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Evolving Cultures, Working Parents and Sustainability

CCA LiveE | Thursday December 16th, 2010 | 3 Comments

This post is part of a year-end series by MBA students at California College of the Arts’ Design MBA Program. Read more about our annual partnership here.

"Evolving Cultures, Working Parents and Sustainability"

Growing up in India, I remember coming home from school to find mom waiting for my return from school/college. Once a week my mom visited her parents so I had my grandmother waiting for me those days. I grew up never having to come to a home with a locked door. I always came home to the fond inquiry of how my day was and fresh cut fruits or soup prepared just for me. This was in India 20 years ago.

I now live in a California suburb and I find myself torn with the demands of the current times between wanting to support my family’s financial aspirations and ensuring that my 13 year old twins get the same nurturing care and food that do not come out of a can or a freezer.

This is my story and the story of around eighty percent of married couples in the United States. Parents are now dual income earners, meaning that both parents work outside the home to provide a solid, consistent income for their families. These families also do not have the privilege of having an elder adult to supervise or be available for the growing children.

The growing financial demands of the urban cities have forced the entry of both the parents into paid working force. Working parents face financial, medical and psychological issues caused with the increased pace of life with decreasing support from other members in the family.

The choices based on pace of life trickle into the choices made for the consumption of food. Choosing to go to fast food joint to pick up a quick meal on the go has increased. We choose to pick shelved, canned and frozen foods to stock up instead of buying fresh local grown organic produce so that it can stay good for longer time. These foods use farming methods or preservatives to add to the shelf life. Foods infused with these artificial preservatives lead to increase in health issues caused by body toxins or allergies. The visits to get health care for these ailments increases, which adds to the medical cost slammed on these working parents.

During my 1st term in the DMBA program at CCA, I was able to reflect on the issue of working parents that has been nagging me for a while. My innovation teacher encouraged us to keep a reflective journal and spend time looking for possible patterns and solutions that would help me deconstruct the issue. Applied concepts of microeconomics allowed me to analyze the issue in terms of opportunity cost and the value of the lost time from the children and impact to the health and medical cost to think of it as a whole system design that can be addressed from the sustainability perspective. I recently happened to discuss this story with my sustainability studio teacher and he was very intrigued and I have a feeling that I would be able to continue working towards finding some answers to the following questions:

  • How do I influence communities so that this does not become the story of the cultures like India that still value joint families or can continue to stay a single income household?
  • Can we have policies and benefits in form of tax credits and flexible working hours for parents for households with children to have a work-life balance to support and nurture their families with healthy choices?
  • Can we build housing developments that will provide close-knit support systems to ensure the health and well-being of the families but also the neighbors – young and old?

I am currently driven by the demands of the faced paced life and try to do the best for my children. I am also confident that my journey thru the DMBA program will help me to find ways to overcome my challenges as a working parents and hopefully find solutions that can be duplicated in not just my home but other dual income families across various cultures. This would be applied sustainability for not only macro-level topics of planet and environment but micro-level challenges of communities and families too.


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  • http://www.calsolareng.com California Solar Engineering

    This is exactly the dilemma more and more people have to face. Sadly there’s really no quick answer but I do think times are changing and this will become less of a problem.

    • Dolly Parikh

      Thanks for the note. When you say times are changing, can you say more?

  • Phaedra Wilkinson

    I’m looking forward to following this article. I met my husband when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with myself. I was in the US Navy for three years out of high school, and never went to college full time. We married and had two children, so instead of pursing my education I raised my children for seven years. My husband was able to work form home so I started working here and there landing in a testing center at a community college. Children are almost 9 & 11, and husband’s job moved us to Chicago where he works in an office. We’ve never paid for childcare, but we need extra income. I worked a few weeks in retail, but it just was not practical for us. I want to go back to school, but it costs money. I’d like to work from home, but legit work from home jobs are few and far between. I believe my children come first, but even though my husband makes to or just over six figures it is not a lot these days. I stared at my computer screen all day to day trying to figure out what to do. My children do come first, and I want to be happy as well…there has to be a way to strike a balance. I believe if I would have stuck with my education I’d have more choices. I’m determined to figure it out.