November 17, 2009

Drugging Children Instead of Changing America

I do not worship at psychiatric shrines. I am a psychiatric social worker and expert librarian/researcher. In my twenties I edited world famous psychiatrists for Basic Books, Freud's American publisher. These brilliant, cultured men whose today's psychiatrists haven't heard of had not discovered that mental illness was all biochemical and did not drug their patients.

 I am also a manic depressive.  After being diagnosed in 1985, I was forcibly dosed with thorazine, stelazine, and  haldol in the loony bin,  Out of the loony bin, I have tried lithium, klonopin, depakote, tegretol, various antidepressant. All did far more harm than good.  I seem to lose my ability to write and my IQ drops 40 points.In 1996 I read about lamictal (lamotrigine) on the Pendulum Manic Depressive listserv . I also met my husband on Pendulum; his first wife, with no warning,  had gone psychotically manic, divorced him, and has refused to speak to him for 14 years.

I  shopped for a psychiatrist who would partner with me in a lamictal experiment and found Peter Stein in 1997. He, my therapist who wishes to remain anonymous,  and lamictal have tamed the manic depressive demons ever since. I was Peter's firstt lamictal patient. Now he prescribes it frequently and never gave me a cut. Lamictal  is not a magic bullet, but it does not rob me of my intellect and my writing. It tames but doesn't scare away the manic depressive demons; I have never been hospitalized. It has not eliminated the rebellious  troublemaking  and authority questioning so underappreciated  by librarians and social workers. It can cause fatal flesh-destroying rashes. I fully expect to die sooner because of my psych meds.

The few times in the last 24 years that  I or my psychiatrist deluded ourselves  that I didn't need meds anymore, I learned an expensive lesson.  I lost jobs and in a few instances landed in the loony bin.  So I am not denying any role for medication  I am not talking about ADHD drugs like ritalin. However, childhood bipolar disorder has only been discovered in the last 15 years, mostly in America. The close ties to Big Pharm of many discoverers have been exposed. Until 1995 conventional psychiatric wisdom was that bipolar disorder could only be diagnosed in the late teens. There is no conclusive study that proves childhood bipolar disorder leads to adult bipolar disorder. Psychiatrists still debate whether it exists and whether it should be included in the next edition of the psychiatric bible, the DSM. Mysteriously, children with such broken brains are mostly found in the US and the UK.


Too often kids are being given anti-psychotics for behavior problems, anti-psychotics not tested with children. When I was forced to take these drugs, they obliterated whole days. My intellect and education were not able to withstand their devastating cognitive effects. Fantasy, dreaming,  reading, reality were blurred only after I took the drugs.  Giving such drugs to a young mind until all alternative have been exhausted seems like malpractice.

Until all mood stabilizers went generic, anti-psychotics were used to treat schizophrenics and hospitalized manics.  There is a shameful record of using them on Alzheimer's sufferers. As recently as the 2004 American Psychiatric Meeting in NY, drug reps were marketing bestsellers such as abilify and seroquel only for those patients. Now they are being heavily advertised  as maintenace drugs for depression and manic depression.  These newer atypical anti-psychotics are heavily implicated in causing huge weight gain and sudden onset diabetes.

 Take your kid's prescribed meds for at least a month before giving them to him. Take a leave of absence from work; don't drive, drink or operate machinery.  Have the med bottle with you at all times to prove you haven't succumbed to instant Alzheimer's Disease. Don't make excuses.  You at least will understand what is happening to you and your brain is developed. The whole family needs to be treated by a family therapist.


 What is going wrong with the way we are raising children? Why do we look in children's brains for the answers to be found in social reform?  Who is blowing the whistle? Who is questioning the wisdom of babies and toddlers being cared for by strangers? Who is wondering whether group care is appropriate for most children under three or four? Thirty-five years ago, children were five or six before they were expected to adapt to group standards of behavior. Who is crusading for a shorter work week and greatly increased parental leaves? Who is is dedicated to make caring for preschoolers a viable career path for college graduates, comparable to teaching in salary and benefits?  Why do we expect little boys to adapt to schools better suited to girls? Why don't we train and recruit more male teachers in preschools, who might be better role models for little boys and help create more welcoming schools?

 Who is demanding the economic changes required to enable parents to spend more time caring for their young children themselves? Who is comparing our rate of childhood mental illness with rates in the rest of the Western world? Who is outraged about preschoolers taking multiple psychiatric drugs that have never been tested on children? Who is fighting to outlaw drugs ads in magazines and on TV? Why are we teaching our kids that drugs are the solution to every problem? Thirty years ago we felt like bad parents if we let our kids have caffeine.

 The aggressive drug treatment of mental illness in the last 30 years hasn't been a success story. When yesterday's wonder drug becomes generic, its ineffectiveness is suddenly discovered and its dangerous side effects are no longer covered up. Today's expensive wonder drug will supposedly save your life after being tested for a shockingly short time on shockingly few people who don't share your diagnoses.
 Young children are so unformed, so in process. This year's four year old can seem like a different creature than last year's three year old. So can this year's 14 year old.  These diagnoses disorder imply lifelong, incurable brain disorders for which there are no medical tests, no verifiable proof of their existence. Your children will be sentenced to a lifetime of discrimination and stigma.  Children with serious problems need to be treated with family therapy.

Why would you accept that your young child has a permanently broken brain? Why not change child care arrangements, pay your parents to take care of him, share a nanny with a friend,reduce your working hours and lower your career ambitions, live more frugally, sell your house and move to an apartment, borrow money and take a leave of absence from work,  your parents and relatives for help, search out books and activities about his particular obsessions, learn the recommended interventions yourself?
 Does your child need more relaxed time with his overscheduled parents rather than tense sessions with experts comfortable with diagnosing him after a few testing sessions?Why not wait until the picture becomes clearer? Why it is so urgent to find the answer when he is 2 or 3? We are not dealing with meningitis or childhood leukemia. When I hear a 7 year old rattle off all his psychiatric labels, it breaks my heart. I need some comrades to help lead the revolution.

October 17, 2009

"I'm Obsessed with Drosselmeyer"


Nate has creatively coped with the arrival of Annabel a month ago by becoming obsessed with the New York City Ballet's version of the Nutcracker. He first watched the DVD when he stayed overnight with us the night Vanessa was in labor. Now he wants to watch it everyday.

He has favorite scenes--all Drosselmeyer appearances, the evil mice king, the snowdrops, Mother Ginger, the Candy Canes, Coffe and Tea, and the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. He is tremendously impressed with the strength and power of male dances--their amazing spins and jumps, their ability "to lift the lady over their heads." In their building playroom, he was trying to make Barbie and Ken become the Sugar Plum Fairy and her partner. It was sublime. He now loves to dance around the living room, obviously emulating the Cavalier.

Since we don't want him to spend all day appreciating great art and great music, he sometimes has to settle for the music. He has loved the Nutcracker score since he was Annabel's age. He can tell us what scenes go with what music. He has also enjoyed Swan Lake, particularly Von Rothbart, the evil magician who turned the girls into swans. He understands that the same man, whose name he can pronounce, wrote the music to both ballets.

He likes to pretend the Drosselmeyer has "escaped from the ballet" and come to visit. He told us, "I am obsessed with Drosselmeyer." Vanessa and John have decided to make him a Drosselmeyer Halloween costume. Fortunately, Vanessa wanted to be a ballerina; she admits she never gets tired of the Nutcracker.

We are all thrilled with his creative coping, but I have already noticed that some people to whom I boast of his creativity don't share my enthusiasm. Why isn't he more interested in guns, explosions, blowing people up? Admittedly, he had to be discouraged from pretending Annabel was the mouse king, who does not meet a happy fate:)

October 12, 2009

Has Feminism Won Its Battles?

Unlike many feminists with my intellect and education, I decided to stay home with my four children full-time for 15 years and part-time until the youngest went to college. I involved myself in nonsexist childrearing, childbirth education, breastfeeding counseling, parent education, toddler playgroups, babysitting cooperatives, cooperative nursery schools, school libraries, a campaign to save the local public library, the nuclear freeze movement, mental illness support and advocacy, parent advocacy for playground upkeep and a preschool playroom, a high school group for interracial understanding--the list is endless. When I made the mistake of attending library school and social work school, I naively assumed my qualifications would be obvious and no one would dare to treat me like a beginner. I was given the responsibility of an experienced worker and the salary, benefits, and respect of a beginner.

I recall one infuriating incident during my first social work placement; my childless supervisor earnestly instructed me how to interview a client with her two year old present. I had frequently run La Leche Meetings with 20 moms and 30 babies and toddlers. Women social workers who had taken very short maternity leaves and worked full-time during their children's childhood too often acted like all my knowledge had been attained by cheating. I got more respect from male professors. The situation has worsened; women are terrified of taking only a few years off from work. And yet the men who fought World War II left their jobs for several years and did not suffer economic consequences. The government even paid for their college and grad school education.

When my mom went back to college in 1963 and work in 1968, after having raised 6 children, she was accorded more respect and her experience was more honored than mine was 20 years later Full-time childrearing is frequently belittled as beneath the time and attention of intelligent, well-educated parents, who presumably should have exploited immigrant women of color to love and understand their children while they pursued their more important jobs.
Remember, things have not changed for the valiant, loving women of color who raise our children and care for our aging parents. I take care of my toddler grandson 3 days a week; my friends are mostly nannies from all over the world. I am often appalled how little highly successful two-career couples pay their nanny; many fail to provide the caregiver with any benefits, least of all health care. They think nothing of calling the nanny on Sunday and telling her they don't need her that week. As one dedicated women from the Dominican Republic told me, "the more I love the children, the more it hurts my heart."

