August 8th, 2010

The only freedom is choice

After working myself into a mini-rage, I’ve calmed down and decided not to expend many blog inches over Leah McLaren’s column in the Globe yesterday. It’s about a study she read on primary childcare. McLaren’s point, illustrated by this study plus “the overwhelming anecdotal evidence of [her] peers” that it is “absolutely not…good for the mental development and behaviour of most new mothers” to stay home with their children.

Of course, the study doesn’t say that–the study says the kids will probably be fine whether care is provided by mom or someone else, provided the family is pretty stable. What I might draw from this is that adults need to make the best decisions they can given the specifics of their own lives, be they financial, cultural, intellectual, whatever. What McLaren draws is that since mothering is “unpaid labour” and if you are home all day you are “[l]ess able to make small talk at a cocktail parties,” call the daycare centre and get yourself a job.

I guess I haven’t met them, but I doubt McLaren’s peers constitute a statistically sound sampling of all economic, geographic, social and cultural demographics. Many people want many things from their lives. A choice is a choice: in 2010, women don’t have the “freedom” to have careers; we have the freedom to do anything we want, provided we can make it work within the context of our own lives and loved ones. The quality of the entertainment we provide at cocktail parties never enters into it.

I don’t know exactly why this article made me see red; I don’t have kids and this isn’t an issue I’m dealing with. Maybe the idea that there is any one right answer for any aspect of life–hurrah for the pluralistic society! And then there’s the fact that my mom stayed home with me, after a fascinating career that involved, among other things, teaching a university course on the sociology of women. I am happy to think it was an educated choice. Both my grandmothers worked, as did at least two of my great-grandmothers. You can bet they didn’t do it so they’d have amusing anecdotes to tell at parties. We all make the best decisions we can with the lives we have.

8 Responses to “The only freedom is choice”

  • Rosalynn says:

    You know, I read an article of hers years ago — seriously, years — that’s engendering a mini-rage right now, as I remember it. It was about new years resolutions, and how very offended she gets by the crowds of ‘unfit’ bodies in *her* gym every January. As in, how dare these miserable slobs try to make a commitment to improving their health in her line of vision? Sigh. Sometimes I think The Globe is just having us on, you know? That the column is, in fact, satire, the invention of some suit over there who is having a good laugh every time we get riled up over it, really.

  • Kerry Clare says:

    I find that not going to cocktail parties helps me avoid these problems altogether.

  • AMT says:

    i agree with commenter number one. i decided when i still read the Globe and Mail that i was fairly sure they use a magic 8 ball to come up with her opinions. this made me feel considerably better.

  • Rebecca says:

    I have only recently started reading the Globe Lifestyle section, and since McLaren’s column is practically the only thing in it that isn’t just veiled advertising, I probably put too much emphasis on it. I had no idea everyone thought it was just a gag column–that does cheer me up some. I should probably just stop reading this section.

  • Patrick McEvoy-Halston says:

    I don’t think this is a gag column. Here is a human being who thinks mothers / parents who stay home with their kids are relinquishing everything worthwhile in life. Here also is a human being who believes “you’re” also being a bad parent, in that research has proven that being swarmed-over by your sprats means being unable to properly discipline your offering of quality time to them. If you want a good counter to this British-sounding pap, check out Stanley Greenspan’s (RIP!) conclusions on kids’ parenting needs. He doesn’t have a thing against kids (i.e., you’d never hear him say, “fuck, I got to raise these things now?!”), like Leah and these researchers surely do.

    RE: “Well, duh, you might say. As anyone who has ever known a family with a working mom can tell you, the kids are all right.”

    I laughed at this.

  • Nathalie says:

    I’m not sure what to think about writers like Margaret Wente, Leah McLaren and Jan Wong, who was also at the Globe. I really do applaud the use of the first person voice in our national newspapers. I like the presence of personality to complement the “objectivity” of “standard” reporting. There is apparently a marketability to their brand of provocation, but it does, too often, feel like a gimmick. Do these writers feel the pressure of the column’s deadline and dredge for an angle? Do their editors push them to poke readers more? Meanwhile, the Globe let Karen von Hahn go and it appears that Katrina Onstad is gone from Chatelaine. I love the voices that these women use. They write well without cheap provocation. They use the first person without being self-absorbed (gyms and cocktail parties) or deliberately, cheaply provocative. Take McLaren with a pinch of salt always, but write in favour of the thoughtful columnist.

  • Kerry Clare says:

    Oh, Nathalie, Karen von Hahn’s column was so wonderful, wasn’t it? I miss her very much.

  • Bula Foulk says:

    I truly find this is a great interesting subject. Never looked at this subject in this way. If you are planning to write more articles about this subject, I definitely will be back in the near future!

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