WHEN YOUR SPOUSE IS MENTALLY ILL

 

spouse-mental-illnessThis post is about how to recognize when your spouse seems to be showing actions and behaviors that are detrimental to establishing a successful marriage that are more than the general “insecurities” we all have and are responsible for managing.  I will also talk about what to do when you begin to think that your partner may be suffering from a mental/emotional illness, and how to be married to someone who is mentally ill.   There are links to sites addressing bi-ploar disorder, debilitating anxiety, clinical depression, schizophrenia, alcoholism, drug addiction, and serious personality disorders such as narcissism, paranoie, and borderline personality in the context of marriage.  I will provide an introduction to deciding when and how to divorce a mentally ill spouse.

How Do You Know?

An article in the Huffington Post in 2012 written by Sandy Malone, a former journalist turned wedding planner, was right on target when she asked:

“How do you know and what do you do when your wife or husband starts suffering from a psychological condition?  How can you tell the difference between a series of bad days and a real problem.  How is a husband or wife to know when their occasionally moody spouse has gone from having a ‘glass is half-full as attitude’ to actually suffering from clinical depression?”

While Malone says it’s really hard to know, she notes that mental illness may manifest itself in your marriage as big and nasty fights, sustained silent standoffs, and/or withdrawing from sexual contact.  When fights or standoffs persist despite your efforts to look at yourself first, making repeated attempts to identify issues that bother your spouse, and making repeated attempts to negotiate issues.  When nothing works, it may be time to start thinking that something different than just marital conflict is occurring.

Often people are battling depression, anxiety, or other devastating mental disorders without understanding what is happening.  As Malone notes a young mother may fall apart and be labeled “overwhelmID-100277147ed”, under “stress”, or getting the “baby blues” when it is really post-partum depression.  Your husband having a panic attack may look just fine while inside he thinks he is dying.  He may not share this with you because of embarrassment and fear of being seen as “crazy”.  A mother suffering from bi-polar disorder may stay up of all night working on a work-project and then just barely be up to get the kids to school and home on her day to take care of the children.

Malone notes that you may get through specific episodes of mental illness.  You may say nothing to each other or you may have a fight.  Neither of you wants to remember the turmoil and the things you may have said to each other.  Not dealing with the rising fears about what is happening only serves to undermine further your marriage.   As the less impaired, less stressed spouse it is likely you will hold back worries and concerns so as to not overload your spouse.  Holding back like this only increases the difficulties for your spouse even if he/she does not fully understand what is happening.

Taking the First Step

So what can you do if you think your husband or wife may be suffering from mental illness or psychological problems? You can take a page from what we have learned about confronting the problem of alcoholism or alcohol/drug addiction.  Here are several suggested steps.

  1. Do not confront you spouse in the midst of an argument, etc. Choose a good time to initiate a conversation with your spouse about his/her behaviors/actions that you are concerned about and that have a negative impact on you and the marriage.
  2. Express your concerns. Talk about your worries, trying not to lecture.  You may have to work to imagine yourself in his/her shoes in order to be gentle and kind.  Give as clear examples as you can about the problems you are experiencing, e.g. “When you get angry, you are not able/willing to tell me what you are angry about.”  “We no longer have sex; I miss our intimacy.”  “When you drink too much, you get sullen and won’t talk to me.”  These kinds of clear statements directly state the problem and the negative results that happen.
  3. Find you what your spouse thinks in a neutral way. Next, ask him/her if these actions are a problem for him/her too.  Wait for him/her to answer. If he/she agrees that he is having a problem, you may want to ask questions like, “Why do you think you are having a problem with ___________?”  “What do you think you can do about ____________________?”  If your spouse can acknowledge that he/she is having difficulties, you can begin to negotiate the next steps to seeking help.
  4. Chip away at their refusal to address the problem. If you spouse denies that they have a problem, don’t expect to overcome their denial with the “blunt hammer” of rationality.  Instead, continue to try to express your concerns and addressing their excuses from a place of compassion, rather than judgment.
  5. You can put limits on your relationship. If your spouse is continually unwilling to get help and continues to show the problematic behaviors and actions despite your efforts, you may need to set clear boundaries on your relationship. For example, tell him/her that you cannot spend time with her/him when they act in the problematic way you have described.   It may come to telling him/her you need a break until they’re willing to seek help.  Explain that you care and want to help, but that his/her actions are having too big of a negative impact on your life.  In the short term, this will likely lead to resentment, but in the long term it may lead to your spouse beginning to recognize the impact of his/her behavior on those around them.
  6. Consider getting professional help.   If your spouse won’t cooperate, make an appointment with a physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist to go to together so that you can discuss the concerns you have about your spouse.  If you spouse will not cooperate, go on your own to get further help and guidance on how to proceed.

Advice on how to live with a mentally ill person 

There is a very good article “Along for the Ride” on the blog BrainPhsics.com written by a woman about a husband with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) describing her excruciating tale of what they both went through before identifying the problem and getting treatment.   Here are several important things this wife has to share about how to manage living with a mentally ill person.

  1. Know your enemy. The more she learned about William’s (her husband) illnesses, the more she was able to understand his behavior.  This allowed her to be more empathetic toward William and to be more positive about his treatment.  Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by intrusive thoughts followed by rituals aimed at warding off the anxiety-provoking obsessions. This explained the bizarre sexual thoughts and William’s subsequent, drastic actions.   In her words, “Although much of the time it felt like my husband was the enemy, the illness is the true enemy. If your spouse has a mental illness, arm yourself with as much information as possible. A full psychological evaluation is critical. Read books, talk to the doctors, and even take a class if you have time. The more you know, the easier it will be to sort out the illness from the one you love.”
  2. Get the right kind of treatment It may take a while to find the right treatment for the particular illness your spouse has. You can read the individual stories I have provide in this post that make suggestions about different approaches for different illnesses.  For example, it took several years for William to settle on a combination of Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT) and the judicious use of the antidepressant Zoloft.
  3. Do not participate in your spouse’s illness.William’s wife thought she was being supportive by offering continued reassurances and listening to William’s confessions, which turned out not to be so helpful.  She heard of cases where spouses enabled an ill spouse with his or her irrational OCD rituals.  Talk to your spouse’s clinician about what your role in the treatment should be. You can affect your spouse’s recovery for better or for worse.  However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can cure your mate. The illness is his responsibility.
  4. Remember, you are the healthy one! When your spouse is not thinking clearly, which can happen in any illness, he or she may try to convince you that you are the one with the problem. You may start to question your own judgment at times. Do not allow your partner’s disordered thinking to affect your self-esteem; trust your own judgment.
  5. Get family counseling/therapy. It is likely that keeping your marriage intact will require couples and/or family therapy.  In addition, this is one of the best ways to learn how to be helpful to your ill spouse.  Make sure you find someone who has a good understanding of your partner’s disorder.
  6. Get support. As William’s wife says, you can’t do it alone.  You impaired spouse cannot be your only source of emotional support.  Maintain as many friendships as possible. Find a support group for yourself and go to meetings for family members with the illness your spouse has.  This is a great source of education and coping strategies.
  7. Keep going with your own work and social activities. It’s important for you to continue with your own life activities; continue the things you do without you spouse.  You need to have a life of your own, which can sustain you if/when the next bout of the illness occurs.
  8. Have realistic expectations. Even when your spouse is being successfully treated, he/she may still act in ways that surprise you.  William’s wife, for example, asked him to take her to the doctor when she began to miscarry a pregnancy.  William suggested she go alone, because he had so much work to do, even though he had taken a leave of absence from work.  After the fact, she realized that his anxiety impaired his ability to respond appropriately.
  9. Help others. William’s wife found that after several months of attending her family support group she had something to offer others who were just beginning on the road to recovery.  This felt good to her and she later joined other relevant associations.  She felt helping others gave some meaning to what was the worst experience she had ever endured.
  10. Expect setbacks.  Remember, a relapse can happen even with excellent treatment.   With most mental disorders there is no cure; there can be effective ongoing management of the condition.  It is important to understand that there will be setbacks; knowing this may make it easier to handle when they occur.
  11. Recognize progress.  During times of difficulties or setbacks, it is important to recall the progress in treatment that your spouse has made.   The more you know about the illness and the better your relationship, the more likely that you can manage this.

William’s wife ends her comments with:                “

 “Though I’m grateful that we’ve made progress and found

some good treatments, I reflect soberly on the losses and

many unknowns. I lost my husband for over a year and still

don’t know who he is much of the time. I’ve lost many of my

‘friends,’ our church, my sanity at times, and even our unborn

child. I realize that life has no guarantees, that my husband

or children might wrestle with the same demon on another day.

I hate the struggle, but I know I’ve come out stronger. Though

I don’t have any satisfying answers yet, I turn to God for strength.”

A list of references

Here is a list of articles by spouses dealing with specific illnesses.  Hearing someone else’s story is a great way to get a handle on what may be happening in your life.

