Tuesday, June 30, 2009

American “Family Values”

Recently, I have been reading T.R. Reid’s The United States of Europe, a book on the European Union and European culture. I got to a chapter on the European Social Model, and I couldn’t help but blog about some of what I had read (don’t worry; this DOES have to do with the overall theme of the blog.)

In this chapter, European Family values are discussed. Many European governments support parents by providing them with benefits and payments following the birth of a child. As evidence, Reid quotes the EU minister for children and family affairs who stated, “We have decided that raising a child is real work. And that this work provides value for the whole society. Americans like to talk about family values. We have decided to do more than talk; we use our tax revenues to pay for family values” (152-53).

As a contrast to the European model, the American government is not nearly as empathetic to parents. From the lack of benefits, to limited or non-existent maternity/paternity leave, our government just doesn’t seem to support parenthood. Governmental ambivalence toward parenthood seems to have infiltrated general societal views on parenthood, often in the form of animosity. Reid notes that some US mothers receive a monthly check to help with the living expenses of a child (sounds a bit like the European model, no?). Yet, we (the general population) have dubbed those women as “welfare moms” (153). Why is it that we stigmatize parents that receive public support while Europeans publically and personally embrace social welfare programs that support children?

In America, parenthood just doesn’t seem to have the same ring to it, and many people today are opting out of children all together. What does this mean for the future of “family values” and politics? Will America ever catch up with the social welfare trend? Personally, I have no desire to be a parent - maybe the lack of empathy has gotten to me :) -, but I can honestly say that if I did want children, I would be moving to Europe before starting up a family.

1 comment:

  1. This is a GREAT topic to bring up. I recall watching Sicko (YES it is a documentary by Michael Moore, but it nevertheless brought up some interesting family-friendly policies) and learning about specific French policies that will send a nanny to the house to help out the parents with the children and also the 6 months of paid maternity leave...amazing. I also agree that the idea of raising a child in Europe is much more favorable than the alterative...