November 27, 2014

Baby Names Are Getting Even Worse – Deadspin

 I am only slightly embarrassed to say that while my wife and I were busy explaining to friends and strangers that the answer to their “When are you having children?” questions was “Never”, we also brainstormed names for the little genius. I liked Romie Lane, the name of a street in a Steinbeck novel, East of Eden I think. She liked the sound of Roma. What can I say? There is either some deep psychological well to drill here, or we are simply pretentious semi-literates that enjoy naming things. The car, for example, is named Bess, after my wife’s grandmother, who had similarly sturdy, wide hips and a heavy backend. We also unapologetically and ruthlessly offer name suggestions for friends’ companies, boats, and especially babies. Yes, we know we are annoying.

At least none of our baby branding ideas were highlighted as ludicrous in Drew Magary’s semi-hilarious story: American Baby Names Are Somehow Getting Even Worse.

Now, you and I both know that Americans of all stripes have grown progressively worse at naming children. It’s not enough for your child to have a normal name and then try to stand out on their own merits down the road. No, no, no. Every parent now wants every child to be unique and special from the moment the doctor wipes all the amniotic fluid off of it, even though all babies look alike and contribute nothing to society.

There’s a bizarre assumption that if you can make your child’s name unique, the child will be unique. And that’s NEVER the case. Chances are, if you name your kid Braxlee, he or she is gonna end up bent over the sink in the back of a TGI Friday’s, offering tail in exchange for a better skim off the tip pool.

Magary seems to have a point, and I’ll bet that baby names become even more bizarre as expectant parents choose names based on the availability of their dot-com address on GoDaddy. (As I write this I think I might finally understand the inspiration for the name of that company…)

 

 

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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.”

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.

Kids’ Manners Matter

365 Manners Kids Should Know by Sheryl Eberly (Image via Rainbow Resource)Is it only my observation or have manners largely gone by the wayside these days? Moreover, how many really well mannered children do we all know?

Okay, so I’m giving away my northern location because generally, the kids I know from the South could teach the northern ones quite a bit when it comes to manners. However, It follows that if many adults aren’t too familiar or interested in basic etiquette, then their children won’t be either.

Are you tired of rude children in restaurants, airplanes, theaters and the like? Do you cringe when your favorite child rips opens your thoughtfully chosen gift with little notice of you or a thanks for the gesture?

Fear not. For those of you who long for a more mannered world, Sheryl Eberly has created the book, 365 Manners Kids Should Know: Games, Activities, and Other Fun Ways to Help Children Learn Etiquette. It’s pure Genius. Has anyone attempted this before? If this kind of book has been offered in the past, it unlikely covered the extensive topics that Ms. Eberly offers. In this information-packed book, the author, a former employee of First Lady Nancy Reagan (well, no wonder – that explains some of her expertise), tackles every sticky etiquette scenario one could ponder.

Ms. Eberly’s advice roams near and far.

  • Anticipating the needs of others
  • Neighborly manners, sloppy language
  • Active listening
  • Writing letters with care
  • Everyday table manners
  • Dress appropriately for the occasion
  • The valued teammate
  • Be a model American
  • Be considerate to people with special needs

And my favorite, Environmental Manners, because “taking care of the environment is everybody’s responsibility.”

She also demystifies “netiquette,” (net etiquette) museum, travel, restaurant, wedding and even funeral behavior. In doing so she goes a step further by breaking down the important details of religious holidays and ceremonies in every denomination. Not sure how children should act at a Ramadan or Kwanza celebration or at a Mormon wedding? She has all the answers. It’s clearly as much for the parents’ education as for their offspring.

Good manners, the author advises should begin at the onset of a child’s birth and “involve more than simply knowing the rules about forks and finger bowls in formal situations – they include good attitudes, respect, and consideration for others every day. If we want our children to be confident, poised adults, we need to teach them the rules of etiquette today. Knowing proper behavior is an essential part of being prepared for life.”

Well said.