Alcoholism:  Guide to Living with an Alcoholic.  DualDiagnosis.org.  (http://www.dualdiagnosis.org/alcohol-addiction/guide-living-alcoholic/).  The Secrets to Helping an Alcoholic Family Member or Friend.  Discover Place.  (https://www.discoveryplace.info/secrets-helping-alcoholic-family-member-or-friend

Asperger’s.  Dealing with an Asperger’s Husband: Tips for married couples.  (http://www.adultaspergerschat.com/2012/04/dealing-with-aspergers-husband-tips-for.html)

Bi-Polar Disorder.  I lost my husband to bipolar disorder.  Sue Sanders and Francesca Castagnoli.  (http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/24/health/change-mind-real-simple/)

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD):  Living with and Loving Someon with Borderline Personality Disorder.  Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. PsychgCentral.  (http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/11/15/living-with-loving-someone-with-borderline-personality-disorder/) http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/11/15/living-with-loving-someone-with-borderline-personality-disorder/psychcentral.com/…/living-with-loving-someone-with-borderline-personality-disorder

Depression:  How to Deal with a Depressed Spouse.  Sari Harrar.  http://www.rd.com/health/wellness/how-to-cope-with-a-depressed-spouse/

Narcissism:  7 Strategies for Dealing with the Narcissist You Love.  Dr. Craig Malkin.  The Huffington Post. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-craig-malkin/7-strategies-for-dealing-_b_5192851.html)

Paranoid.  7 Tips for Coping with a Paranoid Partner.  Carrie Barron, M.D. Psychology Today. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-creativity-cure/201601/7-tips-coping-paranoid-partner)

Psychosis:  My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward.  Mark Lukach.  The Pacific Standard, January, 2015.  (https://psmag.com/my-lovely-wife-in-the-psych-ward-2edac99d046e#.rnmiloo9q)

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury):  To the Spouses Who are Enduring Hell.  (http://armyreservistwife.blogspot.com/2010/06/to-spouses-who-are-enduring-hell.html)

When do you consider divorce?

Deciding to divorce a spouse who has a mental illness is painful and complex decision.  There will be enormous social pressure and guilt in deciding to end your marriage to someone who is mentally ill.  After all, you took those wedding vows to be married “in sickness and in health”.  You will need a lot of help to make such a decision.  I strongly recommend that you seek professional support advice in making this decision. As an introduction, I suggest taking a look at a blog by Mandy Walker who is a Divorce Coach and Mediator.  Her blog is called “Since My Divorce, Easing the Pain and Stress of Divorce”.  Take a look at “Deciding to Divorce when your Spouse has a Mental Illness” posted on February 19, 2014.

The post begins with a poignant story about a husband with a bi-polar wife and two young sons.  Here is an excerpt from Jeff.

“I’ve drawn a boundary for myself. No matter what she does,

I have that promise to myself. I’ve had to really try hard to

stick myself to that promise and she’s actually helped me keep

it by being worse. Now, she’s rebounding and going through

the good phase of the cycle, now, she’s medicated, it’s going

to be a lot for me to break that promise to myself and remain

with her.  I don’t feel guilty about wanting to divorce and I’m

not even angry with her.  I know she has a disorder and she’s not

choosing to behave this way, but I have to keep her at arm’s

length. If I was angry with her, it would just create more

opportunities for her mania and episodes.”

Here are a few of Walker’s suggestions as you consider leaving or divorcing a mentally ill spouse, which is a very complex decision to make.

  1. Separate the decision to end your marriage from taking the steps to end your marriage
  2. Deciding how will be easier to figure out once you believe divorce is the best option for you
  3. Learn as much as you can about your spouse’s condition (typical symptoms, treatment, on-going issues, long-term prognosis) so you can formulate a future picture and get a handle on the possibility for change
  4. A legal separation may address concerns you have with breaking your marriage vows
  5. Think in terms of a loving detachment that involves:
    • Recognizing the process will take time
    • Considering how to help you spouse to be self-sufficient
    • Creating a parenting plan that keeps your spouse involved in a way that I safe and feasible
    • Not holding your spouse’s condition against him/her in order to penalize her/him
    • Leaving without anger or resentment

 

WHEN MOM AND DAD SHARE IT ALL

Creating HIP MarriageThis post is about how to achieve a HIP marriage (High Investment Parenting) touted by Richard Reeves in his 2014 article in The Atlantic, titled How to Save Marriage in America”.   As Reeves notes, having this kind of marriage is a huge commitment of time, energy, money and attention to all aspects of the care and development of children.  Because of the significant change in women’s economic and social status, HIP marriages are recasting family responsibilities with Mom and Dad sharing the roles of both child-raiser and money-maker.  This takes the juggling, trading, and negotiating.

Let me introduce you to Marc and Amy Vachon who are very committed to the idea of equally shared parenting.  They are well described in an article, “When Mom and Dad Share It All“,  written by Lisa Belkin for the New York Times in 2008.  As Belkin described, the Vachon’s have designed their lives to prioritize home life.  The primary elements that help them keep their lives afloat are lightened workloads and what Amy calls the “bravery” to stand up to gender stereotypes.

Amy and Marc both worked 32 hours a week.  They didn’t divide up childcare and household tasks or divvy up specific responsibilities, nor keep track of who has done what.  They each took responsibility for all aspects of parenting their two children on separate days.  After their first child was born, the couple negotiated part-time schedules.  Amy worked four days a week, Monday through Thursday and Marc worked three ten-hour days, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

They divided their childcare responsibilities (getting the children up, feeding them, getting them to daycare or school, etc. etc.) based on who was working what hours on a given day.  For example, if their daughter wanted to schedule a visit with a friend (a play date) on Thursday, Marc took charge of the arrangements because that was his day with the children.  If their son had a play date on Monday, Amy took responsibility.

Amy and Marc continually stayed alert and monitored how things were being shared between them.  To avoid skirmishes about parenting or household tasks, they had to decide together what the standards they were going to live with.  For example, did they want to work toward a set nap schedule? Yes.  Did their daughter’s outfits have to match perfectly? No.  How neat did the house have to be?  (Remember the post “The Case for Filth”).   What constitutes “doing the laundry”?  How often do we need to vacuum?

For the Vachon’s, consensus emerged over time.  They gave up being “experts” on anything since such expertise is usually involved a gender stereotype.  They each had the privilege of doing things the “wrong” way, i.e. not “my” way.  An example cited by Belkin is Marc’s wanting to “party in the tub” with their daughter when she was a baby while Amy thought this was not the best way to ease a baby toward sleep.  They also did not compare themselves to what other mothers and fathers do, e.g. Marc once saying he did more around the house than any other man he knew.

Amy had to work to accept that she was likely to be blamed if Marc failed to write thank you notes.  Sometimes the tasks they did would fall along traditional gender lines.  The point is not to default to gender-driven roles but to think things through and talk about it.  They worked hard at not nagging, at having no passive-aggressive forgetting, feigned incompetence, and no honey-do lists.

Amy and Marc published a book, Equally Shared Parenting: Rewriting the Rules for a New Generation of Parents in 2010.  They also have a blog, Equally Shared Parenting: Half the Work, All the Fun, which will be most helpful to you in your quest for equally shared parenting.

In addition to Marc and Amy, Belkin also talks about several other couples working toward sharing parenting.  In addition, Katherine and Roger Kranenburg are another example of what more and more American parents are striving toward: parity in parenting.  They are introduced to us by Janice D’Arcy in a 2013 Washington Post magazine article.  The Kranenburg’s talk about the difficulty in creating and maintain parenting parity in their marriage.

Another significant resource for you as you try out equally shared parenting which the Vashon’s and others introduced in the Belkin article relied on is The Third Path. This is an organization begun by Jessica DeGroot who with her husband, Jeff Lutzner, who have lead the life of what they call “shared care”.   This organization is a wonderful source of information about finding new ways to redesign work and to create time, for family, community, and other life priorities.

As Lisa Belkin notes, there are lots of Marc’s and Amy’s throughout the county who are suggesting something simple—Gender should not determine the division of labor at home.

When There is Strong Social Support

Jennifer Senior in her article on how difficult parenting can be referenced one well-designed study done with European parents, which found that countries with stronger welfare systems produce more children—and happier children.  Of course, such a finding should not be a surprise.  Here are the benefits that such countries provide parents:

  • A year of paid maternity leave
  • Affordable childcare
  • Free education
  • Free healthcare

Judith Warner, author of Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety” notes that in the United States compared to European countries, we put our energy into being perfect parents instead of political change that would make family life better.

Marriage historian Stephanie Coontz is aware of the barriers parents are up against as they try to change the child-rearing rules.  Coontz says that couples need to be less indignant with each other and more indignant with society.  Our work demands, our familial infrastructure, the schedules of schools and offices remain fixed in a two-parent, single-income world.

As Jennifer Senior says, more generous government policies, a sounder economy, a less pressured culture that values good rather than perfect kids—all of these would certainly make parents happier. But even under the most favorable circumstances, parenting is an extraordinary activity, in both senses of the word extra: beyond ordinary and especially ordinary.

Some Practical Advice

There are scads of web sites and books about bringing up healthy and happy children. Don’t forget, you will get lots of advice, good and bad, from friends and relatives.  You will want to try to seek out the best advice you can get about how to raise each child.  Here are a few tips on how to sort out parenting resources.

Nancy Heath, Ph.D., Director of  Human Development and Family Studies Programs at American Public University has given us a few good pointers about for choosing parenting resources:

  • The advice should build your confidence as a parent, not make you feel inadequate. There are few ironclad rules about how to be a good parent, so there is no reason for any resource to take a critical attitude toward how you are raising your children.
  • Seek at least one resource that talks about normal developmental milestones. Don’t get too hung up on what’s normal.  Use these developmental milestones as general guides not as fast rules by which to measure your child
  • Assess whether the resource is based on scientifically-established child development principles. Authors have their own approach to raising children, which should be grounded in proven research.  However, choose another author if the advice makes you feel frustrated or incompetent.
  • Choose resources that help you enjoy your child. Heath believes that the best parenting advice of all is to have fun with you kids.  Remember, developing a trusting relationship with you is more important than the management and control of your children.

