Helicopter Parenting and the Decline of Dad

The gendered parenting model of the 1950s had its flaws for sure, but at least there was a complementary division of labor that, like a well-rounded diet, ensured that kids got what they needed: certain kinds of love from dad, and certain kinds of love from mom. My main problem with the egalitarian model that’s replaced it is that it’s not particularly egalitarian. We haven’t divvied up the old parenting tasks equally; we’ve decided, instead, that everybody’s supposed to be “mom” and nobody’s supposed to be “dad”. The stuff that dads used to do just isn’t done now, for the most part, by anyone.

Parental discipline is a case in point. Back in the day, dad played bad cop to mom’s good cop. He was the bad guy, the disciplinarian, the heavy, and, as any parent will tell you (gay or straight), that job fucking sucks. But dads used to do it regardless because—like taking out the trash or changing the kitty litter—it had to be done; most 21st-century dads, who are too often little more than fun uncles, invariably stiff mom with the job.

This profoundly unbalanced state of affairs is, I hasten to add, largely responsible for the rise of so-called “helicopter parenting”. Helicopter parenting is, at bottom, what happens when both parents are striving to be a 1950s mom. It produces exhausted parents, neurotic children, and miserable marriages. Kids need to be given the space to make their own mistakes, manage their own relationships, manage their own time, and figure themselves out. And they need to grow up around parents who have fun with each other, parents who have friends, parents who laugh, parents who have a life—a life that doesn’t revolve entirely around them.

—John Faithful Hamer, Parenting in the Age of Studies Have Shown (2017)

About John Faithful Hamer

John Faithful Hamer is a college professor who still can't swim, drive, or pay his bills on time. His sense of direction is notoriously unreliable, yet he'd love to tell you where to go. His lack of practical skills is astounding, and his inability to fix things is renowned, yet he'd love to tell you what to do. His mismanagement of time is legendary, as is his inability to remember appointments, yet he fancies himself a philosopher and would love to tell you how to live. He wouldn't survive in a state of nature, of that we can be sure; but he's doing quite well in the big city, which has always been a refuge for the ridiculous, a haven for the helpless, and a friend to the frivolous.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s