August 29, 2016

You have to have kids!

You have to have kids!

You have to have kids!

I just enjoyed a quick reflection by Melissa Myer called “Childfree: is it really a choice?” that struck a familiar chord. Myer harkens back to her younger years, transporting us to the sort of awkward conversations puberty so often catalyzes. She relates an unsettling quip from her friend Sandy who was baffled by her disinterest in becoming a mother.

Marriage equals procreation. And since I had no interest in having kids, I had no interest in marriage.

“If you get married, you have to have kids.” ~ Melissa Myer (Source: The Unwitting Raconteur)

It’s an unsettling but not altogether unfamiliar perspective. Marriage equals procreation.

I admit that much of my own disinterest in marriage in early adulthood hinged upon my perspective that marriage equals procreation. And since I had no interest in having kids, I had no interest in marriage. Simple. Obvious.

It took my now-wife’s mostly patient, painstaking tutelage to gradually amplify my understanding of marriage.

You Have to Have Kids?

Children were simply the next step after marriage. Period.

Discovering that marriage sans progeny could be a thing — and could be an amazing thing — was like unearthing a magical mystery. My bride and I have been married for over a decade, and today I can confidently assure readers that childfree marriage is a very real and totally wonderful experience. It’s spontaneous and passionate and adventurous and sexy. It’s interesting and ever-evolving and carefree. Childfree marriage is the core of our lives and lifestyles.

But just as I didn’t fully grok this in my teens and twenties, I know that many others still lump marriage and procreating together. And many simply take for granted that growing up means inevitably transitioning from school to career to marriage to having kids.

My own father recently conceded that he’d never really stopped to question (or even consider) alternative to marrying and parenting. Children were simply the next step after marriage. Period.

I Was Born This Way

Myer’s post resonated with me mostly because of this important uncoupling of marriage and procreating. But she also teases out another intriguing idea, that of childfree choice. She challenges the notion that childfree adults choose to be childfree. Certainly we’re all familiar with unintentionally childless adults and couples. Pregnancy was impossible. Or fate intervened.

But Myer is actually talking about something else. Rather than a reasoned choice not to have children, she was born a “NotMom”. Growing up simply helped her accept that she was not destined to be a parent.

“I never needed reasons, and those of you who ‘chose’ to be childfree don’t need them either. What thankfully isn’t artificial, and what will never be, is that I am who I am — a NotMom since I was nascent. Childfree by a choice I never actually made. I was born this way.” (Source: The Unwitting Raconteur)

I’ve written in the past about not having a burning urge to procreate, no need to have a child or be a father. I think that this is basically what Myer means. I was born a “NonDad” by virtue of the fact that I didn’t ever want or try to have a kid. I’m not sure that my own experience warrants this conclusion, as if I were predestined not to become a father, but it’s an interesting twist. Some of us are born to reproduce; others are not. Nulliparity as hardwired…

Why Parents Regret Having Children (Thought Catalog)

Why Parents Regret Having Children (Source: Thought Catalog)

Why Parents Regret Having Children (Source: Thought Catalog)

Need proof that many parents regret having children? Fifteen ‘rents dish As you get older your mind will make up more and more reasons why it makes sense to have a kid. Don’t be fooled, it’s just evolution tricking you into reproducing — no sane, thinking beast would take on the burden of raising a child if the mind didn’t fool us into it. So, does the world need another one of you? Or are you just being fooled into making a baby… (Source: 15 Parents Explain Why They Regret Having Children | Thought Catalog)

Dads Are Using Their Kids’ Sporting Events to Get Out of Household Chores

“at least dads are doing something to keep kids from mucking up the house with their dirty fingernails and carelessly-brandished Ring-Pops”

OK. Lets agree to save the anthropological discussion about how men are not meant to be domesticated for another post, or another era maybe? In the meantime, perhaps someone can do a study of mens’ dorm rooms, bachelor pads and fraternity houses so we can conclusively report that MEN ARE DISGUSTING! We are the last beings anyone should want to be responsible for disinfecting! Men will give themselves double diarrhea or watch The View (or give themselves double diarrhea by watching The View) in order to avoid cleaning toilets, so “I have to drive to a swim meet while listening to (childfree) Justin Bieber songs” must absolutely be an acceptable excuse to get out of household chores. No?

Those conducting the report, or commenting about it, don’t necessarily think so:

“men aren’t making much progress in taking over some of the less-glamorous housework. “The fathers we studied,” said Kremer-Sadlik, “are finding ways to create a new ideal of fatherhood, but they are not creating a new ideal with their partners.” He added that some fathers even use sporting events as an excuse to get out of doing housework”

via Dads Are Using Their Kids’ Sporting Events to Get Out of Helping with Household Chores.

