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Tucson Weekly Study This

You Can Say Anything You Want, But Don't Step On My Blue Suede Househusband Shoes.

By Tom Danehy

MARCH 29, 1999:  HEADING EVER DEEPER into my 40s, I've come to the realization that sometime in the next decade or so, I'm going to have to start thinking about my future. Maybe get a real job and put aside $20 a week for my retirement.

See, I've spent the bulk of my high-earning years staying at home, taking care of my kids. And they've turned out great--straight-A students, good athletes, friendly, moral, religious and polite. Now a new study tells me that I've been wasting my time. I could've dumped them in the day care with all the rest of the snot-trail urchins, put on a tie, and gone off to make my fortune.

And when I came back after 16 years, the kids would have been exactly the same. At least that's what the study says, that kids who have stay-at-home moms and those whose moms work outside the home turn out the same. This is a companion piece to last year's book that claimed that little Elwood's sixth-grade friends have far more to do with his moral and social development than does a lifetime of being with his parents.

Damn, I coulda had me a Beemer instead of a Honda with 100,000 miles on it.

I'm not going to question the methodology (or the intent) of the study, although I certainly could. Heck, it was all over the media, so it's got to be true. You go out to get the paper in the morning and it's splashed across the front of the USA Today. Then you get in the car to go to work (or, in my pathetic case, to drive school carpool) and Betsy Bruce is saying it on the radio.

I know Betsy Bruce. She's not going to make something like that up. It had to have come across a wire someplace, which automatically gives it a veneer of veracity.

Then the radio talk shows pick it up and chew on it for a while. By then it has become PUBLIC FACT. It doesn't matter whether it was true or not to begin with. If enough people hear it and/or talk about it, it takes on a reality all its own. The only way it could ever be debunked is if Nora Ephron were to write about it in a sequel to Sleepless In Seattle.

We've become George Orwell's 1984. We're constantly bombarded with stuff; some of it nonsense, some not. While we still have some idealism, we stand up to the blowing winds of baloney, being sand-blasted by pop psychology and me-first sentiments. But, after awhile, we turn our shoulder to the wind, then finally our backs and start walking with the wind.

Let me ask you straight out: Is there anyone out there who can honestly say there's NO DIFFERENCE between kids who stay at home with a parent and those who go to day care for 10 hours a day?

I have a relatively scientific mind. I understand the ever-so-remote possibility exists that kids in day care might actually turn out better than stay-at-home kids. But can anyone possibly suggest that two young children who spend the majority of their waking hours in totally different environments will turn out exactly the same?

It's absurd, it's pathetic, and yet it's perfectly understandable. People today don't want to take responsibility for the choices they make. They want to enjoy the upside while pretending that there's no downside.

I'm not going to preach at people who put their kids in day care. It's their kid, their career, their second Volvo. I do, however, believe we all reap what we sow with our kids and they should be our Number One Priority. Let's just be adults. If you make a choice, recognize the ramifications thereof. Don't blame others and don't try to pretend the ramifications don't exist.

This new "study" says that it doesn't matter if kids are at home with a parent or not (actually, it says a mother, but I know better). Heck, if that's true, why bother picking the kids up at all after work? The flip side of that logic is that whether I had stayed home with my kids for the past 16 years or had dumped them in day care and gone off to work, I would have made the exact same amount of money either way. I can certainly attest that that part's not true.

I think many of these studies start off with an agenda and then nudge their findings in that direction. The woman who wrote the aforementioned book has no scientific or educational credentials to speak of. What happened is that one of her kids turned out to be a creep and a slut. So, as a mom, she set out to prove that it wasn't her fault that the kid turned out that way. Then, instead of just writing a book called It Wasn't My Fault, she came up with the cockamamie theory that no parents have any meaningful impact on the way their kids' lives turn out. Yeah, that's a much better way to cover your tracks.

I'm going to embrace the whole thing. I'm going to start a business where I do studies to make people feel better. Get a certain segment of society who should be ashamed of themselves, and get them to pay me to tell them it's okay. Sort of a mutual-fund approach to assuaging collective guilt.

My father, may he rest in peace, drank nearly every day of the last 50 years of his life. Yet, he never got in a car accident, never got a ticket, never even got pulled over by a cop. My mother, in her own sweet way, told him, "God looks out for drunks and fools, so you've got double coverage."

Right there, I have anecdotal evidence that the practice of drinking and driving presents no danger. All I have to do is find somebody else like my dad and I have a "study." One is one, two is some. I'm sure there are lots of drunks who would love to be told they pose no threat to society. Heck, they'd probably even drink to that.

Now all I have to do is slip it into Betsy's morning news copy and I'm off on a new career, safe in the knowledge that it will have no impact whatsoever on my kids' lives.


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