Posts tagged with: family

anthem_grandparents_20For the first three years of my life, I lived with and was primarily raised by my grandparents. While I was always grateful for the experience, I never realized until I was a parent myself of the depths of their sacrifice, and the burden and stress raising an infant put on them.

Like many other seniors, they didn’t get the credit or recognition they deserved for being caregivers. This role of grandparents is often overlooked, despite the fact that in 2013 10 percent of children in the U.S. (7.1 million) lived with a grandparent.

According to the Census Bureau, in 2012 2.7 million grandparents were responsible for the basic needs of one or more grandchildren under age 18 living with them. Of these caregivers, 1.7 million were grandmothers and 1.0 million were grandfathers. Out of that caregiver group, 603,118 grandparents had incomes below the poverty line, 674,936 had a disability, and 1.6 million were still in the labor force.

On Sunday, Americans will celebrate National Grandparents Day, an annual holiday established by presidential proclamation in 1978 to celebrate and honor of our nation’s grandparents. Let’s take the opportunity this weekend to let all grandparents — whether our own or others — know that we recognize and appreciate the vital role they play in sustaining our families.

childsupport2_1003“Deadbeat Dads”—absent fathers who don’t provide financial support for their children—are one of the most significant factors contributing to child poverty in America. So why do some single women have children outside of marriage when they know they will receive little to no support from the child’s father?

A new study from the University of Georgia and Boston College attempts to answer that question. The authors created an economic model to simulate a scenario in which every absent father was forced to pay child support. As the researchers note, “Looking at the data through the lens of this ‘perfect enforcement’ scenario caused the picture to change.”

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sad daycareUniversal daycare. Universal preschool. Regulations on school lunches. Bans on bake sales. Don’t bring ibuprofen to school. The government knows all about keeping your kids safe and educated. (And the underlying note is that you don’t know enough.)

In yesterday’s New York Times, law professor Clare Huntington extols the virtues of government child-rearing. While she does acknowledge that families are the “ultimate” preschool, she quickly recovers by adding that our society just makes things too darn hard for parents to do this job.

Our public policies, however, make it much harder for families, especially families living in poverty, to lay this foundation.In my research, I have cataloged government policies that undermine parent-child relationships during early childhood. Our legal system, for example, destabilizes low-income, unmarried families, distracting them from parenting. Forty-one percent of children are born to unmarried parents. These parents are usually romantically involved when the child is born, but these relationships often end. Rather than help these ex-partners make the transition into co-parenting relationships, the legal system exacerbates acrimony between them. States impose child support orders that many low-income fathers are unable to pay, creating tremendous resentment for both parents. And courts are not a realistic resource for many unmarried parents, leaving them to work out problems on their own.

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kid-digging-holeLast Saturday was hot and humid in our corner of the world, and thus, my wife and I quickly decreed a pool day on the front lawn. The kids were ecstatic, particularly our four-year-old boy, who watched and waited anxiously as I got things prepared.

All was eventually set — pool inflated, water filled, toys deployed — but before he could play, I told him he needed to help our neighbor pick up the fallen apples strewn across his lawn.

With energy and anticipation, he ran to grab his “favorite bucket,” and the work quickly commenced. Less than three minutes later, however, his patience wore off.

“This is boring, Daddy,” he complained. “Can I be done now?”

More than anything else, the response was comical. Within mere minutes, this simple, ten-minute task had become a heavy burden he simply could not bear.

But it also signaled something profound about our basic attitudes about work, and how early they begin to form. Our kids are only beginning to edge upon the golden ages of chorehood, but as these situations continue to arise, I’ve become increasingly aware of a peculiar set of challenges faced by parents raising children in a prosperous age.

In a society wherein hard and rough work, or any work for that matter, has become less and less necessary, particularly among youngsters, how might its relative absence alter the long-term character of a nation? What is the role of work and toil in the development and formation of our children, and what might we miss if we fail to embrace, promote, and contextualize it accordingly? In a culture such as ours, increasingly propelled by hedonism, materialism, and a blind allegiance to efficiency and convenience, what risks do we face by ignoring, avoiding, or subverting the “boring” and the “mundane” across all areas of life, and particularly as it relates to work? (more…)

Economy of LoveFor today and today only, you can watch Episode 2 of For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles for FREE over at Flannel.org.

Produced by the Acton Institute and spread across seven episodes, the series seeks to examine the bigger picture of Christianity’s role in culture, society, and the world. Episode 2 focuses specifically on the Economy of Love, and the grand mystery we find therein.

As host Evan Koons concludes: “Family is the first and foundational ‘yes’ to society because it is the first and foundational ‘yes’ to our nature, to pour ourselves out like Christ, to be gifts, and to love.”

Stream the full episode here for the rest of the day (July 23).

Watch the trailer for the series below, and purchase it here.

Visit the Acton Book Shop to find related books and media

sea sandI’ve recently discussed the temptations of self-willed religion and the risks of disobedience, cautioning against self-chosen service and sacrifice. Over at the FLOW blog, Evan Koons highlights the power in doing the opposite.

Quoting Stephen Grabill, director of programs at Acton, Koons notes that when submit our lives to Christ and obey God’s direct and divine calling, he “reverses the barrenness, isolation, and brokenness” in our lives, and thus, the world around us.

When God told Abraham his descendants would outnumber the sands on the seashore, he wasn’t just saying they would be many, he was saying they would be majestic. Each one would reveal the beautiful and wondrously creative nature of God. Every tiny and seemingly insignificant grain would stand as a colossal reminder of what our obedience to God Almighty really creates and what it truly reveals: magnificent LIFE. And the more you magnify it the more and more wonder and beauty it proclaims. (more…)

baby-budgetI’m sure Willie Nelson was not thinking about surrogacy issues when he wrote “If You’ve Got The Money, Honey,” but it’s applicable. $100,000? Check. 9 months? Check.

