Lisa Belkin, she of 2003's infamous "Opt-Out Generation" piece, wrote an essay in last Sunday's New York Times magazine that's eerily echoing the finishing touches I'm putting on The Manuscript.
You read that right: FINISHING. The end is in sight. I should be done by Matt's birthday, which is next Wednesday. I will have to buy him something extra wonderful to thank him for his patience, support, and confidence when I had none. Anyone got a line on a Favre bobblehead for the birthday boy?
Back to Belkin. In "Living to be a Parent," she writes that a gaggle of academic psychologists want to revise Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs so that parenting sits at the top. THE TOP! Belkin complains that this emphasis on "parenting," both as a verb and as a crowning achievement in life, is what's responsible for all the spoiled brats who entered college last week with helicopters in tow. "They are more dependent," she writes, "expecting trophies just for trying and texting their parents to ask for advice about what to eat for breakfast."
I take a different perspective in The Radical Housewife, the book. I'm not worried about the Yale frosh who don't know how to put quarters in the laundry machine--he'll be fine. I'm worried about what happens to all the other kids out there, the kids who don't have a chance to get to Yale because the rich folks with the means to place "parenting" at the center of their lives have diverted funds away from them.
It's a competitive culture, in case you haven't noticed. Resources are not allocated evenly. The haves hoard, and the have-nots are stuck. In my kids' school district, the only schools that consistently make Adequate Yearly Progress are the ones that receive no Title I funding anyway. In plainer terms, the better-off the family, the better-off the school, the better-off your future.
And while this seems obvious, I'll mention it anyway: putting parenting at the center of your universe is only going to make all you middle- and upper-class parents (like Belkin and other NYT subscribers) MORE anxious, insecure, and miserable, which leaves you (and me) even more vulnerable to swallowing this Mommy Wars bullshit.
Chew on that while I finish my book.