Friday, June 01, 2007

Warner and the McCanns

Follow the link for context, then continue if you so desire...

It seems like Warner would be on solid ground if she omitted the next-to-last paragraph of her original piece.

As it is, it looks like she is laying the blame of the abduction at the feet of the SAHM movement. I read a good bit of American parenting commentary, and I've yet to find a condemnation of resort babysitting services, let alone the suggestion that leaving children alone is a prefereable alternative. If the McCanns were really moved to do what they did by societal condemnation of outside child care, it's hard to imagine that this would be the first or last time they would do something stupid based on societal influences.

This is as distasteful and hateful as blaming it on lasseiz-faire parenting.

Can we agree on two principles?

1. The McCann's decision to leave their children alone in a hotel room was a stupid mistake.

2. The face that they made this stupid mistake does not make them "bad parents," or mean that they deserve what happened to them. Many parents do things equally or more stupid with no consequence. They were unlucky. Accountable, but unlucky.

I'm reminded of a case study dave posted to the Fray some time ago (now sadly unlinkable), about a parent who threw their kid out of the house, who then was beaten and raped (if I remember correcty), and asked us to assess blame.

What I took away from that is that with all the culture wars, we lose sight of our basic duties. We decide whether we're in the "tough parent" or "easy-going parent" category, and act consistent with that self-image rather than just being a parent. Maybe throwing the kid out was consistent with the "tough parent" script, but it is inconsistent with the basic responsibility of providing shelter.

Similarly, if we accept Warner's thesis that the McCann's did what they did based on cultural stigmaitization of hired child care (which I don't), then it seems they did so because they were following the script of stay at home parents rather than simply parents, making avoiding hired child care a higher priority than providing care at all.

It seems the thing to do is not to point fingers at one side or the other of the "Mommy Wars," but to agree on what basic responsibilities all parents have, regardless of where they align themselves.

It may not be as fun as throwing stones at working mothers or stay at home mothers, but it would probably do more to help.