Do your children make you happy? Some research says no. I say yes.
My earth-shattering happiness formula is: To be happy, you must think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.
One of the puzzles that led me to devise this formula is the question: Do children make you happy? (For people who want children, I mean; some people are quite happy not having children.)
He points to studies that show that marital satisfaction plummets after the birth of the first child and increases after the last child has left home, and to research that shows that a group of women found childcare only slightly more pleasant than housework.
So why do people think children bring happiness? Because, Dr. Gilbert argues, without the successful transmission of that inaccurate belief, society would crash – no one would have kids. Also, he says, when people think about having kids, they imagine the fun and success, but not the inconvenience and anxiety.
I thought a lot about Gilbert’s argument and the well-known studies he references. I certainly know from my own experience that the Big Man and I bicker much more now that we have kids, we have fewer fun adventures, and we have less time for each other. And having children is a source of worry, aggravation, expense, and inconvenience, not to mention all the colds I pick up and the chaos of toys that drives me crazy.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t accept the argument that children don’t bring happiness. Because they do! Not always in a moment-to-moment way, perhaps, but in some deeper way.
I struggled to figure out how to account for this paradox in my formula, and that’s how I came up with feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right.
I imagine that if I didn’t have children, day to day, I might very well have more feeling good and less feeling bad – more time reading in bed, less time replacing the caps on magic markers. Which means I’d be happier, right?
Wrong. Children are essential to my feeling right. Being a parent, holding your baby in your arms, taking your place in the circle of life … it’s corny but it’s true. Most people just wouldn't feel right if they didn't have kids. (Again, I recognize that some people don't want kids; I'm not tackling the issue of their happiness here.)
Feeling right is an essential component of happiness. I don’t think that parents-to-be fool themselves that parenthood is all fun. They might not exactly anticipate what’s going to hit them with that first baby, but they know it’s not all playgrounds and valedictorian addresses.
There are times when feeling right means feeling bad. Consider a commute. Studies show (surprise!) that a bad commute is a real downer, and one to which we never adapt. But you might choose to have a bad commute in order to live in a neighborhood with good schools. Once your kids are in the good school, you’ll adapt to that circumstance, and it won’t be a source of feeling good, and the commute will make you feel bad every day. But it’s worth it, because you feel right about your trade-off.
Even though they may means less feeling good, and more feeling bad, I think children contribute mightily to happiness.
Also, they contribute to the atmosphere of growth that is important to happiness (and part of my formula). Seeing them learn, change, and grow boosts happiness.
Oh, the teachable moments that are coming out of the 2012 presidential campaign. Forget the mommy wars. Forget health care, the economy and taxes - today we have the President Barack Obama dog controversy and the Mitt Romney versus Obama dog wars.
Can’t wait to explain this one to the kiddos. Nothing like headlines that scream “Obama eats dog!” to start a conversation at the breakfast table. (And make the family pooch a bit nervous.)
But swipe away some of the hot political rhetoric and there actually are some lessons – non partisan ones – to talk about with kids.
Photo Gallery: Family dogs around the world!
To recap, the current twist in the War on Dogs comes after a long time criticism of a revelation, first reported in 2007, that on a 12-hour drive from Massachusetts to Canada in 1983, the Romney family put their dog, an Irish Setter named Seamus, in a crate on the top of their car. It was the only thing to do, they explained, because with all those kids there wasn’t any room in coach.
The dog lovers went a bit nuts. Because, well, you just can’t do that. (My husband, however, upon hearing this said he thought the top-of-car-crate was a great idea. But don’t worry, PETA. Not gonna happen. The dog was here first.)
And the Dems haven’t been able to resist – tweeting out photos of Obama and First Dog Bo, with some requisite snarky comments about how good dog-owners act. (Rick Santorum – who was fighting Romney to be Republican nominee and had his own problems with seating space – was happy to bring it up, as well.)
So it was inevitable, really, that the conservatives would eventually jump on this passage of Obama’s memoir, “Dreams From My Father.”
