If they don’t have time to make a baby . . .

14/05/2022

More evidence of the madness of modern life:

There’s a question that is frequently brushed over in fertility clinics and it may well surprise you: how frequently do you have sex? You might assume that by the time a couple seeks IVF they have long been trying to conceive in the bedroom. But although the sex question is on the forms during many fertility consultations, it has become the elephant in the room.

This week, experts warned that modern couples are often too distracted or time-poor to have the amount of sex necessary to conceive naturally. Many, they added, end up having IVF not because they are infertile, but because they are time-poor.

“People don’t make the time because they are too busy and too tired – they have a poor work-life balance and sex starts to seem like another chore,” says Charles Kingsland, of clinic group Care Fertility. “There is no doubt that some people are opting for IVF simply because sex isn’t something they have time to do.”

“Modern life has taken the joy out of it and there are too many other things like emails and work competing for our attention,” notes Professor Allan Pacey at the University of Sheffield.  . . 

If there are too many other things like emails and work competing for attention, what’s going to happen when they become parents?

If they don’t have time to make a baby how can they have time to raise a child?


Our Table

10/04/2022

Peter H* Reynolds reads his story Our Table:

 

*The H is for Hamilton, named after the New Zealand city where his father was born.


Fights worth picking

09/04/2022

David Morris says parents have to pick their battles and lists eight fights worth picking :

 

Parents have to choose their battles.

8 fights worth picking with your kids:

Parenting is hard.

We’re all figuring it out as we go.

One of the most difficult things to sort through is when to take a stand,

And when to let up.

There’s no magic formula for figuring this out,

But these are a few things I’ve found worth squaring off with your kids over.

The Reading Fight:

Make your kids read.

Of my four kids, one was a natural reader who always had a book in his hands.

For the others, it was a fight.

But it’s a fight worth picking,

Because reading is tied to everything from cognitive development to the ability to focus.

My wife teaches ACT prep and works with students on college admissions.

Of all the tips, tricks, and hacks she can provide, there’s one thing she says she can’t overcome ⏤

A kid who didn’t read.

Make your kids read now.

They’ll thank you later.

The Outside Fight:

Make your kids go outside.

The natural world teaches us things.

Valuable truths like:

– There’s a way things work that I must adapt to (because it won’t adapt to me)

– There are things I have no control over

– There are cycles and seasons to life

Plus, outside there’s sunshine, fresh air, and exercise waiting for them.

Most importantly, nature is full of things in short supply in our world ⏤

Discovery. Wonder. Peace. Joy.

Your kids are surrounded by artificial.

They need REAL.

Make them go outside to find it.

The Work Fight:

Make your kids work.

I’m saddened by how many parents don’t require their kids to lift a finger at home.

As my mom used to say:

“You don’t get the benefits of being in the family without taking your share of the responsibilities.”

There are age-appropriate ways kids can help around the house from 2 on.

They need the hard work, life skills, and ownership that comes from pitching in.

Plus, there are priceless life principles you can only learn with a mop in your hand.

Let sweat be their teacher.

The Meal Fight:

Make your kids eat as a family.

There are studies that outline all sorts of benefits from regular family mealtime.

These benefits range from a lower risk of depression to decreased drug use.

But that’s not why my family eats together.

It’s less about what family meals accomplish,

And more about what they represent.

Our lives are a blur of incessant activity.

Meals together are a physical pause to recover a truth so easily sacrificed at the altar of busyness ⏤

Nothing’s more important than family.

The Boredom Fight:

Make your kids live with boredom.

Kids need unscheduled time.

And, odd as it sounds, boredom is a skill.

I think much of the movement today toward mindfulness, stillness, and meditation,

Is a desire to develop the ability to be bored.

It’s hard as a parent to deal with the assault of boredom complaints.

But if you give in and fill up their time with external stimuli, you’ll raise an activity addict.

Resist the urge to give them a distraction.

There will always be much to do.

Make them learn how to be.

The “Me First” Fight:

Make your kids go last.

Not every time for everything.

But enough to remember that the world doesn’t revolve around them.

If left on their own, most kids will elevate themselves above all others.

First in line.

The biggest piece.

Me. Me. Me.

There’s only one way to break this natural inclination.

You must periodically make your kids…

Go last in line.

Take the smallest piece.

Give up the remote.

Do someone else’s chores.

Get their least favorite choice.

They won’t like it, but they need it.

The Awkward Conversation Fight:

Make your kids have uncomfortable conversations with you.

As kids get older, the things you need to talk about with them get more difficult.

For both of you.

Sex, dating, body image, values…

Can all be difficult subjects to broach.

Your kids will roll their eyes and resist.

