I am typing this article at a parish in Kimberly, BC, where I have been sitting in for the pastor. During my spare time I have been reading reams about the Cairo conference and it is certainly most discouraging. But then, unexpectedly, good news arrived in the form of Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family newsletter.
In it, Dobson severely criticizes a speech delivered by Hilary Clinton on Mother’s Day at George Washington University. Referring disparagingly to “traditional families,” Mrs. Clinton called it “ineffectual and no longer viable—instead of aunts and uncles and grammas and grandpas, we have nannies and day care centres.”
Dobson sums up the speech by saying, “Mrs. Clinton began with the supposition that families, as we have known them, are gone forever, and then suggests ways of replacing them.”
While admitting there is plenty of trouble for North American families, Dr. Dobson feels that reports of family disintegration have been greatly exaggerated. He then gives very encouraging statistics.
In the U.S. and Canada, 75% of children live with both of their parents. Millions of husbands and wives today are deeply committed to one another in the bonds of affection that will never be shaken. To provide hope for the future, Dobson quotes the 1992 study of Canadian teenagers which showed that 85% of them plan to marry and 84% expect to have children.
Dobson also quotes a pleasantly surprising trend whereby large numbers of women are leaving the work place and making sacrifices to stay home while their children are young. “The latest findings flatly contradict Mrs. Clinton’s claim that nannies and day care centres are replacing family members in the childhood years. Instead, many moms are choosing to handle this privileged responsibility themselves.”
Dr. Dobson gives three explanations for this phenomenal movement. First, women report being fed up with the harried, exhausted, chaotic lifestyle that often characterizes the two-career family. Also, it seems that when everything is added up, there is no great financial benefit to having a working wife.
Noting this trend, Barron’s business journal conducted an informal survey of women who had stepped off the career ladder. The following are how several women answered the question “Why are you leaving the work-force?”
—“I don’t want to worry about my child. And I think if I stay at home, we’re less likely to divorce—more likely to keep the family whole.”
—“We want to be sure we have a strong family unit. My mother worked, my husband’s mother worked; we want our child to have more parental guidance at home.”
—“I don’t want to work so that my daughter can go to day care or so that I can support a babysitter.”
—My husband and I sat down at a computer and looked at my salary—$27,000 a year—minus the cost of day care, gasoline and lunch. We realized it wouldn’t pay for me to work.”
Barron’s concludes that, “For all, the decision to remain at home seemed to represent a lifestyle shift as women seek to reduce the stress generated by a working world that continues to offer little in terms of genuine support for families.”
Chatelaine also picked up on this trend and, in February 1991, published an article called “Families come first: Why more mothers are choosing to stay at home.”
Working Woman says that “generations are motivated by what they were deprived of as kids. For those under 30 years of age, they had far too little time with their parents. Therefore, younger women seem determined not to make the same mistake with their own children.”
Dr. Dobson sees all this as a good thing. “If sustained over time, it should result in fewer divorces and more domestic harmony. It appears to mean that North American’s materialistic value system has finally begun to fizzle. Love and commitment and caring are making a comeback. Children are regaining the status they deserve, supplanting corporate success and a fancy address. Marriages that have languished in neglect are being seen as fragile and precious. Could it be that we are, at last, beginning to win the battle to save the family?”