I agree that most women with college degrees, graduate, or professional degrees have made enormous strides in most major professions and in the workplace generally. Even nurses and teachers have made significant progress because they unionized. Public librarians and social workers usually make less than any other professionals with graduate degrees, because they are mostly women and they are not unionized.

It is only when women have children or have to care for aging parents that they fully realize that women have mostly gained the right to follow the traditional male life style, emphasizing work over relationships, caregiving, community activism.. As women chose to have children at an older and older age, the realization is late in coming. At that point their lives tend too become too frenzied and exhausting to leave any time for feminism and political reform. My four well-educated, successful daughters are only having their consciousness raised as they begin to have children. You might make over $100,000 a year, but you still will have to pump breastmilk for your infant in the toilet.
The mommy wars infuriate me because they presuppose it is the responsibility of mothers, not fathers, to raise children. In the 70s we believed in equal childrearing, although we fell far short of that goal.

September 22, 2009

Joy of Birth and Breastfeeding

mommyjoy
Seconds after Birth of Oldest Daughter,1973

Fun 
Late April, 1973
I was a breasfeeding counselor for 13 years. Many young mothers were worried they were perverted because they found breastfeeding sensual, even sexual. I assured them that if breastfeeding hadn't been pleasurable, the human race would not have made it. The way some people talk about breastfeeding, especially of toddlers, I wonder if they think all breastfeeding mothers need to register as sexual offenders. Our society is more than sick; it often is evil.
EMJPBirth82

Home Birth, 1982

July 2, 2009

Don't Cry Kitty; Mommy Will Read to You

Dad Reading
Mom reading, 1951; Dad reading, 1961; Grandpa Reading, 1974
In my baby book my mom wrote: "A book worm--she loved all books. At 2 years her favorites were Dumbo, Children's Garden of Verses, Alice in Wonderland. Was always eager for Cinderella, Goldilocks, etc." Under my favorite books, she listed Daddy's and Uncle George's yearbook, Mother Goose, all magazines, ABC book. Later I wrote in Nancy Drew. My obsession with my dad's yearbook indicated that I was fascinated by family history and dynamics from infancy.

My parents read to us every single night. They tended to pick books of interest to the older children, so the younger ones were exposed to Winnie the Pooh, Children's Garden of Verse, Treasure Island, The Jungle Books, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, The Wind in the Willows, at an early age. On their first visit to Anne, my oldest, in the hospital the day she was born, my mom and dad bought three picture books.

My mom and dad were consummate book worms. Our local library was a tiny volunteer operation in an old church. They took us to the Hempstead Library, three miles away. We were each allowed to take out as many books as we could carry; once I managed 20. As a librarian, I am upset by parents who restrict their kids to two or three books, especially when they ask me to back them up their restrictions. I smile apologetically at the parents and tell the kid that the library limit is 25:) . My first library card seemed magical. I vividly remember my awe when I realized I now had a passport to the universe.Wherever I have been in the world, libraries are my home, my church. Jorge Luis Borges wrote, "I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library." When I am manicy, I am bombarded with synchronicity. Libraries are palaces of synchronicity.
I have always been grateful that we did not have a television set until I was 14. John and I experimented with throwing out our television when Anne was 4 and maintained our resolve for for five years. Rose, who never watched TV until she was 5, is the most voracious reader and writer.

My sister-in-law once paid me the supreme compliment: "Your idea of domesticity is putting your books in alphabetical order." Reading always took precedence over housework. I have always found time to read at least 4 or 5 books a week. Admittedly my speed is much better than my retention. I can enjoy the same mysteries twice.

My family believes this picture of 3-year-old Carolyn, taken in 1985, is our cutest. Carolyn's kitten-holding technique was not optimal. She assured me she could talk to animals, and I absolutely believed her. What living creature could resist her? Her sisters were in their Madonna phase. Carolyn loved to dance around with her grandma's rosary beads around her neck, telling everyone she was a material girl.
Reading to toddlers and preschoolers is one of life's supreme pleasures. It is the natural follow-up to breastfeeding. Preschoolers who are read to realize that reading aloud is a wonderful way to nurture someone. I recall my daughter Rose's saying to her doll, "Don't cry baby. Mommy will read to you." I always read aloud to the older girls when I was nursing the baby.

Preschoolers can enjoy chapter books. Michelle insisted on our reading The Wind in the Willows to her three separate times when she was 4. Beverly Cleary's Ramona books are perfect for 4's and 5's because she is 4 in the first one. Ramona was Carolyn's ego ideal. Don't stop reading to your children when they learn to read. Continue to read chapter books, books beyond their ability to read themselves. We never lose our love for being read to. Check out the thousands of books on tape and CD at your local library. If your library doesn't have the title you want, they can usually get it from another library.

I babysat for the same family from age 11 to 18; the kids were 2 and 6 when I started. By the time I graduated from college, Marion, the oldest, could babysit her brother by herself. I always read to them. About 10 years ago, I discovered a novel written by Marion. I was thrilled, look her up, and we write to each other sporadically. I loved to imagine that all those hundreds of books I had read to Marion and her brother helped influence her to become a writer.

My oldest daughter Anne loved the Curious George books. She loved them so much that both my parents and John and I gave her the same giant Curious George for her second Christmas. She grew up to be a curious Anne. She spent her 20s and early 30s working around the world in 75 world cities, living in Kosovo, Niger, and Rwanda.I recall George wound up with his head in the toilet.

When Anne was a teenager, we often seemed to communicate best by leaving books for each other on the radiator next to the toilet. No matter how conflicted our relationship became, we both enjoyed the same books. As a teen librarian, I discovered that throwing books on the floor by the teen's feet was the most promising way to recommend them.

Do you ever go back and read your favorite children's books? At any age, it is illuminating to try to find out what books you wanted read to you again and again. I remember Anne's calling me from college, thrilled that she had made a new friend who loved the same children's books. After my dad died, I was delighted to discover that rereading the books he read to us brought him back.

I lust for a software program that enables you to feed in all your children's favorite books and then spits out an analysis of their character and advice on what battles are worth fighting. When asked to recommend books for children in the library, I usually talk to the kid for few minutes, figure out what daughter, brother, niece, nephew, cousin, friend she reminds me of, and recommend that child's favorite book. This absolutely intuitive technique works well.

As a child I adored all the Oz books. I spent a great deal of time pretending I was Glinda the Good. I frequently wear a pin with red shoes, celebrating Dorothy's magic red slippers. Nancy Drew, girl detective, was my other favorite. Starting when we were 7, my best friend and I used to walk 2 miles to discover the Nancy Drew books selling for ten cents at the Salvation Army.

My only essential plastic is my library card.

July 1, 2009

Presidential Candidates of 2044

The Future
DSC07009
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elena

I deliberately chose serious pictures of my then  8-month-old and  5-month-old granddaughters. Read the green shirt. Intellectual self-confidence breeds true. I will be 99 when they can run for president in 2044.

Radical feminist that I was, I was shocked to discover when my first daughter  Emma was born in 1973 that motherhood empowered women, made them much stronger and braver. I decided to write a book reconciling intense motherhood and feminism. Twenty -six years later I am trying to gather up writings scattered in untranscribed noteboks, on  floppy discs most computers can't read, too many blogs under too many pseudonyms.

During the primary campaign, I was chagrined to discover that I had gifted my 4 daughters with brilliant nonsexist childrearing, but apparently felt it unnecessary to grow young feminists. They often  had never heard of authors that had shaped me.

My grandmother was born in 1898. She voted in the first election open to women. At 40 she was a widow, with 7 children, including a two year old. She had lost a daughter and both her parents were dead. My mother had to abandon her journalism dreams and go to secretarial school. Looking back in 1980 at 1939, she wishes she would have become a lawyer, like her dad and two brothers. If she were born 25 years later, I am certain she would have gone into politics. My daughter Jane, who is both a lawyer and a writer, has succeeded where my mother and I faltered.
The book will concentrate on my mom and me, but I will also discuss my grandmother, my daughters (stressing education, career, combining motherhood and career), my niees. I have two granddaughters, 8 months and 5 months; another is due in early September. I also have 2 great nieces. I hope my granddaughters and grandnieces grow up in a family friendly America, but I was sure my daughters would as well. I hope we will have a woman president before they are eligible to run in 2044.
I have an abundant of original source material, including well over a thousand letters my mother wrote to my soldier father from November 1942 to February 1946, when he first met his 7-month-old daughter. My mother lived in Uniondale, 3 miles away from my home in Baldwin from 1947 to 2002. She was a community leader and the mainstay (close to assistant pastor) of her church, St. Martha's. She went to nearby colleges, Nassau Community and Hofstra. She taught American History at Uniondale High School from 1969 to 1980.
I decided to make St. Martha's my church home, at least for the time being. I went to the weekday mass this morning and talked to five people who knew my mother well. I am now in the Uniondale Library, looking at their strong local history collection. I have all the documents from my mother's hard drive, with long lists of phone numbers. At least five of her closest friends are still alive, including two who have known her since they were 13.
My uncle, another history teacher, has a huge archive of family letters, including the ones my grandmother wrote to them when he was pursuing graduate study at Notre Dame. He moved from Long Island to the finger lakes when he retired. We are spending our summer vacation four miles away from where he lives. I teased him if he leaves me his archives, I will write his biography. He never ever throws anything out.
I have never thrown out the journal I kept from the time I dropped out of Columbia Law School after two weeks in 1971 through my pregnancy in 1972-73. Most of it is about feminism, wrestling with the possibilities of combining ambition and mothering.
My daughters never experienced discrimination through their brilliant college and graduate school careers. It is only now, when three of them are new mothers, that they realize their daughters do not live in a post-feminist world.

