December 21, 2014

No Kids for Fiona Apple

Former teen prodigy singer-songwriter Fiona Apple doesn’t want kids, still she carries around a curious tome: Raising Happiness,

10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents. Perhaps it’s to deal with the parentalization

Tidal (album)

Tidal (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

she experienced in her own childhood.

“When it comes to parenting, Fiona confesses that, “No, I’ve never wanted kids. But I do read about parenting a lot. For some reason it’s very interesting to me – I think because I’m just big on self-parenting. But I read this thing in a nautical book about how when ropes get frayed you’d use the whipping cords to fix the ends. The whole thing of the whipping cords is that, if I did have kids, I could either teach them how to stay out of trouble — or how to get out of trouble, which I think is more important. Because no matter how well prepared you are in life, you’re gonna fall down a hole, and if you can fix the frayed ends of things, then you’re better off.”

Apple’s new album, “The Idler Wheel…” is another critical masterpiece. Maybe she is the mother of a beautiful baby after all.

Hey WNKers, do you occasionally peruse parenting books?

Childfreedom: More Happiness

It may be my imagination, but my friends without kids just seem happier than those saddled with parental responsibilities. Parents certainly have more responsibilities than those of us not saddled with all the daily feeding, changing, driving, homework helping and the like so it makes sense that they are more tired and squeezed for time.

Then again, those of us without kids often tend to take on more (work, volunteer activities, friendships, social obligations and so on) and people expect more of us precisely because they expect us to have more free time without the burdens of childrearing. The end result according to research? Those of us without kids are happier. Childfreedom equals happiness. Having that extra time to ourselves (or to give to others as we choose) really does seem to pay off, apparently.

A panegyric on the happiness and

A panegyric on the happiness and “Pleasures of the Married State”, published in London ca. 1780. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Independent studies show that married people are happier than singles, but married couples without children are the most content. When couples do have children, their happiness increases dramatically once their children grow up and leave home. This is all revealed in a three-part PBS series called: “This Emmotional Life.” In it, narrator, writer and professor of psychology at Harvard, Daniel Gilbert explores the endless quest of the human species to find happiness. The series features various celebrities and non-celebrities (everyday people, scientists, experts in the field of psychology and the like) with their thoughts and studies on the search for a happy life. Daniel Gilbert explains some of these findings in an NPR interview below:

“Mr. GILBERT: It really is true that if you look at the happiness of people’s marital satisfaction over time, you’ll see that the day people get married, they’re extremely satisfied with the relationship, and it kind of goes downhill from there. Relationships usually are the gateway to hard work: the hard work of raising children, establishing a household, et cetera. The good news is it begins to go up again once children have grown, and according to most studies, it reaches its initial level, or at least very close to it, when the children leave home.

… without children, your marriage might be happier in the sense that you would report more daily satisfaction. People are surprised to find this, because they value and love their children above all things. How can my children not be a source of great happiness?

… although children are a source of happiness, they tend to crowd out other sources of happiness. So people who have a first child, often find in the first year or two that they’re not doing many of the other things that used to make them happy. They don’t go to the movies or the theater. They don’t go out with their friends. They don’t make love with their spouse. All the things that used to be sources of happiness are no longer there.

So yes, the child is a source of happiness. On the same hand, it may be that average happiness goes down.” (NPR)

What do you think? Do your childless friends and acquaintances seem happier to you? Does childfreedom equal happiness?

Here’s a sneak peak at “This Emmotional Life.”

Nulliparity Health Risks

Pondering nulliparity health risks.

Pondering nulliparity health risks.

Almost nine months ago I attempted to define nulliparity in the context of childfree couples, (“Nulliparity Definition“), and I asked readers to consider stretching the definition at least, at least rhetorically, to include both males and females in nulliparous relationships.

Derived from Latin… a usable nulliparity definition would be the condition of not bearing offspring (normally applied to a human woman). (Nulliparity Definition – Why No Kids?)

