How to create a parent-sized hole

Missing -- our dad
Are you finding that the other parent to your children is becoming insufferable?

It may comfort you to know that you are not alone. But it does rather lead one to ask what has changed so much given that you did, at some time, "lie with" that other parent. You have offspring to prove it.

No matter, you don't have to put up with it. So, here's a plan by which you can create a parent-sized hole.

Step 1: make allegations that the other parent has been violent, and seek a restraining order or aggravated or domestic violence order that legally locks the other parent out of the house and keeps them at a distance from you and the children.

You don't have any evidence of such an incident? It doesn't matter: make it up. No-one is going to check or challenge you -- or at least, not for a long time... which leads to the next step.

Step 2: in court (multiple years later), highlight the time the estranged parent has been absent from the lives of the children and that therefore, this parent is no longer relevant.

Voila - one parent-sized hole.

There are however, a few caveats.

First, this is a messy operation. It will very likely rip the heart out of the other parent in a manner akin to surgery conducted with a wood saw, without anesthesia and very likely leave the patient breathing, but only just and simultaneously wishing it were otherwise. (It might have been more merciful to simply dig a hole and bury the offending parent).

Second, it is a scorched earth policy destroying that which is precious to human life, the very life that we create. That is, it will almost definitely burn the children - although the legal system will argue that this in the best interests of the children.

And this then leads to the final rather more legal caveat. Existing laws really only allow this strategy to mums, not to dads.

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(The illustration is by Gaye Dell and appears in the book, The Other Glass Ceiling.
For more detail on how this strategy is executed, see this person's expanded account.)

Being male - greater returns with greater risk

Why males are more likely to die from conception to old age

Claire Roberts, University of Adelaide

Sexual inequality begins in the womb, but not in the way you might think. In a study of more than 574,000 births in South Australia between 1981 and 2011, we found boys are more likely to be born preterm and the risk is greater for boys the earlier the birth.

Mothers expecting boys are also more likely than mothers of girls to suffer pre-eclampsia (a serious disorder of pregnancy characterised by high blood pressure, fluid retention and protein in the urine), gestational high blood pressure or gestational diabetes late in pregnancy.

Many more boys are conceived than girls. Despite this the sex ratio at birth is only slightly in boys’ favour. For every 100 girls born in Australia 106 boys are born, a statistic that holds across most human populations. But males are more likely to die before females at all ages from conception to old age, which we think explains why Australia is around 51% female despite fewer girls being born.

Miscarriages and stillbirths are more likely to involve males. After birth, male babies are also more likely to die or suffer major illness. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data show boys make up 75% of SIDS deaths, 54% of cancer diagnoses, 60% of infant deaths and are more likely to be disabled (often associated with preterm birth).

As males and females age, disparities in the burden of diseases are prevalent in Australia. Greater numbers of men suffer heart disease (59%), endocrine disorders including type 2 diabetes (57%) and cancer (56%).

Some conditions, however, are more likely in women. These include blood and metabolic disorders (59%), neurological disorders including dementia (58%) and musculoskeletal conditions including arthritis (56%). There is also a female predominance in many auto-immune diseases.

Why are men more likely to die earlier?

We don’t know for sure why there are differences in disease prevalence, severity, age of onset and even symptoms between the sexes, but our research suggests genetic differences between males and females could contribute to differences in the uterus.

Males have XY sex chromosomes and females have XX sex chromosomes. We found 142 genes are expressed differently between normal male and female placentas delivered at term. About a third of the genes are on the sex chromosomes, but two-thirds are on the autosomes (non-sex chromosomes) and only a small number are associated with hormones.

The greatest sex differences are in the brain, specifically in the anterior cingulate cortex, which controls things such as heart rate and blood pressure as well as some emotion and decision-making (1,818 genes), followed by the heart (375 genes), kidney (224 genes), colon (218 genes) and thyroid (163 genes). In other organs, sex differences were mostly confined to genes on the sex chromosomes and those involved in hormone production.

Since defects in how the placenta develops and functions are associated with pregnancy complications, it is likely the placenta is a key contributor to the different outcomes we see between pregnancies carrying boys versus girls. These probably hark back to our evolution.

Evolution and the battle of the sexes

In the animal kingdom, males are somewhat dispensable, with the dominant male the most likely to breed with multiple females each season. Thus, in many species, it is only the biggest, strongest and fittest males who reproduce.

Bigger babies are more likely to survive birth and infancy and grow up to reproduce. So maintaining fetal and post-natal growth makes the male more likely to pass on his genes.

Females, conversely, will almost always reproduce and pass on their genes – assuming they survive to adulthood. So the growth strategies of the male and female fetus focus on passing on their genes to the next generation.

Research has found sex differences in how the fetus responds to maternal asthma. Asthma attacks in pregnancy, which are akin to an inflammatory storm, cause the female fetus to taper her growth in response. In so doing, the female fetus is more likely to survive.

However, a maternal asthma exacerbation does not affect the growth of the male fetus. He keeps growing at the same rate but places himself at risk of preterm birth and stillbirth should another asthma attack occur.

The developmental origins of health and disease thesis links the growth and development of the fetus to the health of the infant, child and adult. How well we grow in utero strongly influences our propensity for adult onset diseases. The fetus is said to be programmed in utero for health or disease across the life course.

So how well you grow in the uterus is influenced by your genetics but also by environmental factors. Together these shape your health for life and sex matters.

The Conversation
Claire Roberts, Senior Research Fellow, University of Adelaide
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Dad matters - and can matter a lot

Full article:

Key points

Children who feel rejected by their parents (one or both) suffer:
  • more likely to be hostile, aggressive, emotionally unstable
  • more likely to have low self-esteem, have feelings of inadequacy, have negative worldviews.
(Khaleque & Rohner 2012 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology)

Dad's input can be even more important than Mum's
  • Behavior problems, delinquency, depression, substance abuse and overall psychological adjustment are all more closely linked to Dad's rejection than Mum's
  • "Knowing that kids feel loved by their father is a better predictor of young adults' sense of well-being, of happiness, of life satisfaction than knowing about the extent to which they feel loved by their mothers."
(Khaleque & Rohner 2012 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology)

Kids appear to learn persistence more from Dad
  • Higher persistence is linked with higher engagement and lower delinquency at school
  • This is attributed to the parenting style of fathers, one that is characterized by warmth and love, accountability to the rules (including explanations of why those rules exist), and age-appropriate autonomy for kids
(Padilla-Walker et al. 2013 Journal of Early Adolescence)

Footnote: "Dad" in the above generally refers to an adult male engaged in raising the children, whether genetically related or otherwise.

Gender equality - a fantastical fairy tale

According to the magic mirror, Snow White was the fairest by far. 

But that's not fair! And so the beautiful but vain stepmother set about fixing the problem.

We detest inequality in general, but we can easily confuse this with detest of those specifically, who have more than me.  We battle inequality, but we overlook what we have, and also what others have not.

That "Harry Potter girl" Emma Watson, charmed us with her reminder of the dimensions of inequality that we fail to consider. And the appearance afterward of trolls and witch-hunts simply underlined her point.

In missing the inequalities, we miss the solutions too. Annabel Crabb observes that career women are frequently asked about how they manage their family lives while men never are. Her solution is simple: "I don't think the answer is to stop asking women. The answer is to start asking men."

Asking both working women and men about how they manage their home life highlights that someone must manage it, hence the title of Crabb's new book: The Wife Drought.

Unpaid domestic labour is not generally counted in measures of economic activity but is estimated to be equivalent to up to half of Gross Domestic Product.

Who does the work at home? Women do. At a rate almost two times that of men and even greater if they have children. This is true even in fairytales. The seven dwarfs agreed to protect Snow White in return for unpaid household labour.

Both types of work have to be done. Men do about two-thirds of the paid work, women about two-thirds of the unpaid household work.

Men are generally expected to provide and do so, even at a personal cost which often becomes apparent only at their deathbed. Working too hard is one of the top regrets of the dying says Bronnie Ware, and particularly among men.

Statistics show that men have higher rates of pay than women with one notable exception. The fairer sex makes a good deal more than men in fashion modelling.

Statistics also show that men have higher rates of being victims of violence, assault, work-related injuries, suicide and earlier death.

As Sam de Brito quips, "I'm surely not the only man who'd be happy to swap my 8 per cent for an extra five years of life, more time with my kid and the guarantee I'll not be found swinging from a beam when I turn 55."

Just as a corporate women must explain how she manages her home, stay-at-home fathers must explain why he is neglecting his career. Fathers stepping up to help in the family are questioned, literally and figuratively. We do not seem to like men being around children as reflected in the following:
  • Male child carers are bound by special rules
  • Tracey Spicer provides public support to airline policy ensuring men are not seated next to unaccompanied minors
  • Lenore Skenazy documents multiple other examples in an article entitled “Eek, a male!

Charles Areni and I in our book The Other Glass Ceiling provide other instances of man-fear: a dad shopping for his daughter's undies is deemed a security risk; a single father searching for an au pair is suspicious.

We don't even realise we're treating others unequally. Consider the following scenario:

"Chris is a single parent of two and the director of marketing for an electronics firm. Scheduled to present the key quarterly sales report to the Board, Chris arrives 15 minutes late after dropping the children at school and day care. In addition to dishevelled hair, there is a noticeable stain on Chris’ suit, the result of the young girl vomiting at the end of her car trip after a hurried breakfast."

Our research shows that 95% of people think that Chris is a woman. But Chris' gender was not stated. We often fail to see our own unequal treatment of others.

Striving to reduce inequality is important, but equality is a myth. Men and women are not born equal and even the most earnest efforts cannot rectify all the inequalities as Monty Python explain to Loretta.

And some efforts to reduce inequality create more damage than good. According to relationship expert John Gottman, when communication is reduced to criticisms and contempt, the relationship is in trouble.

The gender-war is not helpful. In tackling one inequality, we may create another. In the original Snow White, the evil stepmother is forced to put on burning hot boots at Snow White's wedding and dance until she dies.

The moral of this tale is that equality is not even true in fairy tales. Our goal is to reduce inequality, to exchange inequalities.

Ask both women and men, "How are you managing your home life?" Encourage fathers to step up and mothers to let go.

Now just share your toys nicely, and we'll all live happily ever after.