September 21, 2017

I’m So Happy I Don’t Have Kids

Emily Lemer, 77, has lived in New York for 38 years. You can catch her on Advanced Style. (Source: manrepeller.com)

Emily Lemer, 77, has lived in New York for 38 years. You can catch her on Advanced Style. (Source: manrepeller.com)

When I married my first husband (I was about 25), we decided we didn’t want children. I’ve never regretted it. I’m so happy I don’t have kids. I wasn’t willing to spend the money or give up my job. It was the perfect decision for me, and most people I know that made the same one are still happy about it. (Source: 3 Older Women on What Aging is Really Like)

Hat tip to Becky Brooks who alerted us to this A+ Man Repeller article, “3 Older Women on What Aging is Really Like. A hat tip and a dozen virtual roses! Thanks, Becky. We loved the article, and we think that Emily Lemer, Barbara Flood and Beatrix Ost have graced readers with a veritable avalanche of wisdom. An inspiration times three.

Also thanks for your encouraging words:

I don’t always see what you post, but for what I have, thanks for your sensible, sensitive, and though-provoking posts on Facebook. I recently joined a women’s childfree FB group, and they were so catty and seemed to hate kids. I got off it in less than 24 hours, as soon as I saw the tone of the page. Horrible. No regrets.

Great to hear that we’re offering a constructive (i.e. positive, non-catty) and thought-provoking experience for the childfree community. Too many angry, supercilious pundits frothing at the mouth. Sometimes it’s nice to just have a healthy chat, to ask questions instead of assuming we know all the answers. Glad to hear that we’re coming close to the mark.

We look forward to your next recommendation.

 

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Submit additions to a childfree dictionary?

മലയാളം: പാഷൻ ഫ്രൂട്ട്

മലയാളം: പാഷൻ ഫ്രൂട്ട് (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like the idea of a childfree dictionary. Tongue-in-cheek of course, no haters please! While “crotchfruit” may be condescending, insulting or disgusting, it is damn creative, if not just plain funny. No?

Babble’s Jabberwocky explains the peculiar language of the childfree culture.

So go ahead. Try not to be mean, but give us your contributions and definitions for a child free dictionary. We’ll re-post the tally.

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Happy Non-Parents Day!

When I was in my early-ish twenties I asked a lot of questions of friends and colleagues that had kids and/or were married. What’s the best part? What’s the worst? Would you change anything? What are you not telling me? No, seriously…

As you would expect, I got a wide range of answers, and some questions in return. A lot of men that were then my current age, 40, cautioned me about marriage. No one with kids told me they regretted it, but several made sure I knew that kids would change my life and my relationship drastically.

Most repeated thoughtless shit they heard somewhere (everywhere) else.

“You have to work at it.”

“It was the best day of my life.”

“Marriage is hard.”

“It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“… a miracle…. a blessing”

And when I asked again, “how?” or “why?”, they said nothing. I was young and dumb, but knew that skepticism is warranted whenever people are saying the same damn meaningless things, repeatedly. And what the hell does “marriage is hard” or “kids are a blessing” mean anyway? Nothing! People just said, and say, what the culture tells them they should say.

Looking back on this non-parents day, I want to thank those that were honest with me. I also want to express some regret that I didn’t really have any committed childfree adults to talk to. So I also want to encourage readers to share (in the comments or on Facebook) their most bare, honest answer to:

“For you, what is the best thing about being child-free?”

Because I know there are young people out there with no one to ask or no one that will respond honestly; and because I think all of us should be able to note, today at the very least, why we are celebrating.

Related articles:
August 1st Happy Non-Parents Day! – (whynokids.com)
Childfree? Really? Common Questions and Comments (Part 3) (whynokids.com)
Childfree? Really? Common Questions and Comments (Part 2) (whynokids.com)
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Why Are You Childfree?

Why are you childfree?

Why are you childfree?

In the wandering, winding webs I stumbled upon a personal reflection on why a Cleveland-based woman chose to remain childfree.

Why childfree? No want. No change. I think you’ll find it compelling for it’s candor and tidiness.

When I was 15 years old, I wanted to be a Marine Biologist, which has drastically changed over the years; I thought that there was nothing worse than not being liked by someone, and that has changed drastically; I was extremely self-conscious of my body and only wore super loose clothing, which has also changed as I have gotten used to my figure; I thought that my mom was soooo annoying, which has drastically changed and now I realize what a fantastic mother she is and always was. But for some reason, my thought of being childfree has not changed at all. There has never been a time in my life when I really wanted children. There was a time when I tried to make myself think I wanted them because I started to realize how unusual my decision was, but I never really wanted them. It’s so curious how different of a person I am today than I was when I was 15, and yet I still have the same thoughts on that extreme major life decision. (dinkschildfree)

Perhaps this “why childfree” explanation grabbed my attention because I also figured out early on that I wasn’t destined for fatherhood. Keen on kids, but not even a flickering desire to reproduce.

