It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Interview Question Number 4: Societal Parenting Messages, Good and Bad

Question 4 in the Interview Meme, which follows questions 1, 2, and 3!

4. What does our society do well with respect to parenting? What does it do poorly? Phrased another way, which societal messages would parents do well to absorb, and which ones should they resist?

For me, the critical message to reject is the notion that children are fragile, that any parenting action could scar your child for life, that you, the parent, are 100% culpable for any negative emotional or relational circumstance your child may experience, either now or in his/her adulthood.

We put way, way, waaaaay too much burden upon ourselves by accepting this idea. Yes, we do our best for our children. Yes, we try to ensure they are capable of loving, mutually beneficial personal relationships, fulfilling career relationships, and general capability in life. But is all this really going to be threatened because we lost our temper one afternoon when they were three? Or decided to use CIO for three weeks when they were 8 months old? Or didn’t breastfeed? Or chose Preschool A over Preschool B – or didn’t send them to preschool at all? Or were impatient with the Terrible Twos or the Hysterical Thirteens? Or were, just, generally, slightly less than perfect?

(Hint: No.)

There are others: I have issues with messages that suggest that the multitude of changes you experience after the birth of a child are a) unnecessary and b) completely within your control if you “just” organized yourself better (and, thus c) merest self-indulgence).

I don’t like the way mothers are set against one another: working-for-pay vs. working-for-free. I certainly don’t like the way so many mothers are willing to choose a side and leap into the fray which only demeans all mothers. (The “Mommy Wars” manage to both bore me witless and enrage me beyond belief, all at the same time.)

I don’t like the way we set children as the fulcrum of the family. That they are the heart of it, I have no doubt. That is as it should be. But that everything should pivot on the child and his/her needs, with everyone else taking second place? And that to balance your child’s needs against your own – and sometimes let your child’s take second place – is somehow a parental failure? I completely reject this one.

Okay. I’ll stop here, and move on to the positive messages society provides us.
Well, there’s — but then again…
Okay, what about — well, perhaps, but then…
Well, then. I am rather surprised to realize how much difficulty I’m having with this one. What are useful societal messages for parents? Every possible positive I’ve come up with, I’ve immediately seen so many contradictory corollaries, I end up discarding it as a possibility.

Obviously, I need help with this question! Any takers? What do YOU think? What are some positive, useful messages our society gives us? What are the negative, unhelpful ones?

July 29, 2007 Posted by | controversy, memes and quizzes, parenting, peer pressure | 11 Comments