Monday, October 10, 2005

Taking Heat About Dr. Laura

I listen to Dr. Laura. There, I said it. I admit it! And I'm taking a lot of heat for it lately. We live in a very, ok extremely, liberal town. Hippyville USA, in many people's opinion. Free thinkers, free spirits, alternative types abound. A throwback enclave of the 1960's hippy lifestyle. We like it here. We are liberal/moderate types ourselves, for the most part. Neither Mr. Chick nor I are fans of Dubya, but we respect the office of the President. Yes, we both voted for Kerry. We are "blue state" democrats. And yet, I like a lot of what Dr. Laura has to say. I'm finding I'm getting more conservative about certain things as I get older. Scary thought. Especially where children are concerned, and it's that particular topic that attracts me to what Dr. Laura has to say. Sue me.

I was out with some friends the other night to go to a small (tiny) jazz club. One of my friends organized the outing because she knew one of the musicians. We met up with several other women before going to the club for a drink and it came up that I listen to Dr. Laura. It was like it was a criticism that I do. It's not like I'm glued to my radio for 3 hrs every day in order to catch every word she says, but if I'm out and about running errands or whatever and she happens to be on, I tune in. One of these ladies seemed stunned that I would listen to her - she was absolutely against the notion that Dr. Laura would have anything constructive or helpful to say. Her take was that Dr. Laura was a horribly conservative, judgemental bitch with nothing good to day. I agree, she tends to be somewhat controversial and very conservative - dare I say traditional? - but she makes some excellent points that I believe have merit. But I sure felt like I was the town whore in church for admitting I listen to her program. At least with this group. Which is funny, really, because most of these ladies are stay-at-home moms with small children, which is exactly the set-up arrangement Dr. Laura encourages whenever possible. But I think it's the assumed reputation or position that they perceive her to have that makes them believe they don't like what she has to say. I doubt they've ever listened to her themselves, instead believing the hype. Yes, she's anti-abortion. Yes, she believes in the sanctity of marriage and a 2-parent family arrangement. Yes, she believes the needs of children should be placed above the needs of adults. And she jumps the frame of callers who challenge her on these types of points and pushes them into changing the paths they're on. She's blunt and direct and makes judgements. Lots of people don't like feeling judged. But I say that if you don't honestly feel that you're not doing something "wrong", then you won't feel judged if someone calls you on it. You only tend to get defensive if you truly know you're wrong.

I agree with Dr. Laura that a 2 parent home is better for kids than a single-parent arrangement. HOWEVER, and I believe even Dr. Laura would agree, there are times and situations when you find yourself a single parent. Death of a spouse comes to mind. Even divorce, although she and I believe people get divorced (and married) without enough work and forethought. Dr. Laura is not anti-divorce, but I think a lot of people believe she is. She feels there are certain situations when a divorce is appropriate - she calls them the "3 A's": Abuse, Addiction, Adultery. But if you find yourself a single parent, whether by death or divorce, Dr. Laura takes the viewpoint that your sole responsibility is to care for and raise your children (if you have any) before you complicate matters by going out and dating and trying to find another spouse. If you do meet someone and want to begin seeing them, do so without involving your kids. Don't get them attached only to have the relationship break apart. Take it slow and put your kids first. Ideally, wait until your kids are grown and out on their own before dating and marrying again. How is that so bad, I ask you? Where she (and I) have problems is when someone willingly and knowingly has a child as a single person without being married. Why do that to a kid? If you got pregnant unintentionally (hard to do if you're smart and careful, btw), then it would be better to give the child up for adoption so s/he could be raised in a loving 2 parent home vs. a single parent situation. I agree. It may sound harsh, but I do. And better to have the baby and give it up than to abort. On this I agree as well, but I still believe we need to protect a woman's right to an abortion. Dr. Laura is against pre-marital sex, but I'm not so cut-and-dried on that subject. I don't want my kids being promiscuous and sleeping around like loose tramps, but I think that if you are in love with someone and have a long-standing, committed relationship that is leading to marriage, then it's ok to express your love and emotions for that person. Even if you're not married. I don't believe many, if any, high school relationships fit those parameters, for the record. I don't think it's realistic to expect someone to wait until they're married if in the same breath you're saying that your best chances of marital success happen if you delay marriage until you're 26 years old or older.

