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Capitalism’s Harsh Reality When Talking About Productivity & Parental Worth

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Late stage capitalism is wild. Everything is commodified and consumable. Simple existence is now an expensive undertaking. Food, shelter, education, transportation, entertainment, and more are ever increasing in cost.

I wake up everyday with a laundry list of tasks like most others do. The list includes things that need to be done, things that should be done, and things that I’d like to get done but will likely not because of a lack of time, resources, energy, etc. Those items are the most frustrating. They are things like scanning old family photos or weeding in the backyard. I occasionally get to them, but not nearly as often as I’d like. That type of failure, although small, hampers my mental health journey.

It isn’t easy making sure the kids get off to school on time with all their assignments due, lunches packed, band equipment in hand, and after school activities scheduled. The mornings that are easiest include well rested children, a highly caffeinated me, and time spent in preparation the preceding evening. This, of course, is a triple cocktail that happens far too little.

I spent years working outside the home before kids and even several years after becoming a parent. Much of that time was spent at non-profits, startups, or retail jobs that didn’t value me as an individual. They valued me rather as a replaceable employee. I was nothing more to them than a warm body at a desk. Each position ended my time with them via a staff reduction or a deliberate scheduling challenge with the goal of quiet firing me.

I’ve always been the independent sort. Problems aren’t problems if I can figure out a solution. I’ve held jobs for over a decade and jobs for less than a year. A handful in my early working career in my late teens and early 20s lasted only a single shift.

None of them have provided enough income for me (and later my family once I had one) without a very real uneasiness of what might happen if I lost that job or the inevitable surprise car repair. Paycheck to paycheck is how my parents were and it has always been my experience as well. As many at 61% of Americans live that way according to Forbes.

The market has never known what to do with me. I’ve never had a job loss that was counted in the official unemployment numbers because I’ve never had an unemployment claim approved. Even in the midst of the global pandemic when freelancers were supposed to qualify, I did not. My applications were denied.

My wife works outside the home. She’s in the travel industry and amazing at her job. We couldn’t live the life we do without her. The same can be said for me. I’m the glue that keeps the kids on schedule, the house together (mostly), and our meals prepared.

Capitalism, however, takes me and others like me for granted. We are the taken for granted part of the economy that seemingly generates little to no wealth, yet allows our partners to do what they do.

I’m part of the group the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics counts as “Not in the Labor Force” due to “family responsibilities” even though I am able and willing to work on something outside the home up to 6 hours a day while the children are in school.  Most jobs that I’ve interviewed for don’t like this arrangement seeing as I’d have to be off on the days the kids are out of school. That means holidays, weekends, parent teacher conferences, teacher inservice days, random student non-attendance days, snow days, etc. Our contributions as stay-at-home-parents would result in six-figure salaries if the labor was contracted out.

What’s the best answer I’ve been able to come up with? Remote freelance work. It isn’t the glamorous freelancing you see on TV though. I’m honestly terrible at sales. Convincing someone they need something has never been my strong suit. If a small business owners knows they want a new website or a band wants to run a crowdfunding campaign I can make it happen. Showing a brewery owner that they have a terrible website and need to spend money on fixing it though? It’s a tall order.

I don’t fit into this system we call Capitalism. I really like to help people make systems easier to use, solve technical issues, and automate the boring parts of their lives. I have to find my meaning in things like childcare, hobbies, and upkeep at home instead of regular paid work because it just isn’t there for me.

Thinking ahead that sort of search for meaning won’t work for me thought. Decades in the future (or sooner) I may lose my ability to produce or care for others. What then? My belief in the value of humanity for simply existing won’t pay my bills. I suffer from migraine and it has been known to incapacitate me for days at a time. This all also reminds me of the last few years of my dad’s life. He was prevented from even caring for himself after a lifetime of caring for others due to severe health challenges.

This line of thinking is why I’m a supporter of a universal basic income. People should have their basic needs met without precondition of productivity. AI will eventually be able to do the heavy lifting and offer the ability for humanity to better itself if the capitalists allow the Star Trek like utopia of the future to exists.

Can you relate? What do you find meaning in if you can’t find regular paid work? Do you suffer from a disability that inhibits your ability to be valuable to the capitalist? Let me know in the comments and on social.

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