Kids are the New ’50s Housewives (Stuck at Home “For Their Own Good”)

What do today’s kids and ’50s housewives have in common? Way too much, as I suggest in my essay for today’s Washington Post parenting blog.

As I point out in my piece, in the 1940s women were working in factories, doing all the jobs men did — and earning their own keep. After the war, they were suddenly told: What on earth are you doing out here? The outside world is too dangerous for you, you sweet, silly creatures!  We’re only saying this for your own good. You can’t make it out here. Go home!

Which sounds remarkably like what we are telling kids today. Kids who, just a generation ago, were perfectly capable of making their way in the outside world — babysitting, playing in the park, walking to school — are now being told: What on earth are you doing out here? The world is too dangerous for you, you sweet, silly creatures! We’re only saying this for your own good. Go  home! (Or, alternatively,  “Go to soccer practice, which we will drive you to and pick you up from.”)

Betty Friedan started the women’s liberation movement with her book, ‘The Feminine Mystique,” arguing that it is wrong to treat half the  population as less competent than the other half, even under the guise of “caring.” As in, “I care so much, I’m not letting you live a full life.” Moreover, it was driving at least some of the housewives crazy with boredom!

My book, “Free-Range Kids,” posits the same thing, only about children:  How is it that another group of previously competent human beings — children — have  suddenly been told that they’re incapable of doing  anything on their own anymore? Especially since, as my book goes to great pains to show, the crime rate is back to the level of 1970? (And it is lower now than it was in the rest of the ’70s and ’80s.)

There is no real reason kids today cannot be as free as kids a generation ago. That’s why, like the housewives of the ’50s, they  need a liberation movement, too. Free-Range Kids is proud to sound the trumpets.

And even willing to burn a few baby knee pads.  — Lenore


P.S. And on a completely different topic, I am about to be interviewed, 1 – 2 p.m. EST, on Parenting Unplugged Radio:

IM any questions during the broadcast to:

“See you on the radio!” L.