Of course, marriage fit in the same Not me, not ever! category. That changed. Not quickly. Not early. But it eventually changed. All credit to my bride. But I never caught the procreation bug…

Why are you childfree? I wonder if we can attempt a formal poll of our readers in the comments below. You don’t need to divulge your most profound emotional/psychological motives if you’d prefer not to, but even a short sentence or two capturing the gist of your choice to remain childfree would be intriguing. Up to the challenge?

Why are you childfree? Did you always feel this way or has your conviction evolved since childhood?

Excuses, Excuses…

It’s fall and my husband and I are swamped and trying to catch up with stuff we let pile up this summer. We don’t have kids so every nice day this summer we decided to go out on the lake instead of working inside. (For more on this read my Endless Summer Vacation post.) We figured it would rain and we could make haste, but it didn’t rain until Irene made a visit. And it hasn’t stopped since. So now we are busy hiding inside and working hard and we even decided to paint the entire interior of our house. It’s been a great excuse when we have to get out of obligations and allows us to leave events and other functions early. “Nope sorry, can’t stay, gotta paint.” It reminds me of some of my friends with kids and how they use them as an excuse to leave early and beg out of boring commitments. I admit, sometimes it makes me green with envy. A recent article in Jezebel “The Almighty Baby Excuse” tackles this very subject:

“Did you know that one of the least publicized advantages of having a baby is that it is, in fact, the greatest excuse ever invented to get out of doing stuff, with no loss of honor? When you were childless, you pretty much had to get spinal meningitis to talk your way out of a bridal tea or a work-sponsored tree-planting ceremony. Now, you have a living breathing RSVP with “decline” checked off, and contrary to what employers everywhere suspect, approximately 97% of the time, you’re not even bullshitting.”

The article struck a nerve with childfree reader MissCrystal. Her comment:

“As a childfree woman who is the only childless woman at my job, I’m offended and disgusted by the amount of work these ladies can get out because of kids/grandkids…as a childfree woman I supposedly have no other priorities or things I want to do other than work. The whole thing angers me and pointing out the hypocrisies of how childfree people are treated versus their counterparts has become my woman crusade.”

So this is a hot button issue for some people. Let me suggest that kids are an excellent excuse to get out of doing things, but still not a super valid reason to actually have them. (They really do get sick all the time!) Also the painting excuse works really well without adding a baby or a needy pet to the household. So far it’s been three weeks of “painting” and counting, although now we’re probably busted.

By the way, the excuse of diarrhea pretty much works every time too. A friend of mine used it twice this summer to cancel on me. What’s your favorite excuse?

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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.

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!”

How to Explain your Childfree Choice

"How to explain why you've chosen not to have children", by Scott Meyer

"How to explain why you've chosen not to have children", by Scott Meyer

As we’ve pointed out before society has a deeply engrained bias toward to breeding portion of the population. Biology ensures this bias. In the big picture it makes biological sense. Procreation prevents extinction while advancing evolution.

Nothing new there. Except, I’d like to offer up a warm “Thank you!” to all of the breeders around the world who are saving the human race by breeding so that I can focus on my energies elsewhere. Yes, as is often pointed out to me, if we all stopped having children humanity wouldn’t endure for long. I get it. I agree. And I’m deeply grateful to all of you who’ve opted to perpetuate the human race…

Of course, that isn’t what most DINKs are thinking about when they opt out of the breeder program. I’d venture to guess that most DINKs feel pretty confident that enough babies will continue to be born despite our personal choice. And, yes, their are some childfree folks who genuinely believe their choice should be universalized (Don’t dismiss until you’ve considered this. Still hoping for a thoughtful, articulate post on this topic.), but I’m not one of those folks.

So can we step beyond the bias? Perhaps not.

According to Lilit Marcus childfree women endure a deluge of judgment.

