The Shriver Report – Why You Should Care About Politics

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Why You Should Care About Politics
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Mention politics to most people, and their eyes glaze over.

Who can blame them? It’s depressing, an endless display of bad behavior by self-serving and self-important stuffed shirts. And it is made to seem even worse than it is (which is already, really, quite awful) by the incessant chatter online and on screen of the media (whose appetite for something to talk about is insatiable in the 24/7 news cycle). So the feeling that politics cannot possibly bring about any positive change is understandable.

Most of the time, politics seem very far away and maybe even irrelevant to the ups and downs of normal, everyday life.

My friend Jennifer pays no attention to politics. She is (understandably) far too busy looking after her adorable 1-year-old daughter, going to college, and trying to get a part-time job. And now, in addition to this, she also has to pack up and move again (along with her mother and baby) into a different apartment.

The three of them were managing alright when Jennifer’s mother worked as a receptionist for a real estate company. However, she lost her job suddenly when her own mother (Jennifer’s grandmother) died. She had asked for time off without pay to attend her mother’s funeral. Yet her job came with no benefits, like vacation or sick time. Her time off request was denied.

Just take a moment and think about that—put yourself in that position:

You can attend your mother’s funeral, but if you do, you’ll lose your job, and that’ll be a problem for yourself, your daughter and your granddaughter (who depend on you). You can keep your job, keep food on the table, but you cannot attend your own mother’s funeral.

So, Jennifer’s mom quit her job to go to the funeral.

She’s been looking for another job, but getting one isn’t as easy as it used to be. So this little family of three women, each from a different generation, is moving to a less expensive apartment. The new apartment is farther from the community college where Jennifer goes, meaning she’ll spend more time on the road getting back and forth. Which in turn requires more child care, because her mother needs to be looking for a job (then hopefully working) and won’t be available to look after the baby.

I don’t envy her the stress of trying to reconcile the schedule of her classes, her mother’s work hours, and the child care provider’s hours—none of which she has any control over. Jennifer’s daughter has to be cared for, her mother must work, and she needs to be successful in her coursework and move on, in hopes that one day she’ll be self-sufficient.

What blows my mind about this story (which is totally true) is how one action on the part of an employer reaches beyond the office, into Jennifer’s education, all the way down to a baby’s life. You’d think the connection between the real estate office (where Jennifer’s mother worked) and Jennifer’s daughter would be so remote, they’d have little or nothing to do with each other.

But now, solving the child care problem will be driven by:

  • The location of their new apartment
  • What care is nearby
  • What the hours of that care are, and
  • If Jennifer can juggle that care with her class schedule

That’s phenomenal. It’s not really remote at all.

It’s the same with politics. It is much, much closer to us than we realize.

The people who get involved in issues and election campaigns know this, and know it is worth their time and money to influence what decisions get made. They pay close attention to who gets elected and sits in decision-making positions.

So far, the people getting elected and making these life-shaping decisions are mostly men.

In fact, they are mostly men who do not need to find child care.

And, they’re men who don’t have to ask another’s permission to attend their mother’s funeral.

Which, in large part, explains why most women do have to find child care, and depend on so many other things lining up just right in order to get to school, get to work, get to this place on time, get that thing done.

The point: Politics is worth paying attention to.

And many more of the people who get elected, and who make the decisions that have so much to do with every aspect of our daily lives, ought to be women.

They ought to be mothers.

This post originally ran on the National Association of Mothers’ Centers Mothers Central blog.



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Valerie Young is a Reporter for The Shriver Report.
Valerie Young represents the National Association of Mothers' Centers (NAMC) and its netroots public policy MOTHERS Initiative in Washington, D.C. She is an advocate for recognition of mothers’ contributions to our national welfare and a proponent of economic security and independence for those who care for family members. Trained as an attorney, Valerie analyzes state and national legislative action through the lens of motherhood, educating policy makers and others who work on issues pertinent to women. Valerie advises on developments in the political arena, demystifying the political process and encouraging the personal activism of mothers and other family caregivers.
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