Like most people on my facebook news feed, I watched the President’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night. I was surprised how often things I learned from What to Expect When No One’s Expecting crept into mind listening to the speech. In his book, Jonathon Last illuminates challenges to child-rearing in our modern, Western world. The President’s itemized speech this week provided the perfect platform to see how these issues are often ignored in the most pressing of political topics. Below are the two main topics I found lacking in light of falling birth rates:
Immigration— The President focused on many of the positive attributes immigrants bring to America like culture and perseverance. But one thing he failed to mention was babies! Typically Latin American and Middle Eastern immigrants bring with them the intention to have more than 2 babies, often over 3. Not only does their adult presence add to our current workforce, but their children add to our future tax base. In fact, with few exceptions, the influx of immigrants and their high birth rates are what’s keeping our economy and social security from completely collapsing like many in Europe and the Far East.
Equal Pay — Oh the standing ovation President Obama received when he promoted equal pay for women! An embarrassment, he called it, that in the year 2014 a woman earns 70 cents to the dollar a man in her position makes. He declared that a woman’s job should not suffer because she wants to have children. She should be free to take off work to care for a sick child. A father should be free too, the President said.
But not a word about paid maternity leave, and certainly not a breath on paternity leave in any form or fashion. Should a woman who wants to have a child be punished for also needing to work? Apparently the American spirit agrees that her work should not suffer, but what about her family, her new baby, her health or her mental well-being? A great effort over many hard years was made to give mothers the rights they have today in America’s workforce. In no way do I mean to downplay the significance of these rights. That a woman cannot lose her job based on a pregnancy is a giant step forward in keeping women valued in the workforce. However, it is not only a woman’s role in the workforce that needs to be protected, but her role with her family as well. It is time for another giant step.
What options does the American workforce offer a father? No more than 7 vacation days if they weren’t taken previously during the year? Isn’t being among the only three countries in the world and the only first world nation not to offer paid maternity leave also an embarrassment in the year 2014? A father should be granted equal rights as a mother for caring for a sick child and given the time to be with his new baby in the precious months following their birth.
There are many political and economic ramifications to issues like immigration, social security and worker’s rights. Many positive changes have been made and will be made yet. One aspect that has been routinely neglected, but that is just as important is, family and fertility. Parents and future children need not only to be protected, but encouraged. Incentives need to be allowed to not only support families, but also to encourage them to grow. Our culture, economy and way of life depend on strong families with lots of babies 😉