Not even dads get off the hook in this intergenerational drama: Alcohol consumption not only results in more difficulty conceiving, but also in less healthy offspring who, themselves, have lower fertility. Meanwhile, if fathers wait too long to conceive, the risk of autism and schizophrenia in their offspring skyrockets—particularly for their sons. It turns out that in today’s society not just women are saddled with a ticking biological clock.
If I were an expectant father reading this literature, I would be inconsolably panicked. But as a parent of now adolescent offspring, it actually causes me to relax. 'Too late now,' I think, when I read that kids born in the fourth quarter of the year (i.e. October, November, or December) in the Northern Hemisphere live longer than those born in the other three quarters (when my kids were born).
I couldn’t have planned the timing of our pregnancies anyway—they were arranged by that mystical trinity: Coulda, Shoulda, and Woulda. If this emphasis on early-life events was not misplaced, then it was beginning to feel like my work was done. My son and daughter could stay at home by themselves if I wanted to meet a friend for a drink, and I could be reasonably certain that I wouldn’t return to a charred heap of embers where our house once stood.
They would do their homework or they wouldn’t; they would bomb Spanish (like I did) and ace biology; they both liked theater and acting despite my lectures about them not being viable career paths; and most important of all, they asked good questions. I hoped it was early childhood that mattered most, because around the time they were entering puberty, my wife and I divorced.
As two hyperactive, career-oriented parents, we—or at least I—thought our marital problems had revolved around one of the main occupational hazards that plague academia, the military, and several other fields: the two-body problem. It is next to impossible for two professors to find jobs in the same city. We briefly managed to achieve it at Yale, but then, not knowing how precious and rare such an arrangement was, we squandered it.
At first we had commuted from New York City to Connecticut. But eventually, during Natalie’s pregnancy with my son, we moved to New Haven. Not only was our work demanding more of us up there and our health plan based at Yale–New Haven Hospital, but after our experience with our daughter’s premature delivery, we wanted to minimize Natalie’s stress and strain while she carried our second child in utero.
But once he was born at full term, I couldn’t stand living in and out of car seats and felt increasingly isolated with two young babies and a wife who worked late at the lab. So when NYU offered me a big raise and sweetened the pot with tenure, I took the opportunity to return to my hometown, where I had lots of support in the form of family and lifelong friends. Natalie, on the other hand, stayed on at Yale, commuting to Connecticut from New York for chunks of the week.