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Formula shortage and gun violence point to much bigger problem: U.S. doesn't value parenting

Submitted by Rita Brhel on 10 June 2022

We live in a quick-fix society. We see a lot of problems with how our society treats parents and families, particularly in Western society. 

In the United States, where I live, parents have been struggling through an unprecedented shortage of infant formula and have endured the trauma of yet another mass school shooting at the hands of an adolescent. 

I have watched the headlines as the nation has progressed through the stages of grief. Americans are grappling for some way to fix these very serious problems affecting families. 

There appears to be some progress toward resolution in both the formula shortage and gun violence. The largest formula company has reopened production and emergency supplies are being flown into the U.S. by the federal administration, and Congress is debating about the best way to go about limiting access of certain firearms.

This is encouraging but not enough. Despite the push of our national news media, which is often driven by controversy and sensationalized bias, making lasting change in formula access and school safety has to come out of a whole different approach to society problems in America. 

We need to retrain our attention away from seeking out quick fixes. We need more than a Band-Aid to heal a wound as deep as the monopoly on formula access or the poor stress-coping that plagues teen and adults who carry out mass shootings in lieu of seeking mental health care. 

Formula shortages, mass shootings, lack of paid parental leave, high poverty rates among families with young children -- these are all canaries in the mine. They are symptoms of a singular, yet much more complex and formidable, challenge: devaluation of parenting in America.

This goes way beyond the mommy culture wars. This is inclusive of all family lifestyles and parenting approaches. If parenting was valued as it inherently should be, we would see significant differences in the way business, education, and government works in the United States. Instead, we see continuation and escalation of the same issues. 

Do you feel that your role as a parent, in and of itself, is valued by society? Can you see that this role is valued in how employers treat their workers, in how schools support not only their students but the whole family, and in what laws and policies are being made by the government? That's where we need to go. 

Importing more formula and reopening American production will fix the formula shortage for the short term, but we need to focus on how to prevent this from happening again. There's a lot of moving parts to that, from breastfeeding support and paid parental leave to policies that discourage monopolies in the infant formula market. Same with mass school shootings. 

The best fix is not quick. We've seen decades of an American society hyperfocused on GDP more than parent support, and now parents are raising their children despite a society that puts up barrier after barrier preventing parents from feeling valued and supported in their role. It'll take generations to fully repair our society, but we can start today.

We can begin by raising our children to know how much we value our role in parenting, to be intentional with what we teach them about family relationships and values, to model how we uphold our convictions even when they defy mainstream culture. What would that look like in your home?

~ Rita, editor of #normalizenurturing

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