With Lolo, I learned how to eat small green chill peppers raw with dinner (plenty of rice), and, away from the dinner table, I was introduced to dog meat (tough), snake meat (tougher), and roasted grasshopper (crunchy). Like many Indonesians, Lolo followed a brand of Islam that could make room for the remnants of more ancient animist and Hindu faiths. He explained that a man took on the powers of whatever he ate: One day soon, he promised, he would bring home a piece of tiger meat for us to share.
Look, everyone! They said. Obama eats dog!
Bound to attract attention in the under-13 set.
So parents, maybe this is a good time to talk about cultural difference. (And, perhaps, about how families with a bazillion kids just try to do what they can to make things work. I mean, I personally think the top of the car thing is a bit nuts, but at least the Romneys wanted Seamus with them, right?)
The Indonesians are not alone when it comes to eating dog meat. Although laws are changing in many places because of the growing status of dogs (and cats) in family life, dog meat has been pretty common in China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Vietnam, and even Switzerland. A century ago it was even more widespread, with dog a specialty in much of Europe.
Academics who study this sort of thing are interested in how dog meat has become such a taboo while most people think it’s just fine and dandy to eat other animals that have, by various tests, the same intelligence and emotion. (Pigs, for instance.) Many of the people who are outraged about "Obama eats dog" are the same people who will pooh-pooh vegetarians as Leftist softies.
Photo Gallery: Family dogs around the world!
But dogs are different, most people will say. They're our best friends. Family members.
But why? the academics ask. It’s really a pretty fascinating historical and sociological study.
Meanwhile, people from around the world eat lots of things that we don’t. In many of the countries where I’ve worked cane rat is a delicacy. Grasshoppers, too.
I could never bring myself to try either – the personal yuck factor was just too much – but I saw that as my problem.
The lesson, I believe? It’s a big, beautiful, fascinating world out there. People are different, and that’s OK.
Maybe that’s what we could talk to our kids about this morning.
For those parents struggling to convince their daughters that – social pressures and teen breast implant trends aside – beauty comes from within, here’s another helpful news tidbit from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons:
Chin implants, or “chinplants,” are the fastest growing plastic surgery procedures in the nation, with a 71 percent increase in chin implants in 2011. That’s a quicker growth than that of breast augmentation, Botox, and liposuction combined, the group announced in a press release. There are now some 20,680 chin implant procedures (or “chin augmentation,” as it's known in the plastic surgery world) performed in the US annually.
Because I’m just psyched that there will be another body part my one-year-old daughter will be able to worry about some day – another aspect of her appearance to stress over, to feel bad about, to compare to some wacky “ideal” that’s really created in Photoshop and surgery rooms.
Sure, for the moment, the biggest increase in chin implant surgery is among women over 40.
“The chin and jawline are among the first areas to show signs of aging,” ASPS President Malcolm Z. Roth said in a statement. “People are considering chin augmentation as a way to restore their youthful look... We also know that as more people see themselves on video chat technology, they may notice that their jawline is not as sharp as they want it to be.”
(Because, you know, when I’m on Skype on weekend mornings, trying to keep the baby from slamming Legos into my keyboard while adoring grandparents gaze from the other side of the screen, I look awesome.)
But if other plastic surgery procedures are any indication, it doesn’t take long for body part fetishization to trickle down to younger people. Already in 2011 there was a 68 percent increase in chin implants over the prior year among patients aged 20 to 29. And according to the Society’s 2011 statistics, the number of teens aged 13 to 19 going through cosmetic procedures is on a slow and steady climb, with cosmetic surgery on teens making up 5 percent of the procedures nationwide.
There are some shocking jumps within these numbers.
The number of Botox treatments on teens rose 20 percent. Yes, Botox. The procedure that is supposed to make older people look ... like a teen. (Or a teen who can’t quite smile fully. Which some parents think is just a teen. But I digress....)
