Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Having children is a way to deal with emptiness?

This story came up on Fark. While I'm not one for celebrity gossip, this quote from the story struck me as interesting:

"Having kids is a way of self-medicating," California psychologist Lara Honos-Webb told "In essence a distraction and diversion from the inner feeling of emptiness."

Further on...

Having babies can sometimes keep personal problems at bay.

"[It] keeps you busy if not through adoption, than in pregnancy, you get the oxytocin [often called the 'hormone of love'] bursts," said Honos-Webb. "You get attention from other people and you define your own role all those things manage depression."

Often subclinical depression is not obvious to the person, according to Honos-Webb. "It's difficult to admit those feelings, especially if you have a healthy child and every reason to be happy."

Having children to find happiness is a "recipe for a mental health disaster," according to Honos-Webb, who coins the phenomenon a "Mother Theresa complex." The result can be a failure to attach emotionally, causing eating disorders and depression in the children.

"There is such an imbalance to give and not to take," she said. "On the one hand, Mother Theresa was a saint, but on the other hand, it was a perfect formula for major depression."

So it appears that Lara Honos-Webb is saying that at least some people have children as a response to their own feelings of emptiness, which I read as depression.

Some googling uncovered a BookTour authors page for her. She sells books on depression.

On one hand, I've no desire for children myself and have a difficult time understanding the desire for children in the first place. A desire to have children as a response to mental illness makes as much sense to me as anything else.

On the other hand, Lara Honos-Webb is selling books on dealing with depression ( among other things ). While it's possible that her motives are pure, the cynic in me thinks she's ascribing motivations for having children in order to gain publicity for her books.

Still, it's an interesting notion if only one that I consider as an outsider.

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