Tag Archives: Parenting

Can’t Afford to Marry? Have Expensive Kids Instead.

Child giving a kiss to his mother on the cheekThe research is clear. Marriage has become a luxury for the upper classes. The more educated and the higher one’s income, the more likely they are to get married and have children born into wedlock. The less educated, most notably those without any college education, the more likely to choose parenthood before marriage. And the most common reason single mothers site for having children before marriage is “We can’t afford to marry.”

The idea sounds counter-intuitive. Eighteen years of parenting will surely come with a more sizable bill than, say, a small reception at a Hilton Garden Inn. But we are comparing apples to oranges here. For both men and woman, parenthood is a deep-seeded evolutionary need. Marriage is a cultural convention, the usefulness of which is currently under debate.

There are two big problems facing woman today.The first is the partner crunch. As women are surging ahead in education and careers, they are leaving young male peers in their dust. These suddenly “under achieving” men are knocked out of the running as lifelong partners, if only because most women prefer not to date below their league. No matter how much money a woman makes, she still tends to choose a good provider for a wedding groom. And the few alpha males who are earning back and attaining a traditional version of young males success? They are riding the wave of free sex that has come along with the high supply sexual economy. Since men don’t have a fertility window, they can ride this wave well into their forties and marry a woman in her twenties or early thirties.

The second problem for women is the fact that the option of parenthood has an expiration date. Women’s fertility window begins to swing shut at thirty, is reduced to a crack at thirty-five, and closes completely in her forties. And that window of time has competing interests, like work, school, not to mention the frustrating task of sifting through a hook-up culture to find a commitment oriented mate. In the end, single parenthood may look like the only way a woman can keep her genes in evolution’s chain.

Economically, having kids before marriage doesn’t make sense. But emotionally, it’s a no-brainer. Parenthood is often sited as one of the most meaningful events in a person’s life.

FOR PARENTS: How to Forget About Money

Young couple calculating their domestic billsWhen I was in that overwhelming space called new parenthood, I had a giant urge to work more. “Children need a yard. They need a playroom. They need a house,” I rationalized to my therapist. Thankfully, my wise therapist uttered only one sentence to help me surrender to motherhood. “A child’s home is his parent’s body.” With that I exhaled, spent less and focussed on my baby more.

Now new research supports my therapists advice and my own instincts. Elizabeth Dunn and Kostadin Kushlev of the University of British Columbia, staged a ground breaking study where they deliberately distracted parents with thoughts of money and then asked questions relating to parenting and well-being. What they found was a scientific snapshot of what every parent feels when they are taking a business call on their cell phone while caring for children: conflict and frustration. Worst of all, when thinking about money, parents reported few feelings of meaning in parenting. In other words, when we are making money for our children’s well-being, we get decreased feelings of the value of family and children. This effect was more pronounced for women than men.

So, what’s a parents to do? Here are three quick ways to put the love and meaning back in your parenting job:

1. Worry Less. While anxiety about money comes with the territory of parenting, cognitive behavioral therapists teach a kind of “thought stopping” where patients are asked to identify negative thoughts and quickly replace them with a positive thought. For instance, a thought like, “Will I make enough this month for my rent” could be replaced with “We’re so fortunate to be living in such a great apartment.” After a while, the thinking process becomes automatic and is connected with positive mood changes.

2. Put Boundaries on Family Time. It’s important to have time every single day where parents focus on kids and avoid all thoughts of work. Turn off cell phones during those times, so that you won’t get suddenly pulled away from your positive feelings of parenting.

3. Change Your Money Talk. If you find yourself talking about bills, work, stress, and money, change your tune. Children will pick up on that stress and your negative mood will become theirs, and even part of their personality.

Want more? Here’s a video on How Rich Kids Can Appreciate Money:

FOR PARENTS: Why Kids Need To Be Allowed To Hate Their Parents

Recently, I posted a tweet at @DrWendyWalsh that said “In order for kids to understand love they have to be allowed to hate their parents.” This confused a lot of people, so let me explain.

Enforced love to parents such as constant complying, forced apologies, and directives to “change that tone” and “don’t give me that look,” doesn’t teach kids how to love. It teaches them to how fake it. It directswatermark them to push their true feelings underground where they will come up in the most unexpected ways. Well meaning parents might think they are training their kids to put on a public face when they are feeling bad, or perhaps parents simply can’t stand the idea that their kids don’t love them, but being a good parent means being a strong emotional container for the whole family. It means being the strong, stable mast while the sails blow out of control. In order for kids to truly feel loved, sometimes they need to be allowed to hate their parents. As one teenager once told me, “My parents are the only safe place for me to be real, because I know they’ll love me no matter what.”

