I defend the Romney child allowance plan against criticism from Senators Marco Rubio and Mike Lee in The New York Times.
The senators called the Romney proposal “welfare assistance” and added: “An essential part of being pro-family is being pro-work. Congress should expand the Child Tax Credit without undercutting the responsibility of parents to work to provide for their families.”
But the senators are pro-work only in a narrow sense, and in that sense they sell families short. There is no intrinsic value to labor outside the home that raises it to a higher dignity than the work of parents or other caregivers within the home. If only wage work is seen as “real” work, then a father who stays home with his young children doesn’t count as providing for his family.
To convert care into “real” work, he has to perform a sleight of hand. If the father swaps kids with a neighbor and each family pays the other to take care of its kids, then the same diaper changes, food preparation and reading of storybooks become official work. It’s hard to call this shell game pro-family policy, in which child care has value only if you don’t provide it to your own child.
And you may want to sign up for Other Feminisms, my substack community focused on the dignity of interdependence.