Parents cannot and should not be expected to go it alone when engaged in the important work of raising children. But that’s the reality for far too many families, who are left to cobble together the time and resources and child care they need, with little to no support from their workplaces or public institutions.
I wrote Parent Nation to better understand the challenges parents face all across America, how we got here and how we can come together to fight for a society that truly puts parents and children at the center. Here are four findings to empower you.
Parenting has the power to bring us to our knees, but what brings us to our knees must also rouse us to our feet.
Parents are their children’s first and most powerful teachers, and learning begins not on the first day of school but the first day of life. Parents deserve a society that provides ample time off when they need it and high-quality child care when they’re at work, especially during kids’ first three years when brain development is at its peak.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been awful, but it has also been crystallizing, reminding us that no one is meant to parent entirely alone and that our child care and education systems need to be robust, welcoming and accessible for all.
Parents deserve to be happy. (It’s in the Declaration of Independence!) And kids thrive when their parents thrive. But the “happiness gap” — how happy parents are compared to non-parents — is bigger in the U.S. than any other wealthy nation, and studies link our unhappiness to a lack of governmental and workplace supports.
We can’t achieve true civil rights, gender equality or educational parity until parents have the necessary supports to build their children’s brains. We have to stop expecting parents to carry the entire responsibility for their children’s development — and then blaming and shaming them when they struggle to meet every one of their children’s needs. If all children are to flourish and grow up to participate equally in the economy and civic life of the nation, society must support healthy brain development from birth.
Handpicked by Dr. Dana Suskind
Dr. Dana Suskind is a pediatric cochlear implant surgeon at the University of Chicago and author of the upcoming book, Parent Nation: Unlocking Every Child’s Potential, Fulfilling Society’s Promise, (Penguin/Dutton, April 2022).
Handpicked is a section in our bi-monthly magazine where we feature local and influential parents, and ask them to share bits of fun, inspiration and cool finds for you. Know someone that would love to contribute? Email us at email@example.com.
Follow Chicago Parent on Instagram.