I published an article in the On Parenting section of the The Washington Post today. The article, The Invisible Work and Value of Parenting, discussing caretaking and its underappreciated importance to civil society.
“You have a PhD, and you’re freelancing and home with the kids? That must be … nice,” said the mother of a friend of my 6-year-old daughter.
The “nice” hung in the air awkwardly, familiarly. Behind the question was genuine bewilderment, curiosity, a bit of judgment, a smattering of pity. In my next breath I felt compelled to outline to her my articles, papers and chapters in progress, my latest academic presentation, the national outlets for which I write, my search for a flexible (gasp!) teaching or writing job.
Later, I questioned my first reaction, which had been to highlight all the other, “real” things for which I am responsible, for which I am paid or externally recognized, as opposed to noting the positive effects that my availability at home has had on my children. Those include mentoring my daughter one-on-one, participating in school (and after-school) activities and addressing myriad emotional and practical needs.