THE POLITICAL PAGE
May and June 2007
Marriage and the Family
The differences between public opinion research, sociology and the economy
Out of all the Federal Governments in the past decades, family policy – which has only a small department - was considered ‘peanuts' in the political arena. This has suddenly changed; family policy has now become one of the central political areas, and all the parties are eager to be known as family promoters.
Why the change? And what does family mean?
The strategic setting of this task
The State i.e. our republic, faces the following situation:
A very low birth rate. Question: What has to change for the birth rate to increase again?
The German economy lives on its reputation abroad: ‘Made in Germany' means something. Qualified employees are still needed for quality control. Question: Where should we get qualified employees from in the future, given the decreasing population?
For about 100 years now, women's' professional training has been one achievement of our highly civilized culture – practically, they have access to every profession today. Out of all the generations in the past, this is the best qualified generation of women.
These are the coordinates which policy-makers have to consider, and the basis for the development of future political actions on family policy.
While post-war family policy was marked by an image which viewed women as mothers, and the question regarding the well-being of children; today it is confronted by other themes, by young mothers who desire to practice their profession alongside raising children. In addition, there is the economic necessity stemming from an increasing lack of qualified employees, who call out: "mothers, come back to work!" (F.A.Z.). The minister for Family Affairs, Ursula von der Leyen has come to this conclusion:” the question isn't about whether or not women will continue to work - the question is, will they still give birth to children."
Thus, the setting for family policy in our culture has changed significantly. Nobody wants to abolish training for women, and the lack of human labour becomes perceptible in a booming economy. Today, the strategic question regarding future family policy means:
How can we link the indispensable values of motherhood, and the values regarding the well-being of children, together with new professional values so that we can exert and maintain the same economic level?
The danger of family policy today consists of prioritizing newer values against previous values. This can be seen in the new ‘parent benefit', which was made in the favour of employed women. And in this case, highly qualified mothers and those with approx. three children or more who prefer to stay at home and be full-time for their children receive 300 EUROS a month - the same amount unemployed women receive! Also, the expansion of day nurseries is double-edged. On the one hand it is a welcome thing for mothers who have no other alternative but to be employed; and on the other hand regarding the well-being of their children. Science shows that children between the ages of 0-3 years need a role model for the development of their personality. Basically, the concept of day nurseries has been developed for the job, for the need of the mother, and not for the well-being of the child. But given a certain framework, this concept can be adapted for the well-being of the child. (Issues - age of children, absence periods, size of class groups, and the quality of teachers).
The ‘mother' image
The change in the image of women as mothers has had an even deeper effect in our culture than the three other changes mentioned above.
Everybody has had, or has a mother. She is the donor of life and the child's protector during the first years of life. She is the first person close to the child, and greatly influences the measure of the child's ability to live in relationship; the child has developed its ability to live relationships today because of its relation with its mother. A mother invests her time in her child. The old saying still applies today: ‘That which moved the cradle also moves the world"; because every human being receives the most important things in early life from their mother.
But our culture has hammered a new image of woman into our heads, through the increasing emancipation movement of women and the culture of the hippie movement of the 60's.
All of a sudden, long-lasting marriage became a suppressing institute, which needed to be broken. It was considered that whoever sleeps twice with the same woman has become part of the establishment. The woman who was ‘only' a housewife was devalued to become a ‘mere housewife'; only there for the children, the kitchen, and church, or her image was blackened and she was considered only as a ‘birth machine'. No young woman wants to be regarded as such today.
The majority of young women still want to have children; they still want to become mothers. But what is missing in order for women to want to have more children – and we aren't talking about a ‘baby boom' here, but about taking years of one's life to raise children.The issue is the restoration of the sense of dignity of being a mother. This also has to be the motive behind government policy and has to be promoted by those in business and especially the Media. If policy only rides out baby booms, it obviously reckons on only one or two children at the most being the norm. If full-time mothers are graded as unemployed regarding parent benefit, and their work in educating children is graded as three years per child it is no wonder that motherhood is disappearing. This, however, is only the emotional basis for children to be born in Germany, for a new wave of joy in having children.
It is also possible to confer a special value to motherhood within this new framework. Only if we radically remove the cliché of the ‘insignificant housewife' from our culture, will young mothers dare to express their desire for motherhood and have more children. Alongside marriage and family, motherhood is especially emphasised in the Basic Constitutional Law in Art.6. 'Every mother has the right to claim protection and care from society'. (Art.4). Motherhood therefore, is regarded as a proper legal asset and is especially emphasized.
