November 20, 2017

Overpopulation: Procreatus Interruptus

Civilization To Hold Off On Having Any More Kids For A While, according to The Onion.

This just in… Effective immediately, human procreation will be indefinitely suspended!

Facing what it called “a lot of uncertainty” on all six inhabited continents, the global civilization of the species Homo sapiens released a statement Monday announcing it would be “just sort of holding off on the idea of having any more kids for the time being.” (The Onion)

Although the article concedes the many joys of parenting and of children in general, global instability demands immediate and dramatic measures. Adding a couple billion additional children to the equation would only exacerbate current strains around the world. The decision to postpone childbirths is not permanent, but until overpopulation is curbed and global stability is restored humanity will cease to procreate.

“Now is our chance to get around to some of those things we had to put on the back burner… [like] how to keep the international food-distribution system in place and functioning after the nonrenewable fossil fuels run out… [and ensuring] that enough rain forests remain to keep oxygen in the atmosphere…” Human society added that there was already barely enough time in the day to raise its children while also ensuring basic human rights for the existing population, averting a potential collapse of the international monetary system, and finally getting around to its oft-procrastinated goal of solving the massive climate-change crisis before lots and lots of people die… “It might actually be a little irresponsible to have more kids now, given the threat of a general collapse into a tribal-barbarian-type second Dark Ages. That wouldn’t be fair to us or the kids.” (The Onion)

Humanity’s decision stands in stark contrast to its family-planning policy since the dawn of civilization, indicating an historic shift toward sacrifice, sustainability and human responsibility. The species has accepted that their future, indeed the future of the entire planet, rests in their hands. Despite genetic and social coding driving unchecked population growth, human civilization will attempt to engineer a more sustainable future before overpopulation further complicates the global equation.

Since first evolving from such earlier hominids as Homo erectus and Australopithecus and emerging from the African veld more than 20 million years ago, humanity has made having children a central part of its goals for the future, even while it simultaneously juggled its long-standing career objective of becoming a mature and culturally interdependent global entity. (The Onion)

Despite possible concerns that this new policy will diminish sexual freedoms, humanity is actually likely to discover increased sexual freedoms (and pleasures) across geographic and cultural divides now that copulation is being unshackled from procreation. Likely outcomes include a healthier psychological prognosis for homo sapiens in general and happier, more rewarding (and enduring) marriages among cultures who opt for long-term, monogamous relationships.

The Why No Kids? team will monitor this initiative and keep you abreast of news as it develops. What’s your reaction to humanity’s decision to indefinitely postpone procreation?

(Hat tip to Anne Faulkner for the hot tip!)

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

Are the Childfree Missing Out?

I’ll admit that I’m not excerpting the most representative excerpt from this childless by choice video, but I can’t help highlighting this universally ingrained response:

Lots of women bond, especially in their 30s and 40s, over the fact that they have had children. So you’ve got a sort of common bond there that you can talk about. And if you meet someone who says, “I don’t want children,” I automatically think, “Why don’t you want children?” … I want to wheel my children out so that they can see how lovely and exciting they are. Somehow I sort of want to pursued them, that they’re missing out on something. (YouTube.com)

You can see the childfree interviewee recoil as she launches into this diatribe with gusto. In fact, the body language throughout this clip is eclipsed only by the accents!

What do you think? Are the childfree missing out?

Bad Parenting? Sue Your Parents!

Should mothers be sued for bad parenting?

We can all summon up moments when our parents went too far, or at least we were 100% certain at the time that they’d gone to far, in their parenting routines. Ah, the injustice!

As it turns out, two Illinois kids kept their resentment alive long enough to sue Kimberly Garrity for being a bad mother.

Garrity’s children, Steven Miner II, 23, and Kathryn Miner, 20, originally filed their suit against her two years ago, asking for more than $50,000 for emotional distress suffered during childhood due to Garrity’s alleged parental offenses, infractions such as sending her son a birthday card sans check, not dispatching care packages to him in college and insisting on a midnight curfew for her daughter during her high school’s homecoming. (TIME Healthland)

An Illinois appeals court dismissed the lawsuit, but Ms. Garrity who raised her children in a $1.5 million home outside Chicago is left to ponder her decision to conceive and raise two ungrateful.

Court records from Garrity said she was devastated at being publicly accused of “being an inadequate mother.” … In court papers, Garrity said she still loves her children, but she warned the public nature of the lawsuit would hurt them going forward. (CNN.com)

I guess the lesson to be learned here is not to spoil your fabulously rich kids rotten, because they’ll just grow up and sue for not spoiling them rotten enough. Kids these days. (Above the Law)

But reflection and regret are only half of Garrity’s reward. She also has the pleasure of paying for her legal representation.

“It would be laughable that these children of privilege would sue their mother for emotional distress, if the consequences were not so deadly serious for (Garrity),” Garrity’s attorney, Shelley Smith, wrote in court documents. “There is no insurance for this claim, so (Garrity) must pay her legal fees, while (the children) have their father for free.” (Today People)

Gawker weighed in with a curious twist:

What the judges seem to have overlooked is how their ruling now opens the floodgates to parents who wish to say no to their children, which will be more corrosive to our society in the long-run. (Gawker.com)

Not sure I follow this concern. Aren’t parents supposed say no? Sometime? Maybe even often? Or was I terribly mistreated? I can feel the emotional distress bubbling up across the years… Lawyer!

Related articles

I Don’t Hate Kids

I don’t hate kids. And I’m guessing that Steve Shives doesn’t hate kids either. After all, he’s created both a “Why I Hate Kids” video and a “Why I Like Kids” video for your lighthearted consumption. This tongue-in-cheek parade of reasons why he could hate kids is arguably inappropriate but strikes me as a reminder that loving kids or hating kids isn’t at the heart of the childfree/breeder divide. Far from it!

But like this Jam Hands post, exaggeration and laughter are a necessary and healthy part of the conversation. That said, here are a few of my favorites from Steve Shives “Why I Hate Kids” list:

  • they are loud
  • the really smart ones can take 3 or 4 years to learn how to wipe their own asses
  • they take over your life
  • they think black and white movies are boring
  • they pee in their beds
  • they get bored easily
  • you have to watch them constantly
  • they’re afraid of cooties and harmless insects but not guns
  • most of them are too small and weak to get any real work out of
  • they lack perspective
  • they are expensive
  • they stole Halloween
  • they don’t get subtlety
  • they don’t look good wearing glasses
  • they get to piss in your face while you change their diaper, and you’re not even supposed to get mad
  • they consume everything and produce nothing
  • they speak openly of their bowel movements

It’s okay to laugh. It’s humor. We won’t tell your spouse. Or your kids! 😉

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.

Happy Conception Day

Conception Day

Hat tip to starsspinningdizzy for the link to this conception day cartoon by Zach Weiner.

Where Babies Come From

It’s time for a little visual food for thought. Is the stork the bird of war?

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!