Cleopatra Isn’t the Only Queen of Denial

While you’re lying there, semi-conscious, a human petri dish of contagion, consider this: There’s nothing like a pandemic to highlight the holes in a nation’s public health policy.

I am committed to getting women, family careworkers, and paid careworkers the credit they deserve. It didn’t happen during the mythic time when women were idolized for their cake decoration or wizardry with the vacuum sweeper (and contentedly economically dependent). It hasn’t happened – yet – in recent decades as women have marched in growing numbers to work. It still hasn’t happened, even though women now make up more than half of all those employed for money. Also unchanged is the role of women as primary caretakers of their children, the home, their parents, spouses, relatives, etc. With schools closing, businesses shuttering, vaccines in scarce supply, the situation is impossible. We have created, through our denial, a desperate problem. So, many of us go to work sick, or leave a sick child unattended at home, because we can’t miss a paycheck. And we did this to ourselves, relentlessly pursuing a national delusion that carework doesn’t matter to society.

Well, when I get sick and go to work, you get sick. When your child gets sick and you have to send her to school, her classmates get sick. When they go home and breathe on their parents, their parents get sick. Then they either go to work sick, and infect their co-workers, or maybe they stay home and don’t get paid. It’s a health problem, and economic problem, a national security problem, and a social problem.

Earlier this month, economist Heather Boushey of the Center for American Progress discussed the gap between how we really live and how work just doesn’t work anymore, at least not the way it used to.

“As a nation, we need to recognize that we aren’t going to go back to a time when most families have a stay-at-home caregiver. That ship has sailed. Mothers are now the primary breadwinner or co-breadwinner in nearly two-thirds of families.

What we need now is to begin addressing the very real challenges facing families with no stay-home-caregiver.

Most workers, including middle-class workers, do not have workplace flexibility or paid parental or family leave. Recently, the Administration recognized that H1N1 is a national emergency. Yet, 4 in 10 private-sector workers must choose between taking care of a child with the flu and losing their pay—or quite possibly their job.”

Paid sick days. Now.

To read Ms. Boushey’s complete 2 page statement, click here.
‘Til next time….

About Valerie Young

Valerie Young is a public policy analyst who focuses on the economic status of mothers and other family caregivers. She promotes social justice by arming mothers with information and a healthy dose of outrage. She is the Advocacy Coordinator at the National Association of Mothers' Centers, and is a reporter for The Shriver Report and contributor to Brain/Child Magazine. Follow her blog, Your (Wo)Man in Washington, on Twitter @WomanInDC and on Facebook as Valerie Young and Your (Wo)Man in Washington.