JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS - December 2015 - Kansas City
All in the Family
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.
This time of year has important holidays with themes of peace and harmony. Some recent publications by and about women and re-visiting the Equal Rights Amendment made me think about the central importance of women’s happiness in this vision of peace and harmony. Since our true happiness and, certainly our physical and mental health, are influenced by the environment in which we live, it would be good to look at some of these issues effecting the families, yours, mine and the world’s.
Anne-Marie Slaughter in her book, Unfinished Business, tells us the discussion must shift from “being about the work-life balance to discrimination against care and care-giving.” She explains, “I am not proposing to devalue competition; I am proposing to revalue care, to elevate it to its proper place as an essential human instinct, drive, and activity.”
Women in the workplace bring attributes of patience, adaptability, courage, compassion and hope. Both men and women would benefit from developing these qualities. Millenial men have more egalitarian attitudes about children, family and work but are finding it difficult to sustain this in the face of current workplace attitudes and policies.
Women without children earn nearly the same as men in some fields while married mothers earn about 76 cents on the male dollar. Women in low and hourly incomes make even less. Gail Collins in a recent article, What Happened to Working Women?” tells us that out of twenty-four countries, the United States now ranks 20th, down from seventh, in the number of women in the workplace. “One of the reasons is clearly….the cost of child care.” She cites “…the cost of child care for a family with a 4-year-old and an 8-year-old would exceed housing costs…a working single mother of the same two children…probably eats up a third of your income. In most states infant care is more expensive than college tuition.”
Women in the workplace give families more needed income, stimulates the economy, brings needed and diverse skills, and helps women develop personally and professionally. Women in the United States, unlike most other countries in the world, do not get paid maternity leave or other benefits to help them as parents. There is not a lot of incentive for mothers to stay in the workforce. The stress for couples with children and both spouses working is very high. I see it frequently in my practice as they struggle to be good spouses and parents in a workplace that values competition and making money over care and care-giving.
The impetus to re-visit the ERA is beginning to gain momentum. Jessica Neuwirth, the author of Equal Means Equal: Why the Time for an Equal Rights Amendment Is Now, makes a compelling case that women’s rights, in issues like pay equity, pregnancy discrimination and violence against women, are compromised without the protection of the ERA.
Kamala Lopez, an actress, director and activist who established the ERA Education Project is also behind the forthcoming documentary, Equal Means Equal. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said “I would like to see women get fired up about the Equal Rights Amendment.” Meryl Streep, Emma Watson, Ellen Page, Beyonce, Patricia Arquette, John Legend and Ashton Kutcher, to name a few, are all making pubic statements about equality, women’s rights and feminism.
The time has come to re-think what brings happiness and peace to all. Perhaps it is equality for all, especially women and the values of care-giving and compassion with equal measures of courage and competition.
Let’s think about that for peace, harmony and great holidays.
Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC, is a counselor, educator and author. For counseling appointments, seminars, training, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Couple therapy call 913-322-5622. For more information about Jude LaClaire or the Kansas City Holistic Centre go to