Mother’s Day Rant

Riane Eisler, who published her book on “cultural transformation” The Chalice and the Blade a quarter of a century ago, has an op-ed piece in today’s paper about Mothers Day and caregiving.
I read The Chalice and the Blade when it first came out, during my tumultuous feminist years, when I was devouring everything I could find about the evolution of the female of our species. Not The Descent of Man, nor The Naked Ape, but The Descent of Woman.
As one reader who reviewed Eisler’s book wrote:
Based on the work of the remarkable archaeologist Marija Gimbutas and many other scientists and scholars, Riane Eisler discusses Truth after Truth of our world’s wonderful Prehistory in which, rather than the caveman Lie, our ancestors were peaceful, highly artistic, compassionate people who loved and celebrated all Life and worshipped the Goddess. The remains of their cities prove that they lived communally with no slaves and no signs of war for 2000 years until the cruel, bloody invasions of the peripheral, nomadic Indo-Europeans. Our “civilization” has ever after been based on the Dominator model: a history filled with wars, slavery, murder, rape, violence; men dominating women, children, and other men; in which values of compassion and peace are set aside or suppressed.
I have been taken to task before by other female bloggers for “as they see it” advocating matriarchy. But that’s never been my point. My point always has been that we need to dismantle the patriarchy and build it into (or maybe re-build, if we believe Eisler’s and Gimbutas’ research) an egalitarian society that values the peaceful and compassionate nature of the female archetype, that maintains an infrastructure that supports the role of the person-nurturing “mother-figure” as much as it supports the goals of the achievement-oriented “father-figure.” Please note that I am not referring to actual gender-based qualities but rather to archetypical ones.
As Eisler states:
The work of caregiving in families, whether it’s done by women or men, is not even included in measures of economic productivity, such as gross domestic product (GDP). The GDP does include, however, work such as building and using weapons, making and selling cigarettes and other activities that destroy rather than nurture life.
That’s the point.
There is enough statistical evidence to support the fact that women and the role they continue to play in our nation today are still a long way from being valued. As Eisler reports in her Mother’s Day article today:
In our wealthy nation, millions of mothers – largely former middle-class women who devoted most of their lives to taking care of others – face an old age of poverty. They are twice as likely to be poor than older men.
Despite all the rhetoric about motherhood and apple pie, our economic system does not support mothers or other family members who do the work of caregiving. It does not reward this essential work in a way that helps put food on the table or a roof over our heads..
In the Scandinavian nations, as well as in France, Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand and other industrialized democracies, there is paid parental leave, and California recently enacted such a law. In other industrialized nations, there are government subsidies for childcare and home elderly care.
Some critics claim that such policies will encourage people to stay home and not take outside jobs, and will lead to a high birth rate. But nothing of the sort has happened in nations with such policies that are friendly to caregivers.
The Scandinavian nations have a low birthrate, prosperous economies and high rate of women in elected positions (in Finland, both the president and prime minister are women).
The lesson from this is that only when caregiving is valued can we realistically expect more caring social policies.

Keep in mind that “caregiving” does not just mean giving birth to and raising children. As Eisler points out,
High-quality caregiving is essential for children’s welfare and development. Community investment in caregiving will pay for itself in less than a generation. Consider the enormous community expense of not investing in good childcare – from crime, mental illness, drug abuse and lost human potential – to the economic consequences of lower quality “human capital.”
Women are still the main caregivers. Professions that entail caregiving, such as childcare and elementary school teaching, where women dominate, are lower paid than professions that do not involve caregiving, such as manufacturing and engineering, which are predominantly male.

And, as a woman, whether you consider yourself a caregiver or not, you will one day be an older woman — maybe even a very old woman. An article in my local paper today by Korky Vann of the Hartford Courant (for which I can?t seem to find a link) states:
According to research from the International Longevity Center-USA, an aging-issues think tank, and the AARP Foundation, women older than 65 are twice as likely to be poor as men older than 65.
A number of factors contribute to the financial difficulties older women often face, including: Women earn less than men. Women are more likely to work as unpaid family caregivers. Women are only half as likely as men to have private pension, and their pensions are only half as large
Vann’s article cites a report that recommends changes in public policy, such as initiating retirement credits for unpaid work such a caregiving.
And, having children aside, you might wind up where I am, caregiving for your parent (certainly something I believed, in my younger days, that I would never do). What goes around, comes around. And, when it goes around again, maybe I’ll move to Sweden — especially if Bush gets re-elected.

4 thoughts on “Mother’s Day Rant

  1. I have to stop mid-rant (leave it to you, Kalilily, to rant on Mother’s Day, Lol!) to begin making notes now: I am terrified of eating cat food from a tin in my old age, and not having enough money for medicines, if I even last that long! It’s one of the BIG reasons (capital letters) why I finally gave in and married finally (at age 48, and under extreme duress) because if my long-time boyfriend suddenly up and died—I’d get NOTHING.
    Next: No f-cking wonder I have felt so INvalidated my entire life–this country has never placed any kind of dollar value on my (chosen) lifetime of service, taking care of my and other’s children, elders, other people’s elders, caring for the homeless, & victims of domestic violence. Where’s my social security? Ain’t none. No cents for me. “Sucker!” I heard once, regarding my selfish whims.
    “Lower quality ‘human capital'” hmmm…is this where I insert my demand that we begin to license parents and care-takers with as much enthusiasm as we issue driver’s licenses and gun permits?
    A change in policy? Right on, Sister! Korky!
    “Retirement credits for caregiving?” Absofrickinlutely!
    Sweden? I hear it’s very nice. And they make excellent cars. You go get an apartment, I’ll wait to become a widow. The way he eats and smokes, it won’t be long now. (Note to self: refill prescription for Lipitor. Stop smoking. Get off high-horse before something terrible befalls.)

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