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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

the (temporary) Death of Feminism (in our house)

So yesterday morning I was folding the laundry while my 7-year-old was home (being a "late bird," he goes to school at 9:30 a.m., another merciless cut into the workday). "Josh," I said, "why don't you give me a hand? I'll teach you how. You know, when you grow up, how are you going to know how to take care of yourself?"
"I'll just let my wife do it," he said.
My life flashed before my eyes -- particularly the part of my life that I spent watching my mom cleaning house and vowing I would never ever be a domestic slave.
It's actually not that he doesn't see his dad doing chores -- dishes, laundry, garbage, raking -- or that we haven't made chores for kids an issue in our house. But somehow, Josh has gotten the impression, just by seeing me more repeatedly doing these things, since I've got that quote unquote flexible job, that they are, gaaack, women's work.
I've been passionate about being around the house when my kids are home. One parent has to be, if at all possible, and the dirty secret is I prefer it. But this was nearly enough to send me out looking for full-time office work.......

Monday, January 23, 2006

more on oxytocin

In the months since the Mommy Brain was published, last May, there has been more news about oxytocin, the key maternal hormone and neurotransmitter I reported on at length. (Remember, it's important in breast-feeding and uterine contractions during labor.)
A report in last June's Nature, for instance, detailed an experiment showing that oxytocin administered in a nasal spray increases trust in humans. I recently tracked down a Harvard neuroscientist who, moved by this news, has been dosing herself with an oxytocin nasal spray to cope with post traumatic stress syndrome. She says it seems to help her feel more "warm and fuzzy" with romantic partners. What Big Pharma might make of this is anyone's guess!

Friday, January 13, 2006

more about challenged brains

It's worth a look at the most recent Time Magazine for a series of stories on staying sharp and the latest in how best to raise smart babies...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

boiling point

I'm starting research on an article today about Ross Gelbspan, a man who deserves the attention of smart mommies everywhere. Why? Gelbspan is almost single-handedly leading a campaign for the one truly realistic solution to climate change. The dirty half-secret of the current Kyoto Treaty (which the U.S. has not ratified), the only global plan making actual progress, is that it's no way near what the planet needs, according to top climate scientists, who say we must reduce fossil fuel emissions by as much as 70 percent. Gelbspan, in his recent book, Boiling Point, , offers a way to get there....

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

novelty-- and children's theater -- improves the brain

I just signed the binding contract as a parent volunteer in the fifth grade production of Oliver at Joey's school. My inner sleeper cringed as I did so, since I do realize how much time this is going to take, supporting his thespian debut as the Artful Dodger. Yet I also do believe -- optimistically, maybe, even perversely, but with great underlying faith -- in a point I stress in The Mommy Brain; that jumping into this kind of new child-obliged experience, so foreign to my normal inclination, with new people, new pressures and new skills to learn, is just what the doctor should order. I'm about the most anxious person I know -- excepting just maybe one very good friend who reads this blog more than I write in it -- and left to my own devices, I'd probably spend the time worrying about the advent of "peak oil" ....

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

mirror, mirror

Don't miss the fascinating story in today's New York Times on mirror neurons. I write about mirror neurons in the empathy chapter of Mommy Brain -- they are relatively recently discovered cells that fire whether someone is acting in a particular way or merely observing someone else doing so. At UCLA, Dr. Marco Iacoboni has done a series of experiments looking at mirror neurons. He thinks they are a critical part of empathy, and also are a mechanism by which kids can get insensitized to violence -- for instance, when they process vile Internet fare like Happy Tree Friends....

Thursday, January 05, 2006

parenting blues

Our local school flooded in the torrential rains that put San Anselmo in the national news for the first time since it was revealed that the "American Taliban" came from here -- and now my 1st grader has been home an extra week tagged on to winter break -- just when I thought it was safe to go back to work.
It made me a receptive audience for a Washington Post story about how parents get more depressed than non-parents.
What's key in this story is the comment near the end about how parents in the U.S. get so little support is right on target -- don't get me started about my search for a sitter this week! And I know my woes are nothing compared to parents with less flexible jobs, i.e. most parents. One of the dirty little secrets about raising kids in this country is that schools close down at the drop of a hat -- it doesn't take a flood. And there's just about zip backup.