So, I'm sitting at Chicago O'Hare for another post. In another five hours (wait time, flight time, driving time in Baltimore), I'll be home. Since leaving the Grange Hotel at 5:40 this morning and waiting at the train station for the 5:59 AM train and then the flight across the Atlantic, I've read half of a book that a fellow conference attendee passed along to me. The book is entitled "The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business". The author is Gabrielle Palmer who gave the one keynote at the conference that I missed.
I have noticed how closely the politics and economics of issues around breastfeeding go together--at least in Ms. Palmer's interpretation. The close link really does not surprise me given the discussion that she and I had after my presentation and throughout the last day of the conference.
Anyone who likes to think about how our nutrition production system arrived at its current state might find this book an interesting read. It is compared (in its publicity) to fast food nation.
I could share many quotes from the book. However, I'll limit myself to one. This is related to the comments the past few days about whether breast milk value belongs as part of the GDP and to a very personal issue--what is the time of a stay at home parent worth? Ms. Palmer had been talking about a trend toward women's place being in the home but not being part of production in the home (e.g. a self-employed seamstress) as much of production moved to factories during the Industrial Revolution. Talking about the census in England, "In spite of the lip service paid to domestic duties, in 1881 the Census excluded women's household chores from the category of productive work and, for the first time, housewives were classified as unoccupied." [I added the emphasis.] The key here is that there was a time when what mothers did at home was considered productive. They may not have put it in whatever they called the GDP calculation back then. They may not have valued breast milk, per se. But they at least acknowledged that mothers at home are doing a job. A very important job, no less. If it was still that way, when people ask me if my wife works, I wouldn't have to say "Well she works, just not outside the home."
Over the past several years, there have been numerous calculations of how much money it would take to purchase a stay at home parent's (usually mom's) services. It is not a small amount. The combination of tasks is important. And working parents like me would not have it nearly as easy to do our jobs. I would not be as easily able to go across the ocean to give presentations and consider ideas about ways to promote public health if it were not for my wife's choice to stay at home. Of course, my dual income friends can comment that they manage to do such things too. I'm just saying that I have great flexibility and have a huge "value added" from my wife's choice to stay at home. It is really too bad that we do nothing to reflect that in the reward system of modern society--when it comes to breastfeeding or other parts of the household production process.
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