You will stumble and stutter.

But you must see through the awkwardness.

They want your perspective, lessons learned, and wisdom.

You want the pattern of open communication it establishes.

Wade into uncomfortable waters with them.

The Limitation Fight:

Make your kids live within limits.

Learning to live within limits is a valuable life skill.

In fact, many adult problems arise from an inability to accept them.

Problems like:

– Debt
– Overcommitment
– Exhaustion

Come from ignoring our limitations.

No one lives a life without limitations.

And you wouldn’t want to.

They mature us.

If you don’t introduce and enforce them,

You’re hurting your kids.

Screen time limits, dietary limits, activity limits, and schedule limits are all good.

Teach your kids to embrace them.

As a parent, you have to pick your battles.

These are some stands I’ve been glad we’ve taken.

They’re not easy, but they’re worth the fight.

As I often say to my kids ⏤

“I know you don’t think this is important,

But one day you’ll be so thankful you had parents who did.”


Kindness doesn’t extend to kin

17/03/2022

The doors to New Zealand are finally creaking open.

Vaccinated Australians will be permitted to come here from April 13th and others from visa waiver countries will be welcomed after May 2nd.

We could quibble over why it’s going to take so long and also ask if many will want to come if we’re still at the Red Covid setting.

We might also wonder if this is an indication we won’t still be stuck in Red by then.

But there’s a bigger question – what about split migrant families who have been kept apart for two years and who aren’t in Australia or from visa waiver countries?

Could it be because the Immigration Ministry is so dysfunctional it couldn’t cope with the visas?

Whether or not that’s the case, it is indeed cruel that kindness doesn’t extend to the kin of migrants and these families will have to endure so many more months apart.


Parents are family too

16/03/2022

A plea for kindness from children separated from their grandparents:


Logical consequences

22/02/2022

Many moons ago a Positive Parenting course taught me about disciplining children by facing them with the consequences of any misdeeds.

The first option was natural consequences – if what would happen wasn’t too dangerous, expensive or pleasurable you did nothing and let it happen.

If natural consequences would be too dangerous, expensive or pleasurable, the best option was to use logical consequences – something directly related to the action.

Robert Fulghum, writes of a very good example of logical consequences in Trial by Ice:

On my way to my car pushing my full grocery cart, I’m stopped up short by flying ice.
What the hell?
The lady stopped beside me points and says, “It’s those boys over there – throwing ice at each other.”

Right. An ice fight on one of the hottest days of summer.

Three boys can be seen dodging in and out of the parked cars and trucks. A small one – an older skinny adolescent – and an in-between kid who seems most adept at chunking crushed ice. The ammunition supply dump is a cooler-chest filled with ice, open on the tailgate of the family pickup truck.

“Wait,” says the lady beside me, “Here come the parents.”
A substantial man and woman, tall and fit, driving two shopping carts crammed with groceries, cruise across the parking lot.

“Damnit, Cody, Jackie, Rusty, STOP IT NOW!” shouts the father.
The three brothers disappear, hiding behind the parked vehicles.
“Don’t hide from me,” shouts the mother, “We’ll go off and leave you.”

“No they won’t,” says my fellow spectator, “They’ll catch them and beat the living cookies out of them.”

“This could get ugly,” I’m thinking. . . 

It doesn’t get ugly, it gets funny and if you click on the link above you’ll find an amusing example of logical consequences.


Black Heels & Tractor Wheels – Loshni Manikam

27/01/2022

Black Heels and Tractor Wheels Podcasts are a Rural Women NZ initiative in which they share stories from a range of women around New Zealand.


Keep the all safe

15/10/2021

This column from Joe Stanley, UK Farmers Weekly opinion writer, was too important to include in the daily rural round-up.

He starts movingly describing the very short life and far too early death of his son, George and then writes:

A few days after we lost George, I saw through numb eyes a Health and Safety Executive notification that a child had been killed on-farm – the ninth in the past five years. In each of those cases, I can only imagine the devastation for the parents of losing a child into whom had been poured not just minutes, but years of love. And my heart goes out to them for their loss.

As an industry, please let us take this issue more seriously. We have an appalling safety record in general, and are the only industry where children are still dying in our workplaces every year.

There are many reasons given for this, but let us all remember the law: any access to the farm workplace for children under 16 must be supervised by an adult not engaged in work. Children under the age of 13 must not drive or ride in the cab of any agricultural vehicle. It is illegal and unsafe.

I”m not sure that these laws apply in New Zealand, but keeping children safe certainly does.

None of us ever think tragedy will befall us or our nearest and dearest, but the wheel of fate always stops somewhere. If you can help it, don’t let it be on you and yours. You don’t want this pain.