Dr. Laura takes a strong stand on marriage. She believes in marriage and a marriage being a sacred thing and is very against people living together (she calls it "shacking up"). Now, as someone who DID live with their boyfriend/now husband before marriage, I still agree with her. Looking back, it wasn't the smartest thing to do when we moved in together. In fact, a few years before we got married we stopped living together and bought our own homes independently. It made a big difference, I think. It made the whole process of getting married and creating a home together more special and unifying. And even though I did it, I'm certainly not going to tell either of my kids that it's ok for them, because it's not. It's just not. I want them to have strong marriages, and living together hasn't proved to be a formula for marital success in this nation. You can tell if the person you're dating is someone you could live with after marriage as part of the dating/courting period. Anyone who tells you otherwise if full of shit and/or not paying attention to the person they're seeing. Dr. Laura also preaches about respecting your partner and treating them like you would want to be treated yourself. Golden Rule sort of thing. Honor them. Respect them. Give them credit where credit is due. And sometimes that means putting on a happy face even when you don't want do, but you do it anyway. And it goes for both people - not just the women.

Where families are concerned, she's an advocate of staying home with your children whenever possible. You can always work once your kids are in school. I think this is where she turns a lot of people off, but I think she's right. I KNOW it's hard to live in our society on a single income, but it CAN be done. What some people think are must-haves aren't really and adjustments can be made. It's not always easy, but it's possible. Nothing is sacred. Live in a smaller house or in a different area where cost of living is less. Don't go out to eat. Drive a car that you can afford or is paid for. Only have one car and take public transportation. Stuff like that. Dr. Laura tends to come down hard on daycare, and this is where I tend to differ from her message, because I don't agree that all daycare is bad. Sometimes it's a necessary evil in our society. But I do agree that people fall into the trap of believing they HAVE to have two incomes to make it, and that's just not true. A lot of people work to support a lifestyle, but if you change the lifestyle then you change the requirements for that lifestyle. Dr. Laura is against the children paying the price for a family to live a certain lifestyle, and I agree with her. Sure, I'd like to have a bigger house, but I'd rather raise my own kids and make the home we do have as comfortable and warm as possible.

So I ask you, are these messages so bad? I think people get turned off by Dr. Laura because of her tone and abrasiveness when calling people to task. She can come across as very inflexible, and I'm not down with that, either, but I do appreciate the message if not the delivery. I guess deep down I'm very traditional so her messages resonate with me, but I sure didn't appreciate being villified for admitting I listen to her. I think if more people did we'd be better off, frankly. And I think if more people listened to her they'd get past the ID of the speaker and hear the words of wisdom instead. I don't agree with everything she has to say, but I think she's on the mark with the majority. I'm able to filter out what I disagree with but find a different point of view interesting to hear. I urge those of you who've never heard her to listen to her for a little bit and see if you can hear what she has to say. If you only THINK you know what Dr. Laura is all about, I challenge you to listen to her for yourself and see if your preconceptions are correct. I'm going to guess that you'll find they're not. Mr. Chick doesn't like her, not necessarily for her messages but because of how she sounds. He doesn't like hearing her on the radio. I don't listen to her if he's around. But when it's just me and the kids in the car, between renditions of the the "ma-na-na-na" (Muppets) song or the "Hoppity Song", I tune in. I challenge you to do the same.

Now, let the online villification begin! Rake me over the coals for admitting I listen to and like Dr. Laura. I can take it.

