This past week, my news feed was overloaded as usual with troubling stories of gun violence and war as well as myriad other experiences of suffering and hopelessness across the globe. The backdrop for this is the overall sense of doom that we’ve all grown accustomed to over the last few years.
Within this context, news arrived this month of a national baby formula shortage. Contamination, and idiosyncrasies in the market, have combined to create significant challenges in providing enough baby formula for millions of children who currently depend on it.
This problem is one among many challenges that younger Americans face, particularly women and people of color. As we continue to progress technologically as a society, many of the networks that supported previous generations no longer exist, are no longer viable, or cannot be relied upon.
While a baby formula shortage may not at first appear to be significant, baby formula represents freedom for millions of families because it enables working parents to pursue and achieve their career goals—in some cases enabling dual income households, in some cases just allowing a mother to work outside the home. Breast feeding takes time and energy, and it is not possible for every mother. Moreover, many workplaces do not provide the physical environment breastfeeding requires, and sometimes not the right cultural environment either. For some families, the lack of baby formula is leading to an inability to make ends meet; it may even mean the loss of a job. This could spell disaster for a family. The impact of this problem will not be shared evenly across race, gender, or geography.
Although this baby formula shortage will one day end, we need to consider how to build (and maintain) support networks that enable our children and grandchildren to be successful, no matter what circumstances they are born into or arise during their lifetimes. How might we support families who cannot afford to keep up with unexpected costs? What does it mean to build a society that supports parents who choose to have children as well as those who choose not to? The world is not going to get less complex or challenging. With supports put in place, perhaps it can get less scary.