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Posts Tagged ‘babies’

Is Being A Parent Truly That Miserable?

In behavior, parenting on July 11, 2010 at 2:37 pm
Sleep Like A Baby

Image by peasap via Flickr

The endless drama of modern urban parenthood continues as the blogosphere dissects a New York magazine article about why so many parents are miserable:

Somewhere along the line, having a baby has stopped being an inevitable part of the life cycle and started to be one of those things-to-do-before-you-die, like climbing Machu Picchu or running a marathon. Basic aspects of the mothering experience, like labor and breast-feeding, took on a spiritual significance. Now, as we prepare to make the many sacrifices necessary to become parents, we anticipate nothing less than enlightenment in return.

But being a parent isn’t about getting a happy ending. There is no ending. As soon as your child is born, the profound truth hits you: this is forever. And yet, if New York magazine is to be believed, modern parents never stop obsessing about whether they’re doing everything they can to make their children the most accomplished little people they can possibly be. It’s as if they’re expecting to cross a finish line any day and be showered with confetti. And in the meantime, they don’t realize that they’re missing out.

If you’re having a baby for reasons of self-gratification, of course you’re going to be miserable. Becoming a parent is less about enriching your life than it is about up-ending it entirely to make room for another human being. And that’s what Senior’s article is missing: the fact that children are people, and having a child is about forging a relationship. Take this quote from a sociologist Senior interviewed about why parents are so disgruntled: “Middle-class parents spend much more time talking to children, answering questions with questions, and treating each child’s thought as a special contribution. And this is very tiring work.” Funny, that doesn’t sound like work; that sounds like having a conversation. The true reward of parenting isn’t looking back with nostalgia, as Senior concludes; it’s getting to watch a baby turn into a fully realized person. It’s hearing the thoughts and opinions of somebody who didn’t exist until you brought them into the world. It’s a humbling, daunting, awesome experience — and it’s hard enough without the added pressure of making every moment enriching and significant.

I chose not to have kids, thereby placing myself — and my partner, who feels the same — into a distinct minority, about 20 percent of the population.

You won’t hear us hand-wringing endlessly about ohmygod, my career. I am so tired! It’s so hard! OMG! Or, the aging, ill distant parents — plus the career/job/school/whatever. A life decently lived is, de facto filled with responsibility to and for the health and happiness of other people, not just getting and spending.

Which can be hard and endless and filled with ambivalence, along with love — for work or your Mom. Not just your offspring.

You want kids? Have ‘em. You don’t want them — don’t.

But spare us the endless narcissism of questioning and second-guessing your reproductive choices.

Of course having and raising healthy, responsible children is a shitload of work.

Who told you otherwise?

Baby? What Baby? We Have A Baby?

In Crime, parenting on May 29, 2010 at 10:47 am
Sleep Like A Baby

Forgettable? Really? Image by peasap via Flickr

Maybe this is why I didn’t have kids.

Two stories from today’s New York Times on people who forget they have babies, one from South Korea, one from the U.S.. In South Korea, Internet gaming addiction is a national problem:

Neither had a job. They were shy and had never dated anyone until they met through an online chat site in 2008. They married, but they knew so little about childbearing that the 25-year-old woman did not know when her baby was due until her water broke.

But in the fantasy world of Internet gaming, they were masters of all they encountered, swashbuckling adventurers exploring mythical lands and slaying monsters. Every evening, the couple, Kim Yun-jeong and her husband, Kim Jae-beom, 41, left their one-room apartment for an all-night Internet cafe where they role-played, often until dawn. Each one raised a virtual daughter, who followed them everywhere, and was fed, dressed and cuddled — all with a few clicks of the mouse.

On the morning of Sept. 24 last year, they returned home after a 12-hour game session to find their actual daughter, a 3-month-old named Sa-rang — love in Korean — dead, shriveled with malnutrition.

In South Korea, one of the world’s most wired societies, addiction to online games has long been treated as a teenage affliction. But the Kims’ case has drawn attention to the growing problem here of Internet game addiction among adults.

And, from the Times’ automotive section:

INFANTS or young children left inside a vehicle can die of hyperthermia in a few hours, even when the temperature outside is not especially hot. It is a tragedy that kills about 30 children a year, according to the National Safety Council.

Making the deaths all the more tragic, perhaps, is that many are a result of forgetfulness rather than neglect, occurring when distracted but otherwise responsible parents or caretakers inadvertently leave a child in the car.

