December 11, 2017

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!

Freakonomics » The Divergence of Fatherhood: Feast or Famine

Freakonomics
Image via Wikipedia

Freakonomics » The Divergence of Fatherhood: Feast or Famine.

Indeed, most fathers (63%) say being a dad is harder today than it was a generation ago.

Many people point to the economy when it’s time to blame something for more childfree families. The Freakonomics folks offer some enlightening statistics about the challenges of fatherhood in our age. Is this a job you want today? Would you accept it if the demands were more like dad’s in the 1960s?

In 1965, married fathers with children younger than age 18 living in their household spent an average of 2.6 hours per week caring for those children. Fathers’ time spent caring for their children rose gradually over the next two decades — to 2.7 hours per week in 1975 and three hours per week in 1985. From 1985 to 2000, the amount of time married fathers spent with their children more than doubled — to 6.5 hours in 2000.

 

Only about one-in-four adults say fathers today are doing a better job as parents than their own fathers did. Roughly one-third (34%) say they are doing a worse job, and 40% say they are doing about the same job.

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Happy Un-Father’s Day?

Happy Father's Day, virtualDavis and Gordon Davis

"Happy Father's Day, Dad!" (to George Gordon Davis, Sr. from George Gordon Davis, Jr.)

Today is a spectacular day. Bluebird skies overhead. Warm breezes off of Lake Champlain. Dry air. Perfect. Oh, and it’s Father’s Day.

I’ve just returned from Father’s Day brunch at the Essex Inn in Essex, New York. A delicious meal in newly remodeled digs with my father, my mother and my bride. An enjoyable way to celebrate my dad. As his eldest child I couldn’t help but remind him that I was if not instrumental at least a willing participant in his transition into the heralded halls of fatherdom. Early adopter? Angel investor? Something.

It’s easy enough to scoff at Hallmark holidays, but there’s not much value in the effort. As far as I’m concerned any excuse to celebrate, any opportunity to express gratitude, and any chance to commemorate goodness is worthwhile. Life is just better when we celebrate! And Father’s day is no exception. A reminder to let the fellow know that I still love him after almost forty years, that I genuinely appreciate the sacrifices and the efforts he undertook (and undertakes) for me, that I’m sincerely pleased to have a more congenial rapport with him in recent years, that I look forward to a whole lot of living and learning and laughing together in the years ahead.

And yet, I said goodbye to my parents after brunch without sharing these thoughts. My bride and I gave him a handsome pair of cufflinks with a card that was funny/flip/poignant but totally sidestepped mentioning anything I’ve just banged out on my keyboard. Why? Chalk it up to filial psychology. Or distraction. Chalk it up to anything you like, the point is simply that even with Father’s Day on the calendar and even with a leisurely (and delicious) brunch together to celebrate Father’s Day, I dropped the ball entirely. So far…

You see what I’m getting at? Hallmark holidays are marketing miracles. But they also afford us welcome reminders to celebrate and thank and commemorate people who make our lives worth the cost of admission. To say things we’d otherwise overlook. Which is why I’m going to ask my father to read this post shortly. I’d like to make sure he gets the memo, even if it’s delivered digitally instead of over eggs Benedict and roast beef.

Dad, thank you. Thanks for marrying mom. Thanks for choosing to have children. Thanks for swapping your childfree life, your childfree marriage for decades of aggravation, anxiety, astronomical expense and frequent insubordination. Thanks for leaving New York City to raise your family in the North Country. Thanks for working your @$$ off to cloth us, to feed us, to house us, to educate us, to ship us off on far-flung adventures. Thanks for encouraging me to leave home at fourteen to attend Deerfield and later Georgetown. Thanks for underwriting both. Thanks for the letter after college telling me to unwind, to take an adventure, to go learn how to surf and an airplane ticket to anywhere that might help me tackle all three. Thanks for respecting my graduate studies at St. John’s, for helping me juggle graduate school debt, drive a safe car, sort through big people challenges and mistakes. Thanks for encouraging my teaching, my writing, my increasingly peripatetic lifestyle. Thanks for free legal advice over years, and thanks too for learning when to relinquish the lawyer dynamic. Thanks for loving, supporting and encouraging my bride and for never pressuring me to marry her during the four years it took me to take the proverbial leap. Thanks for accepting (and hopefully understanding) our decision not to have children. Full stop. What?

I hope that you know our childfree family is not a judgment of our own parents’ parenting. We both consider ourselves unusually fortunate in this regard. But I do understand that our choice not to have children can be confusing, even saddening or disappointing to our parents. I apologize for the confusion, the sadness, the disappointment. And I am grateful that you have not tried to change our minds, that you’ve respected our decision. In short, this Father’s Day I’d like to thank you for supporting my decision not to be a father!

Which brings me back to the title of this post, “Happy Un-Father’s Day”. With the exception of today, every other day of the year must be Un-Father’s Day, right? Looking to The Unbirthday Song from Alice in Wonderland for logic or at least inspiration, I’ve decided that there are three hundred and sixty four Un-Father’s Days each year. Now that’s reason to celebrate! (Though it’s not the only reason to remain childfree…)