Monday, June 30, 2008

The Ever-Growing List

Today I didn't even have to ASK my famous question - a mother came right out and volunteered that she wouldn't have kids again if she had to do it all over.

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 "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.

Answer: False

Monday, June 23, 2008

Farewell, Funny Friend

In tribute to one of my favorite comedians, George Carlin, who recently passed away, I am posting his funny bit on CHILDREN. I think it will resonate with a lot of you. Enjoy.

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

Last Friday, my favorite journalist and political analyst, Tim Russert, passed away. Two days later, my mother and I had a falling out and she told me "goodbye" - that she didn't want to speak with me anymore.

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

In my last post I talked about how much easier our lives are as childfree people than our childed friends and family. There are many examples of this, such as living wherever we want without concern about school districts and areas that are "good for kids", as I already mentioned.

In every day life, though, there are many, many more mundane, yet in many ways significant examples of this. Recently one came to light when we were having dinner with our tablemates on the cruise we took in May. Of the four couples, three were childfree by choice. The other couple had 3 children. On the final night of the cruise during our last dinner together, we were psychologically preparing ourselves for the end of cruise ship hedonism and the return to "the real world" where we are not waited on hand and foot day and night. We talked about returning to work, having to cook our own meals again (and clean up afterwards), and then Carol (the mother of three kids) lamented, "having to do 13 loads of laundry per week".


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!

After the cruise, I mentioned this story to a coworker who also has 3 children. She replied that she also does about 12-13 loads of laundry per week! Knowing my coworker is pretty on top of the kids, I am pretty confident their kids do not have issues about mixing together clean and dirty clothes.

Can you imagine how much time and effort is involved in sorting, washing, drying, folding and putting away 13 loads of laundry (not to mention the expense of electricity and cleaning products)! For hubby and me, I do about 2 loads a week - once in awhile 3 - and I complain all the time about what a cumbersome pain-in-the-ass it is, how it seems to multiply on its own and how I spend all my time doing laundry. Ha! Well, you can bet I no longer complain like that anymore. I realize now that I live the life of leisure compared to people with kids!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Dreaming of a Cat-Centered Community

Hubby and I are in serious discussions about selling our house and relocating to the next state over where the cost of living is quite a bit cheaper. It's a tough thing for us to do because we LOVE where we live and especially love our home. But with the economy being what it is and the cost of everything skyrocketing (everything, that is, except for salaries) something has to give, and for us, it looks like it will be location.

We are planning to stay within the general metropolitan area and the towns we are investigating are within 20 miles of our current house so we are already generally familiar with the area. To do more in-depth research into exactly where to relocate, however, I started posting on a discussion board that is specifically geared toward people helping others decide where to live/relocate.

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).

Situations like this constantly remind me how in practically every facet of life, things are so much easier for us because we don't have children. Take this situation - we can live wherever the hell we want - even in a bombed-out war zone if that's what tickles our fancy - with no worries about school systems or whether an area is good for children. And let's face it - the simple truth is that areas that are best for children and families, aren't usually that exciting for anyone else.

Take our town, for example. It's all about families, and I am not talking families like mine - i.e. husband, wife and 3 cats. I am talking about people with kids....every community activity it seems is centered around "families". Every year in early spring, our township mails us a brochure containing a listing of upcoming parks and rec programs and events and there is rarely anything in there that would appeal to people like hubby and me. There are "programs for children", "programs for seniors", "family events" out the wazoo - movie night at the local park where they show "Shrek" and other mindless kiddie crap. Nothing interesting for adults who who don't have kids. I guess they figure why bother - since most adults don't have time for fun activities because they are tied down with kids - hence all the family activities.

The simplest solution , of course, would be to move to the city, but we're not really city people. We like to live near the city. We like to work in the city. We like to go out with friends in the city. But aside from that, we're too fond of those lovely suburban things that you just don't get in the city - the sound of crickets at night (and even better, the sound of quiet when the windows are open) space, trees, grass, privacy, safety, a car, a driveway, windows on all sides of the house, a yard large enough for a nice barbecue in the summer. No, I wouldn't trade these things for a life of reduced child-centeredness, although I guess it's possible that if we look hard enough, maybe for our next home we'll be able to find a neighborhood with a little more diversity of family types. Hey, maybe we can even find a cat-centered neighborhood - cats in every yard, cat parades and parks & rec brochures filled with cat programs! Now wouldn't that be a joyful place to live?

" It sure would!"

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Driven to Drink

The Today Show did an interesting (and I have to admit somewhat amusing) piece last week about the "dangers of drinking during the daytime". The interesting thing about this piece is that the focus was on MOTHERS drinking during the day and then driving their kids around while under the influence. Apparently this is some kind of growing trend. Does this surprise you? After all, we all know that a nice stiff drink is great for relieving stress and who the hell is more stressed out than MOTHERS? View the spot here.

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

Hubby had me laughing so hard the day we were driven out of the park by the obnoxious parents, I asked him if he would like to write about it for my blog. So here it hubby's take:


I'm a drummer, but I admit that the instrument can be as annoying as it can be'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 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 wanna talk screaming and tantrums..?!), and I could devote my rhythmic energies to more subtle musical 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 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.'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 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...