At 29, female and happily married, there is one question I despise more than all others. Its the dreaded, “When are you going to have kids?” People always throw it in there casually, too. Usually between such innocuous questions as, “Hows your mother?” or, “Wheres the bathroom?” Just as Im getting comfortable in a conversation, someone drops in wondering if my ovaries are firing at full capacity and how often Im banging my man. And while theyre at it, whats my current condom bill? Because really, thats what asking about family planning boils down to. (Source: The Most Invasive Question I Get Asked Daily, by Julie Zack Yaste)
Need proof that many parents regret having children? Fifteen ‘rents dish As you get older your mind will make up more and more reasons why it makes sense to have a kid. Don’t be fooled, it’s just evolution tricking you into reproducing — no sane, thinking beast would take on the burden of raising a child if the mind didn’t fool us into it. So, does the world need another one of you? Or are you just being fooled into making a baby… (Source: 15 Parents Explain Why They Regret Having Children | Thought Catalog)
The NYTimes bestseller by Gretchen Rubin is a year-in-the-life exploration of a writer trying to live her life happier. What does that mean? Each month is broken into a theme: energy, love, play, etc. April’s theme is “Lighten Up” with a subtitle: Parenthood. Hmm. Maybe that means you don’t need to “lighten up” if you don’t have kids or you are already pretty enlightened?
Nope. Not according to the author. Rubin cites a study that says “child
care” is only slightly more pleasant than commuting, and one that says
marital satisfaction declines after the first child is born (picking up
again after they leave the nest). Then she disputes these findings, all
the while complaining about her kids and marital satisfaction mostly
relating to fights about her kids.
“Now as a parent myself, I realize how much the happiness of parents depends
on the happiness of their children and grandchildren.”
Really? But then again the kids did give Rubin a reason to write a bestseller.
We at WNK believe that by being childfree, everyday is a project in
From the Happiness Project Blog:
Do your children make you happy? Some research says NO! I say YES!
Read the article here
Hey WNKers have you read The Happiness Project?
I just discovered Elan Morgan, aka Schmutzie (which in and of itself makes this a pretty super duper Friday), and I also discovered Schmutzie’s kid-free Twitter list (think, icing on the double dark chocolate cake), and — as if that isn’t already the limit for TGIF decadence — I read Schmutzie’s post on BlogHer called “Why I Made A Kid-Free List On Twitter And What Happened When I Did” which is quirky and smart and a perfect match for WNK readers.
Pushing the Baby Button
Read Schmutzie’s post for yourself. Until then I’m going to tempt you by highlighting a few choice passages.
Creating my kid-free list seemed innocent enough to me at the time. I tend to swim in a sea that seems primarily comprised of mommybloggers and daddybloggers, and I was suddenly possessed of the urge to find and collect those out there who fit my particular demographic: people over 30 who do not have children… The kid-free Twitter list had only existed for about half an hour, though, before I started losing followers and friends on Twitter and Facebook. I received a direct message on Twitter telling me that not everyone wanted to celebrate infertility like I did. An e-mail said that the list was cold-hearted. On Facebook, I was asked what I was trying to accomplish with it. (Elena Morgan, BlogHer)
A familiar rant, right? A familiar frustration for the childfree. If we openly acknowledge that we’ve opted out of the birthing bonanza, we inevitably piss people off. Just in voicing our preference to remain childfree we trod on something sacred. “What? You don’t want kids? That’s blasphemy. That’s, that’s inhuman!” The textures and color patterns vary, but the theme is the same. Parents too often become defensive when confronted by childfree couples, as if our personal life choice is a judgment on their marriage, their offspring, their ethics, intelligence, etc. Not all parents I should quickly add. My bride and I count many parent friends who are understanding. But I’d venture that it’s not the norm. Yet. But it is changing, slowly, for the better, I believe.
Beyond Breeder Bingo
And Ms. Morgan fleshes out the familiar Breeder Bingo cliches with some other similarly condescending and/or ignorant comments she’s endured regarding her choice to remain childfree. Here are a few choice comments:
- Why don’t you like children?
- It must be nice to still get to live like you’re twenty.
- When I’ve spent time with women who don’t have children, it feels like there is just something missing. They are incomplete.
- Are you worried that your husband might find someone else who can have children? (Elena Morgan, BlogHer)
The first two are annoying for the obvious reasons. Logic, for example.
And the second two rub my fur backwards because they are simultaneously ignorant and presumptuous. And let’s add smug to that. Especially because it’s so easy to imagine the look on people’s faces when they uttered these genius observations. It’s offensive to assume that childfree by choice adults are incomplete. And equally offensive to assume that a partner would betray a marriage because of a decision to remain childfree. Does it really not occur to parents that the choice to remain childfree is a joint decision? It’s not a power play. It’s no an evil plot to blunt the geneology of a partner. My bride and I discussed whether or not we wanted/intended to have children throughout the first four years that we dated. And we’ve continued the discussion throughout the seven years that we’ve been married. That’s how relationships work. If not, then the question of whether or not to get pregnant is probably the least of the problems a couple needs to deal with.
Back to Schmutzie since she navigates the issue with more grace than I, especially when it comes to the condescending assumptions of some (not all, thank gawd) parents.
Schmutzie Gets Tribal
These kinds of assumptions are common, and they make me more than a little angry. They minimize who we are in this world and the roles that we play, and they define us by what we are perceived to lack. This is why I felt moved to find my tribe on Twitter. An individual’s basic worth does not reside in whether they procreate…
The kid-free Twitter list is simply here to recognize the nearly 20% of us who may not feel as seen as those in the large parenting niche online in which we often socialize. We can sometimes feel a little ignored, and little less well-loved, a little passed over, and it feels kind of nice to be able to put up a hand and say “I’m here” in a group of other people whose lives look a little more like our own. (Elena Morgan, BlogHer)
I’m here. Mommy bloggers and daddy bloggers, we’re here. And we’re childfree. But we’re not the antichrist. And we’re not judging, bashing or mocking you. Well, at least most of the time we’re not. 😉 Sometimes we chide you just a little, but you take yourselves pretty @#$% seriously most of the time. And you don’t hesitate to chide us, so thicken your skin and try to understand why your childfree friends sometimes want to connect with others who’ve decided that two is enough for a happy, fulfilled life.
Thank you, parents. And thank you, Schmutzie!
Throughout much of Latin America motherhood is more destiny than decision for many young women despite limited abilities to care for a child.
Vera Cordeiro, Founder and General Superintendant of Associação Saude Criança, gives details of the situation in Brazil that spans throughout many places in Latin America about the inherent beliefs of motherhood:
Cordeiro says, “…in the favelas of Brazil the identity of motherhood is status–a ‘destination’ sought by teenage girls who view the opportunity to have a baby as a validation of their esteem even though they are unprepared to raise a child.
Favelas can be violent places to live. The rules are often different in places affected by abject poverty. And for young girls, pregnancy is often viewed as ‘protective’ in ways that outsiders may not understand. As it was explained to me, having a baby by a leader in the community associates that girl with a powerful man. That identity can protect her as her child will be recognized as belonging to the leader. This is the destination sought by many young girls.” (La Vie Childfree blogpost: Making Motherhood a Choice in Brazil.)
The Aconchego Project
While this debilitating mindset and incumbent social gridlock are prevalent, efforts are being made to combat the underlying challenges. Associação Saúde Criança was founded in 1991 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to help “poor families by providing help in the areas of education, health, income, housing, and citizenship” (Vera Cordeiro: Making Motherhood a Choice, Not a Destination). In 2005 the organization launched a major initiative called “Aconchego Teen” targeting teenage women and birth rates.
“Aconchego Teen,” which means coziness, a place for warmth and security, is designed as a public square in which teenage girls receive education regarding motherhood and pregnancy. The objective was to change the embedded view in poor teenagers that suggests motherhood is a destination instead of a personal choice. (Vera Cordeiro: Making Motherhood a Choice, Not a Destination.)
The Aconchego Project, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, spans an average of two years for each adolescent and emphasizes other interests and perspectives so that the rate of teen pregnancy decreases (Vera Cordeiro: Making Motherhood a Choice, Not a Destination).
The project seems to be a success with teen pregnancy in Brazil dropping by 34.6% between 2000 and 2010 according to Brazil’s Health Ministry.
So far, over 200 teenagers have participated in Aconchego Teen and the feedback from both parents and teenagers is strongly positive. Not only has the project helped teens understand the difficulties of motherhood but it has also paved the way for a better communication and understanding with their parents. We encourage teens to stay in school and prepare themselves for the labor market. That way, they will experience motherhood when [and if] they are ready to embrace the joys of having a child. (Vera Cordeiro: Making Motherhood a Choice, Not a Destination.)
Read the full article here: Vera Cordeiro: Making Motherhood a Choice, Not a Destination.
Follow Vera Cordeiro on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@saudecrianca