Below you will find a list of parenting books that Kristen Kemp from Parents Magazine says have stood the test of time as relaible guides to turn to.Parenting Books

A Few Last Words

References

Lisa Belkin. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.”  The New York Times Magazine, June 15, 2008.

Richard Reeves. “How to Save Marriage in America.”  The Atlantic, February 12, 2014. (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/02/how-to-save-marriage-in-america/283732/)

Jennifer Senior.  “All Joy and No Fun: Why parents hate parenting.” The New York Magazine.  July 4, 2010.

Moira Weigel.  “The Foul Reign of the Biological Clock”.  The Guardian, May 10, 2016.  (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/may/10/foul-reign-of-the-biological-clock)

 

 

 

 

PARENTING: THE BAD NEWS AND THE GOOD NEWS

Good News Bad News

According to the British Psychological Society, there is a widespread belief in every human culture that children bring happiness.  When they think about parenting, parents tend to conjure up idealized images of perfect children.  As noted by this psychological group, “…even when the prospective parents understand that raising a child will be painstakingly difficult, they tend to think quite happily about parenthood, which is why most of them eventually leap into it.”

From the perspective of the species, it’s perfectly understandable why people have children.  From the perspective of the individual, however, it may seem more of a mystery.  Most people assume having children will make them happier.  However, research often seems to suggest otherwise:

  • Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winning behavioral economist, found child care ranked 16th in list of pleasurable activities (even housework was ranked higher)
  • British economist Andrew Oswald found among tens of thousands of Brits with children compared to those without that it isn’t that children make you less happy; they just don’t make you more happy
  • Sociologist Robin Simon from Wake Forest University found that parents are more depressed than non-parents.
  • Daniel Gilbert, Harvard professor of psychology and best-selling author of “Stumbling on Happiness”, notes that while we refer to children as “bundles of joy”, they are not a source of happiness. “Once people have kids, there’s a downturn in happiness,” Gilbert says, which isn’t reversed until the kids move out.  “Of course we love our kids,” said Gilbert. “I never said don’t have kids,” but the scientific data is tough to refute.

Choosing to have children

It used to be that you just had children; you didn’t stop to think about it.  It’s different now.  We have choices, and most of us choose to have children.  Christine Overall, in her book “Why Have Children: The Ethical Debate” proposes that the choice to have children calls for more careful reasoning than the choice not to. Overall explores how we might think systematically and deeply about this fundamental aspect of human life.  She talks about several perspectives on the this choice including issues of reproductive rights, religious values, family values, and political values.   She also talks about the anticipated consequences of the decision for both individuals and society.

Overall also points out the gendered nature of the decision.  While both you and your spouse have to think about the choice, the choice has different meanings, implications, and risks for women thaID-100107216n it has for men.

In the end, she offers a novel argument. She proposes that the best reason to have children is to establish the biological parent-child relationship–which is not only genetic but also psychological, physical, intellectual, and moral.  For Overall, the formation of that relationship is the best possible reason for choosing to have a child.

Traditional Parenting

We used to view children differently

While historically children were viewed as economic assets to their parents, in modern times childhood has increasingly become a protected privileged time.  Once college degrees became essential to getting ahead, children became subjects to be stimulated, instructed, and groomed for success.  As one writer notes, “Kids, in short, went from being our staffs to being our bosses.”

Middle- and upper-income families tend to see their children as projects to be perfected.  These families spend much time talking to children, answering questions with questions, and treating each child’s thought as a special contribution.  All of this is very tiring work; yet parents feel they are putting their child at risk if they do not give them every advantage.

Parents of all incomes are spending more time with their children now, including working mothers.   While today’s married mothers have less leisure time and want more, they still think they don’t spend enough time with their children.

The bad news

A 2003 meta study (a study of studies) found the usual result the couple’s overall marital satisfaction went down when they had kids.   People start out marriage with high marital satisfaction as you can guess.  It goes down when the couple has children, and rises when the children leave home.  This result shows up regularly in relationship research.

In addition, the research also shows that mothers are less happy than fathers, that single parents are less happy than married parents, that babies and toddlers are the hardest to parent, and that each successive child produces increasing unhappiness.

Surprisingly, research has also found happiness with life decreases even if parents are well enough off to buy more child care.   Couples that become parents later in life may experience a greater loss of freedom and a loss of autonomy as they have children. It may also be that the longer they wait to have children, the greater their expectations about what kids will bring to them.

The good newsID-100124369 (1)

The good news is that there is newer research that expands on the impact children have on us.  Matthew White and Paul Dolan, two British academics, demonstrate why having kids may be a good idea after all.  They figured out that measuring happiness and satisfaction can be improved upon if you measure thoughts and not just feelings.

What they found, reported in the Research Digest (digest.bps.org.uk) is based on a study of 625 participants who completed an on-line questionnaire about their previous day, which generated an average of ten episodes per person.  These episodes included; eating, reading, time with children, watching TV, and commuting.

Their findings confirmed other research measuring pleasure from these kinds of activities, i.e., that we spend a lot of time doing things we don’t find pleasurable, including “work” and “shopping”.  “Time with children” and “sex” ranked about mid-way on the pleasure scale, far below “outdoor activities” and “watching TV”.

However, when they had the participants rate the reward from engaging in these same activities, “work” was the top scorer with “time with children” not far behind.

White and Dolan conclude that if you look only at the pleasure of an activity, like spending time with your children, you will conclude that this is having a “bad time”.   But, when you consider how rewarding spending time with your children is, you will conclude that you are having a good time. So, spending time with children may not always be pleasurable, but it may by quite rewarding.

Here is a schematic which shows the more complex understanding about how we experience our time with our children and other life activities.

RewPleAct

 

Daniel Gilbert thinks that children actually offer “moments of transcendence” like when your child says “I lub you” after spending 5 difficult hours with your 5 year-old.ID-100238653

Richard Reeves of the Brookings Institute has coined a clever acronym for a current trend in millennial marriages, the HIP marriage, which stands for a High Investment Parenting marriage.  The HIP marriage is built on a strong, traditional commitment to raising children together that is grounded in an egalitarian approach to marriage.

High Investment Parenting is about a huge commitment of time, energy, money and attention to all aspects of the care and development of children.  Because of the significant change in women’s economic and social status, HIP marriages are recasting family responsibilities with couples sharing the roles of both child-raiser and bread-winner, a must in order to create and maintain and equal marriage

References

“Maybe having kids is a good idea after all.” Research Digest, Blogging on brain and behavior.  The British Psychological Society. 2007 (http://digest.bps.org.uk/2009/07/maybe-having-kids-is-good-idea-after.html)

Overall, Christine.  (2012).  Why Have Children?  The Ethical Debate.  MA: MIT Press.

Reeves, Richard.  “How to Save Marriage in America.” The Atlantic. February 13, 2014. (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/02/how-to-save-marriage-in-america/283732/)

Jennifer Senior.  “All Joy and No Fun: Why parents hate parenting.”  New York Magazine, July 4, 2010. (http://nymag.com/news/features/67024/)

“Think having children will make you happy?  The Psychologist. (www.thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-22/edition-4think-haveing-children-will-make-you-happy)

 

SEXISM, SCIENCE, AND RELIGION: JOHN ROCK’S ERROR

John Rocks ErrorIt’s time for some posts on how science can be influenced by sexist perspectives in a way that is or can be harmful to women.  My last post re-posted an article by Moira Weigel on how the concept of the biological clock, invented in the late 1970’s, has become a metaphor, which is invoked as proof that women should not venture too far from their traditional roles.  As such it has been used to counteract the effects of women’s liberation.

The current post is about John Rock who invented the Pill.  In a Malcolm Gladwell blog post, titled “John Rock’s Error” Gladwell described the way in which John Rock decided that the Pill ought to be taken over a four-week-cycle—a woman would spend three weeks on the Pill and the fourth week off the drug (or on a placebo) to allow for menstruation.  “THERE WAS AND IS NO MEDICAL REASON FOR THIS.” 

Rock knew that when a woman is on the pill, no egg is released because progestin suppresses ovulation.  Interestingly, he knew that the hormonal flux the Pill produced was so modest that WOMEN COULD CONCEIVABLY GO FOR MONTHS WITHOUT HAVING TO MENSTRUATE.  But Rock, a devout Catholic, wanted the approval of the Catholic Church.   The strategy he decided on to woo the Church into supporting the use of the Pill was to mimic the so-call “natural” menstrual cycle of women.  Thus the three-week-on-fourth-week-off the drug was created to make the drug seem as “natural” as possible.Menstruation drop in

John Rock’s error was to think that he could influence the Church to support the Pill and protect women against unwanted pregnancies.  Thus we ended up with a drug shaped by the dictates of the Catholic Church even though the Church outlawed the use of the Pill for Catholics.  For John Rock, the dictates of religion and the principles of science got mixed up.  While it was not a deliberate error, John Rock was responsible for the way the Pill came into the world.

What is a “natural” menstrual cycle?

Gladwell introduces us to Beverly Strassman who studied Dogon women from a tribe in Mali in which contraception was never used.  She found that the average Dogon woman has her first period at age 16 and gives birth 8 or 9 times.  From the onset of menstruation to the age of twenty, the Dogon women average 7 periods a year.  From 20 to 34, she spends much of her time either pregnant or breast-feeding, averaging only slightly more than 1 period a year.  From 35 to menopause at around 50, as fertility rapidly declines, she averages 4 periods a year.

