Empty nest? Not all parents are sad about it

A hybrid travel trailer made by KZ Recreationa...
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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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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

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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

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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?