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!