Dogon women menstruate about 100 times during their lifetime; contemporary Western women average between 350 and 400 times during their lifetime. 

OvulationStrassman argues that this is the evolutionary “natural” menstrual cycle of women.   She believes the current 28-day cycle deemed “natural” is the result of decreasing fertility rates associated with demographic and cultural changes over the last century.   Dr. Elsimar Coutinho and Dr. Sheldon Segal, two prominent contraceptive researchers that Gladwell cites propose in their provocative book, “Is Menstruation Obsolete?” that this transition to low fertility with its corresponding “incessant ovulation” is a serious problem for women’s health.  They argue that “incessant ovulation” is related to a greatly increased risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer.  These cancers are characteristically modern diseases, which are, in part, the consequences of a century in which women menstruate four hundred times in a lifetime.

As Gladwell comments, “In fact, as more recent research suggests, the Pill is really only natural in so far as it’s radical—rescuing the ovaries and endometrium from modernity.  That Rock insisted on a twenty-eight-day cycle for his pill is evidence of just how deep his misunderstanding was: the real promise of the Pill was not that it could preserve the menstrual rhythms of the twentieth century but that it could disrupt them.”

Gladwell ends his post by introducing us to Malcolm Pike who is a member of the Epidemiology Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and the Department of Preventative Medicine at the University of southern California Norris Cancer Center in Los Angeles.  Dr. Pike is widely known for his research on the etiology and chemoprevention of breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancers and has conducted landmark research to clarify our understanding of how pregnancy and oral contraceptives affect these cancers. Dr. Pike’s major interest is in designing an oral contraceptive that could reduce the risk of breast cancer without losing the protection offered by these drugs against endometrial and ovarian cancers.

He is working on an inhaled drug that can strike the right balance between hormone levels that prevent pregnancy, avoid the hormonal ravages of 28-day cycling, and keep women healthy.  Pike is going to take the mythology of “natural” and sweep it away.  As Pike says,

“But the modern way of living represents an extraordinary

change in female biology.  Women are going out and becoming

lawyers, doctors, presidents of countries.  They need to

understand that what we are trying to do isn’t abnormal.  It’s

just as normal as when someone hundreds of years ago had

menarche at seventeen and had five babies and had three hundred

fewer menstrual cycles than most women have today.  The world is

not the world it was.  And some of the risks that go with the

benefits of a woman getting educated and not getting pregnant all

the time are breast cancer and ovarian cancer and we need to deal

with it.  I have three daughters.  The earliest grandchild I had was when

one of them was thirty-one.  They ovulate from twelve or thirteen

until their early thirties.  Twenty years of uninterrupted ovulation before

their first child!  That’s a brand new phenomenon!”

The story of the Pill as well as the story of the biological clock are stories about how sexism, in particular religious sexism in the former case, influences the priorities of scientific research.  And, these stories demonstrate how scientific discoveries can be used to serve sexist ends.  We become used to thinking about the metaphor of “the biological clock” as if it were simply a neutral description of facts about the human body.  So it is with the concept of the “natural menstrual cycle”, a notion that is used to support the teachings of a particular religious system, which then becomes what should be the case ignoring anthropological data and data which points to the influence of the so-called “natural” cycle on the development of cancer in women.

Gladwell’s post is a really good read!

THE FOUL REIGN OF THE BIOLOGICAL CLOCK

BIOLOGICAL CLOCKTHE FOUL REIGN OF THE BIOLOGICAL CLOCK.  Moira Weigel.  The Guardian, Tuesday, May 10, 2016.

I wasted years with x!” I have never heard a straight man say this. But when a woman does, after a breakup, everyone immediately understands what she means. We are raised to believe that female bodies are time bombs. Any relationship that does not “work out” – which is to say, does not get a woman pregnant by a man committed to helping her raise their offspring – brings her closer to her expiration date. At the stroke of midnight, our eggs turn into dust.

Women in many times and places have felt pressure to bear children. But the idea of the biological clock is a recent invention. It first appeared in the late 1970s. “The Clock Is Ticking for the Career Woman,” the Washington Post declared, on the front page of its Metro Section, on 16 March 1978. The author, Richard Cohen, could not have realised just how inescapable his theme would become.

His article opened on a lunch date with a “Composite Woman” who is supposed to represent all women between the ages of 27 and 35. “There she is, entering the restaurant,” Cohen began. “She’s the pretty one. Dark hair. Medium height. Nicely dressed. Now she is taking off her coat. Nice figure.” Composite Woman has a good attitude, too: “The job is just wonderful. She is feeling just wonderful.” But, then her eyes fall.

“Is there something wrong?” her date asks.

“I want to have a baby,” she replies.

Cohen insisted that virtually all of the women he knew wanted to have babies, regardless of the kinds of romantic relationships they found themselves in.

“I’ve gone around, a busy bee of a reporter, from woman to woman,” he wrote. “Most of them said that they could hear the clock ticking … Sometimes the Composite Woman is married and sometimes she is not. Sometimes, horribly, there is no man in the horizon. What there is always, though, is a feeling that the clock is ticking … You hear it wherever you go.”

Within months, the clock was stalking career women everywhere. Ann Kirchheimer, a staff writer for the Boston Globe, reported that “the beneficiaries of the women’s movement, a first generation of liberated young ladies … who opted for careers, travel, independence rather than husband, home, and baby are older now and suddenly the ticking of the biological clock is getting louder and louder.” One woman Kirchheimer interviewed, a psychiatrist, jokingly diagnosed the affliction from which she and her other single friends were suffering as “withering womb syndrome”.Withering Womb

Americans were, at this point, primed to pay attention to stories about waning fertility. The birth rate had dropped precipitously over the previous two decades. In 1957, the average American woman had 3.5 children; by 1976, that number had fallen to 1.5. In the wake of the feminist movement, the development of effective oral contraceptives and intrauterine devices, and the legalisation of abortion, more and more women were delaying marriage and motherhood in order to pursue education and careers.

Even women who would eventually become mothers were waiting longer to do so. By 1977, 36% of mothers did not have their first child until age 30 or older. It was starting to look as if many women might put off motherhood indefinitely. Would this be the way the world ended? Not with the bomb but the pill?

The spate of stories about the biological clock sometimes alluded to these broad demographic trends and anxieties. But mostly, they focused on individuals. The media glamourised professional women who decided to have children while pursuing demanding careers, and warned women who put off having children that they would regret their diffidence later. (The idea that a woman might not want to become a mother at any point rarely came up.)

In February 1982, the actress Jaclyn Smith, one of the stars of the TV series Charlie’s Angels, appeared on the cover of Time magazine. She was wearing a loose blue dress, but clutched her rounded belly firmly. “The New Baby Bloom” the cover read. “Career women are opting for pregnancy, and they are doing it in style.” Inside, the author John Reed reiterated a warning that was becoming increasingly familiar.

“For many women, the biological clock of fertility is running near its end,” Reed wrote. “The ancient Pleistocene call of the moon, of salt in the blood, and genetic encoding buried deep in the chromosomes back there beneath the layers of culture – and counterculture – are making successful businesswomen, professionals and even the mothers of grown children stop and reconsider.”

The metaphor of the biological clock sounded less florid than the metaphors that followed, but it evinced the same determinism. Reed invoked the existence of a biological clock as proof that women could not venture too far from their traditional roles. He defined female life in terms of motherhood, or the failure to become a mother.

Even if women could now compete with men for high-paying jobs, and sleep around outside marriage, these articles implied, free love and the feminist movement had not changed the fundamentals of what they were. Women could dress up in trouser suits all they liked. In the end, their bodies would yearn for children.

This may have sounded like a description. It was an order.

The story of the biological clock is a story about science and sexism. It illustrates the ways that assumptions about gender can shape the priorities for scientific research, and scientific discoveries can be deployed to serve sexist ends. We are used to thinking about metaphors like “the biological clock” as if they were not metaphors at all, but simply neutral descriptions of facts about the human body. Yet, if we examine where the term came from, and how it came to be used, it becomes clear that the idea of the biological clock has as much to do with culture as with nature. And its cultural role was to counteract the effects of women’s liberation.

First, conversations about the “biological clock” pushed women towards motherhood, suggesting that even if some of the gendered double standards about sex were eroding, there would always be this difference: women had to plan their love lives with an eye to having children before it was “too late”. Second, the metaphor suggested that it was only natural that women who tried to compete with men professionally, and to become mothers as well, would do so at a disadvantage.

The idea that being female is a weakness is embedded in the origin of the phrase “biological clock”. The term was originally coined by scientists to describe circadian rhythms, the processes that tell our bodies when we should rise, eat, and sleep. In the 1950s, the US air force began sponsoring research into how the biological clock worked. Soon researchers were racing to develop drugs that could eliminate the need for rest. The idea was that if we understood the body well enough, we could overcome its limitations. In the 1970s and 1980s the meaning of the term shifted to the way we use it now: a description of female fertility. But is being female a weakness that we believe professional women should want to cure?

At a time of dramatic social and economic change, the ways the biological clock was talked about reinforced old ideas about gender difference. Indeed, it exaggerated them, creating a sense that male and female partners were even more different than traditionalists of the 1950s had imagined. More and more women were breaking into the previously male world of well paid work. Nonetheless, conversations about the biological clock suggested that reproduction was an exclusively female concern.

