December 8, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
There’s a lot to like in this piece by the observant and acerbic Kathy Gyngell, and a bit not to (The Conservative Woman, 12/6/16). Her slow-moving target is Cherie Blair, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who’s recently decided that parents should no longer be referred to as ‘mother’ or ‘father,’ but as ‘parents.’ Here’s Gyngell’s amusing take on that:
Imagine this scene in one of the globe-trotting Blair households designed no doubt to meet their so important needs:
“Hi parent,” ventures Leo, back home from a long school day, tentatively peering round an office door: “Where’s parent today?” “Here I am,” parent replies, “but I am leaving shortly to give a speech”. Leo: “No I meant other parent, not the one that has five homes but the one that visits five countries a week”. “Not a clue,” parent replies, “could be in any of them. I am busy”. “Oh” says Leo, “I’m hungry”. Parent replies: “Go and find the housekeeper in the kitchen – she’ll get your tea and ask you how you are.”
“She’ll”? Kathy, Kathy, Kathy, gendered pronouns! Tsk, tsk. Some people never learn.
The rhetorical interchangeability of parents is absurd as Gyngell demonstrates. But more important is the corollary that, in reality, one parent is like another. They’re not. That both parents are necessary to children’s well-being is not to say that Mom and Dad are the same. Quite the opposite in fact. Men and women tend to parent differently and children benefit from the resulting synergy.
But Gyngell is after bigger game. Her real issue is the replacement of parents and the family by the state. Blair, like so many other elite opinion-makers thinks that’s a fine idea. She does so, as Gyngell points out, because she prefers women in the corporate rat race to their being at home tending to their kids.
Over Mrs Blair’s working lifetime, mothering and family life has all but disappeared for the majority of children. She is right - a new era of ‘gender, work and family’ has come about and it is bleak for children.
Some 60 per cent of mothers with three-year-olds today are back at work; 57 per cent of 0-2-year-olds are already in some form of childcare (this rises to 90 per cent of the 3-4 age group). For most, it doesn’t mean granny or even a child minder; what it means is ‘formal’ or institutional childcare. You’ve seen it painted up for politicians’ visits on TV. The reality is basic rooms housing too many infants (never born to be herded), too little freedom of movement, long repetitive days, little intimate, committed attention, staffed too often by fat young women, slow in movement but high on turnover.
That’s the inevitable result of elite policies over the past 50 years or so. During that time, cultural elites have hectored women into the belief that their best interests are served by spending as much time at paid work as possible and, necessarily, giving little Andy or Jenny short shrift. That hectoring has gotten a huge boost from other cultural changes like no-fault divorce, the acceptance of unmarried motherhood, the marginalization of fathers and flat-lined real wage rates.
This has all been sold to us as benefiting women. After all, if women aren’t working, they aren’t earning and if they aren’t earning, they’re likely not free of male support, so, at all costs, women should be convinced that a single working mother with one or more children at home is as good an arrangement for her and the kids as any other. That’s been a consistent message since at least the late 60s throughout the English-speaking world. That it’s wrong in every particular has altered neither the message nor the messengers one whit.
The good news, that Gyngell omits, is that women are generally proving themselves to be smarter and more traditional than those hectoring voices had counted on. The run-of-the-mill woman may not read the countless studies demonstrating that two parents are better than one or that daycare threatens a host of harms to children not only as youngsters, but well into adulthood. But they do know (or at least sense) that for a child, having biological parents present as much as possible is far better than any other childcare arrangement. Mothers and fathers both desire being hands-on parents and their doing so is best for their kids.
And so we see mothers particularly doing everything in their power to do just that. Study after study in a variety of disciplines, from sociology to economics to psychology show mothers opting out of paid work in favor of caring for their own children. And it’s not just affluent mothers. In the U.S. low income mothers are in fact more apt to opt out of paid work than are their more well-heeled counterparts. And among those who don’t, large majorities tell researchers that they would if they could.
Cherie Blair may not know what’s good for kids, but parents do. Cultural elites keep peddling their shoddy wares, but, 50 years on, a lot of people aren’t buying.
More on this tomorrow.
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