The Million Mom March
We must manage expectations of America's working moms; Plus, Natalie Portman's feminist fairytales and much more
Livin’ On A Prayer …
On October 3, The New York Times published a piece “Why Did Hundreds of Thousands of Women Drop Out of the Work Force? The answer is multifold but basically the burden of caregiving has increased (more virtual school, less help), and if families now need a parent to be at home, the lower wage earner usually steps up and steps back. And given where things sit in terms of gender pay equality, it’s mainly women then who are quitting their jobs and staying at home “full time”. Says the Times, “Of the 1.1 million people ages 20 and over who left the work force (neither working nor looking for work) between August and September, over 800,000 were women, according to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center. That figure includes 324,000 Latinas and 58,000 Black women. For comparison, 216,000 men left the job market in the same time period.”
The numbers are grim, and what’s worse, the Times adds, is that it’s historically been tougher for women than men to then reenter the work force. If they do, it’s usually for less pay at a smaller job. The economic impact the pandemic is having on working moms is gargantuan. Dreams crushed, freedoms curtailed, budgets bust.
That’s why I was surprised to see this headline on People.com just four days later, October 7: Richie Sambora Has 'No Regrets' About Leaving Bon Jovi to Care for Daughter Ava, Who Just Turned 23
Sambora, it turns out, had taken a break after three decades of touring with Bon Jovi to be more present for his daughter, in 2013, around the time she turned 16. The article states, “Richie sacrificed a lot to be there for his daughter when she was still very young and needed him the most, and he's so proud to see how well she's doing now.”
Lovely, but why is this news? Why lionize a very wealthy, 54-year-old man for putting aside his career—once it had been firmly established—in order to be available “to drive with Ava to her first day of high school and to pool parties with her friends”?
The bar for dads is limbo-stick low. And yet, we still expect working moms—the professionals who generally juggle more, are paid less, and have far less job security— to be reflexively selfless and effacing.
Senator Kamala Harris recently said, “Throughout the past nine months of unprecedented crisis, Americans of all backgrounds have come together to help their communities—and nobody has done more than mothers. It's time for us to stop expecting them to be superheroes, and instead provide them with the structure and support they need.”
We gotta VOTE.
That’s the Story and We’re Not Sticking To It …
So much has been written about how the classic fairytales we’ve been sharing for generations are problematic. Narratives and characterizations have been shown to be racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, violent, and chauvinistic. What’s more concerning about their prevalence in the kiddie canon is that when children are hearing these stories, they are likely at an age when their emotional and mental development is most malleable. Still, many of us return to these tales because they have also been shown to spark a child’s imagination and wonderment.
As parents, we have an extra responsibility to layer caveats into our tellings. Something like, “We don’t kiss sleeping princesses. There’s this thing called ‘consent’ …” or “You know, stepmothers aren’t good or bad. There are all sorts of ways to become a family …” Far from textualists or originalists, we can choose to interpret fairytales as living documents. Way back in the time of the Brothers Grimms, Little Red Riding Hood would have clearly bene seen as a victim of her own willfulness and disobedience. Today, however, we can celebrate her as a fierce and strong victor. That red cape is now one of a superhero!
Actress and director Natalie Portman (mom to 9-year-old son Aleph and 3-year-old daughter Amalia) grew so tired of changing the fables she was reading to her kids that she decided to do something about it. This week, Portman released her first children’s book Natalie Portman’s Fables, retellings of well-known stories in which the protagonists have been translated from he to she. The Oscar-winner took on “The Tortoise and the Hare”, “The Three Little Pigs”, and “Country Mouse and City Mouse” —in part because she loves how these tales underscore our human need for slowing down, empathy, and connection. Still, “I wanted to update them,” she has said. “To be more reflective of the world in which we live.” Love it.
Four of a Kind …
I had been reporting a piece I recently wrote for Parents magazine’s November 2020 issue (4 Super Savvy Holiday Money Tips), when I came across a really smart and catchy holiday shopping rule. It’s been around for a while, yet its origins are unknown. You may have already heard it, and you may even practice it. But, it resonated with me, so I wanted to be sure to share it with you here. I know that many of us parents and caregivers set out not to overspend budgets, overindulge children, or overdo it in terms of waste. And so, the rule goes like this, get each kid “Something they want, something they need. Something to wear, and something to read.” (There are variations that include a giving-back element aka “something to share”.) I just love how pithy and disciplined the parameters are.
Is this something you might subscribe to—or are you planning on going all out this year, perhaps trying to “make up” for what has been a disappointment-filled 2020?
Let us know in the comments below.
Great piece! There is so much about the holidays I find so wasteful. My biggest issue is with wrapping paper, which you buy just throw away. I’m trying to find ways to be more creative with mine, but I have the get the wider family on board, too.
Going to order Natalie Portman’s book now. We were just discussing our disappointment with fables and fairy tales at the dinner table. Thank you!
I struggle with holiday gifts every year. Usually we fill carts with things to give away and choose a family trip on which to go. Trips might have to wait this year...