BIO CLOCK CULTURAL ROLE

Commentators such as Cohen and Kirchheimer warned female readers that they would feel increasingly panicked if they put off getting pregnant for too long. At the same time, they presented a set of supposedly timeless “truths” about masculinity that were rather new. They said that men’s bodies programmed them not to want long relationships or offspring. Free of the time pressures that dictated the love lives of women, men had evolved to want no-strings sex. (In universities, at around the same time, the new field of evolutionary psychology was explaining that heterosexual human mating rituals were a compromise between males who wanted sex and females who wanted protection – and had to rely on their nubility to get it.)

Never mind that surveys showed that, as recently as the 1950s, most Americans considered marriage and family the cornerstones of personal happiness. Experts of the 1980s agreed that men and women were destined to approach dating with directly opposing goals and very different privileges. The perpetual bachelor was ageless. But if the career woman hoped to catch a worthy partner, she had to plan her life meticulously.

By the mid-1980s, baby boomer women had become an army of “clock-watchers”, as the journalist Molly McKaughan called them. Her 1987 bestseller,Biological Clock, reported that women who otherwise held widely diverging attitudes were all “consumed by the subject” of having children. A few expressed remorse for having waited too long to begin their hunt for a father. However, most women had recognised early that they had to date strategically. “Time can literally pass a woman by,” McKaughan reflected, “if she waits too long.” There is no literature saying comparable things about these women’s boyfriends.

To this day, evidence of exactly how much female fertility declines with age remains hazy. As the psychologist Jean Twenge has pointed out, many frequently cited statistics concerning female fertility are misleading. In a 2013 article in the Atlantic, Twenge exposed the shaky bases of many of the facts often handed down to women as gospel. After scouring medical research databases she discovered that, for instance, the often-quoted statistic that one in three women between the ages of 35 to 39 will not be able to get pregnant after a year of trying came from a 2004 study that was itself based on French birth records kept from 1670 to 1830. “In other words,” Twenge wrote, “millions of women are being told when to get pregnant based on statistics from a time before electricity, antibiotics, or fertility treatment.”

Another problematic element of data on fertility is that, in general, the information we have comes from patients who visit doctors because they are experiencing fertility problems. As a result, it is difficult to assess what is going on with the population as a whole. How many couples are not conceiving because they do not want to? How many are using contraception? It is nearly impossible to control for all these variables.

Despite these gaps in our knowledge, strong scientific evidence has demonstrated that the quantity and quality of a woman’s eggs do diminish over time. Countless women, who delayed child-bearing for whatever reason, have experienced anguish upon discovering that they cannot conceive. To this extent, the anxieties of the clock watchers were well-founded. But most of the vast body of writing about them fails to mention another, crucial fact: male fertility declines with age too.

There are, of course, famous exceptions – men like Charlie Chaplin and Pablo Picasso, who fathered children as septuagenarians. But the widespread belief thatmale fertility is invulnerable to time is simply false. Since the 1980s, a large and growing body of research has shown that sperm counts, and quality, diminish over the years. The children of older fathers have much higher risk of autism and other complications than those of younger ones do. Often “old sperm” simply flail and perish around an egg they are trying to fertilise.

These facts have been reported occasionally – almost always as news of a “malebiological clock”. The need to append the adjective “male” to the phrase “biological clock” hints at why this data has mostly gone ignored: society speaks as if only women had bodies.

According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, of couples seeking treatment for subfertility in the United States, 40% discover that the problem is being caused by the “female factor”, 40% of the time it is the “male factor”, and 20% of the time they cannot tell. Women and men are found to experience fertility problems at roughly equal rates, but you would never know it from reading most press coverage of the subject. Our assumption seems to be that reproduction is a female responsibility first and foremost. Anything going wrong with it must be a woman’s fault.

Female reproductive systems are not, in fact, much like clocks. Our bodies move by the month, rather than the hour or day; hormonal cycles rarely proceed as smoothly as a second hand. And male, as well as female, fertility declines with age. So why was the idea that women, and only women, had to race against time, so compelling? Why did talk about the biological clock catch on as widely as it did?

The answer may be more prosaic than some Pleistocene temporality particular to female bodies. At the moment when the idea of the biological clock was taking off, changes in the economy were altering how work and time were organised. And the reason that women began to feel that they were racing against time had less to do with some mysterious biological force than the fact that they were beginning to enter the professional workplace, while continuing to do most of the unpaid domestic labour. In other words, they were busier – they literally had less time – than ever before.

The kinds of nine-to-five jobs that had been common for most of the 20th century divided life into two kinds of time: on the clock, and off the clock. In the 1950s and 1960s, work performed on the clock was thought of primarily as male. Women worked in the home – a space that society defined as “off the clock” and external to the economy. What they did there looked less like labour than like love.

The “family wage” that a man earned was supposed to be sufficient to subsidise his wife’s unpaid efforts. In the 1970s, however, wage stagnation meant that fewer and fewer families could afford to have only one working partner. The dismantling of social services put further pressure on families. White educated feminists celebrated the new opportunities for women to break into the male workforce. But the exodus of housewives from suburban homes was driven by economic necessity, as well as the desire for liberation.

Workplaces did not change their protocols to make it easier for women to succeed. The result was that women had to constantly play catch-up, if they wanted the combination of career and family that their male colleagues enjoyed. They had to find a way to manage the very different demands of family life and corporate schedules, and any jetlag they might feel as a result of living between them. Tick, tock.

In 1989, the sociologist Arlie Hochschild coined an expression for the phenomenon of working women continuing to do the majority of housework. She called it “the second shift”. Around a decade later, she observed that many women took on an additional “third shift” as well. This involved managing the emotions that getting through your first and second shift inspired – the intense feelings of guilt and resentment that women began to feel as they realised that “having it all” often just meant “doing everything”.

The endless discussion about the biological clock helped make the difficulties of balancing work and life sound like a pathology that afflicted individual women, rather than a large-scale social problem. (Recall the psychiatrist and friends with “withering womb syndrome”.)

This obscured the truth that the real conflict concerned social priorities. A country such as the US, which mandates almost no parental leave and provides no support for childcare, makes it impossible for women who elect to become mothers to participate equally in the economy. The biological clock hysteria, with its image of a time bomb lodged in each and every woman’s ovaries, made each woman personally responsible for dealing with that handicap.

Many career women bought it. At least, they did not organise to demand better maternity leave or state subsidised childcare. Instead, they listened to experts who told them what experts always tell women: There is something terribly wrong with you! But luckily, there is also something new and expensive that you can buy to fix it.

Doctors mastered the first procedure for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) just months before journalists started clamouring about the biological clock. On 25 July 1978, the world’s first “test-tube baby”, Louise Brown, was born in Oldham general hospital in England. Baby Louise briefly became a global celebrity. But if a marketing team had been trying to come up with an advertising campaign to sell a broader population of women on IVF, they could hardly have done better than the flood of stories about the biological clock that the Washington Post article by Richard Cohen started.

IVF had been designed to solve a specific medical problem. The mother of Louise Brown had been unable to conceive because of a blockage in her fallopian tubes. By 1981, however, researchers figured out how to use hormones to stimulate the ovaries of any woman to release many eggs at once. Rather than relying on the natural menstrual cycle, doctors began extracting as much genetic material as they could from their patients. Soon, they were selling IVF to women who had no fallopian tube problems at all.

In 1983, the doctors Sevgi Aral and Willard Cates, both at the Center for Disease Control in Washington DC, published an article announcing the beginning of an “infertility epidemic”. It was widely read and cited. As concern spread, the assisted reproductive technology industry grew in response to the new demand. By the mid 1980s, clinics offering IVF treatments were opening across the US. By the 1990s, agencies offering egg donation and gestational surrogacy followed, as did ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection, a method of injecting sperm directly into an egg to fertilise it).

IVF helped many women to conceive but it was not an easy fix. It is an expensive procedure. In the US, as of 2015, the average cost of a “fresh” IVF cycle (a cycle using newly harvested eggs) is $12,400, plus $3-5,000 for medications. Many patients undergo more than one cycle while trying to get pregnant, and few health insurance plans cover all of it. In the UK, the average cost ranges from £4,000 to £8,000 per cycle – and not all women can get it on the NHS. IVF is also an invasive procedure. It comes with significant physical and emotional risks. There are countless studies that detail how disruptive and debilitating many women find it.

There have been few studies of how IVF hormone treatments affect women’s bodies in the long term. In October 2015, researchers at UCL released a study tracking more than 255,000 British women who had received IVF treatment from 1991 to 2010. They found that these women were 37% more likely than members of a control group to develop ovarian cancer. Whether this is because the IVFcaused the cancer, or their fertility problems were the result of an underlying condition that went undiagnosed, is impossible to know. Neither possibility is good.

And yet, our culture so takes for granted that women will suffer in order to become pregnant, and these methods are so profitable that few researchers are invested in exploring alternatives. Even if a couple is having trouble conceiving because of “male factor” problems, the female partner still has to undergo IVF.

Reproductive technologies are often described as means to circumvent the body’s biology. But there is a significant risk that after the expense and anguish of IVF, the procedure just won’t work. The most recent report by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, published in 2012, shows that the success rates of any given IVF cycle are low. For women over 42, the likelihood that a cycle will result in their carrying a baby to term is 3.9%.

If a woman has been counting on these procedures to start a family, discovering that she cannot do so can be devastating. The notion that miracle technologies exist may well increase her sense that the failure is her own.IVF Warning

Like any industry, the assisted reproductive technology industry seeks to expand and to capture new markets. Studies have shown that since the turn of the millennium, women are growing concerned about their fertility at younger and younger ages. In 2002, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Survey of Family Growth reported that in the US the number of 22 to 29-year-olds who had received fertility treatment had doubled over the previous seven years, to 23%. In 2006, Conceive, a magazine based in Orlando, Florida, whose slogan is “We’re the experts at getting pregnant”, found that 46% of its readers were younger than 30.

