Baby, baby

It must be true: the New York Times has noticed.  It turns out that women are rational economic actors and therefore resist having children because it’s incredibly expensive and disabling to every other aspect of our lives.  Of course, the Nonprofiteer likewise noticed this fairly obvious, not to say utterly predictable, fact some months ago when she suggested stay-at-home motherhood as a candidate for recognized compensable national service.  Advantage the Times, though: the Nonprofiteer was envisioning a draft, in which women (and men) could participate by reproducing, while the Times article focuses on ways to foster voluntary parturition.

The most revolutionary aspect of the Times report is its suggestion that women actually have things we like to do other than changing diapers, so that the only effective means of encouraging us to reproduce is to give us the option to do something else at the same time.  That is, despite the years of "Is Feminism Dead Yet?" stories, work and motherhood aren’t either-or–they’re both-and.  Contemporary women in societies with no public childcare system BOTH have fewer children AND work less.  Provide families with sufficient support for work, or you’ll have no families at all. 

What does this have to do with nonprofits?  We’re the proverbial canary in the coal mine: all those studies about the looming post-Boomer vacancies in nonprofit executive suites note that the next generation of workers expects to have family time, and reasonable pay, and all that stuff none of us dared to demand.  (We already see the consequences of this: aging and declining volunteer cadres, anyone?)  Like the rest of society–only sooner, because so much of our leadership is female–nonprofits can either make work comfortable for women with children or kiss goodbye the idea of a functioning workforce.

Note "nonprofits can . . . make work comfortable" is actually false.  What nonprofits can, and should, do is advocate for government policies that will make work comfortable.  Or, as it is written, the personal is the political.

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2 Responses to “Baby, baby”

  1. Anita Bernstein Says:

    “Contemporary women in societies with no public childcare system BOTH have fewer children AND work less. Provide families with sufficient support for work, or you’ll have no families at all.”

    Isn’t the world’s highest birth rate in wretched Gaza, where there are very few public sewers, let alone a “public childcare system”?

    The U.S., with its disgraceful supports for child care, has a higher birth rate than more generous Europe. I don’t see any easy fix–especially since the goals aren’t always coherent.

  2. Nonprofiteer Says:

    Actually, the highest 20 birth rates in the world are all in the developing world, mostly in Africa (though Gaza isn’t listed). Your point’s well taken; I should have written, “Contemporary women in DEVELOPED societies, etc.”

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