Opinions are the writer’s own and not those of Blavity’s.
Another day, another problematic white woman earning kudos and admiration for doing the absolute least.
Recently, Meghan McCain drew praise for an Instagram post bemoaning her freely-chosen decision to spend her entire adult life prioritizing her successful career as an outspoken, uninformed hypocrite. Describing how COVID-19 made her, for the first time, take stock of society’s lack of social programs, and support for new moms and working parents battling burnout, she implored her followers to “Stop glamorizing overworking. Please.” Instead, she advises them to embrace more time for work-life balance and self-care.
Here, as in McCain’s previous moment of moral clarity — coming out in support of parental leave after experiencing a difficult birthing experience, she manages to miss the point. She speaks of overworking as if it’s a conscious choice made by those drawn to the “glamor” of spending long hours struggling to earn a living in order to support their families. If only it were that easy for so many of us who don’t have her privilege and the freedom to reprioritize so we can carve out a bit more “me time.”
Though I wholeheartedly agree with McCain’s condemnation of our country’s workaholic glorification of “hustle culture,” her message falls flat because her politics are directly at odds with just about everything she claims to champion. Conservatives have long promoted the idea that if you just work hard enough, you can achieve the “American dream.” But that’s a convenient lie to shift the burden and blame for economic hardship onto those who are struggling most, suggesting they somehow brought this upon themselves. It also allows privileged people like McCain to avoid taking an uncomfortable look at themselves in the mirror. That way, they never take accountability for the inequities that they benefit from and never feel compelled to support policies that support working families.
While burnout is now officially recognized as a medical condition — linked to severe psychological as well as physical consequences, including premature death — it’s hard to know what workers are meant to do about it. There simply aren’t policies in place to help workers take the time they need to balance work and family. For instance, only one in five people have access to paid family leave through an employer, and only two in five receive short-term disability coverage.
The pandemic shed a bright light on our overburdened, unaffordable and underfunded national child care sector that parents rely upon to be able to work in the first place. Republicans in Congress have now turned their attention toward stymieing progress on the passage of President Biden’s American Families Plan and obstructing the long-overdue proposed investments necessary to expand access to high-quality, affordable child care resources to all families. Among those fortunate enough to have employment and access to child care, the majority of workers remain beholden to their employers’ demands, lest they lose their job, losing their paychecks, health and other benefits for themselves and their entire families along with it, thanks to cruelly inadequate public policies shaped by conservative values like McCain’s.
McCain either doesn’t understand or care what everyday working families are facing. When she talks about rest while condemning social programs that give mothers breathing room, it is emblematic of her ignorance and/or hypocrisy. Almost half of people in the United States are living paycheck to paycheck, usually while also juggling multiple family, work, financial or other full-time responsibilities. They don’t need to be lectured about their priorities; they need policies that prioritize working families.
Danielle Atkinson is the Founder and Executive Director of Mothering Justice.