When his son, Kyle, was four months old, Stefan Malliet woke up to his crying at three o’clock in the morning. Stefan tried to figure out what was wrong—Kyle wasn’t hungry, his diaper wasn’t dirty, but he still wouldn’t settle down and go to sleep. He just kept screaming. With no one else in the house to take Kyle off his hands, Stefan called a friend, crying: “I had no idea what was going on.”
When I asked Stefan how he decided to take on the responsibilities of a single dad, he said, “This is my child. I have to be here.”
Today, more men than ever are making the same choice. A Pew Research study published this statistic this summer: 8 percent of households with minor children are now headed by a single father, up from just one percent in 1960. This represents a nine-fold increase, from fewer than 300,000 households in 1960 to more than 2.6 million in 2011. In contrast, the number of single-mother households increased four-fold during that time period, from 1.9 million in 1960 to 8.6 million in 2011. These numbers speak to two trends in American family life today: a rising divorce rate over the past half-century, along with the increasing frequency of parents never marrying at all; and the growing societal acceptance of fathers as primary caregivers.
A century ago, this image of men left alone with children was horrifying enough to spur an anti-suffrage movement. So what happened? How did single fatherhood go from terrifying to increasingly normal?
Read more. [Image: AP File Photo]
“When I was a child,” Diana Adams began, “I had a doll house and a rich fantasy life. I imagined that I was a cancer-curing surgeon, a world-class ballerina, and a TV show host all at the same time. I was also an amazing mom to all my dolls, but it was always a little mysterious about where they had come from and whether they all had the same father. A little neighbor boy once said to me, ‘I’ll be the daddy.’ I thought about that for a moment. I said, ‘No, you can be my gay lounge singer friend. That’s much more fun.’ I’ve always liked boys. I just like them better in groups.”
Over the years, the aspiring ballerina/surgeon/TV host shifted her focus to law. As a lawyer, Diana now runs a Brooklyn-based legal firm oriented toward providing traditional marriage rights to non-traditional families like the one she imagined as a kid. As an openly polyamorous woman, Diana lives inside a version of that doll house today. Along with her primary partner Ed, she is currently romantically involved with several other men and women.
I sat down recently with the 35 year-old to discuss her life and career.
We often talk about obesity as a public health crisis, but rarely about how totally, utterly baffling it is as a disease. Obese people face discrimination at almost every turn, and yet the American obesity rate is now over 27 percent, and rising. It’s an extremely expensive condition—the severely obese spend more than twice as much on medical care—but it’s also most prevalent among low-income people.
Usually, things that are this strongly dis-incentivized don’t continue to advance so rapidly.
So, why does it?
It’s a sensitive issue, but the more we learn about how obesity works—and doesn’t—the better we can help those affected by it.
Read more. [Image: nvainio/Flickr]
The lesson of today’s monumental social mobility study is simple. Your family could be the most important economic determinant in your life.
My entire life, my dad has smoked pot. It’s so synonymous with him that I’ve made a joke out of it. “What does your dad do?” comes that age old question. “He’s a pot-smoking hippie” is the easiest answer. And he is. Several times a day, every day, for as far back as I can remember, my dad has toked the reefer, hit the Mary Jane.
There’s a lot of discussion about pot right now, as different states push towards legalizing it for medical or personal use. As I listen to the various arguments—about health, morality, criminal justice, personal freedom—they all come back to the same thing for me: Dad, Dad, Daddy. The family element is almost always missing from the debates: What does smoking pot do, not only to users but to their children?
Read more. [Image: Wiros/Flickr]
When Harry arrived at Vanderbilt University in 2008, he became the first person in his family to attend college. His parents were immigrants from Nicaragua, and he had attended a so-called “academically and economically disadvantaged” high school on the North side of Miami. Even after completing a rigorous IB program as a high-school student and receiving a scholarship, he arrived on campus feeling like an outsider.
“Never before had I truly felt such an extreme sense of estrangement and alienation,” he says of his first few months. “I quickly realized that although I may look the part, my cultural and socio-economic backgrounds were vastly different from those of my predominantly white, affluent peers. I wanted to leave.”
Harry opted to stay at Vanderbilt, but he found acclimating to the school’s cultural climate to be extremely difficult. His scholarship covered books, tuition, and housing—but it didn’t cover little costs like dorm move-in needs and travel costs home for breaks—expenses his classmates could typically afford that exacerbated his feelings of alienation. Eventually, he found refuge in the school’s theatre department and student government.
“There were very few Latinos that I could connect with,” he says. “[But], I got very involved in extra-curricular activities in hopes of meeting people… It was in each of these organizations that I met older students that informally mentored me. … I would ask questions shamelessly and learn about their experiences.”
Harry’s difficult adjustment is just one example of the many obstacles first-generation and minority students confront each year that don’t typically plague their second- and third-generation peers
Read more. [Image: Susan Walsh/AP Photo]
A time for good food, comfort, joy, and … “you could be so pretty if you only lost a little weight.”
Read more. [Image: Paramount Pictures]
“Dad, tell me a story from when you were little. Tell me the story about the time you met your best friend Chris at school.” Six-year-old Alex, who has just started school himself, snuggles into his pillow and catches his dad’s hand in the dark. They have finished the nightly reading of Tin Tin and now it’s time for “just one more story” before Alex goes to sleep.
Most parents know about the benefits of reading stories from books with their young children. Parents are blasted with this message in pediatricians’ offices, at preschool, on TV, even with billboards on the city bus. Reading books with children on a daily basis advances their language skills, extends their learning about the world, and helps their own reading later in school. Reading with your child from a young age can instill a lifelong love of books. A new study published in Science even shows that reading literary fiction improves adults’ ability to understand other people’s emotions.
Reading books with your children is clearly a good idea.
Read more. [Image: cdnsure/flickr]
In a new New York Times magazine article, Judith Warner talks to three women—two white and one black—who were privileged high achievers before having children. Warner’s article is a follow-up to Lisa Belkin’s 2003 piece, “The Opt-Out Revolution,” in which Belkin talked to high-achieving women who had deliberately decided to step out of the workforce to focus on raising their children. At the time, the women interviewed expressed the feelings that they were being pulled in too many directions and were finding their jobs the least fulfilling parts of their lives. Since they had the option (because of high-earning spouses) to leave the workforce, they were choosing to focus on their children. This new article revisits these women a decade later. After several thousand words in which Warner bemoans the perfectly ordinary life struggles of her subjects (one divorce, one career renaissance but marriage trouble, one unemployment causing marital tension), she makes an attempt at a thesis: The women she interviewed were foolish to opt out back in 2000. She writes, “Beyond the personal losses — the changes in the dynamic of a marriage or the cumulative financial effects of many years of not working — there is the collective impact to consider.” Had they been less deluded, Warner implies, things would be different now for these women, our brightest and best. The focus on opting out only tells part of the story, which is that it’s hard to survive and keep a marriage together, even for educated, privileged mostly-white people.
Blaming struggles of a limited group on personal choice is bad social science.
Read more. [Image: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]
QUESTION ONE (POSED BY YOUR DAD): You see that Papa John’s guy? I’m telling you: Obamacare is going to ruin this country. I know Jeff [your 22-year-old brother who is currently insured on your family’s health plan as a direct result of Obamacare] went knocking on doors for our “president” because he’s never had a real job and doesn’t know what it’s like to pay taxes just so a bunch of people can get a free ride. But I’m not mad, because he’ll figure it out, once he gets out into the world, and sees what it’s like to make payroll or buy a house after the government’s gotten through with you.
ANSWER: Here’s what I think about Skyfall. It was an awesome movie — and, wow, Sam Mendes totally brought it — but it wasn’t a Bond movie, you know? It was so cool and Bardem was ah-may-zing but seeing where James Bond grew up? That’s more Batman, right? What do you think, cousin Sam?
Read more. [Image: Norman Rockwell, Reuters]