Breast augmentation continued its steady increase, with 4 percent more procedures – or 8,892 – on kids. (Yes, they’re kids. I’m going to lose it. Really.)
But the biggest jump... you guessed it. Chinplants. Teen procedures make up 9 percent of chinplants in the U.S., with 1,809 chin augmentations done on children in 2011. That’s a 69 percent increase.
But remember, people. Beauty is only skin deep.
And if you figure out how to get that message across to your children, for goodness sakes, e-mail me.
My oldest son, Venti, suffers from a very serious condition. And if any of you have middle school boys (see note at end), they probably have it too. The purpose of this post is not to scare you but to spread awareness. I assure you that it is not simple adolescence. It is called “Whatever-itis” and is often accompanied by “I Forgot-osis” and it can be maddening if you aren’t careful.
Symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Exaggerated sighing
- Immediate opposition to anything suggested by the parental units
- Excessive eye rolling
- Shrugging his shoulders and/or saying “Whatever” in response to any/all questions posed from the parents
- Habitually forgets anything/everything in which he is not interested
- Is charming to any/all adults that are not his parents
Me: Dude, I asked you to change the trash an hour ago!
Venti: I forgooooooot.
Me: If I had asked you to text your friend, you would have remembered.
Venti: *Rolls eyes* Whatever.
Me: Did you take your shower?
Venti: I forgot.
Me: Life skill! It’s a basic life skill!
Venti: *shrugs shoulders* Whatever.
Me: *Head explodes*
And you know what else? My house always smells like feet! HIS FEET! Which, OMG, reeeeeeeeeek! Hence, the shower convo.
But I digress.
Get thee to a spa, ASAP.
Hang out in the peaceful tranquilness (totally a word) until they close and make you leave.
Have plans to meet a friend for coffee or dinner.
Hang out until they close and make you leave.
The kid should be in bed by the time you get home.
NOTE: The same may be said about middle school girls, but I wouldn’t know because of the whole boy thing going on here.
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Lauren Parker-Gil blogs at Spill the Beans.
I remember being 19. I was a newly minted freshman in college far, far away from home. My mother, who had not so secretly expressed her desire that I go to a school several thousand miles closer to home, and I fought a lot. We fought over the phone, and we fought in person when my parents came to campus for visitor’s weekend. Mothers and teenage daughters have been fighting for generations. But the strange and estranged relationship between perennial tabloid fodder Courtney Love and Frances Bean Cobain, the 19-year daughter of Ms. Love and the late Kurt Cobain, has set new standards in the absurdity department.
Ms. Cobain lives with her maternal grandmother after filing a restraining order against Love in 2009, an indication of the already strained relationship between the Hole grunge rocker queen and her only child. But the familial squabbling reached a new level of public low when Love took to Twitter to accuse Foo Fighters front man David Grohl, 43, of trying to seduce Ms. Cobain, the daughter of his former best friend and band mate, Mr. Cobain. The string of tweets from Love’s private account was then captured by gossip site Gawker.
While Mr. Grohl, who has two daughters and a wife of nine years, has yet to comment on the Twitter fracas, Ms. Cobain was furious, telling Lifeline Live, “'While I'm generally silent on the affairs of my biological mother, her recent tirade has taken a gross turn.” She added that she thought Twitter should ban her mother. In return, an apologetic Love retuned to the Internet to offer an apology tweet to her apoplectic offspring, which read, according to Entertainment Weekly, “Bean, sorry I believed the gossip... Mommy loves you.”
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My mother is not a rocker, although she does play a mean Irish fiddle, and has absolutely no interest in a personal Twitter account. But I can certainly sympathize with the frustrations of Ms. Cobain. And as I grew older, and up, I came to realize that our fights – over how to dress, and where to go to church, and how often to call home – were trivial in light of how much she loved me, and I her. The anger and resentment that tainted our relationship in those first years after I first left home dissipated with time, but more importantly, because we kept the lines of communication open. We certainly did not air accusations of a highly personal and controversial nature in a public forum. We did not engage in debates via bullhorn on the campus quad, for example.
