- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 19, 2007

I recently conducted a two-day seminar with a relatively large audience. Before the start of the second session, a fellow told me his wife refused to come back with him.

She was upset, he said, for two reasons: First, my remarks concerning parent-child co-sleeping had rubbed a nerve, and second, she had come to the conclusion that I was unsympathetic to mothers who work outside the home, of which she is one. (It is significant to note that more women showed up for day two than for day one, so this woman’s reaction obviously was highly personal.)

Notwithstanding that this fellow’s wife apparently was the only woman who was upset, I was troubled. I wanted to talk with her to try to help her better understand my message. That wasn’t possible, so I’m hoping she reads this column.

Am I unsympathetic to working mothers? I don’t know why I would be, given that my mother often worked outside the home while I was growing up, and I did not suffer from the arrangement. On that basis, I also understand that the difference between the working mother of 50 years ago and today’s working mom is guilt.

Too many of the latter come home feeling their absence from their children has created a psychological deficit that can be made up only by putting their children at the center of their attention when they are home and dancing as fast as they can in their lives. The 1950s working mom came home tired and had no problem telling her children to find things of their own to do through the evening, which we had no problem doing. That generation of women had not been seduced by self-esteem propaganda, nor did they believe the measure of a mom was a matter of how much she did for her children.

Today’s mother, whether she works or not, has lost sight of the fact that the best thing she can possibly do for her children is to be a good wife. Likewise, today’s dads have lost sight of the fact that the noblest thing a man can do in his life is to be a good husband. A symptom of the former is moms who sleep with their children, convinced that this promotes bonding and prevents attachment disorder, which is as overblown as was multiple personality disorder 20 years ago. (There is a question as to its existence.) A symptom of the latter is dads who come home to play with their children.

“Why do you do that?” I recently asked one of these child-obsessed dads. He pointed out that his children hadn’t seen him all day, to which I pointed out that his wife had not seen him all day, either. He told me that had not occurred to him.

Right. Today’s parents have all but lost sight of the fact that nothing provides more security to a child than the knowledge that his mom and dad are married to each other, not to him. Oh, he may like it that mom acts as if her life revolves around his existence and dad is his playmate, but the fact a child likes something does not mean it is in his best interest.

All too many of today’s parents and I have to say, as politically incorrect as it may sound, that what I’m about to say characterizes moms more than it does dads act as if they took vows on their wedding day that said, “I take you to be my wife/husband until children do us part.”

A two-parent family’s strength and durability is found in the strength of the marriage, not in the amount of family time that is child-oriented. Likewise, the single-parent family’s strength depends on a single parent who has a variety of interests outside of his or her responsibilities to his or her children. (I am qualified to comment on this because my mother was a single parent for most of the first seven years of my life.)

Children need to develop respect for adults. Respect and a sense of security go hand in hand. You can take this to the bank: It is impossible for a child to develop respect for adults who act as if he hung the moon.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site (www.rosemond.com).

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