Sunday, September 21, 2008

Kids are supposed to bring joy. So why are parents so unhappy?

Bundle of Trouble
Americans harbor a widespread, deeply held belief that no adult can be happy without becoming a parent. Parenthood, we think, is pivotal for developing and maintaining emotional well-being, and children are an essential ingredient for a life filled with happiness, joy, excitement, satisfaction, and pride.

That’s not exactly the case.
. . .
The disconnect lies in the social conditions in which Americans now parent; they’re far from ideal for allowing parents to reap the emotional benefits of having children. Parents cope with stressors that cancel out and often exceed the emotional rewards of having children. Making matters worse, parents and others perceive the strain as a private matter and a reflection of their inability to cope with the “normal” demands of parenthood.
. . .
Of equal importance is the need to take stock of and reevaluate existing cultural beliefs that children improve the emotional health and well-being of adults. These cultural beliefs—and our expectation that children guarantee a life filled with happiness, joy, excitement, contentment, satisfaction, and pride—are an additional, though hidden, source of stress for all parents. The feelings of depression and emotional distress that parents experience can cause them to question what they’re doing wrong.
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Childless by choice, by chance

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Friday, September 12, 2008

The parent rap

Business Standard (New Delhi)
". . .all I asked was that more parents try to wrap their heads around the idea that everyone isn’t lining up to shower “cho-chweets” upon their offsprings and that the responsibility for monitoring their child in a public place rests with them.

This should not be a difficult concept to grasp. But we live in a society where boundless love for children is taken for granted and where people who are very conservative in most things don’t hesitate to ask invasive questions about why a couple hasn’t had a child yet (sometimes even offering suggestions on how to hasten the process).

Naturally, then, if you have the temerity to show discomfort when a child strays into your space, the vibes you usually get from its proud parents are: “But…but…but it’s the fruit of my loins and everyone HAS to love it — how dare you be apathetic to it, you sub-human!”
. . .
In fact, as one of the more sensible commenters on my blog pointed out, “Parents who are capable of respecting the fact that other people may have different points of view, are more likely to be good parents in the first place — the sort who will respect their children’s personal choices in future even if they don’t understand them.”

On the other hand, there’s the anonymous vermin who left this gem: “hey a child is a blessing and BTW when u r old and grey its my child’s taxes that will pay u’r pension and other govt freebies .. kids r the future ..people who dont have kids are selfish and self centred” (sic). I’m suddenly very worried for the future of his children.
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Monday, September 08, 2008

Childfree Citizens in India

Childfree Citizens!
More and more women are now opting to be childfree. Author Manju Kapoor says, “Isn’t it time to be mature enough and accept childfree women?”

For most women caught in a family-trap having a child is part of the ‘marriage deal’. Model Shefali Talwar strongly feels, “A childless woman doesn’t feel incomplete anymore.” Reena Mehra, 32, entrepreneur confesses how her inability to have children often invites sympathy, “But I don’t care.” Dr Manju Khemani, gynaecologist, points out, “The taboo of childlessness is far more acute in the semi-urban towns.” No matter, what heights a woman scales in the corporate world she is declared truly successful only when she becomes a mother. Not anymore. In fact women who are ambitious, don’t want to have children.

Nilofer Kaul, DU lecturer says, “Most professional women don’t feel a sense of being incomplete if they don’t have children.”
The latest childfree phenomenon, as defined by, means a deliberate individual choice of liberating oneself from “the loss of personal freedom, money, time and energy that having children requires”.

How many women are comfortable being ‘childfree’? Dr Avdesh Sharma, believes, “Our society is essentially child-centric.” Joyita Banerjee, an ad-executive, who does not want to start a family in the near future, confesses, “It is easier to get sympathy by saying that I’m trying to start a family. Rather than declaring, ‘I’m not interested’.”

Says Akhila Shivdas, of Center for Media Advocacy, “The fact that the childfree option is available to women, reflects that the family is not an imposition or a sacrosanct norm any more.”
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Much ado about children and 'I do'

Australia: Sunday Morning Herald
Now that I have my own children, I find that times have changed. Most weddings are "no children" affairs. What is a wedding without children? Why should they be excluded from such an important family celebration? Are flower-girls and page-boys being phased out? This is often the only chance that they get to catch up with all the extended family as we are scattered around Australia now.
Ah, yes. because the wedding has nothing to do with the bride and groom celebrating the start of their life together. If you want a family reunion, plan it yourself! You can even plan it around the time of a wedding, to save travel costs for other family members. But do not expect the busy bride and groom to do all the hard work of planning and paying for it. It is not your right to usurp their sacred, once in a lifetime occasion for the purpose you wish it would serve.
The rationale behind not inviting the children to weddings is that it is "too expensive". How much do children eat? Just serve them a plate of vegetables and they are guaranteed to eat nothing, or order in happy meals and it will cost $4 a head.
Either the wedding industry is dramatically different in Oz, or this woman is deluding herself. The majority of professional wedding halls in the U.S. mandate paying full fare for children, no matter what they eat.

But that is not the only purpose children aren't invited. Very often, children will not enjoy a wedding. What toddler likes to sit in a church quietly for an hour? What pre-teen likes to be stuck at a boring dinner with their parents? Add that to the potential disasters on a day already fraught with tension - young children are unpredictable and often noisy. Many a sacred vow has been drowned out by a wailing child.

Unless the bride and groom are close to the child herself, what reason is there to invite her? It really only seems a ploy to save money on babysitting.
The real reason goes much deeper. Children are gradually being excluded from our family lives. The important role that they play in our community is being forgotten. Children are our next generation. They are the reason that we need to stay optimistic, fall in love, move on from the sad times in life and keep on living. Unfortunately they are also noisy, messy, naughty and unpredictable.
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I don't go to these child-free weddings. My official excuse is that all my potential babysitters are attending the wedding. But the real reason is that if the bride and groom don't want my children included in their celebrations then they obviously don't share my family values - and frankly I don't really want to be included either. Harrumph!
You sound like a delightful, reasonable person. I'm sure your presence is sorely missed.
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Bring back Sunday school

The Bolton News: Letters
I HAVE worshipped in several churches over the last few years and I beg, no I demand, that the hierarchy seriously look into child-free churches. Believe me, I would put extra in the offering pot.

I have been jostled, prodded and nearly knocked over, I have listened to endless screaming and crying. Enough is enough. Now I know that there are thousands who would not agree with me, but I also know that there are thousands that would be jumping for joy at the idea.

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