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Jewish World Review June 21, 2000/ 18 Sivan, 5760

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports

Bridging the day-care divide --
TO AUTHOR Cathy Young, who always gets it right, goes The Middle Child Award. No one makes peace like Young when it comes to gender and family issues.

In fact Young, a Russian immigrant and progressive feminist (one unencumbered by political agendas), is an only child, though she thinks and writes like someone who's been moderating dysfunctional societies for generations. A JWR columnist and author, whose most recent book, "Ceasefire," called for men and women to drop their muskets and kiss on both cheeks (for equality, not Soviet sentimentality), Young is now putting the "Mommy wars" to rest.

Writing in the July issue of Reason magazine, Young reminds us how we've become so confused. Following the working/stay-home mom polemic has been like trying to decide whether it's OK to eat eggs. Is it once a week, or once a year? Is it good cholesterol or bad? Who can keep it straight?

Similarly, it's hard to know, given the number and variety of studies that seem to contradict each other, are we hurting or helping our children by installing them in day care? Are they smarter or dumber for our complicated households? Are stay-home moms lazy, fat and unhappy, as one study reported?

Are working mothers victims of feminist ideology and stay-home moms oppressed by the patriarchy, not to mention the Southern Baptist Convention?

No wonder every woman -- and man -- I know is exhausted. Who can process so much information while doing the true drudge work of managing office demands and home moods?

The truth is, as Young makes clear through her balanced analysis of most of what's made headlines in the past decade, one size does not fit all. Day care works for some, not for others. Some stay-home mothers are slim, motivated and happy. Lots of them are working part time or running home offices.

Some aren't thriving and never will. So goes the jungle.

Fathers, meanwhile, are more than token players in The New Family Deal. Dual earners swap baby time and share household chores. Many nouvelle couples have tag-team jobs so that one parent is at home while the other works.

Which is to say, American families have never been more creative, nor more maligned for trying. What Young does so well, as usual, is direct our attentions to the gray area, the middle ground most of us occupy.

All-daycare-all-the-time probably isn't ideal for young children for reasons common sense can provide. All mommy-all-the-time probably isn't good for sanity. Ibid.

Somewhere in between is the right formula, though it may vary for each of us. My own tussle with single motherhood, child care and multiple jobs through the years created an endless series of entrepreneurial approaches that shifted with my child's age, his needs, mine and the world around us.

There's really no challenge quite like getting food in the right mouths and papers in the right deadline slots, all while trying to stay chipper and in good physical/spiritual form. It's a titanic challenge not likely to be advanced by carping and condemnation from both sides of the mommy trenches.

It is time to let go. Of the war, that is, and most important, of all those studies and government pronouncements we keep arguing about. When it comes to children and parenting, the best information we've got is in our own hearts and minds. Deconstructed, it goes like this: Tears are information.

If you're miserable leaving your infant, ranting at fellow drivers and dashing to the restroom lest someone notice you're collapsing inside, it's time to rearrange the furniture. Instinct will tell you where it goes.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


06/15/00: N.Y. baby case ends up with multiracial scrambled eggs
05/31/00: The war only time wins
05/25/00: The opposite of sex
05/18/00: World War II gave us our true heroes
05/11/00: Boy Crazy! stacks deck against guys
05/09/00: Finding out where the boys are
05/05/00: A born Ms. Leader -- Barbie for prez
04/25/00: From here to paternity
04/14/00: Boys should be boys, not viewed as criminals in training
04/11/00: Oh, for a standard of what is socially, morally acceptable
04/06/00: Womyn's Contempt for Commitment --- and the bastards it creates
04/04/00: Sue-happy American society is out of control
03/30/00: Duct-taped baby serves as warning
03/28/00: Stay-home parents know that their kids need them
03/24/00: No 'Great Expectations' when schools shun the classics
03/21/00: It's common sense to restrict Internet usage in libraries
03/17/00: You want to be just a mom? For shame!
03/14/00: Colonoscopy: Important, but bad TV
03/10/00: I made a mistake about trigger-locks
03/08/00: After this school shooting, no easy target for our contempt
03/03/00: Car crash helps bridge our divide
02/28/00: Nasty politics? Americans like it down, dirty
02/14/00: College testing via Lego-building -- yeah, right
02/02/00: Bubba should spare us phony love theatrics
01/26/00: What sets off Those Who Speak for Women
01/13/00: Fools in love: Premarital counseling could help school kids
01/11/00: Who funds these studies!?
12/29/99: Grandparents' rights impinge on family autonomy
12/13/99: When did fathers become fair game?
12/09/99: Don't be stupid about at-risk kids
12/07/99: Pokemon is no substitute for a father
12/02/99: Blaming the victim --- men
11/30/99: Baby-killer's story has less-than-Precious ending
11/23/99: Pendulum swings back toward discipline, responsibility
11/18/99: Put the babies first in this mighty mess
11/11/99: Skip the applause for this baby news
11/09/99: Gore could benefit from a secret in Wolf's clothing
11/03/99: Who needs 'birds and bees' when we have MTV?
11/01/99: Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say
10/26/99: Children's needs must take priority in divorce system
10/19/99: The deadbeat dad is less a scoundrel than an object of pity
10/15/99: Bullying boys ... and girls
10/12/99: Divorced dads ready to wage a revolution
10/04/99: A father's best gift? His presence
09/30/99: Sorry, guys, Faludi is no friend of yours
09/28/99: Science's new findings: Scary future for families
09/23/99: The great blurring of need and want
09/21/99:Focus on more than baby's first 3 years
09/16/99: Commentary from kids sheds no light on day-care debate
09/14/99: Fathers' group seeks to right inequities
09/09/99: Son now has a license to grow up
09/07/99: A slap in the face of domestic violence
09/01/99: No, ma'am: Legislation on manners misses the mark
08/26/99: For better boys, try a little tenderness
08/24/99:The ABC's of campaign questions
08/19/99: Male 'sluts'
08/11/99: Language doesn't excuse bad behavior
08/09/99: When justice delayed is still justice
08/03/99: Unemployment? Not in this profession
07/30/99: It's not about race -- it's about crack babies
07/22/99: Tragedy tells us what's important
07/19/99: Study denouncing fathers sends danger signals
07/15/99:'Happy marriage' belongs in the Dictionary of Oxymorons next to 'deliciously low-fat.'
07/11/99: 'Brother Man': An American demagogue in Paris
07/08/99: Only parents can fix broken families
07/06/99: America is home, sweet home
07/01/99: Tales out of Yuppiedom
06/28/99: Men aren't the only abusers
06/23/99: Is the entire country guzzling LSD punch?
06/20/99: The voice remains -- as always -- there beside me 06/16/99:Stating the obvious, a new growth industry
06/14/99: Calling for a cease-fire in the gender war
06/10/99: We owe children an apology

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