25 January 2012

The Parenting Trap

In an interview with Rick Santorum, New York Times reporter James Freeman describes the Republican candidate (some of whose opinions, to be frank, on social and cultural issues I find myself warming to quite easily) as arguing that

"the cost of Europe's massive welfare states [makes] it too expensive for young people to have families."

Of course I'm not remotely qualified to comment on the truth or relevance of that statement (assuming it was even an accurate summation of Mr Santorum's views). And so I won't.

But it did get me thinking about some possible factors in present-day American society that make it difficult, expensive, in some cases even debilitatingly exhausting for people of any age to raise families. Among these possible factors, I couldn't resist considering one in particular as pretty close to the top. I mean the tragic inability of so many employers to pay, to one or both spouses, a wage live enough to minimize the need of both parents to juggle two, three, four - perhaps even five? - jobs between the two of them. Which is to say, a wage live enough to enable both parents to meet not just the much-debated emotional needs of their children, but even some of their physical needs as well. Or at least to meet those physical needs adequately enough so that the much-derided Public School System, in many districts, isn't called upon to serve those same kids not one, not two, but three meals a day.

Honestly, who could have imagined the State being so "vital," or parents being so "useless"? Except I'm sure that, in many if not a majority of cases, the parents aren't nearly so much useless as they are highly useful to a certain Somebody Else aforementioned. Somebody who in fact has an almost consuming need for them, whenever and however he may require their services. And like the proverbial professor in college, the way he hands out assignments, you'd think they had no other instructors but him, and no other courses besides his. Much less other life-responsibilities.

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