Courtney Love is a mother struggling with many inner demons, this has been clear for some time. She does seem to love her daughter, but reaching out via Twitter is not the right way to start a conversation. I can’t really think of a more counterproductive, or inappropriate way, actually. For a family touched by tremendous fame and tremendous tragedy, and one that has lived so long in the spotlight, the path to reconciliation will not be found in 140 characters or less.
One of the largest independent recess programs in the country reduces bullying, improves classroom behavior and creates safer schools – at least according to teachers. Students, however, seem to have a different point of view.
This is from a new rigorous, random assignment study by researchers at Mathematica Policy Research and the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford University, in Stanford, Calif. The researchers compared schools using Playworks – a recess initiative that has won hundreds of millions of grant dollars and is used in hundreds of low income elementary schools – to those that had requested, but did not yet have, the program.
To advocates of Playworks, including chief executive officers Jill Vialet, the findings add to a growing body of research pointing to the importance of play and recess for children.
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“We’re really excited to see the results,” Ms. Vialet said. “We’re not even an anti-bullying program. [The research] pointed to me how clearly bullying is really a behavior. It’s a behavior that can be addressed by emphasizing other behaviors and giving kids skills.”
But take closer look at the study and there are some significant questions, as well.
Most notably, there’s a big difference in how teachers and students perceived the impact of Playworks – a program that gives more structure to recess, with “coaches” leading games, helping kids moderate conflicts and encouraging physical activity.
While teachers in schools using Playworks reported significantly less bullying and exclusionary behavior, there was no difference in student perception of aggressive behavior, the ability to get along with other students or resolving conflicts.
So what’s up?
Susanne James-Burdumy, associate director of Mathematica Policy Research, said researchers have been thinking about why the disparity exists.
It could potentially be study related, she said. While teachers filled out their surveys based on observations of first through fifth graders, the only students to fill out surveys were in fourth and fifth grade. (Researchers worried that younger kids would not give accurate results.) Or, she said, there might simply be different perspectives about Playworks.
“Students and teachers may have different perceptions of what’s happening during recess and during the school day,” she said.
Which leads to another big finding. One of the most statistically important findings was that with Playworks, teachers believe students move more effectively from recess to the classroom.
This, it seems, would make sense. Playworks is structured by design, and began as a way to make the school day easier for teachers – while preserving play at the same time.
Vialet says she was inspired to start the program after talking with principals who told her that recess was the worst part of the day – a time when kids would get out of control and fights would start, often leading into the classroom. She says that it seemed that students were not using recess for the sort of beneficial play that she remembered as a kid.
“What I was seeing out in schools was that the recess I remember wasn’t happening,” she said.
Photo Gallery: Around the world in 16 Babies!
She believed that replicating the sort of sandlot structure of older kids teaching younger kids how to play games – of introducing games like “rock, paper, scissors” to resolve conflicts, of “mapping” out a playground so everyone knew that basketball would be played here and jump rope there – would go far in both making a more fulfilling recess for kids, and a better school day for the grown-ups.
But does an easier time for teachers translate into effective play? Certainly for beleaguered public schools administrators. But for kids?
More results from the study – due to come out in about a year – may give more insight. That data will explore the difference in recess behavior between students in Playworks and non Playworks schools.
After years of speculation and enough tabloid spread to encircle the globe, megastar couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie announced Friday that they will be making it official. Finally. The Jolie-Pitt wedding is sure to be a topic of discussion for, well, the entire run-up to the Jolie-Pitt wedding, with each and every detail picked apart and analyzed in true Hollywood stalker – I mean journalism – style.
Indeed, even the most high brow among us can't help thinking and speculating a bit about any couple finally tying the knot – love is interesting, after all.
But to get you started, Modern Parenthood has compiled some of the key points released, or guessed at, thus far. You can thank us later.
