Friday, August 17, 2012

Capitalism Rests on the Backs of Mothers (and other unpaid care givers)

This piece  on capitalism and mothering over at Feministe by amazing blogger Blue Milk (one of my most favorite feminist mommy blogs) is a must-read. Even when I am in the throes of endless loads of laundry, waking up at 6:00am every morning to vacuum now that H is crawling, and making vegetable purees for H, I forget that mothering is, in fact, WORK. Oh wait. It's not just work. It's UNPAID WORK.

As Blue Milk points out, capitalism relies heavily on the unpaid labor of caregivers. Without us/them the system wouldn't work.

If you aren’t yet able to accept mothering as work then you have some reading to do – it will involve economics and history. Start with the emergence of industrialisation when family work first became invisible. And if you can’t see that breastfeeding a baby was every bit as important as collecting firewood for family survival, then keep reading back through feudalism. But once you knock that patriarchal lens of distortion from your eyes you will never see mothers and children quite the same way again. Everywhere you look you will see something a little bit horrifying – hours and hours and hours and hours of unpaid labour. It is work performed very often with love; it is work with possibilities of personal reward and great satisfaction, much like some other jobs, except it is unpaid.

What really spoke to me in this article is the point about the transfer of care for working moms. I work full-time and so does my husband which means someone has to watch H. Have you heard about how expensive daycare is? What about those of us who live in places where there are two-year long waiting lists to get into  a daycare? We basically have to do nanny-share. The guilt I feel for not being able to provide insurance for our nanny is tremendous, never mind the fact that I wish we could pay her more, because it's one hell of a job to watch two infants (for those wondering, we pay her well over minimum wage, but this does not make up for the fact that women's work, especially women who care for others as their job, is underpaid.)

Because whenever a mother enters the workplace a deal is being cut somewhere for childcare. Thinking care work vanishes when a woman’s time is suddenly accounted for in paid employment is patriarchal thinking. 

Like I said, this is a must-read and an important topic that often gets shoved aside when we talk about mothering at all in our society. We are more obsessed with the "mommy wars" than having real, honest conversations about mothering as a huge sacrifice (a sacrifice of our bodies, of our free-time, and for those who work outside the home--our careers) and as an exhausting (yet SO rewarding)  unpaid job. So please, take a trip over to Feministe to check out the piece

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