May 26, 2009

Joe: Love at First Sight

Her name was Mary, of course. She was a blue-eyed, smiling, long-legged, cool -looking girl--a trifle naive. A girl with class, he thought when he first saw her, but young. A bus seems an awful place for things to start, but there was she on a bus going to church and planning to have a chocolate ice cream cone with sprinkelettes. He was going to church too, but she sat in back of him and that was that.


He said hello to her that afternoon or more likely she said hello to him. Again nothing happened--there are lots of shapely girls in blue bathing suits at a lake summer resort. The summer resort was one of those let’s-be-one’big-happy-family sort of places--it even had a social director and a social directrix.
Naturally one afternoon there was a baseball game in which all the boys and girls (in those places they’re all boys and girls even if the boys and girls have big boys and girls of their own) were to participate. Well this particular boy and girl were antisocial or mutually social. They sat out the ball game on a raft. Long afterward he learned her reason why she was there but being a romantic still doesn’t believe it.

They talked about prosaic things--families and schools; after all he was a shy young man. She wasn’t. Maybe that is why he was sure it happened then. That’s the trouble with shy young men: they are not used to openhearted friendliness. He never knew what she saw in him, but for the rest of the week they were summer friends. He struggled a little bit--an inherent male instinct. Why one rainy afternoon they went to a Bing Crosby movie in separate groups. They had only a week, not even a full one.

However, this time it did happen on a bus. They had made some sort of plan to ride back to New York on the same bus. He from the summer resort, she from Albany where she was visiting. He was positive. She says it couldn’t haven happened then--that soon.

He didn’t know the proper method of courting a girl, not a beautiful one like her. Oh he was quite proper. The movies he took her to were always approved for adults and children. A baseball game, a few football games, a little bowling--that was about all. He didn’t have much time, altogether three months. He then went away as did twelve million other men young and old. Oh yes, he finally kissed her once. He was very proper and very shy and afraid she would say no.

He did have a secret weapon. His job had been writing letters under constricting rules. He now could write letters without rules. She claims it was all platonic yet her first letter to him was a sixteen-page affair. Looking back he is smiling at the strategy of the salutation of his letter. First it was a proper Dear Mary--it’s possible to write the same two words so they are less proper but more warm. She should have realized what his plans were right from the very beginning. The first thing he did was change her name,, he first name that is. How could he ever have written letters beginning Dear Marie.

Three months of seeing her, three months of exchanging letters and she was sure too. A little later--less than a year after they first met, it was properly formalized. She got a ring (It was not in a car; it was outside on the sidewalk in front of her house). The ratio was changed. One kiss in three months to how many kisses in two weeks? Not enough, there will never be enough. His heart was just too full--that time was a blur to him. Did it happen to her as it did to him? There was no beginning. It just always was. Just two he and she.

Of course they were going to be engaged for a long time, and it was a long time. Six months and twenty-six days. One could say he was respoinsible. Too much of his heart got into one of his letters and now slipped in. But she was more direct and she knew her hussyness. She met his train and before they got home it was all decided. And then for a week they didn’t see each other, well hardly at all. A girl has a lot to do before here wedding. Some girls take months and months. This girl did it all in a week.

Married on Monday. What plain words. Rainbow isn’t a fancy word either. Nor sunrise,nor moonlight. Love and sacrement--a sacrament of love. "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two but one flesh."

May 25, 2009

Joe: Army Life

I recall that on one Sunday afternoon, about five hundred years ago, someone told me how the army made a friend of theirs so much bolder. I hope you're not drawing a parallel. If you had higher mathematics at Queens college, you show know that, according to Riemannian geometry, there are no parallels. It's not the army, Mary; it's the fountain pen for a mighty man with pen and ink, am I. In all these years it's been a hidden talent.

Since one Nolan at least is interested in the army, I should begin by describing the process of Uptonizing. The prospective soldiers arrive in Camp Upton (I can't tell you how since that is a troop movement and troop movements are military secrets) late in the afternoon , and the balance of the day and night is spent in being acclimated. This involves standing out in the open, swept by cold winds (and rain if there is any) until the body temperature is about 40 degrees, and then marched into a building to thaw out. Just so this time is not wasted, they dish out either a meal or a test.

I was lucky because my first day ended at 11 pm; if my name began with a "z" it probably would have concluded at about 4 am. The next day the process is repeated beginning at 5 am--it is dark at this unearthly hour . However, after breakfast and after the inevitable standing around being counted and recounted , we were marched into the processing unit. I entered one door as a civilian and came out a fully uniformed soldier (in fact, carrying three other complete uniforms in a large canvas bag), possessing an insurance policy, and bearing the imprints of typhoid, anti-tetanus, and smallpox innoculations. After that the entire group is marched to the cinema to see a double feature entitled, "What Every Young Soldier Should Know." Thus ends the process and the solider is usually sent to some other camp for basic training.

But you are probably saying to yourself, Joe must be still at Camp Upton because the envelope says so. Yes I am still out here in the woods. It seems that I'm on a special detail; the requirements for which seem to (1) that you wear glasses, and (2) that you pass the intelligence test (I got 151 but I always knew I was a genius). After working for a week I don't think the second requirement is at all necessary. On the whole work is rather easy--just routine clerical work handling the records of the incoming soldiers ,but there is certainly enough of it.

Because of our work we live in a special row of tents. I'm sleeping in a 6 man tent and believe it or not, my principal complaint is that it is too hot. One of the soldiers in my tent was formerly a fireman on a Coast Guard rum chaser during prohibition days: he has appinted himself chief of the tent stove and he keeps it red hot night and day. Even on the windiest days the temperature inside our tent is about 85. We use coal so we're not affected by oil rationing. Heh, Heh.


You can almost hear his voice.
May 19, 2009 03:22 P

Joe: Professor Koch on Procrastination

It was my intent to begin this letter with a lecture on procrastination delivered in Prof. Koch's inimitable style. This is how I used to work it. In those days I got off at 4:30 so I would be home considerably before 6.

Since dinner would be ready at 6 it was hardly worthwhile to begin studying. So I would start reading the LI Daily Press. After supper it would be only a few minutes till Lowell Thomas comes on so I might as well wait. (Please excuse the shift of tenses to the narrative present.) Well, a fellow needs some amusement and what's fifteen minutes; so to WEAF for the Chesterfield program with Fred Waring. Time out to rest so now it's 7:30. The half hour from 7:30 to 8:00 was really the difficult time to waste. I usually couldn't think of a valid excuse for not studying. Since I wasn't a lawyer, I usually got by without one.

Of course, everyone knows that the good radio programs come on a 8 o'clock so I was saved. This was good for Monday and Tuesday nights. Wednesday was a tougher struggle for I knew if I could get by Wednesday, I was saved for the rest of the week. What would be the use of studying for the last two days of the week? Occasionally, though, I would lose on Wednesday nights and I would have to make some attempt at getting to work.

I usually got seated at my desk about 9 but I was still struggling. I could rearrange the papers on my desk for ten or fifteen minutes , but finally I would have to pick up my book. However, there was still life in the old procrastinator: instead of opening the textbook at the assigned chapter, I could skip a hundred pages or so and then begin reading there. If I was near the end of the book, there were always other ones to look over. At approximately 10:30 the struggle would be over. It always puzzled me why I felt so tired after studying for only three hours.

New Years Day 1943

After making our beds and cleaning up the barracks, you can well realize why we don’t have to report for calisthenics until 8 o clock. The exercises are given out on the drill field and it certainly is cold out there because the sun has not cleared the mountains that early. For the first few days calisthenics were easy because the corporals giving the exercise would tire soon and we’d be through. Today, however, a new system was inaugurated--a shuft of four corporals put us through our paces. After briskly running about a hundred yards we then have to “police up” the company area (It’s now seven minutes to nine so this epistle will have to be continued tomorrow since we have lights out at nine. Oh well early to bed and early to....!)

Policing up consists of spreading out in a line and marching forward picking up stray bits of paper cigarettes etc. from the ground--street cleaning in other words. That is the theoretical aspect. Actually you walk along with your hands in your pockets studiously avoiding looking at the ground.

May 21, 2009

In My Grandmother's House

My daughter Katherine wrote this about the wartime letters:

In my grandmother's house, past a stone Mexican statue named Harry, up the front stairs and to the right there is a bedroom. In this bedroom there are a pea green carpet, a bed with yellow and orange flowered sheets, and a cracked blue dresser. This dresser, unlike every other bureau and closet in this house, does not contain any seventies-style ties, old scarves, or early feminist t-shirts. Instead every drawer is filled with letters.

Joe lived in Jamaica, Queens, with his parents and six younger sisters and brothers. His college yearbook said of him, "Even his own brilliance could not fathom the enigma that is Joe." Mary lived in Queens Village. She was the second child, and the oldest girl, in a family of seven. Her high school yearbook described her as, "Sincerity coupled with bubbling vivacity, scholastic excellence with literary talents, athletic prowess, sparkling wit." She would not have a college yearbook until many years later, because her father had died without much life insurance when she was seventeen years old. Her father's brother squeezed together the money for her older brother to continue school at St. John's, but Mary was just a girl.

