March 22, 2017

Celebrities, WiNKs, Taboos and The Childfree Apology

Rosie O'Donnell at the premiere of I Am Becaus...

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Many childfree celebrities keep their choices to themselves. Perhaps they’d rather let the press and public wonder about their sexuality than risk offending the mommy constituency? Others admit their choice apologetically. “I love kids but….”, begins the required apology. Even Chaz Bono and his girlfriend didn’t dare say they don’t want babies. For Becoming Chaz they filmed every day of a difficult decision and taboo sexual transition, but when Rosie O’Donnell asked them about kids, they responded sheepishly, of course, apologizing for even thinking about staying childfree.

Wow. Even gay and transgender couples have to do this dance these days? O’Donnell, mother of many, didn’t push them or suggest they might end up regretful or lonely. She said that her advice to anyone who has any doubt is not to have children. Don’t do it. Something like that. Refreshing? Surprising? To me at least.

So when Roseanne Barr said, “Don’t have babies. Don’t get married and have kids. Have a larger life than that.” on national TV, I was among the many, including her own children, who found it shocking. Not because of the content of her message. Not because I doubted her sanity, but because it isn’t something mothers say. Is it something mothers are allowed to even think in our society? Is a mother that fantasizes about what her life without children could have been or could be committing an unspeakable sin against her family and community? Yes. It seems. Because we know it happens, yet no one is articulating what they think.

And when a mother DOES speak out against mothering like Roseanne did on Roseanne’s Nuts? Is she inviting the hatred and judgment hoisted on Casey Anthony? (Also guilty of not wanting kids at the very, very least.) No. But she’s entering taboo territory, a place where people overreact and use the word “crazy”. Roseanne was bold. 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. What do you think?

From where I stand, men are given much more room than Rosanne and other women to vent, admit, complain or translate their desire for silence and freedom and fresh air into advice or comedy. (See Louis C.K., Doug Stanhope, Aziz Ansari, Jason Jones and Drew Magary video links below.) Mothers seem to police themselves, vigilantly. I wonder if their own fleeting fantasies, and resulting guilt, might cause moms to judge women like Chelsea Handler and Roseanne Barr quickly and often harshly?

I also wonder if the same taboos, caution, guilt or misperceptions keep our families from acknowledging this site or our friends from clicking a little button that says “like”, even though much of the content, contributed by teachers and mentors, is about parenting, the environment, economics and psychology.

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