Despite the advancements that women have made in the public and private spheres, our bodies – and the choices we make about them – continue to be a battlefield. (TODAYMoms)

In many respects the 20th century was marked by a leveling of the gender playing field. And yet I am consistently made aware of how much more difficult it is for a woman to explain that she’s opted not to have children. When I express my childfree choice I often get hit with a barrage of questions, but acceptance is rarely hard-won. Men who choose not to breed are given a pass in the way that cowboys weren’t forced to pick the new drapes or iron petticoats. Deep in our cultural DNA we make room for men who break with conjugal and domestic conventions. But women are rarely granted this same freedom.

it shouldn’t be important whether a woman has children or not, but most of our culture doesn’t concur. “You’ll change your mind when you’re (five years older than age I am),”… I tried to imagine the opposite situation  – a woman my age (28), pregnant or with a child, being told that in five years she’d change her mind about wanting to be a mother. Or what about a guy my age being told that his “daddy instinct” would kick in soon and he would start wanting to pop out kids? I’m old enough to vote, to drink alcohol and to die for my country, but I’m still being told – sometimes by my own peers – that I’m not mature enough to decide about my body, my family and my future. (TODAYMoms)

Hats off to Ms. Marcus for saying it like it is! Women have a singularly difficult time explaining their childfree choice as I witness again and again when my bride sidesteps the patronizing, dismissive comments and endeavors to communicate her intelligent, considered choice. This is especially challenging with other women who often seem to consider Susan’s personal choice an affront. Instead of explaining her choice Susan frequently ends up listening to an emotional diatribe about the merits of motherhood.

Is their a sensible way to explain your childfree choice? I continue to believe their is, but the conversation rarely remains sensible for long and too often veers into emotionally charged, defensive territory. Perhaps we need to develop a less antagonistic methodology. And perhaps parents need to asses why they become so sensitive when our childfree choice is personal and doesn’t imply judgement of their own choice.

Do you have a foolproof way to explain your childfree choice?

FlashBack: Standout Stories That Previously Appeared On WNK’s FB Page Only

We wanted to share some the year’s best stories about parenting, children and the childfree, including emphasis on the environment, economy and psychology.

1) THE NO-BABY BOOM – Probably the most engaging, enlightening piece so far about the choice to be childfree, the CF lifestyle and growing community. It appeared in Details magazine. If you’re willing to read only one story, start and stop here.

2) ARE THERE DISADVANTAGES TO BEING CHILDFREE? – We’re not here to start a cult or hoist an ideology on the unsuspecting. We want an open honest discourse about what life is like and how big choices related to conceiving, adopting and parenting affect ANYBODY.

3) DOES HAVING CHILDREN MAKE YOU HAPPY? — What do you think? Have you read these other WNK stories? Are parents or the childfree more fit or healthy?

4) WHY MORE KIDS? – The Russian and South Korean governments want more babies! Riddle: Which is less sustainable:

A) A movement or community (like the childfree) that can’t rely on brainwashing their offspring to continue growing? OR

B) An economy that demands constant growth while resources are limited and fewer participants are incented to make babies?

5) HOW TO LAND YOU KID IN THERAPY – Why the obsession with our kids’ happiness may be dooming them to unhappy adulthoods. A therapist and mother report

6) WHINING IS THE WORST SOUND IN THE WORLD – Dare to disagree?

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Childfree? Really? Common Questions and Comments (Part 3)

Childfree? Really?

Common questions and comments (Part 3)

“When are you having kids?”, they usually ask. Not “if”. And here are more of the most common responses to my answer:

6) “Who’s going to take care of you when you’re old?”

I’d like to say “me”. I’m responsible for myself. It’s my obligation to invest in my brain and my body and strive for healthy and happy. If or when I can’t, I should have saved enough money or given enough love to ask for and receive help.

Instead I say we’re open to adopting adults from the next generation of non-breeders, or blurt something else unfunny, dishonest and/or swarthy, while wondering:

How can I get an unborn heir to agree that, in exchange for me handling fatherly responsibilities, they will one day owe the same commitment to me?

How could I dare make my health another’s responsibility unless I managed my own body, diet, alcohol and nicotine consumption perfectly?

It’s already too late for that, so rather than saddling someone else with the burden of the bongwater I drank in my twenties, I hope that the economics of living child-free allow enough room for a giant TV and a smiley, shapely nurse with soft hands and a deep appreciation of the History Channel and eighties music.

Or maybe we’ll just invest in Long-term care insurance.

http://personalinsure.about.com/od/longtermcare/a/ltcguide.htm

7) “Go to doctor what’s his name. He’ll get you pregnant!”

This happens more often than you might think. People are understandably presumptuous, and sincerely charitable when your spouse is a gifted teacher and children’s book author. (Touchtheart.com)

So when we lived in New York, parents of her students were eager to offer recommendations and referrals, assuming motherhood was an obvious goal for someone so nurturing and bossy.

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