Over the past decade, the assisted reproductive technology industry has begun marketing expensive interventions to growing numbers of people who may not need them. Egg freezing in particular has been marketed to career women as a chance to be proactive. In 2014, the company FertilityAuthority launched a startup called Eggbanxx, which provides access to a network of doctors who perform egg-freezing procedures. It aims to expand the market to appeal to women who are not yet having any fertility problems. “We will be like Uber, but for egg freezing,” Gina Bartasi, the company’s CEO told the Washington Post in the spring of 2015.

In contrast to the language of “stocks” and of “gifts” that we use to talk about sperm and egg donation, insurance is the metaphor that dominates discussions of egg freezing. Clinics that offer the treatment often use the language of high finance in their advertisements. They joke about “frozen assets” and speak earnestly about the wisdom of “hedging against” risk. Egg freezing is not only a choice but an “option”, in the sense that Wall Street traders use that term. When she freezes her eggs, a woman pays a certain amount of money – in the US this starts at around $15,000, plus annual storage costs – in order to be able to get her eggs back later.

Like IVF, egg freezing was initially developed for a specific purpose: young female cancer patients who had to undergo chemotherapy elected to freeze their eggs before doing so. But in recent years, clinics have started offering the experimental treatment as an option for healthy women, too. Indeed, they encourage women to freeze their eggs as early as possible.

Asking women to pay for an expensive elective procedure, which is still classified as experimental, years before they ever need it, does not sound like the most solid business proposition. And yet, the logic of egg freezing has convinced some of America’s most successful corporations. In 2012, when Google, Facebook, and Citibank announced that they were considering covering up to $20,000 of the cost of egg freezing as a health benefit for female employees, many people touted this move as a miracle fix for the gender inequality that continues to plague corporate workplaces. A Time magazine cover story on the subject declared that “Egg Freezing Will Be the Great Equalizer”.

In the media, women who freeze their eggs tend to say that doing so has made them feel “empowered”. Yet the sources in these stories often seem to be less worried about climbing the career ladder than about the difficulties of finding love as their biological clock ticks louder and louder in the background.

In 2011, Vogue profiled “a 35-year-old, willowy media company executive”, who had just frozen her eggs. She stressed the benefits that doing so would bring her while dating. “Leah knew she was coming dangerously close to the age when eligible men might search her eyes for desperation, that unseemly my-clock-is-ticking vibe. ‘Freezing my eggs is my little secret,’ she says. ‘I want to feel there’s a backup plan.’”

In 2013, the journalist Sarah Elizabeth Richards published Motherhood: Rescheduled. This book follows five women through the egg-freezing process. The author says that she herself is overjoyed at the pressure that having done so takes off her love life. “Egg freezing … soothed my pangs of regret for frittering away my 20s with a man I didn’t want to have children with, and for wasting more years in my 30s with a man who wasn’t sure he even wanted children. It took away the punishing pressure to seek a new mate and helped me find love again at age 42.” This makes egg freezing sound less like a tool for workplace equality than an expensive means to prolong the search for Prince Charming.

The go-getting women who are cited as advertisements for egg freezing often use the language of choice and self-empowerment. In practice, however, egg freezingpushes women to accept gendered expectations about romance and reproduction. The more the procedure becomes normalised, the more the idea is reinforced that women should take on the work and financial burden of managing reproduction. It is easy to imagine opportunities becoming obligations: that in a company that offers egg freezing as a benefit, a woman who does not elect to freeze her eggs will be perceived as unserious about her career. This seems like a strange form of empowerment: spending tens of thousands of dollars in order to make your date feel more comfortable. Or, so that you can climb a career ladder that will not bend, even slightly, to meet female workers in their reproductive years.

This seems a strange form of empowerment: spending tens of thousands of dollars to make your date feel more comfortable

The American workforce is now more than half female. In the UK, more than 67% of women hold full-time jobs outside their homes. Given a choice between policy changes – say, better healthcare and maternity leave policies – and a “time freezing” technology, do we really think that freezing time is the more realistic fix for the problems that workplace conventions cause women?

It is easy to understand why individual women might want to freeze their eggs. But freezing rarely solves a problem. On the contrary, it prolongs the existence of a problem.

The role of the biological clock has been to make it seem only natural – indeed inevitable – that the burdens of reproducing the world fall almost entirely on women. There are moral as well as practical implications to this idea: if you do not plan your life just right, you deserve to end up desperate and alone.

This fiction that it is female nature to take full responsibility for reproduction places a tremendous burden on women. And it strains romantic relationships between women and men. The idea that men and women who desire sexual and romantic relations with one another are hardwired to want opposing things is not good for anyone. Would it not be more straightforward simply to admit that both men and women have bodies that age – and that most humans share basic desires for affection, intimacy, and respect?

Geeta Narglund.   “The doctor warning 15-year-olds about their declining fertility.  The Guardian.  May 17, 2016.   (http://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/may/17/the-doctor-warning-15-year-olds-about-their-declining-fertility)

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COMMUNICATION COMPETENCE IN YOUR EQUAL MARRIAGE

Takeaway for Comm PostAn important part of interaction between you and your spouse is interpersonal communication, i.e., the way in which you are able to effectively communicate thoughts, ideas, and feelings primarily through verbal communication.

Your ability to verbally communicate with your spouse can enhance significantly the kind of relationship that will exist between the two of you.  The goal of this post is to assist you in being able to regularly express your thoughts, ideas, and feelings with respect and support for each other.

Above all, communication is not a debate between partners about whose preconceived notions about what is going on between the two of you.  Communication in a personal relationship is about a husband and a wife collaborating with each other by sharing perceptions, feeling, ideas and thoughts so that they can come to an understanding of what is happening between them, what is their joint reality.

Collaborative CommunicationID-10045230

How to Communicate Collaboratively

The first thing you will have to do in conversation with your partner is to unilaterally disarm, i.e., do not start a conversation thinking you are right about something.  This does not mean compromise or capitulation; you have a right to all your thoughts and feelings

  1. When you have something on your mind, give your partner a “heads up” about the topic, giving him/her time to think about his/her own thoughts.
  2. Set a time when you both can have a conversation about the topic.
  3. Start out with the idea that your partner may have something to say that is worth listening to and be willing to give serious consideration to.
  4. Remember, a conversation is not a battleground where you must prove you are right.

How to Talk to Your Spouse

You start a conversation knowing your own thoughts and feelings about a topic.  Remember, you want an opportunity to discuss these thoughts and feelings; so does your partner.  Here are some tips:

  1. In your conversation, stick to your thoughts and feelings. Don’t get sidetracked by accusing, criticizing, or blaming your partner.
  2. Be prepared to talk about what you want in a clear and direct fashion. Be cautious about lapsing into “I need” as a way of privileging what you want over your partners’ wants.  For example, say “I want more affection” rather than “I need you to be more affectionate with me”.
  3. What you want in your relationship may reflect old issues from your personal history. Be sure to continually “vet” your wants and wishes.
  4. Be willing to “own” up to where these wants come from…be willing to talk about painful personal histories, unfulfilled childhood needs, the way you protect yourself from these old, painful childhood experiences.
  5. Be sure to treat your partner with the respect and decency with which you treat any other person.

How to Listen to Your Spouse

Listen to your spouse with an unconditional interest in understanding what he/she is trying to say.  This is the way to get to know your spouse and what it is important to him/her.  Here are a few thoughts about listening:

  1. Listening is about your spouse who really wants to be heard. It really isn’t about you.
  2. Be sure to focus on what your spouse is saying, not your reaction to it. If you find yourself reacting, take a time out, to refocus on your spouse.
  3. It will be helpful to indicate that you are listening to him/her. You can try reflecting back what you are hearing him/her say so your partner can correct you if you are not understanding what is being said.  For example, you can say “I hear you say (what you heard), is that right?”
  4. By listening intently to your partner you may learn something new about her/him and about the ideas and feelings she/he has. You can gain a new perspective about your partner.

 

ID-10095377 (1)Defining Your Own Relationship Reality

Through this kind of conversation in which you both are able to say what you want and listen with interest to each other, you will discover a deeper understanding of what you both are experiencing with each other.  This kind of understanding can help to eliminate misconceptions, misinterpretations, and miscommunications that can occur in a relationship. What you end up with is a clearer picture of yourselves and of the reality of your relationship.

Communication Involves Both Content Messages and Relationship Messages: Reading Between-the-Lines

Content messages refer to the obvious aspects of your communication.  It refers to the specific issues around which the interaction is occurring, who is going to get the kids to school today, are we going to have sex tonight, who is going to do the dishes this week, am I getting the affection that I want.  The relationship message refers to what is occurring interpersonally between you as you talk about the various content areas.  A relationship message says something about the connection between you and your spouse.  Conflicts can occur because one of you misunderstands the relationship message and fails to clarify the difference between this and the content message.

Here are some examples of statements in which a relationship message is misunderstood:

MESSAGE WHAT YOU HEARD

(Misunderstood Relationship Message)

HOW TO CLARIFY THE MESSAGE
Husband from other room, “You’re calling me?” “Don’t bother me.” Go into other room and ask for what you want.
Husband says “You paid $100 for that?” “I can’t believe you did that? Ask, “Are you concerned about what I spent?”
Wife says to husband, “And that’s all you did?” “You really should have done more.” Ask “Would you like me to explain why I did what I did?”

