Guest Post by Noni Mausa
When you read a newspaper piece with a single mother’s new boyfriend in it, you know nothing good is coming.
Oh, he could be a sweet, caring man who loves her kids and has a good job, but as Damon Runyon famously said, “that’s not the way to bet.” In the usual story, he turns out to be abusive, wasteful, unreliable, criminal, vain, or at the very best, good enough with the kids to kind of watch them while she works two jobs to support them all.
The Boyfriend is definitely NOT a nanny. [Yes! A political/econ theme at last!] He isn’t hired or fired, trained or licensed. He is not capable, firm, caring, and chiefly concerned with the welfare of the house and family. The Boyfriend attains his position not by giving good husbandly performance, but by flattery, deceit, promises, insinuation, and good acting. He badmouths the previous boyfriend, painting himself as the best man for the role. He keeps it, if he does, through all these tricks plus fear, either through direct threats or through inciting fear of a world without him around to protect the family.
Once installed, does The Boyfriend keep the family safe, at least? Generally not. After the initial hopeful honeymoon period, things start to happen. Maybe she comes home and finds some essential bills haven’t been paid. Or he has bought a whale of a Chrysler Newport on which she will have to make payments. While she’s at work, he’s gotten into fights with the neighbors, or taught her kids to gamble, or sold off the appliances to pay those bills. The kids need schooling, but he only teaches them to shoot. They need good food, but he teaches them to like junk. And if any of the kids or their mother comment on his neglect and offenses, he slaps them around.
The Boyfriend thinks short term, always. He knows that after a few months or years, she will kick him out or he will leave. Much of the damage he did won’t get noticed till he’s gone. They say two can live cheaper than one, but he added to the family’s woes, he didn’t ease them. Her relief when he is gone is more blissful than her pleasure when he first moved in.
Yet, she still knows that a real husband would enrich the family and make her contented. So she goes looking again for the real thing, though if she could afford them, she would be better off hiring a traditional nanny, a housekeeper and a part time ~ahem~ gardener.
Now, a nation isn’t the same as a family, but in many ways elected officials are eerily like serial boyfriends. Those who protest the idea of a “nanny state” are oddly motivated, it seems to me. A nanny, like a traditional mom and dad, are devoted to the long-term well-being of the home and family and all the kids, not just the ones who are prodigies. The Boyfriend, by contrast, has his own agenda.
The voters are in the position of being courted every few years by candidates who will, when elected, receive the cheque book, the house keys, and a heavy leather strap for the naughtiest of the kids. We’d do well to look at candidates as though we were picking a husband for our favorite daughter. Is he vain, stupid, a liar or a cheat? is he violent or kindly, patient or impulsive? Will he maintain the household, repair the roof, water the garden, and make sure the kids get to school?
Or will you come home after four years to find that both he and the family silver (and that Chrysler Newport) are gone?