October 15, 2019

Geo Davis (aka virtualDavis)

Parents Should Learn from Hunter-Gatherers

Could parents learn a thing or two from hunter-gatherers? Perhaps.

English: Title: Personal photographs of the Ho...

Aborigine Chief of Bathurst Island (Credit: Wikipedia)

But just as the childfree get sensitive when parents judge their choice not to have children, parents tend to get touchy when the childfree judge or advise their parenting. In short, I’m venturing into tricky territory by advocating hunter-gatherer parenting practices to my “childed” contemporaries. And yet while I may be off-base, I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t some meaningful reflection to be had here…

Many of the world’s hunter-gatherer societies have a laissez-faire style of parenting and consider young children to be autonomous individuals whose desires should not be thwarted (Best Practices for Raising Kids? Look to Hunter-Gatherers). Consequently some societies allow children to play with dangerous objects such as sharp knives and fires letting them be free to learn from mistakes but also to be hurt.

However, hunter-gatherer societies also foster precocious development of social skills in their children.

The Westerners who have lived with hunter-gatherers and other small-scale societies speculate that these admirable qualities develop because of the way in which their children are brought up: namely, with constant security and stimulation, as a result of the long nursing period, sleeping near parents for ­several years, far more social models available to children through ­allo-parenting, far more social stimulation through constant physical contact and proximity of caretakers, instant caretaker responses to a child’s crying, and the minimal amount of physical punishment. (Best Practices for Raising Kids? Look to Hunter-Gatherers)

Close Contact Among Hunter-Gatherers

Sharing a bed, or at least the same bedroom, is common practice among parents and their children in hunter-gatherer societies and many cultures throughout the world. It is only recently in Western society that isolation has become part of common parenting tactics.

A cross-cultural sample of 90 traditional human societies identified not a single one with mother and infant sleeping in separate rooms: that current Western practice is a recent invention responsible for the struggles at putting kids to bed that torment modern Western parents. American pediatricians now recommend not having an infant sleep in the same bed with its parents, because of occasional cases of the infant ending up crushed or else overheating; but virtually all infants in human history until the last few thousand years did sleep in the same bed with the mother and usually also with the father, without widespread reports of the dire consequences feared by pediatricians. That may be because hunter-gatherers sleep on the hard ground or on hard mats; a parent is more likely to roll over onto an infant in our modern soft beds. (Best Practices for Raising Kids? Look to Hunter-Gatherers)

English: A Kali'na hunter with a woman gathere...

Kali’na hunter with woman gatherer. (Credit: Wikipedia)

From slings to cradle boards, hunter-gatherers employ a wide variety of techniques/devices to carry their children resulting in constant contact between the mother (or another caregiver) and the infant. Only when the child is older and mobile does the child choose to voluntarily venture away, usually to play with other children. (Note: Some consider swaddling or placing an infant in a cradle board cruel because it restricts the child’s movement. Others believe it causes the child permanent damage.)

[However,] there are no personality or motor differences, or differences in age of independent walking, between Navajo children who were or were not kept on a cradle board, or between cradle-­boarded Navajo children and nearby Anglo-­American children. […] Hence it is argued that doing away with cradle boards brings no real advantages in freedom, stimulation, or neuromotor development. Typical Western children sleeping in separate rooms, transported in baby carriages, and left in cribs during the day are often socially more isolated than are cradle-boarded Navajo children.  (Best Practices for Raising Kids? Look to Hunter-Gatherers)

Debate and studies are still ongoing about whether it is better to leave a child alone when it is crying with no reason or if it should be held and comforted. While there is no consensus on the issue, hunter-gatherers generally favor comforting a troubled child.

Observers of children in hunter-­gatherer societies commonly report that, if an infant begins crying, the parents’ practice is to respond immediately. […] The result is that !Kung infants spend at most one minute out of each hour crying, mainly in crying bouts of less than 10 seconds—half that measured for Dutch infants. Many other studies show that 1-year-old infants whose crying is ignored end up spending more time crying than do infants whose crying receives a response. (Best Practices for Raising Kids? Look to Hunter-Gatherers)

What are Allo-parents?