 

Misunderstanding relationship messages typically occurs because you and your spouse are responding personally to the way in which the content message is said, e.g. the tone of voice, the context of the message, or emphasis on particular words.  You will be able to recognize when you are likely misunderstanding the relationship message because of your own personal reaction, i.e. getting irritated, angry, upset, etc.  In the three instances in the table, the way to clarify the message is to respond to the content of the message not your experience of the relationship message.  If you seek to clarify the content of the message, you will be able to talk about any ambiguity about the relationship message.

It is also the case that sometimes you will use a relationship message to convey some covert feeling that you are harboring about the relationship.  In the examples above, “And that’s all you did?” can be said with a tone that implies a critique of what was done.  It is up to you both to be aware of any hidden relationship messages you are trying to (mis)communicate.  If you respond to a perceived negative relationship message in a non-reactive way, you open the way to be able to talk about what you perceive as a negative relationship message.

Communication is Inevitable

That communication is inevitable refers to the idea that in interaction with other people you are always communicating in one way or another even when you think you are not.  When you don’t respond to a question your wife/husband asks, you are communicating something.   What occurs in this situation, is your spouse will likely interpret your silence as a relationship message, which may create a disconnect between the two of you.  It is best to understand that you cannot not communicate.

Communication and Gender

We return again to ideas about gender that can get in the way of creating and maintaining an equal relationship.  In order to get beyond gender stereotypes in communication, we need to say what they are.  Here are a few stereotypic ideas about how men and women communicate:

  • Communication matters more to women than me
  • Women talk more than men
  • Women have better verbal skills than men
  • Men talk in order to get things done; women talk to make connection with other
  • Men talk about things, women talk about people, relationships, and feelings
  • Men use language in order to provide information, preserve their independence and compete to maintain status; women use language to enhance cooperation, reflecting their preference for equality and harmony
  • Women tend to soften their statements by using tag phrases (e.g. “don’t you think”, “if you don’t mind”); men are more direct

These old ideas about how men and women communicative became dogma, i.e., unquestioned articles of faith, with the publication of John Gray’s “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” and Deborah Tannen’s “You Just Don’t Understand”.  Tannen is a well-respected linguist who publicly defends these communication differences between men and women despite the fact they are widely disputed by 30 some years of research on language, communication and the sexes.

However, most of us do not read scientific journals; we read popular books like Gray’s and Tannen’s.  Even when a retraction is made about a gender stereotype published in the popular press (e.g. the statement that women say 20,000 words a day while men say about 7,000 in The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, MD) the false belief continues because they become part of the stereotyped narrative about women and men, usually with a negative view of women.

A close study of Tannen’s work done by Alice Freed, Professor Emmerita of Linguistics at Montclair State University shows that she (Tannen) is actually an apologist for men.  She excuses their insensitivities in her examples as part of their “need for independence”.  She emphasizes the importance of women adjusting to men’s need for status and independence.

In Tannen’s book “You Just Don’t Understand” we can read about Josh, who invites an old high-school friend who is visiting from another town to spend a weekend with him and his wife, Linda.  The visit is to begin immediately upon Linda’s return from a week’s business trip but Josh doesn’t first discuss the invitation with her.  Tannen describes Linda as being upset by his failure to do so, her feelings being hurt.  According to Tannen, Linda’s hurt feelings would disappear if only she understood that for Josh to ask permission would imply that he is not independent, not free to act on his own.  He would feel controlled by Linda’s wish to be consulted

This is a glaring example of a person of authority, a linguist, buying into the old gender stereotype that women must defer to men in order not to threaten their egos. 

Crosschecking with your partner is not “seeking permission”.  It is being willing to negotiate with your spouse what works for both of you.  If Josh feels “controlled”, he needs to take an inventory of that experience. By the way, Tannen also relies on the old notion that “hurt feelings” are what is important to Linda.  What is important to Linda, is that Josh was unwilling to negotiate with her about what he wanted.  Tannen is using her status as an academic to promote stereotypic ideas based on anecdotal material, i.e. stories like the one described above.  She uses these anecdotal stories as a basis for sweeping generalizations about men and women.

To have an equal and sustainable marriage depends on your willingness and ability to confront such old gender ideas and to establish yourselves as individuals not as a category.

Here are the takeaways from this post:

  • You can become competent in communicating collaboratively
  • Approach conversations with your spouse by unilaterally disarming
  • Be prepared to talk about your thoughts, feelings, and ideas; stay away from getting focused on your partner
  • Be prepared to listen to your spouse’s thoughts, feelings, and ideas with interest
  • If you react to or misinterpret relationship messages, there will be trouble
  • Clarify content message to clarify relationship message misunderstandings
  • Be on guard against old gender stereotypes about communication between men and women.
  • You are both individual people, not a category

References:

Deborah Cameron, “What language barrier? The Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/oct/01/gender.books)

Bobbi Carothers and Harry Reis, “Men Are from Mars Earth, Women Are from Venus Earth” University of Rochester (http://www.rochester.edu/news/show.php?id=5382)

Communication Between Couples:  How to Communicate in a Relationship.  PSYCHALIVE (http://www.psychalive.org/communication-between-couples/)

Freed, Alice F.  (1992).  “We Understand Perfectly: A Critique of Tannen’s View of Cross-sex Communication”. In Hall, Kira, Mary Bucholtz and Birch Moonwomon (Eds.) Locating power: Proceedings of the second Berkeley women and language conference (vol.1). Berkeley: Berkeley Women and Language Group. 144-152.

 

WHAT WE LEARNED FROM RATS ABOUT OUR INSECURITIES

Escape and Avoidance StrategiesRats are one of the animals used in testing the Theory of Learning in Psychology known as Operant Conditioning or Skinnerian Conditioning.  A major finding of this approach to how we learn things is what is called “Escape and Avoidance Learning”.  Escape conditioning refers to the situation in which a rat learns to “escape” a noxious stimulus, i.e. a rat learns to jump off an electrified platform into water when a shock is turned on.  This is the “get me out of here” or “shut this thing off” response.

The rat can learn very quickly that it can “avoid” being shocked if it jumps off the electrified platform before the shock is turned on, when it gets a cue that the shock is coming.

Avoidance behaviors are incredibly persistent; they continue to happen long after there is no longer anything to avoid.  The rat will jump off the platform at the sound of the cue long after the shock generator is turned off, even if the experimenter never turns it on again.  What keeps the avoidance behavior going is the relief the rat experiences as it jumps off the platform.

We human demonstrate the same “escape-avoidance” kind of learning in the face of a noxious stimulus.  Our human noxious stimulus is feeling “threatened” in an interpersonal situation.  Feeling threatened, often signaled by feeling angry, irritated, miffed, hurt, anxious, and/or fearful, is the dreaded sense of being exposed as inadequate in some way.ID-100390114

There is ample evidence that childhood experiences, such as not being attended to by a parent, are recorded in some form in our memory and can be evoked in our adult interactions.   Such experiences are frequently evoked in our adult intimate relationships because we expect extra consideration from our spouse.   Married couples, thus, are particularly vulnerable to experiencing the dreaded feeling of “not being good enough”,” not being important enough”, “not being worthy”, not recognized enough”, “not valued enough”; experiences elicited first in childhood when a child perceives his/her parent is not caring, loving, and keeping her/him safe.

The most common indicator of feeling threatened occurs when we “take things personally”.   The threat comes from our own sense of inadequacy or insecurity. We all suffer from such feelings; this is not a sign of some psychological malady or impairment.  It is a consequence of the cognitive and emotional limitations of childhood that we all experience at some time in some way.

In those situations in which you find yourself feeling threatened, you will recognize your “escape” responses.  You will either do something to “get me out of here” (the flight reaction, e.g. shut down verbally, leave the room) or something to “shut this thing off” (the fight reaction, e.g. yelling, threatening retaliation).

ID-100213963No wonder we develop defenses, which are our “avoidance” actions, in order not to have to continually “escape” obnoxious experiences that cause us to feel really badly (insecure and inadequate) and cause us to behave so badly toward others.

I prefer the term “self-protective strategies” to “defenses” for these “avoidance” strategies because most people think of the common Freudian (Anna not Sigmund) defenses of denial, repression, regression, projection, intellectualization, rationalization, and sublimation.  These defenses are used to protect our self from our self (our ego from our id).  I am identifying strategies we use to protect our self from perceived attack, criticism, rejection, etc. from our spouse and others.

An example of a self-protective strategy is “perfectionism” in which we try to avoid being corrected or criticized by doing things “correctly”,” logically”,” in the right way”.  Being corrected or criticized elicits strong feelings of insecurity and inadequacy.

You can find other examples of the self-protective strategies we develop from the time we are very young to try to “avoid” the noxious feeling of being threatened in my previous post “Protecting Yourself from Threat”.

Managing Your “Escape” and “Avoidance” TacticsID-100374272

Personal insecurities that elicit “escape” tactics are not set in stone.  Don’t waste your time trying to overcome or get rid of them.  Personal insecurities are manageable and modifiable with effort on your part.  Here are some suggestions:

Regularly taking a personal inventory using the Inventory shown at the bottom of the post. Keep a journal of the kinds of insecurities that tend to show up in your inventories.  They will emerge under the inventory heading of “What is the threat?”  Once you can recognize such themes of insecurity, you will more easily manage them effectively.

