The Life section of The Orange County Register (Wednesday January 18, 2006) carried an article written by Jenifer B. McKim that could qualify as “the profound thought of the day.” In short, it was an exercise, by and large, in whine and the self-absorbed lifestyle of far too many of today’s parents.
In a sidebar, the quotation reads, “Study says parents are more depressed than other adults and having kids won’t make you happier.” Really? It must be true because the Journal of Health and Social Behavior carried an article last month says so. One of the co-authors, Robin Simon wrote, “We romanticize parenthood. It’s difficult and it is expensive.” (Register, Life, p. 1). I fell down laughing. I’m the father of six. Do I need a study to tell me that being a parent is difficult and expensive? I don’t think so. I’ve done it.
Simon’s study also “revealed” that parents are more depressed than adults without kids. What? Which planet are these people from? Are they part of “me first” crowd? I tend to think so. In fact, I get disgusted by parents who still think that it’s about them. Ms. Simon—who knows who she is or what her views are?—offers, “We believe the costs associated with the role overshadow those benefits.” (Emphasis mine.) Oh, I got it. We’re depressed because having kids isn’t cost effective. Is Ms. Simon’s trying to tell parents that bringing children into the world, teaching them values and virtues, and providing a spiritually healthy atmosphere is expensive and can lead to depression?
I’ll tell you what makes me sick: In the history of this country there is a rich heritage of parents who worked hard, scrimped and saved, and cobbled together a life for themselves and their offspring. They lived in mean conditions yet were a happy family. Modern conveniences—maybe not even non-modern conveniences—weren’t available, but they raised young men and women with values and characters that would put modern man to shame. I’m reminded of our great heritage where young men were the first in line to volunteer when their country needed them. They weren’t looking for something in return. They understood the concepts of duty and sacrifice. They were willing to serve without expecting something in return.
It turns my stomach how soft and self-centered many Americans have become. We don’t need some study from the JOHASB to tell us the obvious. Next to my relationship to God, marriage and parenting are the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done in life. Are they challenging? Of course! But the benefits far outweigh the down sides. Have I worried about my kids? Yes. Have I prayed for them and their futures? Yes. Have I been depressed because parenting isn’t a walk in the park? Absolutely not! It has been an honor and a privilege to raise each one of my children and I also love participating in the lives of my grandchildren.
I will not be lectured by Ms. Simon or anyone else about what I have or have not done about parenting. It’s hard to “romanticize” parenthood when you’re dealing with it every day! The last thing I need is some pinhead telling me what I already know. I am outraged by Ms. Simon’s insinuations.
But I wonder why the study pulled up short and just described parents. What about marriage itself? Isn’t it hard too? Are married people more depressed than others? Maybe some of the academic pinheads are, but I am married to an awesome woman and have been blessed with great kids that are just kids—difficult at times and expensive. But that is what my wife and I signed on for when we had children. Don’t get me wrong: I am not some jealous person who didn’t get to finish his education. I have an undergraduate degree in Economics, a Master’s degree (magna cum laude) in Theology, a Drs. degree from a European university, and I earned a Ph.D. as well so I consider myself academically aware. This kind of “bovine scatology” from academia is sickening, however.
Being a true academic from Florida State University, Ms. Simon has our well being at heart. She’s convinced from her study that almost every parent is a basket case needing industrial strength doses of Prozac just to get through the day. According to her, marriage and employment “help your emotional well being” (read: self-esteem), but having children doesn’t (p. 10). Ms. Simon is an associate professor at Florida State University and the mother of two. Another academic pinhead raising children. I can only hope that her children don’t read her study. It might very well damage their emotional well being knowing that mom thinks their the reason she’s depressed and penniless.
But Ms. Simon didn’t come to these conclusions alone. She had help—maybe even government funding for this informative study. Ranae J. Evenson and Simon analyzed data from the National Survey of Families and Households, based on 13,000 U.S. adults. Impressive? Hardly. Statistics are wax noses. How old were these whiners? What were their religious backgrounds? From which parts of the country did they come from? What were their family backgrounds? What were their ethnicities?
So why are these 13,000 depressed? McKim offers, “The researchers surmise that part of the problem is that parents in the United States get little institutional help…. Child care can be difficult to find and unsatisfactory” (p. 10—Emphasis mine). It appears that these two geniuses, while working at their profound research, haven’t considered that some moms might actually stay at home and might not have to worry (become depressed) about day care. Which brings up the question: how many of the 13,000 were stay-at-home moms? Gasp!
Now here comes an important caveat: Both Simon and Evenson admitted that “they studied symptoms of depression—rather than a clinical diagnosis of depression” (p. 10—Emphasis mine). Oh. Why bury that near the end of the article? Why not put it up front? There is a huge difference between an observed, possible symptom of depression and a clinically diagnosed depression. In other words, you can have a self-absorbed, it’s-all-about-me parent who thinks they’re depressed when actually they’re only having to put themselves aside for the well being of their children.
Want another caveat? McKim reports of the co-author’s study: “Those symptoms include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, loneliness, and sleep and eating difficulties. They did not get into people’s feelings toward meaning or purpose in life” (p. 10). Feelings? Just feelings? What about things like privileges, responsibilities, character, and integrity required of parents? I suppose that would damage their fragile little emotional well being. Please!
But wait! There’s still more! Newport Beach psychologist David Stoop wasn’t surprised by the findings. He offers us this gem: “There is a lot of guilt. I see a lot of fatigue in parents trying to do everything” (p. 10). Everything? What parent can do everything? Parents get fatigued? Really? Do you mean that moms who are breastfeeding a new born actually lose sleep? We need another study for that! Do you mean that some parents, who spend time involved in their children’s lives sometimes get tired? Shazam!
Maybe Stoop has touched on something though. Since when do parents have “to do everything”? Don’t parents have the common sense to get perspective in life and realize that we all have limitations? If modern (California) parents are so immature no wonder the children are so messed up and the parents are depressed. I’m convinced that common sense left America in the 1700s, but it can be regained if parents begin to act like parents and treat their children life children. It isn’t rocket science, but it is substantially more important than rocket science.
I only wish that McKim had begun her article with the quotation of Orange, California mayor, Mark Murphy, who said, “From my own perspective, I cannot think of anything more of a joy in life than having children and seeing them do well” (Ibid.). The voice of reason in the midst of self-absorbed cacophony.