Allo-parents are individuals who are not the biological parents but who play a role in a child’s life and do some caregiving.

In small-scale societies, the allo-­parents are materially important as additional providers of food and protection. Hence studies around the world agree in showing that the presence of allo-parents improves a child’s chances for survival. But allo-parents are also psychologically important, as additional social influences and models beyond the parents themselves. Anthropologists working with small-scale societies often comment on what strikes them as the precocious development of social skills among children in those societies, and they speculate that the richness of allo-parental relationships may provide part of the explanation. (Best Practices for Raising Kids? Look to Hunter-Gatherers)

Population numbers affect the socialization of children of various ages. In all cities, and in rural areas of moderate population density, children are separated by age, and will learn and play in age cohorts (Best Practices for Raising Kids? Look to Hunter-Gatherers). However in small-scale societies, the smaller group of children will interact more simply because there are less of them and situations would arise that make is easier to keep all the children together in spite of age differences.

A typical hunter-gatherer band numbering around 30 people will on the average contain only about a dozen preadolescent kids, of both sexes and various ages. Hence it is impossible to assemble separate age-cohort playgroups, each with many children, as is characteristic of large societies. Instead, all children in the band form a single multi-age playgroup of both sexes. […] The young children gain from being socialized not only by adults but also by older children, while the older children acquire experience in caring for younger children. (Best Practices for Raising Kids? Look to Hunter-Gatherers)

Because hunter-gatherer children sleep with their parents, they are exposed to their parents having sexual intercourse which inevitably leads to groups of mixed-gender children mimicking what they witness.

Either the adults don’t interfere with child sex play at all, or else !Kung parents discourage it when it becomes obvious, but they consider child sexual experimentation inevitable and normal. It’s what the !Kung parents themselves did as children, and the children are often playing out of sight where the parents don’t see their sex games. Many societies, such as the Siriono and Piraha and New Guinea Eastern Highlanders, tolerate open sexual play between adults and children. (Best Practices for Raising Kids? Look to Hunter-Gatherers)

State vs. Hunter-gatherer Child-rearing

‘The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?’ by Jared Diamond. 512 p. Viking Adult. $22.94

The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond. 512 p. Viking Adult.

[A] tentative generalization is that individual autonomy, even of children, is a more cherished ideal in hunter-gatherer bands than in state societies, where the state considers that it has an interest in its children, does not want children to get hurt by doing as they please, and forbids parents to let a child harm itself. (Best Practices for Raising Kids? Look to Hunter-Gatherers)

In the modern world there is much variation among industrial state societies where parenting practices differ from state to state and between classes and generations. But it does seem that their may be some universal lessons to learn from hunter-gatherer parenting.

Everybody in the world was a hunter-gatherer until the local origins of agriculture around 11,000 years ago, and nobody in the world lived under a state government until 5,400 years ago. The lessons from all those experiments in child-rearing that lasted 
for such a long time are worth considering seriously. (Best Practices for Raising Kids? Look to Hunter-Gatherers)

Some hunter-gatherer parenting practices are obviously not worth emulating.

I don’t recommend that we return to the hunter-gatherer practices of selective infanticide, high risk of death in childbirth, and letting infants play with knives and get burned by fires. Some other features of hunter-gatherer childhoods, like the permissiveness of child sex play, feel uncomfortable to many of us, even though it may be hard to demonstrate that they really are harmful to children. Still other practices are now adopted by some citizens of state societies, but make others of us ­uncomfortable—such as having infants sleep in the same bedroom or in the same bed as parents, nursing children until age 3 or 4, and avoiding physical punishment of children. (Best Practices for Raising Kids? Look to Hunter-Gatherers)

However, there are many less controversial hunter-gatherer parenting practices which might well server our modern state societies.

