This piece originally appeared on now-defunct news and column website LezGetReal.
A child needs a mother and a father. Children with a mother and a father statistically do better in life. This is the Conservative mantra on social family issues and it is irrefutably backed up by the data. It’s completely correct, as well. However, Conservative political groups fail to point out one key piece of how they’re presenting this information: mother and father are roles, not genders…
The core of these roles are a push and a pull. They build confidence and a sense of being loved. The mother pulls the child in, nurtures, protects the child, and coddles the child. The mother says, “No, that’s dangerous.” The father pushes the child out, toughens the child up, throws it into the world. The father says, “Oh, s/he’ll be fine.” Through this constant push and pull, the child grows up feeling cared for and confident to jump into life. Two men, two women, and every pairing in the beautiful spectrum between can embody these roles, even dividing the various aspects however works for them. The roles are the key to this dynamic of parenting, not the genders of the parents.
This is not to say that a single parent (which I am) cannot successfully raise a child on their lonesome. This is not to disparage people who were raised by one parent. A model system is not an only choice. Myself, I try my best to mix both elements of push and pull and to provide an example of both types of social interaction that my child will absorb and process in his way. This is merely to point out how Social Conservatives, when they bother to actually use data, twist evidence to suit their ideology. So, the next time an ideologue tells you that a child needs a mother and father, you can simultaneously agree and disagree, pointing out that their use of the evidence is simply a shallow skimming of the truth behind the complex dynamics of effective parenting.