Not Wanting Kids Is Entirely Normal
#1
http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archiv...al/262367/

Not Wanting Kids Is Entirely Normal
Why the ingrained expectation that women should desire to become parents is unhealthy
Jessica Valenti
Sep 19 2012, 2:30 PM ET



In 2008, Nebraska decriminalized child abandonment. The move was part of a "safe haven" law designed to address increased rates of infanticide in the state. Like other safe haven laws, parents in Nebraska who felt unprepared to care for their babies could drop them off at a designated location without fear of arrest and prosecution. But legislators made a major logistical error: They failed to implement an age limitation for dropped-off children.

Quote:Ooops.

Within just weeks of the law passing, parents started dropping off their kids. But here's the rub: None of them were infants. A couple of months in, 36 children had been left in state hospitals and police stations. Twenty-two of the children were over 13 years old. A 51-year-old grandmother dropped off a 12-year-old boy. One father dropped off his entire family -- nine children from ages one to 17. Others drove from neighboring states to drop off their children once they heard that they could abandon them without repercussion.

The Nebraska state government, realizing the tremendous mistake it had made, held a special session of the legislature to rewrite the law in order to add an age limitation. Governor Dave Heineman said the change would "put the focus back on the original intent of these laws, which is saving newborn babies and exempting a parent from prosecution for child abandonment. It should also prevent those outside the state from bringing their children to Nebraska in an attempt to secure services."

On November 21, 2008, the last day that the safe haven law was in effect for children of all ages, a mother from Yolo County, California, drove over 1,200 miles to the Kimball County Hospital in Nebraska where she left her 14-year-old son.

Quote:I understand the purpose of these "safe haven" laws, but what boggles my mind is that it would even occur to someone to leave their 14-year-old behind? Or their entire family? What is happening that makes a person compelled to do this? I wish I could understand...

What happened in Nebraska raises the question: If there were no consequences, how many of us would give up our kids? After all, child abandonment is nothing new and it's certainly not rare in the United States. Over 400,000 children are in the foster care system waiting to be placed in homes, thousands of parents relinquish their children every year. One woman even sent her adopted child back to his home country with an apology letter pinned like a grocery list to his chest. Whether it's because of hardship or not, many Americans are giving up on parenthood.

In February 2009, someone calling herself Ann logged onto the website Secret Confessions and wrote three sentences: "I am depressed. I hate being a mom. I also hate being a stay at home mom too!" Over three years later, the thread of comments is still going strong with thousands of responses -- the site usually garners only 10 or so comments for every "confession." Our anonymous Ann had hit a nerve.

One woman who got pregnant at 42 wrote, "I hate being a mother too. Every day is the same. And to think I won't be free of it until I am like 60 and then my life will be over." Another, identifying herself only as k'smom, said, "I feel so trapped, anxious, and overwhelmed. I love my daughter and she's well taken care of but this is not the path I would have taken given a second chance."

Gianna wrote, "I love my son, but I hate being a mother. It has been a thankless, monotonous, exhausting, irritating and oppressive job. Motherhood feels like a prison sentence. I can't wait until I am paroled when my son turns 18 and hopefully goes far away to college." One D.C.-based mom even said that although she was against abortion before having her son, now she would "run to the abortion clinic" if she got pregnant again.

The responses -- largely from women who identify themselves as financially stable -- spell out something less explicit than well-worn reasons for parental unhappiness such as poverty and a lack of support. These women simply don't feel that motherhood is all it's cracked up to be, and if given a second chance, they wouldn't do it again.

Some cited the boredom of stay-at-home momism. Many complained of partners who didn't shoulder their share of child care responsibilities. "Like most men, my husband doesn't do much -- if anything -- for baby care. I have to do and plan for everything," one mother wrote. A few got pregnant accidentally and were pressured by their husbands and boyfriends to carry through with the pregnancy, or knew they never wanted children but felt it was something they "should" do.

The overwhelming sentiment, however was the feeling of a loss of self, the terrifying reality that their lives had been subsumed into the needs of their child.

