Who really has family values?

DAVE ARMSTRONG
Last updated 06:44 29/07/2013

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Dave Armstrong

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OPINION: When I hear the term "family values" I reach for my revolver. It's not that I'm anti-family - I love family gatherings. It's just that when you hear people talk about "family values" they're usually Right-wing Christians who see marriage equality, sex education, and children's books containing explicit language as the biggest threats to family life.

Yet exactly what forces in society are really putting stress on family values? Paula Bennett's welfare reforms are currently forcing solo parents to look for work, even if they would prefer to be at home looking after their children. Fair enough? I'm not sure. I suspect many solo parents would be doing society a far better service by staying home with their kids during the important formative years.

And now grandparents who are sole carers of their grandchildren are being forced to look for work as well. If only our corporate tax evaders could be targeted so efficiently!

When I was a little kid, my mother, like most mothers in our suburb, chose to stay at home. For a few years, I really appreciated it. There was always someone home after school, and if I got sick, I had a parent there to look after me. When I was older, Mum worked part-time, and later began advocating for state-subsidised childcare. Yet such advocates were condemned by "family values" organisations. Apparently child care was going to be the death of the family.

But today, those same "family values" types who noisily condemned childcare seem to have clammed up as solo parents and grandparents are forced to put their children into childcare institutions. Perhaps childcare undermines only the values of rich families but not poor ones?

I'm a great believer in childcare, yet I also know that parents and grandparents make fantastic caregivers, as they have a vested interest in a child. Is it really economic sense for a loving grandparent to be forced to flip burgers while their grandchild is bundled off to McDaycare, or worse, put with friends or family members who may neglect or abuse the child? If that happens, you can guarantee it will be the Paula Bennetts of this world who will loudly tut-tut about our alarming rates of child abuse.

When the marriage equality bill passed, some current MPs opposed to it said it would undermine "family values". So have those same MPs complained about the anti-family welfare situation that forces solo mothers and grandparents to entrust the care of their children to others?

The silence is deafening. In fact, the only fuss that's been made about grandparents having to job seek has been by those steely, childless, anti- family, man-ban feminists on the other side of the House.

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But I reckon those man-ban feminists aren't nearly as anti-family as the "family values" outfits make out. I suspect that paid parental leave has done more good for "family values" than anything else in the last few years.

A couple in our street, who both have fulltime jobs, have just had their first child. Mum's been at home since the birth and dad's had four weeks off. Thanks to paid parental leave, they've had the opportunity to give their gorgeous child the very best start in life. And why not? Their taxes paid for it.

Yet if the Family First website is to be believed, though they do mention the grandparent issue, the major factors undermining family values aren't poverty and bad housing but sex education and a book containing explicit language that recently won first prize in the children's book awards.

The truth is that the Right-wing "Judeo-Christian" lobby, as Family First calls itself, has won the battle of language. Politicians and lobbyists say that they are "pro-family" and believe in "family values" and we rarely challenge them about the things they support that can destroy families.

Sometimes the battle for language is everything. That's why a Labour government that brought in the pro- family freedom of paid parental leave is labelled "nanny state" yet a National Government that is about to pass a bill that will allow it to electronically spy on us and pass this information to overseas governments is "hands off".

- The Dominion Post

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