As farmers, most of us treat “the farm” as an entity in its own right – one that almost resents time spent away from it by the farmer.

Well, the farm will still be there tomorrow. So spend more time with your loved ones, with your family. Don’t lose sight of what’s truly important in life.

When my own end comes, I’m certain I would trade the memories of every day of work between this day and that, for those of the few brief minutes I spent with my darling little George.

Children growing up on farms have opportunities and experiences that town children don’t.

There’s a lot to be gained by seeing and, where appropriate, helping with  their parents’ work; learning how to care for the land and stock, and having hundreds, possibly thousands of hectares as a playground.

But while farms can provide a lot of fun and teach a lot of lessons, they can be dangerous workplaces, especially for children.

As another member of that group none of us choose to join – bereaved parents – I know only too well that you don’t want this pain and that everyone should do everything possible to keep farms safe for children, and for adults.


Was normal, now privilege

17/05/2021

Anyone else sick of what should be normal being called privilege?

A student at a Whangārei primary school had to stand up in front of their classroom and say what they had done to acknowledge their white privilege. . . 

When did it become okay for teachers to be so political?

And when did what ought to be normal become privilege?

That’s normal as in being a child with parents who love each other and their children; living in a family where parents set boundaries and impose consequences when they’re breached; having a warm, clean home where there’s enough food.

That isn’t privilege. It’s what should be normal for all children and has nothing to do with ethnicity.

Calling it privilege, with or without the qualifier white, is a political construct.

It takes no account of effort and will.

It carries the message that where you are and what you have is all due to circumstances beyond control..

It is behaviour that would be punished if a child subjected another to it in the playground and it has no place in a classroom.

To make a child stand in front of a class and speak like that is bullying that should not be tolerated at school, let alone from a teacher who is in a position of power to a pupil who is not.


Still not kind enough

20/04/2021

The government is giving some long overdue relief to migrant families who have been separated for more than a year:

National is pleased a solution has finally been found for some of the migrants split from their families after the Government forced them to endure more than a year of distress and uncertainty, National’s Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford says.

“News that many migrants, including our critical nurses and health workers, will finally get to hug their children and partners will be an enormous relief to them.

“New Zealand is critically short of nurses and is undertaking the biggest vaccination programme in living memory, so it’s reassuring that migrant nurses caught by a policy anomaly can now stay here and be reunited with their families.

“We can’t afford to lose the highly-skilled migrants who fill gaps in our workforce that we can’t otherwise fill. They are our doctors, our engineers, our tech experts, and our children’s mathematics teachers – we desperately need them in this country.

We need them and they need their families.

“While National welcomes today’s announcement, which is clearly the right thing to do, it is a shame the Government only acted after intense and sustained pressure from the Opposition, the media and split migrant family advocates.

“It should not have taken nurses shedding tears on the 6pm news night after night, having been separated from their babies, for the Government to act after it ignored them for months.

“Today’s move is a good start, but there is more to do. This decision won’t cover many families whose visas were being processed but had not yet been approved.

“Families still left in limbo will be deeply disappointed the Immigration Minister did not give them a roadmap to reunification.

“This overdue announcement, coming after months of pressure, shows the Labour Government does not have a clear plan for our immigration settings.

“National will continue to closely scrutinise the Government’s immigration and border response, and will continue to be the party that values and speaks up for our migrants.” 

The government is acting on its be-kind mantra, albeit belatedly, but it is not yet being kind enough.

Too many families won’t qualify for this and there are a lot of businesses desperate for workers who still can’t get them through the border.

Fruit is rotting on the ground in Hawke’s Bay amid a massive worker shortage and orchardists warn that overworked pickers are suffering more accidents.

The official labour shortage first declared for Hawke’s Bay six weeks ago – with 192 tourists granted approval to work in orchards – expired on Friday.

It was immediately extended, but growers say it’s too little too late.

Phil Paynter from Johnny Appleseed Holdings had to say goodbye to 22 hard-working pickers last week and says that with a little more warning, he could have kept them.

“When the labour shortage expired last Friday, we laid off 22 staff,” he said. “There simply aren’t the tourist numbers by the time you get into April to find those people [again].” . . 

Fruit growers further south are facing the same problem:

Central Otago’s horticulture sector fears fruit may be left to rot if a labour shortage isn’t filled soon.

The region is suffering from a lack of the usual seasonal workers from the Pacific because of Covid-19 border restrictions.

Many locals who filled in for the summer fruit harvest have left for university or jobs elsewhere.

With the borders creaking open with the announcement of the trans-Tasman bubble last week, horticulturists are calling for a Pacific bubble to follow.

