Friday, April 06, 2012

The Choices We (Don't Get to) Make

Yesterday morning, The Dad and I made our annual pilgrimage to Park Ridge, to have our taxes done. While The Boy, The Girl, and The Tot (Who's Not) kept themselves busy with a 3DS, iPod. and iPhone, respectively, The Dad and I learned that this year, we would again receive a rather decent refund from the Feds.

By again, I mean that we have received refunds in the past, but owed the government in 2010 after I worked full-time for the year. I know I should be thankful that we'll get what feels like a an unexpected windfall in a bad economy. But I'm not.

I'm angry. I feel betrayed by our culture and our government. I naively believed for years that the decision to work--or not--was mine. Do societal norms set public policy or vice-versa? It's a cornerstone of economics that governments determine and pursue a course of public action to encourage (or discourage) certain behaviors. Clearly, if one looks at the tax code, the ease in finding child care, and the average respect accorded school teachers, this country doesn't want both parents in a two-parent, heterosexual family to work. 

I know it's possible that the U.S. government doesn't mean that men must work in a two-parent, heterosexual families. But given how respected and well-paid the average day care or parks & recreation worker or K-12 teacher is, it's clear that the business of taking care of children and/or households--the same duties performed on an hourly basis by SAHPs--is not valued in this country. 

No one questions if The Dad loves his children while he puts in a 10-hour day writing code, so I am not going to even go there. But if what I want out of life goes beyond being paid in hugs and temper tantrums, what course of action can I reasonably pursue? If I work for pay, our family takes a giant hit in what I can reasonably bring home, as child care for my three children costs more than I made in my first three jobs out of college, and the government gives us a measly $5,000 tax credit for it? When I was working, achieving work-life balance was my number one concern. Now that my executive functioning is spent on meal-planning, lunchbox-filling, carpooling, and keeping the bathroom stocked with TP, I'm wondering if I will ever be able to pursue the work part of work-life balance without losing my shirt in the process?

This war on women has got to stop. I don't want The Girl, The Boy, and The Tot (Who's Not) growing up to think that daddies work and mommies (or female nannies) make lunch and drive them around because that is all that they see around them.

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