I watched the debates with my husband and daughter in a practical state of hysteria; I was so wound up in the drama. But one the comment that got my husband agitated was the infamous 'women in binders' exchange when our former governor talked about workplace flexibility so women could go home and cook. My calm, quiet husband burst out in anger 'Men need to go home and be with their families too! I am so tired of a work place culture that think men don’t need to be home with their families. This isn't a women's issue, its a family issue!'
I stared at him opened mouth, mostly because my husband never gets excited. In fact his calm demeanor can really tick me off sometimes. But he is absolutely correct and it got me thinking why I feel the Democratic Party has a better approach to family then the party of 'Family Values'.
I think one of the more compelling reasons why I support our president despite some policy differences is I truly feel he understands the modern challenges families face and is sensitive to them. Equal pay for equal work is critical, affordable healthcare, allowances for adult children to be covered as they are completing their education, expansion of early childhood education, strong schools, etc. He and his family are self-made, as are my husband and I. We were given some help along the way, but it really was up to us to dig it out, finishing our educations, and find opportunity in a competitive world. Doing this while raising a family was extremely difficult, and I will spare you the stories since I suspect all of us have had our share (working for nothing in academic science, no insurance, no retirement benefits, blah blah blah).
In the 1980s when our children were young, there was a dearth of quality daycare centers. That had changed by the time our youngest arrived in the late 1990s. I have experienced wage and workplace discrimination as a women countless times during my professional career in both the private sector and academia. I have no doubts that it is a real problem, but I find it has lessened since the 1980s. So while there is plenty of room for improvement, in general I found the trend for women and families going in the right direction. But all of this crashed around my ears during the infamous Sandra Fluke tirades, the Blunt amendment, and Anne Romney's condescending attitude about working mothers. We can easily lose what meager gains have been made since I have become an adult, and my daughters will have it more difficult than I.
And lastly, this isnt a woman's issue. My husband is tired of fighting the fight to have balance in his life, to be the father he wants to be, and to be confident his daughters and grand-daughter will have at least the same advantages his wife has had in building careers and a family. He has no interest in being a 'Mad Men' like his father. Romney's comment about 'Binders of Women' really hit a nerve in our family.