Father Traps Child in Washing Machine

So the laundromat bores you? Try sticking your youngster in a washing machine…

Stop! What?

In the video above (recorded by a laundromat surveillance camera) a man closes a young boy in a washing machine as a joke, but the door locks, trapping junior inside. When the automatic cycle starts the parents start to panic.

Light bulb moment: it’s a bad idea to place a child (or an infant, small adult, domestic pet, etc.) in a laundry machine. Ever. Period.

Unfortunately by the time the lightbulb illuminates, junior’s already spinning inside the washing machine and the genius man is helpless. He tugs the door, dances around and finally decides to seek a laundromat attendant. At last this coin-op nightmare is resolved by an efficient attendant who interrupts the wash cycle and liberates the damp but uninjured tot. The attendant’s efficiency is actually a little alarming. Has he experienced this before?

Darwin Awards, anyone?

Despite spending a minute or more getting tumbled and rinsed, the being trapped for more than a minute, the child escaped the doltish prank bruised but otherwise intact. Or so reports assure us, though I suspect that psychotherapy might be a better judge of that.

Deadbeat Dad with Thirty Kids

I love my deadbeat dad!

I love my deadbeat dad!

Is Desmond Hatchett is a deadbeat dad or just a really good reminder why more people should remain childfree?

This 33-year-old Knoxville, Tennessee man has fathered (and I use the term loosely) thirty children by eleven different mothers in 14-15 years. Although he’s offered an explanation — “I had four kids in the same year. Twice.” — his rationale is lacking. In 2009 when he was apparently last in court he had 21 children, so he’s fathered nine more children in the last three years despite agreeing to curb his uber breeder ways.

‘I’m done. I’ll say I’m done,’ he said. (Mail Online)

Unable to fulfill his pledge, Hatchett is also now unable to fulfill his child support obligations he’s turned to the state for help.

Hatchett reportedly asked the court to give him a break on his payments, claiming that he’s struggling to make ends meet with his minimum-wage job. Currently, the state requires him to divide 50 percent of his earnings among the 11 women, some of whom receive as little as $1.49 a month, WREG reports. (Huffington Post)

Outrageous. What was he thinking? What is he thinking?

“I didn’t intend to have this many children,” he told WVLT-TV at the time. “It just happened.” (NY Daily News)

Oh, he wasn’t thinking. And apparently the mothers of these thirty children weren’t thinking either. Getting pregnant is pretty old science at this point. One man. One woman. Unprotected copulation. Not too many mysteries.

Or are we to believe that all thirty mini Hatchetts were Ooops! babies. Steep learning curve.

And one last question in a post full of questions: who’s going to teach those mini Hatchetts that they have a childfree option when they grow up? Their parents?

 

Empty nest? Not all parents are sad about it

A hybrid travel trailer made by KZ Recreationa...
Image via Wikipedia

Empty nest? Not all parents are sad about it – CBS News.

Parenting is a tough and thankless and endless job and there’s reason for empty nesters to be excited. You can take it from me. Travel, extra income, naps, dating your spouse rather than forming a partnership for child-rearing… all things that are worth celebrating, whether for a week,  a lifetime, or when the nest is empty. Empty nesters may be excited to rad about childfree retreats on WhyNoKids.com or look into peaceful travel opportunities at Childfree Travel

 

No twinges of sorrow in Bentonville, Ark, for mom of five Pamela Haven and her husband, Jeff. She has a recurring thought about life after the last of the brood — 17-year-old twin boys — graduate high school in June: “Thank God they weren’t triplets!”

Up next? “We’re booked on a cruise right after school ends, just the two of us. We’re purchasing a travel trailer, and we can’t wait to strip down the upstairs and repaint, carpet and make two guest rooms.”

Also looking forward to life after children is Jeanette Simpson, an interior designer in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. She has six kids (no boomerangers in the bunch) and the last is a high school senior.

“After 27 years of dealing with school schedules, and 33 years of kids at home, I’ll be an empty nester in less than a year,” she said. “With the last one, I feel almost guilty about not being overly saddened. I have a feeling of ‘job well done.'”

What’s she looking forward to the most? Traveling with her hubby without worry about school breaks and, “Time for myself, something that’s been rare since the first one came along.”