A medical term used to refer to a condition or state in which a woman has never given birth to a child, or has never carried a pregnancy. (biology online)

At the time, my endeavor was mostly academic. Educate myself. Educate Why No Kids? readers. Move on. Instead, I’ve stumbled upon worrisome nulliparity health risks.

Is Nulliparity Bad?

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’m drawn to dialogue inspired by (and surrounding) childfree by choice couples. I’m not a strident advocate for childfreedom, nor am I categorically opposed to bearing children. In fact, at times, my conviction is admittedly blurry, but I am always intrigued by the conversations and debate provoked by the parent/childfree divide. It’s a healthy and often entertaining topic, and — though I’m still not prepared to hypothesize exactly why — it’s a debate that provokes ample emotional and intellectual opinioneering.

That said, I’ve never given much credence to claims that choosing not to bear children is ethically wrong, biologically bad or — this is real, folks — a religious sin. Such binary reasoning strikes me as naive, not infrequently hateful and always intolerant. My world is not painted in primary colors, and it’s certainly not black and white. I believe that the parent/childfree divide hinges upon subjective opinions and preferences.

Nulliparity Concerns

But my previous nulliparity post has catalyzed some new questions and concerns for me including the potential for some troubling nulliparity health risks. Ever since publishing the post, we’ve experienced a dramatic uptick in traffic from visitors looking for information about nulliparity. Sure, that’s logical enough. But I was surprised and I remain surprised at the volume of people trying to learn more about nulliparity. Certainly they’re not all “childfree curious”…

Google Insights shows that the trend is global, and that it’s been about seven years since people began looking for more information about nulliparity. A little data mining reveals these top three search queries:

  1. nulliparity definition
  2. nulliparity define
  3. nulliparity breast cancer

The first two are effectively the same search for a definition of the term nulliparity, and their popularity explains the popularity of my first attempt to define nulliparity. But the third most popular search offers a hint at why there’s been growing interest in nulliparity globally. Fear.

Nulliparity Fears

Is nulliparity dangerous? Are there conclusive indications of nulliparity health risks? A quick glimpse at some recent articles suggest that nulliparity may indeed be dangerous.

Changes in decade of first birth and nulliparity do not explain the changes in breast cancer incidence… [but] breast cancer incidence has increased in the same cohorts. (National Institute of Health, NCBI)

A higher incidence of SPM [second primary malignancy] of the breast is observed in women treated for papillary thyroid cancer. Additionally, this risk is increased by nulliparity… (WJSO)

Catholic nuns… pay a terrible price for their chastity because they have a greatly increased risk of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers: the hazards of their nulliparity. (The Lancet)

Nulliparous women had a 44% increased risk of hip fractures independent of hip bone mineral density… childbearing reduces hip fracture risk by means that may be independent of hip bone mineral density. (National Institute of Health, NCBI)

Incidentally, this eerie, late night film plot resurfaces in “Why nuns might be stoking cancer in quest to stay chaste“. Spooky, right? Looks like more research is in order.

Nulliparity’s Silver Lining

Fortunately not all nulliparity news is bad news.

In a linear regression model… it was found that nulliparous women and women who went through menopause later in life had significantly less cognitive decline. (National Institute of Health, NCBI)

So where does this leave us? It’s clear that many people all around the world are concerned about a possibly causal relationship between nulliparity and breast cancer and about nulliparity health risks in general. But from my standpoint, not much else is clear.

Does Nulliparity Increase Health Risks?

I’m hoping that one of our readers will know more about this and share their insights. Does (or should) the definition of nulliparity include increased health risks?
Are there additional nulliparity health risks that I’ve overlooked?

 

Is Having Kids Selfish?

