Christine Park

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Are Working Moms Less Depressed Than Stay-At-Home Moms?

It's us versus them. It shouldn't be this way. But even among my friends, there's a sort of competition and mistrust between working moms and the ones that stay home.

Working moms try to assuage the guilt they feel over someone else raising their children by emphasizing the fulfillment from their career, the example they're setting for their children. Stay at home moms try to hide their envy of their working friends by raving about the quality time they get to spend with their children and the milestones they get to witness along the way.

But "stay-at-home mom" is a total misnomer. The ones who do it, will tell you, it ought to be called "go everywhere mom"... because you're running errands, shuttling your children around, doing everything for everyone but yourself. And therein may lie the reason a recent University of Washington study found stay-at-home moms are more likely to become depressed than their working counterparts. This was, in some part, because these moms received little feedback or appreciation for their daily "work," high expectations and no compensation, and minimal interaction with peers. The study's authors concluded employment is ultimately beneficial for women's mental health, provided the woman maintain a work-life balance. If employment is not an option or desired, she recommends stay at home moms find opportunities to create happiness for themselves, whether that includes hobbies or alone time.

But the study also found, working moms who try to be supermoms put themselves at an even greater risk of depression. Accepting that they can't do it all, and making tradeoffs (i.e. leaving work early to pick up the kids), were key to the moms' overall well being. The reality is, most workplaces are designed still for employees without childcare responsibilities. So reject the myth of the supermom. She's not happy... or she doesn't exist. Chances are, underneath the polished, successful, she's-got-it-all facade, is guilt, frustration, or a feeling of a lack of control... all factors that could lead to depression.

So even without this latest study, countless moms could have told you... being a mom, whether you work or don't, is the hardest job in the world. Whether you enjoy it, is up to you.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Boy or Girl at Just Seven Weeks

Reposting this fascinating article. Would you take a test like this? Is it worth knowing what you're having as early as possible? What about the ethical concerns?

CHICAGO (AP) — Boy or girl? A simple blood test in mothers-to-be can answer that question with surprising accuracy at about seven weeks, a research analysis has found.

Though not widely offered by U.S. doctors, gender-detecting blood tests have been sold online to consumers for the past few years. Their promises of early and accurate results prompted genetics researchers to take a closer look.

They analyzed 57 published studies of gender testing done in rigorous research or academic settings — though not necessarily the same methods or conditions used by direct-to-consumer firms.

The authors say the results suggest blood tests like those studied could be a breakthrough for women at risk of having babies with certain diseases, who could avoid invasive procedures if they learned their fetus was a gender not affected by those illnesses. But the study raises concerns about couples using such tests for gender selection and abortion.

Couples who buy tests from marketers should be questioned about how they plan to use the results, the study authors said.

The analyzed test can detect fetal DNA in mothers' blood. It's about 95 percent accurate at identifying gender when women are at least seven weeks' pregnant — more than one month before conventional methods. Accuracy of the testing increases as pregnancy advances, the researchers concluded.

Conventional procedures, typically done for medical reasons, can detect gender starting at about 10 weeks.

The new analysis, published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, involved more than 6,000 pregnancies. The testing used a lab procedure called PCR that detects genetic material — in this case, the male Y chromosome. If present in the mother's blood, she's carrying a boy, but if absent, it's a girl.

Tests that companies sell directly to consumers were not examined in the analysis. Sex-detection tests using mothers' urine or blood before seven weeks of pregnancy were not accurate, the researchers said.

Senior author Dr. Diana Bianchi, a reproductive geneticist and executive director of the Mother Infant Research Institute at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, called the results impressive. She noted that doctors in Great Britain are already using such testing for couples at risk of having children with hemophilia or other sex-linked diseases, partly to help guide treatment decisions.

The research indicates that many laboratories have had success with the test, but the results can't be generalized to all labs because testing conditions can vary substantially, said Dr. Joe Leigh Simpson, a genetics professor at Florida International University. He was not involved in the study.

Simpson noted that using gender-detection blood testing for medical or other reasons has not been endorsed by guideline-setting medical groups and some experts consider it experimental.

Dr. Lee Shulman, chief of clinical genetics at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, said the testing "isn't ready for prime time."

He said his hospital doesn't provide the blood tests, and doesn't offer more conventional techniques, including amniocentesis, to women who have no medical reason for wanting to know their baby's gender.

"I would have a lot of difficulties offering such a test just for gender identification. Gender is not an abnormality," Shulman said. "My concern is this is ultimately going to be available in malls or shopping centers," similar to companies offering "cute" prenatal ultrasound images.

Recent research found that increasing numbers of women in India who already have daughters are having abortions when prenatal tests show another girl, suggesting that an Indian ban on such gender testing has been ineffective. The expense of marrying off girls has contributed to a cultural preference there for boys.

Evidence also suggests that China's limits on one child per couple and traditional preference for male heirs has contributed to abortions and an increasingly large gender imbalance.

There's very little data on reasons for U.S. abortions or whether gender preferences or gender-detection methods play a role, said Susannah Baruch, a policy consultant for the Generations Ahead, an advocacy group that studies genetic techniques and gender issues.

Consumer Genetics Inc. a Santa Clara, Calif.-based company sells an "early gender" blood test called "Pink or Blue" online for $25 plus $265 or more for laboratory testing. It boasts of 95 percent accuracy, using a lab technique its scientists developed from the type of testing evaluated in the new analysis, said Terry Carmichael, the company's executive vice president.

Carmichael said the company sells more than 1,000 kits a year. He said the company won't test blood samples unless women sign a consent form agreeing not to use the results for gender selection.

The company also won't sell kits to customers in China or India because of fears of gender selection, he said.

Medical techniques that can detect gender include amniocentesis, usually done at around 16 weeks, using a needle to withdraw fluid surrounding the fetus to identify abnormalities; chorionic villus sampling, done at around the 10th week to detect abnormalities by examining placenta tissue; and ultrasound, most accurate at around 13 weeks. The first two methods can slightly increase risks for miscarriages.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Chore Wars

Have you seen the cover of the newest TIME magazine? Husband and wife, armed with a mop and a baby, ready to do battle. The tagline reads, "Let it go. Make peace. Men and women, it turns out, work the same amount."

First of all, let me just tell you how I came across this article. I had just spent two vacation days living the single life without husband and kids, visiting my best friend in San Francisco. I was feeling a little guilty about neglecting my family and home, when this mag greeted me not-so-subtly on the kitchen counter. Did Gene strategically place it there, to remind me of all the kid-watching he'd done while I was gone? How much I owed him? He denied placing it there. But I dutifully proceeded to read. The article's basic premise was that more men are now pulling their weight at home, so why do women still think they're slacking off? 69% of women interviewed felt they did most of the work around the house, while 53% of the men disagreed, feeling they worked just as hard as the women when it came to cleaning up.

Countless conversations with my married female friends confirms this thinking, whether these women work or not. One told me her husband has never cleaned up after a single meal. Another tells me hers refuses to change any poopy diapers. Yet another husband let the dirty dishes sit in the sink for a week (she left them there to try to make a point.) Mine drives me crazy by watching TV in his pajamas when I'm rushing around trying to get myself and my kids ready for church on time.

Still, when I hear my friends' complaints, I consider myself lucky. My husband contributes quite a bit, despite being raised in a traditional Korean household where his father did NONE of the household chores. I've never thought about quantifying each of our shares but it breaks down something like this... I grocery shop, cook, dress and pack for the kids, do playdates and appointments. He does the bills, the dishes after we eat, takes out the trash, cleans the toilets. We both do laundry, vacuum, bedtime. He drops our daughter off at school, I pick her up.

We've had plenty of arguments, or chore wars, and we've gone through a lot of trial and error in our eight years of marriage, but what we've learned can be boiled down to a few simple points:
  • Watching your own children is NOT work. It's called parenting.
  • Marriage is a partnership... that means ALL give or ALL take never works.
  • A chore divider like can be a lifesaver because it keeps track of whose turn it is to do shared chores.
  • A hard day at work doesn't excuse you from responsibilities at home.
  • Nagging doesn't work.
Obviously there are days when we cut each other slack. I'm on vacation today, so I spent the day going to brunch and doing yoga while my husband was up at 6am and worked until 5pm. So I gave the kids baths and put them to bed while he decompressed in front of the TV. When I'm running on empty after a week's worth of only 4-5 hours of sleep a night, he lets me crash and he takes over kid duty. We are not above bargaining or trading chores either, like baseball cards. "If you put the laundry away so I can take a bath, I will clean up the play room later while you watch Top Chef." The study concludes that men and women who share household burdens evenly are happier. Makes sense. Less resentment and inequality=less fighting.

Also, in my working mom life, I realized it's easier for me to let some things go. Bed not made, I bite my lip. Full laundry basket, I look the other way. Or I just do it myself. I can't complain about my husband's lack of initiative if I don't show any myself. And in the meantime, I'm training the children to start helping with chores. Is a 4-year-old too young to clean toilets? (That's both my and my husband's least favorite task.)