Alison Gopnik Responds to Brilliant Blog Readers
Earlier today I posted an essay by Alison Gopnik, developmental psychologist, Berkeley professor, and author of The Philosophical Baby, about how we should think about parenting. The piece, which I thought was insightful and thought-provoking, evoked a strong negative reaction from some readers. Surprised, I reached out to Alison to ask if she’d like to respond. Here’s what she said:
“I’m so sorry that some readers seem to think that somehow I was dismissing the important of parents. Actually, the point was just the opposite—I believe that from an evolutionary as well as a scientific, philosophical and personal perspective there is nothing more important for human beings than caring for children. Providing that safe nurturing rich environment for our exceptionally needy human children is one of the hardest, and yet most intense and satisfying things we ever do (I say with some personal feeling, having been up at 5 AM today with my wonderful grandson).
But I’d like to make a distinction between being a parent (or grandparent or ‘alloparent’) and caring for children and ‘parenting’—the idea that there is some set of strategies that someone else knows that will turn your child into a better adult. For many middle-class parents ‘parenting’ has become a major source of unnecessary anxiety and guilt, instead of support and help.
And that is particularly ironic because such large numbers of children in the U.S. are growing up without that safe nurturing context and care, not only in poverty but, worse, in isolation and instability, a situation we know we can remedy.
Of course, its practically impossible not to worry about your own children (I certainly can testify that you do it at least until they’re 35, and my mom tells me that it goes on a lot longer than that).
But I do wish some of the enormous energy that goes into worrying about ‘parenting’ could go instead into working for paid parental leave, high-quality public child-care, flexible work schedules and all the other policies that could help all our children thrive.”
Readers, do you have responses to her response?