Friday, January 18, 2013
I've had three weeks to watch the first two seasons of Mad Men so my mum and I can watch the third series together when she arrives on the 2nd February. The show focuses on everything that was wrong with the early 60s: sexism, racism, homophobia, drink driving, the stigma attached to mental health issues etc. It has a strong "Aren't you glad those days are gone?" liberal message wrapped up in an entertaining show.
While I'm pleased that the days of workplace sexism, racism, homophobia etc are gone, I tend to think we've thrown the baby out with the bath water (or maybe we've just brought in someone else to run the bath!) Since the 1960s a woman going back to work while her baby is still in nappies has gone from being the exception, to optional, to almost mandatory. Not because women love to work, but because the rise in double-income households, led to rising house prices and rents, so that these days it's very difficult for families to survive on one income. Not every mother wants to stay home, but I know an awful lot who would stay home if they could. Let's face it, if you won the lottery you'd give up your job not your kids!
Not every couple wants children (or can have children) however there are too many young couples who aren't having them because they can't afford. This can lead to a form of cognitive dissonance i.e. people telling themselves they don't want children when really they do (read here.)
What else have we lost with the two income era? We've lost community (no one is home) and we've lost a whole army of volunteers. I'm not saying I'd like to roll the clocks back and become a 1960s housewife, but I would like to see stay-at-home parents valued and supported by the government. The common good is not always about boosting the economy.
Student debts are another part of modern life that helps the economy but hinders starting a family. In the 1960s trainees were paid and went to night school. Instead of making $30 a week, today's average 20 year old is spending $5,000 a year on education. No wonder your typical school mum doesn't look as youthful as January Jones!