The main story is the ring he put on it, of course. People Magazine, which very unsurprisingly put the couple on its cover, noted the custom made diamond was designed personally by Mr. Pitt. Reported cost: $1 million. Reported weight: 10 carats, at least. Let's hope Angie's hand can support the weight! Jeweler Robert Procop's representative told The Hollywood Reporter that the jeweler and the groom-to-be spent a year finalizing the design.
The Pitt-Jolie brood, on the other hand, now currently holding at six, seems to be taking the proposed change in marital status in stride. However, the globe-trotting family may be heading to the U.K. for the next couple of years, according to a story in The Sun, due to reported back-to-back film commitments for Mama Angelina. The family has a home in France, however, which is where The Sun speculates a European ceremony would occur.
Us Weekly senior editor Bradley Jacobs, however, is predicting a low-key affair, rather than a blow out. The family is known to be generally very private – in fact some people have already wondered at the fairly uncharacteristic “movie star” quality of the announcement. It's all a bit Beyonce and Jay-Z, isn't it? Speaking with the AP Mr. Jacobs said, “I don’t think you’re going to see a bunch of fanfare. It’s certainly not going to be a Kim Kardashian-style wedding.... It’s going to be very subdued.”
For that small minority of Americans unaware of the love triangle from which this new union will be formed, suffice to say that Team Edward and Team Jacob, have nothing on the original Team (Jennifer) Aniston versus Team Jolie rivalry. Friendships were tested by this all-important social issue. Linked since their co-starring turn in the 2005 action romcom “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” there was no small outcry when it was announced Brad was divorcing one of America’s favorite sweethearts.
Although the outrage has generally faded, Jennifer seems to have won that publicity battle due in no small part to the overwhelming popularity of her Friends alter ego Rachel, her unflappable, honey-hued, girl next door hair, and because in her earlier years Angelina wore a vial of a second husband Billy Bob Thornton’s blood around her neck. But Aniston, currently linked romantically to the dangerously dashing Justin Theroux, is reportedly happy for her former husband, according to Hollywood Life. Here’s hoping the news doesn’t result in another spate of “poor Jen,” magazine covers, since it is fairly clear at this point that she is anything but.
There are still so many questions left to be answered, of course. What will the dress look like, and who will design it? How long will the slit be this time? Will Brad wear a tux? Will Angelina wear her hair up? Who will make the guest list? Who will take the pictures, and for how many millions will they then be sold? The list goes on, clearly.
One thing’s for sure, the hype is already beginning, with the media blitz setting its sights on hyperbole of epic proportions. Stephen Galloway, executive editor of features at The Hollywood Reporter, is already making the (rather obvious) parallel between the American stars and the royal wedding last year. “This is really a state wedding,” Mr. Galloway said in an Associated Press story. “This is America’s equivalent to Prince William and Kate Middleton.”
Child injury deaths in the US dropped nearly 30 percent from 2000 to 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported yesterday, but more than 9,000 children still die each year from unintentional injuries such as car accidents and poisoning.
Injury is still the number one cause of death among children; car crashes, suffocation, drowning, poisoning, fires, and falls are the most common ways children are hurt or killed, the CDC reports.
And while researchers and medical experts said the findings meant that more than 11,000 children’s lives had been saved, they also pointed to some new, trends to consider:
Poisoning death rates among children have increased significantly over the past decade, driven, researchers say, by a 91 percent increase among teens. Doctors said prescription drug overdose is the most common form of poisoning in this age group.
“The picture with teens is not that different from what’s happening with prescription drugs for the entire population,” said Ileana Arias, principal deputy director for the CDC, in a conference call with reporters.
Suffocation death rates among infants under one year of age have also increased, by 54 percent.
And while motor vehicle deaths have decreased by 41 percent, they still account for half of all child injury deaths.
“In order to keep our kids safe from injury, we need two main things,” said Julie Gilchrist, a medical epidemiologist in the CDC division of unintentional injury prevention. “First, we need safer environments, reducing the risk of injury for children where they live, learn and play. And second we need empowered parents and other caregivers who have the knowledge and skill to make the right choices for safety every time.”
