It’s nearly impossible for a single parent or even two parents working full time to cook every meal from scratch, planning it beforehand and cleaning it up afterward. This is why many working parents of means employ housekeepers. But if we put this work on women of lower socioeconomic status (as is almost always the case), what about their children? Who cooks and cleans up for them?
In the Wages for Housework campaign, Ms. James argued for a shorter workweek for all, in part so men could help raise the children. This is not a pipe dream. Several Northern European nations have instituted social programs that reflect the importance of this work. The Netherlands promotes a “1.5 jobs model,” which allows men and women to work 75 percent of their regular hours when they have young children. In Sweden, parents can choose to work three-quarters of their normal hours until children turn 8.
To get Americans cooking, we need to make it possible. Stay-at-home parents should qualify for a new government program while they are raising young children — one that provides money for good food, as well as education on cooking, meal planning and shopping — so that one parent in a two-parent household, or a single parent, can afford to be home with the children and provide wholesome, healthy meals. These payments could be financed by taxing harmful foods, like sugary beverages, highly caloric, processed snack foods and nutritionally poor options at fast food and other restaurants. Directly linking a tax on harmful food products to a program that benefits health would provide a clear rebuttal to critics of these taxes. Business owners who argue that such taxes will hurt their bottom lines would, in fact, benefit from new demand for healthy food options and from customers with money to spend on such foods.