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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Moms at work--over there


posted by bitchphd
"There," in this case, being Crooked Timber, which ran a five part series about kids and work last week. If you missed it, check it out.

But I recommend, as always, avoiding most of the discussion in comments. I really feel bad for the bloggers over there; how they ended up drawing such an incredible lot of idiotic commenters, I cannot imagine. I suspect it may have something to do with the fact that they often blog about economics, and for some reason, economic issues just bring idiots out of the woodwork.

The comments to that third post, about "Children as Public Goods" are especially bizarre--but then again, the post itself is fairly bizarre. As I said long ago (interestingly, also in response to a CT post), children are not "goods." They are--are you sitting down? They are human beings. Actual members of society. Who, yes, happen to be in a dependent position. Nonetheless, inasmuch as they are members of society, they have a claim on society to help care for them in their dependence so that they do not starve. Now, since they have parents, there are many aspects of their dependence that society needn't bother with: y'all don't have to wipe Pseudonymous Kid's ass, you don't have to give him his bath, you don't have to read him mouse books over and over and over again. You don't have to help him remember to do his "homework" (i.e., finish coloring the pages he didn't finish at school, because he hates not finishing things), or keep track of where the hell his socks are always going off to, or scramble for milk money in the morning when there's no cash in the house.

But yeah, goddamnit, you do have to deal with his presence in public spaces, even if he's acting like a little turd; you do have to recognize that because I have all that other stuff to do, I might be slightly less at the disposal of my employer for a few years (then again, no one should be at the disposal of their employer 24/7 anyway); you do need to deal with the times when I bring him into work because there is work I can't put off and there is no one else who can care for him on that day; and you do, I think, have an obligation to figure out social and economic policies that take into account the fact that this is not only my life, but the life of most adults at some point sooner or later. And in exchange, my friends, I and he have an obligation to deal with you when you have had a shitty day and are being a turd in a public space; or when you have to leave work early to pick up a friend at the airport or because you have opera tickets or a hot date; or when you have to call in sick; or when your illness turns out to be acute and far more expensive than any individual can afford; or when you get old and need to retire, and yadda yadda yadda.

And note this: I am not saying you have to deal with children because someday they will deal with you; or that other people have to deal with you because you have dealt, or will at some point deal with them. I am saying we have to deal with each other because refusing to do so is wrong, anti-social, anti-human. Everything else comes after that.

Now, some of these issues are indeed economic ones. And it is totally cool to talk about the economics of children, the economics of families. It is important to do so, in fact. But boiling kids down to economics is wrong, just like it would be wrong to claim that society is a purely economic institution. There are human needs that are not all about the bottom line, and that is okay, and people should not have to choose between economic survival and their other human needs. Yes, like all people, children do function as economic actors in many ways, but that doesn't make them "goods" or "pets" or "luxury items." When people start talking about kids as if they were things, those people are demonstrating that they, not children, are outside the realm of civilized society.

What kind of society are we where that even needs to be said?
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