Mary and Joe had met the summer of 1942, on a raft at Loon Lake in the Adirondacks. He was 28, she was 21. A week later, back in Queens, he took her to see Bambi. They saw each other often in the three months after Bambi became Prince of the forest, and before Joe was drafted. He kissed her for the first time on the day he left for the army.

They will get engaged the night before her 22nd birthday in August 1943 and will marry the next March. The wedding will not be fancy, since it was planned in about four days and no one had much money anyway. The reception will be in Mary's backyard. Joe will go off to war in Europe, though his bad vision will ensure that he never faces combat. They will have their first child while he is away. There will be short letters to Baby Mary Jo, my mother, enclosed with the longer ones to Mary. Then in 1946, when Mary Jo is eight months old, Joe will finally come home and the letters will end.

They will have five more children, and the children will have fourteen kids of their own. Joe will die of Alzheimer's disease in May of 1987. Mary will become a lobbyist and counselor for victims of the disease and their families. She will become even more involved with her church,
and even more of a rock for her distressingly heathen children and grandchildren. Mary will die in April 2004 of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy.

My grandparents' generation has been called "The Greatest Generation." They survived the depression, they fought Hitler. Yes, they did, but many of them also contributed to horrible racial inustice, and a few of them dropped the bomb. I suppose that talking about our parents' and grandparents' moral superiority is an improvement over not trusting them because they're over forty, but it's not much of an improvement. It would be far more honest to say that they did some very good things, and some very bad things. They had fewer toys, and certainly they wrote better love letters, but they were more or less just like us.

To put it another way, generation schmeneration. I'm not going to even try to judge. Instead I will sit here and read these letters. I will learn that my mother's mother is more than the grandma who babysat for us almost every week for ten years, and who is always inappropriately freezing things. I will learn that my mother's father was far more than the sick, confused old man I remember.

May 7, 2009

Emma: Mother's Day 1986


1974, 2007
Mother's Day 1986
Dear Mommy,

Here’s to the memories. All the laughter, tears, happiness, and sorrow that we as your children have experienced with you right beside us every step of the way, making sure we didn’t stray off the path. Thanks, Mommy, for who would we be without you.

Love, Emma

Emma gave me a small book of family photos with this lovely message inscribed on the back cover. She was just 13. I carried it around in my bag for at least 3 years, so I could read it every time I felt like murdering her. Her eloquence was only matched by her --what word can I use-- spawn-of-Satanhood?

When she was 6, her first grade teacher said, "Emma knows exactly where my limits and she will go right to the brink, but never cross over." She didn't show such diplomacy with her mother. However, when she worked around the world in her 20's, she never had to bribe anyone at airports. After her first trip to Africa, she got several letters from cabdrivers addressed to "my angel Emma."

Emma repeatedly stuck her tongue out at me minutes after birth.This picture of her at 17 months (the day I got pregnant with her sister Rosalind), is revealing.  She should have been born with a printout: "You will win five battles with this child. Choose them carefully." I learned what the five battles were by losing hundreds of others.

At the height of our teenage struggles, Emma used to say: "I don't have sex, don't smoke, don't do drugs, don't drink, don't party at all hours. I am not pregnant; I do well in school; I plan a serious career in world saving. What is your problem, mom?" Of course she was right, and that's why her sisters seemed easier. I didn't fight the silly battles.

But it was all worth it. Watching her mother my grandson gives me absolute joy. Despite our arguments, we have always been extremely close. As usual, my writer Jane says it best (2001):

"Emma is capable of more generosity than anyone I know. She holds herself responsible for you, me, Rosalind, and Molly.. Being incredibly brave as well as generous, though, she doesn't stop there; she is now going to try to save some people in Africa (Rwanda) too, or at least to learn how."

Emma deserves this more than I do: " Here’s to the memories. All the laughter, tears, happiness, and sorrow that I as your mother have experienced with you right beside me every step of the way, making sure I didn’t stray off the path. Thanks, Emma, for who would I be without you?"

April 4, 2009

What Is Your Birth Order?

To Only Children: Being the oldest child dooms you to the responsibility chip, whether you have no siblings or 7. Until both your parents die, you are being parented by people who have no clue what they are doing. They get better with younger children, but they don't know how to parent a 25 year old, a 40 year old, a 55 year old anymore than they knew how to parent an infant or toddler. Their grandparenting skills are nonexistent. Children raise their parents to be grownups. Being outnumbered makes the job more challenging and stimulating, but you are always up to it.
MaryJoRichardOct47bigsister
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In the first picture, I am two and one half; Joe is one. In the second, I am four, Andrew is six months. In the third picture, I am seven; Bob is newborn. In the fourth picture, I am 12; Gerard is 1. In the fifth photo, I was 13, Brian was 1 month.

Studying the pictures helps me clarify my family dynamics. Sibling closeness has mattered more to me than to my brothers. I try much harder to keep the family connected. Being both the oldest and the only girl seems central. I was my adult height when my two younger brothers were born; they were only 5 and 7 when I left home for college. I must have seemed a maternal figure to them. In some pictures I look like their young mother.
We did not grow up in the same family. My mother returned to school full-time when Brian was 5; when he was 7, she started teaching high school. Joe, Andrew, and I had had a stay-at-home mother until we went to college. Brian doesn't remember my mom staying at home full-time. My father retired before Brian finished college.

We have very different perceptions of our parents. Joe, Andrew, and I remember our dad as a brilliant intellectual and mathematician; Gerard and Brian remember a grail old man who disappeared into Alzheimer's Disease. The three oldest remember our childhood perceptions of my mom as "just a housewife" who never went to college. My younger brothers remember her the way her obituary describes her: "teacher, activist, trailblazer."

With the death of my mom, Joe, 18 months younger, is my only collaborator for family history. Fortunately, Joe was too busy climbing on the roof as a kid to remember very much. I could write family fiction and convince everyone it is family history.

I struggled not to favor my first daughter Anne in sibling squabbles, because she, like me, is the oldest of several siblings. Both my first husband John and I were the oldest children of oldest children of oldest children--not the best recipe for marital harmony. Certainly Anne shows the same sense of responsibility for her younger siblings that I felt. John, Anne, and I thought younger siblings owe considerable gratitude to the oldest, who has fought all the battles necessary to whip parents into shape.

In my constant discussions with friends about baby spacing when my kids were young, I noticed that adult relationships with your siblings greatly influence you. If you love your sibs, you might think a brother or sister is the best gift you will give your kids. If you don't talk to your sib, you will feel guilty about the trauma you are inflicting on the oldest. As people only have two children, there will only be younger and older older. Middle children seem to have special gifts society will sorely lack. When I told 6 year old Michelle, I was pregnant with Carolyn, she rejoiced, "Now I won't be the only middle child."
Faced with the challenge of caring for my mother during the last years of her life, my brothers and I had to confront and heal lifelong conflicts and misunderstandings. It is so easy to fall into childhood roles. My mom was always the family switchboard. We would call her, not each other; she would relay the news to everyone. I struggle very hard not to play the same role.

I adore my brothers and wish we saw each other much more often. We are scattered from Maine to North Carolina. My mother had five brothers as well. As a teenager, I used to reproach her, "Mom, how could you do this to me? You knew what it was like." My mom, a long-term care activist, used to begin her speechs, "I have lived with 12 men--long pause--only one of them intimately." Growing up with my brothers, I acquired a lifelong comfort around men. Daughters were a challenge; sons would have been easier. Taking care of my grandson revives many wonderful memories of my brothers as children.
What is your birth order? What impact has it had on your life? Being the oldest is being the oldest, whether you have no siblings or 7 siblings. You were raised by parents who had no clue. And that will continue until the day both of them are dead. They get better with younger children, but they don't know how to parent a 25 year old, a 40 year old, a 55 year old anymore than they knew how to parent an infant or toddler. Children raise their parents to be grownups. Having no accomplices just makes the job more challenging.

Goblins--Grandpa Reading to Our Grandson

April 3, 2009

Transforming Joy of Birth and Breastfeeding

mommyjoy

Seconds after Birth of Oldest Daughter,1973

Fun
Late April, 1973

I was a breasfeeding counselor for 13 years. Many young mothers were worried they were perverted because they found breastfeeding sensual, even sexual. I assured them that if breastfeeding hadn't been pleasurable, the human race would not have made it. The way some people talk about breastfeeding, especially of toddlers, I wonder if they think all breastfeeding mothers need to register as sexual offenders. Our society is more than sick; it often is evil.

EMJPBirth82

Home Birth, 1982

Transforming Joy of Birth and Breastfeeding

mommyjoy
Seconds after Birth of Oldest Daughter,1973
Fun
Late April, 1973
I was a breasfeeding counselor for 13 years. Many young mothers were worried they were perverted because they found breastfeeding sensual, even sexual. I assured them that if breastfeeding hadn't been pleasurable, the human race would not have made it. The way some people talk about breastfeeding, especially of toddlers, I wonder if they think all breastfeeding mothers need to register as sexual offenders. Our society is more than sick; it often is evil.
EMJPBirth82
Home Birth, 1982

Books and the Giant Squid as Transitional Objects

March 7, 2009

Teens, Sex, Love, Commitment, and Academic Excellence

When I speak about teens, I mean those under 18. I believe in a excellent, comprehensive sex education, and I don't know anyone who thinks schools provided that. Ideally parents would provide it, but schools have to emphasize it because so many parents don't do it at all or get it all wrong. I am startled that parents of my children's generation often seem more reticent than my generation of fervent feminists. Liberals might consider screaming less about abstinence education and more about parental failure to do their jobs. I was rather obsessed with educating my girls because my parents failed to do so. I developed my excellent library research skills looking at every book in my local library. In 1957 there was only one that told me what I needed to know.

