September 2, 2014

What Makes a Family?

The definition of a family has changed to include same sex couples and single parents, even unmarried couples with children, but if you are in a child-free partnership you are not a family.  What makes a family? Children. According to dictionary.com a family is a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not: the traditional family. That means same sex couples and married or unmarried couples are still not considered equal in society. While it warms my heart to see people post charts that include same sex couples and their children as families, I am sad to see that my choice to be child-free keeps me out of the family category.

An ABC news story on a 2010 survey by sociology professor Brian Powell shows that most Americans believe that kids make a family:

“In 2010, almost everyone — 99.8 percent — agreed that a husband, wife and kids count as a family. Ninety-two percent said that a husband and wife without the kids made a family.

“Children provide this, quote, ‘guarantee’ that move you to family status,” Powell said. “Having children signals something. It signals that there really is a commitment and a sense of responsibility in a family.”

For instance, 39.6 percent in 2010 said that an unmarried man and woman living together were a family — but give that couple some kids and 83 percent say that’s a family.

Thirty-three percent said a gay male couple was a family. Sixty-four percent said they became a family when they added children.”

So while we are making baby steps with our wider definition of family it seems that the child-free might be considered family-free for now.

Hey WNKers do you consider yourself part of a family?

Related articles
  • ‘Traditional’ family not typical (bbc.co.uk)
  • http://www.themotherco.com/2011/11/what-is-the-traditional-family/
  • http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/features_momsatwork/2011/07/guest-post-what-makes-a-family.html

United: No Preboarding for Kids

English: United Airlines Boeing 777 (N223UA) t...

United Airlines wearing the post-merger livery combining the United name with the Continental logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Are you and your family heading off for Memorial Day weekend? Don’t forget your patience pills and noise cancelling earphones because United Airlines has jumped on the “no preboarding for children” bandwagon.

Is this a step forward or backward for childfree air travelers who resent special treatment given to families flying in coach class with babies and young children?

Though it’s still too early to say, what initially looks like an egalitarian step forward for childfree fliers could prove to be an aggravating setback. Though special treatment for parents may seem unfair, it actually speeds the boarding process by sorting and situating families (and their mountains of travel gear) so that childfree travelers can efficiently board without waiting in the aisles.

What better way to find out if United’s policy change is a step forward or backward than a travel swarm weekend? Memorial Day dishes up notoriously congested travel conditions, so we should have a pretty clear assessment by early next week.

“We figured it would be better to simplify that process and reduce the number of boarding groups,” said United spokesman Charles Hobart. The airline does allow passengers with children traveling in first class or business class to board early. (CNN.com)

United changed their preboarding policy back in Apri, but likely kept the the topic mum to avoid a public relations backlash.

“There are very few things a parent can count on when it comes to air travel these days, but one of those things was always the ability to board first to get your children settled in and all of their needs met before the throngs of people board the plane,” said [Kate] Hanni in an e-mail to CNN. “I hope United changes their mind.” (CNN.com)

While ending preboarding for children may be perceived as a less family centric customer service initiative, United still invites passengers who need special assistance for any reason to present at the gate prior to boarding so that a United agent can accommodate them. Stemming at least in part from United’s 2010 merger with Continental, the policy apparently represents a reasonable consensus across both airlines.

“We transitioned to a common boarding process across all aircraft,” Hobart said. (CNN.com)

Ready to be a guinea pig? Safe travels and don’t forget to weigh in afterward.

Father Traps Child in Washing Machine

So the laundromat bores you? Try sticking your youngster in a washing machine…

Stop! What?

In the video above (recorded by a laundromat surveillance camera) a man closes a young boy in a washing machine as a joke, but the door locks, trapping junior inside. When the automatic cycle starts the parents start to panic.

Light bulb moment: it’s a bad idea to place a child (or an infant, small adult, domestic pet, etc.) in a laundry machine. Ever. Period.

