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Ahlin: For most American families, it’s not yet the American Way

FARGO -- Surprise, surprise; parents in the modern American family are stressed out. Do the folks at the Pew Research Center really think anybody is surprised by that fact? Here's a quotation about recent poll results from an article by Claire Ca...

FARGO - Surprise, surprise; parents in the modern American family are stressed out.
Do the folks at the Pew Research Center really think anybody is surprised by that fact? Here’s a quotation about recent poll results from an article by Claire Cain Miller about “work-life balance” for the New York Times: “The data are the latest to show that while family structure seems to have permanently changed, public policy, workplace structures, and mores have not seemed to adjust to a norm in which both parents work.”
Digest that for a minute: Families have changed - permanently change - but public policy, along with the workplace and the customs and characteristics that define work, lag way behind.
Young moms and dads probably would like to ask a few questions: Why is it taking so long for the American workplace to embrace reality? When will a paradigm shift occur? What damage are we doing to families in the meantime?
Oh, wait; parents don’t have time to pester the powers-that-be for change. They are too busy. The nuts and bolts of managing a household with children and still advancing careers for both mom and dad are daunting, to say the least.
Call me Pollyanna, but I thought my generation was the “transition” generation, and by now, the family friendly workplace would be the norm. The previous standard - dads going to work and moms staying home - ended with my parents’ generation. My generation was expected to trail-blaze the two-working-parent household - starting with “Wonder-Woman” moms and ending with “let’s-get-real” parents. Equality at home and at work was the goal.
Our children’s generation was supposed to reap the benefits. By now, flexibility and supportive policies should have replaced the stubborn old saws, which were one version or another of, “By jiminy, you had those kids, now you figure out how to make it all work.”
We baby boomers have reached the stage of life where we’re expected to take the blame for all society’s ills. (Heaven knows, much of the blame is well placed.) However, we didn’t anticipate that problems for moms and dads in the workplace would be an ongoing problem. Looking back, it’s easy to see a glaring mistake we made concerning family income. Yes, as more and more women entered the workforce, families had more income. But the clinker was that jobs weren’t really paying enough to keep up with rising costs. Instead, the attitude of employers morphed into the expectation that one income did not have to support a family because there would be two incomes.
The Cain Miller article about the Pew report showed that “[t]he median household income for a family in which both parents work full time is $102,400 … compared with $84,000 when mothers work part time and $55,000 when they stay home.” Everything from living a middle-class life today to planning for retirement tomorrow is based on the assumption of both parents working. And yet, as the article points out, the “trade-offs” to keep both parents in the workforce are “complicated.”
That no longer should be. For the good of the country, policies - public and workplace - should reflect the reality of the lives people live.
We waste a whole lot of time in this nation arguing about embryonic and fetal life. Just for a moment, think of what it would mean if that energy were directed toward enhancing the lives of children and their parents. What if we finally turned our society page to look toward the future?
Ahlin, from Fargo, writes a weekly column for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is a part of Forum News Service. Email her at janeahlin@yahoo.com .

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