Susan Roylance: Families Around the World blog: The 'modern' family

Published: Monday, March 22 2010 12:17 a.m. MDT

In one of the speeches, at the United Nations Women's Conference last week, a

woman from Qatar talked about the "modern family." It was a

thought-provoking speech.

"Modern family represents a threat to the patriarchal society in view

of the changes it introduces to the social relevance and status of

women," said Dr. Juhaina Al Easa, vice president of the Supreme Council

for Family Affairs in Qatar. She pointed out that the woman is the

first beneficiary in the "shift from the extended family and tribe to

the modern family, for at least she would be under the authority of her

husband only, after she had been under that of all the men of her

family/clan or tribe."

This comment opens a window into the lives of many women in third-world countries, whose lives are governed by "dependence and

subordination" to their husbands or other male relatives, as described

by Dr. Easa.

I will always remember another comment from a women in 1977, after a

rather contentious Washington State Women's Conference. Abortion, gay

rights and "equal rights" were promoted by radical feminists, but

pro-family women prevailed, and the final platform was pro-life and

family-friendly. Later, as we sat on the lawn, she shared her concerns —

through her tears.

"I lived in Utah a few years ago," she said. "And, if I had had a

husband like most of the Mormon men I knew, I wouldn't be working so

hard for women's rights." She was the mother of five children, and her

husband had abandoned her.

A family proclamation, issued by the LDS Church in 1995, states that

"fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another, as equal

partners." Many women in third-world countries would consider that

condition a great step forward — toward a modern family.

Education is usually at the center of any discussion toward women's

empowerment. But, does a higher education help a woman become a better

mother?

The World Bank thinks so. Its Web site claims that educating a

girl (woman) contributes to "reduction of child and maternal mortality,

improvement of child nutrition and health, lower fertility rates,

enhancement of women's domestic role and their political participation,

improvement of the economic productivity and growth,"

The second step, toward the sustainability of the family, according

to Easa, is to ensure a woman's "active participation in the labor

market." However, as women become more active in the labor market, more

children are raised in day-care facilities. There is good research, on

both sides of this issue, as to whether this is in the best interest of

children — and thus society.

So, is there an ideal family? Is one type of family more beneficial

to society than another?

For me — a family is a family is a family! All families have value

to society as the place where children are brought into the world,

taught, loved, and prepared for their future.

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