Angela Garbes’s New Book Asks: Why Don’t We Value Mothering as Care Work?

All of it, really! The way our society positions that work is that it’s invisible, and it’s not compensated for financially because it’s expected to be done for free. Care is relevant to every single person, though. It’s not a mother thing, it’s not a parent thing; it’s about caring for adults, for elderly people, for people with different needs. It’s just the human condition. But if there’s anything I want to see more of—and this is sort of what the second half of the book is dealing in—it’s what would happen if we actually saw this work for the essential labor that it is. I think it’s just a very human, basic thing to care for yourself and to care for others, and I want to talk about it as a thing that can be fun, a thing that can be transformative, a thing that can bring people together; you know, the positive aspects of it.

What do you think it would take for our society to recognize and value the work that female caregivers of color, in particular, are already doing?

I think we need to see them. We need to listen to them, we need to see them as full people. In the book, I’m trying to challenge white affluent women, to realize that they’ve outsourced work to women of color, but the pandemic revealed that when those support systems go away, you’re left doing that work. There’s this idea that that work is unskilled, which is a myth kept alive to indicate that some people are worth more than others, but I think it’s just really about valuing women of color in a way that we have not. Our society is very comfortable keeping us at the margins, and not seeing them—not seeing us—as human. In terms of parenting and caregiving, we criticize the idea of immigrants coming here for a better life because you’re putting your family at risk, right? We criminalize the behavior of women of color so much, and it makes all of this feel very personal.

I love how much you talk about your own family in the book. What did you learn from watching your mother over the years?

This book is, in so many ways, about her. The cultural gap feels really wide between us, but my mom is such a loving, caring person. She definitely doesn’t totally understand my work, but she gave me such a feeling of love that I want to instill in my daughters. A lot of my parenting is definitely in response to how I was parented, and that requires accepting my mother, who had her limitations and couldn’t give me all the things that I wanted, because how could you? I didn’t always know what I wanted! So I think some of this work is realizing the ways in which I want to give my daughters the things that my mother couldn’t necessarily give me.

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