Wine grower James Dicey said this year’s vintage would be an expensive one.

“We’ve scrapped through by the skin of our teeth,” he said, of the difficulty of finding workers to pick grapes.

“It’s going to cost us a lot more – not only the minimum wage increase, but the loss of productivity we’ve had has been a double bite. I’ve had to put extra vans on, find accommodation for staff, go to a huge extra level just to make sure we are able to secure the people we need.”

Orchards and vineyards would pay the cost of getting foreign workers into MIQ, if that was an option, but the risk was so low from the Pacific workers should just be let in, Dicey said. 

The five main countries which supplied seasonal workers – known as RSE – had few or no cases of Covid. . . 

It’s not just added stress and loss income for the businesses, less fruit and vegetables picked means less to sell. That will result in less export income for the country and higher prices for households here.

The government needs to reassess its priorities when the cast and crew of The Lion King have been allowed in but the workers needed to pick fruit and vegetables aren’t.

Its current policy is not nearly kind enough.


Why were we waiting?

07/04/2021

At last we will be able to cross back and forwards across the Tasman without the need to quarantine from April 19th.

Why has it taken so long?

. . . On Tuesday Jacinda Ardern announced the Director-General of Health, Doctor Ashley Bloomfield, deemed the risk of transmission of Covid-19 from Australia to New Zealand is “low and that quarantine-free travel is safe to commence’’.

But on further inquiry from Newsroom, Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins revealed he’d been in regular discussions with Bloomfield for six months and the health boss’ “assessment that Australia’s a low-risk country has been consistent for some time’’.

The hold-up was Bloomfield’s advice that “the systems have not been in place to allow for safe green zone travel both ways between both countries’’.

The systems officials have been working on have been focused on airports and how travellers make the trip from one end to the other safely, keeping bubble travellers separate from other incoming flights that may have Covid-positive passengers, and the contact tracing and processes for opening, pausing and in some cases closing the bubble if there were an outbreak in either country.

Talk to airports and they’ll tell you they’ve had their systems ready to go since August last year when health officials gave the all-clear to Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington.

The only advice the Ministry of Health has come back to airports with since then is extra cleaning when the bubble opens up, and other routine measures.

In the case of Wellington Airport, no managed isolation and quarantine flights land directly in the capital from overseas countries, so mitigating risks around mixing up trans-Tasman passengers with those potentially exposed overseas is and always has been non-existent.

And despite the political pressure ramping up from both National and ACT, the Government has been happy to continue with the go-slow citing a “cautious’’ approach in the name of public health and safety.

The reality is other than tourism operators and those whose businesses are directly impacted by tourist arrivals, most other New Zealanders accept it’s worth taking the time to get it right. . . 

In other words the government didn’t want to risk any political capital, preferring to pander to the fearful rather than promoting the low risk of opening a Trans-Tasman bubble.

It put polls before people – the ones separated from family and friends, the ones who couldn’t get to visit ill relatives before they died, the ones who couldn’t go to funerals, the ones who missed celebrations.

And it played on the pandemic paranoia for political gain with no heed for the financial and emotional stress tourism businesses, their owners and staff are under nor for the economic cost to the country of the needless delay.


Changing language to change world

06/01/2021

Abigail Shrier writes that one of the first acts of the USA’s new House of Representatives could be to cancel mothers:

On Sunday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic majority proposed to eliminate “father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister” and all other language deemed insufficiently “gender-inclusive” from House rules. They would be ­replaced with terms like “parent, child, sibling, parent’s sibling” and so on.

“Mother” — among the most important concepts in human life — would be erased from the lexicon of the US House of Representatives. It’s important to recognize how radical this is. And no, it isn’t akin to updating federal law to replace “policeman” with “police officer,” a rational corrective sought by feminists for generations. . . 

Those changes were to reflect fact that jobs weren’t the preserve of one gender. That’s very different from trying to eliminate biological reality.

But “mother” is a fundamental biological, emotional, familial reality. It captures the irreplaceable bond between a baby and the woman who bore her in her womb. That others can be excellent guardians — a fact no one disputes — can’t justify extirpating Mom from our vocabulary. (For that matter, the political erasure of “dad” is also dehumanizing, because it ­entails the loss of our capacity to describe relationships that define what it means to be fully human.)

House Democrats don’t pretend to seek this change merely for the sake of “streamlining” congressional language. The explicit point is to advance “inclusion and diversity” and to “honor all gender identities.” Pelosi & Co. are desperate to accommodate an ­aggressive gender ideology that ­insists “man” and “woman” are fuzzy, subjective categories, rather than biological ones.

