Archive for the 'Parenting' Category

Eight isn’t enough — it’s 14 too many!

February 2, 2009

Meghan Daum at The LATimes and I are in agreement: Implanting eight embryos in a possibly deranged woman who already has six children, no husband and no visible means of support is MALPRACTICE.

Third World infertility: Helplessly horrified

September 16, 2008

Motherhood may be mostly behind me now, but the subject still has the power at times to make me want to weep. Newsweek has a story about the effects of childlessness on women in other countries, particularly the Third World:

“It is very, very difficult for people in the United States to deal with [infertility], and yet, when you go to other cultures, it’s even more devastating to people,” says Dr. David Adamson, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and a board member of the International Federation of Fertility Societies. Worldwide, the World Health Organization says about one in 10 couples experiences difficulty conceiving a child at some point in their lives.

In some developing countries, the consequences of infertility—which can include ostracism, physical abuse and even suicide—are heartbreaking. “If you are infertile in some cultures, you are less than a dog,” says Willem Ombelet of the Genk Institute for Fertility Technology in Belgium. Women are often uneducated, so their only identity comes from being moms. “It [infertility] is an issue of profound human suffering, particularly for women,” says Marcia Inhorn, professor of anthropology and international affairs at Yale University. “It’s a human-rights issue.”

The article reports that many infertile women in poor nations are shunned and banned from gatherings where they might “spread” their “affliction,” and even if the husband is the one who is infertile, the woman usually accepts the blame — and the ostracism. And, of course, Third World women have few recourses in treating infertility, which often has life-long consequences, since elderly childless women have no one to care for them and few other resources. Says Newsweek:

In the Hindu religion, a woman without a child, particularly a son, can’t go to heaven. Sons perform death rituals. Infertile couples worry that without a child, who will mourn for them and bury them? In China and Vietnam, the traditional belief is that the souls of childless people can’t easily rest. In India, the eldest son traditionally lights the funeral pyre. In Muslim cultures, the stigma follows childless women even after death: women without children aren’t always allowed to be buried in graveyards or sacred grounds

This article reminded me of the moment years ago when I stumbled across a little story in Time Magazine that reported on the estimated tens — and maybe hundreds — of millions of “missing” women in Middle and Far East populations due to abortion, infanticide and “honor” killings. I read and reread the article to make sure I wasn’t mistaking it. It was jaw-dropping.

What does one DO with information like that? I’m tired of being helplessly horrified by what I can’t fix or help. I’ve tried to teach my sons to respect and value women. I go out of my way to empower my female friends. I speak up for myself in the face of sexism and, when I can, for women who can’t. But, in the face of such monstrous discrimination and hatred, it seems so little.

That American culture could create a climate where Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin can be taken seriously should be seen as a victory, I suppose. But maybe the status quo is still just messin’ with us.

Adventures at Midlife: Did feminism help?

July 17, 2008

How can you NOT want to read an article that begins: “As you may have heard, some 50 years after Betty Friedan sprang us from domestic jail, we women … seem to have made a mess of it.” Says Sandra Tsing Lo, a regular contributor to the Atlantic, the fruits of the feminist revolution appear to be sisterhood, empowerment — and eight hours a day in a cubicle.

(Her latest article is actually a commentary based around a couple of new women’s books, Linda Hirshman’s funny Get to Work … And Get a Life, Before It’s Too Late and Neil Gilbert’s more scholarly A Mother’s Work: How Feminism, the Market and Policy Shape Family Life.)

After wittily dissecting some of the feminist missteps over the last several decades, Lo ultimately admits to having escaped cubicle hell:

Work … family—I’m doing it all. But here’s the secret I share with so many other nanny- and housekeeper-less mothers I see working the same balance: my house is trashed. It is strewn with socks and tutus. My minivan is awash in paper wrappers (I can’t lie—several are evidence of our visits to McDonald’s Playland, otherwise known as “my second office”). My girls went to school today in the T-shirts they slept in. But so what? My children and I spend 70 hours a week of high-to-poor quality time together. We enjoy ourselves.

Oh, good for YOU, girl, although I would bet she earned her current life by spending several years in the trenches with the rest of us. I considered myself lucky to be able to work part-time and even spend a couple of years at home freelancing when my sons were small. That might be why I now have an office with A DOOR I CAN SHUT and not some cubby hole or other shared space. I didn’t seem to lose momentum.

