Gore's Push for Hands-On Parenting ; Need for Working Parents to Spend More Time with Kids Is a Key Campaign

Article excerpt

Attention, working moms and dads: Al Gore would really like you to spend more time with your kids.

Mr. Gore's forthright promotion of more hands-on parenting is emerging as a powerful - yet little-mentioned - sub-theme of his presidential campaign.

On the campaign trail and in a phone interview with the Monitor last week, the vice president has cited his concern about over- extended working parents - and the effect of that on their offspring. It's a theme that dovetails with his goal of curbing environmentally harmful overconsumption.

"No. 1 ... we need better parenting in the United States," the Democratic presidential contender told a crowd of New Hampshire voters recently in response to a question on school violence. "I'm not guilt-tripping anybody," Mr. Gore stresses. "I just think we have got to recognize that children deserve our time, our care, our focus...."

In recent weeks, Gore has repeatedly painted a picture of depleted working parents, dragging themselves home and flipping on the television, which substitutes for dinner-time conversation with the kids. Of the few hours at home "a lot ... are spent in semi- exhaustion," he says.

In 7 of 10 two-parent families, both parents are employed, he says, and such couples are now working 500 hours more per year than they did two decades ago.

But for Gore, this stress spells danger for children, especially the youngest. Calling himself a "big fan" of so-called attachment theory concerning child development, he believes that a child's attachment to a devoted care-giver is essential to lay a foundation for a confident relationship with the rest of the world.

"If parents are so stressed-out that they don't have time to give that sort of attention to the child, it's the rare child who can overcome that and have the feeling of confidence and self-worth that's so important," he says.

As a result, Gore says he seeks to "make it easier" for mothers and fathers to stay home if they choose to, and "empower parents to give more time and attention [to children] in the early years."

Policies he advocates include several to "help a one-income family survive," including raising the minimum wage, expanding the earned-income tax credit, and offering affordable health care to every child. He also calls for more affordable housing and public transportation to eliminate the need for a second car.

To ease pressures on working parents, Gore supports expanding family and medical leave and new legislation to give workers the option to take time off instead of extra compensation.

At the same time, Gore is raising repeatedly and enthusiastically the idea of whether families should shift their values and voluntarily cut back on consumption to gain more time together. …