If you're going to look at national, legislated family-friendly policies, it's obvious that the United States falls far behind the rest of the world in nearly every aspect. My Canadian friends, for example, talk about returning from "mat leave" once their babies are walking in a very casual, take-it-for-granted way. But even if things are easier abroad, they aren't perfect. There's still work to be done. And that's why I think we need to consider every solution, and why we need to change not just our laws, but our way of thinking.

In countries with family-friendly national policies, pay gaps still persist between the genders. In states with paid maternity leave, many women don't take time off with their babies. In countries with guaranteed sick leave, some employers refuse to allow their employees to work flexible hours.

The reverse is also true. Companies that pride themselves on their family-friendly policies sometimes don't train managers on how to administer those benefits. Or they might give some employees flexibility, but not others.

I believe we have to change our way of thinking. Whether we do that through legislation, corporate culture, or letter-writing campaigns, every step forward for families is a step in the right direction. Each approach has advantages and disadvantages. Personally, I'd like to embrace them all, but more importantly, I think we need to embrace ourselves. We need to recognize that families matter.

We need to stand up and talk about ourselves and our families in a new way. And the only way we can do that is if we really value what matters to us. Instead of arguing about whether it's "better" to stay home or to work, our time would be better spent if we realized that we all have families, and that they're important. We need to realize that the time we spend taking care of our children or parents matters, not just to us, but to all of society. We need to believe that we are carrying the future upon our shoulders, and that our investment of helping our kids memorize their times tables and taking Dad to the doctor deserves respect. It doesn't make us stupid or incompetent or less valuable. It makes us better, stronger, more patient, more empathetic, more empowered, and more capable. Not everyone understands this, of course, but I believe that if we stand together and demand respect for ourselves and our families, even if it happens slowly, we'll get it.