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