The Happiness Project – “Lighten Up” on the Childfree

Cover of "The Happiness Project: Or, Why ...

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The NYTimes bestseller by Gretchen Rubin is a year-in-the-life exploration of a writer trying to live her life happier. What does that mean? Each month is broken into a theme: energy, love, play, etc. April’s theme is “Lighten Up” with a subtitle: Parenthood. Hmm. Maybe that means you don’t need to “lighten up” if you don’t have kids or you are already pretty enlightened?
Nope. Not according to the author. Rubin cites a study that says “child
care” is only slightly more pleasant than commuting, and one that says
marital satisfaction declines after the first child is born (picking up
again after they leave the nest). Then she disputes these findings, all
the while complaining about her kids and marital satisfaction mostly
relating to fights about her kids.

“Now as a parent myself, I realize how much the happiness of parents depends
on the happiness of their children and grandchildren.”

Really? But then again the kids did give Rubin a reason to write a bestseller.
We at WNK believe that by being childfree, everyday is a project in
happiness.

From the Happiness Project Blog:

Do your children make you happy? Some research says NO! I say YES!

Read the article here

Hey WNKers have you read The Happiness Project?

 

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Scary Mommy: Cards For New Moms

Scarey House page 1

Scarey House page 1 (Photo credit: the_toe_stubber)

Wow. This site is truly scary. Scary Mommy gets a TON of traffic and the posts and complaints alone could be used to dramatically increase the frequency of vasectomies. There may not be a need for WNK or preach to the choir childfree sites after all. Maybe we should just provide a single link to these angry moms and let them take the heat? The cards are possibly the least depressing and most amusing part of the otherwise scary….

Cards For New Moms.

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Barren in Iran

Leila (film)

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I recently watched Leila, a mesmerizing Iranian film that debuted  by Persian film director Dariush Mehrjui. It chronicles the story of a young married couple (Leila and Reza) living in modern Teheran who can’t conceive a child.  More exactly, the couple learns that she, the wife cannot have a child. Trouble ensues.

In one of the earliest scenes the viewer meets the young man’s mother, who, while celebrating her daughter-in-law’s birthday announces that she can’t wait to meet the couple’s son (only they don’t have one).  This woman, so insistent that her only son have a child to carry on the family’s lineage (never mind her handful of daughters who might procreate) soon learns, that her wish won’t be possible.  The couple jumps through some fertility hoops to no avail, and the Reza consoles his wife by insisting to her that he really has had no interest in having children all along.  Leila seems to believe him, and they resolve to enjoy each others’ company without the distraction of children.

Then Reza’s mother intercedes.

Leila and Reza’s love is palpable. Their connection and mutual admiration seem strong. But their love and ties are harrowingly tested in a tug-of-war between their modern marriage and Islamic tradition, between their dreams and Reza’s mother’s dreams.  The film offers a glimpse into the complexities of living in contemporary Iran and the complexities of giving back to one’s parents.

Leila’s mother-in-law persistently, deceptively convinces her that Reza is desperate to have a child. She harasses Leila incessantly until Leila agrees to permit her husband to marry a second wife who can give him a child. Though adamantly opposed to the idea, Reza eventually yields to his mother’s desire and to the traditional Islamic expectations of him.

We watch the heart-wrenching process of selecting a new bride through Leila’s eyes. We witness and understand her anguish.  Ironically, it is Reza’s sisters and father who try to convince Leila to refuse the second marriage. (Ostensibly polygamy is legal in Iran provided previous wives agree.) Leila’s family is horrified when they discover Reza’s plan to remarry.

Leila’s doubt that Reza would be happy without a child and her decision to encourage a second marriage inevitably proves devastating to her union with Reza.  She signs her fate away to external factors and concludes: “God has not given me a child.  He has given me the gift of eternal patience and endurance.”  Her choices test the limits of that endurance (and the viewer’s).

