October 23, 2004

Books of Revelations, or The Coming Parenting Apocalypse

In the NY Times Book Review, Alissa Quart reviews a whole slew of childrearing-related books which either feed or refute her hypothesis that, more and more, it's not about the kids; it's all about mothers and their fulfillment.

Let me take a page from Rebel Dad's playbook and note that in all the militant feminism-vs-militant femininity conflict over mothers' changing/conflicting roles, not only are dads' roles not on the table, dads themselves are entirely invisible. Now it may just be that the review is about moms, but still...

If the ladies ever get this parenting stuff sorted out, tell'em to come get me; I'll know I should be watching TV or away on business, but I'll probably be over there playing with the kid.

Meanwhile, The Zero Boss has already reviewed the scariest of all the books mentioned, the deadly unfunny Should Parents Be Licensed?. In honor of its ethics- and logic-free call for state power over the most basic choices of human identity and existence, the book's author has been inducted into The Zero Boss Asshat Hall of Fame. Her (unlicensed) mother must be so proud.]

Child Rearing: The Parent Trap [the headline should read, The Female Parent Trap, NYT]

Are You...Licensed?
[The Zero Boss]
We license plumbers and pilots, why not parents? [Peg Tittle, Seattle Post-Intelligencer op-ed]


To me, the worst part of this "debate" is that it presumes that the women, like the children, have a clear choice about working or staying home. I don't know *any* mother, WOH, WAH, or SAH, who sat down by herself and thought, "Gee, what would I like to do when I have a baby?" Most of us have financial considerations, societal pressures, spousal or other family pressures, and expectations of ourselves that may be based more on fantasy or reactionism than reality. All this contributes to our situations.

And why isn't anyone addressing the idea that putting a woman or a man at home, isolated from other adults all day, to care for a child isn't natural or pleasant? If we as a society really valued people (not kids or mothers or stay-at-home dads) we'd figure out a way that parents could take primary care of their children for the first few years in collaboration with other parents (or even non-parents! shocking thought!) and still get our work done. Kids and parents would see enough of each other to be secure and happy, but adults could have the time and space to accomplish other non-parenting goals and earn the money necessary for survival.

Sigh. Back to hand-sewing my son's Halloween costume and a matching one for the cat...

I haven't read "Should Parents Be Licensed?" but this is something I have presented as a discussion subject for many years. I guess reading too many articles about child abuse, overpopulation and rape victims having to endure 9 months of anguish and rage, as well as an even more painful labour, because some ideological nut, usually male, thinks it is the right thing, seriously puts me in the camp of "Parents Should be Licensed". Afterall, we have to have a license to drive and own handguns, two areas where we also can mess someone's life over thoroughly. Why it is still seen as a "right" to reproduce in this day and age I have never fully understood, and so far nobody has produced a valid coherent argument either. Maybe in an old agrarian society where every farm was a self-producing unit it might have been a right, but nowadays when we are all dependent on eachother pulling our own weight it doesn't work any more.
Ok, enough about that.

About parents having to choose to stay home or not I don't think most who are in a major urban setting are able to dedicate a parent to stay home and cut the total income in half. Most people have mortgages and other debts to pay. Not to mention that schools have to be paid for from same income. Unless one wants to send ones offspring to some underfunded underproducing leaky school and fear drugs, violence and theft (up 64% this year according to the tabloids). If they spent even half of what they spend on NYPD on the New York school system... I wish they paid teachers on the same scale as executives, it is afterall our future we are talking about.
/With hopes for a civil discourse...

You raise some good points, Lindus. I think your points about some "usually male" ideologue are made by people who support individual--not governmental--control over their reproduction. I don't think anyone argues legitimately against the seriousness and responsibilities of parenting and having a kid.

But even in the most utopian ideal case--i.e., something that no government or licensing scheme would EVER be able to attain--you're talking about taking a core right of self-determination and control over your own body and turning it over to the state.

Of course, what WOULD happen is what HAS happened in historical eugenics experiments and other exercises of state power: ideology, politics, prejudice, and the attractions of power itself inevitably influence how that policy actually gets implemented.

I mean, I've read mainstream parenting handbooks from the 1930's that talk about white peoples' responsibility to reproduce or face extinction in the face of the "dark races'" animalistically high birth rates. And those "dark races" were Irish, Italians, and Greeks.

As for paying NYC teachers more and improving the public schools, I'm with you 110%

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