Thursday, October 03, 2002

Letter to Editor, published in the P.G., about Ellen Goodman's article & parenting

My letter was published in the PG, date unsure. This is the day I sent it in. The letter said:

Re: Ellen Goodman's article, "Recognizing that motherhood is a job, too," on Oct 2, 2002.

How silly to fabricate such a thing as the "mommy wars." Please call it a "parental war." I've been a stay-at-home dad for eight years. The article misses the mark in that dads were ignored. Many dads are doing much more in giving care to their young children.

When the media wakes up to the dad's side of parenting, the life of our children is sure to improve by factors far more dramatic than the results from any At-home Infant Care governmental program.

Mark Rauterkus, Pittsburgh's South Side.
As a stay-at-home dad, Rauterkus ran for Mayor, City of Pittsburgh, 2001 GOP primary.

See the comments for a retyped copy of the original article.


Anonymous said...

Ellen Goodman

Recognizing that motherhood is a job, too

Paying low-income mothers is smart welfare policy

Bozeman, Mont.

Amber Byrnes tucks her daughter into the highchair at the coffee shop where the smiling and elfin 8-month-old promptly begins her favorite activity -- decorating the rug with cracker crumbs.

The 20-year-old mother, eating breakfast with one vigilant eye on the little girl, describes how life has changed since she was a teenager who wanted only to be a dancer: "it's not about me anyome. It's all about her. I have a reason. I'm this little baby's mother."

This is a feeling that resonates with all new mothers. Suddenly a small person is born and priorities shift. Suddenly, a young woman knows what politicians can only attest to glibly when they laud motherhood as the hardest job in the world.

The difference is that motherhood really is Amber's job.

Call the idea conservative. Call it radical. Or maybe just call it, as one supporter did, "subversive." amber is among 40-odd women in Montana who get paid by the state for taking care of their own babies.

The idea began whith the grass-roots poverty group called WEEL, Working for Equality and Economic Liberation. Mary Caferro, an organizer in Helena, rembers when the embers said, "We want caregiving to count as work."

(see part 2)

Mark Rauterkus said...

Eventually, Montana became the second state -- after Minnesota -- to have At-Home Infant Care. The pilot program pays the same child-care worker's wages, -- $17 at day in this state -- to a low-income mother caing for children under 2.

To show you how this turns history on its head -- or makes history -- remember that Aid to Families with Dependent Children began in 1935 as a program that would allow widowed mothers to stay at home with kids. By the 1990s, wiht so many mothers in the work force, the cry was to end AFDC.

Welfare reform was based on an idea so radical that we didn't even publicly acknowledge it. The idea was that a (poor) mother's place was in the work force.

The problem is that we never answereed one huge question; Who will take care of the children? For many families, especially for those with infants, wages were so low and child care so expensive that the math didn't work.

(see part 3)

Anonymous said...

Across the country, there are only enough licensed infant child-care slots for 18 percent of the need. In rural states like this one, the average cost of infant care is still about $4,500 a year. Nevertheless, under welfare reform, a Montana mother is expected to fulfill her work requirement at any job -- except caring for her child. State money is used to subsidize child care -- as long as it doesn't go to the mother of the child.

Madness? You want to make an at-home mother bristle? Tell her that taking care of a baby isn't a job. Now at least for a few women, "caregiving counts as work."

What has it meant to Amber? For eight months, it allowed her to be "this baby's mother." The program enrolls two-parent families, not just single mothers, and the extra dollars got Amber, her fiance, Lance, and their baby out of low-income housing. "We moved into a trailer and have a dog and all that good stuff," says this lively young mother, who is also finishing the last four credits toward a high school diploma.


Anonymous said...

These days, Lance works at Shopco from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Amber is just starting a part-time $6-an-hour job at Target. They pass the baby between them in the parking lot. All told, they still live on less than $1,400 a month.

Does At-Home Infant Care sound like welfare under another name? The bean counters like this program because it saves the state money. Religious conservatives like it because it supports mothers at home with infants. But the truly "subversive" part is that it may break the common-sense logjam, offering a program that helps young families.

As Amber picked up her daughter to leave, out in California Gov. Gray Davis signed a landmark bill giving workers paid family and medical leave for up to six weeks capped at $728 a week. That means six weeks of paid leave for a newborn, too.

Meanwhile At-Home Infant Care is part of the Senate version of the postponed welfare reform bill. If that passes, there will be funds for similar programs in 10 more states.

Amber is where the mommy wars meet for a peace conference. She's where the expression, every mother is a working mother, gets taken out of a public-policy test drive.

Caferro says that this is "a place where the right and left can meet." But it's also the place where there isn't a right or a left. Just parents and kids.

Ellen Goodman is a syndicate columnist for The Boston Globe (