Although I identify with the feminist camp, I sort of stopped checking in regularly on the women’s movement after Gloria Steinem. For some reason, her blonde good looks, Smith education and smooth delivery made her just another beautiful female I couldn’t compete with, so I sort of opted out of the fight — which, come to think of it, is what I usually do when looks or status factor into any social or business equation. I’ve shed enough blood — and tears — in those arenas to willingly go into combat again.

So what did we win from our feminist ways? Employers now at least have to pay lip service to equality in the workplace, although privately held companies, which don’t have to publish salary scales, are likely still favoring men. Women seem to be more visible in top-tier positions, but there’s a definite lag, particularly considering that in some spheres we make up at least — if not more than — 50 percent of the workforce. And the wage gap remains firmly in place.

In my darker moments, I sometimes think that equality has heaved on me just one more area where I don’t seem to measure up. Society now expects women to make a quantifiable contribution, and my 30-odd years (most of them WERE odd) in the workforce find me still entrenched in middle management — by choice, I must say, to accommodate all the other things I wanted to do. Moving up always meant staying longer and later, and I just didn’t want to. (Admission: Being part of a two-career family made that possible.) At 55+, I’m not enthusiastic about my prospects of moving much further.

SO WHY AM I APOLOGIZING FOR ALL THIS?! Wasn’t it all about choice in the first place? Says Lo of the current flight of advanced-degree-holding women back to Betty Friedan‘s suburban nightmare:

And what are our fallen M.B.A. sisters of [Harvard] doing? Kvells one Harvard-grad-turned-stay-at-home-mom, on the subject of her days:

I dance and sing and play the guitar and listen to NPR. I write letters to my family, my congressional representatives, and to newspaper editors. My kids and I play tag and catch, we paint, we explore, we climb trees and plant gardens together. We bike instead of using the car. We read, we talk, we laugh. Life is good. I never dust.

Wow. Sounds good to me — if you can afford it. It just never seemed like an option for me.

Missing Madeleine

May 2, 2008

Saturday is the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, the little British girl abducted from a Portuguese hotel room while her parents ate dinner just a few steps away. While I expect many Americans are aware of the tragedy, the British are absolutely transfixed by it, and they have been utterly savaging the couple, particularly the mother, Kate. “What mother leaves her child alone in a hotel room?” they demand. I watched the McCanns on the BBC this morning, patiently enduring the same abrupt questions and stinging criticisms they have been subjected to from the beginning, trying to keep the story — and the search — alive.

Um, excuse me, but would all you parents out there who have done something INCREDIBLY STUPID whilst rearing your offspring, please raise your hand? (Oh, COME ON! It’s not only ME!) Just leaving my younger son in the care of his older brother, I discovered, put both of them at risk. (I’ve come home and wiped up blood off the floor, trust me.) I’m just fortunate that my stupidity didn’t result in anything tragic. When I look at the McCanns, I immediately think how easily it could have been me or any number of my friends and relatives. You only have to let your guard down or be distracted for just a moment..

To mark the anniversary, the McCanns have launched a new campaign to try to find Madeleine and other missing children. I was surprised to find that the British do not have an equivalent of an Amber Alert, which has so far helped save some 400 missing American children and is apparently fairly low-cost and low-maintenance.

I’m for giving the McCanns a break and putting all that negative energy into finding out what happened to their little girl. Oh, I know a lot of people, including the Portuguese police, think the McCanns are somehow responsible for her disappearance. But there’s scant proof of that, and it doesn’t help get anyone closer to finding any answers. Or Madeleine.

Update. Be careful what you write about your parenting skills.

What parents know

April 18, 2008

The terrific Tara Parker-Pope — whose writing alone would be worth a NYTimes subscription — has listed the winners of her Well blog’s “What Kids Need to Know” contest, a collection of advice from parents. They’re wonderful. A few of my favorites:

Do not sell any of your old rock concert T-shirts on eBay until you are over 40.

That should be the worst thing that ever happens to you.

Don’t put peas in your nose.

Life is not about surviving the storm, it is about dancing in the rain. (Okay, I admit that one’s a LITTLE gooey…)

Breathe deeply when it’s your turn at bat.

Be good. Remember your manners. And don’t let the silly boys bother you. (It’s my new mantra.)

I’ll let you discover the top five (at the end of her blog). They’re charming.