The Mail

The Mail

March 15 1999
The Mail

The Mail

March 15 1999

The Mail

Modern parenting

In your cover story “The mother load” (March 1), Danielle Crittenden, author of What Our Mothers Didn’t Tell Us: Why Happiness Eludes the Modern Woman seems to forget about half the parenting population. What about the father load and the lament of generations past and present regarding the dads who are always working and neglecting their families? The effect of burned-out dads is just as much an issue as the effect of burned-out moms. I am an Anglican priest, and I am a stay-at-home dad. My wife is also an Anglican priest, who works full time. I think it is useful and important to ask questions about the effective nurture of our children, but it is more important to acknowledge that families are made richer by having opportunities to choose how their children will be raised and who will be the primary care-giver and for how long. Then, the question becomes, how can government and business best support the parenting choices of each family so that it can reach its greatest potential for creating a society of respect, peace and love? It saddens me that we still assume the responsibility of healthy families lies only on the shoulders of the mother. We have chosen to live a lifestyle that allows for one of us to stay at home. At present, it is my turn.

Rev. Lyndon Hutchison-Hounsell, Guelph, Ont.

From the outset of the coverage of Danielle Crittenden’s book, I suspected that her perspective would be somewhat naïve and narrow. Not only is she a child of privilege, but having “skipped university,” she has not studied or acquired the skills for studying sociological and social issues. My fears were confirmed when in “The privilege of home,” you quoted Crittenden as saying, “How, in

the space of a generation, have we made it a perk of only the rich to be able to care for their children? What is it today that causes so many women to feel that they have no choice but to work?” Women and mothers in my family have worked for generations, and continue to do so. Historically, our society is rural, agrarian, and let no one state that those women did not work. It has only been the women of social and financial privilege who have not worked. Crittenden’s experience is limited to life in upper-class Toronto and similar locales that bear no resemblance to the experience of the vast majority of Canadians.

Phyllis Frick, Perryvale, Alta.

Were you revealing a bias or merely being wryly humorous when you described Danielle Crittenden in working-mother mode: “crisply dressed and coiffed”? In keeping with the article’s thesis that there is a dichotomy between full-time working mothers and stayat-home types, am I to assume that the latter would most likely be sloppily attired and gnarly haired? Your article simplifies the working-mother issue into a polar debate between working and staying at home. Rather than two extremes, the reality is a continuum with few women actually being at one end or the other. Many fall somewhere in between with arrangements that include leaves of absence, part-time work, job sharing, work-at-home arrangements and homebased businesses. All women are trying to find the right balance to meet their own and their families’ economic, emotional, physical and social needs. We need to respect how difficult that job is rather than allowing it to become divisive.

Donna Sacuta, North Vancouver

The only new element in this feature story is Danielle Crittenden’s book. The pressures on women today are the same ones we’ve been successfully working through for years. The “mother load” is the load of guilt that continues to be dumped on working mothers of today. My great-grandmother had 13 children and raised them on a Saskatchewan farm with no running water or electricity, as a single parent when her husband died. To suggest that I, today, cannot handle an office job, three children and a home when I have the help of a husband and every modern convenience is ridicu-

Stay-at-home values

As an educated woman myself who has “earned her own money,” I must congratulate my peer Mary Nemeth on her choice to be proud of staying at home with her son (“A feminist stays home,” Cover, March 1). I also have chosen to stay home with my two small children, and consider these nurturing, loving years in their development not a sacrifice to my career, but the most important job I will ever do. Jobs, careers and the almighty corporation will always exist; our children, however, will only be small for a very short period of time. I think as a society we must place less emphasis on our “purchasing power,” and more emphasis on the quality and quantity of our parenting.

Anne Wilson West, Collingwood, Ont.

lous. Contrary to the tone of this article, I feel I have the “motherlode” of riches: a supportive spouse, three wonderful children, a fulfilling job and the chance to use my abilities without being restricted by stereotypes. Let Danielle Crittenden find her life balance, let the rest of us find our own, and please, let Maclean’s find something more newsworthy than recycled guilt about working moms.