She said there are many ways to make environments safer: choosing play areas with soft landing surfaces, ensuring homes have well-functioning smoke alarms, and installing fences with self latching gates around swimming pools. Keeping children safe in cars with seatbelts and safety seat and keeping medicines away from children and teens are also key, she said.
More from the “I am not going to let my baby drive until she’s 30 years old,” department:
Young people are the least likely passengers to tell drivers to stop texting and driving or to stop talking on the cell phone, according to a new survey analysis released today from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The finding stems from a U.S. Department of Transportation survey that polled more than 6,000 drivers to “assess the public’s attitudes, knowledge, and self-reported behavior related to cell phones.”
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While nearly all of the respondents considered texting and driving to be “very unsafe,” only a third of the younger respondents (those most likely to either text or to be in the car with someone texting behind the wheel) reported that they would speak up if they were a passenger and the driver was on the phone.
Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood released a statement, once again saying, essentially, c’mon people.
“Distracted driving is an epidemic on our roadways, and these new findings show that our youngest drivers are particularly at risk,” he said. “We’re encouraging young people across America to commit to distraction-free driving, spread the word to their family and friends, and speak up if the driver in their car is distracted.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Around the world in 16 babies!
In case you’ve missed the background, the Department of Transportation has launched a huge “distracted driving” campaign. Although the department is referring to all sorts of distractions – from GPS screens to eating while driving – a main focus of the public health effort is on reducing cell phone use behind the wheel.
It attempts in particular to reach younger drivers. The department's statistics show that drivers younger than 25 are two to three times more likely to send a text or read an email while driving; drivers 18 to 20 years old also report the highest level of phone involvement in crashes or near crashes.
Every few weeks we get even more information about how texting behind the wheel is a really, really bad idea. We also get the rather disheartening statistics about how drivers – especially young drivers – still do it. A lot.
Any thoughts out there about how to change this teen – and adult – behavior?
Prompted by the “mommy wars” political dustup last week (Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen set off a tempest when she said that stay-at-home mom Ann Romney – wife of presidential hopeful Mitt Romney – had never worked a day in her life) the Pew Research Center sent out a roundup of some of its recent studies related to women, work and motherhood.
The studies are fascinating. And taken together, they seem to show what the Ms. Rosen versus Ms. Romney debate also seemed to suggest: As a society, and as individuals, we’re quite conflicted about the best role for mom.
Nearly three quarters of American adults say “the trend toward more women in the workforce has been a change for the better,” according to the Center. And 62 percent believe that a marriage where both partners have jobs and share the housework is more satisfying than the old separate spheres model of the husband working outside the house and the wife taking care of the home.
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(These facts are from two recent Pew reports – “The Generation Gap and the 2012 Election” from Nov. 2011 and “The Decline of Marriage and Rise of New Families” from Nov. 2010.)
But when it comes to working moms, the tone changes.
Take a look at some of these stats from a 2009 report, “The Harried Life of the Working Mother.”
According to that research, only 21 percent of adults say society has benefited by the trend of more mothers of young children working outside the house. And for their part, the majority of working moms (62 percent) say they would prefer to work only part time, while 50 percent of mothers with kids under the age of 5 “completely agreed’ that too many children are being raised in day care centers.
But it’s not, as Rosen seemed to suggest, the wealthy, extra-privileged women who are likely to stay at home with their children. In fact, the Pew studies show, stay-at-homes are more likely to have lower incomes and less education than their working peers.
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Only 21 percent of stay-at-home moms are college graduates, compared to 34 percent of working moms. Thirty-seven percent of stay at home moms report a household income of less than $30,000 a year.
There is one clear statistical benefit that stay at home moms do have over working moms, according to Pew:
“Only” 26 percent of mothers who don’t work outside the home report that they “always feel rushed.” For moms working full time, that number is 41 percent. Part time work doesn’t help much with the crunch – 40 percent of moms with part time jobs said they constantly feel rushed.