In the US, the term "family values" is a code for anti-gay, anti-women conservative politics. Europeans, on the other hand, take the term at face value. And what's apparent, talking to them, is that as far as family values go, as a society pretty much We Ain't Got Any.
I spent a few days with an old friend, B., and her family in Oslo, Norway. She and her husband are both technical professionals a few years younger than I am. They live in a pleasant neighborhood of the city, which to me was unusual for the number of children's voices I heard, compared to my similar neighborhood back in the US. Like many working parents in the US, B. and her husband trade off who takes and who collects their two children to and from school, and coordinate with other parents for delivery to after school activities.
What's notable however is the difference in the workplace expectations. They aren't racing frazzled back to work, or panicking that they are late in the morning, despite the relatively short hours of elementary school education. B can take the time to walk or cycle to and from work, rather than have to drive.
B's lab is pretty quiet in the afternoon. In contrast to American PhD students and postdocs, who are majority childless, the Norwegians are able to have families at that age, and aren't expected to work to all hours. So many of them leave early to collect their children. Generous, guaranteed maternity leave of a year, shared between the mother and father, means they aren't trying to find expensive day care for an infant. And of course, a national health care system makes sure that there is good pre-natal, maternity and child health care.
Oh, they are still getting plenty done, but they aren't killing themselves while doing it. Their society actually believes there is some value in raising a child, not just in making a buck--or a kroner, as the case may be.
Notably, there is also a less stressed out, over-scheduled childhood. Parents are attentive, of course, but kids are able to walk to neighborhood schools from a fairly young age. Judging by B's neighborhood, the kids all played outside till around 5 or so, then went in for an early dinner with the family--I'm not seeing this as a fast-food nation. The Norwegians are also fanatically fitness oriented; they look forward to the winter snow and ski season, and you don't see obese Norwegians either adult or child.
Yup, those are some dangerous family values all right! Healthy kids, lots of family time, social policies that encourage child-bearing.... all that and gender-neutral marriage equality as well.
Oh, of course they pay high taxes for this--much higher than the US would tolerate. But at another level, they are putting their money where their mouth is. And they have weathered the recession far better than we have, especially with regards to jobs. Meanwhile, I read that in the US, people are working even longer hours, and are afraid to take even earned vacation time, for fear of job security, or of the amount of work that will await them upon their return given that employers are demanding more and more of their employees. B. was horrified when I told her about maternity leave and child care in the US.
"Family values" advocates in the US rail on abortion and gay marriage, yet seem completely unperturbed by the absence of decent maternity leave or child care, or the numbers of children living in poverty or with hunger, the disaster that is our educational system, and the increasing incompatibility of family time and jobs. But really, they've shown they don't give a damn about children--or families.
Picture from here