Monday, June 30, 2008
The Ever-Growing List
It happened when I was talking to a co-worker who was telling me about her daughter who is 12. She was explaining that her daughter has a weight problem and is about to enter a special weight loss camp. My coworker told me that she is also going to try to lose weight in an effort to show support to her daughter. She took a deep breath and paused, looked at me and said, "if I had to do it all over again, I would be like YOU and not have kids. I can handle the financial part of it, but the emotional part is just overwhelming - worrying about the foods she eats, worrying about the people she's hanging with, worrying how she's doing in school. It never ends." She went on to say that "nobody ever tells you what you are in for when you have kids. It's not at all like what it is made out to be."
Just one more to add to my list.
True or False: Having Kids Makes You Happy
By Lorraine Ali | NEWSWEEK
July 7-14, 2008 issue
When I was growing up, our former neighbors, whom we'll call the Sloans, were the only couple on the block without kids. It wasn't that they couldn't have children; according to Mr. Sloan, they just chose not to. All the other parents, including mine, thought it was odd—even tragic. So any bad luck that befell the Sloans—the egging of their house one Halloween; the landslide that sent their pool careering to the street below—was somehow attributed to that fateful decision they'd made so many years before. "Well," the other adults would say, "you know they never did have kids." Each time I visited the Sloans, I'd search for signs of insanity, misery or even regret in their superclean home, yet I never seemed to find any. From what I could tell, the Sloans were happy, maybe even happier than my parents, despite the fact that they were (whisper) childless.
My impressions may have been swayed by the fact that their candy dish was always full, but several studies now show that the Sloans could well have been more content than most of the traditional families around them. In Daniel Gilbert's 2006 book "Stumbling on Happiness," the Harvard professor of psychology looks at several studies and concludes that marital satisfaction decreases dramatically after the birth of the first child—and increases only when the last child has left home. He also ascertains that parents are happier grocery shopping and even sleeping than spending time with their kids. Other data cited by 2008's "Gross National Happiness" author, Arthur C. Brooks, finds that parents are about 7 percentage points less likely to report being happy than the childless.
The most recent comprehensive study on the emotional state of those with kids shows us that the term "bundle of joy" may not be the most accurate way to describe our offspring. "Parents experience lower levels of emotional well-being, less frequent positive emotions and more frequent negative emotions than their childless peers," says Florida State University's Robin Simon, a sociology professor who's conducted several recent parenting studies, the most thorough of which came out in 2005 and looked at data gathered from 13,000 Americans by the National Survey of Families and Households. "In fact, no group of parents—married, single, step or even empty nest—reported significantly greater emotional well-being than people who never had children. It's such a counterintuitive finding because we have these cultural beliefs that children are the key to happiness and a healthy life, and they're not."
Simon received plenty of hate mail in response to her research ("Obviously Professor Simon hates her kids," read one), which isn't surprising. Her findings shake the very foundation of what we've been raised to believe is true. In a recent NEWSWEEK Poll, 50 percent of Americans said that adding new children to the family tends to increase happiness levels. Only one in six (16 percent) said that adding new children had a negative effect on the parents' happiness. But which parent is willing to admit that the greatest gift life has to offer has in fact made his or her life less enjoyable?
Parents may openly lament their lack of sleep, hectic schedules and difficulty in dealing with their surly teens, but rarely will they cop to feeling depressed due to the everyday rigors of child rearing. "If you admit that kids and parenthood aren't making you happy, it's basically blasphemy," says Jen Singer, a stay-at-home mother of two from New Jersey who runs the popular parenting blog MommaSaid.net. "From baby-lotion commercials that make motherhood look happy and well rested, to commercials for Disney World where you're supposed to feel like a kid because you're there with your kids, we've made parenthood out to be one blissful moment after another, and it's disappointing when you find out it's not."
Is it possible that American parents have always been this disillusioned? Anecdotal evidence says no. In pre-industrial America, parents certainly loved their children, but their offspring also served a purpose—to work the farm, contribute to the household. Children were a necessity. Today, we have kids more for emotional reasons, but an increasingly complicated work and social environment has made finding satisfaction far more difficult. A key study by University of Wisconsin-Madison's Sara McLanahan and Julia Adams, conducted some 20 years ago, found that parenthood was perceived as significantly more stressful in the 1970s than in the 1950s; the researchers attribute part of that change to major shifts in employment patterns. The majority of American parents now work outside the home, have less support from extended family and face a deteriorating education and health-care system, so raising children has not only become more complicated—it has become more expensive. Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that it costs anywhere from $134,370 to $237,520 to raise a child from birth to the age of 17—and that's not counting school or college tuition. No wonder parents are feeling a little blue.
Societal ills aside, perhaps we also expect too much from the promise of parenting. The National Marriage Project's 2006 "State of Our Unions" report says that parents have significantly lower marital satisfaction than nonparents because they experienced more single and child-free years than previous generations. Twenty-five years ago, women married around the age of 20, and men at 23. Today both sexes are marrying four to five years later. This means the experience of raising kids is now competing with highs in a parent's past, like career wins ("I got a raise!") or a carefree social life ("God, this is a great martini!"). Shuttling cranky kids to school or dashing to work with spit-up on your favorite sweater doesn't skew as romantic.
For the childless, all this research must certainly feel redeeming. As for those of us with kids, well, the news isn't all bad. Parents still report feeling a greater sense of purpose and meaning in their lives than those who've never had kids. And there are other rewarding aspects of parenting that are impossible to quantify. For example, I never thought it possible to love someone as deeply as I love my son. As for the Sloans, it's hard to say whether they had a less meaningful existence than my parents, or if my parents were 7 percent less happy than the Sloans. Perhaps it just comes down to how you see the candy dish—half empty or half full. Or at least as a parent, that's what I'll keep telling myself.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Farewell, Funny Friend
Friday, June 20, 2008
The Russert Rainbow
Speaking of my man, Russert, did you hear about the Russert Rainbow? Watch this clip and get chills.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Tim vs. Mom
Guess which event has had me teary all week?