The book is informative, never preachy, and a great gift for parents (their children will thank you years from now, or maybe sooner if the lessons are well learned). The only question is how do we give this book without offending parents, without them thinking we’re suggesting their kids are ill-behaved? You’ll have to figure that out. In the meantime I’m passing it around to all my favorite parents. Thank you, Ms. Eberly, from the non-parents of the world.

“Where do your idle hands go while eating in America?” I quickly quiz my nephews on a regular basis.

“On your lap,” they sullenly respond. They’ve been through this before.

“And what if you’re in France?” I fire back.

“Wrists resting on edge of the table, fingers off” they dutifully retort. They are half German and part French so I have always found it important for them to distinguish manners in different cultures.

“What about your hands in Africa?” A harder question they don’t get asked as often, but they find the answer.

“The left hand never touches food, especially communal food. It’s reserved for the bathroom.”

Do they need to know this? Well, maybe if they live in Africa like me one day, or if they visit there, they will not offend. I am proud. At least their table manners are well rehearsed, but I have more work to do.

“Why do we need to know this?” they will occasionally ask.

“Because good manners are important and because you will dine with Presidents and Heads of State some day,” I proclaim. “Do you want to be forever embarrassed because you ate with the wrong fork?” They are not convinced but oblige their silly aunt nonetheless.

“How do you know we’ll ever meet Presidents?” they ask.

“Oh, I know these things.” And we leave it at that.

I suppose this book was just destined to find me.

Thanksgiving

Thankful for sunsets in Costa Rica

There are many things to be grateful for this Thanksgiving and being child-free is just one of them…well maybe more than one.

1. I am thankful that I live in a time and a place that doesn’t require that I reproduce to fit into society.

2. I am thankful that my husband also believes that having children is a choice. And grateful that he chooses not to have children.

3. I am thankful for my godchildren. I am grateful for my friends and family who have children and share them with me. And for the friends and family who understand that I don’t want children but love and support me anyway.

4. I am grateful for children and the influence they have on my art and my writing.

5. I am grateful that my choice not to have children has given me many opportunities that include travel, and time to create art.

6. I am grateful for my health and the heath of loved ones and their children.

7. I am grateful that I have the freedom to express my opinion. And I am grateful when others chime in.

8. I am grateful that I have choices.

9. I am grateful that I have love in my life.

10. I am grateful that my life and family is complete without children. And I am thankful that I am child-free.

Childfree? Consider The Economy?

Chart of Birth Rate in USA between 1934 and th...

Image via Wikipedia

If you are listing pros and cons and asking questions of parents and people like us to determine if you want to remain childfree, for now or permanently, you may do those of us that have already made the decision a favor by choosing to breed.

What? What about all those posts about saving the planet and your relationship and your money? What about giving voice to individuals and outliers? What about confronting taboos and exercising your right to think for yourself and CHOOSE?

Well, as readers of WNK may have already seen, we are here to provide a broad base of information and varied perspectives, so that one may make an informed choice and feel supported, regardless of what that choice may be. To that end, we need to talk about the economy.

The real and hidden costs of raising children, personal finances and lifestyle etc. are certainly worth addressing. And we at WNK. like many others in the child-free community, try to.

UNLIKE others in the CF community, including a child-free blogger that wrote “Going Child-Free To Save The Economy” and “decided that breeders are to blame for our current high level of unemployment”, we (Okay, I) studied economics, worked in finance and have a mathematical and theoretical grasp on reality that isn’t overwhelmed by anger or idiocy or child-free ideological extremes.

And, oh yeah, before we “decide” something, we research and read. On our Facebook site we previously posted stories about how Russia and South Korea are taking steps to increase the birth rate in order to bolster their economies. Check out the links.

Yesterday, Bloomberg News ran this story:

Births at 11-Year Low May Extend U.S. Housing Slump Amid Consumer Cutbacks – Bloomberg.

The piece identifies a nasty Catch-22 ensnaring the childless and child-free lately. Some of us are deciding against raising kids, or postponing, because we are struggling financially; and our decision is in turn hurting the economy.