I had two babies at home. Their older sisters, 3 to 9, were there. Sex education in my family began at birth. Discussing how babies are made and born is so much easier with preschoolers than with 11 year olds.

My 4 daughters all recall the condom-on-a -banana demonstration. My four year old wandered in, discovering a challenging new game. (We were willing to purchase bananas for her, but not condoms.) My oldest told me "You talked so much about sex that I don't even want to think about it until I am 30." At every sleepover, every sex-ed book and Natalie the birthday doll mysteriously migrated to the basement with the revelers. My kids all reported that they could have taught the school sex education courses infinitely better than their creepy gym teachers. Does anyone know of a truly excellent sex education curriculum?

Emphasis on love and commitment, not using people, should be a vitally important part of the curriculum. I wish more adults would see junior high and high school sex as undesirable. Parents should fight the sexualization and pornification of our culture, in our advertising, media, movies, television. Women are denigrated. The sexualization of little girls is criminal.

So many parents are puritanical about drugs, booze, smoking, high school soda vending machines, pizza or hamburgers in the cafeteria, yet are not confident enough to warn about the physical and emotional damage of premature sexual activity. Most young teens are not ready for sex. Surveys indicated that many young women do not find it pleasurable. Teens too ignorant and reckless to protect themselves are particularly unready. Too many girls have sex out of insecurity, not lust, and do not exactly find it ecstatic.

Yes teens desperately need to learn how to protect themselves, both physically and emotionally. I took my college daughter for the pill. I would have helped a sexually active daughter of any age to protect herself. work with teens both as a librarian and a social worker. No one has ever accused me of being judgmental.

Teens without adequate parental sex education are more likely to be sexually active. Parents whose kids can tell them everything are more likely to have kids who wait until late high school and college. If you want your daughter or son to graduate from high school a virgin, demand rigorous academic effort and excellence. AP courses might be the best abstinence education. Valedictorians often seem to be virgins; they have enormous self-respect for their bodies as well as their brains.

I think that I, my siblings, my children, my nieces and nephews all had sex in college, mostly, but not entirely, with people they loved and were faithful to. I and my sibs mostly married their college sweetherats; my children and my nieces and nephews mostly married people they met after college. Obviously I haven't taken a comprehensive survey. Hooking up, friends with benefits, drunk sex with a stranger upset me, because sex, love, and commitment have been inseparable in my life.

Love is a decison as well as an overwhelming emotion and passion. You can honor the commitment even though love and passion ebb and flow. If you don't feel your love for your husband or wife any more, try acting loving toward him. Obviously I am not talking about abusive marriages. We saw many of our friends give up when their problems seemed so less serious than ours. There have been remarkably few divorces or affairs in my extended family. I have known dozens of happy marriages, some lasting 50 or 60 years. I have seen spouses taking tender, dedicated care of their demented or chronically ill spouses. I know too many excellent parents to count.

My favorite sex education book for kids of all ages is The Facts of Life by Jonathan Miller and David Pelham. It is a magnificent, astounding, 3-dimensional pop-up book. It seems to be out of print but you can track copies down. Every kid in Baldwin who set foot in my house studied it carefully. Sheila Kitzinger's wonderful Being Born concentrates on pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding and is also essential. How could these books have been allowed to go out of print?

I would like to see a study on teen girl sexual activity and academic excellence. In many ways I was a permissive parent, but none of them were ever allowed to quit the gifted program, drop out of honors classes, or choose not to take as many advance placement courses as they could. God had gifted them with excellent minds, and it was their moral responsibility to themselves and to the world to honor and develop those gifts. They have more than carried out my dreams for them.  All have married wonderful guys. It has been an utter joy watching them and their husbands parent my young grandchildren.

March 3, 2009

Working Mothers

Perhaps it would help both me and my daughters if I could clarify my thoughts on working mothers. Reviewing family history might be illuminating.

Grandma Nolan only graduated from grade school. After Grandpa Nolan died in 1938, I recall she worked in the local Laundromat to help make ends meet. Perhaps she did some home-based work. She was widowed at 40 with 7 children, including a two year old. Her parents were dead so they couldn’t help her. She had survived the death of a two year old daughter. She was always available to her family when someone had a baby, when someone was coping with illness. She always lived for others, was busy, involved, purposeful. She was probably the best listener in the family. Her daughters-in-law have expressed nothing but praise for her love, supportiveness, wisdom, nonjudgmentalness.

My mother was a highly intelligent women who today would have graduated from college and grad or professional school. I suspect she would have become a lawyer like her dad. Maybe she would have run for political office. She would not have become a teacher; that was a pragmatic decision. She makes that clear in her retirement interview in the Uniondale high school newspaper. Most likely she would have had fewer children. I know my parents practiced rhythm, now known as natural family planning. My mom insisted it had worked for her and they wanted each of their kids.

My mom went back to school in 1962 as soon as Mark started kindergarten and went to work full-time when Mark was 11. My grandmother helped out, but working right down the block was an ideal situation. My dad left about 7:30 AM and got home around 7 PM, so he wasn’t involved. Mark had two older brothers at home. Certainly Grandma was never available to help me during weekdays until we returned from Maine. If she hadn’t bee working, I might have gone back to school and then work much earlier.

My family lived very frugally on my father’s income; most of my mom’s earnings went to pay for my younger brothers’ education. Because she was working, they did not win the scholarships Richard, Stephen, and I did, and the cost of college had increased significantly. My dad was retired before Mark graduated from college. So they always raised children on one incomeThat is no longer an option if you chose to live in a major metropolitan area. 827 Henry Street cost them about 7,000 in 1947. They did refinance the mortgage to make the expensive addition of the dining room, garage, and upstairs bathroom and dormer in 1957.

Growing up, I knew four aunts with careers. Joan married late and was a nurse for 10 years, always considered herself a nurse, took refresher courses etc. Uncle Jim’s wife, Aunt Kay, was a teacher and returned to teaching once her youngest started school. Aunt Rosemarie taught high school Math, returned to teaching when Michael started school, went to Hofstra Law School at age 40 and had an excellent job as chief counsel to the president of Stonybrook. My Aunt Mary worked for AT and T and its predecessors for almost 50 years. She advanced rather high. At some point she went to college and got her degree. She considered teaching high school, but I think the phone company offers her a very appealing promotion.

I am not sure about my Koch aunts. As far as I know, none of them ever went to college. I think Agnes was a practical nurse. Peggy worked for Nassau County

Work and Children--Family History

Perhaps it would help both me and my daughters if I could clarify understand my family history on parenting and working.

Grandma Nolan only graduated from grade school. After Grandpa Nolan died in 1938, I recall she worked in the local Laundromat to help make ends meet. Perhaps she did some home-based work. She was widowed at 40 with 7 children, including a two year old. Her parents were dead so they couldn’t help her. She had survived the death of a two year old daughter. She was always available to her family when someone had a baby, when someone was coping with illness. She always lived for others, was busy, involved, purposeful. She was probably the best listener in the family. Her daughters-in-law have expressed nothing but praise for her love, supportiveness, wisdom.

My mother was a highly intelligent women who today would have graduated from college and grad or professional school. I suspect she would have become a lawyer like her dad. Maybe she would have run for political office. She would not have become a teacher; that was a pragmatic decision. She makes that clear in her retirement interview in the Uniondale high school newspaper. Most likely she would have had fewer children. I know my parents practiced rhythm, now known as natural family planning. My mom insisted it had worked for her and they wanted each of their kids.

My mom went back to school in 1962 as soon as Mark started kindergarten and went to work full-time when Mark was 11. My grandmother helped out, but working right down the block was an ideal situation. My dad left about 7:30 AM and got home around 7 PM, so he wasn’t involved. Mark had two older brothers at home. Certainly Grandma was never available to help me during weekdays until we returned from Maine. If she hadn’t bee working, I might have gone back to school and then work much earlier.

My family lived very frugally on my father’s income; most of my mom’s earnings went to pay for my younger brothers’ education. Because she was working, they did not win the scholarships Richard, Stephen, and I did, and the cost of college had increased significantly. My dad was retired before Mark graduated from college. So they always raised children on one incomeThat is no longer an option if you chose to live in a major metropolitan area. 827 Henry Street cost them about 7,000 in 1947. They did refinance the mortgage to make the expensive addition of the dining room, garage, and upstairs bathroom and dormer in 1957.

Growing up, I knew four aunts with careers. Joan married late and was a nurse for 10 years, always considered herself a nurse, took refresher courses etc. Uncle Jim’s wife, Aunt Kay, was a teacher and returned to teaching once her youngest started school. Aunt Rosemarie taught high school Math, returned to teaching when Michael started school, went to Hofstra Law School at age 40 and had an excellent job as chief counsel to the president of Stonybrook. My Aunt Mary worked for AT and T and its predecessors for almost 50 years. She advanced rather high. At some point she went to college and got her degree. She considered teaching high school, but I think the phone company offers her a very appealing promotion.

