When privileged parents say that they “want what's best” for their child, they don't consciously add “and not for other children.”
Yet the practical effect of parents with privilege relentlessly pursuing their own child's interests is that other children are left behind. Author Sarah W. Jaffe interviewed dozens of parents who are resisting the cultural pressures to seek "the best" for only their kids while navigating some of the major decisions that parents make—about childcare, schools, how they use their time and money, and the legacy they hope to leave their kids. These may not feel like political decisions, but each either contributes to a system where only a few can thrive or takes a small step toward dismantling it.
Our children are watching and learning from how we make choices. How we treat the people who care for them tells them how they should behave as a boss. Where we send them to school teaches them about their place in the world. How we spend our time and money sends them more powerful messages about how to spend theirs than any lecture about the importance of giving back or gratitude ever could.
What does it look like to fight for other people's children as if the future of your own child depended on it? What choices would you make?
About the Author
Sarah W. Jaffe has written about parenting, foster care, and inequities in the healthcare system for Slate, Catapult. the Rumpus, Lit Hub, and BKLYNER. She is currently a writer for the parenting website Romper. Previously, she worked as an attorney representing foster children, in both family court and federal court proceedings. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.
“Wanting What’s Best is a no-nonsense, practical guide for parents who don’t want ‘what’s best’ for just their kids, but for all kids. Sarah Jaffe doesn’t mince words in describing how privileged White parents contribute to and maintain systemic racism and classism. But rather than only point out problems, she offers concrete, practical advice on how to push back on and tear down those systems. In discussions of education, activism, and wealth, she provides both individual actions that subvert those systems and organizations that are doing this essential work. To back it all up, she deftly weaves together facts based on research and the stories of fellow parents from a variety of backgrounds grappling with these challenges.” —Shannon Brescher Shea, author of Growing Sustainable Together: Practical Resources for Raising Kind, Engaged, Resilient Children
“We make so many decisions as parents that don't only affect our children, but have ripple effects throughout the world—the daycares and schools we choose, the conversations we have, the strings we pull. So how do we raise our kids in ways that won't leave other people's kids behind? Wanting What's Bestis an essential roadmap for parents who want to make thoughtful choices that won't inadvertently perpetuate injustice or discrimination, but that will instead lay the groundwork for a better, fairer future for all.” —Melinda Wenner Moyer, author of How to Raise Kids Who Aren't Assholes
“Jaffe goes beyond describing the sorry state of modern American parenthood to tackle a more meaningful question: What are parents’ obligations to do something about it? Synthesizing deep research with parent interviews and personal reflections, Jaffe illuminates the painful tension that well-off parents face when it comes to providing an advantage for their already-advantaged children amid broken, inequitable systems. This book is for every parent who wants to know how they can work for a more just society while giving their children a healthy upbringing—and who wants to learn that those goals may be knit closer together than you think.” —Elliot Haspel, author of Crawling Behind: America's Childcare Crisis and How to Fix It
“With Wanting What's Best, Sarah W. Jaffe has written an essential parenting book. But rather than addressing children's behavior, Jaffe turns her sharp eye to the behavior of parents--clearly and sensibly laying out how parents' choices can widen inequality and inadvertently make life harder for everyone. Wanting What's Best is a clarion call to take a more expansive view of family, care, and community, and includes practical steps that parents can take to reframe both their thinking and actions. This is a necessary book for engaging parents in work that we all need to do.” —Lydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State