Barb Gustafson, Prince Albert, Sask.

While your story discusses the tremendous stress on working mothers, I was disappointed to note that it did not once mention the even greater stress on single moms who work. If “everyone” agrees that “the twoincome family is a recipe for stress,” how much more stress is there on the oneparent, one-income family? Surely, those women (or men) who shoulder the whole of the burden, as opposed to the “bulk of the burden,” deserved some mention.

Marilyn Burnett, Nanaimo, B. C.

I don’t have a problem with parents working less to spend more time with their kids, especially in those precious and all-too-fleeting early years. What perturbs me is the automatic assumption (shared by both sexes) that the onus of doing this lies with the mother, as well as the fact that women who are unwilling or unable to do this are saddled with the bulk of the housework and guilt. Provided that parents can swing it financially, fathers must be as willing as mothers to put their careers on hold or scale back their work hours to raise their kids and, if this is not financially feasible, to share the burden of housework (and guilt) equally with their wives. Only those who feel women are inherently better care-givers and house-


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keepers—a preposterous and insulting suggestion in my view—could possibly object to this. So what’s the problem?

Dan Azoulay, Newmarket, Ont.

The warehousing of our children in cubicles painted in primary colours is the ultimate act of selfishness. Parents must live up to their obligations in the thorough nurturing of our young. Economics is not an adequate excuse for dodging this responsibility. The solution is to rearrange our priorities and put our offspring ahead of material things; for many this might mean giving up a lot. But when weighing materialism against investing in our children, the solution is clear and instinctive. Sadly for some, this will mean the day has come when parenthood is unaffordable. Who should suffer— the adults who cannot afford financially to realize the dream of parenthood or the child who is shelved in day care while both parents work to allow him the luxury of being parented part time?

Jayne Patterson, Stittsville, Ont.

As a GP who has worked in a low-income area, I have seen the effects on children who have been left to grow up by themselves— teenage pregnancy, vandalism, juvenile delinquency, drug abuse, criminal activity. In these situations, I do not fault mothers who have to work to support their children rather than abandon them to the system. But I think, in most cases, for middle-class Canadians the issue is not one of economic necessity but rather of self-fulfilment. Our desires for personal self-fulfilment and money outweigh the needs of our children for their parents. The questions we have to ask ourselves are: “Is my job worth it if my child grows up rotten?” or “Can we live a simpler lifestyle so that one of us can stay home with the children?” This is not just a woman’s problem, but I think it is just as reprehensible for a man to work extra hours for career advancement as it is for a woman who


chooses work over home. Unless our society starts getting its priorities straightened out and displaces self as its highest priority, our entire younger generation will grow up to be criminals.

Dr. Vernie Yee, Edmonton

The first female chief

In the item “Letter bomb in Calgary” (Canada Notes, March 1), your magazine has identified Christine Silverberg as the first female police chief in Canada. This is indeed an error as I am presently working under the first female police chief, Lenna Bradburn. Silverberg’s appointment was after Bradburn’s.

Deputy Chief Lisa Vollmar, Guelph, Ont.

Standard time

In “Now is the time to set the date” (The Road Ahead, March 1), Lloyd Kitching makes a valid complaint about inconsistencies in expressing the date in the format “02/04/06.” There is indeed a lack of uniformity in the order in which year, month and

day are presented in this format. However, the problem lies not in the failure to adopt a standard, but in the failure to implement the standard Canada has already adopted. According to those international standards, the most significant information (the year) is stated first, followed by the next most significant (the month) and then the day. That would explain why a GST form would correctly interpret 02/04/06 as April 6,2002. An added advantage of the SI convention is that it permits adding further time information (hour, minute, second) in order of decreasing significance. The challenge to the Chrétien government, then, is to advertise and popularize the convention.

Warren Forrester, Hampton, Ont.

