The thing is, I always thought that society was set up to support families. In fact, it used to make me angry as a person without children, mainly because I had to pay more taxes than those without children. So I thought when I had a child, that same society would be "family friendly"--boy was that silly.
Perhaps some of my disillusionment has to do with an article I read about how a woman was asked to pump breast milk in a utility closet. That really made me angry. And then I watched the documentary Breastmilk, which talks about how women aren't really set up to succeed with breastfeeding in the first place. Then there was everything leading up to the birthing experience which really could be so much better....
And forgive me while I take a moment to bitch openly about the lack of maternity leave in this country because six weeks just isn't enough. I took "maternity leave" as a new parent, which was unpaid because I am self employed. I lost a lot of money this summer, and although I wouldn't trade all the money in the world for the time I've spent with my daughter bonding and getting to know one another, I have to say, I feel that the society that espouses so much rhetoric surrounding the value of a family shouldn't leave me hanging like this. Not to mention there are a lot of mothers who don't even get that--unpaid or otherwise! My heart breaks for these mothers who have to make the best of going back to work when really they might like to be at home. At the least, shouldn't we have the presence of choice?
Other countries give their women (and men!) a year to be at home. A year. And no, it's not socialist or asking too much, it's taking time (if you want to) during your baby's most formative stages to guide them along and not have to leave them in order to make ends meet. We aren't talking about a puppy, we're talking about the children who will become tomorrow's scientists, teachers, and politicians...so I think it's important. As mothers, when we do go back into the world trying our best to fulfill these strange "superwoman" roles that we feel compelled to emulate, we find that the world isn't really set up for us in the way we might have thought it would be.
For instance, there is no daycare at my gym... there used to be, but it wasn't profitable enough, so they cut it. Luckily, the women I work out with don't mind that my child (and the instructor's child) hang out at the front of our class as glorified mascots, but we are only two people--what does everyone else do?
All of this, and my child hasn't even reached her first birthday yet.
Don't get me wrong, individuals, like the ladies at my gym are awesome. When my child is fussy in the grocery, I don't get evil stares (at least not yet.) People have been generous to me and my husband and I am so grateful for this. But as far as the society goes, well, I think we've collectively got a long way to go in practicing what we preach. If what's truly important to the family structure is sitting down for a nightly dinner, or making sure that you can make your child's science fair or ballet recital, then why not have a society that allows us to make enough money working a traditional nine to five and makes sure we get weekends off? This shouldn't just be a privilege for the highly educated, or just plain lucky, should it?
I say these things as I am part of a generation who was raised largely by daycare providers, teachers, and coaches because both our parents had to work in order to make enough money. And this generation, many of whom never had the luxury of having one parent present at all times, has been called the most selfish, laziest, and entitled group of young people in history (which, honestly is just downright rude.)
Maybe we need to rethink the values we impose on families these days. Giving dads or moms who want to stay home with their kids the chance to do so might be a good idea. Having daycare at places where moms go (like the gym) might not be profitable, but it might promote greater physical and mental health for parent and child alike, and being breastfeeding and pumping friendly might cut down on the amount of stress for new moms.
So the next time you want to talk about family values, make sure you are prepared to recognize that the values of money, less time, and more hustle are firmly in conflict with maintaining dinners at home, bedtime routines, and quality family time. Maybe in a world where we can "have it all" we have lost sight of what we really need in order to help our families thrive.