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Jewish World Review March 8, 1999 /20 Adar 5759

Tony Snow

Tony Snow
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The Lewinsky Principle

( A STUDY PUBLISHED LAST WEEK gave many Yuppie families a moment of fleeting ecstasy. It implied that moms and dads could work endless hours, stash their kids in day-care centers and return home safe in the knowledge that Dick, Jane and Sally would grow up prosperous, happy and well-adjusted.

The press portrayed the paper by psychologist Elizabeth Harvey as a definitive hit on "the myth of the working mother" -- the "myth" being that kids feel better when Mom pays more attention to them than to her job. Reporters promised Americans: You can have your kids and your BMW, too.

Of course, common sense tells us otherwise. Absence makes the heart grow fonder only in cases of newborn love and ancient hatred -- not in relations between parents and children. Kids need something only parents can supply: unconditional love. Parents need something only kids can impose: Perspective.

The study, at least as it was touted in the press, belittles everybody. It implies that you can swap out moms and dads the way you change defective car parts. It embraces the weird assumption that kids are perfectly happy to go through childhood not as the objects of cooing adoration, but as cargo -- something to be dumped off in the morning and picked up at night.

These views dovetail with the pseudo-Marxist bilge being pumped out these days by social theorists. At the United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing -- a fete headlined by Hillary Rodham Clinton -- attendees carefully avoided using such old-fashioned terms as "mother" and "father," choosing instead to apply the sterile label, "caregiver."

(The terms "husband" and "wife" appeared a combined total of zero times in the "Beijing Platform for Action.")

The insinuation was that the family is a dated institution and that the state had acquired enough wisdom and expertise to oversee the nurture of anybody and everybody.

Next week, the U.N. will review a complaint that Canada discriminates against women because it doesn't "tally and value" the "unpaid and traditional work" of moms. A recent press release extols the case as a triumph for "mainstream feminism."

In fact, the controversy reduces the mother to the status of wage-slave by trying to slap a price on her ministrations. Far from acknowledging the worth of women, the "reform" threatens to annihilate the value of love. It reduces adoration to the level of a task, like doing laundry or scrubbing a toilet.

As for the thesis that kids need nothing more than "quality time," consider a two-word refutation: Monica Lewinsky.

Nobody better exemplifies the "it takes a village" theory of child-rearing.

While her parents passed her around, she was raised by the toniest tribe in the country -- the Beverly Hills elite. She later received "counseling" from the ultimate tribal elder, the president. Despite such nurture, however, she became a shipwreck of a girl, someone who understands sensuality, but not love; someone forever linked to cigars, kneepads, stained dresses, phones and bathroom sinks.

It is important to note the author of the aforementioned study, Elizabeth Harvey, does not claim, as many in the press do, that her research declares the stay-at-home mom irrelevant to a child's happiness. As David Murray of the Statistical Assessment Service as pointed out, the paper's fine print tells a far different tale.

Although Harvey looked at a lot of cases -- more than 6,000 -- she didn't get a representative sample of American life. Nearly three in five respondents were black and Hispanic. Most were young and poor. Incomes ranged between one-third and one-half the national median, and average IQs barely exceeded levels normally defined as "functionally mentally retarded."

If one takes such qualifiers into account, the study tells us that poor families are better off when the head of household works than when he or she lives on the dole. In other words, it vindicates welfare reform. That is a far different from dissing at-home moms.

Customs generally contains more wisdom than the latest intellectual fashion, and this is a case in point. The tradition of showering children with love and attention still works better than the practice of dumping them in care facilities the way one might board a poodle.

Sure, kids can recover from such neglect. But every time one pushes a child aside, one cuts a tiny wound. Over time, these injuries can scar a soul in ways that don't become apparent for years.

Moms and dads must keep these things in mind. Many parents must work just to make ends meet. (Both of mine did.) But that doesn't change the fact that there's only one irreplaceable commodity in life --- time.

My children are blessed by an at-home mom who watches over them with ferocious devotion. But when I walk through the door each night and my children run up calling my name, I feel joy shot through with an occasional a pang of regret. For those three incandescent smiles, ablaze with love, remind me of what I missed while I was working and they were growing up.


03/05/99: Buchanan & Ventura’s lure
03/01/99: Open season on women
02/25/99: The birth of political wisdom
02/22/99: Children of optimism
02/18/99: Wake up, Republicans!
02/16/99: Why we feel so good
02/11/99: What exactly does George W. stand for?
02/08/99: Run, GOPers, run?
02/04/99: The languid sigh of waves lapping ashore
02/01/99: Verbal vortex
01/28/99: To be a ‘sell-out’ or an unelectable pol --- that is the question
01/25/99: The apogee of a trend
01/21/99:What my 3-year-old taught me
01/17/99:Don't be fooled, folks
01/14/99: Must a pol be ‘baaaad’ in order to get elected?
01/12/99: Jumpin’ Jack (Kemp)
01/08/99 : Hot air in the Windy City

©1999, Creators Syndicate