Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sex and Parenting

While we're on a roll of gender questions, here's one that's been on my mind for a while. One of the lines that you hear from those opposed to gay adoption is that a child needs a mother and a father. Why?

The key to good parenting is consistency. Parents cannot send mixed signals. What one parent says, the other has to say as well. Kids are best served when they have clear, unambiguous boundaries and role models who display a consistent mode of behavior. The old idea that the father needs to be a strict disciplinarian while the mother needs to be the gentle nurturer is not only false, but harmful. You want parents who both reinforce the same message to keep kids straight. On the face of it, the idea that there should be some difference in the parenting based on sex seems simply wrong.

So, in the name of charity, what sense can we make of it? What does my parenting as a father convey that TheWife's doesn't and vice versa? I cook and clean, TheWife knows how to use power tools. What could it be?

I suppose one could say that in a society that does have gender roles still ingrained, I, but not TheWife can serve as a role model for how to be a good person while occupying a dominant role in a patriarchal culture. Similarly, TheWife can serve as a model for how to live a fulfilled life in contemporary society. This, of course, would really only be meaningful once the children get old enough so that this sort of thing would make sense to them, once they understand that mommy and daddy are people in a larger social context.

Is there some other way in which gender should make a difference in parenting?