by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 05 October 2007)
This week someone who reads my columns sent me an email suggesting, “Perhaps you may consider writing on family values as a change from your usual socio/political polemics.”
Obviously this reader hasn’t a clue as to how dicey a term like “family values” can become in my hands, but it sounded like so much fun to take this reader up on their suggestion that I just could not resist.
The term “family values” is actually very fluid in that it does not assign itself to simply one set of moral codes. In the U.S. the conservative religious right uses the term to define their own moral code while at the very same time very liberal groups also use it to describe their moral agenda. England, Australia and China all have their own definition as well.
The other day someone asked my husband if he had seen something I had written (it was as if they were trying to snitch on me for saying something that obviously offended this person’s conservative leaning). I suppose this person thought my husband would be just as offended, but instead his frank reply was, “Yes, I saw what she wrote. I was there when she wrote it.”
I am not sure if this person assumed my husband would somehow chastise me for writing something offensive, but that is not how things work in my marriage. I do not interfere in my husband’s decisions concerning his company and he does not interfere with my job as a columnist.
We may ask each other for advice about certain decisions, bounce ideas off of each other and encourage each other when needed – as it should be any healthy relationship – but we do not interfere in each other’s jobs. This is how I would define one of my own family values: being there to support other family members while allowing each person to reach their fullest potential uninhibited by superfluous critique.
My definition of family values would not include such trivial issues as sexual preference or abortion rights. Instead, my definition would centre on values that strengthen the family and bond the family unit together regardless of political, social or biological inclinations.
Likewise, my definition of a family does not need to include both a mother and a father either. Since there are millions of mothers around the world raising children on their own (and some fathers doing the same), it is obvious that both parents are not compulsory to facilitate a family. In my opinion, anywhere there is a group of people living together and sharing their lives with each other – that is a family.
I should point out that my ideas on family values are not mandated by any religious code. Although I understand there are some who feel there can be no family values if there is no religious code, I find that religion is oft times opposed to certain family values I hold dear – like the equality of women.
The same person who suggested I write about family values attached one of those cutesy email sermonettes in the correspondence. The latter part of the sermonette said, “Are you aware that if we died tomorrow, the company that we are working for could easily replace us in a matter of days. But the family we left behind will feel the loss for the rest of their lives?”
It continued, “And come to think of it, we pour ourselves more into work than into our own family, an unwise investment indeed, don't you think?” This brings me to one of my other family values – fathers who stick it out with their families no matter what.
I have seen so many fathers walk away from their families for any number of lesser prizes in life – a mistress, a job, a fleeting dream, etc. The only real prize worth anything in life is our children, the rest is just fluff.
One day that mistress will be gone, that job will be done and that dream may or may not be realised – but none of it will matter one iota. The only thing that will matter is whether those children had a father. Not a fly-by-night father who is here today and gone tomorrow, but a real daddy who is there everyday through thick and thin.
I bet my friend who suggested I write about family values had no idea what my definition would be. Putting religion and politics aside, family values is all about valuing the family.