I read Friedan's book in my early 20s, and I credit it with changing my life. I credit it with awakening me to my potential. I have had a productive, satisfying career in which I think I have helped make the world a little better for children and families.
Yes, the book is about relatively affluent, educated women. It does not address women who must work to live. It is about self-actualization, not survival. Nevertheless, it is a book that spoke truth to the powers that were. And these powers still are, in some areas, and we still need women to stand up and speak truth. (How about the comments about rape and women's health in the last election cycle?)
I want to talk here, though, about the subject that never gets enough attention. What about the children?
In the 50 years since Friedan's book, with hoards of women going to work, some progress has been made in the quality and availability of child care, but not nearly enough. Finally, President Obama is giving it the attention it deserves. But there is a chorus of old white men saying that this isn't important, and we can't spend money on such frivolity. There is access to high-quality child care programs for affluent families. But most children are not in high-quality programs.
Go visit a local program. What do you see? Do the staff even talk to the children the way you would like your own child to be talked to? Are children encouraged to think, to express themselves, to care about others? Or is the goal of the program to keep the kids busy any which way -- and relatively quiet -- until the day passes?
Most women work outside the home now. They work because they need to make money to maintain the standard of living they want to provide their children. They want their children to flourish and grow when they are in early childhood programs, whether in family child care homes, child care centers or other types of early childhood programs. Families want quality programs for their children, and our country needs all children to start school eager and ready to continue their learning.
As we celebrate the 50th birthday of this great book that fueled a generation of female strivers, let us not forget the other, most important, side of the coin. When women work, we, as a country, must assure that children can thrive in high quality early education programs.
Margery Leveen Sher
Founder and Chief Noticing Officer
The Did Ya Notice? Project www.didyanotice.com