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"You cannot fix a social problem with individual solutions."

We get it.

You want to lean in. You want to be the best mom. The best friend. The best worker. The most efficient human of all time. You want to cook 30-minute brownies in 20 minutes. (You might already have figured out a life hack to do that.) You want to be all things to all people.

We get it. We do, too. Because that's the message we're getting. From all places at all times.

And so we're with you in trying to get better. Be more efficient. Be more thoughtful, more organized, more transcendent. Care less about the jelly stain that runs around your house at roughly the level of a four-year-old's hands. Or maybe you've already mastered all of that. Yourself.

But, here's the thing: Children are a public good. Caregiving is a public good. Your brain and your skills and your vote and your volunteer time and your relationships are also public goods. Sure, your work--the one thing that we acknowledge as productive--is also a public good.

But it is not the only one.

We've written about this before (see On Productivity & Generativity). So have some other, smarter people (see Women Did Everything Right. Then Work Got Greedy. see also Anne Helen Petersen's thoughts on Then Work Got Greedy aptly titled there's no other way things could be). And Caitlyn Collins has a few things to say on the subject as well:

All of which is a long way of saying that we've been driving around the state (or, honestly, Jen has. Have we told you that Jen has been driving around the state?) talking about the gender wage gap and structural barriers to equity.

Truth is, this is a challenging topic most places, perhaps more so in the most independent-minded state in the lower 48. (We're reserving judgement about AK, and we know that Hawaiians know they live on an island and are, therefore, going to live and die together, whether they like it or not.)

In the US, we are only starting, very slowly, to understand that you can't fix a structural problem by sheer force of personal will. And, admittedly, we will probably all continue to bang our heads against that wall, earnestly trying to prove it wrong. We're Americans. This kind of understanding of individualism is bred in the bone. We've woven it into the fabric of every aspect of our daily lives from pop culture to religion and everything in between.

But civics and community and public policy depend on a belief--not just an understanding but an actual, deeply held belief--that we are in this thing together. That the whole is greater (and more important) than the sum of the parts. That, by extension, children--and all the other things mentioned above--are a public good. That the burden of caring for them, caring for our elders, caring for each other, should be shared across our communities. Across our society. Across our nation.

It is (long past) time for us to acknowledge the truth about our common connections. And that is why it is time for a shift in conversation about how we support caregivers. About how we support each other. As Caitlyn Collins rightly points out, "You cannot fix a social problem with individual solutions."

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