Let’s talk for a minute about parenting. I’m a big fan of the web show The Young Turks, and as I watched an old episode the other day, host Cenk Uygur said something that caught my attention. He said “the ideal for children is a Mom and a Dad. In a perfect world, that’s the way it would be, but it’s not, and we have to accept the many types of families that exist.” Now, I generally don’t find myself in disagreement with Cenk, but in this case I disagree so much that I felt compelled to write about it. This isn’t the first time I have heard this from my fellow ‘leftists,’ as a matter of fact it comes up quite often. I disagree each time, and right now I want to talk about why.
To say that we must accept all types of family unit is a good thing. Healthy, well rounded young adults can, and in fact do, arise from every type of home. The problem arises when we try to make claims about what the “ideal” family should look like. The claim that the ideal is a Mom and a Dad assumes that all Moms and Dads are willing and able to meet the needs of the child. It’s an erroneous claim, and it would be just as wrong to claim that any other type of family is ideal. Effective parenting is not reliant on gender. We all have different personalities, some are good parents and some aren’t. The ideal situation for a child is any situation where that child’s needs are being met. Apart from shelter, clothing, warmth, food, and hygiene, a child has psychological and social needs. Parents are responsible for showing empathy, compassion, love, and discipline. They are responsible for nurture, and teaching values like respect for others. Parents are mentors, they are role models. Children need guidance, a moral foundation, an understanding of the world, and opportunities for social development. Being a parent is a full time job that requires many qualities, and those qualities are found in all sorts of different family units. A Mom and a Dad, a Mom and a Mom, a Dad and a Dad, a single Mother or Father … if the needs of the child are being effectively met, the parenting situation is ideal.
A favourite tactic of the right on this issue is to bring up the “social science research” to support their version of the ideal. This is a very weak argument. While it’s true that the majority of the research on good parenting reflects a bias toward heterosexual pairings, that’s because the majority of two parent homes are comprised of heterosexual parents. The research into the domestic abuse of children reflects the same bias, because once again, the majority of two parent homes are comprised of heterosexual parents. Research on different types of family units is rather new by comparison, so the data is not as plentiful. One thing we do know, however, is just what I have said. A child needs many things throughout their development, and we see wonderful people, whose needs were met, coming out of every type of family. There is an absurdity to an argument that assumes the correctness of the majority. Bias toward one thing merely by number does not indicate an ideal situation, it merely indicates that more work has been done on it. Two parent households that have a Mom and a Dad produce great kids. So what? So do same-sex parents, and so do single parents. On the flip side, all of these types of families sometimes produce terrible kids.
Gender has nothing to do with parenting, not even a little bit. This myth that men and women are so vastly different that they bring uniquely different abilities to a parenting team is hogwash. It’s society’s idea of binary gender roles that causes us to think this way, and it is completely out of touch with reality. My spouse and I are good parents because we each have qualities that compliment the other, and as a team, we provide the needs that our children require. The fact that we are man and woman doesn’t matter. Our abilities are unique to us as people, not to what society attributes to our genders.
The bottom line is that good parents are good parents regardless of what qualities they are assumed to have. The ideal is NOT a Mom and a Dad. The ideal is a home in which a child’s every need is being met.