Friday, July 11, 2008

Obama and Family Issues

Cross-posted on Obama--Criticism and Support

I agree that Obama's heart is in the right place on family-friendly issues. I love it that his daughters are young and he and Michelle struggle with these problems everyday. Fortunately Michelle's mother is available to help care for their kids. That solution is available to fewer and fewer families since grandparents still work and often live too far away. (I am lucky enough to be able to care for my 1-year-old grandson three days a week.) He tells the story of how he called Michelle to be praised for a legislative success; she was much more interested in his buying ant traps on the way home.

Hillary wasn't really better on these issues, but I hoped that as an older woman with so many woman advisors, she would understand. She might be more sensitive to the dilemmas of caring for aging parents since her mother lives with her. The Obamas are still in the stage when Michelle's mother cares for them.

We need a mass movement, indeed a nonviolent revolution, to pressure Congress to address these issues. Sadly most young parents and most caregivers of elders do not have the time or energy to lead this crusade. That is why I am encouraging baby boomer grandparents to dedicate themselves to winning battles for their grandchildren that we failed to win for our children.

I am taking advantage of Obama's enlightened invitation to local platform meetings to host one on Building a Truly Family-Friendly America. Here is my invitation:

Let's discuss and develop family friendly policies that would make it possible for all Americans to lead balanced lives. The US lags shamefully behind most of the developed world in child-friendly policies. We all need time for love, work, family, friendship, children, elders, political and community activism. We all know the challenges of child care. Most health care discussions neglect long-term health care of chronically ill elders. People don't realize until the crisis is upon them that Medicare and regular health insurance does not pay for chronic custodial care.

We need maternity and paternity leave, child care, credits for parents who stay home to care for children, free preschool education, extension of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Improving conditions for nannies, child care workers, and home health aides is an important issue. Figuring out how to prevent businesses from penalizing and discriminating against workers who do take some time off for child care or elder care is another challenge.


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