September 21, 2017

Childfree Adults Can’t Relate

Are the Childfree Cut Off from Most of the Adult World?

Halloween strikes me as an appropriate day to wade back into the childfree wilderness for a moment. A day of tricks and treats for children. And for childfree adults… Happy Halloween, childfree adults!

I have a funky costume to model and lots of chocolate to wash down the hatch with ghoulish bourbon, so I’ll make this quick. No probing nulliparity ruminations tonight, just a “Hunh?” moment to pass along. Among the usual doltish Breeder Bingo questions in this recent post, 10 Ways I Win the No Children Argument, is one that bears repeating.

Aren’t you cutting yourself off from most of the adult world? You can’t relate to them!

True. I’ve been stunned into silence as parents of newborns talk about what baby poop should look like — and where to find helpful photos. I’ve never had to tolerate a play date with parents I can’t stand because my kid likes their kid. And I can only provide moral support as parents complain about their under-achieving teens. Then my wife and I dine with unmarried couples and talk about the rest of the world. Thankfully, it’s a big place with lots going on. (Debt.com)

Big world. Lots going on. Don’t worry, parents, we childfree adults will manage alright. But thanks for your concern. And happy Halloween!

Schmutzie’s Kid-Free List

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

Shmutzie (Elena Morgan) Doodle

Shmutzie (Elena Morgan) Doodle

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.

Schmutzie, baby.

Schmutzie, baby. (Photo: rubyshoes)

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!

 

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!

Breeders vs. Non-Breeders

Promo shot for Last Splash

Image via Wikipedia

Some people hate the term “breeder.”  Mostly it’s breeders that complain. To me a breeder is someone who chooses to have children and a non-breeder someone who does not. I’m a non-breeder and think it’s a funny title. You are welcome to call me a non-breeder even to my face. Also The Breeders happens to be the name of one of my favorite bands, so named because the term “breeders” is gay slang for heterosexuals. Interesting, right?


Urban Dictionary
has a slightly modified version of the term breeder:

1: slang term used by some childfree people for one who has a child and/or has many after that, refuses to discipline the child/ren, thinks the sun rises and sets for their child/ren, look down upon people who do not have children, and are in general very selfish and greedy when it comes to their whims and those of their child/ren, especially if they can use their parenthood status or their children as an excuse to get their way.

Okay. Ouch. That is not so nice. When did “breeders” become derogatory term against parents?  An alternative definition is  a person who breeds livestock or other animals or plants professionally. (That could be taken a couple of ways perhaps.) Apparently defining the word breeder is not that simple and a touchy subject for many including Renee from the blog www.womanist-musings.com:

“The main slur that has been directed at me from the LGBT community is the term breeder.  I understand that this a reaction to the fact that straight people constantly shame same sex couples for their inability to reproduce.  Though many straight couples spend a lifetime together and chose never to become parents, the biological impossibility of two women, or two men producing a child has been constructed as a negative.”

And on www.christianforums.com

“Are you aware that we parents are sometimes referred to as “breeders” by childfree people? It just made me sad, as I am one of those people who doesn’t judge couples for not wanting a child. That’s their decision, but why should we as parents be termed “breeders” because we decide to have children? The term is primarily use in reference to someone breeding animals! Really… I do find it offensive, and very hurtful.”

So why do we need labels like breeder, non-breeder, childfree, non-parent? Do names and labels hurt or discriminate? What do you think breeders and non-breeders? Are you loud and proud?

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Nulliparity Definition

Shows fundal height at various stages of pregnancy

Image via Wikipedia

Nulliparity isn’t jargon for Jimmy Buffet haters. On the contrary, I suspect there might be a significant overlap between the Parrothead and nulliparity lifestyles!

Deployed infrequently outside of the medical context, a nulliparity definition demands clarification if for no other reason than that it arises from time to time on Why No Kids?

Derived from Latin, the etymology of nulliparity is straightforward:

  • nullus, none
  • parere, to bear

So, in simplest terms, a usable nulliparity definition would be the condition of not bearing offspring (normally applied to a human woman).

A medical term used to refer to a condition or state in which a woman has never given birth to a child, or has never carried a pregnancy. (biology online)

Nulliparity vs. Nullipara

Although I understand why this term evolved to refer almost exclusively to women (men being biologically excepted from pregnancy), I would propose a nulliparity definition that is broader and more inclusive, applying to women and men who have not born offspring. Pregnancy and childbearing, after all, does generally imply the participation of a male in the creative process despite the disparity in inputs (ie. a few minutes versus 9 months!)

That said, the term nullipara specifically refers to a woman who has never given birth.

A female who has never given birth to a child, or has never carried a pregnancy. (biology online)

Choosing Nulliparity

This latter term, although obviously derived from the same Latin root, was unfamiliar to me until recently when I discovered Rhiannon Alton’s blog, Nullipara Life while searching for breeder bingo examples. A catchy title from a woman unabashedly committed to her childfree choice.

Don’t ask me when I’m going to have kids unless you’d like to hear my smart-ass response. I do not want kids. Parenthood is a choice, not an obligation. Some people might think there’s no point to me getting married if I’m not going to have kids…this is a completely asinine and ignorant thing to say. You see, my fiance is more to me than just a reproductive organ. I am not defined by my uterus, so please don’t tell me what I should be doing with it. Also, don’t tell me I’ll change my mind in a few years. How would you feel if I told you you’d change your mind about being a mother in a few years? Think about that the next time you try and pass judgment on me. (Rhiannon Alton)

Nulliparity, folks, is not the exclusive domain of the “childfree by choice” crowd as it certainly includes the involuntarily childless, but the straightforward, efficiency of the term is powerfully, succinctly echoed in Ms. Alton’s comments:

  1. Parenthood is a choice, not an obligation.
  2. You see, my fiance is more to me than just a reproductive organ.
  3. I am not defined by my uterus

Thanks for translating the life choice not to bear children into bold, bullet-point-able 21st century jargon, Ms. Alton! Any questions, folks? I suggest you start with Nullipara Life

The Childless Revolution

The Childless Revolution, by Madelyn Cain

The Childless Revolution, by Madelyn Cain (now available at Amazon.com)

Perhaps you’ve noticed that our tagline for Why No Kids? is “Childfree by choice and happy! Here’s why…”

Childfree. Choice. Happy. Our vision for this site was born out of those three powerful, empowering and surprisingly complicated words and the inevitable questions they provoke when conjoined.

Why would you choose to be childfree?

How could you or anyone be happy about being childfree?

We believe that a happy, rewarding, truly intentional life is in many respects made more feasible when the often difficult choice not to procreate is made and maintained.

Our personal reasons and answers are merely the springboard for a much broader conversation. Just as we bemoan (or mock) the myopic Breeder Bingo exchanges we encounter, we don’t pretend that our individual preferences, biases and hypotheses are universal. We do not proclaim an antinatalist manifesto, not do we categorically judge or condescend to breeders. We do endeavor to cultivate broad reflection and conversation about one of the biggest choices humans make during their lives: to have — or not to have — a child.

For this reason, we’re thrilled to witness and participate in a steadily dilating childfree chorus. You’d have to be living under a well trafficked jungle gym slide in a busy suburb of babyland to have overlooked the mounting buzz from childfree advocates, nulliparity advocates, etc.

Madelyn Cain’s The Childless Revolution is one of the voices connecting the childfree choice with happiness. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to read the book,

but I’m intrigued by the perspective of this reviewer.

This book recognizes and heralds a new dawn for women, opening up their lives (and minds) to fact that one is not less of a woman just because one did not choose or happen to become a mother. This is the next step in women’s revolution: that women be able to choose for themselves consciously (and be accepted by the general population–those this has yet to happen) that it’s OK to be childfree and to choose not to be a mother despite having the equipment for it. (Niconica’s Pinpricks)

Reviews differ, and Jessa Crispin’s harsh criticism is altogether less encouraging.

Motherhood is the new divisive issue amongst feminists and women… The more you try to explain your position the more head shaking and sighing there will be. Which is why I could tell Madelyn Cain’s The Childless Revolution would be a mess by one simple sentence: “Cain lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.” She is a mother writing about “what it means to be childless today.” … She has chosen her side while pretending to occupy middle ground… In fact, the “childfree” as she calls them receive the least attention… This is a book about women who wanted children but didn’t get them… The only thing we know for sure at the end of this book is that Cain thinks motherhood is the greatest thing ever, even if she does envy the free time of the childfree. (Bookslut)

Not such a promising review! An excerpt from Madelyn Cain’s The Childless Revolution appeared in The Utne Reader and it sounds thoughtful and provocative.

Childless women today are on the precipice of redefining womanhood in the most fundamental way ever. Entering the workforce was merely the initial step toward redefining women—and possibly the first toward childlessness. The advent of the pill, the legalization of abortion, and advanced education for women were essential adjuncts to this change. The move toward remaining childless, however, is more profound. For a society based on “family values,” this shift is historic. At its most fundamental level, the emergence of childlessness means that women are seizing the opportunity to be fully realized, self-determined individuals—regardless of what society at large thinks of them. (The Utne Reader)

Have you read The Childless Revolution? Would you recommend it?

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!

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!”