I, for one, like Dr. Laura. She reminds me a little of Dr. Phil. They both tell it like it is. Neither one of them accepts whining and excuses. You failed, now deal with it. We need to take responsibility for our own lives and the lives of our children. Decisions lead to actions which lead to consequences. You are responsible for these consequences. Good and bad. I don't think there is anything wrong with that message. I was always taught that you had to work hard and you got what you deserved. Didn't study, failed the test ... you deserved it. Wasted too much time in the morning and missed the bus ... enjoy the walk! Studied hard, made the Dean's list ... Congratulations! Somewhere along the way, people have come to expect that a 2000 sq foot home and a brand new Honda Odyssy are birthrights. Not many people seem to understand that a happy and fulfilling life often involves a lot of hard work, sacrifice and planning.

I've been reading your blog for a while am not sure if I ever posted for. How could I resist a Dr. Laura debate though?

First, as background on me let me say that I am a married mom of two kids (ages 6 and 2). I have alternated between part-time work and staying home since my kids were born. Currently I work as a school social worker 3 days per week.

I guess my biggest issue with Dr. Laura is her conviction that she has the market cornered on ethics and morality. I'm certainly not against kids growing up with happily married parents and I think stay-at-home moms are great. I just also think that single parenthood, working moms and gay marriage are okay too. Love, respect, stability and nurturing can be given to children in some many different environments, not just the traditional two-parent, one-income arrangement. Overall, I think her message is divisive and discriminatory. She has referred to gays as "biological errors" and "sexual deviants" and has stated her belief that there is a relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia. If a family doesn't fit her definition of appropriate and moral, then it is dysfunctional and harmful to children. I just don't buy it. It sounds like you view her message as a confirmation of your own solid family values but to me, I see her message as one of intolerance and narrow-mindedness.

To be honest, I was surprised that you like Dr. Laura. In the world of blogs, you sort of feel like you know someone a bit after reading about their life and Dr. Laura didn't fit my image of you. Your revelation was a good thing for me though because it opened my eyes that not all people who support Dr. Laura are extreme right-wing conservatives as I had stereotypically thought in the past.

Finally, I just want to add that I enjoy your blog and respect your opinions (although I'd spend much time trying to change your mind if we were ever to meet in person!)
Oh man, I'm crushed that you like Dr. joking.

I for one (maybe its because I'm Canadian?) am really not a Dr. Laura type and I've listened to her for a few years. I have been known to listen to her and yell back at the radio at her more judgemental comments (homosexuality, same sex marriage, daycare etc.)

I for one believe in same sex marriages, I believe a good parent doesn't need to be a woman and a man, but can include a man and a man or woman and woman.

I believe that abortion (although might not be my choice) IS a woman's right and although at times it is used as birth control, we need to education our children on safe sex, and yes abstinence is an option but ignorance on birth control is not.

I believe as a working mom (an executive) that I am bringing something very important to my children's lives. I think I'm a fabulous mother and yes my children go to daycare (a necessary evil? wow, I've never heard that term for daycare before). I have a great center where my children are progressing well and enjoy. I have a great career that I'm thriving at and love. My dh stayed at home with the kids for 2.5 years, as part of paternity leave and he loved it. My kids benefitted but I don't think it was better vs. different than what we have now.

I think we should ask ourselves why the women have to stay at home, why don't you have the career and Mr. Chick stays at home, how does Dr. Laura feel about that situation? I think parenting is a partnership, one where both folks are responsible for parenting and that no one is exempt from that parenting because of their job (main breadwinner stuff) their sex (male vs. female ) or any other reason.

I for one think the reason I love where I live is our 1 year paid maternity leave (my company tops us up to 100% of our pay) my dh's ability to take up to 5 years off as paternity leave with the government (no pay) its a great family friendly country where parenting your young child is important. I'm waiting for national daycare somewhat like the province of Quebec (where you pay 5.00 a day for registered day care centers)

I guess for me I like to look at the non traditional choices open to us women, working from home, working part time, having your dh stay at home etc.

