If you have kids, then you know how unfriendly public places can be to families. Two significant instances to begin:
1. It is extremely difficult to find a changing table most places. I’ve yet to find a changing table at a rest stop and we have driven back and forth between Iowa, Oklahoma, and Texas A LOT. Gas stations are just as bad.
2. Breastfeeding is a contentious issue in the U.S. The rate of mothers breastfeeding is atrocious despite the overwhelming health benefits and we live in a culture that insists breastfeeding moms “cover up” to do so. As demonstrated on this facebook fan page, breastfeeding has only recently been devalued in American culture to the detriment of society at large. If we truly wanted the very best for our children, then wouldn’t it be a family value to nurture a culture that encouraged breastfeeding rather than establishing obstacles to its success (such as workplace incompatibilities andd cultural taboos that teach women to view their bodies as a sexual objects rather than vital entities that give and nurture life)?
What prompted this post was my train of thought this morning as I contemplate getting alternative certification to teach at the secondary level. There are many perks, and if you teach at a Title I school, you qualify for federal student loan forgiveness in ten years. My student loans are weighing heavily on me right now since I’ll be unemployed and deeply in debt in three months. But through my mental meanderings earlier today, as I considered why poor schools must search for teachers in ways that more affluent schools don’t, it led me to think of one more major problem in a country that supposedly places so much importance on family: the lack of paid family leave. I was thinking this morning about the cold snap a few months ago that prompted schools in Oklahoma to cancel classes for the day. It seemed odd until my teacher friends pointed out that many kids had no jackets and yet their parents would send them to school anyways. Good point- but then I thought, many of those parents probably didn’t have jobs that would allow them to take off to care for their children if they wouldn’t/didn’t buy them heavy jackets.
And so, we have the problem: we live in a country that will bend over backwards to deny certain groups in society the ability to marry and have families and attempts to control a woman’s reproductive choices. The Family Medical Leave Act is helpful but leaves much to be desired, such as paid family leave. And if you’re in particular jobs that are typically low-wage, I’m not sure the FMLA even applies. We can all pray for a sympathetic boss, but without full protection under the law that takes into consideration the many contingencies of having a family and does not penalize workers for having them, the so-called “family values” crowd has a ways to go before they gain any more credibility with skeptics like me.