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Happy Conception Day

Conception Day

Hat tip to starsspinningdizzy for the link to this conception day cartoon by Zach Weiner.

Kid Leash?

Kid Leash? I just walked past this little scenario at Dulles International Airport!
Kid Leash?

I just walked past this little scenario at Dulles International Airport!

I’m en route from the Adirondacks to the Sangre de Cristos. You follow me so far? Exit Essex; enter Taos. Only, the transition’s not that slick…

First there was a ferry ride across Lake Champlain. Spectacular! Warm, breezy and bluebird skies. Then there was a leisurely picnic with my bride near Burlington, Vermont. At the edge of a pond. With cattails. And dragonflies. Perfect. Then a smooth flight to Dulles with a fascinating seat mate who’s sailing through the Mediterranean then across the Atlantic and around the Caribbean with her husband. The flight vanished instantly. So far, so good.

Then a layover at Dulles waiting for the flight to Albuquerque. Dinner. A walk. And then this. A pet child being taken for a walk! I’ve seen it on ski slopes. I’ve heard of it in malls. But a father walking his son on a leash? Never before. Still processing it. Good? Bad? Ugly?

Update: I posted a reddit link to this post (“Kid Leash: A father walking his son like a pet Pomeranian… Good? Bad? Ugly?”) which has generated some of the expected reactions, but also a few frustrated/angry commenters. For the record, I wasn’t excoriating the man in the picture above or users of baby leashes in general. I was surprised. And I asked readers to share their reactions. Turned out to be a more sensitive topic than I anticipated, provoking some defensive emotions. But mostly some interesting conversation. And a link to Gadling’s “Dont use baby leashes” with a video that ties in nicely!

But wait, there’s more! If you’re still trying to make up your mind if baby leashes are good, bad or ugly, then here’s another little scenario to set your gray matter gears in motion. Or your emotion in motion…

A woman was in last week with her one year old son. He was wearing one of those child leashes disguised as a cute monkey back pack, you know where the tail is the leash? … his mom wanted to try on shoes so she tied him to the sale rack. Yes, she TIED him to the sale rack… The sale rack is near our handicap ramp, which all kids think is a playground. So naturally the baby wanted to play on it. He heads for ramp and almost gets there but he’s leashed, so he starts to stretch. He makes it to the rail and starts trying to flip over it to get to the ramp. He’s so close yet so far, and this is so dangerous because the sale rack could fall on him if he gets any further… (Awful little monkeys)

The subsequent conversation between sales supervisor and mother is less startling to me that the scenario itself.

For the record, I well recognize the merits of a leash. In fact, it’s occurred to me that an adult version could be marketed to husbands/wives with a tendency to wander! But I’m also inclined to see a dehumanizing quality in a leashed baby or spouse. Perhaps it is primarily symbolic, but a leash seems like a convenient way to circumvent the sort of “hands on” parenting that ideally nurtures and educates and guides a child during these formative years. It replaces a verbal, tactile and cognitive guidance with a merely physical surrogate. I’m not a psychiatrist, nor do I pretend expertise in infant development, so I’m not denouncing the use of people leashing. Certainly those wiser than I will set me straight!

Fatherhood Diminishes Testosterone

Caveman Training

Image by hall.chris25 via Flickr

According to a study reported in the New York Times and delicately recapped in The Art of Manliness, dads suffer from diminished testosterone.

after a man has a kid, his testosterone levels drop, and the more involved he gets in child-rearing, the lower his T levels fall… This reduction in testosterone is thought to help men commit to their families and stick around to rear their progeny. (Fatherhood Leads to a Drop in Testosterone)

In a big-picture kind of way, I get it. By the time junior arrives on the scene testosterone has already put in a hard day at the office. It is largely responsible for making a man big, strong and virile which may (or may not) be why a woman is drawn to him. Testosterone is also tied to aggressive behavior, ostensibly valuable for courtship and defending the female from other aggressive suitors. And then there’s that testes part, also important if junior is going to get started. And then suddenly, testosterone is less relevant. In fact, it might even get in the way. Time to cut the T levels so daddy can focus on hearth, home and juniors. No more chest thumping or wayward adventures. No need for testes. Time to change diapers and make airplane noises while trying to plug rubber-edged spoonfulls of mush into junior’s mouth. And then clean it up from his chin. And the floor.

the more he gets involved in caring for his children — changing diapers, jiggling the boy or girl on his knee, reading “Goodnight Moon” for the umpteenth time — the lower his testosterone drops. (In Study, Fatherhood Leads to Drop in Testosterone)

Perhaps the perfect papa is virtually testosterone-free? This study might generate interesting hypotheses about men’s mid-life crises. Kids are packed off to college and Viagra is floating around. Maybe long hibernating T levels start to awaken…

But, fathers, take note. Subgrade testosterone levels don’t make you a wimp. Really.

