Parent group would steal time needed to be a parent

May 26, 1998|By SUSAN RIEMER

SYLVIA ANN Hewlett and Cornel West have written a book titled, "The War Against Parents." In it, they propose a "bill of rights" for parents not unlike the GI Bill of the last generation, and state that if the 62 million parents in this country organize, they can make this expensive package the law of the land.

The authors propose 24 weeks of paid leave at the time of birth, part-time career ladders and tax breaks for at-home parents.

They propose a guaranteed living wage for all full-time workers, an allowance for families with children under 6, and the elimination of sales tax on children's necessities, such as diapers and car seats.

They would extend the school day and the school year to dovetail with work life, fund higher salaries for child-care workers, eliminate alcohol and tobacco advertising, and make it harder for kids to rent R-rated movies.

The authors also propose the creation of an Index of Parent Well-Being to provide a counterpoint to the Dow Jones Index, and "parent privileges," including special seating on buses.

Hewlett and West propose that parents organize as senior citizens have, a la the American Association of Retired People (AARP), and impose their economic will on the unorganized and unsuspecting taxpayers the way retired people have.

In fact, such an organization already exists. It is called the National Parenting Association and Hewlett is president of it.

Great. Love it all. Sign me up. Just don't schedule any night meetings because I can't be there -- I'm a parent.

Forgive me for being irritable, but this is just one more thing I ought to do but can't -- because I'm a parent.

Like the parish council and the PTA and the community association and the swimming pool board and Greenscape and the Bay Bridge Walk and the Race for the Cure and a night out with my husband at least once a week.

I have kids, and that means I have homework and dinner and practice schedules and orthodontist appointments and sick stomachs and sad moments and sibling rivalries and huge, emotional blow-ups after which everybody cries.

I would be glad to work for the betterment of parents if I had the time, but I don't because I am one. We grass-roots types can't find time to get the grass cut, let alone pull off a national movement.

What I don't need is a book that outlines all the aspects of my life that would be better if I could just find the time to join the organization that would develop the lobbying power to improve things for me.

I thought I elected a president to do that.

I voted for Bill Clinton in large part because he had a wife who works and a teen-ager at home and I figured if anybody could understand what my life is like, he could.

Presidents can do many things, but mandating school uniforms is probably not one of them. So when he included that in his State of the Union address, I was not hopeful, but I liked the tone he was setting for the country from the podium.

I believed what he said in his commercial: "Being president isn't the toughest job. Being a parent is." And I believed he could create a national atmosphere of support for that job from his bully pulpit.

But this president has spent all his family-friendly capital defending himself against bimbo eruptions, and sadly lacks credibility in the role model department. I'm not sure I would listen to him now if he told me teens shouldn't drink and drive.

What parents do not need is another worthy cause, another organizational meeting, another should on their list of should do's.

We don't need to add to our schedule because you can't schedule the raising of children. They need you when they need you and they don't give you any notice, so the best you can do is be where they can find you -- not off joining a movement. And a movement is just what Hewlett and West hope for.

Parents need all the things the authors say we need -- the economic supports, the cultural endorsements and the good will of our employers -- and we would have them if we only had the time to secure them. But if we did have the time, we wouldn't need them.

If I sound resentful, I am.

Hewlett and West are making a buck off of my troubles -- the book costs $24 and membership in the National Parenting Association costs $25 -- and because I'm busy being a parent, I don't have the time to do anything about it.

Pub Date: 5/26/98

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