Last week I gave a presentation on Caring Economics to a small group of friends in Point Reyes Station, California. My guests were a young woman who works at a grant-making foundation, a woman who was a stay at home mom for many years and now works as an accountant, her 17-year-old daughter who is a homeschooled student, and a friend who is a harpsichordist and cleaner. I used the slide presentation, and paused for several discussions throughout, including a discussion of what we each value in our lives, which oriented towards natural and social resources over material ones.
The highlight of our conversations happened after the presentation ended, when we discussed how the principles of Caring Economics (or the lack thereof) operate in our own lives. My friend who is a harpsichordist and cleaner noted that if the U.S. had more supportive policies, such as healthcare and paid vacation, she might not have to work so hard at her job cleaning hotel rooms. She is in her late sixties and has arthritic hands, and spending so many hours cleaning makes it hard for her to play and teach the harpsichord, her true passion.
My friend who was a stay-at-home mother for many years shared that she feels that having a stay-at-home parent is much more helpful for early childhood development than paid childcare outside of the home with a non-parent, because bonding with a parent is vital for healthy childhood development and has a positive influence on future behavior. She also said that she would have felt much more secure and supported had the childcare she provided to her children over the years been compensated.
One of my friends questioned the idea of keeping action for change within the reigning paradigm of values in the West, focusing on the contribution of Caring Economics to economic prosperity, rather than valuing social and environmental development and caregiving for their own sake. She doesn’t think we will really shift as a society until we shift from prioritizing economic results over other aspects of life and human and environmental wellbeing. She pointed out that rather than sweeping policy changes, in her view what is needed is small actions taken locally, by people who care about the environment and one another.
My next steps will include further research into partnership societies as well as further study of the social and economic benefits of caring policies. As I begin volunteering at the Women’s Earth Alliance www.womensearthalliance.org next week, a local nonprofit that supports Indigenous and marginalized women around the world who are leaders in their communities, I will be interested to see how Caring Economics may shed light on the situation of women around the world who suffer under uncaring policies (including women in the U.S.A.).