This desperation for acceptance and inclusion ironically doesn’t include and has no tolerance for those who maintain that there is an important difference between biological sex and what some people might choose for their gender.

Remember the trouble that J.K. Rowling got into when she tweeted ?

‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud? 

She was labeled a TERF (a trans-exclusionary radical feminist); people burned her books and called for her publisher to blacklist her.

And if you think that’s mad, what about this? (back to Abigail Shrier):

Lest you think this a harmless alteration, consider the ways California’s Democrats have run wild with Newspeak. As Quillette reported last week, California’s insurance commissioner has ­issued a directive to reclassify double mastectomies of healthy breasts from “cosmetic” procedures to “reconstructive,” necessary to “correct or repair the abnormal structures of the body caused by congenital defects.”

You read that right: The “congenital defect” is a young woman’s healthy breasts, provided that young woman subjectively identifies as “nonbinary” or anything other than “woman.”

It matters what we call things in the public space: Just ask the ­female prisoners now housed with violent biological men in California if our lawmakers’ words matter. This lie — that a girl’s breasts constitute “developmental abnormalities” depending on her subjective state of mind — carries the result that female patients of all ages would suddenly become eligible for insurance coverage for double mastectomies. A small change in language grants doctors the green light to remove the normal, developing breasts of an 11-year old girl. Still just words?

By all means, call people what they prefer. But language in the law, by definition, ushers words into action. Words grant rights or take them away. Words can enhance or diminish status, placing people and concepts beyond the bounds of legal protection. . .

If “mother” is now a useless concept under House rules, why shouldn’t it pose an equally offensive presence in federal law?

That’s where we’re headed, isn’t it? Erasing “mothers,” and “women,” because the concepts are insufficiently inclusive to gender ideologues. The rights women struggled to win become undone, paradoxically, in the name of ­inclusion.

The female body loses its significance in language and in law: no need for doctors to regard the healthy breasts of young girls as anything more than noxious lumps. The dystopian threat to individuality lies in this: Without mother and father, we all become atomized and fungible, losing our true individuality.

Those pressing for these changes do so precisely because they know there is no more effective means of upending society than by deleting the women and the natural bonds that make society possible. Congressional Democrats move us, by Orwellian fiat, one step closer to a sterile world with sterile words. We shapeless humans — fungible as pennies — are left to await further instruction.

The cancelling of gender specific terms for family members is an extension of the idea that those who have undergone puberty as males can compete equally and fairly in sports with those born female. Or as the proponents of this madness would say, that trans women are women.

In doing so they are blind to biological differences and the fact that whatever drugs and surgery do to change gender, nothing can make someone born a boy a natal woman, regardless of what he, she, or whatever other pronoun is chosen, identifies as and what words are used to denote that identity.

People who want a different gender from the sex assigned to them at birth face many hurdles and often are victims of discrimination. But accepting some people born boys can be trans women and some born girls can be trans men, that this isn’t always easy for them and they have rights, doesn’t mean we have to disregard biological facts, cancel family labels and undo progress that came from decades of activism to give women equality and safety.

Nor does it mean that those who speak out against this are transphobic.

As J.K. Rowling wrote in defending her tweet:

. . . It isn’t enough for women to be trans allies. Women must accept and admit that there is no material difference between trans women and themselves.

But, as many women have said before me, ‘woman’ is not a costume. ‘Woman’ is not an idea in a man’s head. ‘Woman’ is not a pink brain, a liking for Jimmy Choos or any of the other sexist ideas now somehow touted as progressive. Moreover, the ‘inclusive’ language that calls female people ‘menstruators’ and ‘people with vulvas’ strikes many women as dehumanising and demeaning. I understand why trans activists consider this language to be appropriate and kind, but for those of us who’ve had degrading slurs spat at us by violent men, it’s not neutral, it’s hostile and alienating. . .

I believe the majority of trans-identified people not only pose zero threat to others, but are vulnerable for all the reasons I’ve outlined. Trans people need and deserve protection. Like women, they’re most likely to be killed by sexual partners. Trans women who work in the sex industry, particularly trans women of colour, are at particular risk. Like every other domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor I know, I feel nothing but empathy and solidarity with trans women who’ve been abused by men.

So I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe. When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman – and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones – then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth. . . 

I have met only a couple of trans-women and enjoyed the company of both. I accept that some people aren’t comfortable with the sex assigned at their births, have the right to change their gender and not face discrimination because of that.

I don’t accept changing language to to deny biological reality.

People wanting social change use language to advance their agenda.

That can be sensible, for example changing gendered job titles to those that are gender neutral for occupations done by men and women. It can be good, for example changing offensive labels to ones that aren’t.

