Hi Folks! This post comes to us from Emily Oster, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, and the author of Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong – and What you really Need to Know. She tweets @ProfEmilyOster and she’s a non-alarmist. Woo-hoo! – L.
FEAR AND THE PREGNANT WOMAN by Emily Oster
When you’re pregnant, it can sometimes seem like you should be afraid of everything. Even some things you may not have thought of. Last week I saw an article about how you shouldn’t swim (causes asthma in your kid later, I guess). A few months ago one of my Chinese friends was horrified to learn I hadn’t worn a radiation vest while working at my computer during pregnancy.
I’m an economist – my job is data – and when I was pregnant I spent a lot of time combing through studies and data in the hopes of identifying which risks were real, and which were exaggerated. The result was my book, Expecting Better, and in it I suggest that a lot of pregnancy risks are exaggerated. A little bit of coffee? Fine. A little bit of deli ham? Probably also okay. Sushi? Yes.
Some of the rules are there for good reason (tobacco is a definite no-no, as are hot tubs) but I make the case that pregnant women should be able to live with a lot less fear.
Since the book has come out I’ve heard from a lot of women who love this message. But I’ve also heard from some who feel that it’s all well and good to know what the risks are, but they’re still going to avoid everything. Their reasoning, often, is that if something did go wrong – even if for a reason having nothing to do with their behavior – they would blame themselves unless they did everything perfectly.
A post on the Motherlode blog made this point plainly: the author lost a baby to listeria, and even though she doesn’t know what the source of the infection was, she still blames herself for a few deli sandwiches during the pregnancy.
The possibility that you might feel this way is certainly something women should think about in making these choice, but it is also something I think we should fight against. Women – mothers – increasingly seem to feel like it is our fault if anything goes wrong with a pregnancy, or with our children. Forget about going wrong, we blame ourselves if our kid isn’t perfect in every way.
Shortly after my book came out, someone emailed me, distraught, having had a miscarriage. She wanted to know if she might have caused this by pumping her own gas, or by having a single glass of wine before she knew she was pregnant. Of course the answer was no, but I felt sad that she even needed to ask. I am all for the idea of taking appropriate cautions, and of doing what is best for our kids. But I also think we need to ease up on the guilt. By doing so, we may dial back the fear, as well. – E.O.
Lenore here: I so agree that we have gone overboard blaming ourselves (or worrying we will be blamed) if anything goes wrong with our kids at any stage of their lives, beginning in the womb. In my lectures I talk about how, for instance, the “What to Expect” book tells readers to consider EACH BITE a chance to give their baby better odds and possibly even a better life. Nine months is a lot of bites to think hard about, and the flip side of trying to be “good” is that any step off that tightrope of perfection feels like YOU are to blame if your child isn’t perfect.
This whole outlook feels less like a new age kind of healthy mama perspective and more like Henry the VIII who blamed Anne Boleyn for having a child with birth defects. I’d really like to move forward, not backward, when it comes to thinking pregnant women can control all outcomes if only they are more strict, vigilant and self-sacrificing. Or, in Anne Boleyn’s case, if they’d only stop consorting with the devil. – L.
Folks — If you felt like you were living in a kind of sane country, take a peek at this:
Yes, it’s a terrorist drill on a school bus.
I truly could not understand from this report (or Googling) if the students knew the attack was fake or not. They probably did, or just imagine the lawsuits. Nonetheless, it is nothing less than bizarre that while they were being “hijacked,” school administrators and sundry responsible adults sat in folding chairs in a parking lot across town watching a big-screen live feed of the event.
And then, as the audience watched, into that lot drove — the bus! A waiting SWAT team took over, puncturing the bus tire and “liberating” the hostages.
All this in a town of under 7000, on one of the safest forms of transportation known to man. As one of the students getting off the bus said: “It feels good to know that when this does happen, there are people there to stop it.
When this DOES happen? Please. It’s like preparing for the day a flaming meteor DOES land in the lunch line. Here’s my guess as to what DID happen. A 2006 CNN story reported:
School bus drivers around the country are being trained to be the eyes and ears on the road and to watch for potential terrorists, in a program financed by the Homeland Security Department.
Designers of the program, called School Bus Watch, want to turn 600,000 drivers into an army of observers….
The new effort is part of Highway Watch, a safety program run by the American Trucking Association and financed since 2003 with $50 million from Homeland Security.
Fifty million dollars? That’s a lot of ski masks. How can YOU get some of this dough? If you can say, truthfully or not, that you really think your town needs to prepare for the day a terrorist boards a school bus, I’d guess you’re in the running for a piece of the terrorists-are-everywhere pie.
Terrifying. – L
Hi Readers — Here’s a note from Education.com’s marketing director, Kat Eden, regarding the “Reasons to Say No to Sleepovers” post we have been writing about the last two days (that is now gone from the site). – L
Dear Free-Range Kids: Thanks so much to you and to your community for sharing your thoughts about this article.
We post hundreds of pieces of content each month with the goal of giving parents the information they need to make the best decisions for their families and the ideas and inspiration they want to make learning with their kids more fun. While we work hard to make sure every bit of that content is helpful for parents, sometimes, like everyone, we just don’t get it right.
We know that sleepovers are a controversial subject these days and many parents have strong feelings about whether they’re a good thing for kids or not. While hundreds of parents “Liked” this particular article on Facebook, we also heard from parents like you who felt the article missed the mark. We reviewed the article yesterday and have decided to remove it from our site.
When we publish articles on controversial topics, we try to avoid telling parents what they should or should not do and instead we try to give them expert or evidence based information on both sides of the issue so they can make the best decision for their children and families. This article clearly crossed that line a bit by encouraging parents not to allow their kids to go on sleepovers. This article is a better example of how we typically present information on a topic like this: First Sleepover Preparation.
So, as I said, we’ve removed the article. Please let me know if you have any further questions, ideas or input.
Thanks again for sharing your point of view.
To which I responded:
Dear Kat: I DO like the tone and suggestions of the alternative link you just sent, and I appreciate your — I’m not even sure of the word. Your willingness to give a rational re-look at a post you published. That’s exactly what i’m writing a story on for another publication — the power of apology. That takes guts and usually isn’t easy.
I am grateful and impressed. – Lenore
Good reasons to say Yes to Sleepovers (by “Albert”)
1. Your kids will get a chance to practice the manners you teach – it’s no good if they don’t, right?
2. Your kids will get to do and try different things – food, games, travel, etc. they may not otherwise, which is all part of making it a treat, yes? If it’s good for you, why isn’t it good for them??
3. Your kids will make new friends, and so will you, if you behave yourself.
4. Your kids will get to learn social boundaries and custom – how to behave in someone else’s house, car, etc. is different than behaving at home – and they only way to learn that is “on the road”.
5. You and your kids will have a chance to unwind and relax, away from the constant attention of each other.
6. You and your kids will be on the path of mutual trust, which has to start early.
7. Your kids will HAVE FUN. That’s what’s its about. THEM HAVING FUN.
*** And a summary of the “No Sleepover” points, by CR Moewes ***
AAAAAA.. I can’t keep reading that article my head will explode. But to save other people I will summarize the 9 slides
1. Things are different now (so if you did sleep overs and are normal your experience doesn’t invalidate our assumptions)
2. The kids will be too tired the next day from staying up all night. And your house will be dirty…. except that since there was no sleep over (or maybe it’s ok to host one, but then who would come over since you woulnd’t let your kids play with someone whose parents would let them sleep over) how is your house gonna get dirty.
3. Some kids aren’t ready for sleep overs so no one should have sleep overs.
4. You don’t like/trust some parents so you should just not let any sleep overs happen rather than explain to your kids that some things are ok and some things aren’t.
5. This seems like a repeat of #2 but instead of just a sleepy kid you will wind up with a stupid kid because one night of sleeping over will leave them so exhausted they will fall behind in their school work.
6. They might watch or hear something that you don’t approve of. Movies, TV, etc. If they are at someone else’s house they may experience something outside the controlled environment you have at home.
7. They might do somehitng else you don’t approve…. i.e. DRUGS!!!! bumbumbuuummmm. Because since you can’t select whose house they sleep over at (see #4, all-or-nothing) you will have to let them sleep over at the neighborhood crack-mamas house and you know what that means.
8. Rape and Molestation… ‘nuf said here.
9. But it’s your call…. if you love your kids, you will not allow any sleep overs, but that’s only if you really love them… like we do our kids, so you decide for yourself.
And what if kids are allergic to pillows? Or each other? Or air? Did you think about THAT??? (Illus by waterwriter144, at Deviant Art)