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Chapter 10 123 On my lifetime Social Security record, there are two gaps filled in with zeroes. They mark the years—three after the birth of each child—when I left the paid labor force to be a full-time mother. During these periods when my official record says I contributed nothing to the economy, I produced literally a ton of milk. I was not paying into our national pension scheme, but I was making a lifetime investment in two people’s health and development, building human capital. As far back as the 1930s, econometrician Simon Kuznets wrote that to calculate national income without including the value of care provided by housewives and other household members was to render the national account a less valid measurement of national productivity. In the 1980s New Zealand feminist economist Marilyn Waring criticized the United Nations’ System of National Accounts (UNSNA) based on gross domestic product (GDP), because it omitted women’s carework, subsistence farming, and the life-supporting properties of the natural environment. Policy makers are starting to get the message. In 2008 French President Sarkozy set up a commission led by three prominent economists (Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen, and Jean-Paul Fitoussi) to explore better ways of tracking social and economic progress and well-being. One recommendation of the commission is to measure nonmarket activities such as unpaid carework.1 At various points in life, every person needs care from another person—a caregiver. Babies and young children require care for survival and for normal development. Some disabled people need assistance to manage the activities of daily living, and many of us will need care if we become frail, sick, or injured. “Are We There Yet?” Breastfeeding as a Gauge of Carework by Mothers Chris Mulford Traditionally women provide the majority of care, and caregiving is expected of women in many cultures.2 Around the world, women, men, and children provide care to others both for pay and without pay. Over the twentieth century, feminist writers paid increasing attention to caregiving, an important topic for feminist economists and for writers on gender and social policy. The word “carework” comprises unpaid family and community caregiving; caregiving jobs in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors; and domestic chores like cooking and cleaning, which count as carework when done for recipients who cannot care for themselves.3 Breastfeeding is an example of caregiving that puts into high relief the small social and economic value most people in the United States place on carework by mothers. In this chapter I examine how we might make breastfeeding more visible by bringing it into the conversation on carework. Breastfeeding and Women’s Economic Roles Breastfeeding plays a part in women’s seven roles identified by anthropologist Christine Oppong.4 The focus for my discussion is on the three roles central to a woman’s economic life: the maternal (parental), occupational, and domestic roles. These are economic because they involve the allocation of a woman’s resources, time, and energy. The activities associated with these roles are the following: Maternal role Bearing (producing) and rearing children Occupational role Producing goods and/or providing services for pay Domestic role Unpaid production of goods and/or provision of services for household use The concept of a social role has two aspects: activities and expectations. Thus, each role encompasses what a woman does and expects to do in that role, what others expect her to do, and the rewards and/or sanctions that motivate her behavior within the role. Gender beliefs may be expressed through role expectations—what is expected of a woman as opposed to what is expected of a man. One strategy in women’s quest for gender equality has been to draw a distinction between the reproductive activities of childbearing (done only by women) and child rearing (which anyone can do). Child rearing includes education—both practical and moral; supervision for health and safety; and daily care—feeding, bathing, dressing, transporting, amusing, soothing, and settling to sleep. Raising children is reproductive work insofar as it reproduces the human race, but, except in the case of breastfeeding, it is work that does not specifically require a maternal body. 124 Chris Mulford Breastfeeding crosses the boundary between childbearing and child rearing. For months or years after birth, breastfeeding fulfills the feeding, soothing, and settling functions of child rearing, and it requires a maternal body to perform these functions (although not necessarily the biological mother’s body...

Additional Information

ISBN
9780813553160
Related ISBN
9780813553030
MARC Record
OCLC
805510887
Pages
356
Launched on MUSE
2012-08-22
Language
English
Open Access
No
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