Kate Banister and her husband Ian spent two or three years weighing up whether to have kids. “We both had our ups and downs, but now were equally on the same page about it which is very fortunate,” the 37-year-old business owner said. Getting their two dogs Ruby and Saffy helped the Banisters make up their minds. “We thought this is actually quite nice, you get the interaction and the nurturing with the dogs, and you can still have a life. But new research suggests one in four women who choose not to have children live to regret their decision, as they face growing old without family.” (Source: Will women who choose to go childfree regret it? | Stuff.co.nz)
WNK readers will appreciate this candid look at childfree guilt (or the absence thereof) and the persistent pressure on women (rather than men) to become parents.
Sylvia D. Lucas (@SylDLucas) wants to redirect the conversation away from why women are choosing not to have kids and toward the far more important message that women need to understand that they have the choice. In short, debating whether or not childfree women are selfish, etc. is the wrong focus and is overlooking an important demographic shift. Lucas (aka Kristen J. Tsetsi, @ktsetsi) and NBC Connecticut’s Shirley Chan. effectively dilate the conversation without succumbing to bingo volleying and book promo. Well done!
No Childfree Guilt
That’s right, Lucas recently published No Children, No Guilt, a nonfiction book about the choice to opt out of parenthood. Drawing upon her own experience (including two failed marriages) Lucas offers a welcome antidote to the those concerned with the risks of childfree guilt. I just purchased a copy from Amazon, and I’ll pass along my verdict shortly. For now, I’ll defer to the ever wise Laura Carroll.
You will turn the pages grinning, definitely be prone to giggling or even laughing out loud, as I did. Ideally for those who have not 100% accepted they are childfree or are not quite completely ok with it yet, this slim Ebook is also for those who have made peace with it. Like any fun ride, it ended too soon. ~ Laura Carroll (“Anonymous” Was a Woman)
Or, in the words and interpretive dance of the author, “Guilty? Hahahaha…” Take that, childfree guilt!
Miriam Schaer and Melissa Potter are asking you to answer a childfree question: What’s your baby?
No, not your cute little bundle of time-released anxiety and tuition payments. Your metaphorical baby. As in, “My baby is my medical career.” And, “My baby is volunteering in my community.” Or, “My baby is a travel ‘bucket list’ a mile long!”
Childfree adults often cite non-childbearing priorities that trumped their reproductive genes. Sometimes our reasons for not breeding are overarching and a bit abstract like freedom, autonomy, etc. But I think that Miriam Schaer (remember “Childfree Women Lack Humanity”?) is on to something.
People often refer to their passion, their vocation or avocation, their life’s work as — their “baby.” What’s Your Baby? … [explores the] broadly embedded cultural hostility toward women (rarely men) without children that appears on the rise even as non-traditional families gain greater acceptance. What’s Your Baby? seeks to re-frame this conversation. (Miriam Schaer)
Schaer’s unflinching look at a woman’s childfree existence offers solace and perhaps even a glimpse of optimism to Melissa Potter. The following much abridged excerpt captures a familiar (if often concealed) feeling of judgment endured by childfree adults.
“We’ve always felt sorry for you and Rene that you couldn’t balance your amazing career with a family.” 18 words that hit me like a ton of bricks…
I realized I’d been sorta hoodwinked. This same family member said many times she was so thrilled with my career, and even said she didn’t think having kids was necessary, particularly with such a life fulfilled like mine…
But to know that even to a Quaker radical feminist who adores me thinks I am at some deficit sucks. I admit it: I care what people think. And this is what people think of my gender, in the age of “have it all.” You are never enough, you are always somehow fucked up for not having a baby…
I invite you to take part in the amazing Miriam Schaer’s artwork, “What’s Your Baby?” This project celebrates YOU, in all your iterations. It is working to bring some 21st Century complexity to the question of life and what we contribute. (via Melissa Potter’s “Gender Assignment” tumblr)
Experience toughens up childfree adults, but it doesn’t mean that the judgment doesn’t sting. And while parents knock us for overreacting, suggesting that we’re responding to criticism and judgment that is overstated or doesn’t even exist at all, I’m confident that Potter’s experience will be familiar to many CF, especially women.
Rather than sawing away on little violins, the “What’s your baby?” project flips the coin. If we childfree have prioritized other life choices over reproducing, let’s own them. Out loud. Let’s celebrate them!
My Baby Is
Think about your own answer to the question, and jot a quick note. “My baby is…” And then submit it to inspire others.
As for my own experience, I can’t narrow my babies down to just one. While I can’t imagine fathering multiple flesh-and-blood progeny, I’ve had the good fortune of gestating and loving and supporting quite a few metaphorical babies. And for the most part, there’s been no greater satisfaction than sending them out into the world when the right time came.
As a college student I edited a pedigreed literary and art magazine called the Georgetown Journal back into thriving existence from mere embers. That was my first “baby”. There were other babies in my early twenties too including teaching, coaching and launching an innovative service learning program. I adopted and parented a lacrosse program in Santa Fe, New Mexico and a swimming program in Paris, France. I adopted and adapted two innovative interdisciplinary humanities curricula and launched an early e-learning platform. In my thirties other “babies” of mine included developing a spectacular luxury vacation property in Paris; co-parenting a fast growing ecommerce portal for marine supplies; launching two now-thriving nonprofits in the Adirondacks’ Champlain Valley; transitioning an AEA theater through growing pains and success in its late twenties; and several eco-friendly historic rehabilitation projects including ongoing Rosslyn Redux. I’m not bragging. I’ve often struggled and sometimes failed at parenting my “babies”. (And to be honest, I’ve left the biggest flops off the list!) But the point is that I have had the good fortune of many “babies”! Life has been extremely full for me and immensely rewarding. I harbor few regrets and bold hopes. Perhaps that’s my most important “baby” of all: a life free to dream up and dive into new challenges and adventures without the risk of losing or damaging a flesh-and-blood baby.
Now I’m on to a new “baby”. As I headed out into the world from college I didn’t know precisely what career path I intended to pursue, but I understood that my ambitions including writing and entrepreneurship. Along the way, many of my “babies” have included this DNA. My newest adventure is no exception. I am a blogger, a storyteller, a writer. Full time. That is my newborn. My “baby” is my story. Thank you for helping make it possible!
The TIME magazine article, “The Childfree Life: When having it all means not having children,” has sparked an electric storm of media attention. It’s a shame the writers at WNK are too busy enjoying a childfree summer on the lake to respond. We kid! No…wait! We DON’T kid! We have a lot to say but we are busy boating AND reading all the articles about the TIME hoopla. We promise to comment soon! For now we offer you a “Friday Funny” and hope that you all remember to laugh a little more today since everyday is Friday when you are childfree!
For some reason we find this cartoon hilarious.
Do you agree? Funny or not here we come!
If you have a “Friday Funny” for WNK please share!
- The pros and cons of a childfree life (kvue.com)
- Singles in the News: A childfree roundup, black love in a time of poverty, Google me! and visual reinforcement for staying single (partyofones.com)
- Time magazine catches on to the childfree movement, misses the green angle (grist.org)
- No kid-ding: Your view of the childfree life? (boston.com)
Soooo many words have been dedicated to women and men not “having it all” recently. The latest comes from a father’s point of view. This piece by Esquire’s Richard Dorment is well written and thought provoking and certainly worth a look if you have the time and energy.
If you don’t, here is a quick summary:
1) No one knows what “having it all” even means. Though a baby or two is unquestionably part of the recipe.
2) No one can actually have it all unless they do not need sleep… unless good sleep is also part of “it all”.
3) Just chasing it all is stressful. and ultimately no one seems completely satisfied with our collective “work-life balance”
4) It is unclear whether this unsettled state is a product of our culture, biology, competition between the sexes, cooperation between the sexes, or the unrealistic expectations hoisted on us by each other, advertisers, technology and contemporary society.
5) I am sure I am missing something (a lot). I read the story during a sweltering blackout at two in the morning and found myself wondering:
a) Has the ability to work remotely made our lives more full and balanced and provided us with unprecedented opportunities to balance our lives? Or the opposite? Everyone seems to be working their asses off when they are not pretending to be fulfilled… not that meaningful work, conquering challenges and purpise-driven living is unfullfilling.
b) Is all of this emphasis on capturing an elusive, undiefined thing intended to make us feel inadequate and insecure so we keep working harder and buying more things?
in response to Why Women Still Can’t Have It All – Atlantic
My best definition of having it all: Living a purpose-driven life of one’s own choosing.
But here’s the problem for parents I think: Putting kids at the top of the purpose pyramid means you may only get to choose ONCE, while the childfree can adjust their pupose and pursuits as they grow… Thoughts?