But it can also be political manipulation – changing the language to in a misguided attempt to change the world.

This linguistic trickery of cancelling family titles and denying biological reality is many radical and dangerous steps too far.


My Mother’s Eyes

15/11/2020

A heartfelt tribute to mothers:

. . . Animator, illustrator, and director Jenny Wright was midway through her university studies at Central Saint Martin’s College in London when her mother died. In consonance with Borges’s insistence that “all that happens to us… is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art,” she transmuted her grief — that slippery, noxious, all-pervading mercury of sorrow which words can never fully hold — into a soulful animated short film titled “My Mother’s Eyes,” which became her graduation thesis. Simple, tenderly expressive line drawings unspool a complex, inexpressible universe of feeling as this deeply personal memorial unlatches the floodgates to a universal human emotion. . . 


Two parents better than one

15/09/2020

Is anyone surprised by this?

Sole parents of dependent children report lower levels of wellbeing across a range of measures, Stats NZ said today.

Data from a new supplement, added to the June 2020 quarter of the household labour force survey, shows that 15 percent of New Zealanders aged 18 years or older rated their overall life satisfaction as low (a score of 0–6 on a scale of 0–10, where 0 is completely dissatisfied and 10 is completely satisfied). However, nearly twice as many sole parents gave this low rating (27 percent), compared with only 12 percent of partnered parents to dependent children. The majority (83 percent) of these sole parents were women.

“The lower life satisfaction ratings illustrate the difficulties many sole parents face across a number of measures that are key to a person’s subjective wellbeing,” wellbeing and housing statistics manager Dr Claire Bretherton said. “Historically, people’s experience in income, health, loneliness, and housing quality had a strong relationship with overall life satisfaction, and sole parents fared poorly across a number of these areas.”

Eighteen percent of sole parents stated that they did not have enough money to meet everyday needs. This compared with only 5.2 percent of partnered parents and 6.2 percent of those who were not a parent to a dependent child. A further 43 percent of sole parents stated they had only just enough money.

In addition, one-quarter of sole parents had received help in the form of food, clothes, or money from an organisation, such as a church or foodbank, at least once in the previous year. Of those who received this form of help, two-thirds had done so more than once in the 12-month period.

Sole parents experienced higher levels of poor mental wellbeing, as measured by the World Health Organization’s WHO-5 Well-being Index (with poor mental wellbeing classified as having a weighted score out of 100 of 51 or below). One-third of sole parents, compared with 20 percent of partnered parents, and 17 percent of those without dependent children, were identified as having poor mental wellbeing using this index. Seventeen percent of sole parents also rated their overall general health as fair or poor, compared with only 8.3 percent of partnered parents.

Feelings of loneliness were also higher, with 35 percent of sole parents having felt lonely at least some of the time in the last four weeks. One in nine reported having felt lonely most or all the time. 

When compared with the total population, sole parents were nearly twice as likely to have experienced discrimination in the last 12 months; less likely to report feeling safe or very safe walking alone in their neighbourhood after dark; and more likely to report lower levels of trust.

Housing quality was also more of an issue for sole parents, with the proportions reporting a major problem with dampness or mould and with heating or keeping their house warm in winter around three times those of other New Zealanders.

“Housing quality is an important factor influencing both mental and physical health outcomes of household members,” Dr Bretherton said. “Housing conditions, and the neighbourhood in which a child is raised, have been shown to affect a child’s overall wellbeing.”

“All of these difficulties impact on not just the individual themselves but also their wider family,” Dr Bretherton said. Just under one-quarter of sole parents gave a low rating (0–6 out of 10) when asked about their family wellbeing, compared with 10 percent of partnered parents of dependent children.

Our children were young during the ag-sag.

In response to that my farmer was working long hours and often away from our farm leaving me as a semi-solo mother.

Parenting young children is demanding, it was hard enough doing it part-time by myself. It must be so much more challenging for those who are full-time sole parents.

Lindsay Mitchell has written several well -researched posts on the benefits of two-parent families. In her latest she notes:

I am constantly frustrated by data limitations because relationship status between parents, and parents and children in some cases, is ignored.

I am not a political conservative. But science finds committed parents (mostly manifested through a marriage) stay together more than any other co-producers of children. Their children demonstrably benefit from this. Most sociologists – and governments by extension –  are impervious though.

That stats are clear, children in two parent families generally have better outcomes than those raised by sole parents.

Stats NZ”s findings on the wellbeing of sole parents shows that adults score worse on wellbeing indicators when there’s only one parent in the home too.

That isn’t an argument for people to stay in abusive or dysfunctional relationships.

