Tuesday, January 16, 2007

What We’ve Always Suspected

Monday, January 15, 2007
Washington Post: “Children, Parents Drive Each Other to Early Graves”

As usual, I’m late to the party, but I found this news item interesting. A study published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that parents pay a price for having children. No, wait, it’s not what you think. We all know that children are expensive – you have to house, feed and clothe them for at least 18 years, and that’s not chump change – but what I’m talking about is the ultimate price. Parenting evidently takes years off your life.

Or so the headline would have us believe. If you continue reading the article, you’ll find that the researchers examined the reproductive history and survival rate of 21,684 couples married between 1860 and 1895.

When Penn and Smith examined their data, a clear and unmistakable trend stood out. The bigger the family, the smaller the chance that the parents would live into old age. Both mothers and fathers paid a price for having lots of children,with mothers always paying more, regardless of family size.

I think it goes without saying that mortality rates have declined since the 19th century. It seems foolhardy to extrapolate this data to the 21st century. However, it makes sense to me that the physical stress of having a child, along with the psychological stress of raising said child to adulthood*, would cause one to age more quickly – and thus die at an earlier age.

Remember this when your kid draws on the wall in permanent marker, or crashes the car into a lightpost. They are a joy, but they’re taking years off your life. My obstetrician conveniently forgot to mention that delightful little nugget when talking about the risks of childbirth.

Perhaps Viva will remain an only child after all. Her imaginary little brother is not stressing me out in the least.

* And even in a best case scenario – a healthy child being raised with familial and financial stability – there will still be stress. You still have to figure out how you are going to raise that child – what to feed him, where she should go to school, what to say when he comes home with a tongue piercing. It’s stressful being responsible for another person. Hoo boy, let me tell you. Do you have a second? Hey, wait, wait -- where ya going?


Bridget In Oregon said...

This is the proof I've needed in writing for the past nine years. Did it say anything about colicky babies taking off an extra say, two years, on top of the whole shebang?

Snowstorm up here in Portland, Oregon today so two kids in the house for the past four days... yep, the years are peeling away right before my very eyes.

Being Mama Daily said...

This is the truth...but not in it's entirety. The unexpected jolts of joy have to add something back. Maybe not an even trade but it's something.

BTW, your baby girl is a perfect beauty!

Lisa Blah Blah said...

Oof, I feel you. The second you get out of the house you need to reward yourself for your herculean efforts. Go do something only for yourself -- pick up a new book or CD or some treat you've had an eye on. Go on! And then blame it on the kids.

Lisa Blah Blah said...

Being Mama: Yes, yes, absolutely. If kids did not make us feel so warm and fuzzy, we wouldn't have them, right?

Thanks for the compliment on my Viva. She is a beautiful little munchkin, inside and out.

Cee in SF said...

As a no kid household, I can see what they're saying, but I have to agree that the love and happiness brought into a home by a kid or kids has to help extend your life. They might cancel each other out. I'm optimistic that I'm better off with a kid than without. Right!?

Lisa Blah Blah said...

Cee: The story does seem kind of counterintuitive, in the sense that I have read a variety of studies that women who bear children have lower rates of cervical, breast ad ovarian cancer. One could conclude that there are some health benefits to having children. And from personal experience, having a child does bring you a lot of joy -- you would think those extra endorphins would help you out. This is why I was skeptical about the article in the first place. Take it with a grain of salt.

By the way: I haven't been able to post comments to your blog over the past couple of days. No fault of yours - some weird quirk of my work computer - but I did want you to know I've been reading. Not ignoring you!