Family Values or Valuing Families

Once again, as I do every year, I found myself increasingly irritated and embittered as Mother’s Day approached. The media's habit of trotting out mothers who are sacrificing themselves for their families, celebrities toting their adorable, well-dressed children and expounding on the difficulties of motherhood (REALLY? You have a cook, a maid, a nanny, a gardener and a personal assistant, how hard could it be!?), the constant barrage of heart-warming commercials extolling their products as the perfect gift for “the mother who has given you everything,” all of it just makes me angry. I mean let’s face it, Mother’s Day is as American as apple pie and Uncle Sam. It’s the day when we can be idealistic and feel good about ourselves and how much we love dear ol’ Mom.  If we truly want to value mothers (and not just on one token, commercialized holiday a year, but all year round) we need to make sure that every mom has the resources to raise and educate their children, care for themselves and promote a culture that truly values families. How do we do this? How do stop paying lip service to terms like “Family Values” and get around to valuing families? This subject is way too broad to try and address all in one (or even ten) blog posts, but I will do my best to outline it as best I can.

 Starting off it is important to look at how the concept of family values has unfolded in the fabric of American politics. Today’s blog entry will be dedicated to the political catchphrase, “Family Values.” The term “family values” is typically associated with political discussions, specifically a Christian conservative position.  The term is a catchphrase for a set of moral values which are thought to promote healthier families throughout the nation. The main focuses of the “Family Values” movement, according to the blog;, are upholding traditional marriage/excluding gay marriages and promoting legislation that is pro-life/anti-abortion.  They also stand behind the abstinence movement and prayer in school. This is a simplistic breakdown, but it synthesizes the issues that end up being hotly debated topics in every election, and issues that I believe to be currently superfluous to more pressing issues involving families. In my opinion we cannot debate values until we first tend to the immediate and pressing needs of families with children in America. Therefore, in this discussion I do not wish to debate the legitimacy or virtue of the family values position, I would merely like to point out that it actually does very little to promote the valuation of families in our society (a fine line to be sure, but an important distinction).  To clarify, for the purpose of this blog, the term “families” is used to address families with children, school aged and younger, who are too young to care for themselves.

The position of Family Values attempts to define what a family should look like and promote a general structure to which all families should be held up against; a two-parent, Christian household that maintains the sanctity of sexual intercourse between spouses with an eye towards procreation.  This attempt at defining a family, in my opinion, is actually just another puzzle piece in what can be argued is the routine devaluation of families in this country. The fact remains, whether you agree with it or not, families come in all shapes, colors and sizes. There are children out there that are living in nuclear, heterosexual households for sure. But, there are also families with two moms and two dads, no mom or no dad, blended families, inter-racial families, families affected by death or divorce, foster families, adopted families, mixed religion families and so on and so forth. The tenant of my argument is that in order to promote programs that reach real families who have real children with real needs we need to get past the emotion of what is “right” or “wrong” and find a solution that provides a valuation for all families, regardless of their make-up. I mean, what does a family need to have the tools to be successful? A well-tooled family should have a roof over their head, food on the table, access to adequate income production and affordable, quality education. Sounds simple, right? The fact is that those basic things are not always easily achievable for all families, and even less so for families with young children or families that don’t fall under the larger umbrella of “traditional.” In order to provide for those families we would first have to be brave enough to face a full-scale cultural shift that would value all families and what they are trying to do, which is raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted, and hopefully successful children.  So if I can dream for a moment, I envision all parents bonding together in a “Valuing Families” movement to promote the betterment of ALL children regardless of the home that they were born, fostered or adopted into.