If you’ve got the money honey I’ve got the time
We’ll go honky tonkin’ and we’ll have a time
We’ll have more fun baby all way down the line
If you’ve got the money honey I’ve got the time

While surrogacy is a huge industry in India, it’s becoming a growing business here in the U.S. now. In Austin, Texas, one couple from New Jersey awaits the birth of their children via a surrogate:

A nurse spread gel on Nicole Benham’s pregnant belly and slowly moved a sonogram wand over it, describing the images on nearby monitors. This scene, in which parents get an early glimpse of baby, is played out many times a day in medical offices across America, but this plot has a twist.

Benham is carrying twins, but they are not her babies. They belong to Sheila and Kevin McWilliams, a New Jersey couple who lost their firstborn and can’t have another child together. They provided the eggs and sperm, and they will bear all costs, which average $75,000 to $100,000 and include fees to the surrogate, the matchmaking surrogacy company and lawyers for both parties, experts said.

Despite such costs, U.S. surrogate births have jumped 250 percent in eight years, and experts expect them to continue rising because of advances in reproductive technology, increasing numbers of same-sex marriages and growing acceptance of surrogacy.

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allisgift1 - Copy (2)“All that exists is God’s gift to man, and it all exists to make God known to man, to make man’s life communion with God…God blesses everything He creates, and, in biblical language, this means that He makes all creation the sign and means of His presence and wisdom, love and revelation.” -Alexander Schmemann, from For the Life of the World

In Episode 1 of For the Life of the World, a new series from the Acton Institute, Evan Koons discovers the concept of oikonomia, or, “God’s plan for his whole household of creation,” realizing that the more specific areas and “modes of operation” that God has designed us to work within (families, businesses, governments, institutions) are meant to harmonize with each other.

To illustrate the idea, Koons compares God’s economy to music. Pointing to a xylophone, he notes that a xylophone has its own particular mode of operation — its own rules, its own economy. It works differently than, say, a ukulele or a trombone or an upright bass. Yet played together in proper harmony, each of these instruments coordinate their unique patterns and modes of operation to create something unified yet varied, rich and beautiful.

But Koons doesn’t stop here, eventually moving on to ask the even bigger question: “What is the actual song, anyway?”

The answer, we learn, is gift. We were created to be gift-givers, “crafted in God’s own image, with his own breath, crowned with glory and honor.” And “in that same abundance,” Koons continues, “he blessed us, and he said go, explore my world. Unwrap the gift of my creation. Bless the world with your own gifts.” (more…)

motherhoodOur discussions about faith-work integration often focus on paid labor, yet there is plenty of value, meaning, and fulfillment in other areas where the market may assign little to no direct dollars and cents. I’ve written about this previously as it pertains to fatherhood, but given the forthcoming holiday, the work of mothers is surely worthy of some pause and praise.

My wife stays at home full-time with our three small children, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard others ask her, “So what do you do all day?” If we are at risk of diminishing the full meaning and potential of our service in the workplace, surely we ought to be careful that we don’t do the same in the home.

The economy of love  is different from the economy of creative service, to be sure, but the work therein is no less important, and we do damage to each if we fail to see both their distinctiveness and interconnectedness on the path to human flourishing. Though both parents play significant roles in that process, throughout history mothers in particular have played a unique role in the early-life shaping and shepherding of children. Modernity is adding new dynamics to all this, but the work remains, and such work is worth celebrating.

To demonstrate the nature and value of all this, Chris Marlink recently shared a lengthy excerpt from G.K. Chesterton’s What’s Wrong With World, in which Chesterton expounds on the “gigantic” function of a mother’s work in human life.

Babies need not to be taught a trade, but to be introduced to a world. To put the matter shortly, woman is generally shut up in a house with a human being at the time when he asks all the questions that there are, and some that there aren’t. It would be odd if she retained any of the narrowness of a specialist. Now if anyone says that this duty of general enlightenment (even when freed from modern rules and hours, and exercised more spontaneously by a more protected person) is in itself too exacting and oppressive, I can understand the view. I can only answer that our race has thought it worth while to cast this burden on women in order to keep common-sense in the world. But when people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination conceive what they mean. (more…)

family torn apartCould our strong marriages and great interpersonal relationships be a threat to the state? Stella Morabito thinks so. In a piece at The Federalist, Morabito says the State has something to lose when culture promotes traditional marriage, strong families and ties to the community. She examines a Slate article in which Lily and Carl (a fictional couple) are facing an unexpected pregnancy. They aren’t married, don’t care to be, and Lily (who has few community relationships outside of work) sees no advantages to marrying. Corabito says that the Slate article, which claims that women want and need their “freedom” and that few marriageable men are to be found, needs a strong second look.

Let’s start by looking at Lily as a real person. She is in need of relationships, intimacy, and a life  not overwhelmingly dominated by 9-to-5 drudgery.  Let’s consider Carl a real human being also.  Yes he needs a job, but he also needs the same things as Lily: to feel respected, connected, and useful to others.  They both need to feel anchored to something worthwhile, not like displaced persons wandering about life. How does such anchoring happen?  Through strong relationships with real people.

Most telling in the Slate piece is this throwaway line about Lily: “She has very few friends, married or unmarried, in strong relationships.”   That is a statement worthy of deep exploration.

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