The Selfish Gene

The Selfish Gene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In his monumental book Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins suggests that we are basically envelopes to carry our genes around and make sure that these get copied and passed on into the future. It’s perhaps a little extreme a view, and he tempers his arguments, but ultimately the whole goal of existence is, well, to keep existing, and the best way to do that is by making fresh copies of the genetic material — which would otherwise suffer wear and tear — and for most of us multicellular organisms that means by having kids.

This is probably not the reason any of us would state first for reproducing, but is having kids selfish? Based on an unofficial summary of what I’ve been hearing over the years, here are the top 5 reasons people give for having kids:

  1. Because they’re so wonderful and fun!
  2. Because that maternal urge is just too strong to ignore
  3. To pass on my values and beliefs
  4. To keep me young and active
  5. To have someone who’ll love me even when I’m grey and saggy

Notice something all these reasons have in common? They’re pretty selfish. They’re all based on the parent, not the kid. So I’d be wary of labeling people who choose not to have kids as selfish. Surely deciding we’re so important that it’s worth procreating to pass our genes on into the future is the most selfish thing there is?

OK, so there will be a number of years characterized by almost total self-abnegation, as you feed, wash, cuddle, play with, protect and nurture  your offspring, but it’s like altruism. Under that selfless devotion, there’s a hidden agenda: you’re actually batting for your own team.

And then there’s the issue of overpopulation. Surely we don’t need more humans on our small planet? So to all those of you who have taken the decision not to have children — which cannot have been an easy one, and which will probably continue to be the source of much debate — I say, “Bravo!” You have overridden that seflish gene impulse and are working for the good of the planet by preventing overpopulation, at the cost of sacrificing your own genes. Luckily thanks to writing we can pass on values perhaps more effectively than via offspring!

So when my friends ask about having kids, my response is always the same : maybe. It’s an ENORMOUS responsibility, and it’s entirely ours: the children never asked to be born. Yes, kids are great, but aren’t our lives great already? Women today don’t need kids to fulfill our lives now that we have great jobs and careers and no longer live in the shadow of our menfolk.

Many were the conversations my husband and I had before taking this big step. We had such a great life, why change it? We made a list of pros and cons, and finally figured we were a happy, stable and financially settled couple and we could raise happy, stable children to become positive contributors to society. One of our arguments was that so many unhappy and unstable people have many kids, so shouldn’t there be a few stable, happy ones to balance that out? It was almost our civic duty to bear children. But if perchance we couldn’t have children, that was no big deal. It was a very logical, calculated decision. I never understood this irrational maternal urge that some women get, which pushes them to bear children regardless of the circumstances.

Until I actually HAD children myself. Now I fantasize about having more children all the time, and my motivations are purely selfish. To my surprise I loved pregnancy (and getting pregnant was fun), and thanks to epidurals I simply LOVED giving birth, and little babies are so cute, and toddlers are a scream, and my sons are heart-stoppingly wonderful. I want more of all that joy! This passion for children is completely unexpected and it mostly encompasses my own progeny. The only non-selfish reason I can bring up to justify having another child is that it would be nice for my first two to have another sibling to comfort them when we parents die.

My worry as I write this is that some day my sons will read it and think I didn’t want them, or regret having them. They were both babies conceived in love and anticipation, and I love them more than I can express without going all maudlin. They have enriched my life and changed my perspectives, and if I could relive my life I’d do exactly the same. But if they had never existed, well, things would be pretty good too, and almost certainly a lot less noisy.

You’ll Change Your Mind: Why No Kids? Celebrity Edition

One of the comments that the childfree just love to hear is, “You’ll change your mind!”

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 05:  Actress Port...

Here’s a gallery of celebrities from our friends at mommyish.com  that are still rocking the childfree lifestyle.

The list includes the childfree celebrity “all stars” Cameron Diaz, Simon Cowell, Jennifer Aniston, and

Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi with a funny quip about why they don’t have kids:

“We thought about it. We love to be around children after they’ve been fed and bathed. But we ultimately decided that we don’t want children of our own. There is far too much glass in our house.”