It is recognising that it is better for children and parents if there are two adults in the family, sharing the joys, the trials and the day to day ups and downs of parenting.


Happy Fathers’ Day

06/09/2020

In humans, men fathering many children by many different mothers is one of the causes of many social problems, in animals it’s quite an achievement:

One of LIC’s longest-serving bulls has reached the landmark achievement of selling one million semen straws in New Zealand and overseas.

Holstein-Friesian bull San Ray FM Beamer ET S2F – better known as Beamer – reached the figure just in time for Father’s Day this year, ironic as he has sired around 170,000 daughters around the country over the last eight years. . . 


The importance of fathering

06/09/2020

John Anderson writes on the unrecognised gift of fathering:

. . . And how powerful, once seen, is the knowledge of genuine commitment and love in smothering out the petty grievances and the misunderstandings! Love indeed covers a multitude of sins.

I now see the larger canvas. My father really did love me and provided a safe place for my sister and me to grow up, both physically and emotionally, despite the challenges.  That was foundational for me as a man. He gave me the keys to live well both personally and professionally; others must judge how well I used them. . . 

As Professor Bruce Robinson from the Fathering Project has explained to me, one of the greatest predictors of how well we turn out as people, and how society turns out, is the presence of decent fathering. 

We need to end the silence on this. If we really care about our children, and our boys in particular, (the prison statistics alone tell us how serious their crisis is) we would own a simple truth whether convenient or not and start talking about the critical importance of fathering. 

Today celebrates fathers, let’s also appreciate good fathering.


Every child deserves right start

04/09/2020

New Zealand is one of the worst of the wealthiest countries to be a child:

 New Zealand is near the bottom of a UNICEF league table ranking wealthy countries on the wellbeing of their children.

Of the 41 OECD and European Union countries surveyed, New Zealand ranked 35th in overall child wellbeing outcomes – and UNICEF says that is failing children.

The UN Children’s Fund rankings show this country’s youth suicide rates are the second highest in the developed world, with 14.9 deaths per 100,000 adolescents, and only 64 percent of 15-year-olds have basic reading and maths skills.

The rankings also show too many children and young people in New Zealand are overweight and obese.

On mental wellbeing alone, New Zealand sits at 38th on the list and on physical health it is ranked 33rd. . .

The causes for these problems are many and complex.

One of the solutions is to ensure every baby has the right start and National has announced a policy aimed at giving every baby gets that:

Recognising that the first one thousand days of a child’s life is the most critical period in their development, National has committed to a raft of parent-and-child focused plans in its First 1000 Days policy.

The seven-part plan, which centres on National’s pioneering social investment approach, calls for greater and more targeted spending to create better human and economic returns in the long run and costs $226 million.

Studies have shown that countries that fail to invest in the wellbeing of women and children during this crucial time will suffer worse economic results in the future, through lower productivity and higher health costs.

Our package will give parents control and choice over the type of support they receive, regardless of their situation or parenting experience.

The First 1,000 Days package includes:

  • Empowering parents – An entitlement worth up to $3000 for all expecting mothers that can be used to commission services to support their child’s first 1,000 days of development.  Mothers and babies who have higher needs will be entitled to up to $3,000 additional funding ($6,000 in total), along with the support to help them choose the services they need.
  • Enhanced screening – This includes pre & post-birth GP visits, and a revamped B4 School check at age three to identify developmental concerns and trigger early intervention services.
  • Three day postnatal stay – All new mothers will be entitled to a three day stay in their postnatal facility.
  • Child passport – An enhanced version of the current Well Child/Tamariki Ora book with electronic record-keeping, this will record needs identified through screening and track progress to key physical, emotional, developmental and education milestones. It will be used to ensure that, where required, early action is taken to address issues or additional needs.
  • Paid parental leave at the same time – Parents will be given a choice about when they take their leave – either one parent at a time, as they now can, or both parents at the same time if that’s what they prefer. We believe both parents should have the opportunity to bond with their baby during the first months of life, and we support parents to make the best decisions for their baby and family.
  • National Centre for Child Development – Headquartered at a university, the Centre will bring together the best of child health, neuroscience and education research. Its job is to improve best-practice for child development throughout the early childhood system.

The policy fact sheet is here.


Coming out

22/08/2020

Tolerance has its limits when liberals aren’t as liberal as they purport to be.

Hat tip: Utopia


For the sake of the children

21/07/2020

Lindsay Mitchell points out two contrasting approaches to welfare:

Perhaps the single-most underrated and under-reported issue in New Zealand is the practice of adding children to existing benefits. Oodles is spoken and written about child poverty, particularly by the Prime Minister who appointed herself Minister of Child Poverty Reduction in 2017. But the fact that 6,000 children are added to an existing benefit and a further 3-4,000 are reliant on welfare by their first birthday never rates a mention. The numbers have varied only slightly over the past 30 years and persist at very high levels. One in ten babies goes home from hospital to a benefit- dependent family.

