Great piece by Lydia Kiesling on Amy Coney Barrett and the politics of motherhood:
In a 2019 interview at Notre Dame Law School, Amy Coney Barrett, mother of seven, is asked the eternal question: “How do you do it?” She speaks of a supportive spouse, an equal partnership, a flexible workplace where she kept a basket of toys for her firstborn. Crucially, she also mentions her husband’s aunt, an unnamed woman who has evidently provided 16 years of what Barrett calls “consistent childcare in the home.”
Meanwhile back on America Prime:
In America, every family situation is a distinctive patchwork quilt. We have no guaranteed paid leave, very little public childcare or preschool, costly and terrible health insurance. Money can ease the problem, or, in some cases, a very accommodating aunt; neither of these is a coherent national policy around childrearing and work.
There are commentators who have cited an interest in Barrett’s childcare arrangements as sexist. I want to know about her childcare arrangements not because I question whether they allow her to do her job but because I wonder how the rest of us are expected to do ours.
Greater flexibility is not a societal trend enjoyed by women who earn minimum wage, who are stymied by the dual need to make rent and find a safe place for their children to play and learn. A not-insignificant fringe of Americans still don’t think mothers should work outside the home at all. Once when I tweeted what five years of daycare and preschool cost my family someone replied “This is just conspicuous consumption and child abuse.”
Listening to the congratulatory Senators, I wanted every parent in that hearing to disclose their childcare arrangements, what it cost and who did it.
I started writing this while it was dark and my family was still asleep. Tomorrow the younger one will go to a preschool that costs 1,100 dollars per month for four days a week, a number that does not align with the typical American work week. The other one will do online kindergarten under my supervision with a classmate who comes over every day. It turns out that online kindergarten is not set-it-and-forget-it. There are some things that are literally not possible to do simultaneously. (It’s nice if you can keep a basket of toys at your office, but it’s not childcare.)
Child care in America is a national disgrace. The pandemic has thrown that fact into even sharper relief, especially for people who don’t have mid-six figure family incomes and/or endlessly accommodating anonymous in-laws to take care of their kids as they try to make a living. And using Barrett as an exemplar of how to solve that problem is typical reactionary gaslighting, as Kiesling’s essay makes clear.
It’s the typical right wing advice on everything, i.e., be rich or embrace the patriarchy, but really you need to do both.