Birth2Work

When Parents Lead, Children Succeed

B2W OpEd: It's Not About "Family Values", It's About the Value of Families

B2W OpEd: It's Not About "Family Values", It's About the Value of Families

Dear Stakeholder Leaders,

In our recent Birth2Work survey “The Changed Face of the American Family”, we asked our readers some questions about their families. Of our readers that responded, 85% have 2 or more people living in their household. Of those, a quarter have children living with them, and a quarter are over 65.

Interestingly, while a majority identified their families as “traditional” (traditional was not defined in the question, but left to the respondent to determine for him/herself), it was interesting to see the incredible ways in which the 27% of people who identified their families as “exceptional” were making things work. Four generations in one household; interracial marriage; blended families from second and third marriages; working parents with a transgendered child….all ways in which people who live together with a commitment to making things work function as a family.

Albeit a small sample of the populace, our survey results reveal great variety in the make up of the American family collective. Although some small factions might call these deviations from the “nuclear” norm challenging to reconcile, what we see them pointing to is the flexibility and increasing complexity of American family arrangements. Birth2Work feels an ever-greater imperative to support the parents and mentors who create environments and offer experiences that teach our young people how to grow and thrive.

As a country, the economics of supporting our families is too overwhelming to ignore. More people than ever live alone, more people cohabitate without getting married, and more married couples opt to have fewer children, making the number of people with direct legal responsibility for children fewer than ever. But those without young children at home aren’t abdicated from caring and mentoring tomorrow’s workforce. As stakeholders in American productivity, we all – as grandparents, neighbors, church/temple/mosque members - have tremendous opportunity to help build community around the families we know.

Parents today, as always, want their children to succeed in life. In truth, though, the social and economic pressures of raising kids in our modern environment are different than they were even a generation or two ago. Further, the loss of community, the increased fragmentation of family life, and the competing, often conflicting pressures in parents’ daily lives confront families as they raise their children. If parents aren’t offered mentorship and support, it’s all too easy for them to experience feelings of isolation in the face of carrying out all the responsibilities of parenthood.

Reciprocally, parents (while affirming and honoring the fundamental beliefs of their family), must be open enough to seek and receive support, and mentorship. Parents, especially those who start their families later in life, have spent their adult years often assuming a mask of personal and professional confidence in an attempt to fool others (and maybe themselves, as well) into believing they are confident beyond their experiences. When questions arise in the workplace, those without mentorship fear repercussions should they admit to not knowing protocol or process for the challenges before them. A mentor, though, would almost surely advise their junior colleague to ask questions about everything at the outset, thus saving everyone’s time, effort, and resources by avoiding a circuitous or incorrect result.

When the “result” that families are working toward, though, is a thoughtful, creative child, capable of thinking critically and adapting to the ever changing workforce in the 21st century, how can uncertain parents go the course without seeking mentorship? The stakes are too high! But parents are embarrassed and out of practice in asking for help. Culturally, we must invite them to forget the notion than not knowing everything about child growth and development is equal to weakness. Seeking out guidance as early as possible in the child’s life (if not before the child is born) is what we at Birth2Work find inspirational! Parents are their children’s first and best teachers. Birth2Work can certainly be a part of the mentorship of those parents seeking it.

The burden, and opportunity, of modern family life is pulling together the human forces around us that enrich and inspire us. Family is a mom and dad and kid. Family is two moms and a set of twins. Family is a network of friends spread across the country who talk regularly, challenge and engage each other. But it’s not parents alone who carry the burden of supporting and mentoring all the kids out there. It’s not schools alone that carry the burden of education. Preparing our children for their own success in the future, and hence supporting all of us in some capacity as we age, is a duty we share side by side.


Functional Family Guide: