Nurturing Nature

July 21, 2009

A group of scientists at the University of Iowa have made a huge announcement: it isn’t nature or nurture, it is both or neither.  My reaction: a big, fat, slightly unenthusiastic woo hoo.

While it would be nice and, in some ways, reassuring to have a clear sense of what behaviors and skills are due to nature and which are due to nurture, I have always wondered how anyone who has seen kids learning about and exploring the world could think it was as simple as one or the other.

While at first glance this may seem like a scary thing to parents- it becomes harder to blame that picky eater on your husband’s family- I think it is actually kind of a relief.  It means that we are involved in their development and growth, but that it also isn’t all on us.  We don’t have to hover all the time to make sure the environment is just perfect, but we also get to play an active role.

So I, for one, would like to thank the researchers at the University of Iowa for stating the obvious and helping to try to refocus important child development research towards a new and more complex approach.


So, today, in my quest to befriend a stay-at-home dad I introduced myself to a dad at the playground with his one-year-old daughter.  I am pretty confident that he is a stay-at-home dad because I have seen him there before and overheard him making plans with other stay-at-home dads (potential jackpot!).  But all did not go as planned…

It started out really well.  He complimented my son on his Grateful Dead onesie.  I then said hello to his daughter.  We then exchanged the normal, requisite (dare I say tedious) pleasantries: age of kids, names of kids. And that is when it got awkward.  I introduced myself, “I’m J, by the way.”  He introduced himself.  And then, silence.  I didn’t know what to say. I suddenly felt totally constrained by lame-ass insecurities.  I didn’t want to seem too eager and I definitely I didn’t want it to seem like I was hitting on him.  So I just went quiet.

After a couple of minutes I asked if he lived nearby (another normal playground question).  He answered.  We each said one sentence about how great the playground was.  And, done.  Then he wandered off, and I wandered off.  And we avoided one another for the rest of the hour or so we were both at the playground.  Lame and awkward.

I did have a nice conversation with another mom, though.  Same questions to start, but then it just happened.  Was it because there weren’t the same stereotypical gender dynamics to worry about?  Was it because we just clicked better? Was it because I was more relaxed?

I still want this to happen and I will try again.  But somehow I feel like I need to adjust my approach so that it doesn’t seem like I am desperate- don’t want them to smell blood in the water… Suggestions? Words of advice? Tales of your own humiliations?

The lack of momentum on the professional front has definitely getting to me, as has the weather, so when the sun came out yesterday I decided that it was time to change my outlook and focus on what I have in front of me, rather than what I am missing.  

So despite a horribly failed nap in the morning and a rather cranky baby, I was determined to have a good and productive day.  We met up with a friend and her baby for lunch, which was wonderful, and then headed home to try for a more successful afternoon nap.  Once M went down I kicked into high gear- catching up on a bunch of emails, straightening up the house, getting a bunch of summer plans moving, and baking.  I was so proud of my two batches of scones that I decided I had time to make chocolate chip cookies, too.  And that is when things went terribly wrong. Half-way through making the batter the baby woke up and started crying and I tossed everything into the Cuisinart, scooped the batter out quickly onto the cookie sheet in little rounds, and ran up to get M.  When I came down to check on the cookies this is what I found:


For a moment I thought, “who are you kidding? You can’t do this stay-at-home mom thing.  You can’t do the career thing. What kind of mom/woman are you?”  And then I realized I was being a self-pitying idiot.  I may not have mastered the multi-tasking thing yet but at least I get points for trying, right?

Of Mice and Women

April 13, 2009


The news that researchers in China have found a way to encourage the reproductive systems of female mice to continue to generate new eggs past their normal fertility age is, I grant you, an interesting new twist in fertility for women, but am I the only one who also finds it disturbing?


Now as someone who is adamantly pro-choice and has also benefitted from fertility research I absolutely believe that a woman has the right to all reproductive choices and I am not saying this option shouldn’t exist, but I have to say… are we serious?!  I mean, there are days when my almost-toddler completely flattens me and I am only 30.  I can’t imagine having a toddler at 55 or 60, let alone a 12-year-old at 67 or 72!  I guess I just feel like maybe there is a reason that our bodies go into menopause…

In the interest of total honesty I should say that while I am very social and love spending time with friends and peers, I am not a joiner.  I’m not big on book clubs, I’m not one to have a big group of girlfriends that all go out together, and I always find a reason to avoid signing up for a whole session of a class- opting instead to be the drop-in student who goes to the back of the room.  So my visceral reaction to the profile of The Bowery Babes, an elite and exclusive mommy’s group in NYC is probably not all that surprising, and yet…

The idea of a mommy’s group that selects its participants based on an exchange of letters which will help to determine whether an applicant’s intentions are “pure” makes me crazy.  Motherhood, especially early motherhood, is an incredibly lonely time.  Your world has been turned on its head and all of your priorities and lifestyle choices are called into question.  At a time like that, why on earth would other mothers be exclusive in their decision about whether or not to let you into their bougie, Bloomingdales-visiting group?!  That doesn’t sounds more like the move of a high school diva than a “connector of souls” to me.

Research like this new study that supposedly shows that women are more impulsive in the 10 days leading up to their period makes me livid.  Not only is the science, with such a small sample size (443) and such limited questions, just pathetic, but it is also using the cover of research to perpetuate myths and assumptions that are completely off the mark. 

We all have days of impulsivity- it is part of what makes us human.  How many times have we heard the stereotypical equivalent story of guys going out and buying some ridiculous new TV or game system?  No one is calling them hormonal.  It is just part of being a person- sometimes you have to make bad decisions, you have to let off steam, and, yes, sometimes you are going to regret those decisions.

It reminds me of bullshit “science” that told us that certain races were smarter than others and that women were well-suited for certain jobs.  We don’t need this kind of small-mindedness out there, especially from researchers. 

But, who knows, maybe I’m just hormonal…

Advice, Schmadvice

March 27, 2009

Maybe I have become overly sensitive in my pent-up, stay-at-home state, but I have started noticing these absolutely obnoxious “news” stories that show up a couple times a week on the log out page of my Yahoo account.  They are relationship advice stories like “Ten signs you are emotionally cheating” or “The real reasons men cheat” or “How to know if he is the one” or “How to keep the man you love.” 

There are a number of things that really bother me about them.  It drives me crazy that they are almost exclusively geared towards women who, in case you missed the memo, are desperate for love and incapable of keeping it if they have found it.  It also irks me to no end that they seemed to be playing on these antiquated and gendered notions of relationships- that it is up to the woman to keep her man happy, shit like that.  And finally, the advice could not be stupider.  Just in case you were wondering, one sign that you have probably crossed the line into an emotional affair with your guy friend is when you “touch your male friend in “legal” ways, like picking lint off his blazer.”

And then I realized something even more upsetting: these articles are there because people like them and read them.  People are eating this crap up.  Why is that?  Why do we think that we are going to find the answer to all of our problems in an article on a generalist website or within the pages of Cosmo or Jane or Men’s Health?  Is it because it is easy and requires no effort to seek it out?  Is it because they are approachable?  Or is it because they are playing on our unrealized fears and creating problems where they likely isn’t one?  I don’t know.  But in the meantime, I am going to feel perfectly fine picking lint off of my guy friends’ shirts and I may even give them a *gasp* hug.