August 19, 2017

Fast Forward

fast type

Image by mightymoss via Flickr

Wednesday already? I keep bumping the fast forward button!

Seems like only yesterday Susan, Amy, Brian and I were bumping along the highway from Costa Rica‘s Papagayo Peninsula to Lake Arenal psyching each other up for windsurfing with crocodiles, slurping up coconut milk from roadside vendors, and brainstorming a blog about our childfree lifestyle choices. Fast forward and we’re entering our 9th month and 107th post. Wow!

Thank you for making it possible. Thank you for reading our posts, commenting, sharing on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and submitting guest posts. You continue to inspire us, and we’re enjoying every minute of it. Even when I bump the fast forward button…

While everything’s zipping past in a blur, there are a couple of quick snippets I want to showcase, sort of a “Wednesday WNK Digest”. First up, Brian nailed it in a recent post about how taboo a topic the childfree choice remains. Though he focused largely on celebs (a category that I’m thoroughly unqualified to address), the following excerpt about gender distinctions is oh-so-spot-on:

when a mother DOES speak out against mothering… she’s entering taboo territory, a place where people overreact and use the word “crazy”… Because these are words that mothers aren’t allowed to speak. “Don’t have kids” or “I wish I didn’t have kids” are somehow heard as “I wish they weren’t alive” or “I hate children”. It seems… From where I stand, men are given much more room.. to vent, admit, complain or translate their desire for silence and freedom and fresh air into advice or comedy… Mothers seem to police themselves, vigilantly. (Celebrities, WiNKs, Taboos and The Childfree Apology)

Another highlight? The clever crew over at The Onion nailed it with ‘This Is The Happiest Day Of My Life,’ Lies Man Holding Baby. Just to tickle your childfree fancy:

Looking out at a sea of expectant faces, new father Dan Rudloff commemorated the birth of his daughter, Elizabeth, by holding the small, vulnerable child in his arms and blurting out a series of lies and half-truths about how happy he was at that moment.

“Oh my God,” said Rudloff, staring down at the squalling, vernix-covered infant who will depend on him for everything from eating, to bathing, to keeping her head upright. “She’s beautiful.”

Realizing he was now forever tethered to this utterly helpless new life… Rudloff rattled off a series of patently false pleasantries about being overjoyed with his new baby girl. (The Onion)

For overly sensitive readers who sometimes miss humor, farce and send-ups, this is funny. Not snarky. Or cynical. Okay, maybe it’s all three!

Onward. Julie, The Hiking Humanist, took a protracted and reflective look at the term, childfree, in a recent post that’s worth passing along. She explains why the word is necessary descriptor to distinguish those who choose not to have children from those who are unable to have children.

We don’t want to be encouraged to have kids, or pitied for not having them, or seen as lonely or sad, or as selfish and hateful. The word we identify with exists to legitimize our choice, and to be a word for the lifestyle that we’re keen to talk about among ourselves and encourage acceptance of in the public sphere… This word is “childfree.” The word differentiates us from the childless, and from parents. More importantly, the word communicates that the absence of children is a positive thing for us, something we’re happy about and do not wish to be pitied for. (Defending The Word “Childfree”)

Julie’s a little huffy, but many of us have been at one point or another when slighted bingo’ed one time too many.

As a follow-up to Amy’s recent post on “Childfree Getaways” and my post on “Childfree Dining Tips“, I’d like to pass along a few childfree travel suggestions from Child Free Nation:

Here are a couple quick tips for avoiding the diaper set during your getaway:

  • Spring for Luxury
  • Consider a Private Resort
  • Enjoy a Bed and Breakfast
  • Read the Reviews

(Seven Tips for Child Free Travel)

That catches me up a little bit… Of course, I’m liable to bump the fast forward button again before long. Sorry!

Childfree Dining Tips

Restaurant Enoteca

Image by Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains St. Moritz via Flickr

We’ve covered this territory before of course, but a the risk of seeming a bit curmudgeonly I’d like to pass along a half dozen simple, straightforward childfree dining tips “borrowed” (Thanks, CFN Editorial Team!) from a recent Child Free Nation post, “Eating Out: How to Enjoy a Childfree Meal“.

It’s no fun to go out and listen to the soundtrack of crying infants, whining, or even the sounds of responsible parents trying to discipline their children.

It’s not that these kids are necessarily doing anything wrong. Babies cry. Toddlers lack adult communication skills. Parents do need to intervene (please oh please) when their six year old is chewing with their mouth open.

That being said, it doesn’t mean we want to witness the experience! (Child Free Nation)

Sound familiar? For sensitive readers in our midst, exhale. I’m not bashing restaurants that allow kids. In some cases I’m a fan. Other times not so much. But that’s not the point.

The point’s just to remind adamantly childfree diners (let’s call them ACDs), that ensuring an agreeable supper normally is an easy enough ambition if you follow some obvious pointers.

  1. Avoid Family Friendly Restaurants
  2. Sit in the Bar
  3. Ask for a Quiet Table
  4. Adjust your Timing
  5. Dress for Dinner
  6. Consider Take-Out

No brainers, right? Right. Except when they don’t’t work. In which case you move on to “Plan B”. And that’s the real point of this post… What would you suggest for #7 on the Childfree Dining Tips?

PANKs and PUNKs (Professional Aunties and Uncles No Kids)

Image representing SavvyAuntie as depicted in ...

Image via CrunchBase

The number of PANKs (Professional Aunties No Kids) and PUNKs (Professional Uncles No kids) is growing and their influence on children is in the news. The founder of the auntie movement is Melanie Notkin at www.savvyauntie.com. She has an active blog and book that guides child-free aunties on all things kiddie. Notkin is the creator of the term PANK and she also owns the trademark.

From her website:

A few years ago, DINKs was the new segment marketers had their eye on – Dual Income No Kids. PANKs, while focusing specifically on women (married, partnered or single) who have no kids, is a pretty large market in the US. In fact, the 2010 US Census Report: Fertility of American Women states that 47.1  percent of women through age 44 do not have kids (check “All Races” report). And that number has been steadily growing over the last couple of decades. In 1976, only 35 percent were childless.

Notkin gives statistics on the spending potential of the emerging PANK market:

–  According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 50 percent of single women own their own homes. They’re also the fastest-growing segment of new home buyers, second home buyers, car purchasers, new investors, and travelers. (Who hasn’t dreamed of taking the nieces and nephews on their first trip to Disney World?)

–  Twenty-seven percent of American households are headed by women, a fourfold increase since 1950.

–  Of American women who draw annual incomes of $100,000 or more, nearly half don’t have children. In fact, the more a woman earns, the less likely she is to have kids.

That means that these PANKs and PUNKs have money to spend on their nieces and nephews since they don’t have kids of their own.

A November Forbes article Raising Children: The Role of Aunts and Uncles says that many adults in childrens’ lives today are not relatives but close friends that are considered stand in aunts, uncles and godparents.

Notkin says, “The more aunts and uncles the child has, the more influences a child has,” says Notkin. “If the uncle is a fantastic artist, the child may be inspired by that talent.”

For kids the diversity of influences could be beneficial. Parents who share their kids with aunties and uncles might benefit too. And it fits with the notion that “it takes a village” to raise a child.

Author’s Note:

I’m not really an aunt, but I’m a godmother three times over and consider most of my friends’ kids my nieces and nephews, so that makes me a PANK.  I just finished shopping, wrapping and mailing all their Christmas gifts. I take my role of Auntie Amy very seriously at Christmas time, and put A LOT of thought into finding the exact right gift for each child. (One gift was noisy and I’m sorry for that.) And I hope, hope, hope the kids love them! I find that books are the best gifts and still remember all the books my PANKs and PUNKs and real aunts and uncles gave to me as a child. Hope you will share your favorites.

Hey WNKers (and PANKs and PUNKs) what is your favorite book to give to kids?

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Breeder Bingo

Breeder Bingo Card created by Deadly Sinners

Breeder Bingo Card created by Deadly Sinners

I recently mentioned a typical Breeder Bingo response posted by Nullipara Life (@NulliparaLife), and ever since I’ve been hyper conscious of the usually presumptuous, often daft questions and assertions breeders dish out to childfree folks. Time for a Breeder Bingo expose!

What is Breeder Bingo?

Breeder Bingo means one of the “usual” phrases we hear over and over again from breeders, so much so that someone created a bingo-like card to use. As they say the dumb things to you, you cover the blocks on your card until you have Bingo! (Happily Childfree)

Fun right? Think of it as making lemonade when you’re repeatedly dished up lemons. Or clinging the levity despite the cloying, nagging, persistence quest of friends and family to bust out a baby before meaningful life leaves you in the dust…

Ramona Creel recently posted a Breeder Bingo primer of sorts on her blog that explains the game:

It’s a fun little game we no-kidders play with those who think that (with enough bullying) they can convert us to their way of thinking and convince us to have kids. For those of you who have never had your life choices and values questioned by complete strangers who don’t even know you, you’re missing out on quite a treat. (RamonaCreel.com)

Many childfree bloggers have published lists of Breeder Bingo examples, often with their own responses. Here are a couple of examples:

The lists are endless. And familiar. It’s staggering how often perfect strangers presume to know me  better than I know myself. So quick to assume, to judge, to advise. It might be time to print a Breeder Bingo card (here’s another Breeder Bingo card) and start keeping track of my wins! Maybe if I celebrate my wins often enough, perform goofy enough victory dances while chanting “Breeder Bingo! Breeder Bingo!” breeders will start to get the message. Probably not…

Every time a child-free individual comes upon a baby-zealot, he or she is guaranteed to hear the same mindless arguments over and over again — an endless braying and baaing and mooing of natalist propaganda. These folks like to explain why the decision not to breed is wrong, why the unencumbered are shirking their duty by not reproducing, and how much the other person is going to regret having gone down this path later in life… The biggest problem I have with most of these “reasons” for having kids is that they are emotionally-driven, backed by no real logic — and smack of a desperate attempt at justification on the part of the breeder attacking you. (RamonaCreel.com)

I’m choosing to be a bit more optimistic than Ms. Creel, but nevertheless, it makes sense to reconsider the typical Breeder Bingo scenarios I encounter as a childfree married man. Instead of sighing inwardly and thinking, “Really? Again?” I’m going to start celebrating the parade of cliches!

Celebrities, WiNKs, Taboos and The Childfree Apology

Rosie O'Donnell at the premiere of I Am Becaus...

Image via Wikipedia

Many childfree celebrities keep their choices to themselves. Perhaps they’d rather let the press and public wonder about their sexuality than risk offending the mommy constituency? Others admit their choice apologetically. “I love kids but….”, begins the required apology. Even Chaz Bono and his girlfriend didn’t dare say they don’t want babies. For Becoming Chaz they filmed every day of a difficult decision and taboo sexual transition, but when Rosie O’Donnell asked them about kids, they responded sheepishly, of course, apologizing for even thinking about staying childfree.

Wow. Even gay and transgender couples have to do this dance these days? O’Donnell, mother of many, didn’t push them or suggest they might end up regretful or lonely. She said that her advice to anyone who has any doubt is not to have children. Don’t do it. Something like that. Refreshing? Surprising? To me at least.

So when Roseanne Barr said, “Don’t have babies. Don’t get married and have kids. Have a larger life than that.” on national TV, I was among the many, including her own children, who found it shocking. Not because of the content of her message. Not because I doubted her sanity, but because it isn’t something mothers say. Is it something mothers are allowed to even think in our society? Is a mother that fantasizes about what her life without children could have been or could be committing an unspeakable sin against her family and community? Yes. It seems. Because we know it happens, yet no one is articulating what they think.

And when a mother DOES speak out against mothering like Roseanne did on Roseanne’s Nuts? Is she inviting the hatred and judgment hoisted on Casey Anthony? (Also guilty of not wanting kids at the very, very least.) No. But she’s entering taboo territory, a place where people overreact and use the word “crazy”. Roseanne was bold. Because these are words that mothers aren’t allowed to speak. “Don’t have kids” or “I wish I didn’t have kids” are somehow heard as “I wish they weren’t alive” or “I hate children”. It seems. What do you think?

From where I stand, men are given much more room than Rosanne and other women to vent, admit, complain or translate their desire for silence and freedom and fresh air into advice or comedy. (See Louis C.K., Doug Stanhope, Aziz Ansari, Jason Jones and Drew Magary video links below.) Mothers seem to police themselves, vigilantly. I wonder if their own fleeting fantasies, and resulting guilt, might cause moms to judge women like Chelsea Handler and Roseanne Barr quickly and often harshly?

I also wonder if the same taboos, caution, guilt or misperceptions keep our families from acknowledging this site or our friends from clicking a little button that says “like”, even though much of the content, contributed by teachers and mentors, is about parenting, the environment, economics and psychology.

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Two is Enough: Childless by Choice

Two is Enough: A Couple's Guide to Living Childless by Choise

Two is Enough: A Couple's Guide to Living Childless by Choise

I’ve just read a lengthy excerpt from Laura S. Scott’s Two Is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice. I’m hooked!

I’m pretty certain that Susan and I could have written this book… But just to make sure, I’ve ordered a copy. I’ll share my thoughts once I’ve consumed the whole book and passed it along to my bride for her thoughts. If you want a jump start, the excerpt appears in this article: “More couples going childless by choice?” To whet your appetite here’s a passage that grabbed me right off the bat.

I recognized just how strange I must have seemed to him. Here was a person who could not imagine a life without kids trying to understand a person who could not imagine a life with kids. I was struggling to find the words to explain why someone would choose a childless marriage, and “love” and “companionship” were all I could come up with. It was the most honest answer I could give, but it clearly did not satisfy him, leaving me with the very distinct feeling that the underlying question was “Is love enough?” (TODAY.com)

This is an all too familiar experience. I can only imagine how strange I must seem to my brother, the father of two intelligent, funny, athletic, beautiful girls. How strange I must seem to unabashedly relish time spent with my nieces and yet opt out of having children myself. Perhaps we’re not meant to fully comprehend one another’s choices…

I could understand why parents might have difficulty wrapping their brains around intentional childlessness. It was strange, even to me. Here I was, a healthy, happily married woman, surrounded by parents and parents-to-be, yet I had never felt a pang of longing for a child. I enjoy spending time with kids and I understand the appeal of children, but I’ve never wanted one for myself. (TODAY.com)

I suspect that many childfree couples will identify with this book. The notion of a guide intrigues me. Is that tongue-in-cheek? Or does it genuinely intend to instruct? Will it help me communicate to my parent friends why loving children but choosing not have have them is not a double standard? I’ll keep you posted! In the mean time, if you’d like to purchase a copy of Two Is Enough you can find it on Amazon. Cheers!

You’ll change your mind

Mind Games (song)

Mind Games (song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In case you missed it, Nullipara Life (@NulliparaLife) has been posting “Bingo Breeder Responses” which is to say, sometimes-funny-sometimes-flip-almost-always-thoughful answers to the questions and assertions childfree folks encounter. Each post includes several Q&A style exchanges, and the seventh post tackles the all-too-familiar, “You’ll change your mind.”

Ugh! This has to be the most common and most ignorant bingo out there. Being that ‘you’ll’ is the conjunction of ‘you will’, I think we can all assume you’re telling me that I am definitely going to change my mind. Right. Because clearly you must know me better than I know myself… Telling a childfree person they will change their mind one day only makes them want to prove you wrong even more. What if I were to tell you, “you’ll change your mind” about being a parent? Because admittedly, a lot of parents do change their mind. Oh but no one ever thinks of it that way. No one ever bothers to put themselves in the other person’s shoes and think about how they’d feel if they were being antagonized by a bunch of mombies… Next time someone says to you, “you’ll change your mind” just tell them, “you’ll change your mind.” Or if they ask you, “why don’t you have kids?” ask them, “why did you have kids?” They’ll probably start stuttering and end up lost for words, which is always a good thing… (Nullipara Life)

I’m a bit torn here. I like the questions. It would be nice if we all contributed to a more open Q&A cultured world. It would reward curiosity. It would encourage dialogue and possibly even understanding and respect. But “You’ll change your mind” isn’t a question. It’s an assumption. An assertion. And it’s frankly out of line. It’s amazing how different the same idea becomes when voiced as a question: “Do you think you’ll change your mind one day?” This question conveys genuine interest and respect. And it is unlikely to make the childfree answerer defensive or dismissive. A constructive conversation will likely follow.

Nyx (@Nyxks) reflected on the “You’ll change your mind” assertion:

I do think that even if I had meet him early on that I would still have kept my childfree status and wish. In part because I’ve never had that maternal side when it comes to children, I can get along with them for short periods of time, but at the end of the day I do have to give them back because I just can’t do the 24/7 deal with them. (Nyxks Musings)

Childfree couples come to their choice for many different reasons, and discussing these reasons can be useful. Defending one’s childfree choices against breeders who insist that we’ll regret our choices one day or that we’ll change our minds is less useful. And less inviting. Consider a childfree friend asking a parent about the choice to have children and then asserting, “You’ll regret your choice to have a child!”

How to Explain your Childfree Choice

"How to explain why you've chosen not to have children", by Scott Meyer

"How to explain why you've chosen not to have children", by Scott Meyer

As we’ve pointed out before society has a deeply engrained bias toward to breeding portion of the population. Biology ensures this bias. In the big picture it makes biological sense. Procreation prevents extinction while advancing evolution.

Nothing new there. Except, I’d like to offer up a warm “Thank you!” to all of the breeders around the world who are saving the human race by breeding so that I can focus on my energies elsewhere. Yes, as is often pointed out to me, if we all stopped having children humanity wouldn’t endure for long. I get it. I agree. And I’m deeply grateful to all of you who’ve opted to perpetuate the human race…

Of course, that isn’t what most DINKs are thinking about when they opt out of the breeder program. I’d venture to guess that most DINKs feel pretty confident that enough babies will continue to be born despite our personal choice. And, yes, their are some childfree folks who genuinely believe their choice should be universalized (Don’t dismiss until you’ve considered this. Still hoping for a thoughtful, articulate post on this topic.), but I’m not one of those folks.

So can we step beyond the bias? Perhaps not.

According to Lilit Marcus childfree women endure a deluge of judgment.

Despite the advancements that women have made in the public and private spheres, our bodies – and the choices we make about them – continue to be a battlefield. (TODAYMoms)

In many respects the 20th century was marked by a leveling of the gender playing field. And yet I am consistently made aware of how much more difficult it is for a woman to explain that she’s opted not to have children. When I express my childfree choice I often get hit with a barrage of questions, but acceptance is rarely hard-won. Men who choose not to breed are given a pass in the way that cowboys weren’t forced to pick the new drapes or iron petticoats. Deep in our cultural DNA we make room for men who break with conjugal and domestic conventions. But women are rarely granted this same freedom.

it shouldn’t be important whether a woman has children or not, but most of our culture doesn’t concur. “You’ll change your mind when you’re (five years older than age I am),”… I tried to imagine the opposite situation  – a woman my age (28), pregnant or with a child, being told that in five years she’d change her mind about wanting to be a mother. Or what about a guy my age being told that his “daddy instinct” would kick in soon and he would start wanting to pop out kids? I’m old enough to vote, to drink alcohol and to die for my country, but I’m still being told – sometimes by my own peers – that I’m not mature enough to decide about my body, my family and my future. (TODAYMoms)

Hats off to Ms. Marcus for saying it like it is! Women have a singularly difficult time explaining their childfree choice as I witness again and again when my bride sidesteps the patronizing, dismissive comments and endeavors to communicate her intelligent, considered choice. This is especially challenging with other women who often seem to consider Susan’s personal choice an affront. Instead of explaining her choice Susan frequently ends up listening to an emotional diatribe about the merits of motherhood.

Is their a sensible way to explain your childfree choice? I continue to believe their is, but the conversation rarely remains sensible for long and too often veers into emotionally charged, defensive territory. Perhaps we need to develop a less antagonistic methodology. And perhaps parents need to asses why they become so sensitive when our childfree choice is personal and doesn’t imply judgement of their own choice.

Do you have a foolproof way to explain your childfree choice?

Vicki Larson: How Not To Save A Marriage

READ – Vicki Larson: How Not To Save A Marriage.

Thanks to Vicky Larson and GINK – green inclinations, no kids for bringing us another compelling story, and an appropriate follow-up to the earlier WNK piece by Vicki Larson:  Are Childless Couples Headed Toward Divorce? Vicky is a great researcher and thinker, and certainly a conversation starter. She has responded to comments from our writers and readers, so don’t be afraid to share your own questions or thoughts.

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Five Reasons Childfree Adults May Be Happier Than Parents

"Psychology Today" magazine... Could...

Click Here for the full article: Five Reasons Childfree Adults May Be Happier Than Parents | Psychology Today.

This post may be worth revisiting, especially for those uncertain about having babies, or how doing so may affect their life and relationships.

To sum it all up, don’t have a child because you think it will bring you happiness or improve your marriage. If you’re not content with your life prior to kids, this discontent will likely continue after the child is born. Plus, it’s important to recognize the challenges that parenting will bring. There are positives and negatives in every life choice, and it’s important to weigh these out as you create the landscape of your future.

Psychology Today is an excellent resource for a variety of perspectives and studies.For more information search “parenting” or “childfree” on the Psychoogy Today website. There are many compelling pieces by Ellen Walker, Ph.D., author of Complete Without Kids.

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