I am not sure about my Koch aunts. As far as I know, none of them ever went to college. I think Agnes was a practical nurse. Peggy worked for Nassau County

Women's Issues Are Men's and Women's Issues

The recurring reference to women's issues in the media needs to be clarified. Most of these are better described as family and caregiver issues. However, vitally important women's issues exist. These include the availability of abortions and the morning after pill, the scandalous C-section rate, and the obscene harassment of nursing mothers. Too many companies expect breastfeeding mothers to pump in filthy toilets for 20 minutes and refuse to provide a comfortable room for them to pump and adequate short-time storage for breastmilk.This is a health issue as well since the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least a year. Working mothers of infants are heroic, incredibly dedicated to making sure their babies only get breastmilk and not formula. Encouraging, supporting, and facilitating breastfeeding is an integral part of wellness and prevention.

The best way to reduce the C-section rate is using nurse- midwives for normal births, but obstetricians fiercely resist giving nurse-midwives hospital privileges. At this point in New York City, the first question after how big is the baby is did you have a C-Section? It appalls me that the most educated professional women in history are allowing that to happen to them. When I was pregnant with my first child 35 years ago, baby books advised not considering a doctor with a C-section rate higher than 5 percent. Obviously the human race would have died out long ago if a 30 to 40 percent C-section ate was the norm. I crusaded for natural childbirth and had my two youngest daughters at home with a nurse midwife.

Virtually all nannies and human health aides are women. In New York and Long Island they are almost always women of color. They can't afford to own cars. They have to struggle to work on public transportation that doesn't necessarily get them where they need to be; some take three different subways and buses. Agencies fail to even provide a mapquest to the client's home. Some caregivers have left their own children in the Islands with relatives, so the moms can make enough money to rescue her own kids from abject poverty. How shamelessly they are exploited is certainly a vitally important women's issue. Caregivers who are illegal immigrants can be virtually slaves, too afraid to complain or quit because they will be deported. Home health agencies charge the clients more than twice the amount they pay the women who actually doing the caring. They have absolutely no job security. Most have no health benefits, no disability benefits, are not eligible for unemployment. How we treat these loving, warm, compassionate, kind women is a national disgrace.

But almost all other "women's issues" are parent issues, caregiver issues. We seem to have made no progress on parents' sharing equally in child care and elder care responsibilities. The oldest daughter (if there is one) is usually her parents' caregiver, no matter how many siblings are in the family. Caring for aging parents disrupts women's work schedules even more than caring for young children.

The mommy wars drive me round the twist. In the 70s the feminist agenda was that society and the economy would change fundamentally so that moms and dads could share equally in child care. Now everyone seems to work longer than a 35- or 40- hour week; grandparents are either employed or too far away; day care centers are not staffed by professional teachers with career paths, so the turnover is constant. How dedicated can anyone afford to be at $8 to $10 an hour, often with no benefits? Excellent day care, where teachers are educated, accredited, and paid like grade school teachers, is very expensive, and the state would have to offer considerable support.

Men almost never work in day care or nursery schools; the sexual abuse day care hysteria ended that. People don't want to hire boys as babysitters or men as nannies. That is revoltingly sexist. Misogyny is hatred of women; sexism applies to both sexes. Women seem to have made more progress than men in bursting through gender stereotypes. So guys, you might be entitled to call your mate a "female chauvinist pig," though you might spend the night on the couch. Men rarely seem to complain about the sexism inflicted on them since such criticism would be seen as girly.

When I was struggling to practice nonsexist childrearing in the 1970s and early 1980s, I noticed that parents of boys have a much more difficult time. Strangers abuse mothers on the street if the boy's hair is too long, his colors are considered girly, he is carrying a baby doll, he is crying. They are frequently accused of making their sons gay. I have five brothers and four daughters; my mother raised my brothers to share the housekeeping and the childcare. I love to take care of my 8-month-old grandson three days a week. He greatly resembles his adventurous, world-traveling mother, who has lived in places like Niger, Kosovo, and Rwanda. I eagerly await defending this enchanting bundle of rambunctious ness from sexist constrictions of his creativity and determination. Together we could run a childproofing business. When I put him down on any floor, he immediately crawls toward the most dangerous object in the room. even though there might be dozens of more suitable things for him to play with.

When I lamented the lack of male participation in the blog, Unfogged, I got this discouraging reply:
"It's a bit of a chicken and egg problem; as long as childcare (and kindred professions) is seen as feminized, it will be a pretty small minority of men who will consider this kind of work, and therefore the proportion of perverts in that sample is going to be way above average. Anecdotally I would say that the same is true, for slightly different reasons, of scout masters, camp counselors, and wrestling coaches. In a sense, it's not irrational when people look askance at a man interested in taking care of children; there is an inclination to ask oneself whether there is some nefarious ulterior motive at work. A result of sexism? Of course. But the motives of the individual are not necessarily sexist".
My answer:
My brother has been an elementary teacher in Portland Maine for about 20 years. He laments that male teachers would be terrified to touch or hug a 5 year old who had hurt himself or herself, although a female teacher would be glad to do so. It is outrageous to say the perverts are more likely to care for young children. I doubt that perverts are more likely to choose to work for peanuts. What possible proof can you give? How can men tolerate such assertions? What message does it convey to young children if they have no male teachers. Boys learn that only girls are caregivers. People speculate the boys have more trouble adjusting to the feminized environment of school.

Things were different in the 1970s, at least in New York City. Nursery schools and kindergartens tried very hard to recruit male teachers. When my daughter went to a Montessori nursery school down by the world trade center, she had a wonderful male teacher. Fathers spent lots of time taking care of young children and to the best of my knowledge their willies don't fall off. Whoops, I am married to an Englishman. Taking care of young children is incredibly exciting and fascinating. They are the best learners and the most creative free spirits you will ever encounter.

Every industrial Western nation has more family centered government policies than we do. American families no longer believe that government could make it more possible to be good parents, good caregivers of the elderly, and good workers. I hope the first woman president can implement significant change.

Why Grandmas Are Radicals

My grandchildren were born May 2007, September 2008, and December 2008.IMG_0696

natemjfurry

DSC03127IMG_1345

In the Night Kitchen

Sendak
john013
mickey

From Wikipedia:

"When Mickey (who looks to be about three years old) enters the Night Kitchen, he loses his pajamas and spends much of the story fully naked.

Critics of the book object to Mickey's nudity (which explicitly depicts his penis and testicles ), with some librarians drawing little pants on Mickey with a marker, or diapers with correction fluid. Some also take a Freudian interpretation of events, with the nudity, free-flowing milky fluids, and giant (allegedly phallic) milk bottle. Sendak himself claims not to have been trying to be controversial; his decision to derobe Mickey was to avoid the "mess" that falling into the batter would make of Mickey's clothes. (Knowing Sendak, I am dubious.)

As a result, the book proved controversial in the United States on release and has continued to be so. The book has been ranked 25th place on the "100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000" compiled by the American Libary Association."

Note: I could not find these particular images anywhere on the Internet and had to scan my own copy of the book. It's a surrealistically wonderful book. Read it.

February 22, 2009

1971 Journal--Doubting Feminism

I was active in the feminist movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. I attended 3 separate consciousness-raising groups and read almost all of the early books and literature. I rewrote and edited the first major anthology: Women in a Sexist Society. Although I identified myself as a radical feminist, I always had serious misgivings about the direction of the early movement. I explore them in my journal entry from October 1971. I have not edited this snapshot of a particular point in time. At the time I was a happily married woman working as Editing Supervisor at Basic Books, which pubished social science and psychiatric books. I was a year away from becoming pregnant.
Are men necessarily the enemies? Adopting that logic, couldn't women be categorized as the enemies? Must there be an enemy? Must the movement have a scapegoat? There is a danger of generalizing for all women from a few women's (typical, atypical) experience with men. Perhaps most men are baffled rather than hostile. They have been socialized to believe the myths, so they do believe them. Why does the movement assume that their motives are vicious?

Perhaps the myths are harsher than the realities. Individual women are treated better and respected more than social mythology about women dictates. The movement shouldn't present what seems to be a fatal choice: true autonomy or loving, intimate relationships with men. If all men are despaired of, shouldn't most women be despaired of? Have women tried hard enough to explain themselves? Or would they rather renounce men than fight through to an accommodation?

The movement stresses relationships with women because they are easier (at least for many women). There is no need to confront the enemy directly. Women often have bravely attacked men in coffee klatches, but they then have gone along with their own men, having worked out some of their hostilities with other women. I don't understand; because of my five brothers, I have never had any trouble confronting men. (At that time, NY feminism was rather obsessed with lesbianism. Happily married heterosexual women felt rather defensive about their lives.)

At times Women's Liberation is vulgarly careerist. There is very little speculation on changing the nature of work. There is no recognition that traditional women's jobs, not men's jobs, may be the desirable jobs of the future. Dominant economic values are accepted. A job's value is measured by its pay or its status. There is total denial that raising young children is a uniquely demanding job, calling forth an infinite range of talents and imagination.
Feminists sometimes lack a strong grasp on job alternatives. I am frustrated with so much loose talk about expressing creativity in jobs. Don't women recognize what most workers do, not only blue and white collar workers, but professional and managerial ones as well? Creativity is the value much stressed by woman's magazines. Be a creative homemaker. There is no recognition that post-revolution many, if not most, women might have less creative jobs than they have now. Volunteers are often allowed more autonomy and outlet for imaginative change than regular staff would be permitted.