Quote: My emphasis. That is EXACTLY what is wrong in this culture. Parenthood is not about self.

DS wrote, "I feel like I have completely lost any thing that was me. I never imagined having children and putting myself aside would make me feel this bad." The expectation of total motherhood is bad enough, having to live it out every day is soul crushing. Everything that made us an individual, that made us unique, no longer matters. It's our role as a mother that defines us. Not much has changed.

"The feminine mystique permits, even encourages, women to ignore the question of their identity," wrote Betty Friedan. "The mystique says they can answer the question 'Who am I?' by saying 'Tom's wife ... Mary's mother.' The truth is -- and how long it's been true, I'm not sure, but it was true in my generation and it's true of girls growing up today -- an American woman no longer has a private image to tell her who she is, or can be, or wants to be."

Quote:I'm trying to wrap my head around this. Our role as a mother is, in fact, part of what defines us. Should it be the only thing? No. But to perceive it as "soul crushing" is both unbalanced and sad.

At the time she published The Feminine Mystique, Friedan argued that the public image of women was largely one of domesticity -- "washing machines, cake mixes ... detergents," all sold through commercials and magazines. Today, American women have more public images of themselves than that of a housewife. We see ourselves depicted in television, ads, movies, and magazines (not to mention relief!) as politicians, business owners, intellectuals, soldiers, and more. But that's what makes the public images of total motherhood so insidious. We see these diverse images of ourselves and believe that the oppressive standard Friedan wrote about is dead, when in fact it has simply shifted. Because no matter how many different kinds of public images women see of themselves, they're still limited. They're still largely white, straight upper-middle-class depictions, and they all still identify women as mothers or non-mothers.

Quote: Again, because that is a biological reality. Not the white part, but the mothers and non-mothers. Being a parent does fundamentally change who you are, not only physically but psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually as well. The issue at hand is the rejection of this reality, not it's depiction.

American culture can't accept the reality of a woman who does not want to be a mother. It goes against everything we've been taught to think about women and how desperately they want babies. If we're to believe the media and pop culture, women -- even teen girls -- are forever desperate for a baby. It's our greatest desire.

Quote: Because it's our biological and emotional programming. Duh.

The truth is, most women spend the majority of their lives trying not to get pregnant. According to the Guttmacher Institute, by the time a woman with two children is in her mid-40s she will have spent only five years trying to become pregnant, being pregnant, and not being at risk for getting pregnant following a birth. But to avoid getting pregnant before or after those two births, she would had had to refrain from sex or use contraception for an average of 25 years. Almost all American women (99 percent), ages 15-44, who have had sexual intercourse use some form of birth control. The second most popular form of birth control after the Pill? Sterilization. And now, more than ever, women are increasingly choosing forms of contraception that are for long-term use. Since 2005, for example, IUD use has increased by a whopping 161 percent. That's a long part of life and a lot of effort to avoid parenthood!

Quote:That is both shocking and not shocking at the same time.

Now, it may be that these statistics simply indicate that modern women are just exerting more control over when and under what circumstances they become mothers. To a large degree that's true. But it doesn't jibe with an even more shocking reality: that half of pregnancies in the United States are unintended. Once you factor in the abortion rate and pregnancies that end in miscarriage, we're left with the rather surprising fact that one-third of babies born in the United States were unplanned. Not so surprising, however, is that the intention to have children definitively impacts how parents feel about their children, and how those children are treated -- sometimes to terrifying results.

Jennifer Barber, a population researcher at the University of Michigan, studied more than 3,000 mothers and their close to 6,000 children from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds. Barber and her colleagues asked women who had recently given birth, "Just before you became pregnant, did you want to become pregnant when you did?" Those who answered yes were categorized as "intended"; those who answered no were then asked, "Did you want a baby but not at that time, or did you want none at all?" Depending on their answer, they were classified as "mistimed" or "unwanted." Over 60 percent of the children studied were reported as planned, almost 30 percent were unplanned ("mistimed"), and 10 percent were unequivocally "unwanted."

