- The Washington Times - Friday, January 10, 2003

INDIANAPOLIS, Jan. 10 (UPI) — Are Prozac and Ritalin helping us cope or hiding dangerous troubles?

The supermom of 2003 isn't having an easy time. Carpool. Corporate politics. Ear infections. Soccer practice. Dinner. She's on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Her son is a behavior problem at school. Her husband is lost in adult-rated cyberspace. She's taking Prozac. Her son is taking Ritalin. We're treating the visible symptoms without addressing the underlying problems of our unmanageable, uncharted lives. This is progress?

Webster's defines "progress" as "the development of an individual or society in a direction considered more beneficial than, and superior to, the previous level." Popular "coping mechanisms" available to moms ranging from new medications to old-fashioned denial mask problems rather than provide new and workable solutions. Prozac is progress but it's not a panacea.

And neither is Ritalin. As SAT scores decline, medication for "behavior problems" rise. Where's the connection? Has fluoridation caused mass hyperactivity? And why mostly in young boys? Maybe we should be looking elsewhere. We're expecting our kids to learn more material at a younger age in more crowded classrooms. Sedentary television viewing and video games have replaced sandlot baseball and neighborhood games of King of the Hill. Parental fear of dangerous streets has erased "just hanging out."

Ritalin makes Josh easier to manage — but it doesn't address the cause of his troubles. What was once a normal level of activity for boys is now considered "hyperactive."

It gets worse. Sex can be a problem because of Prozac. According to Dr. Alan Gelenberg, head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona, a common side effect of Prozac and other anti-depressants is "suppression of sexual interest and impairment in sexual functioning." Women just aren't in the mood — and when they are, they can't achieve fulfillment.

Here's another issue. Working class moms need their jobs to pay the bills. Not working isn't an option. Middle class moms who could stay at home are brainwashed into believing they must have "careers" to maintain their dignity. At the same time they feel societal pressure to raise perfect children. Their marriages, by default, come last.

We live in the age of gender-neutrality — aided and abetted by scientific discoveries but without any advance in wisdom. It is not politically correct to "let boys be boys." But that doesn't change basic biological fact. According to Sheila Moore, an expert in early childhood education and author of "The Little Boy Book," "compared to girls, boys are rougher and more rowdy in their play; slower to develop school skills like reading, writing, sitting and listening; more eager to impress their peers than to please the teacher; louder and more competitive." Ritalin can't change reality. Boys will be boys regardless of feminism's most ridiculous fantasies.

Soccer mom feels she must break through the glass ceiling, serve cookies and milk when the kids get home and be aggressive between the sheets — no mute sex for the New Millennium woman! The truth is, she barely has time to make sure there's peanut butter and jelly in the pantry.

Is she upset at these unfair and unattainable expectations? Not if she's taking Prozac. It makes it okay — makes it seem okay. It fools her into accepting an impossible assignment. She should be angry; instead she's medicated.

What's the solution? First off, we must face our difficulties rather than accept a pharmacological slipcover. Women must give up the idea of being Supermom. They can still be super. They can still be moms. They can still work. But they must also accept that their choices have consequences.

Women aren't Harriet — neither are they Ozzie. The anxiety of the modern women comes in large part from societally imposed unrealistic expectations. Today's American woman is a trailblazer — in the greatest Davy Crockett tradition.

And what about Josh? Current social science teaches that treating boys differently than girls in school, at play or at home is wrong. There is much truth in that. But boys and girls are not interchangeable. Every child is unique. We are striving to end gender-based discrimination, not to build an androgynous society.

At the end of the day there is no road map for Supermom. Roadmaps drawn under the influence are rarely accurate. Better to learn cartography than pharmacology.


(Peter J. Pitts is a senior fellow at the Institute for Strategic Communications and an adjunct professor at Indiana University's School for Public and Environmental Affairs. Outside View commentaries are written for UPI by outside writers who specialize in subjects of public interest.)

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