674: Natural Parenting
Title text: On one hand, every single one of my ancestors going back billions of years has managed to figure it out. On the other hand, that's the mother of all sampling biases.
This comic relates to the anxiety most couples experience after having a child. Often people will advise new parents to "do what comes naturally and trust their instincts", a vague snippet of thought that offers little help to the new parents.
The couple Cueball and Megan find themselves with a child. Both parents experience anxiety over how to manage their life with the child. The father defuses the situation and states that parenting can not be that hard because they should do what comes naturally... only for the couple to find themselves with a second child and still no idea about how to parent. The joke is they took the phrase "what comes naturally" literally and acted upon their base urges, giving into the urge "have more sex", rather than actually focusing on the child(ren).
Natural parenting may be an allusion to attachment parenting. This strategy for child-rearing normally entails extended nursing and encourages positive reinforcement. Sometimes modern medicine and processed foods are restricted as well. Natural parenting approaches can vary greatly from parent to parent. Because of the awkwardness and stigma of breastfeeding as well as its traditionalism, attachment parenting can elicit powerful opinions from both its opponents and proponents. Various media and politicians have seized on this hot topic, as well as motherhood in general. Extreme natural parenting methods became the notorious cover story of TIME Magazine in May 2012.
The title text claims that parenting can't be too hard because historically all of your ancestors must have figured out how to produce and raise at least one child. Randall jokes that this is the "mother" of all sampling biases: Had any one of our ancestors failed we would not exist. Therefore this sampling is heavily skewed by sampling only those that were successful in at least one instance. It also does not take into account the number of times our ancestors failed with the children we are not directly descended from. This bias is analogous to the anthropic principle: It's no miracle that our universe supports intelligent life. There are infinitely many universes, but the ones that don't support life remain unnoticed.
- [Cueball and Megan are standing with a baby in between them.]
- Cueball: Oh man, we made a baby.
- Megan: Don't panic. Don't panic.
- Baby: Baby!
- Cueball: Parenting can't be that hard. Let's just do what comes naturally.
- [Beat frame.]
- [There are now two babies in between them.]
- Megan: Aw, crap.