The results of Barber's research showed that the children who were unintended -- both those who were mistimed and those who were unwanted -- got fewer parental resources than those children who were intended. Basically, children who were unplanned didn't get as much emotional and cognitive support as children who were planned -- as reported both by the researchers and the mothers themselves. Barber's research looked at things like the number of children's books in the home, and how often a parent read to a child or taught them skills like counting or the alphabet for the "cognitive" aspect. For the "emotional" support rating, they developed a scale measuring the "warmth" and "responsiveness" of the mother, how much time the family spent together, and how much time the father spent with the child. Across the board, children who were wanted got more from their parents than children who weren't. Children who were unplanned were also subject to harsher parenting and more punitive measures than a sibling who was intended.

Quote: This is part of the difference between seeing children as possessions and gifts. A gift is a gift, no matter if it is expected or not.

Barber pointed out that this kind of pattern could be due to parental stress and a lack of patience that's "directed explicitly toward an unwanted child," and that a mistimed or unwanted birth could raise stress levels in the parents' interactions with their other children as well. She also says that in addition to benign emotional neglect, parenting unintended children is also associated with infant health problems and mortality, maternal depression, and sometimes child abuse.

[...]

When Torry Hansen of Shelbyville, Tennessee, sent her seven-year-old adopted son by himself on a plane back to his home country of Russia with nothing more than a note explaining she didn't want to parent him, she became one of the most reviled women in America. Russian officials were so incensed that they temporarily halted all adoption to the United States. We sometimes expect fathers to shirk their responsibility; but when mothers do it, it shakes the core of what we've been taught to believe about women and maternal instinct.

Anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy argued in a 2001 Utah lecture, for example, that being female is seen as synonymous with having and nurturing as many children as possible. So when mothers abandon their children, it's seen as unnatural. This simplistic, emotional response to parents -- mothers, in particular -- who give up their kids is part of the reason Americans have such a difficult time dealing with the issue. As Hrdy says, "No amount of legislation can ensure that mothers will love their babies."

That's why programs like safe haven laws -- age limitations or not -- will never truly get to the heart of the matter. As Mary Lee Allen, director of the Children's Defense Fund's child welfare and mental health division, has has, "These laws help women to drop their babies off but do nothing to provide supports to women and children before this happens."

Unfortunately, discussing the structural issues has never been an American strong suit. Hrdy notes that legislators are too afraid to focus on sensible solutions. "Talking about the source of the problem would require policymakers to discuss sex education and contraception, not to mention abortion, and they view even nonsensical social policies as preferable to the prospect of political suicide."

If policymakers and people who care about children want to reduce the number of abandoned kids, they need to address the systemic issues: poverty, maternity leave, access to resources, and health care. We need to encourage women to demand more help from their partners, if they have them. In a way, that's the easier fix, because we know what we have to do there; the issues have been the same for years. The less-obvious hurdle is that of preparing parents emotionally and putting forward realistic images of parenthood and motherhood. There also needs to be some sort of acknowledgement that not everyone should parent -- when parenting is a given, it's not fully considered or thought out, and it gives way too easily to parental ambivalence and unhappiness.

Take Trinity, one of the mothers who commented on the Secret Confessions board about hating parenthood. She wrote, "My pregnancy was totally planned and I thought it was a good idea at the time. Nobody tells you the negatives before you get pregnant -- they convince you it's a wonderful idea and you will love it. I think it's a secret shared among parents ... they're miserable so they want you to be too."

By having more honest conversations about parenting, we can avoid the kind of secret depressions so many mothers seem to be harboring. If what we want is deliberate, thought-out, planned, and expected parenthood -- and parenting that is healthy and happy for children -- then we have to speak out.

