There’s a lot of talk about “the sharing economy,” but Anne Marie-Slaughter talks about “the caring and sharing economy.” A huge amount of important work in our society—approximately 75 billion hours per year in the U.S. alone, by some estimates—is done by unpaid laborers. This is the work of caring for children and aging parents. That’s a huge and important area that is ripe for a technology assist. Already there are Uber-like services like Shuddle providing transport aimed at children; due to new healthcare reimbursement policies focused on outcomes, it is now often cheaper to give concierge-care to the sickest patients. As our population ages, there are going to be huge opportunities for companies to apply the principles of the 21st century to this important work.
— Tim O’Reilly
Taking care of children is investing in the human capital of the next generation. There’s actually nothing more important that we do as a society, and if we do it badly, we pay for it economically, socially, criminally, and morally, in the sense of wasted lives and potential. And taking care of elders is an affirmation of our common humanity—a recognition that we will all be there someday. As well as making people’s lives longer and better, it’s a basic commitment to human dignity. Skilled care-giving requires education and experience, and we have to recognize that it’s something we should be valuing every bit as much as we value lending money or drawing up a will.
What mothers need, as well as fathers, spouses, and the children of aging parents, is an entire national infrastructure of care, every bit as important as the physical infrastructure of roads, bridges, tunnels, broadband, parks and public works.
Someone must transform income into the food, shelter, clothing, nurture, discipline, education, minding, nursing, transportation, and emotional support that creates life outside of the office, permits survival of the race, cares for the ill and disabled, and makes life livable when we can no longer care for ourselves.
Most women of my generation, whatever they say, do not think a stay-at-home mom does work that is as important as being the CEO of a think tank, for example. It’s uncomfortable to admit, but that’s just not what we were raised with. And this recognition of the equal value of different kinds of work is not just important for women—it’s vital for men as well. In the end, we are going to need an equal number of people in the workplace and in the home, supporting different kinds of work. If a woman is a CEO, she’s going to need someone at home who is what I call the lead parent, or the flexible caregiver, depending on who is being cared for. The only way to achieve that is to truly value care-giving, and to value it when men do it as well as when women do it.
Patriotism demands the ability to feel shame as much as to feel pride. We should be proud of our country when we have done something to be proud of, when we have lived up to our own standards. But the flip side of genuine pride is being able to recognize when we have fallen short, and to hold ourselves to account.
Anne-Marie Slaughter is the president and CEO of New America, and the Bert G. Kerstetter ‘66 University Professor Emerita of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. From 2009-2011 she served as the director of Policy Planning for the United States Department of State, the first woman to hold that position. Prior to her government service, Dr. Slaughter was the Dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs from 2002-2009, and the J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law at Harvard Law School from 1994-2002. She has written or edited six books, including A New World Order and The Idea that Is America: Keeping Faith with Our Values in a Dangerous World, and is a frequent contributor to a number of publications, including The Atlantic and Project Syndicate. In 2012, she published “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” in The Atlantic, which quickly became the most-read article in the history of the magazine and helped spark a renewed national debate on the continued obstacles to genuine full male-female equality. She is married to Professor Andrew Moravcsik; they live in Princeton with their two sons.
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