Planned Obsolescence

The term Planned Obsolescence, industrial jargon popularized in the early 20th Century, means "a policy of deliberately planning or designing a product with a limited useful life, so it will become obsolete or nonfunctional after a certain period."  At its most basic level, isn't that what parenting (motherhood) is all about?  One toils tirelessly (exhaustedly?) in the hopes that these quirky little people will one day be able to feed, clothe, bathe, and navigate themselves around the big, big world. Yet when things do begin to happen - making their own sandwiches, walking themselves to school, putting themselves to bed - the modern mother might feel a mixture of pride, astonishment and self doubt.   After doing so much for so long the modern mother may begin to wonder what her role is in this new paradigm.   She might need to take up a hobby, immerse herself in volunteering or stage her own professional comeback.

A recent piece on The New York Times blog Motherlode entitled Why Moms Should Quit suggests a radical approach to fostering independence in ones children.   The author of the piece encourages  announcing your resignation as "Chairman of the Household" and breaking out of the shackles that have oppressed mothers for so long.   Her own mother-in-law, the author tells us,  decreed in 1978 that she would only "buy groceries and make dinner on weekends, but that's it."   Now we are all for children and husbands doing laundry, yard work, cooking and otherwise contributing to family upkeep.  The troubling part is this:  why had this "Chairman of the Household" allowed herself to become so trampled upon?  As Chairman was it not incumbent upon her to create an effective organization in which each member contributed, learned and grew in responsibility as he matured?  Instead of a cataclysmic tantrum, perhaps some incremental changes and expectations might have been another solution.

Of course, it is well known that all the best characters in children's literature are resourceful, hard working orphans with strong moral conviction who have suffered great personal misfortune.   So maybe the "quitting" route is not such a bad one if a modern mother wakes up one morning and realizes she has allowed herself to be oppressed for years and sees that her offspring are feckless, entitled brats.  Otherwise, might we recommend a calm, long-term strategy of planned obsolescence?


Anonymous said...

Or they could be like the title character in A Secret Garden - spoiled brats who turn out to have a heart after all, when pushed to show it.

Anonymous said...

Love it! Cataclysmic tantrum, indeed! Not very well mannered I suppose.

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