The emphasis could have been completely different. Feminists need not have accepted the male value that your job is everything, completely determining your social use and people's opinion of you. Alternatives include--more leisure, 25-hour week for everyone, change hierarchical nature of work, decentralize it, recognize that much work is unnecessary. In a more rational society that won't need 100 brands of detergents, toothpastes, and feminine hygiene deodorants. Many jobs now are completely unproductive. Most jobs are not inherently creative. What is a creative job anyway? The solution may be to give people more time, real time, to be creative off the job.
My close friend said almost any job is preferable to staying home with the kids. That is a preposterous statement, particularly from a so-called radical who pays lip service to human values. That is not to say that childrearing as it is now arranged is perfect. We might benefit from more stress on communal childraising, not necessarily so parents can get a "job," but because it may be a better way to raise children from both parents' and children's point of view. I am the oldest of six; growing up in a large family was a positive experience. My parents seemed to have less need to control our direction in life than the parents of my friends with fewer siblings.

The nature of work must change in our society. Women should be at the forefront of the battle for change. Autonomy and self-sufficiency cannot be pictured as depending on capitalist recognition of worth. Rather the economy should be made to value and reward the kinds of work that women do. Men have problems with women's lib on this point. They can't seem to believe that women would want to have equality in men's world. How many men would trade roles if only the objective nature of what they had to do was the consideration and not society's evaluation of it?
Perhaps the major emphasis must be on changing society's evaluation of women. Otherwise, when women enter or take over traditionally men's fields, they would only decline in relative prestige. It can't be difficult or challenging job if mere women can do it. Emphasis should not be on merely putting women in out-of-home jobs. The nature of reward for jobs should change. Money must cease to be the major incentive. The gap between low salaries and high salaries needs to be dramatically smaller. If raising young children had prestige of being a pediatrician or a child psychologist, for example, and it need not be done in social isolation, might not women and men feel differently about it?
You're exhausting me, Mary. I don't have time to read this but of course it looks excellent, so I'll be back. This comment will serve as my reminder on the left side of my blog. :)
This is very close to some of what I was thinking myself back in 1970...I am going to re-read and then comment( in my usual too long, too wordy way) Monday, after I have the house and computer to myself.. I must add that I will be thinking about this all weekend to prove that I am taking this post very seriously...it is actually bedrock material and one of the most substantive , thought provoking things I have seen hit OS since I joined in October!
Ahhhhh, "younger brothers"....the key to why we could not see males as "enemy"......more Monday.
..."the myths are harsher than the realities..." That's a loaded stgatement, Mary.
Outstanding post and persepective from your first hand esperience.
A whole lot of work for a questionable return, yet necessary, tireless effort, none the less.
Like I always way, "Keep on keepin' on!"
Not to get graphic but last night I came across these "male stripper parties" where literally hundreds of women are gathered at a venue and male strippers run around with full erections dancing around and the women are taking turns performing fellatio in full view of the screaming others. Based on the accents they are mostly originating out of UK and eastern Europe. I'd say that's pretty good proof of women's liberation when a bunch of mothers and daughters can get drunk and grab and suck off male strippers and their men aren't clamoring outside to break the doors down and shut the party down. Stripping was once only reserved for females to perform and men to enjoy...not it has progressed to open cock sucking by horny ladies to bad dance music.
Scared grandma, I am looking forward to your response. My mother's younger brothers were closer in age to me than to her--7, 9, and 11 years older than me. I lived with mom's whole family the first two years of my life; I was their much-loved and played-with baby sister.

My uncle Ken, 7 years older, recalled ringing all the bells in the neighborhood the day I was born, boasting to everyone that he was an uncle. They have always treated me as their beloved younger sister. So I actually had three older brothers and five younger brothers. I was 11 and 13 when my younger brothers were born. In pictures I look like their young mother. How could I ever see men as the enemy?
New blog,

That wasn't what we were fighting for.
I would have to hope that my grandchildren won't feel compelled to return to work after a two-month maternity leave when they have children or imperil the future economic security of their families. For someone trying to combine parenting with work, this is probably the worst country in the industrialized world.
That's a huge, always important question, and it looks like you did a good job of attacking it. My (baseless) take on this is that men evolved to fight, or have one "fight," whereas women evolved to do everything else. That clashes with a male-dominated working world, because of the different perspectives alone, not even speaking of the biggest problem, how "Money must cease to be the major incentive." I wonder how things play out in careers or institutions made up of mostly women; if there are some good innovations to be found there or if it's more of the same; strings always being pulled from the top.
The harshest anti male rheroric probably comes from lesbian feminists with a vested interest in seperating men and women. Some seem to have an outright pathological hatred of men. Maybe they were molested or raped, but the large majority of us are not psychopaths. Like them we are products of how we were raised, the images we got from television. In terms of careers, most men don't lke their jobs. Work is being sold to women as personal fullfilment. Basically it was all just to get all women working and paying taxes. Our taxes go to the IRS who gives them to the Federal Reserve, funded by the same people that fund universities, studies and orgs. The Rockefellar, JP Morgan element. Connected to The Rockefellar, Ford, McArthur and Carnege foundations, the guys funding the UN, IMF, WHO, World Bank, etc. Every study is essentially the same, spend more money, have bigger government, men don't want women to work so you have to to get back at them. Which is absurd. What men mind additional income in the home? Lies, propaganda and more bullshit than a stable. A lot of women are learning what work really is. A drag.
Mary, What a pertinent, insightful post. So many valid points. I grew up right on the cusp of expectations of marriage and children right after high school, or continuing education, with equality in jobs of women and men. But you could not have both, and even if you tried, you were treated with a pat on the head and a wave of the hand, dismissed to the world of fairy tales and unattainable ordeals. I remember when I told two older guys that I was planning to join the peace corps, and one of them asked, "Are you a dyke?" I was so naive, but that question angered me so much. Why did the peace corp enrollment make me a dyke, and if I was, so what?
I can feel my blood pressure rising right now! Great post...rated for raising children full time
Three decades later, still the same questions. It's exhausting. Yet we have made progress. And feminism isn't dead, the radical wing had its place but that's the part that's gone.

Men are feminists now too, as well they should be. You'll meet some of them here, full time child-raisers. Lonnie, bbd (Barry), Skeptic Turtle (Derek) and more.

It's sad that growing up in the 50's and 60's we were proud of our mother's full time career but resented her absence from home and our time spent with nannies. I stopped working full time for 5 years when our son was born for that very reason. Best move ever. Found creative ways to use my intellect and energy. Still, I had the luxury. Too many do not.

How can raising children ever achieve prestige when teaching still does not? Hard questions, Mary. Glad you're asking them.
Mary, I think the biggest truth in your post is in your last paragraph. We see care of our nation's elderly and children to be considered low-skill or no-skill jobs. The only conclusion to which I can come regarding this is how these segments of our society are not earning wages, therefore their worth is considered to be nothing. Added into the equation is that these jobs were the traditional domain of women. Regarding the elderly, the majority of nursing home residents of women, many of whom never earned a wage outside of the home. Is it any wonder that we raid 3rd world countries to find people to work for the very low wages these places offer or that these are people who often could not find work anywhere else?

I was born in '71 so I was born to many of the fruits of your labor. Most of my jobs have been in traditionally male-dominated fields, quite simply as that was where the money was. We've seen jobs which were once the sole domain of men now have a majority of women, the result of which is lower pay in that field (the field of psychology is an excellent example). Perhaps the next generation of feminists should focus further on re-defining the differences between "money" and "worth", thus giving the status of "value" to all? Thank you for your post.
I should have also added, "Thank you for fighting the good fight. Thank you for continuing to ask these questions." -- RL
Jim,

You raise excellent issues. I don't want to overgeneralize. Yes, there were many lesbians in the NYC women's liberation movement. More upsetting is that there were few mothers with children. It became a vicious cycle. Women who insisted they were in happy marriages were too often accused of "false consciousness."Women who stayed home with their children were sometimes derided. Because it was not a movement of mothers, abortion, not child care, became the key issue. Women with happy marriages and children were turned off , left, or didn't join in the first place.

I entirely agree with you: "the large majority of us are not psychopaths. Like them we are products of how we were raised, the images we got from television." You argue: "Work is being sold to women as personal fullfilment. Basically it was all just to get all women working and paying taxes." I would have rejected this statement in 1971. Looking back, one could indeed argue that that the women's liberation movement was co-opted by corporate capitalism. Women went to work in huge numbers, and at the same time one wage earner could no longer support a family. Women's working disguised wage stagnation.

I grew up in a lower middle class community. Most residents were not college graduates; many had solid union jobs. How is it that fathers in the 50s could support much larger families on one income? Yes we lived very frugally, but our mothers were home; our grandmas or aunts helped out. There were no day care centers or nursery schools. we started school in half-day kindergarten that was all fun and games.We were given much more freedom to roam the neighborhood without direct parental supervision. No cell phones monitored our every move. We would have pitied children with overscheduled lives, ferried from one" stimulating" lesson to another. But we didn't know any such children .

By 12 or 13, we were supposed to figure out how to earn some money--babysitting, paper routes, snow shoveling, leaf raking, etc. By 16, we had jobs all summer, from the time school ended to the time it started.
Junk1,
My mother had not been able to attend college because her dad died when she was 17. She attended night school and worked full-time, then got pneumonia and didn't have the energy to continue with college. She went back to college; we both graduated in 1967.

My parents and my teachers always encouraged me academically. No one one discouraged my dreams. My dreams were distorted because I brought myself up to be one of the guys. I didn't investigate female fields like psychology or early childhood education. My mother was appalled when I dropped out of Stanford's Political Science Ph. D. program, throwing away a chance she never had.