I like to think that by being non- judgemental is helping me keep my options open for a different path in raising my children. I don't think ONE way is the right way, and thats where I differ with Dr. Laura and you. I like to think that the choices women have, are all right if they benefit everyone in the family.

Parenting doesn't necessarily mean self sacrifice of everything for our children, it means choices and a synergy that makes all members of the family fufilled and happy.

I enjoyed your post, although we differ in our beliefs I think it was well written and thought provoking.


Thanks for coming out of lurking status and posting - I do so enjoy hearing from folks! I didn't mean to shock you with my "secret" appreciation of Dr. Laura, but it seems I have. I think you make some excellent points that are also areas in which I tend to take issue with Dr. Laura as well. As I've said, I don't embrace everything she espouses. The gay thing is a big one for me, too. I don't believe gays are "biological errors" or any other such bunk. That's too extreme. And I think a gay household can be just as warm and nurturing as a hetero household. I think gay parents need to take some extra measures to provide the "absent" (for lack of a better word) gender role-model in their childrens lives, because it is important to provide influence from both genders. To teach the children what it is to be a man and/or woman. To demonstrate a healthy interaction between the genders, etc. But aside from that, I think it is far better to raise a child in a loving gay household than in an abusive hetero one, or in foster care, or any other horrifying situation. There's nothing wrong with gay people.

For me, I gain affirmation from her for the things I'm doing already, insight into areas where I'm perhaps struggling already, and filter out what goes against what I know to be right. All content gets layered over my own morality and I embrace what resonates and reject what doesn't. I hope that makes sense. But the bottom line is essentially what Anon said, that more and more people are approaching life with a sense of entitlement and permission to do whatever they want - a selfishness in attitude. I'm one for personal responsibility and advocating for children, and when those two come together it's a good thing. When they don't, it's usually the children who suffer.

Thanks again for popping in - I hope you do so again! And please, feel free to keep the debate rolling. I appreciate your respectful nature.
Ottowa Mom,

Canada is sooo much farther ahead in the game than the US with their amazing maternity and paternity policies. I think that is FANTASTIC!

We're on the same page with a lot of stuff. I agree that same sex marriage is fine (see response to Amy). I have no problems there. Also, I fully support a woman's right to choose an abortion. It wouldn't be my choice, but I firmly believe in protecting the option. So we're good there.

I'm mixed about daycare. I know that there are excellent facilities that can certainly benefit kids in some way. I guess where I struggle is when a 6 wk old baby is put into daycare full time so it's parents can maintain their lifestyle. It happens more than it should. People have these kids and then aren't around much to provide the love, nurturing and rearing. I think it best serves the family to take a hard look at how the family is set up to best care for the kids. I absolutely DO NOT believe that it has to be the mother that stays home. If it makes more sense for the dad to be the primary caregiver, fabulous. I did not intend, actually, to be a full time stay at home mom. When I was pregnant with Nicholas I was in a job I enjoyed (high tech, dot com sort of company working as a marketing manager. Great bennies), and Mr. Chick was working 2 part-time jobs - one of which was from a home office 2 days/wk. The plan, at that time, was for me to cut down to working PT (2 days/wk) and for him to watch the baby from home on those days (he worked for an Israeli-based company and had flex hours). A good "compromise" and a solid partnership on the parenting responsibilities, and Nicholas wouldn't have to go to daycare. And then I got laid off when I was 7.5 mos pregnant. The dotcom bubble imploded and my company was not exempt. Mr. Chick had to pick up an extra day of work at his local job to qualify for the insurance since I had been covering us before. So that's how I ended up being a SAHM. Then law school. And trust me when I tell you that this town has no jobs in my field that would make working full time while Mr. Chick was a student beneficial. I'd essentially be working to pay for the sitter. Not worth it, at least for me.