This post is excerpted from Why Have Kids?
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#2
This seems to me like a very clear case of a disordered conception of what life is about.
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#3
(12-09-2014, 03:02 PM)Dirigible Wrote: This seems to me like a very clear case of a disordered conception of what life is about.
f

Yup. Life is not Disney Land; and to be honest, I don't think these people would be happy even if they had never had children. If they can't deal with difficulty and adversity, then they are doomed to live miserable lives, no matter their circumstances.
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#4
(12-09-2014, 05:59 PM)Papist Wrote: Yup. Life is not Disney Land; and to be honest, I don't think these people would be happy even if they had never had children. If they can't deal with difficulty and adversity, then they are doomed to live miserable lives, no matter their circumstances.

Right on. All things are, without God, dissatisfying. This is not at all a difficult observation to make; nearly every religion I can think of makes it, in one way or another.
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#5
This article is so absorbed in passing some ideology that it doesn't notice a major contradiction: if the image women today have is far more broader than those defined by family relations and if indeed the majority of women avoid pregnancy and a lot of pregnancies are accidents, then its absolutely not true that “American culture can't accept the reality of a woman who does not want to be a mother.
Its time these bloody hippies recognize they are not counter-cultural.

All in all this article is pretty chilling. These people are so egotistic, they have no sense of sacrifice. The last quote from ironically named “Trinity” seems to sum up: these mothers, even if planned, just thought it was a good idea, sounds much like the couple the pope cited on his latest interview: they think its a good idea to get married, and they can only think of the party and the ceremony, but not on the substance of it.

Bloody feminists. They live the best lives a woman can live and they complain, and they try to destroy everybody's family. I'm sorry, but since divinesilence is not here somebody has to say it: down with the feminists!!


By the way, this article reminded me of a bit by Louis CK (mind the language)



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#6
(12-09-2014, 07:50 PM)Renatus Frater Wrote: Bloody feminists. They live the best lives a woman can live and they complain, and they try to destroy everybody's family. I'm sorry, but since divinesilence is not here somebody has to say it: down with the feminists!!

LOL, I was waiting for him to show up! I often don't agree with him, but in this case he would be absolutely correct in that sentiment.

(12-09-2014, 05:59 PM)Papist Wrote:
(12-09-2014, 03:02 PM)Dirigible Wrote: This seems to me like a very clear case of a disordered conception of what life is about.
f

Yup. Life is not Disney Land; and to be honest, I don't think these people would be happy even if they had never had children. If they can't deal with difficulty and adversity, then they are doomed to live miserable lives, no matter their circumstances.

I think you express the gist of it pretty good right here.
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#7
(12-09-2014, 07:50 PM)Renatus Frater Wrote: ........

Bloody feminists. They live the best lives a woman can live and they complain, and they try to destroy everybody's family. I'm sorry, but since divinesilence is not here somebody has to say it: down with the feminists!!

You've brought tears to my eyes! I've come to the conclusion that feminists are 1 part envy, 2 parts anger, and 4 parts ego. There's no reasoning with them. They are like terrorists prepared to throw their lives away for a comical reward like "72 virgins" and have no problem using mass destruction to achieve their misguided goals.
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#8
This article is completely missing the point.

Feminism has conditioned women to "do it all."  It's still OK to be a mother in our society, as long as you're not so devoted to it that you forget yourself.

Right now, I'm up breastfeeding my baby.  She usually goes down around 8:30pm and she tends to wake up at 10:30, 1am, 3am, 5am.  Sometimes I can get her to sleep again at that feeding.  Usually if I do, it's 6:45am, which is right when I have to start getting my other child ready for Kindergarten.  The days are GRUELING.  IT SUCKS.  Some well meaning older aunts and relatives of mine say dumb things to me like "Put that baby on a schedule," "Let her cry it out," and "She's needy because you spoil her."  I get a lot of advice but very little support from my family.  What's ironic is that the same relatives who tell me to let her cry it out are the ones who FREAK OUT if I leave her in her car seat/pack & play to cry for even FIVE MINUTES.  She does that whenever I put her down, and these relatives say stuff like "What is going on up thereHuh?"  "You can't just leave that baby to cry like that!  You're going to wake the house up!"  "You can't leave her there like that, no one wants to hear all that crying!"  But for some reason, recommending that I let her cry it out is totally fine when I'm at my house and they aren't there to hear it Smile  So that's the extent of the "support" I get from my family.  LOL.

