It is a well-known fact that the United States is the only major industrialized country in the world without a decent mandatory paid parental leave. I was once again reminded of that sad fact of life in America after reading Jessica Shortall’s piece in The Atlantic and think that this should be a major part of the secular political agenda.
Parental leave is once another part of our health and welfare system left up to capitalism to figure out. As Shortall puts it ” the time for rest, bonding, and recovery often is determined not by tradition, or even by a doctor’s recommendations, but by the new mother’s employment situation.”
This happens in a political system where the national legislature and a majority of states are controlled by those who claim to be in favor of “family values.” Of course, we know that “family values” mostly means “opposing abortion.” It means caring about the binary life/death outcome of a fetus. But it does not mean caring about the fetus having decent prenatal care, or the opportunities to live a fulfilling life once out of the womb.
In the United States, however, the time for rest, bonding, and recovery often is determined not by tradition, or even by a doctor’s recommendations, but by the new mother’s employment situation.
Those “family values” are promoted by elected officials who are mostly male, overwhelmingly white, economically well-off, and practitioners of a toxic brand of Christianity. These elected officials are not representative of the people, not only because they do not look like the American people, but because 82 percent of Americans are in favor of paid parental leave and 85 percent favor paid sick days.
Instead of those “family values,” I propose secular family values. Those are values that promote the equality of sexes, not the continual subjugation of women based on ancient scripture. Parents should have the right, not the privilege as it is today, to spend time with their children. This is why we need to do more than voting. We must promote our own candidates and become more involved in political activism. Until secular people become engaged in politics as a united front: running for office, contributing time and money, endorsing candidates, challenging candidates, hosting debates, our values will not be prominently featured. We can show the American people that we about things other than policing prayer and religious symbols in public. That we care about people. And that you do not need religion to do so.