If you guessed the latter, you are wrong. Tim's passing has had me more upset than my mother disowning me - which probably speaks volumes about my troubled relationship with my mother - but it also presents an interesting topic for this blog.
People have children. They put their entire lives into their children. They struggle, they sacrifice, they give up their identities, they compromise their marriages and their careers. They drift away from their friends. They forego vacations and the many other things they used to enjoy. They scrimp and save to make ends meet. They put every fiber of their being into their children, and for what?
They do all this only to be left behind by a child who grows up to become more emotionally impacted by a stranger on t.v. than by her own mother.
Monday, June 16, 2008
A Leisurely Life of Less Laundry
Yes indeed, she confirmed that she does about 13 loads of laundry per week! She explained this by saying that her kids are not that good about keeping their clean clothes and dirty clothes separate - throwing clean clothes on the floor and then everything getting tossed in the hamper, to which I replied "those kids need some training!" I just couldn't get over that 13-loads-per-week figure. I pictured a house run by out-of-control kids and poor Carol slaving away over the washer and dryer, spending all of her free time doing laundry!
Friday, June 6, 2008
Dreaming of a Cat-Centered Community
So how is all this relevant to the CF issue? I will tell you how. Practically 75% of the advice asked for and given on that site concerns school systems. People are obsessed with this subject! There's talk about School System X being #3 on the list of best school districts versus School System Y which is only #20. There are drawn-out arguments (practically flame wars) over whose town has the better school system, people agonizing over what town to move to - "we absolutely love Smedleyville, but we're worried that the schools aren't as good as Whoville!" Their whole lives are dictated by SCHOOL SYSTEMS.
And here I am, in the middle of this board and all I want to know is, which towns are quaint, pretty, quiet, with older architecture, a nice old-fashioned main street, liberal residents, easy access to public transportation and shopping, reasonable property taxes and a nice park nearby where I can plant my ass on a Sunday afternoon (hopefully as far as possible from obnoxious parents with kids).
" It sure would!"
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Driven to Drink
I take issue with one part of this piece. Notice that Matt Lauer makes a point to say that it's one thing for a man to go out to lunch and have a couple drinks with his coworkers and then drive back to the office, but it's another thing for MOTHERS - who are cheuffering kids around - to drink! Um, so to clarify, Matt, what you are saying is that the lives of the children in the back seat of the drunk mother's car are more valuable than the lives of innocent drivers sharing the road with the drunk office dude? Just another example of the media's contribution our child-centered culture - the "Baby on Board" mentality.
Check out the spot and let me know what you think.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
My Hubby's Take
The plan: EVERY KID WANTS A DRUM..LET'S GIVE HIM ONE!
I'm a drummer, but I admit that the instrument can be as annoying as it can be exiting...here's the deal:
We will carry a small, loud drum with us when we plan to go to a large, outdoor public area. The drum will appear immediately following the close-proximity appearance of the kinder-katastrophe, provided the family had the option of choosing any one of
multiple, more distant sites to settle on..as the volume of the brood rises, so will the volume/ intensity of the 'doomp-doomp-doomp'...the shocked stares will inevitably follow..'How dare someone disturb our' - WHAT?! Peace and quiet?!! The drumming, however irrelevant and devoid of melody or purpose, can't possibly be more annoying (or even louder) than the kids..and after all, if the children's shrieks, crying and screaming are 'music to a parent's ears'...hey, all my favorite music has drums, and it's all about me..IT'S THE PERFECT COMBO!! Of course, the arbitrary, neanderthalic pounding will stop as soon as the parents show the normal, adult manners they ostensibly had BEFORE breeding, and vacate the chaos to a more remote area.
And if the arbitrary, neanderthalic PROCREATION would slow down worldwide, we could ALL more likely relax (at the current birth rate, the world food supply will most likely be depleted by mid century..you wanna talk screaming and tantrums..?!), and I could devote my rhythmic energies to more subtle musical pursuits..like replicating JOHN BONHAM!!! ; )
But wait - the story gets better...
The intrusive ignorance of the 'all about the babies' mentality escalated to a uniquely male problem just before we left. I went into the nearby men's room..and whaddaya know! There was little Heather/Ashley/Brittany insert middle-class-approved female child name here ) sitting directly across from the urinal, watching daddy pee!! Why mommy couldn't have escorted her into the adjacent women's room is, I guess, one of those things that parents are referring to when they say, "When you have kids, you'll understand". Daddy saw me and said, "Honey, go sit over there" (referring to a bench out of view of the urinals ), but of course, the child was as obedient as most children are in our brave new society, where anything resembling consequence is tantamount to abuse..so she stayed put. Nonetheless, I was now in the position of deciding whether to exercise my divine right, as an externally-genitized person, to stand there while draining the bilge, and possibly expose my meat-and-2-veg to the tyke (whom, it should be noted, was about 4 or 5 years old..and not potty trained?!!), or exercising decorum that daddy didn't have, and slinking off to the stenching, clogged stall toilet..which I opted to do.
So..here's another plan:
I propose to carry a large, black dildo, secreted (if possible!) on me, into the restroom on any other such occasion. I will nonchalantly step to the urinal, do my thang, and as I step away, turn around (it is a MEN'S room, after all!) allow 'myself'' to flop hither and yon a few times before I zip up..smile at dad and little missy, and cheerfully say: "This thing's a pain in the ass..but AT LEAST THE TRANSPLANT WAS A SUCCESS!!!"...I GUARANTEE mom will be the defecation director from that day on...