Controversy Wednesday: PARENTING TABOOS

23 Feb

Note: This post is dedicated to anyone who is pregnant with their first child or just thinking about having a child.  Pay attention, suckers.  Many thanks to my friend Linda Ashworth for turning me on to this talk.

Have you ever heard of TED Talks?  They’re “riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world,” and they’re freaking fantastic.  I have lots of favorites, but today’s Controversy Wednesday features my most beloved TED Talk of all time: “Let’s talk parenting taboos.”  The presenters of this talk are the founders of, husband-and-wife team Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman.  If you have a few minutes, I promise you won’t be sorry for watching this.  (And if you are pregnant, this is required viewing.)

The taboos:

  1. You can’t say you didn’t fall in love with your child the first moment you saw him.  I’m sure many of you DID fall in love that first moment.  But some of you others may have only felt panic and WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?!?  I so appreciate Rufus’ comment that love isn’t binary (e.g. either “in love” or “out of love”) but a process. 
  2. You can’t talk about how lonely having a baby can be.  Interesting fact: In the West, less than 50% of new mothers live near an immediate family member.  Lonely much?
  3. You can’t talk about your miscarriage.  Did you know that 15-20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage?  And can you believe that 74% of mothers who miscarry think that it’s partly their fault?  That is some serious shame to carry around all alone.
  4. You can’t say your “average happiness” has declined.  Witness “The Most Terrifying Chart Imaginable for a New Parent.”  Rufus and Alisa’s estimation is that while we surrender the stability of our pre-children lives, we gain transcendent moments, however fleeting.

My favorite bit from this talk is when Rufus illustrates what it’s like to have children with skewed expectations.  He likens it to packing your bags for a trip to Europe, and instead landing in Nepal for a trekking trip.  Trekking in Nepal is a transcendent experience, but if it’s not what you expected, can you still enjoy the journey?  Can you surrender to what is?

But enough outta me.  What do you think?  Have you encountered these taboos in your life as a parent?  Do you think they’re accurate or fair?


5 Responses to “Controversy Wednesday: PARENTING TABOOS”

  1. Valerie February 23, 2011 at 6:07 pm #

    That was a great video. Although I don’t have kids yet, I can partially appreciate the loneliness and decline in “average happyness” that many of my friends feel after having children. When it’s my turn, I will be one of the moms without an immediate relative near by and I always think that knowledge is better than ignorance so I appreciate what this couple is doing. Thanks for posting the link!

  2. im February 24, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    I have watched interesting stuff on TED before, but haven’t gone there for a while. I really enjoyed this presentation though- they bring up some very valid and important points about parenting that need to be discussed.

    Looking back at 16 years of being a parent, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I don’t have many regrets because I tried to do the best with what I had, but I do sometimes wish that I could start over with what I know now.

  3. BA February 24, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    Great post! I just forwarded to a friend who just had a baby.

  4. Liz February 27, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    Thank you for posting this TED Talk. I am the mother of a 6 month old, and it was good for me to hear this couple speak. I think it is important to make new and potential parents aware of these issues. Also, I think it’s important for women to be able to hear and discuss the taboo subject of what really happens to her body as a result of pregnancy. But that could be a whole other post!

    While I was pregnant, I had one dad tell me he really didn’t enjoy being the father until the baby was able to smile at him. He was trying to share his experience about how hard the first 3 months really are, but with a bit of hope as well. At the time, it kind of depressed me. But now I REALLY appreciate having had that discussion. We don’t need to be all gloom and doom with those looking forward to a new baby. However, a dose of reality can be valuable so they can prepare for “trekking in Nepal.”

    • jaimeclewis February 27, 2011 at 9:36 am #

      You are so very welcome. I love knowing that this information is getting to a mother of a 6-month old! And I completely agree that we don’t need to depress potential/incoming parents with any of this. *BUT* I believe that a healthy, realistic whisper in the ear amongst all the goo and sap of impending parenthood can’t hurt.

      Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll stick around!

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