So averaging about 2 hours of sleep a night for the past 8 months, I am beyond burned out and it's very difficult to find any joy in mothering at this point.  I mostly just resent the people around me who seem to be having nonstop fun.  And that's the thing--society has conditioned women to think they can have it all.  We expect postpartum moms to "get their body back" soon after giving birth.  Your average working mom goes back to work when the baby is TWO MONTHS old.  Two months! I can't even imagine.  I've been going to this Postpartum Depression Support Group, and I'm the only SAHM there.  All the other moms have under 2 month olds and are there crying their eyeballs out because they don't want to go back to work.  And their husbands all expect them to go back to work, because it's what they planned before they decided to have kids.

Little did they know, that becoming a mother completely changes your perspective on what is important.  But there are still all these vestiges of our old lives.  For me, it's like pre-motherhood me and post-motherhood me are two different people.  The pre-motherhood me used to go out and enjoy herself, she had hobbies and interests outside of kids.  She had a career and liked to talk about interesting things.  This is the "me" that my husband fell in love with 7 years ago.  The post-motherhood "me" just thinks about when the next time she's going to shower is... or the laundry.  Or menu planning for the week.  I once went to a night out with my girlfriends (none of whom have kids) and when someone said, "How have you been," all I had to talk about was the decision making process for choosing the right preschool.  But there's this expectation that you have to "bounce back" right away.  As a culture, we don't celebrate the transformation and change that happens when a woman becomes a mother.  We don't make accomodations for the challenges postpartum women face, especially when they choose to breastfeed.  And there's a lot of pressure on these babies to "become independent."  There's a widespread cultural preference for the baby who is less attached to the mother--who will let anyone hold him, who will take a bottle and sit and play independently. 

I've never been at a point where I would drop my baby off at the fire station, but a lof of the time I don't feel the love. It doesn't have a lot to do with my baby (I love her very much and I wouldn't allow her to flip my life upside down if I didn't) but it has to do with the fact that the lifestyle I have as a mom is radically different from the way I used to live.  I often have a sense of grief for the life I used to have....back when I could go to the bathroom for 2 minutes without screaming in the bathroom, let alone take care of myself or have hobbies and interests. 
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#9
Here is an interesting article by Claudia Gold, MD

http://claudiamgoldmd.blogspot.com.tr/20...y.html?m=1

Quote:Is Postpartum Depression Really Postpartum Neglect?

Postpartum depression may be a misnomer. A more accurate term might be postpartum neglect- not by mothers, but of mothers.

The human infant is uniquely helpless in the early weeks and months of life. His arms fly up over his head at random moments in a primitive “startle reflex.” His sleep patterns have no rhyme or reason. He eats and poops round the clock. Serving an evolutionary purpose, in part to achieve an upright bipedal posture, the human brain does 70% of its growth outside of the womb. 

For a new human parent, the young infant’s absolute dependence may translate to no sleep, no showers, no ability to do anything but care for the baby. Harvey Karp has referred to this time period as the 4th trimester. His popular Happiest Baby on the Block series offer advice about what to do for a range of behavior challenges in this time period.

But as pediatrician turned psychoanalyst D.W.Winnicott identified, a mother knows what to do. He referred to this kind of care as “primary maternal preoccupation” a preoccupation that is not only healthy but also highly adaptive. The problem lies in the fact that in contemporary culture new mothers do not themselves have a "holding environment" that supports caring for the baby in the way his immature nervous system requires.
 
In an equally important evolutionary adaptation, the human newborn is available from the earliest hours of life for connection and complex communication.  In a calm, quiet setting, at just a few hours of age a baby will turn to a mother’s voice, follow her face, make imitating movements with his mouth.  He makes himself available for falling in love.