The question of the future-oriented family policy which aims at the survival of our people is: do we build up families because of the need for more workers, or do we create jobs for families. ”We need family-friendly jobs and not job-friendly families in our country“. (Hartmut Steeb, DEA).
What is 'family'?
Alongside qualified training for women and girls, and the economic need for qualified employees, a third development was noticeable which changed the image of what family should be. This was the increasing divorce rate, which led to single mothers or fathers; this included the increasing number of relationships similar to marriages where partners live in a common home. Also, remarriages – usually with a partner from a similar situation – which has led to what we call ‘patchwork' families. In addition to this, since August 2001, couples of the same gender have tried to get established as 'married couples' in society and to identify themselves as ‘families' through adoption – a thing which wasn't possible until now.
What does 'family' really mean today?
1. Basic Constitutional Law of the Federal Republic of Germany
Regarding family policy, the Basic Constitutional Law of the Federal Republic of Germany stipulates in Art.6:
‘Marriage and family benefit from special protection through State assistance'.
'The care and raising of children is the natural right of parents, and their first duty and responsibility.'
Today we need to emphasize that the Basic Constitutional Law refers to the relationship between man and woman, not between man and man. For the first time the German Federal Supreme Court of Justice has confirmed this in AZ: (IV ZR 267/04), in February 2007 when rejecting the complaint of a homosexual couple, pointed out the Basic Constitutional Law naming the following reasons for its decision: ‘regarding reproduction and the growing up of offspring – which is an essential request from society for the future – marriage can be preferred'. This is not discriminating but simply a remark regarding marital status.
Both partners see this relationship between man and woman as a common and lifelong unit of responsibility, including a financial responsibility. Not only for the Church but also from the point of view of civil rights, marriage is a lifelong alliance, which both partners can and have to rely on.
Religion and State both acknowledge the basic form of marriage and the family. It is depressing to see how this basic form of marriage has been brought into disrepute and called ‘snobbish' or has had a negative ‘mere housewife' image since the 60's. Also, common adjectives in today's language usage for the family model, show embarrassment in naming marriage from being appropriate, to ‘traditional', ‘classical', or ‘conservative'; all these terms have a sense of something ‘outdated'. The Basic Constitutional Law has not changed, and therefore the only appropriate description for this form of family is the ‘basic form'. Family sociology, just as biology has several forms which can be traced back to the ‘basic form'.
The term 'family' is assigned with pleasure to single mothers, patchwork families or even to couples without children (on a completely different level); but the ‘basic form' which often has a link with pain, has to clearly be distinguished from all other variants. But this has become blurred now. Due to the high numbers of divorced, single parents, and the developing of patchwork families and same-sex marriage, we almost need to redefine the word ‘family'. Marriage seems to be no longer defined by partnership, but by children.
2. Definition of governing parties
This is how the SPD defines 'family' today: 'Family is where there are children'. The CDU: 'Family is there, where adults are responsible for children, and children are responsible to adults'.
Both large parties drop the natural connection of ‘family' and ‘marriage' stipulated in Basic Constitutional Law; consistently they also consider an expansion of marriage splits, towards the splitting up of families. Marriage is tacitly declared to be a discontinued model. If society had maintained a high value for marriage in the past, such statements (regarding marriages as a condition for stable families) would have had little effect. Instead of strengthening lifelong partnerships with all their might, policy-makers do nothing and even worse; give such wordings - from these family definitions, and other things such as condom advertisements - which may even accelerate the disintegration of marriages. German society seems to separate itself from marriage as a lifelong trust relationship, on which both partners can rely on; although marriage still remains alive as a desire and an ideal in the hearts of many people.
Out of the parties represented in the Bundestag, the CSU party seems best to grab hold of marriage as the basis for family. The role model of marriage and family is explicitly stipulated in the revision of the party programme as being a lifelong; reliable united responsibility between man and woman; a very high value is accredited to this unit. Afterwards, however, they refer to it as an ideal which can hardly be achieved and then they talk about ‘very different structures' which enable other partnership forms.
It is right to keep an eye on alternative family forms but we only need to do so if they become generally referred to as a basic form for families. But the opposite is the case today: variants are the norm and the normal becomes an exception, and is covered nicely with the ‘child' theme. But everybody knows that lifelong marriage is, and remains the best framework for children to be born in to, and to grow up in. Partnership produces parenthood – an ancient knowledge in marriage counselling.
Marriage and the State
Marriage requires binding power, emotional staying power, and will; and reaps maturity with both the partners and the partnership after well-managed crises. ‘Shared Apartments' relationships are missing this experience because the ‘Sword of Damocles' hangs low over them: i.e.‘if it doesn't work, we will separate from each other'.
