White House Summit on Working Families

My wife gets called “Supermom” relatively frequently. It actually bothers her. “I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do!” she says. But it’s increasingly difficult for working parents in the United States to do all the things they’re “supposed to do.”

Last week, the President’s Council of Economic Advisors released a report on the state of working families today in the United States. They found that “nearly half of parents say they have chosen to pass up a job they felt would conflict with family obligations,” and 52 percent of workers believe they’d be more successful at work with a flexible schedule. Worker productivity is up, average wages haven’t risen significantly in decades, and the costs of raising kids are sky-high. Meanwhile, ours is the developed country in the world that lacks a mandatory paid parental leave policy.

If things are tough for a highly-educated, relatively-privileged family like mine to make ends meet without sacrificing health or sanity, things are often even more grim for families with fewer resources. While raising kids is always going to be a heavy lift, it shouldn’t be so tough that we start thinking of parents as supernatural.

With those struggles as a backdrop, the White House is convening a Working Families Summit today in Washington, D.C. The event focuses on how policymakers, employers, and workers can develop policies and working environments that support a better balance between breadwinning and caregiving in the United States. You can watch the Summit here (and breakout sessions are available for streaming here), and live-Tweet using the hashtags #FamiliesSucceed and #WorkingFamilies.

As tough as things are for parents right now, there are things that the country can do. We’ve written before about policies that can make a difference. These are things like expanding pre-K access, offering new parents resources to support their young children’s development, and dual-generation initiatives—all of which would ease stresses on families, support children’s healthy development, and make it possible for parents to advance their careers.

The research is clear. The ideas are there. The political awareness is coming along (with help from today’s summit). The challenge now is taking these resources and making a national commitment to improving conditions for workers and their children.

[Cross-posted at Ed Central]

Conor Williams

Conor Williams is a Senior Researcher in the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation. Find him on Twitter: @ConorPWilliams