In thinking back on the advice of the political consultant who suggested that I become more of a “good ol’ girl,” I am increasingly aware that it is simply not possible to do so. For being a good ol’ girl is not the same as being a good ol’ boy. To be a good ol’ boy is to be inside the process of influence and decision-making. To be a good ol’ girl, however, means to be compliant and to tolerate the system without participating as an equal partner in the process. The system to be tolerated is one of male dominance. It should be no surprise that it is a system that cannot allow the meaningful participation of anyone who holds a feminist perspective. This is not to say that only men are capable of good ol’ boy behavior. For more than anything, good ol’ boyism is an attitude of closed elitism and fear of change. Unfortunately those attitudes are not the exclusive domain of either gender. They are, however, completely antithetical to the concept of good democratic government. While it is often a bitter experience to be on the outside of a good ol’ boy system, it is only a matter of time before this county’s version of that system goes. the way of the City of Houston’s, now run by a woman mayor. Change is in the air as more reform-minded people focus in on the decision-making process of the county. As a former presidential cabinet official recently remarked, “those who resist change the most, get the most of it.” THE AMERICAN nuclear family has vanished. That is, the family of the homemaker-mother and the workaday-breadwinner-home-at-five father. And Democrats who would lead the nation into the next millennium are well-advised to take a good look at family life in America. If they have any vision, surely they will see their Baby Boomer constituency in large numbers and raising families working families, dual income families, single-parent families, poor families. A national family policy that meets the needs of this constituency must be developed. The Republicans act as though we’re living reruns of “Leave it to Beaver.” It’s clear we are not. Only ten percent of Texas workers fall into a traditional family pattern dad working, mom at home. The moms of the eighties are out in the labor force. Over 60 percent of all mothers with children under eighteen now work outside the home. And nearly half of mothers with children under a year old are in the workforce. Women’s wages have become essential to family survival. Over two-thirds of employed women are either the sole earners for their families or married to spouses earning under $15,000 a year, according to the Department of Labor. One wage especially the wages most women earn rarely supports a family above the poverty level. Ronald Reagan has helped to put a new twist on poverty. Alice Embree recently earned a masters degree in Community and Regional Planning. She serves on the statewide Advisory Committee on Child Care and with her two children and husband lives in Austin. The poor are now most often women and children. Two incomes are now a necessity for most middle-class families. And that middle-class life is also something less than the nostalgic version that many of us remember. Couples -today strain to make high mortgage payments only to have their “American dream” home stand empty ten hours of the day while adults work and children are cared for by strangers. Sleepy infants and toddlers hit the road in their car-seats at 7:30 a.m. to return home by 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. For their parents, nighttime hours and weekends fill up with household maintenance chores that leave little room for relaxation. Families are stretched thin between tight schedules and lean budgets. Democrats can build their constituency on family issues by letting the American people in on a well-kept secret: Reaganomics, framed in the rhetoric of traditional values, has been unkind to families. Family income has declined for every family type. In 1985, median family income trailed 1979 levels for all married couple families whether the wife was in the labor force single parent families also declined from 1979 levels whether the family had a Reaganomic;, of course, has made the rich richer and the poor poorer. Income inequality in 1984 has returned to its 1947 level. Republican economic policies have allowed our industrial base to crumble while the service sector has grown. And it is often women who find work in the service sector, where occupations are usually non-union and pay low-wages. What the demographic and economic changes mean for children is a higher level of family stress by night and a chaotic system of child care by day. New parents scramble for scarce and expensive infant care. Parents of schoolage children patch together afterschool arrangements or, worse, find no caretakers. Low pay for child care workers in this highly labor-intensive field results in a rapid turnover of employees a situation clearly not in the interest of very young children. It is time for this nation to join the rest of the industrial world in meeting family needs with a comprehensive family policy. The United States is the only industrial nation with no national family or child care policies. One hundred nations have guaranteed maternity leave while most industrial nations have a guarantee of paid parental ‘leave \(averaging three care system. Unlike the rest of the industrial world, the United States has no mandated maternity or universal maternal and child health service benefits. We live in the only modern democracy in which the basic family support system \(Aid to restricted almost completely to single female parents who are non-wageearners. Enacting a paternal leave law such as Colorado Representative Pat Schroeder has introduced in Congress would be a beginning. The proposed legislation mandates a minimum of 18 weeks leave for parents with a newborn, newly adopted or seriously ill child with reinstatement to the same job upon return. Such leave is basic in most of the developed world. In fact, most industrial countries mandate paid leave. Some form of universal maternal and child health benefits would be an important next step. A nationwide effort has been organ The Case for Child Care By Alice Embree 6 SEPTEMBER 25, 1987
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