Parenting Blog

Family Values (I wish I was a Swede)

The next time some Republican yahoo is pontificating about how important family values are and how they will work, with the grace of God, if elected to solidify the family unit in America, think about the fact that the Family Medical Leave Act provides exactly ZERO paid time off and only 12 whole weeks of job-protected leave (and that last part only applies to larger organizations and companies, some of which may fork over some paid time inside that 12 weeks – if you’re so lucky).

At the same time, those crazy socialists up north in Canada grant 14 MONTHS of paid time off after child birth and across the pond in Sweden, a couple is able to share in 18 freakin’ MONTHS away from work (at 80% pay) to raise their newborn baby. Amazing how much family matters in this country. Maybe we should just keep praying that everything will work out with our kids when we drop them off at daycare at 12 weeks old (or younger if a family cannot be without one of it’s paychecks for that long – which I imagine is most of ’em these days.)

In fact, according to a 2004 study by Harvard University, only 5 countries out of 168 fail to offer some form of standardized paid maternity leave. The grand ol’ U.S. is one of those special five, along with Australia, Lesotho (?), Papua New Guinea and Swaziland (which sounds totally made up). Sweet.

Is there a problem we face as a country that cannot be traced back, in it’s infancy, to family/home life? Too many homicides and gun-totting crazies? Maybe if they had a better education, yes, but what about if they had a better home as a child? Take it all the way back. Think about everything that ails us as a nation and try to find something that doesn’t have it’s roots, even just a seedling, in childhood/parenting/the way we were raised…and by whom (parents or daycare providers juggling the attention and needs of a dozen children at once)

Twenty to twenty five years ago middle class families had just one parent working, most of them it seemed. Now, to stay afloat almost every kid has both parents away from the home for 8+ hours a day from birth, just about. Is this because we crave too much stuff and need two incomes to fund our Hummer, Nintendo Wii, HDTV, Dining out habits? Probably. Would we function better if we, as a nation, WANTED LESS in general? Probably. But, the corporations wouldn’t like that very much, nor would their stockholders. Pervasive and non-stop advertising helping American kids and adults alike feel inadequate if they don’t have the latest and greatest widget surely plays some role in this complex puzzle of economic failure at the family level…right? But so does the fact that we as parents in the Unites States are not provided the opportunity to nurture our children from birth and enjoy their early moments at home.

What the hell kind of Family Value is that exactly, Mr. President and members of congress? Maybe some of that war budget could be better served to subsidize family maternity leave in the coming years? Might not protect us from the new terrorists our actions in Iraq have given birth too, but it might just protect us from ourselves.


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