We want to build boys — AND a just world.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by seemingly insurmountable challenges, and tempting to not take action on big societal issues like inequity because, well, what can we do anyway? But while it’s true that none of us can individually create the systemic changes that are needed to address thorny social issue, our individual parenting choices have power.
Sarah W. Jaffe was working as an attorney for children in foster care in New York City when she became pregnant with her first child, and she was struck by the tremendous gulf between the experiences of the kids she served and the concerns of parents in her personal peer group. She thought,
“Something is really wrong here with the level of anxiety that parents in my peer group are feeling versus the overall societal lack of concern about foster kids,” says Jaffe, author of Wanting What’s Best: Parenting, Privilege, and Building a Just World.
The truth is that the decisions we make for our kids affect other kids and families too. Take education, for instance: Parents with the economic means to do so often enroll their kids in private schools or “good” public schools with active PTAs that help provide funding for things like playground equipment, arts programs, and teachers. Their kids get a pretty decent education, but children at other schools may not get an equal or commensurate education.
Moving Past Fear to Build a Just World
“We are encouraged, as parent consumers, [to think that] there’s never enough,” Jaffe says. More education and experiences, our culture tells us, is always better. Marketers, Jaffe says, “prey on fear” and parents’ innate desire to help their children.
So affluents parents often invest a lot of time, energy, and resources into programs and services that may give their children a slight boost, while children a few blocks away lack the basics. That’s not good for anyone’s kids, in the long run.
Jaffe suggest parents consider their values when making parenting decisions. When choosing childcare, for instance (if you have a choice!), consider things like the pay and working conditions of childcare workers. If you have the money to spend, it may be better spent at a center that pay its workers fairly than at a prestigious preschool.
Jaffe also recommends that affluent and white parents look past their preconceived notions about which schools will or won’t work for their children. In our culture, well-off parents are “encouraged to see ourselves as consumers of schools that need to cater to our demands, rather than investors in a crucial systems,” she says. It might be best to invest your resources into the public school system.
The fear of our children “falling behind” is pervasive, but it doesn’t have to drive your parenting decisions.
“Being in community with people, feeling invested in creating systems that work for everyone, is a really powerful antidote to that fear,” Jaffe says. “Try to step away from the fear and into a sense of community.”
In this episode, Jen, Janet, & Sarah discuss:
- Why we need to care about ALL kids
- How parents contribute to educational inequity
- Increasing educational equity
- Learning to identify “enough”
- Childcare inequities
- Questions to ask when choosing childcare
- How parents can advocate for their sons’ needs while still working for a just world
- Supporting public education
- Equitable school funding
Links we mentioned (or should have) in this episode:
Gender Equality, Boys, & Men — ON BOYS episode featuring Richard V. Reeves (mentioned at 15:50)
National Domestic Workers Alliance — includes links & ideas for how you can make your home a good workplace for a nanny, house cleaner or caregiver, as well as advocacy tips
Forest Schools Get Boys Learning Naturally — ON BOYS episode
Need help with your boys?
Join Janet Allison’s real-time, monthly group coaching program, Decoding Your Boy