Martha is one of my favorite online writer friends. She is also a force to be reckoned with. Read her impassioned response to Maureen Dowd’s recent piece in the Times, In Defense of the Bake Sale. My favorite part is the whole damn thing, so I’ll restrain myself and just quote a few choice paragraphs:
- Raising children well is physically and emotionally grueling. Imagine a corporate executive having to be near the office all day, every day, with no vacations – unless a trained proxy can fill in for the short term (such a person could never be trusted with the long-term health of the company). Oh, and the pay and benefits are zero dollars. Less, if you consider the expense of working the job.
Such an executive would be regarded as incredible. A true believer. Someone making noble sacrifices for the sake of shareholders. Either that, or insane.
And yet, these are the working conditions that people caring for their own children face. Physically, it is exhausting. The emotional cost is even higher, compounded by the uncertainty of the job. First time parents often say, “I don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl, as long as it’s a healthy baby.” But even that isn’t something we can count on. Nor is it an excuse to walk off the job. Any parent who’s spent time in the hospital with a sick baby – as I have – knows you can’t. You can give this job your heart and soul, and get no guarantees your child will even survive.
Parenthood is not mindless; it requires strategic planning and thinking. And I’m not just talking about the challenge of timing dinner preparation so that all the elements of a meal are done at the same time, all the while wearing a toddler legwarmer.
Rather, it’s the planning that goes into a good life: figuring out how to grow our children’s minds, discover their passions, develop their ethical and moral sense, keep their bodies fit and healthy, and out of trouble.
Even with top-notch childcare (which comes at incredible cost), parents still must be deeply involved in their children’s lives to be confident of a good outcome, which benefits society as a whole.
To write this off as “volunteering at the bake sale” is the deepest of insults. That it comes from a woman makes it worse.