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What Parents Owe Their Children and What Society Owes Parents
Having a child, it has been said, is the greatest risk one can take. Marriages may come and go but parenthood endures. There is simply no escape-no exit-from the emotional and practical responsibilities of parenting. Nor should there be. While certain questions swirling around children-What constitutes a "good" parent? What is the role of the state in ensuring the welfare of the child?-are endlessly debated, consistency and continuity of care incontrovertibly play a foundational role in the developmental years of a child's life. Children, everyone agrees, need strong, reliable parenting. Parenting today, however, also involves something else: unprecedented economic peril. Over time, our society's demands on parents have skyrocketed, while the economic rewards of child-rearing have diminished. Once, children provided financial benefit, as workers on the farm and as security in old age. For today's parents, however, having a child is a one-way obligation, one which narrows paths and saps resources. Much of the economic burden falls on mothers, who work less, earn less, and achieve less than their childless peers.Low-income parents often struggle day-to-day to care for their children, hold down a job, and somehow find decent but affordable child care. Parents with severely ill or disabled children may find the course especially precarious. In order to create a more secure world for children and their parents, Anne Alstott argues, we must fundamentally change the way we think about parents' obligations to children-and about society's obligations to parents. Drawing on the same innovative thinking that propelled her and Bruce Ackerman's influential work The Stakeholder Society, Alstott proposes a solution both pragmatic and controversial. She outlines two unsentimental proposals intended to improve parents' economic options while respecting every individual's own choices about how best to combine paid work and child-rearing. Rejecting both state paternalism and easy libertarianism, Alstott's proposals are bold and unapologetic in their implications. At the heart of No Exit lie two basic beliefs: For the good of all, there should be no opt-out clause from parenting. And yet child-rearing should be a life stage, not a life sentence.Take care of your child, Alstott demands, and we-the societal we-will in turn take care of you. In this fearless, compassionate book, she shows us how.
Oxford University Press; January 2004
267 pages; ISBN 9780195347494
267 pages; ISBN 9780195347494
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