Most of those one in ten babies will be behind most babies who go home to a family where at least one adult is in work from the start.

The links between welfare dependence from birth and poor, if not disastrous outcomes, have now been well-explored by institutions like AUT and Treasury. The latter identified 4 indicators:

1)    a finding of abuse or neglect;
2)    spending most of their lifetime supported by benefits;
3)    having a parent who’d received a community or custodial sentence; and
4)    a mother with no formal qualifications. . . 

The outcomes for those children are much poorer than for children in families not dependent on benefits.

They are more likely to have contact with Youth Justice services, leave school without qualifications, follow their parents onto a benefit, and be jailed. They are also more likely to be Maori.

Is it kind to perpetuate this intergenerational failure?

Is it kind to contribute to these bad outcomes?

Is it kind to foster the causes rather than address them?

Act doesn’t think so.

 They point out that it isn’t acceptable for these families to keep having children when other families wait and sacrifice, and sometimes never have their own or additional children. More to the point, it is entirely unacceptable for children to be carelessly thrown into environments that harm them and rob them of their potential.

ACT’s policy says that if someone already on a benefit adds another child their benefit income will thereafter be managed. Rent and utilities will be paid direct, with the large part of the remainder of their benefit loaded onto an electronic card to be used in specified retail outlets. Work and Income already has the technology to do this. They operate income management for Youth and Young Parent beneficiaries in this fashion.

Under this regime children should be guaranteed a secure roof over their heads instead of the insecure transience resulting from unpaid rents, evictions and homelessness. Their schooling would be less interrupted with increased geographical stability. They should have adequate food in their tummies in and out of term time (not assured under school lunch programmes).  Their  mother may be encouraged to take advantage of the fully- subsidised, highly effective,  long-acting contraceptives now available, ameliorating the overcrowding which is a significant factor in New Zealand’s horribly high rate of rheumatic fever. Perhaps most importantly their parent(s) will actually decide working is a better option if they want agency over their income. There is a risk caregivers will try to supplement their incomes in other undesirable, illegal  ways but no policy is risk free, and this almost certainly already happens to some degree.

Increasingly throwing money at dysfunctional families provides no assurance parents will suddenly become better budgeters, or not simply spend more on harmful behaviours. Gambling and substance abuse don’t just hurt the parent. They hurt the child directly (damage in the womb, physical abuse or neglect under the influence) not to mention indirectly through parental role-modelling that normalizes bad behaviours, especially violence, to their children.

The last National government took an actuarial approach to benefit dependence, worked out the long term cost and began putting more money into preventing benefit dependency. It was working but the current government has undone that good work.

There is a need for a welfare safety net and with the Covid-19 induced recession numbers needing benefits are already increasing but welfare should not be a life sentence.

There are sound financial and social benefits to stopping people going on benefits and getting those on benefits off them as soon as possible.

The current government’s approach could be seen as being kind. It stopped sanctions against people who could work but don’t and women who don’t name the fathers of their babies.

That isn’t kind to the adults and it’s even worse for the children.

The two approaches to child benefit dependence are a world apart. One continues the ‘freedom’ of the adult to use taxpayer’s money as they wish; the other prioritizes the best interests of the child -their right to security, stability and safety – or, as ACT puts it, what the taxpayer thinks they are paying for.

The country cannot go on merely paying lip-service to the idea of ‘breaking the cycle’. Now is not the time for more of the same. More than ever New Zealand cannot afford the social cost and lost potential that occurs monotonously in an easily identifiable portion of every generation.

The choice at the election is stark – a vote for any of the parties currently in government that are perpetuating the cycle of benefit dependency and the poor financial and social outcomes that result  or a vote for a National-Act government that will address the causes and break the cycle.

The truly kind way is to vote for change for the sake of the children.


The Great Realisation

10/05/2020

Jim Mora is interviewing the poet who wrote and read this.

Kiwi-born Welsh poet Tomos Roberts (aka Probably Tom Foolery) has captured the imagination of millions of people around the world with his video ‘The Great Realisation’. The fairytale-esque poem details the grim realities of pre-Covid life, such as pollution and overconsumption, before imagining a brighter future once the pandemic is over. Since being posted last week, the video has been viewed more than 30 million times, and garnered attention from A-list celebrities including Jake Gyllenhal, Jennifer Aniston and Drew Barrymore.

The interview is here.


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