Gambling limits

The recent article on provincial sports lotteries was interesting, but did not fully explain why we, like other wagering organizations, must have reasonable limits on the financial risk created by professional gambling (“The pros of Pro-Line,” Sports, March 1). Ontario Lottery Corp.’s sports games are designed for small-stakes wagering, not for professional gambling involving bets of

hundreds of thousands of dollars a day or more. More than 90 per cent of all wagers made are for less than $10 and a bet can be as small as $2. In addition, OLC never had a personal betting limit of $5,000, as the story said. The $5,000 figure is the maximum for Pro-Line sales at any one location for a day. That daily maximum was wrongly reported as being $32,500.

Don Pister, Ontario Lottery Corp., Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

Canada's finances

Federal Finance Minister Paul Martin’s budget last month (“In good health,” Canada, March 1) showed more of his myopic pursuit of popularity than a leader making decisions for the future. Canada’s surplus at the federal level is more a product of favourable interest rates than Liberal policies. This minuscule surplus will disappear like spring snow if interest rates rise, and we will be forced to make difficult decisions to ensure our financial sovereignty. In this time of fiscal manoeuvrability, Canada needs a government that will reduce our debt to free up billions in interest payments made every year to pay for increased Canada Pension Plan and health-care costs as our population ages. Accomplishing this will require un-

popular decisions that look beyond the end of a government mandate. Only this kind of vision will ensure our long-term prosperity.

Brian Gray, Hamilton

Peter C. Newman’s insightful analysis of the federal budget is crystal clear: Paul Martin is not doing enough to restore fiscal responsibility to this great nation of ours (“A pedestrian budget from a revolutionary,” The Nation’s Business). Newman writes about Martin’s skills as an entrepreneur and businessman, yet Canadians see little of this acumen in his latest budget. With a national debt of nearly $600 billion, this is an issue that will affect our greatgrandchildren. I fear for my children’s children. I hope we can save Canada—it is still a great place to live.

Derek D. Wiens, Burnaby, B. C.

Ice-storm claims

Along with other volunteer members of the Eastern Ontario Disaster Relief Committee, I was distressed to read on the anniversary of the ice storm, “The plague of ice” (Opening Notes, Jan. 18), that “in Eastern Ontario, most victims are still waiting for compensation.” The fact is that to date

EODRC has processed more than 25,000 of the claims we received as a result of last January’s storm. Your article did a great disservice to the volunteer committee members who have worked hard without pay for 11 months to compensate their fellow victims of the storm. The EODRC continues to work tirelessly and is committed to processing the less than 4,000 claims remaining as soon as possible.

Andy Brown, Chairman, Eastern Ontario Disaster Relief Committee, Kemptville, Ont.

Clinton's lineage

As a general rule, reading Allan Fotheringham’s columns causes me to laugh and shake my head. In this case, however, I was left with a certain sadness that we have lost so much of our human compassion for our fellow beings (“Why Bill and Monica made such a lovely couple,” March 1). I found it offensive to read his characterization of U.S. President Bill Clinton’s family and background, and was particularly disappointed that the underlying premise for his very judgmental diatribe was: ‘What else could we expect from him?” None of us should be condemned or judged on the basis of family and upbringing. I found Fother-

ingham’s column to be cruel and insensitive in dealing with what I saw as being very difficult and even tragic life circumstances.

Julie Gagnon, Calgary

'Thinking computers'

Fascinating write-up by Ray Kurzweil on the advanced thinking/feeling computers that may well be available in 20 years (“When machines think,” Essays on the Millennium, March 1). At the risk of sounding a bit like a Luddite, I have to ask why? Possibly, we will have finally created the Übermensch, or superman, sought after by a previous generation in Europe with disastrous end results. And what is to become of the plain old substandard beings like myself, most of whom can’t even begin to comprehend the concept of a “trillionfold” increase in thinking speeds of these new beings?

Kevin Doyle, Tara, Ont.

The whole essay reminded me of my grandchildren explaining the virtues of their new Christmas toys. I am so glad that I can still remember the odour of a blacksmith’s shop rather than a burned-out Pentium chip.

Stanley R. Andrews, Windsor, Ont.