“Unfortunately,” Dr. Ellison added, “I think American males have been brainwashed” to believe lower testosterone means that “maybe you’re a wimp, that it’s because you’re not really a man. “My hope would be that this kind of research… would make them realize that we’re meant to be active fathers and participate in the care of our offspring. (In Study, Fatherhood Leads to Drop in Testosterone)

Active fathers, yes. Wimps, no. Sensitive, caring, nurturing dads who are less likely to be distracted by that sexy new associate who joined the firm. Which isn’t to say that your mojo’s totally shot, just diminished. A bit…

The lowering of their testosterone did not prevent the men in the study from having more children. “You don’t need a lot of testosterone to have libido,” Dr. Kuzawa said.

“If guys are worried about basically, ‘Am I going to remain a guy?’” Dr. Worthman said, “we’re not talking about changes that are going to take testosterone outside the range of having hairy chests, deep voices and big muscles and sperm counts. These are more subtle effects. (In Study, Fatherhood Leads to Drop in Testosterone)

So you can keep your bark, but you might lose your bite. Or something. Go, dads!

An Unmet Need for Family Planning

Undecaplets

Image via Wikipedia

I’m reading a magazine to pass the time in my gynecologist’s office when I stumble upon the incredible “historical record” of one 18th century Russian peasant woman who reportedly gave birth to sixty nine children between the years of 1725 and 1765 (without fertility aids, of course).  Apparently, she did this with 27 multiple birth pregnancies and with only two lost in infancy.

“Not possible,” says my gynecologist when I share the figure with her.  That was my reaction too.  Nonetheless, even if the figure was doubly exaggerated, that still leaves a staggering number of children that the human body can create, and a puzzling question as to why any woman would want that many children.  Was she looking to start her own sports league or productive work force for the family business?

According to Yahoo, the “modern” record for the most number of children born to one woman goes allegedly to a Chilean woman (now in her mid 60’s) who delivered 64 babies, though the article qualifies that Chilean birth certificates are “something of a less-than-serious concern in Chile.”

Most number of children to one father, you ask?  The last Sharifan Emperor of Morocco, Mulai Ismail(1646-1727) reportedly sired somewhere around 800 children with 500 wives – a busy man indeed.  One wonders how he had any time to run an empire and one can well imagine many other legendary rulers throughout history who must have had impressive fleets of children as well.

Here are a few more staggering reproduction figures:  The youngest woman to give birth was, in fact not a woman at all but apparently a five year old Peruvian girl who delivered her baby boy by cesarean in 1939 in a small Andean village.  The community thought she had an abdominal tumor.  A pituitary malfunction was speculated to have caused the onset of her menstruation at three years of age.  The baby lived and welcomed his brother thirty three years later.  If this story is true it is disturbing by so many accounts but what I wonder is did they find  the man who molested her and cut off his nuts?  Unfortunately not –  the father remained a mystery.

The youngest father on record?  A twelve year old boy from England who had a son in 1998 with his fifteen year old girlfriend.

Oldest Father? A ninety three year old Australian man who died at one hundred. The oldest mother was a Spanish woman who had fertility assistance in producing twins at sixty seven in 2006 (which of course sparked international controversy).

Here’s another disturbing statistic:  According to Guinness World Records, in 2010 the “youngest identified group of drug addicts:” Unlucky babies born to young mothers in rural Afghanistan who are addicted to heroin and opium from the abundance of poppy crops in their country.  In addition to passing the drugs along to fetuses in-uteri, mothers are known in rural regions to blow heroin spoke at the babies to calm them and relieve pain.  The U.S. State Department “has categorized them as the youngest drug addicted group ever found for which there are no established treatment protocols.”

Finally, according to Nicholas D. Kristof in an Op-Ed article of the New York Times this past Mother’s Day, “215 million women worldwide have an ‘unmet need’ for family planning, meaning they don’t want to become pregnant but aren’t using effective contraception.”  He continues: “The Guttmacher Institute, a respected research group, estimates that if all the unmet need for contraception were met, the result would be 94,000 fewer women dying of pregnancy complications each year, and almost 25 million fewer abortions each year.”

I ask you:  Do these figures not call out a need for affordable birth control and accessible family planning education worldwide?