I won’t spoil the plot, because the film is worth watching. We never really know why Leila consents to her insipid mother-in-law’s wishes. Does she hope this will make her a better Muslim and wife? Does she simply wish to please her new family? Does she too desperately desire a child even if impossible through her own DNA? Or does her self sacrificing decision reveal unconditional love for her husband?  Perhaps all of these factors are in play, but the film is so compelling precisely because we never learn the answer.

Bad Parenting? Sue Your Parents!

Should mothers be sued for bad parenting?

We can all summon up moments when our parents went too far, or at least we were 100% certain at the time that they’d gone to far, in their parenting routines. Ah, the injustice!

As it turns out, two Illinois kids kept their resentment alive long enough to sue Kimberly Garrity for being a bad mother.

Garrity’s children, Steven Miner II, 23, and Kathryn Miner, 20, originally filed their suit against her two years ago, asking for more than $50,000 for emotional distress suffered during childhood due to Garrity’s alleged parental offenses, infractions such as sending her son a birthday card sans check, not dispatching care packages to him in college and insisting on a midnight curfew for her daughter during her high school’s homecoming. (TIME Healthland)

An Illinois appeals court dismissed the lawsuit, but Ms. Garrity who raised her children in a $1.5 million home outside Chicago is left to ponder her decision to conceive and raise two ungrateful.

Court records from Garrity said she was devastated at being publicly accused of “being an inadequate mother.” … In court papers, Garrity said she still loves her children, but she warned the public nature of the lawsuit would hurt them going forward. (CNN.com)

I guess the lesson to be learned here is not to spoil your fabulously rich kids rotten, because they’ll just grow up and sue for not spoiling them rotten enough. Kids these days. (Above the Law)

But reflection and regret are only half of Garrity’s reward. She also has the pleasure of paying for her legal representation.

“It would be laughable that these children of privilege would sue their mother for emotional distress, if the consequences were not so deadly serious for (Garrity),” Garrity’s attorney, Shelley Smith, wrote in court documents. “There is no insurance for this claim, so (Garrity) must pay her legal fees, while (the children) have their father for free.” (Today People)

Gawker weighed in with a curious twist:

What the judges seem to have overlooked is how their ruling now opens the floodgates to parents who wish to say no to their children, which will be more corrosive to our society in the long-run. (Gawker.com)

Not sure I follow this concern. Aren’t parents supposed say no? Sometime? Maybe even often? Or was I terribly mistreated? I can feel the emotional distress bubbling up across the years… Lawyer!

Related articles

Vicki Larson: Are Childless Couples Headed Toward Divorce?

Marriage and divorce rates in the US, 1990-200...

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Vicki Larson: Are Childless Couples Headed Toward Divorce?.

“People assume children are the glue that holds a marriage together, which really isn’t true. Kids are huge stressors,” says Scott, head of the Childless by Choice Project whose documentary on childfree couples was just released. “Despite that, there is a strong motive to stay together. The childfree don’t have that motive so there’s no reason to stay together if it’s not working.”

This article is great, really layered and probing. It answers a lot of questions about who is “childfree”, why, and what the impact of such status on their marriage may be. However, there may be some confusion, or even unintended/inaccurate conclusions, as all couples without children are lumped into the “childfree” category, including couples frequently categorized as “childless” (those who want kids but cannot conceive) that “make up the bulk of the childfree” in this story.

As I read the article I wondered how many of the divorced couples were simply victims of a decision to marry too early. According to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed, the rate of divorce among people that marry before 25 is astounding. I also hoped for statistics comparing older married couples. How do those who CHOOSE not to have kids compare to couples with empty nests at the same age? When the decision  for parents to divorce can be made without complicating child rearing, like the childfree by choice, then who APPEARS to be more successful or happily married? (Not that remaining married is an accurate indicator of “success”) When I was in college, my parents finally divorced, and there was a rash of divorces among my friends’ parents as well.

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