December 18, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Laugh? Cry? Shake your head? Sigh? All of the above? What to do with this article (The Age, 11/30/16)? How should we respond to a piece by a writer who plainly doesn’t know the basics of what she’s writing about? How to deal with the knowledge that Katherine Feeney ignorance is due to what is pretty much universally regarded as progress? Her grandmother, not having the “benefits” of that “progress,” could have set her straight in two minutes, but Freeney wants us to believe that her managing to unlearn her mother’s terrible advice constitutes the closest thing to wisdom she comes. It doesn’t. She should have known it since she was a teenager if not before.
What was her mother’s advice that so disrupted Freeney’s life and that she struggled so hard to unlearn? “Never depend on a man.”
But apparently it never occurred to Mom that that would be the worst possible recipe for caring for a child. Freeney learned the hard way.
Many times I crumpled in a wretched heap of salty tears, stale milk, bitter frustration and hopeless, angry loneliness. The baby howled. I sobbed. The pre-dawn, black and heavy, closed in…
And sure, I could do it myself. I gave up my sleep to give the baby hers. I wiped up vomit with one hand while holding a writhing, wet, sneezing body with the other, having not properly washed myself since yesterday. I carried an aching back and the bewildering burden.
Where was the baby’s father all this time? Right there, begging to help, to be part of the family he’d helped create.
And my husband crouched beside me, brow knotted in anguish.
"Let me help you!" He was so worried. "How can I help? What do you need? I love you, talk to me. Let me in."
Of course a father less steeped in contemporary mythology about sex roles and men’s value or lack of it would have simply taken the child and told Freeney to go lie down or take a bubble bath. But apparently he acceded to her wishes despite their being detrimental to mother, child and him.
Now, the gender feminist ideology with which Freeney was brought up likes to replace the perfectly obvious with the arcane and highly unlikely. So, what to the rest of us is a clear case of maternal gatekeeping – i.e. the marginalization of the father by the mother in the care of the child – comes to us wrapped in the package of gender feminism. According to that, she’s a brave, fearless woman doing it herself.
Plus, many readers will notice that Freeney, fearless gender feminist that she is (or was), managed to ignore the obvious and the well-known about her chosen way of spending her days – childcare. She was so addled by the “Never depend on a man” mantra that she failed to read up on what’s good for the child. Her article is 100% about her and her mother. Not a peep does she make about what’s good for the child. Nowhere do we find the concept that children benefit from the active involvement of both parents, a notion that should have swept away her mother’s words like dry leaves in a winter wind.
But Freeney evinces not the least interest in her child’s welfare. For her, the only issues are her own physical and emotional exhaustion due to her exclusion of her husband from their child’s life.
Nor does she seem to notice that her piece is an outright condemnation of what gender feminism preached so long and sometimes still does – that single parenthood is just fine, thank you. But Freeney’s description of trying to raise a single child by herself let’s her readers know for certain just how hard, how energy sapping and soul destroying that is. Her first couple of paragraphs alone destroy the idea of “single mothers by choice.”
Weird and utterly devoid of self-scrutiny as all that is, Freeney and her mother truly seem to have little idea of what they think.
Equality was at the heart of my mum's philosophy…
Uh no, it wasn’t. Freeney somehow manages to ignore the screamingly obvious fact that, if Mum had been peddling gender equality, then she’d have peddled parental equality right along with it. But she plainly did no such thing. One peek at Freeney’s home life tells her readers that what she did was the precise opposite of equality. Equality would have meant at least roughly equal time spend with the child for Dad and Mum. Equality would mean “I got up last night, tonight’s yours,” and countless other ways of making sure that each parent spent meaningful time with the child and pulled his/her weight of the parenting chores.
Freeney’s situation perfectly reflects that of gender feminism generally; the concept of equality only applies when gender feminists want it to and not when they don’t. So giving up power over children and families has never been part of the gender feminist credo. Quite the opposite. Feminist organizations have never supported an equal parenting bill and often actively oppose them. In the same way, Freeney’s mother preached equality, but never for fathers who want time with their children.
We’re supposed to be impressed by Freeney’s revelation about dependence on a man.
What I will say, is this: The "never depend on a man" brand of feminism that thrust me into strong, independent womanhood also failed me savagely.
Now, I realise we must learn dependence to understand independence. Not knowing how and when to depend on a man, or anyone else for that matter reflects an injurious shameful selfishness. It's a selfishness that will destroy you.
It's the selflessness that we need.
Actually, it’s a lot simpler than Freeney makes out. It’s as simple as “children need two parents” and “each parent needs the other parent.” But Freeney’s a victim of her mother’s misguided ideology. Let’s hope, for her child’s sake and her own, that her revelation didn’t come too late.
How to respond to this piece? Freeney’s tortured meanderings take her to a place she should have been all along. We’re glad she finally arrived, but shake our heads at her difficulties along the way and the fact that she believes she’s discovered a great new truth. She hasn’t. It’s been there all along, only hidden by a gender feminist narrative that forces adherents to discover what so many have for so long known.
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