Margaret Cho’s Controversal Baby Joke

Did Margaret Cho, the famously outspoken comedian, go too far this time?

English: Margaret Cho in 2009

From Perzitos.com:

Margaret Cho caused some serious eye-brow raising earlier this week on Watch What Happens Live when she made a seriously offensive joke regarding her fear of having a specially-abled baby now that she’s getting older, going as far to say “I get worried about that, as an older woman, I don’t necessarily want to have a retard baby.”

Thankfully, she has come to here senses, and released the following statement:

I’m so sorry for my insanely offensive comments on Watch What Happens. I certainly didn’t mean to hurt anyone, and this is a good lesson for me to make sure I’m aware of the power of negative speech. Please forgive my ignorance as I have little experience with children and mothers and I’m often likely to act very childish myself. All my love and apologies to anyone who may have been hurt by my statements and my inexcusable remarks.

When Kids Have Kids: Teen Pregnancy

Smoking and drinking during pregnancy

Smoking and drinking during pregnancy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I live in one of the poorest counties in this nation.  Teen pregnancy occurs at an alarming rate here.  People tell me in my rural community about some of our local high school young women who are actively trying to get pregnant, and they are not even in committed relationships.  It seems that any old dad will do for some of these young lasses.

Moreover, in my community I’ve heard too many stories of teen pregnancy further complicated by the abuse of synthetic marijuana, tobacco and alcohol.  How do they justify these activities while pregnant to those who inquire?  They are all legal activities so therefore they don’t see the danger they are imposing on their own bodies or those of their fetuses.  Moreover, many justify the practice of using dangerous substances while pregnant by retorting that their mothers did the same and every thing worked out okay.

How, I wonder, can we claim that the young people in our nation are remotely educated when so many of them cannot prevent an unwanted pregnancy, are actively seeking pregnancy as single young teenagers, or are abusing substances that harm their fetuses when they do become pregnant? When teen pregnancy occurs, parents must take some responsibility, but local schools and community have also failed.  Isn’t learning how to control one’s fertility as important in the grand scheme of life as the skill of, say, arithmetic?

Moreover, with the luxury that young people have today in their ability to find any kind of information on the internet, why can’t more young people learn the basic facts about pregnancy (having one and preventing one), even when their parents or schools are not providing that useful information to them?  I suppose along with their ability to learn on the internet, they also have the unfortunate ability to purchase substances like synthetic marijuana and to hear testimonials about how harmless the product is and  to get step by step  instruction on how to smoke it.

Teenagers learn most by example.  When a teenager’s parent or community members are  modeling unhealthy habits of continuing to have children when they don’t want or can’t afford more, and of abusing substances during pregnancy, who are they to break that pattern?  Additionally, with popular television shows that pay pregnant teenagers gobs of money to reveal the banal routines of their lives to a camera, how can teens get the message that being pregnant at 13 or 14 or even seventeen, is not fashionable?

Call me old fashioned, but teen pregnancy will never be fashionable to me.

I did, however  have one glimmer of hope when I recently spent time with a lovely local ten year old girl who is raised by multiple family members who fill in for her  young mom who is continually in and out of drug rehab.  She was talking excitedly about her new cousin that she can’t see because he is premature and in an incubator for a few months (his teenage mother, her aunt, reportedly smoked the synthetic marajuana, “Spice” during her pregnancy).

“You don’t want a baby for a long time, right?” I boldly ask her.

“Oh, no,”she quickly retorts. “Not for a very long time.”  My heart soars.

“I’m going to be a singer,” she proudly exclaims.

“You can be anything you want, you know,” I say as I brush aside her pretty blond hair.  She is a happy, sharp-witted, and outgoing child despite the difficult environment in which she lives, and she has an earthy beauty.  I can well see her on stage.

“Yeah, I know,” she concludes and reverts back to the drawing she’s making of me, her mom, her aunt and new cousin in the plastic box.  Way to go, I think.  Good for you.