Parents teach their children: binding power even through crises or the break-up of relationships, and then divorce. Since almost half of marriages end up in divorce today, a new growing avalanche of people are now unable to dedicate themselves to relationships, these influences will be passed down to us in the next generation and will even increase in effect in two generations time.
It is not the State's responsibility to intervene in citizens' private lives; but it definitely is its task to create a framework, and to strengthen or cushion social tendencies. The governments of the last 10 or 15 years gave the impression that they no longer needed to protect marriage as a family institution according to Basic Constitutional Law; they resigned themselves to adapt instead of counter-acting the process of change. But whoever allows marriage to decay, also allows the State to decay.
Actually it could be very easy to mention marriage in the laws for families, and to grant special family support to those families which are based upon a binding marriage; just as much as to those families which have broken up; and to those families, which have decided to remarry (patchwork families).
Only common-law 'marriages' – those without a marriage certificate would be excluded. And why should they be supported, if they refuse to conform to this stabilisation of society and mostly have no children?
Literature regarding the ‘family' theme is never-ending. Likewise, there are many interesting polls with empirical figures. I read many of them (see bibliographies) but I decided to make sparse use of them in this article. For me it was more important to follow a clear train of thought.
We thank God for his good basic order of life, in marriages and families.
We pray for all those who are living in marriages or families, in order for them to be a blessing for one another (parents and children) and to support each other especially in times of trouble (crises, sickness and looking after third parties).
We pray for the protection of marriages, for faithfulness and the reward of faithfulness to be - a deeper trust between couples. We pray for positive results for these families, for their children and their friends.
We pray for all marriages which are facing crises, in order for them to find wise counsellors and particularly for husbands to be open to change.
We pray for the hurt; spouses and children within marriages, after break-ups, and after divorce; we pray for all single parents.
Let us pray for all those who are about to enter their second marriage, for all patchwork families, for grace for them to come together.
We pray for singles, not to get involved in wrong relationships – not even if they are afraid of ‘missing the boat' – and not to throw their bodies and their conscience overboard. Let us pray for them to find the right partner.
We want to pray for the youth of today; who have a desire for love, and yet also have confusion; so that they would know how to live in a friendship. We also pray for all those who experience unwanted pregnancies.
Let us pray for the childless, in order for them to find courage to give birth to one or more children; not to lose heart because of miscarriages or failure, and for those who are infertile to live a fulfilled life. Let us especially pray for those parents who have adopted a child.
Let us pray for all common-law marriages, for couples to have the courage to get married and to overcome their deep fears.
Let us pray for a new, great and perceptible joy in children in the whole country. And for more children to be born - many, many – ‘just as the dew which comes from the sky in the morning'.
We repent of everything which causes the withdrawal of the blessing of ‘having a large number of children in our country'.
Let us pray for the marriages and families of our politicians, because only politicians with good marriages and several children can bring forth good laws for marriages and families (nobody can ignore their own biography). The number of divorces and broken families are very high among politicians.
Let us pray for laws which will really support families (of all kinds); for laws which help families with children, even regarding indirect taxes.
We want to pray for the law concerning parent benefit to be changed, and for real financial equality both for parents who send their children to day nurseries, and for those who refuse to.
Let us pray for equality of attitude regarding both the family and the workplace; for a new esteem for mothers within society, and for higher accreditation for the pension of full-time mothers who have more children and need time in order to raise their children.
F. A. Z. 28.1.06/14.2.06/18.4.06/11.5.06/24.8.06/24.10.06/10.2.07/1.3.07/3.3.07/12.3.07/14.4.07/16.4.07/18.4.07/
Rheinischer Merkur No 10/12/13/16,2007
Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach, Gravierende Unterschiede des gesellschaftliche Klimas – ein deutsch-französischer Vergleich
Bündnis Ehe und Familie, „Kinder sind klasse!“
Deutsche Ev. Allianz, Familienpolitik der jetzigen Bundesregierung. Erziehungsgeld, Elterngeld, Krippenplätze, 2007
family Nr. 4/2006
Familiennetzwerk Deutschland, Pressemitteilung – Krippenbedarf, vom 31.3.2007
tagesschau.de Interview mit Jürgen Borchert, Familien werden ins Elend geknüppelt.
Württembergische Landessynode, Zukunftsmodell Familie – 9 Thesen. Entschließung der Landessynode vom 8. Juli 2005
Telefon (IVBB): +49 1888 400-0
Fax (IVBB): +49 1888 4002357
Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth
Ursula von der Leyen