Anyway, I share this story just to illustrate that I'm not against working moms. Not at all - I planned on being one. I just encourage families to get a little creative in how they approach childcare, and believe that whenever possible it's just better when it's a parent caring for the child(ren). EITHER parent. That's Dr. Laura's opinion as well. Second that, a family member. Dr. Laura, as far as I can tell, also agrees with moms and/or dads finding a way to work from home if possible, or off-shifts, or whatever to minimize the time a child is in daycare. My sister, who has 3 young kids, works a compressed night shift so she gets fulltime pay (buckets and buckets of pay...) and her kids are in daycare just 2 days a week instead of 5. It's aging her having to work at night and get little sleep, but it was a better option for the kids than working days. Her husband also is an attorney, but he's a government employee and really doens't make all that much, and his student loan bills are high. So she works what she does because it was the best choice for the family. That's what I support.

I fully plan on returning to work once my kids are a little older and in school fulltime. When they're young, as they are now, I feel it's very important to stay home with them. That's my choice, certainly. But I absolutely intend to return to work and demonstrate a smart mom succeeding at a challenging job and role model strong work ethics to my kids. Without question. I already know I'm not cut out to stay home for the next 17 years...

I think our positions are closer than perhaps you realize. I don't disagree with anything you said. I think we're saying it a little differently, and more detailed in the comments than I was in my original post. I'm so glad you commented! And again, I think Canada does a wonderful job in supporting parents so they CAN have more flexibility to find the right choices for their kids vs. the piss-poor way it's done in the US, which makes it so much more difficult for so many.
I haven't had a chance to read your entire post or the comments but here I am ADMITTING THAT I, TOO, LIKE DR. LAURA. this to say that I wholeheartly agree with everything she has to say? Never, but I, like you, think she brings home some damn good points that MAKE SENSE. Even though she can be a real BAT at times, I love her straight-forwardness and honesty. I wouldn't consider myself to be text-book conservative by any means but I do agree with a lot (not all!!!) on what she has to say when it comes to children and rearing them.

I haven't listened to her program in years, but I may just flip on the radio and take a listen to see what she has to say today.
Oh and I DO NOT agree with her on her stance on gay marriages/raising children.

I believe that if two people who can provide a LOVING STABLE home to a child(ren) REGARDLESS of their sex, can then THEY SHOULD. A home full of love, respect and safety is just that and all children deserve it.
Hi MP,

Kellie here, (Ottawa Mom) I agree with what you've said above, I think when folks say they agree with Dr. L immediatly I think of Ultra Conservative, Religious nut cases who believe working, fornicating, gay marriage, homosexuality etc. is something that will damn you to the fires of hell (said in the preachiest tones of cours).

I think your right Canada is a very liberal (think Sweden) type of country that believes in the family and its importance. We are FAR from perfect, and we do suck in many areas and struggle with so many issues as the US does. I think for me the 6 weeks maternity leave is horrible, I for one as a working mom would never, could never leave my child at that age. I can't wrap my brain around it at all. I went back to work with dd at 8 months (6 months mat leave +2 months vacation) and ds at one year and that was fabulous. One year is a great great age. I mean how anyone can establish and keep up with breast feeding when a child is in care at 6 weeks is beyond me.

I agree about lifestyles also, I think as a society we are in the *have more, want more* sort of thought. We try and keep it under the wire, even though we both make great salaries, we don't live in a huge house, or drive fancy cars (a mini van is what we have) we do go on vacations and the kids are in activities, but we try and instill the attitude of working for what you have with our two children.

Thanks for your response back I see your points and I think I was shocked you liked Dr. Laura I just never really saw you being a fan of hers. Its great we can agree and disagree like adults and encourage a different thought pattern, I think this is how we change judgements by giving people a view into different lifestyles and choices.

I think your choices are great and fit your family perfectly. Mine fit my family as well. Its all about choice for me and having the ability is so much better than it once was.

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