Unfortunately by the time the lightbulb illuminates, junior’s already spinning inside the washing machine and the genius man is helpless. He tugs the door, dances around and finally decides to seek a laundromat attendant. At last this coin-op nightmare is resolved by an efficient attendant who interrupts the wash cycle and liberates the damp but uninjured tot. The attendant’s efficiency is actually a little alarming. Has he experienced this before?

Darwin Awards, anyone?

Despite spending a minute or more getting tumbled and rinsed, the being trapped for more than a minute, the child escaped the doltish prank bruised but otherwise intact. Or so reports assure us, though I suspect that psychotherapy might be a better judge of that.

Why no kids? Childfree celebrities!

George Clooney, one of the world's favorite childfree celebrities

George Clooney, one of the world’s favorite childfree celebrities

“You really don’t plan to have children?”

“No.”

“Really? Like, ever?”

“Like, never.”

“Weird. Why no kids?”

“Childfree celebrities.”

“Oh, you mean like George Clooney?”

“Right. Like George Clooney.”

“Oh, and Patrick Swayze, he was childfree too, right.”

“Right. Though not by choice, I’ve heard. Perhaps childless rather than childfree.”

“So, you want to be like George Clooney, not Patrick Swayze.”

“I’m not a great dancer. Enthusiastic, but not great. Not even good. But see where my hair’s going gray? I am good with that.”

“Right. I can totally see where you’re coming from. So childfree, not childless.”

“At this stage, I qualify as both, I think. Still working on the George Clooney part.”

“Well, good luck with that. He’s such a hunk!”

“Still working on that too…”

 

Childfree Celebrities Role Models?

As mundane and fictional as the foregoing dialogue may be, it’s not unrealistic. I could have cribbed it from a chance encounter during an urban elevator ride or in a rural grocery checkout line. In the North Country or in the Southwest.

Celebrities are de facto role models (often despite concerted efforts to ditch this mantle), and we rely upon them as credible spokespeople for saving dolphins, building oil pipelines and losing weight.

Recently this has become especially true for celebrities without children, especially celebrities who are childfree by choice. Having a hard time explaining to your mother-in-law why you and your wife have chosen not to have children? No worries, plug in George Clooney.

“Oh, George Clooney’s childfree? I love George Cooney.”

Mission accomplished. Or so it would seem.

 

Searching for Childfree Celebrities

In recent months Why No Kids? has experienced a dramatic spike among folks looking for information about childfree celebrities. Over the last few months four of the top eight search queries delivering new readers to the WNK blog have been:

  • celebrities without children
  • childfree by choice celebrities
  • childless celebrities
  • childfree celebrities

Curious. This is good news for AmyWNK who is our resident expert on all topics pop culture and celebrity-hood. But I’m a bumbling dunce when it comes to celebrities. My bride would offer a more colorful description.

In short, I’ve never been particularly fame-centric, childfree celebrities or otherwise.

That said, I’m fascinated with the fact so many others are drawn to celebrities in general, and especially intrigued by the increasing numbers focused on childfree celebrities. Here’s a quick glimpse at some non-WNK coverage:

Can we infer anything from the this trend? Are more and more people looking for childfree celebrity role models?

Deadbeat Dad with Thirty Kids

I love my deadbeat dad!

I love my deadbeat dad!

Is Desmond Hatchett is a deadbeat dad or just a really good reminder why more people should remain childfree?

This 33-year-old Knoxville, Tennessee man has fathered (and I use the term loosely) thirty children by eleven different mothers in 14-15 years. Although he’s offered an explanation — “I had four kids in the same year. Twice.” — his rationale is lacking. In 2009 when he was apparently last in court he had 21 children, so he’s fathered nine more children in the last three years despite agreeing to curb his uber breeder ways.

‘I’m done. I’ll say I’m done,’ he said. (Mail Online)

Unable to fulfill his pledge, Hatchett is also now unable to fulfill his child support obligations he’s turned to the state for help.

Hatchett reportedly asked the court to give him a break on his payments, claiming that he’s struggling to make ends meet with his minimum-wage job. Currently, the state requires him to divide 50 percent of his earnings among the 11 women, some of whom receive as little as $1.49 a month, WREG reports. (Huffington Post)

Outrageous. What was he thinking? What is he thinking?

