Wednesday, February 18, 2009

TriangleMommies Blogs About "Toddler"

There's a review over at of "Toddler: Real-Life Stories of Those Fickle, Irrational, Urgent, Tiny People We Love." I love the review as Andrea is just the kind of person the book is designed to reach -- someone running around after toddlers who has no time to read but is eager, nonetheless, to find out how other parents are coping with their 1, 2, and 3-year-old terrors. Here's an excerpt from what Andrea has to say about the book:
Hi, everyone! Right now I am reading the absolute best book possible. My daughter turned two last week, and although I've been skimming through this book for a while, I find that it seems to be hitting home a bit more these days. BIG TIME!

I am reading Toddler: Real-life Stories of Those Fickle, Irrational, Urgent, Tiny People We Love, Edited by Jennifer Margulis. And I LOVE IT! It's a compilation of short stories written by mothers and fathers of toddlers. They share their trials and tribulations, stories of protecting their young ones, playing with them, viewing things from the eye-level of the toddler, and much more!

The stories are short and sweet, totally to the point, and easy to sneak a read in while hiding in the bathroom. Come on now, I know I'm not the only one who does that. One dad even used it as the topic of his story, reminding me that we're all in this together.
We didn't pay her to write that. Honest! We don't even know her. But it's very nice to hear that the book is making a parent feel like she is not alone, which is exactly what I hoped it would do. You can read the whole review here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Babies are bad for marriage

I just got this press release from the Council on Contemporary Families:

Old News: Having a Baby Will Save Your Marriage

New News: No, After Having a Baby, Satisfaction With Marriage Goes Down for Most Couples

New New News: Having a Baby Won't Improve a Poor Marriage, but Couples Who Plan the Conception Jointly Are Much Less Likely to Experience a Serious Marital Decline

And Really Good News: Couples Who Establish a Collaborative Parenting Relationship After the Child Is Born not Only Have Happier Marriages but Better-Adjusted Children

In the mid-20th century, marital counselors often advised couples that parenthood would increase their marital satisfaction and adjustment, and polls showed that most Americans believed that true marital happiness depended on having a child. But over the past three decades, a series of studies, including two by Philip and Carolyn Cowan and another 25 studies in 10 industrialized countries, have discovered the opposite. On average, satisfaction with marriage for men and women goes down after the birth of a first child and continues to fall over the next 15 years.

Today, conventional wisdom seems to have swung the other way -- holding that babies bring trouble to their parents' marriage. A recent New York Times article by Tara Parker-Pope (Jan 20, 2009), quoting from the most recent studies, points to the time bind facing new parents and the burden on women resulting from increased household work as factors in reducing marital bliss. She holds out hope to her readers by reporting the finding from a 50-year longitudinal study of Mills College women that couples are likely to re-connect once their children leave home.

For parents of young children, that's a very long time to wait. And it's not good news for the children either, because children are more likely to have social, emotional, and academic problems when their parents' marriage is in distress.

But many of these findings on marital distress in the early childrearing years are based on the uncritical use of averages. More in-depth examination reveals that the averages hide considerable variation. The Cowans' detailed interviews with 96 couples, followed for 6 years after their first babies were born, revealed four different pathways that couples take in deciding to become pregnant and carry the pregnancy to term. First are couples who agree about when to begin trying to become pregnant (about half of their sample). Then there are the couples who "find themselves pregnant" and decide to "accept fate" and go ahead (about 15%). Another set of couples (about 20% of the sample) are still ambivalent when they reach the 7th month of pregnancy. Finally, for some couples who are at serious loggerheads about the decision, one spouse agrees to become a parent only because the other threatens to go it alone (about 10%).

The Cowans found that the average decline in marital satisfaction was almost completely accounted for by couples who (1) slid into having a baby without planning; (2) were still ambivalent about becoming parents in late pregnancy, or (3) disagreed about having a baby but went ahead and conceived without resolving their difference. About half the planners showed increased marital satisfaction or maintenance of their initially positive level in measurements taken when their babies were about 18 months old. ALL the couples where one partner had given in (usually the man) were either separated or divorced by the time their first child entered kindergarten.

Other studies conducted by the Cowans in the 1980s, 1990s, and the first decade of the 21st century, involving 1000 families, identified another important contributor to dissatisfaction with the couple relationship after childbirth, even when both partners equally wanted the child. After the birth of a child, most couples become much more traditional in their approach to housework and childcare. No matter how much they think the tasks will be shared, most women wind up doing more housework work than they did before the birth, and more of the childcare than they expected. The discrepancy between what the couples hoped for and the reality of wives having to take on a "second shift" at home leads to feelings of tension, depression, and sometimes anger in both partners.