Of course, the first step in managing your self-protective strategies is to recognize what they are.  You are likely to think that the particular strategy or strategies you use are due to your temperament or personality because these are old patterns we learned when we were younger.  Just like our lab rat, these strategies bring us immediate relief when we use them even though they are ineffective and unhealthy long-term strategies.  Here are some suggestions on how to manage these ineffective interpersonal strategies:

Look at the Rationale column of the list of self-protective strategies in my previous post “PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM THREAT”.  This column describes the way you think about yourself, e.g., “I am a quiet person” or “I am a nice person”.  Look at the Interpersonal Goal column, which describes what your strategy is and what you are trying to protect yourself from.  Your spouse or someone close to you may be able to help you identify these strategies because they directly affect him/her.

Become more willing to be self-reflective by both recognizing when you are taking things personally and recognizing the patterns of self-protection that you use to avoid feeling insecure and/or inadequate.  The payoffs to you personally and to your relationship will be dramatic.  When you first make the attempt to be more self-reflective, it will seem awkward and you will feel very self-absorbed.  Over time, you can learn new approaches to communicating interpersonally with your spouse and others, which will become more second nature and your old patterns will require less attention.

 

Inventory

PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM THREAT

SELF PROTECTIVE STRATEGIES

When you take something your spouse does personally, you are reacting not responding.  That personal reaction indicates that you are feeling “threatened”.  The feeling of threat is an ill-defined feeling of “not being good enough” in some way, not important enough, not smart enough, not respected enough, not good-looking enough etc., etc., etc.

In general, we first experience such feelings of personal, psychological threat during our childhood experiences with parents and others.   As youngsters, we develop strategic patterns that we use to avoid such threatening feelings of not being good enough.  Obviously, we are not aware that we are trying to protect ourselves.  These self-protective strategies are the way we try to manage interpersonal situations so as to avoid or minimize our sense of threat.

Self-protective strategies or defenses are designed to ward off threatening feelings.

Defenses detract from your ability to engage effectively with your spouse.   When you are seeking self-protection, you do not have the capacity to engage in a positive interaction.   To try to manage your own sense of vulnerability by the vain attempt to maneuver other people, particularly your spouse, is neither psychologically healthy nor effective.  Generally, such self-protective strategies are explained to oneself and to others as appropriate interpersonal actions, which are designed to justify the self-protective strategy.

The most effective way to deal with one’s own vulnerabilities is through self-reflection, self-awareness, and self-management or self-regulation.

Examples of Self-Protective Strategies

Some examples of self-protective strategies are control, ingratiation, perfectionism, withdrawal, evaluating others, being over responsible, being compliant, and being driven.  Check out the Box on Self-Protective Strategies for definitions and the rationales we use to justify them.

I prefer the term “self-protective strategies” to “defenses” because most people think of the common Freudian (Anna not Sigmund) defenses of denial, repression, regression, projection, intellectualization, rationalization, and sublimation.  These defenses are used to protect our self from our self (our ego from our id).  I am identifying strategies we use to protect our self from perceived attack, criticism, rejection, etc. from our spouse.

Managing Your Self Protective Strategies

Of course, the first step in managing your self-protective strategies is to recognize what they are.  You are likely to think that the particular strategy or strategies you use are due to your temperament or personality.  We attribute a lot to personality that is more often a self-protective strategy.  As you become more willing to be self-reflective, beginning with recognizing and managing taking things personally, you will begin to recognize the patterns of self-protection that you use to avoid feeling insecure.

When you first make the attempt to be more self-reflective, it will seem awkward and you will feel very self-absorbed.  Over time, new approaches to communicating with your spouse will become more second nature and require less attention.

Self-Protective Strategies 1

More Self-Protective Strategies

 

 

12 PRINCIPLES OF A GOOD MARRIAGE

Principles

  1. My marital relationship is not the only source of my personal happiness nor does it guarantee freedom from my own personal problems.
  2. I have a personal responsibility for the well-being of my marital relationship.
  3. My spouse has importance in the world over and above being married to me.
  4. No matter what I think and feel about what is happening between me and my spouse, she/he has his/her own view of what is happening.ID-10018131
  5. My actions are not explained by nor are they justified by what my partner does/does not do.  I am accountable for my actions.
  6. In marriage there is a difference between being unhappy and being angry, hurt, or afraid of what is happening between us.
  7. When I am angry with, hurt by, and or anxious about what is happening in my marriage, I am at risk to “blame” my spouse without finding out how he/she sees the situation.
  8. I will always be willing to examine my own personal motives for my actions in my marriage.
  9. Being a male or a female does not explain the reasons for my actions.
  10. I can feel sad (a sense of loss) about what I don’t get in my marriage.
  11. My spouse can feel sad (a sense of loss) about what he/she doesn’t get in the marriage.
  12. Following these principles will help us create and sustain our marriage.

ID-100297063

THE CASE FOR FILTH

MARCHE SQUALOR“The Case for Filth” is the fun title of a NYT opinion piece by Stephen Marche, writer for Esquire and author, who takes a look at the discrepancy between the amount of housework done among well-educated, egalitarian-minded husbands and wives.  Marche references a 2015 study done by the Council on Contemporary Families, which looks at housework, gender, and parenthood patterns between 1965 and 2012.  Here are some of their findings:

  • Gender is still the most influential determinant of who does housework and childcare today despite the increases in mothers’ employment and the expressed desire of the majority of women and men to share employment and caregiving responsibilities.
  • Data from 1965 to 2012 shows that women’s and men’s housework and child care are much more similar today achieved through
    • Steep reduction in women’s housework and modest increase in men’s housework
      • Men increased their core household tasks such as cooking and cleaning, not just fun tasks
      • Even women with time available are cutting down on domestic work; what sociologists term “disinvestment”Family in park
    • Both mothers and fathers have increased time caring for children
    • Still substantial gender differences in time and kind of activities spent in child care time and activities
  • Gender differences persist; why not more change?
    • Still have entrenched individual and cultural beliefs about the “essential” qualities of being a woman versus being a man. Do women spend more time cleaning and doing laundry because of gender expectations about appearance and femininity?  Do women get caught up in cult of domesticity?  For Marche being “fetish” about domestic life is the macho equivalent for women
    • Is it related to gender inequities in earnings? Some household activities can be outsourced by eating out and using dry cleaners.  Outsourcing may be more difficult for single women who earn about 80 cents for every dollar a single man earns.
    • An interesting finding is that in some countries, women who make more money than their husbands tend to do more housework. Sociologists say this can be an effort to reduce so called “gender deviance” created when men and women have gender atypical occupations and earnings.

Marriage should be equal.  And, there is lots of advice about splitting the housework to create equality, much of which is useless.  Advice about how to split up the housework relies too much on being “fair” requiring some kind of objective evaluation of who does what.  What this approach fails to appreciate is the perception of effort in doing such tasks.  Whatever task I am doing, I am aware of the actual work done and I am more aware of the effort it takes me to do the job.  Effort is perceptual, not objective.

In addition, trying to be objective about doing tasks propels you into an “exchange” approach to housework; you are in some kind of transaction with each other.  This doesn’t work because exchange transactions are based on maximizing one’s self-interest not about tending to your relationship.

The HIP Marriage

Mothers and fathers have a new cultural norm about marriage and parenting that Richard Reeves calls the HIP marriage, i.e. high investment parenting marriage.   Parenthood has become associated with a gendered division of housework even among couples who maintained relatively egalitarian patterns before the birth of a child.  When the first child is born:

  • Father’s increase their paid work time and decrease housework
  • Mothers decrease their paid work time and increase housework

While fathers today feel that children are entitled to men’s close attention and time, mothers are still held accountable to standards of intensive parenting more than father are.  All parents are working longer hours in paid work, housework, and child care; they are pulled between work and family.

Some suggestions:

  • As Stephen Marche says, do less and care less about tidiness: leave the stairs untidy, don’t make the beds, don’t repaint the peeling ceilings, dishes can wait, etc.Dirty dishes
  • Outsource what household tasks you can
  • Don’t let housework continue to be a feminist issue; remember house work is not something wives owe to husbands
  • Housework and taking care of children is the daily stuff of which the relationship is made. You are married to help each other; helping each other the marriage
  • Work toward changing workplaces that value long work hours and value work over family
  • Because paternal leave is so stigmatized, create your own “Daddy Quota”  (say on Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon) when Daddy is solo and in charge.

Achieving and maintaining gender equality in household tasks and child care is not going to be easy.  Most couples fall into unequal patterns without their conscious intention or awareness.  Successful egalitarian couples are vigilant and proactive in decision making BEFORE and AFTER the baby is born.  Keep in mind the kind of life you really want together.

 

References)

Noah Berlatsky.  “Spouses Probably Shouldn’t Try to Split Household Tasks Exactly Evenly.” The Atlantic.  March 19. 2013. (http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/03/spouses-probably-shouldnt-try-to-split-household-tasks-exactly-evenly/274133/)

Stephen Marche.  “The Case for Filth.”  New York Times.  December 7, 2013.  (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/08/opinion/sunday/the-case-for-filth.html?_r=0)

Richard Reeves.  “How to Save Marriage in America.” the Atlantic.” February 13, 2014.  (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/02/how-to-save-marriage-in-america/283732/)

Llana Sayer.  “The Complexities of Interpreting Changing Household Patterns.” (https://contemporaryfamilies.org/complexities-brief-report/)

Brigid Schulte.  “After the Baby: Dads Do Less at Home.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2015/05/07/once-the-baby-comes-moms-do-more-dads-do-less-around-the-house/)