OK, it’s time to set the record straight, confront the gorilla in the proverbial room, call a spade a spade, and so on and so forth.
I recently published a column on “The Portal” — the black hole in academic cyberspace that has trapped many a mother — in which I used the female pronoun almost exclusively.
I am told by a 60-year-old grandmother who agrees, she says, with “most” of what I write (which is about all I can ever hope for) that I offended women by implying that the female parent is the parent most likely to become obsessed by and enslaved to The Portal. According to my accuser, my “1950s prejudice” was showing.
I counter the assertion with the prevailing 21st century prejudice: One should not tell the truth if the truth disrupts someone else's view of themselves. This prejudice is why so many teens are cutting themselves, on medication for depression and various anxieties and phobias, and running for the shelter of “safe spaces” on college campuses all over America.
In contemporary America, feelings trump the truth, which is why child mental health has so precipitously dropped since the 1950s. Feelings trump the truth also explains why and how this thing we now call “parenting” has been transformed from something once done straightforwardly and matter-of-factly into the most difficult, stressful thing a woman will ever do in her adult life.
When children were simply raised up to adulthood by adults who possessed a practical understanding of what that responsibility necessitated, child mental health was about as good as it’s going to get (at least 10 times better than it is today) and mothers did not agonize about childrearing micro-details. Then the collective “we” bought into the bogus notion that people with impressive capital letters after their names — psychologists and other mental health professionals mostly — knew more about raising children than the average grandparent.
Mental health people stress the importance of feelings, so the primary concern became that of making children FEEL good about themselves. (That, by the way, defines the salient difference between childrearing and “parenting.”) And since women are vastly superior to men at relating to feelings, women began to believe that if the rearing of children was going to be done in proper accord with the new psychological parenting (feelings-based) prescription, they were going to have to take charge.
And they did. Today, the female parent is the default parenting decider. The male parent is the “parenting aide,” there to follow instructions and fill in when the decider has “had it.” Yes, there are exceptions, but no person who’s been paying attention of late to something other than his or her smartphone would deny the general rule. (Note the use of both pronouns in the previous sentence! I am enlightened!)
Today’s mothers tend to believe that if parenting is successful (the child gets into a top-flight college, makes the Olympic curling team, and leaves home by age 30), it will be because of their unilateral dedication, doing, and devotion. The weight of that imagined responsibility, which my mother and mothers of her era and before never allowed on their shoulders, has turned the all-too typical mother into a micromanaging bundle of raw and constantly inflamed nerves. Her feeling-challenged husband self-medicates by memorizing football statistics while his wife darts from task to task like a plate-spinner. (Note: The reference to plate-spinners is another example of my inability to move past the 1950s.)
So, to the issue: Which parent is much, much more likely to be enslaved by The Portal? Why, the mother, of course! That would require, then, female pronouns. And to whomever that offends, you’re letting your 21st century prejudice show through.
Family psychologist John Rosemond: johnrosemond.com, parentguru.com.