These two evolutionary adaptations come together in the concept as described by J Ronald Lally of the “social womb.” The human infant, with his highly developed capacity for social interaction even from the first hours of birth:
turns this seeming weakness into strength. During this dependent period the human brain is very active, developing more rapidly than at any subsequent period of life. It is picking up clues as to how it should grow, learning what it needs to survive, how to relate to others, and how to fit in and function in various settings and situations.
However, when the expectation exists that a new mother will function as she did before the baby was born, offering this “social womb” may be very difficult. Faced with this expectation, many mothers feel very much alone.

As Winnicott wisely observes, "It should be noted that mothers who have it in themselves to provide good-enough care can be enabled to do better by being cared for themselves in a way that acknowledges the essential nature of their task."

In my behavioral pediatrics practice, whether a child is 2, 5, 10 or 17, mothers frequently describe feelings of deep loneliness in those earliest weeks and months that stand in stark contrast to the cultural expectation of joy and love.

Social isolation, anxiety, sadness, and marital stress color the experience of caring for a newborn who cried all the time, never slept, couldn’t breast-feed. Fussy infants became challenging toddlers. Tantrums, separation anxiety and family conflict define the preschool years. When these children enter the structured school system, problems of emotional regulation may lead to psychiatric diagnosis as defined by the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.)

Primary prevention lies in caring for mother and infant as a unit. In the first 8-12 weeks, brain growth (the infant brain makes 700 connections per second) and with that healthy development, requires care by the mother, or mother figures, in the same way that the mother’s body held the baby in pregnancy- 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

There is an evolutionary purpose to what in this country was once termed "lying in." During a period of 3-4 weeks mothers were able to rest and connect with their baby while a group of women helped with household chores and offered emotional support.

Cultures around the world recognize the need for protecting the mother–baby pair in this way. Contemporary American society, with its unrealistic expectation of rapid return to pre-pregnancy functioning, is uniquely lacking in a culture of postpartum care.

We cannot go back in time to a period when extended family was available to provide a community of support. Nor will we be able or even want to return to a time when mothers stayed in bed for 3-4 weeks after childbirth. But some steps must be taken.

For just as we know that supporting mother-baby pairs leads to healthy development, we know that when early relationships suffer, the long-term consequences, for both mother and child, are significant and worrisome.

To optimize brain growth and development by providing a “social womb”, new families need to be held in the same way that the mother’s body holds the baby during pregnancy. Mother-baby groups, as offered by the Community Based Perinatal Support Model developed by MotherWoman, as well as increased paid parental leave and home visiting programs offer other forms of support, as does recognizing that physical recovery from childbirth does not happen overnight.

Perhaps the first and most important step in promoting healthy development lies in locating postpartum “illness” in its proper place- not in the mother, but in the way our society cares for mothers.
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#10
(12-10-2014, 12:19 AM)JubilateDeo83 Wrote: This article is completely missing the point.

Feminism has conditioned women to "do it all."  It's still OK to be a mother in our society, as long as you're not so devoted to it that you forget yourself.

[...]

So averaging about 2 hours of sleep a night for the past 8 months, I am beyond burned out and it's very difficult to find any joy in mothering at this point.  I mostly just resent the people around me who seem to be having nonstop fun.  And that's the thing--society has conditioned women to think they can have it all.  We expect postpartum moms to "get their body back" soon after giving birth.  Your average working mom goes back to work when the baby is TWO MONTHS old.  Two months! I can't even imagine.  I've been going to this Postpartum Depression Support Group, and I'm the only SAHM there.  All the other moms have under 2 month olds and are there crying their eyeballs out because they don't want to go back to work.  And their husbands all expect them to go back to work, because it's what they planned before they decided to have kids.

First of all... (((hug)))

It's exactly that. We are conditioned to think we can "have it all". We are doing a disservice to ourselves when we promote that line of thinking.

Maybe it would be more helpful if women thought of parenthood, especially that intense parenting that occurs when our children are very young, as a season in our lives. I read recently that the period of time between 0 and is exactly the same amount of time as between 19 and 37, which is exactly the same again as between 38 and 56, which is the same as between 57 and 69, etc. Our lifetimes are long enough that we have time for different seasons - some are about career, some are about family. We need to just focus on one thing at a time.
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