The conflicts between love and achievement were in my psyche. Before my first daughter was born, I assumed I would go back to work full-time. But I fell madly in love and found that spending all my days with young children was the most fascinating, rewarding job I had ever had.
Cocoalfresco,

You raise questions I am incapable of answering. For most of human history there was not a split between home and work. Women's work was fully as important as men's work. Both parents were around; they were too busy to spend time stimulating their children. But children watched and participated in the work going on around them.

I don't think men evolved to be fighters and women evolved to do everything else. Women did the work that was compatible with pregnancy, breastfeeding, and caring for children. Men were not so tied down to the homestead.

Since I had children, I have worked mostly as a public librarian, a field dominated by women. Crippled by civil service in too many localities, library careers tend to be hierarchical. You advance by years spent on the job, not by innovative talent.
Sally, I appreciate your encouragement and your excellent questions. How lucky your son was for those five years at home! In 1973, when Anne, my first child, was born, I never anticipated that she would be facing the same difficult choices as women of my generation. I have always believed men can be feminists. Thanks for naming some full-time dads; I will add them as my friends immediately.

My mom only went back to work after I had left for college. And I was home for my daughters. I am sad that daughters will not have that time with their children. Agreed, that most parents don't have the luxury of one staying at home with their babies or toddlers. But some have higher expectations of economic security that we did. We always lived from paycheck to paycheck. We lived in an apartment. The kids knew their choice was the State University of NY or a full tuition scholarship. I believe the first few years of life are more important than any college.

In New York, teachers actually do pretty well with great pensions, because they unionized and were willing to strike. Parents can't go out on strike.
Reniassance Lady,

Your excellent comment raises so many more issues. Elder care is a looming crisis. Women my age spend most of their time discussing their parents. As families get smaller, more of the burden falls on fewer children. The need for child care ends; the need for elder are is entirely unpredictable. Increasingly women lose more work time to elder care than they did to child care.

I took care of my mom in my home for the last 3 1/2 years of her life. Because she had long-term health care insurance, we were entitled to 6 hours of a home health aide daily. We might have had an aide a third of the time. So many of the aides' stories were tragic. None of them had their own cars. Agencies would assign them to places without public transportation; many had to take two buses and a subway to work. Many had left young children in the Caribbean with their families. We paid the agency $18; the aide was lucky to get $8. There was a constant turnover. They sent an 4'11 "aide to care for my 5 ' 8" mother. The first time she tried to help my mother up, she fell into her lab.

We are facing a catastrophic crisis in home care as the baby boomers age.. Medicare and private insurance don't pay for the home car unless you are suffering from an acute medical problem. They don't cover help with the activities of daily living that frail and demented adults require, Medicaid only kicks in if you are absolutely impoverished and skimps on home care. Eventually Medicaid is the primary payer for nursing homes. In the NYC area, a year in a nursing home is well over $100,000 a year. Medicaid could bankrupt most states. All the discussion on health care rarely mentions this problem.

Every single aide we employed and every single nanny in my son's neighborhood is a woman of color. A white woman caring for a toddler is recognized immediately as his grandma. At least in areas with a large immigration population, women's liberation has come at the expense of much poorer women with no job security and few, if any, benefits, separated from her own children. If you stay home and take care of your kids, you are not part of the GNP. If you hire someone to care for your kids while you care for someone's kids, both salaries are counted.

Can the question of money versus worth even be understand in today's capitalistic society?
Two points: as we become more and more of a "service" society, rather than producing goods, the evolving marketplace favors women's natural skills, such as relationships and communicating--not the males--so prospects are good for gals.

Second: women still have a much broader base they can use in forming their identity. A males identity is still based on his ability to compete and to win. When he stops competing and winning he loses almost everything--often even that woman he is competing and trying to win for.

Thirdly: (I lied, I have three points) The problem with "feminism" in my view is that it is an "ism" in the first place--an ideology--and like all ideology it is a projection either of the individual who is putting forth their "perfect world," or acting as a spokesperson for the collective conscience at any particular juncture in history.

I have a hard time with ideology. Hugs,
Ben Sen has a point.

When this "ism" is presented in vast, heroic terms within a relationship (and is paid heed with the best of intentions), but the reality devolves into tangled negotiations about the division of labor in the kitchen, some men, even deeply well-meaning men (such as I have been), find they want to go outside. For a while.

Or longer.
... "or longer"...
It's better to eat bitter herbs in the wood shop all alone,
then quibble with a grouchy pard`nerd. I too can wash
a dish, and pat dry, as if the plate was a soft babies butt.
she has a soft behind when she grows older? Shush ups.
Mary King has become a treasure of wealth. I learnings.
Arthur, I agree. This Mary is something.
Hmmm...interesting. I've personally never thought of men as "the enemy." I see our struggle as being against the patriarchy which I see as a system of privilege. It hurts some men and helps many others. But the basics for me: pass the ERA, equal pay for equal work, equal marriage, protection of bodily autonomy, affordable healthcare and affordable quality childcare for all. Many of these things benefit men as well as women. I want men to join in the fight. In countries where women are educated and able to plan their families and control their reproductive destiny, life expectancy and prosperity increases for all. When women make equal pay, the burden of providing for families need not weigh so heavy on men's shoulders. There should be paternity leave as well as maternity leave. Fathers should be free to stay at home if they wish. I welcome men as feminists.
I don't have a lot to add here, Mary. Another great post and set of comments. I find your musings back then prescient or at least indicative of the real issues, then and now. I do think many feminists see men as the enemy, and I have thought that some have taken feminism in a direction that sold motherhood down the river. I saw my first brand new baby as an opportunity to live out every intellectual principle I'd ever learned--and all that on top of the emotional attachment I felt at his birth. Though I too had expected to go back to work immediately--teaching at the business college--I couldn't do it--literally couldn't go through with it and felt lucky to have a husband who could support us.

I've worked part time on and off over the years and feel completely competent in almost any endeavor I embark upon, including grad school, volunteer work, new jobs, social situations, etc. It's always been difficult for me to get on an anti-male bandwagon--how could I? It's antithetical to my life: I've been frankly supported by a loving, attentive, hardworking, and family-oriented husband, and I have lived with and raised three fine boys who are sensitive, funny, and brilliant. What's not to like? I loathe when friends or neighbors generalize in either direction--and it's often male bashing.

All that having been said, I do look for patterns in the genders and see some things that seem more "male" or more "female." I know it's often said that sexuality is on a continuum, and I'm wondering if gender is, too. Do you know? There do seem to be more masculine men and more feminine men and more masculine women and more feminine women and all the types in between. I'd have to think for a minute to figure out if I'm talking about appearance here or including aggression as well. It's hard to say. I know that I'm much more outgoing and aggressive than my husband, who is fairly mild mannered. When I call him passive-aggressive (which he can be), he shoots back that I'm aggressive-aggressive (which I guess I can be).
Good stuff, Mary. I find pushing myself to consistently go outside of the box is the only thing that will really make me happy in the work field. As a single mom of two, I had no choice but to start working at home. This lead me to really get off my ass and find ways to bring in money, while at the same time, be around for the kids at all hours. Yes, sometimes I could scream because I need adult socializing! (Hence, a place like OS), but the opportunities that have opened up for me and the joy I have had helping the kids along their way would have never come along had I thought like a man. :)
Ben Sen,

You make excellent points, and I accept the third completely--your analysis of feminism as an ism, an ideology.

You write: "as we become more and more of a "service" society, rather than producing goods, the evolving marketplace favors women's natural skills, such as relationships and communicating"
You sell men short and underrate the impact of sexist stereotyping.

Let me talk about the fields I know most about. The fastest growing job field in NY is home health aide. If the sexism could be overcome, men's superior strength would make them better caregivers for the immobile elderly. At least half the aides the home health agencies sent us were physically inadequate for the job of taking care of my mom. My husband was absolutely necessary. We always employed a male physical therapist for my mom.

Men are often superb caregivers of young children. The male children's librarians, teachers of young children, and nurses I have known have all been excellent.

You write: "males identity is still based on his ability to compete and to win. When he stops competing and winning he loses almost everything--" You overlook what I consider the most important male role of all--fatherhood. That is the subject for any number of posts.

Your perceptive comments here and your own blog posts have opened my eyes and clarified my focus. I am grateful.
Dirigo,

I greatly appreciate the appreciation:) I have seen what you describe in so many marriages, including my first one. I hope I am wiser now and understand what is truly important. "When the reality devolves into tangled negotiations about the division of labor in the kitchen, some men, even deeply well-meaning men (such as I have been), find they want to go outside. For a while. Or longer."

And everyone suffered. And the children, grown, are desperate to avoid their parents' failures.
Arthur, you always astonish me. I learnings too. Thank you.
JustJuli,

I wish your intelligent perspectives had shaped the movement. Our struggle was with the patriarchy, which helps some men but hurts many more. But how many of us succeeded in making that distinction when arguing with the man in our life about housework or child care?

In the last 40 years, caring for children has been drastically devalued, increasingly seen as a job for the poorly paid nanny or child care worker. Even the demand for "affordable quality childcare for all" outsources the job, overlooks the possibility of tax breaks, job protection, or other incentives for parents caring for their own kids. Among my daughters' and my nieces' and nephews' highly educated friends, I know exactly one parent who stayed home full-time with her child for 2 years. That strikes me as a tragedy. These people have choices, but seem afraid to make them.

Even if companies have paternity leave, most men are afraid to take it because they worry no one will ever again see them as serious workers. Our brave new world for women has too often become a nightmare world for children.

If we truly valued children, child care workers would be educated and paid like teachers. Often I am shocked to learn what salary very affluent couples deem adequate for their nannies.