Newspaper articles and campaigns by safety advocates had brought some attention to the problem, but its visibility grew when a March 2009 article by Gene Weingarten in The Washington Post Magazine, “Fatal Distraction,” asked whether the mistake of forgetting a child in the back seat of a car was also a crime. The article won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing…

Janette Fennell is the founder and president of KidsAndCars.org, a safety advocacy group based in Leawood, Kan., that focuses on issues involving children and automobiles. In a telephone interview, Ms. Fennell made her view clear, saying she believed that carmakers must develop reminder devices to warn drivers if a child is left behind.

I’m not buying this. Now the car has to remind you you have kids? That’s the car’s responsibility?

You accidentally cook your baby — the Times‘, typically obliquely and too-politely calls this “hyperthermia”, — in the back of your vehicle on a hot summer’s day because….you forgot s/he was there?

Babies travel in carseats. Those carseats are heavy and bulky and demand your full attention as you buckle and strap your baby into them, and into your vehicle. When you exit the vehicle to do your urgent errands on a hot day, wear the baby in a sling or put the kid(s) in a stroller and remove them from the car. This is complicated? Yes, it takes time and energy. You chose to have kids, right?

If you’re so tired you forget you have a baby in your own vehicle, you’re in no shape to be driving. Nothing you need to get in a car with your kids and drive to obtain is that urgent — drugstores can deliver medicine and you can buy food and do your banking on-line.

How, exactly, do you forget you have a baby?

Baby As Tyrant? Zut Alors! Writer Says 'Perfect' Moms Need To Cut Themselves Some Serious Slack

In parenting, women on March 24, 2010 at 10:34 am
A woman feeds her baby on August 29, 2008 insi...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Provocative piece in The Times of London about a new best-selling book by French writer Elisabeth Badinter, a 66-year-old mother of three:

“The baby has become a tyrant despite himself,” she says. This to the joy of men, who are able to sit back and watch the football, unconcerned by the offspring-mother battle.

So what has driven women to accept this modern form of slavery? The economic crisis is one reason, she says, with motherhood suddenly looking like a better option than the uncertainty of the workplace.

The Green movement is another, with its back-to-nature beliefs in home-made food, mother’s milk and washable nappies — all obstacles on the road to emancipation in her eyes. “Between the protection of trees and the liberty of women, my choice is clear,” she says. “It may seem derisory but powdered milk, jars of baby food and disposable nappies were all stages in the liberation of women.”

A third explanation is the contemporary American feminist movement, which, she says, has made the mistake of trying to feminise the world in the hope of turning it into more a compassionate, tolerant and peaceful place.

“These new feminists say that we have hidden and undervalued the essence of women, which is motherhood.” Badinter dismisses the theory as wrong, because “men and women resemble each other enormously”, and dangerous because “it shuts the sexes in different circles”, leaving women closed off with their children.

American writer Judith Warner, a long-time blogger for The New York Times, covered the same territory in her 2005 book “Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety.”, reviewed (fairly scathingly) by the Times:

Warner has two points to make. The first is that, in affluent America, mothering has gone from an art to a cult, with devotees driving themselves to ever more baroque extremes to appease the goddess of perfect motherhood. Warner, who has two children, made this discovery upon her return from a stay in Paris, where, she says, mothers who benefit from state-subsidized support systems — child care, preschools, medical services — never dream of surrendering jobs or social lives to stay home 24/7 with their kids. In the absence of such calming assistance, however, American moms are turning themselves into physically and financially depleted drones….

This leads to Warner’s second point, which is more openly political than her first. Our neurotic quest to perfect the mechanics of mothering, she says, can be interpreted as an effort to do on an individual level what we’ve stopped trying to do on a society-wide one. In her view, it is the lack of family-friendly policies common in Europe that backs American mothers into the corner described above — policies that would promote ”flexible, affordable, locally available, high-quality” day care; mandate quality controls for that day care; require or enable businesses to give paid parental leave; make health insurance available for part-time workers; and so on.

Unfortunately, Warner doesn’t say how we might organize to get such policies passed in a rightward-drifting, Europe-hating America.

I don’t have kids so I watch the “mommy wars” from a safe, neutral distance. As someone who has lived in France — and seen how Frenchwomen remain, determinedly, still women after becoming a mother (no “mom” jeans there!) — I find two things about American motherhood bizarre.

If women spent one iota of their ranting, mommy-wars energy finding ways to make American motherhood more fun, healthy, relaxed and less insanely and individually competitive for all mothers, babies wouldn’t look like tyrants. But such collectivist thinking is often seen as something weird that other countries do.

The way women attack one another, focusing on individual choices as good or bad instead of getting the basic fact that employers here rule, that many other industrialized nations (yes, Canada) have paid maternity leave and those economies are doing just fine.

It’s not the babies. It’s the culture within which they are raised.

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