While many reading this piece don’t want to make or raise babies, the reality seems to be that we need more kids to feed our fierce economic machine. In capitalist, consumption-based America, if we are not growing, we’re dieing. Inflation is not necessarily our friend, but deflation (decreased demand, less consumption, fewer jobs, a shrinking population and shrinking GDP) is definitely our enemy. So the government adopts policies (that many of us claim are discriminatory) to encourage the population to make more babies. And if more people join the ranks of the child-free, federal tax deductions or credits may only be the beginning.

If you don’t want to believe, won’t read the stories or do research to see what not having kids can do to a capitalist economy, look overseas please. Asia is struggling, and Japan may reveal the path that our low birth rate having country will be following: A real estate bust followed by over fifteen years of low interest rates and meager job growth combined with an impossibly slow housing recovery and constant fears of deflation further shrinking the value of their assets and their entire economy.

Now, on a resource-strapped planet riddled with pollution and populated with too many that are abused, poverty stricken or starving, this is an admittedly simplistic view of how breeding, or not, affects the economy. It is an equation that does not account for environmental costs and wars and other negative externalities. But market economies like ours are insatiable beasts. And unless or until we are ready to face the flaws of capitalist, consumption-based religiosity (which will likely involve some serious suffering) we may soon run out of ways of keeping our economy functioning for most of us unless we get behind immigration reform and this baby making thing.

There may be few alternatives?

I guess we can have more pets or just become more obese? Many of the child-free appear to be animal lovers (someone please explain the link), and while Fido and Frisky consume enough to create jobs (the U.S. pet industry is worth $55 billion annually) , they will never drive a car or need public schooling. Obesity may also be working as a growth strategy. One person can consume enough for 1.5 or 2 people and get sick along the way to feed the booming healthcare industry maybe?

Questions? Critiques? Need more clarity? Please comment or contact me.

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Not Funny!

The sign reads, “Unattended children will be given espresso and a free puppy!”

It has been popping up everywhere from cafes to clothing stores and it’s scaring me!

Why the joke? Why the empty threat? Why bring innocent puppies into this? And why make things worse with caffeine and incontinent animals?

This sign below was seen in Flagstaff, can you imagine if a shop owner posted one of these, but changed it to kids? We would be offended. Parents would be up in arms. But no, coffee and kittens are funny!

Sign, No Unattended Dogs in Flagstaff.

Video: Natasha Leggero

Toilet Babies? Natasha Leggero? Too much? Here’s an easy click through from the WNK crew. We are currently either relocating to Costa Rica or vacationing in Peru (because we can) and promise to ramp things up again very soon.

Joys of Shopping with a Child

Watch this video if you’re considering having a kid!

Yes, it is Halloween and no, we shouldn’t be thinking about shopping — certainly not Christmas shopping — yet, but we are. Correction: I’m not thinking about it, but it’s by sheer force of will that I’m resisting.

The Halloween candy isn’t even off the racks yet, and my mailbox has been brimming with Christmas catalogs for over a week. I know the economy’s stuck in the ditch, but for the love of all that is spooky can we please hold off until after the jack-o-lanterns have rotted?!?!

I’m not a shopper, not a willing shopper, at least. Not in any conventional, recognizable-to-twenty-first-century-humans sense of shopping. Third world markets suit me well for brief photography forays, but Christmas shopping in October? Bah humbug!

So when you add dysfunctional minors into the equation, things are liable to get unhealthy quickly. And kids are synonymous with shopping. Though not always in markets… Or maybe they are less annoying and more intriguing when studied through a camera lens.

Happy Halloween!

Ellen DeGeneres and partner Portia de Rossi Don’t… | Stuff.co.nz

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 30:  Actress Portia d...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

There are a few things other than celebrity that make this story interesting I think. For starters, Ellen DeGeneres is 53 and her wife nearly 40. If they’d married 10 years ago though, i wonder if the question would have even been asked? Oh, that’s right, they couldn’t get married 10 years ago. So along with the right to marry and the choice to do so, comes the assumption that there will be babies? Or is it truly just a query aimed at EVERY celebrity? Also note the standard childfree apology and some artful, humorous dodging.

Ellen DeGeneres and partner Portia de Rossi Don’t… | Stuff.co.nz.

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