knowledge you develop will help you effect change. Government policies can change. Social norms can change. The structure of the family and whole communities can change.

My Baby: You’re such an idealist Daddy. I love you.

1 comment:

Dylan said...

Thanks for that, are there going to be more conversations with your child like that? :o)