To alleviate this source of dissatisfaction, the Cowans have been working with couples in groups, allowing parents with children around the same stage of life (making the transition to parenthood, sending a first child off to school) to share the fact that all are struggling to balance the complex demands of being parents, partners, and workers in today's society, and to get past blaming each other for their stresses. Follow-up assessments show that the couples who meet in the professionally led groups are more likely to maintain a positive view of their relationships, to work together more effectively to resolve disagreements, and to be warm while also setting limits with their children than couples without this resource. Not surprisingly, their children are also faring better in both the preschool, elementary school, and high school years, according to their teachers.

Given these findings and the challenge of having a baby, the Cowans say, it isn't wise for an eager spouse or would-be grandparents to pressure couples to become parents before both partners are ready. In light of the long-term consequences of the transition from being partners to becoming parents on the quality of both adult and parent-child relationships, the decision to start a family should not be rushed. Partners need to start by having a discussion or a series of discussions -- not by making a decision. If both partners can express both sides of their feelings, it is less likely that one partner will carry all the ambivalence for the couple.

When both partners feel they are part of this major family decision, they are more likely to be able to meet the challenges of balancing the needs of both partners in terms of work and family. All this bodes well for their developing relationship with each other and with their child -- and ultimately for their child's sense of security and well-being.

The bottom line? When men and women work together to plan when to have children and then establish a collaborative approach to parenthood when children are young, it's a win-win situation for the couple and for the children.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Calling All Dads (who write)!

Cup of Comfort is looking for essays from fathers on parenting for a new volume called A Cup of Comfort for Fathers. Here's what they say about it:
The connection between father and child can be as deep as the ocean, as strong as a mountain, and as uplifting as fresh air. For all its rewards, though, fatherhood is not without its challenges. And for all the gifts dads bring to their kids' lives, dads sometimes falter and fumble. Yet, the father-child bond forms, holds, and grows. A Cup of Comfort for Fathers will feature inspiring and insight true stories about the life-defining and life-enriching relationships and experiences shared by fathers and their children. These personal essays will be of varying topics and tones (heartwarming, humorous, poignant, provocative, etc.); about fathers and children of all ages and varying circumstances; and written by fathers, daughters, and sons.
The deadline is April 15, 2009.

You can read more about submitting here.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The More the Merrier?

Large families are all over the news and the internet, thanks to the birth last week of 8 human babies at once to an unwed, unemployed mom of 6 in California (oy vay, as if Californians don't already get a bad rap), to say nothing of Angelina Jolie's recent additions to her family.

Which is why there's a long article in the New York Times about large families "And Baby Makes How Many? In the Era of Shrinking Broods, Larger Families Can Feel Attacked."

Writer Kate Zernike interviews several moms of large families, with as many as 12 children, and she writes:
With anecdotes of a boomlet in larger families in places like the Upper East Side of Manhattan and select pockets of suburbia, large families are presumed to be either really rich, having children as status symbols, or really poor, living off the dole and completely devoid of culture.
I found this article very interesting (and it features a photo of a friend of mine, Meagan Francis, who is expecting her 5th and is the author of "Table for Eight," but I read it wondering about the dads? We see them in the pictures but not a single dad of a large family is quoted in the article.

So what do you think of large families? Do you want to have more than 2 or 3 children? Do you think large families are culturally irresponsible or do you think they are a celebration of happiness? We'd love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Let Them Eat Dirt-Germs Are Good For Babies

When our infant swallowed a blade of grass we panicked, wondering if she would have long-term health consequences, but by the time her friend Jonah was walking around playgroup with a dusty cockroach hanging out of his mouth we were a bit savvier and more relaxed about the things kids will explore with their mouths. It was disgusting, sure. But it wasn't going to kill him.

In fact, those dust bunnies and all the other dirt that children are exposed to may just be good for them. According to an article by Jane E. Brody in the New York Times, there are evolutionary reasons that children put dirt and bugs and grime and germs in their mouth.

Brody writes:
"Since all instinctive behaviors have an evolutionary advantage or they would not have been retained for millions of years, chances are that this one too has helped us survive as a species. And, indeed, accumulating evidence strongly suggests that eating dirt is good for you."
It is increasingly thought that exposure to germs helps stimulate the immune system and ward off auto-immune diseases like asthma, allergies, MS, type 1 diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease.

What does this mean for parents with new babies?

1) Let your kids play in the dirt.

2) Don't have a panic attack if they play with their own poop or put dirty wrappers in their mouths.

3) Don't buy any of the conventional antibacterial soaps (here's what the article says about that: ”Dr. Ruebush [author of a book called "Why Dirt is Good"] deplores the current fetish for the hundreds of antibacterial products that convey a false sense of security and may actually foster the development of antibiotic-resistant, disease-causing bacteria. Plain soap and water are all that are needed to become clean, she noted.")

4) Skip the chlorine bleach (you can wash poopy cloth diapers on warm or even cold with biodegradable detergent and they will come out perfectly clean, especially if you are breastfeeding).

5) Don't bathe your baby every day. They only need a bath once a week, and a bit of spot cleaning with soap and warm water in between.