“I didn’t intend to have this many children,” he told WVLT-TV at the time. “It just happened.” (NY Daily News)

Oh, he wasn’t thinking. And apparently the mothers of these thirty children weren’t thinking either. Getting pregnant is pretty old science at this point. One man. One woman. Unprotected copulation. Not too many mysteries.

Or are we to believe that all thirty mini Hatchetts were Ooops! babies. Steep learning curve.

And one last question in a post full of questions: who’s going to teach those mini Hatchetts that they have a childfree option when they grow up? Their parents?

 

Children or No Children: Who is Happier?

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Childfree Chicks

Childfree Chicks is a Facebook group set up by Tasmanian Tori Hodgman for “women who have ended up without kids” for various different reasons including:

  • childfree by choice (couples who decide not to procreate)
  • childfree by mistake (couples wait until its too late to procreate)
  • childfree by biology (baby making bits and pieces compromised, etc.)

The popular group is open to “blokes” as well as chicks, and it provides a place to connect with other childfree couples. It’s absent the vitriol and activism often present in other childfree forums and childfree blogs, offering a refreshing place to share stories among kindred spirits.

In a family-oriented community like Tasmania, not having kids can present social, emotional and professional challenges. Tori Hodgman and friends founded Child Free Chicks, a Facebook that has over 300 members, including some passionate blokes. Here’s what she had to say… (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Despite the fact that Childfree Chicks welcomes men, the catchy-if-somewhat-risque name of the group highlights the fact that so much of childfree discourse is woman-centric. Undoubtedly this is due to the disproportionate bias against childfree women, but I’m curious to understand why this imbalance exists. Men often flaunt their childfree status as a badge of honor, but women are frequently derided. It’s as if society expects women to procreate, but willingly allows men to shirk responsibility.

The decision to have a child with a romantic partner isn’t one most adults take lightly. There’s usually quite a bit of discussion involved, and generally both parties have to be into the idea of procreating before they try to conceive together. However, a Daily Mail article published this week suggests that in many cases, one partner — the driven career woman, specifically — is making the decision for both people involved, and she’s deciding to deprive her husband of the joy of fatherhood. (Huffington Post)

Perhaps this disproportionate emphasis on women’s responsibility to procreate is echoed in the disproportionate numbers of single mothers versus single fathers. Now that I’ve wandered well into wild generalization, it’s worth noting… No, I’d better rein it in. Another time, perhaps.

If you compare the terms “childfree chick” and “childfree bloke”, the former sounds vaguely derogatory or dismissive and the latter sounds practically complimentary. Or at least lighthearted.

Just because a woman has a womb, doesn’t mean she should have to use it. That is the opinion of former Waikato University masters student Theresa Riley… who interviewed 10 childfree couples in the course of her year-long research, said people did not have to justify the decision to have children, but couples who chose not to have children often faced cruel judgment for their decision. (Stuff.co.nz)

I agree with Ms. Riley that women’s biological endowments shouldn’t obligate them to procreate, and yet I’m becoming increasingly conscious that society’s expectations and behaviors don’t always agree.

 

Time Breast-Feeding Cover: On parenting, can we all get along?



Time breast-feeding cover: On parenting, can we all get along? (via The Christian Science Monitor)

America got together this week on the national playground to talk mommies, breastfeeding, and good parenting. Time and their cover model-mom, Jamie Lynne Grumet, made sure of that, as the pretty, hand-on-her-hip mom looked out from supermarket magazine aisles, her near-4-year-old son standing on a…

[Read more...]

From Birth Rates to DINK Perks

‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Bill og Melinda Gates unde...

Bill and Melinda Gates (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you haven’t been active on the Why No Kids? Facebook page lately, then you’ve missed out on some good childfree reads. But don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Here’s the recent hit parade:

  • Melinda Gates’ New Crusade: Investing Billions in Women’s Health “[Melinda] Gates made a decision that’s likely to change lives all over the world… she has decided to make family planning her signature issue and primary public health a priority. ‘My goal is to get this back on the global agenda,’ she says.” (The Daily Beast)
  • Teen Birth Rate Hits Historic Lows “The teenage birth rate declined 9 percent between 2009 and 2010, hitting an all-time low, according to new data released by the National Center for Health Statistics.” (US News and World Report)
  • Growing Number of Women Want to Become Moms to Get Out of Work Apparently pregnancy is looking more and more appealing to British woman, who, according to a new survey, are more likely to want to get pregnant these days so they can score the 52 weeks of maternity leave that is standard in England. Yes, you read that right: Women want to have babies to avoid working for a year. (Glamour)
  • Procreation vs. Overpopulation “In ‘Fruits of Philosophy,’ Knowlton took up the subject of sex… Knowlton was worried about the hazards of fertility… Unlike Malthus, who saw no remedy except plague or abstinence, Knowlton believed that a more agreeable solution was at hand. What he called the “reproductive instinct” need not actually lead to reproduction.” (The New Yorker)
  • Why I Love Being A DINK Although this article trots out rather inane seed answers to to the following question, we know that you can do better! Why do you love being in a dual income no kids relationship? (Business Insider)

Thanks WNKers for your reading recommendations. Please keep them coming!

Childfree Women Lack Humanity

Childless women lack an essential humanity. (Miriam Schaer)“Childless women lack an essential humanity.”

Embroidered across the front of a delicate white toddler’s dress in scarlet letters, this searing slander offers a 21st century modern twist on the proverbial “scarlet letter”. Miriam Schaer a multimedia artist and teacher (Columbia College, Chicago), directs her creative wizardry on childfree women in her online installation for the International Museum of Women‘s MAMA: Motherhood Around the Globe.

New York artist, Miriam Schaer, has created a series of almost disturbing pieces about the perceived value of a woman who chooses not to reproduce… I think you’ll find Schaer’s toddler dresses embroidered with expressions of both confusion and disdain, hurled at women who choose not to have children, both unsettling and thought-provoking. (Strollerderby)

Almost disturbing? I’d suggest that these images are disturbing.

But they also are provocative in their simplicity and their “scarlet letter” resonance. No audio guide is needed to engage the viewer or to invite reflection. These quotations are familiar to the childfree, and they drip with prejudice and downright hostility. But rather than hurt or defensiveness, they trigger a more profound (and more important) question: Why? Why are childfree women threatening? Why do childfree women lack humanity? Why do childfree women meet with intolerance?

Baby (Not) on Board: The Last Prejudice?, addresses the question of why the existence of women who choose maternal independence over child-rearing angers or offends so many people and institutions. The work presented here is part of a continuing exploration of our culture’s pejorative views about women without kids. For Baby (Not) on Board: The Last Prejudice?, I hand-embroidered representative negative comments on baby dresses using red thread to create scarlet letters. Gathered from interviews with childless women, online research, and personal experience, the statements taunt and accuse, and are typical of an endless flow of critical statements that seem to be growing bolder even as non-traditional families are gaining greater acceptance. (Miriam Schaer)

Each image vibrates with smug intolerance, but collectively the images tell a different if somewhat elusive story.

I detect a theme of fragility, of an almost desperate attempt to denigrate and disempower women who have not chosen to be mothers. I detect fear, fragility, urgency, desperation and intolerance. I detect an unquestioning, un-curious, bullying theme. And why? I suspect it is because childfree women are actually gaining respect and acceptance.

Prejudice increases in proportion to the perceived threat, and the perception that more women are choosing not to have children threatens the beliefs and biases of many. In short, the prejudice is a barometer of the increasingly mainstream conversation about a woman’s reproductive freedom. Childfree women are increasingly visible, respected and vocal, so it is inevitable that their detractors will grow louder, angrier. But underlying these images of intolerance is a message of hope, a message of tolerance and perhaps even growing acceptance.

Do you share my optimism? What is your reaction to Miriam Schaer’s images?