Working Parents: How the Current Social System is Stacked Against Them

Image Courtesy of the Training Journal

Image Courtesy of the Training Journal

Campbell Portland, Freelance Writer

This is an opinion article piece. Campbell Portland is a freshman at Mendham who writes for the school newspaper. All opinions expressed in the following editorial are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Patriot.

In the past, the breadwinning role in families has been severely dominated by men with women generally staying home as housewives. Nowadays, it is more common for both males and females to work outside of the home in a dual-breadwinner family structure. PEW Research Center survey stated that both parents work full time in 46% of American families compared to 31% in 1970. Though having both parents of a family working usually allows for a better quality of life for the family in general because of the dual-income structure, US employment laws do not guarantee child related benefits including parental leave, child care, or health care for the entire family. At this point, many families are making or attempting to make the move to a lifestyle with both parents working full-time outside of the home. If we seek a society that is accepting and allowing families and individuals to structure their lives in ways that work best for them, why is our current social system and societal standards preventing the transition to a generally sought after walk of life?

The average workday is from 9:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m. according to Balanced Careers while the average school hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Assuming that a school is within an hour from a families house, drop off is not a huge issue, but pick-up is a huge issue. When school ends in the middle of a workday, working parents are unable to coordinate pick-up as easily as drop-off. Though busses are an option, some parents prefer using their own cars to drive their children to school because it is safer, more convenient, there are not buses provided in their area, or allows parents to squeeze in quality time with their children. Without any breaks at work to pick up children from school, parents are forced to either hire a nanny or have their children take a bus if available. The mistimed scheduling of work and school by whoever decides when work and school are completely dysfunctional. Either providing pick-up breaks or organizing work and school timings so that working parents are able to schedule their families time in a way that works for them. 

According to NOLO, no law directly requires employers to provide health care coverage to their employees. Under the Affordable Care Act, employers with 50 or more full-time employees (or the equivalent in part-time employees) must provide health insurance to 95% of their full-time employees or pay a penalty to the Internal Revenue Service. For any smaller businesses or businesses that find legal loopholes, health care insurance may not be provided for working parents. Especially when there are multiple kids involved, health care compensation and insurance can be very expensive for families, and when companies neglect the need for health insurance it steals a parent’s right to protect the health of their children. The ideology that healthcare is a lower tier issue for families creates a social structure including neglect for families’ right to healthcare. 

Though the average number of women in the workplace has increased over the past few years, the construct of the male as breadwinner in the family continues to base false assumptions about families with two working parents, specifically with working females. Whenever meeting new people it is very common for people to ask about a males job and ask women about their children or their house. According to Boston Globe Magazine, motherhood is a cultural invention stemming from the false idea that young children are better off when cared for exclusively by their mothers. Since women are the parents that carry the baby for 9 months it seems as though women are expected to put their lives on hold the second that they get pregnant. Some companies have strong maternity leave programs that make it easy for women to return to work after they are able to physically recover from birth without it being expected that they will quit their careers to stay home with their children. It is not that all women should go back to work a few weeks after giving birth, it is that society should be set up in a way that women have the choice to go back to work if and when they want to, if at all. Society expects men to be working and women to not, and that limits parents ability to move to a double-breadwinner structure. 

The social structure and hierarchy of society needs to be arranged in a way that all people, especially parents who have children to take care of, can make choices that work for them regardless of what others want them to do. Parents are the backbone of society and are responsible for raising the next generation of the human race, and only when our society is able to accept working parents, especially in a dual-breadwinner household, will the younger humans growing up in our society fully be able to choose a lifestyle that works for them.