Now I’m not suggesting that parents have no boundaries, or that they have no rules. But our job is to shape our kids behavior, not their emotions. A good parent can tolerate it when their child is mad at them. A strong, loving parent who gets the kid eye-roll or sneer, or even the scream of “I hate you!”  after a rule has been enforced simply says, “I know you’re mad at me, but I still love you.” That’s the best medicine a kid can ever get from a parent. The knowledge that they are loved no matter what. And that’s how children learn how to love themselves and love others. That is true love.

FOR PARENTS: The Consequences of Killing Santa

op-santa-14I remember the conversation with my parents like it was yesterday. I was ten years old and I could feel my ability to imagine slipping away. This startled me so much that I sat my parents down and gravely told them that something very bad was happening to my brain. “The fairies are leaving,” I told them. “Just months ago, if I imagined a fairy, she was right there in front of me, but now it’s getting harder and harder to make her appear.” My parents giggled, of course, at this cute childish analysis of a maturing brain.

Psychologists know that children have evolved to have magical thinking, both as a way to grow intelligence and for emotional protection. According to Kevin Volkan, Ph.D., psychology professor at California State University, Channel Islands, “In our hunter/gatherer past, imagination was a very important skill needed for planning. And when vulnerable children feel afraid, going to their “special place” can be calming. In the most extreme examples of child abuse, an active imagination can contribute to dissociative personality disorder.”

But for the average kid, a natural imagination allows them to accept the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause quite readily. But challenging these cherished beliefs can cause stress to a child who is not ready to let go of the magic in their lives.

A professor of marriage and family therapy at Kansas State University, Jared Durtschi, says there isn’t one set age where kids stop believing the sweet old elf in the red suit. In fact, many children have a transition period that can last for years. And it’s important to know that even though a younger sibling may echo the words of older sibs, that “Santa isn’t real,” he or she may still be flirting with the idea but counting on a parent to reconfirm that this cherished “security blanket “is still available.

But when parents hasten the maturation by bursting a child’s bubble, it can cause anxiety and fears. Those magical characters are some of the greatest comforts a child can have. So, even if your nine, ten, or eleven year old tells you they know “the truth” helping them keep the magic for a little longer can give them an emotional coping mechanism.

FOR MOMS: Creating a Village From The Get Go

MDG : Maternal Health : group of women with babies sits outside a clinic in RwandaHumans are wired to bond. We don’t do well in isolation. Neither do new parents. Our hunter/gatherer ancestors had an instant village of people with a biological interest in a new baby — grannies, aunties, uncles, teenaged siblings, and parents. In fact, many anthropologists think that a preverbal infant’s need to decode this network of faces and voices was a big factor in the evolution of our intelligence.

However, with the mobility required for an efficient workforce in modern capitalism, most new parents live away from relatives. But the lack of a granny doesn’t mean you can’t create a village from the very beginning. It can help you and your baby. Isolation has been linked to postpartum depression in new mothers, and babies respond positively to consistent multiple care givers. (I used the word “consistent” on purpose. A revolving door of caregivers and strangers can create attachment problems and anxiety in small children.) Here are three ways that new or expectant mothers can begin to create a nurturing village:

1. Start before you give birth. Collect every email and phone number you can from that pregnancy yoga class, baby CPR training, or labor prep group. You’ll likely be giving birth within weeks of each other and will have an instant group to reach out to when you run into a new mother speed bump.

2. Go online. There are thousands of mommy bloggers and parenting websites (For education, my favorite is KidsInTheHouse.com) and plenty of them have chat groups and real world mom’s groups that meet right in your neighborhood. Don’t be shy. Reach out. I promise, there’s another new mother living very close to you who can help you carry your burden.

3. Create a mommy co-op. This is the single best way to bond with mom’s and find some time for yourself. Post notices at neighborhood playgrounds and on your online social networks and create a baby play group. A reasonable number would be five to eight parents. After, a few weeks, when everyone has gotten to know each other and the babies bond with the other mothers, have two moms leave for some free time each week. That’s your village creating free child care.

Here’s my video on the importance of a mommy village: