July 28, 2014

Childless Woman Taboo

When a woman reaches a certain age, she is expected to start thinking about having children. If she doesn’t, society demands an answer. (Telegraph)

Childless Woman Taboo

Childless Woman Taboo

Sarah Rainey recently took up the much discussed and debated February Vogue article in which Dame Helen Mirren “confronts the final female taboo“: childlessness. Like many commentators, Rainey finds Mirren’s candor refreshing in a media maelstrom prone to condemning childless celebrities (or at least badgering them to explain and justify why they are childless.) Regarding her own experience, Mirren explains that women never judged or harassed her. Men did.

[It] was only boring old men. And whenever they went ‘What? No children? Well, you’d better get on with it, old girl,’ I’d say ‘No! F— off!’ ~ Dame Helen Mirren (Telegraph)

Female childless celebrities like Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Aniston and Kylie Minogue are relentlessly interrogated. Pregnant? Baby bump? Just pudgy? Why no baby bump? When will you become mother? Why aren’t you a mother?

“The expectation is that they [women] will marry and have children,” explains Sue Fagalde Lick, author of Childless by Marriage. “If they don’t, everyone wants to know what’s wrong with them.” (Telegraph)

What’s Right with Them

Sure, once upon a time, looong ago childbearing was an almost essential and unquestioned connubial responsibility. Make babies to chop firewood, grow crops, protect us from marauders, care for us when we are old. I get. We get it.

But one of the really groovy perks of living in the first world in the dawn of the 21st century is that we’re no longer locked into this breed-or-bust marital model. Here’s a telling statistical arc.

An ONS study in 2010 found that just one in nine women born in 1938 remained childless, rising to one in five women born in 1965. It is projected that a quarter of 45-year-olds will be childless by 2018. (Telegraph)

Who are these disreputable, irresponsible scallywags? It’s time to expose them, to reveal them for who and what they are!

“You will find them among the higher educated, the ambitious and the high-flyers,” explains [author Fay] Weldon. “They, like Mirren, have a different but equal service to make to the community. They should be praised, not condemned.” (Telegraph)

Oh.

Right. Different but equal. Ambitious, highly educated high-flyers.

Childless Women: From Taboo to Equality

A Strong Woman

A strong woman stands up for herself.
A stronger woman stands up
for everyone else. (Credit: Quoteswave)

Yet, as Mirren articulates, women are frequently derided when childless. And while she lays the bugaboo at the insensitive feet of men, it seems that she may be oversimplifying the equation.

‘s post “Childfree: All Women are Created Equal” sees women as the primary culprits, perpetuating the medieval childless taboo upon their female contemporaries.

It was mostly women who were negative about my decision… I saw that it’s often women who don’t support other women’s life choices; it’s often women’s stereotypes of what we should be and do that get in our way. (Flurt!)

We’ll let Dame Mirren and Ms. Anderson debate whether men or women are more to blame for reinforcing long stale judgments and condescension toward childless women. What is evident is that the taboo endures despite statistical shift and more widespread recognition that motherhood should be a decision, not destiny.

Men, women, society. Something is stuck. Or clinging. Either way, it is high time we move forward. There’s a bright future ahead. It is a Technicolor tomorrow where equality reigns and we encourage and celebrate diversity of all flavors. Moms respect dads. Dads respect moms. Let’s start with that! And parents respect childless couples. And childless individuals. And childless by choice respect parents. And all of us embrace and support those who wanted to be parents but couldn’t. We might even discover that it is pretty fascinating to hear each other’s stories about why we are the way we are, to listen without judging or sneering or condescending or belittling. Sounds great, right?

To all women with children who unfairly judge those of us who have decided not to follow in your motherhood footsteps, I say, “accept every woman for who she is. Respect the decisions she has made for herself. Just because her choices are not the same as yours is no reason to criticize or belittle. She is not any less a woman than you are because she chose not to have children. Women need to support one another and to encourage one another to be who and what we each want to be.” (Flurt!)

Transform Childless Taboo into Folklore

In truth, it is “boring old men” and myopic mothers who perpetuate the breed-or-bust stereotype for women. But it’s also true that many of us in the childless by choice camp perpetuate “breeder” stereotypes that offend parents. Sometimes it is unintentional. Sometimes not. Often we are just as guilty of judging and sneering and condescending and belittling. Perhaps it’s a defensive mechanism or a way to vent after absorbing yet another breeder bingo. But it is not helpful. And it too reinforces the divide between parents and childless couples.

Let’s stop. We can. I challenge us to transform childless women taboos into folklore. Trite, amusing folklore. Yes, we can.

Can’t we?

Related articles

Why No Sleep for Moms?

Stillnox

Image via Wikipedia

Moms don’t sleep, and on top of that they worry about not sleeping. Disturbed from restful nights by crying babes, and stressed by busy days they are turning to prescription meds to fight anxiety and insomnia.

“A 2007 study by the National Sleep Foundation found that nearly three in 10 U.S. women said they used a sleep aid a few nights a week. Experts said that stress and anxiety had made mothers dependent on sleep aids like Lunesta, melatonin, Ambien and even Xanax.” (ABC News)

No word on a study about dads. Maybe they slept through it.

The NYTimes reports:

“One of the cruel jokes of motherhood is that the sleeplessness of pregnancy, followed by the sleeplessness generated by an infant (a period in which a staggering — truly — 84 percent of women experience insomnia), is not followed by a makeup period of rest. It is merely the setup for what can become a permanent modus operandi.”

Is it another reason to not have kids? Or just part of the busy world we live in where we are over-scheduled, stressed out, and plugged in?

Hey WNKers do you have trouble sleeping? Do you reach for a “mother’s little helper” to get to sleep?

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

My Favorite Teacher Didn’t Have Kids

My very first teacher was so pretty. She had long brown hair and blue eyes and sounded just like a Disney princess. Ms. N. never raised her voice and she made funny faces when she read stories. She tucked her straight hair behind her ears and after school I tried to perfect her look in my mom’s vanity mirror, but I could never get it just right. I was obsessed with being the teacher’s pet and eventually I  think I was. Ms. N. cast me as the sun in the school play because she loved my smile. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up.

Ms. N. even had a wedding, right at school! All the girls and boys in the tiny Catholic preschool  were paired up and asked to be flower girls and attendants. I wore a cream dress and gloves to look just like the bride. It was the best day of my four-year old life, but I knew what was going to happen next. Miss N was going to replace us with a baby of her very own!

But it didn’t happen. Ms. N. never had kids and she was the best teacher ever. She recently retired after forty years of teaching. Is it possible that her role as teacher was enough to fill her life with joy? Or was she sick of dealing with kids at the end of the day? For some reason I don’t think she ever tired of being around her students and is still involved in their lives today. I always wondered if she chose not to have kids or if she was unable to have them. Ms. N. and I are still friends and maybe someday she will tell me, but I will never ask.

It is because of Ms. N. and other teachers that I decided to teach little ones. I never thought that not having kids of my own mattered, but I think it made me a better teacher. Ms. N. influenced me in so many ways, but I can’t honestly say if I am copying more than Ms. N.’s hair style by not having kids.

  • Mommy Tips for Being an Effective teacher (kidsandmoms1.wordpress.com)
  • http://whynokids.com/2011/03/22/dr-suess-didnt-have-kids/
  • http://lauracarroll.com/2010/12/the-childfree-teacher-experience/
  • http://www.thechildfreelife.com/index.php/viewpoints/180-why-do-i-need-a-child-when-i-already-have-100-kids

When the Kids Ask, “Why No Kids?”

“When are you having babies?”

I’ve heard this question a million times from friends and family, but just the other day I heard it from a kid. As my friend’s six-year-old daughter sat on my lap and played with my hair, she inquired about my reproductive plans. I ignored the question. Then she suggested maybe I should get a new hairstyle. Phew. That was close. I really didn’t want to go there.

“Yes, when?” asked her twin four-year-old brothers as they wrestled on the floor. D’oh!

“Never!” I answered a bit too quickly.

“But why not?” they all pleaded. And I fell for it. I pulled out my high horse and saddled up.

“Because it’s my choice, not everyone has to have kids.”

They blinked back at me. Did I say too much?

“I don’t have to have kids.” I continued to explain.

The boys chimed in, “If you’re married you are supposed to have kids.”

Uh-oh. I tried to stop myself from saying too much, but it was impossible…

“That’s not true. You don’t have to have kids if you’re married.”

I didn’t say you could or maybe even should be married to have kids. And I definitely didn’t say, “Go ask your mom and dad!”

The twins started covering my arms with Halloween tattoos and the little girl tied my hair in a knot on top of my head.

“You’d look better with short hair,” she said.

“Are you having kids?” I asked her. I just couldn’t resist.

“I don’t know yet,” she said. That’s my girl! I thought as I let myself get a makeover by the three kids.

Minutes later my husband walked into the room. He took one look at us and shook his head.

He whispered in my ear, “Great birth control.”

“The kids?” I asked, expecting him to save me.

“No,” he replied. “Your hair!”

Hey WNKers: What would you say if a child asked you, “Why no kids?”

Share your “Why no kids?” stories in the comment section below.

Childfree by Choice

What exactly does “childfree by choice” mean? If you watched the video above, you may have been drawn into the antagonism that is often provoked by the term, but you may be further from understanding what it means rather than closer. A few confusing excerpts:

I like myself much more now than I ever did when I was single and childfree.

It makes me kind of sad to think that I, for so long, had decided against this life because I thought that having children would somehow limit my life experiences. But the irony is that… this is the single greatest experience that you could ever go through.

There’s irony in a group of people who are seeking victim status, who complain that they are being discriminated against, while actively discriminating against a group of people because of their age, children.

I am sorry for these people, that they feel the need to bash me for my choices, and it’s only because they’ve been bashed for theirs… That’s why people are angry.

Hmmm… Perhaps a momversation isn’t the right place to look for an unbiased, emotion-free understanding of the term “childfree by choice”. (Update: Check out the lengthy conversation about this video over at The Childfree Life.)

Background: Childfree by Choice

I suspect the “childfree by choice” reference was born as a tidy self explanatory response to questions like, “Are you having difficulty conceiving?” Or, “Do you realize that if you wait much longer you may have trouble getting pregnant?” Or perhaps there exists a more academic evolution of the term childfree by choice. Certainly there is plenty of debate around the usage of the term, often stemming from the distinction between the words “childfree” and “childless”. For some it is a battle cry, for others a pejorative epithet. For me, it’s a matter of convenience, an efficient way to encapsulate a decision that my wife and I have made (and continue to make) not to procreate.

Childless vs. Childfree by Choice

As it is a term often used at Why No Kids?, I’d like to offer some usage context borrowed from Wikipedia contributors all around the globe.

Childfree (sometimes spelled child-free) is a term used to describe individuals who neither have children nor desire to have children. An alternative term is childless by choice. The choice not to procreate has been a more available option since the development of reliable birth control, and has become increasingly common since the 1960s… There have been numerous books written about childfree people and quantitative academic research is now emerging. Childfree individuals do not necessarily share a unified political or economic philosophy… There are, however, a range of social positions related to childfree interests, and political and social activism in support of these interests has become increasingly commonplace. (Wikipedia)

A quick look at the etymology of the term “childfree” is helpful:

The term “childfree” is distinct from the term “childless” in that the suffix ‘-free’ indicates one’s free choice to forgo procreation, while the suffix ‘-less’ implies a lack. (Wikipedia)

Motivations: Childfree by Choice

Of course, no look at adults who are childfree by choice would be complete without examining some of the dominant motivations. The following is excerpted and/or adapted from the more compelling examples listed in the Wikipedia childfree entry.

Personal Wellbeing

  • Little maternal/paternal instinct
  • Not wanting to sacrifice time for children
  • Prefer to travel, or maintain geographic flexibility

Relationship

  • Preferring not to sacrifice emotional and physical intimacy with partner due to the presence of children
  • The cost of raising, amusing, and educating a healthy child leaves little money to spend on new experiences or even simple savings to reduce stress

Health and Safety

  • The risk that an existing medical condition, such as diabetes or depression could result in difficult pregnancy or difficulty in raising the child
  • Concern that the child could inherit a hereditary disease or an unwanted phenotypic trait

Altruism

  • The belief that one can make a greater contribution to humanity through one’s work than through having children
  • Perceived or actual incapacity to be a responsible and patient parent
  • Belief that it is wrong to bring a child into the world if the child is unwanted
  • Belief that it is wrong to intentionally have a child when there are so many children available for adoption
  • Concern regarding environmental impacts such as overpopulation, pollution, and resource scarcity
  • Belief that parents’ particular career could prevent them from being a good parent
  • Belief in a negative, competitive, declining condition of the world and culture and not subjecting a child to those negative conditions.

Other

  • Lack of a compelling reason or desire to have children
  • Contentment with enjoyment of pets
  • Belief that people tend to have children for the wrong reasons (e.g. fear, social pressures from cultural norms)
  • Having to alter or forgo adult social life, some feminists view childbearing and resultant parenting role as a heteronormative social construct which subjugates by restricting lifestyle options and possibilities for personal advancement.

This list is obviously not exhaustive, and we’ll continue to augment these motivations in future blog posts. We welcome your comments too, so please share your own motivations and/or childfree by choice resources.

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!

No Kids Trending

Recently whynokids.com has been getting pounded with traffic, an uptick that prompted me to poke around in search of answers.

What are people searching for? Are they finding what they’re looking for? What “sticky content” are we offering visitors to Why No Kids?

Why No Kids? logo on Facebook and Twitter

Why No Kids? logo on Facebook and Twitter

Combing through our stats (analytics) and tickling Google’s ivories has offered afew hints. For example, the term “no kids” seems to be driving the surge. But why? Is it possible that suddenly there’s an upward trend in couples considering a childfree lifestyle? Perhaps. Or perhaps there’s something else happening. What do YOU think?

I’m reserving judgment for the time being. It’s exciting. It’s encouraging. But it’s premature to determine why whynokids.com is experiencing a dramatic increase in readers.

That said, I know that our readers are responsible for spreading the word, so it’s time to thank you. All of you! You’ve encouraged and prodded and joined Why No Kids? conversations on Facebook and tweeted up a storm with Why No Kids? on Twitter. You’ve emailed posts and emailed us suggestions. In some cases you’ve even emailed us guest posts. You’ve joined the conversation about why not to have kids (and even–in some notable exceptions–why to have kids), and this conversation is what fascinates us. The four bloggers who founded Why No Kids? have chosen childfree lives, childfree marriages, but we don’t preach. We encourage breeders (I know, it’s a loaded term, but sooo catchy!) to participate in conversation. Bring on the debate. Bring on the disagreement. But bring on the civility, and bring on the levity.

Life’s too short to anger and alienate over personal decisions of childbearing. But the Why No Kids? crew firmly believes that ongoing, informed conversation about whether or not to breed stands to improve the lot for all of us!

I’m Proud of My Vasectomy

The birth and death rates in the United States...
Image via Wikipedia

Childless by Choice: Why I’ll Never Be a Dad — The Good Men Project.

I first saw this story on the “GINK – green inclinations, no kids” Facebook site and it is good reading.

“Earlier this year, the National Center for Health Statistics revealed that the U.S. birth rate is the lowest it’s been in a century: a mere 13.5 bloody, oozing births for every 1,000 people. The tanking economy is one of the biggest reasons—baby food is freaking expensive.”

You may want to scroll down to check out the comments, as they are perhaps even more compelling.

Enhanced by Zemanta