It’s perfectly feasible for us to transport our infants vertically upright and facing forward, rather than horizontally in a pram or vertically but facing backward in a pack. We could respond quickly and consistently to an infant’s crying, practice much more extensive allo-parenting, and have far more physical contact between infants and caregivers. We could encourage self-­invented play of children, rather than discourage it by constantly providing complicated so-called educational toys. We could arrange for multi-age child playgroups, rather than playgroups consisting of a uniform age cohort. We could maximize a child’s freedom to explore, insofar as it is safe to do so. (Best Practices for Raising Kids? Look to Hunter-Gatherers)

I hope you’ve made it this far. Interesting, right? Before lambasting Jared Diamond (or me), pause. Consider. Sometimes we feel judged even when we’re not. Sometimes we feel advised even when we’re not. I know, the title of my blog post suggests otherwise. And hopefully it got your attention, provoked your curiosity, compelled you to read the post. Perhaps you’ll even grab the book and probe further. Your comments after reading the book would real really, really welcome. Especially since I haven’t read it. Yet.

Source for Hunter-Gatherer Parenting Post:

 

Are Childfree Men Misunderstood?

Childfree Men (Credit: virtualDavis)

Childfree Men (Credit: virtualDavis)

Childfree discussion and debate generally focuses on women, curiously quiet on the topic of childfree men. But a March 2012 Psychology Today post by Ellen Walker (clinical psychologist and author of Complete Without Kids) titled, “Childfree Men: Misunderstood and Often Maligned!”, examines childfree men. Walker’s look at the reasoning behind childfree men’s choice and the perception of childfree men within our society is thoughtful and compelling

Childfree men fly under the radar screen more often than their female counterparts. In our culture, the role of father is not deemed essential in the life of a man. For women, on the other hand, many consider being a mother to be a chief purpose in life. Some people go so far as to propose that this is a woman’s main reason for existing. But men who do not become dads are still viewed with suspicion, and they often get a bad rap! They are often thought to be immature little boys who never grew up and whose primary goal in life is to play. (Psychology Today)

I’ve laughed off this last judgment often enough. In fact, I’m happy to admit that there’s some truth in it. But these dismissive stereotypes inevitably can damage a man’s character and — as Walker points out —  can even damage a man’s workforce opportunities.

Employers often prefer men who are dads, as they are viewed as more reliable and responsible employees than are guys who have no one to consider but themselves. (Psychology Today)

This is ironic given the fact that childfree mothers are perceived as profiting in the workforce due to increased focus, lack of maternity leave, etc. (Read Jessica Valenti’s Why Have Kids?)

Childfree men also risk stress induced by failing to living up to social expectations.

It’s hard for many people to imagine that a couple simply would prefer to be on their own, unencumbered by children and the responsibilities that come with parenting. (Psychology Today)

Negative stereotypes are attached to childfree men of any social standing including celebrities who are often painted as immature playboys if they choose to remain childfree. Witness George Clooney and Simon Cowell, both childfree men inspiring endless tabloid, who both devote themselves to their careers and civic goals and are wildly accomplished.

Archetypal Childfree Men

Childfree men are as diverse as their female counterparts, with distinct personalities and differing reasons for not having or choosing not to have children.

  • Childfree by happenstance: “Some have simply never met the right partner with whom to create a family, and their ambivalence about this is such that they’re not going to go out to actively seek it” (Psychology Today).
  • Childfree by choice: “They have made a conscious decision to not have kids, either due to lifestyle or to life values. If they are in a relationship, it’s with someone who shares their view and also has chosen a life without kids” (Psychology Today).
  • Childfree by circumstance: “They would have loved to have become fathers, but they simply couldn’t make it happen. Perhaps their partners were infertile, or perhaps they never married due to shyness or other barrier to meeting a mate” (Psychology Today). These men may wish to be fathers and may feel grief that they do not have children or have the chance to be fathers.

I would augment the first two examples. With respect to childfree men due to “happenstance”, I suspect that ambivalence transcends matching up with the appropriate partner. Men often say, “It really didn’t matter to me whether or not we had kids, but it was important to my wife.” Perhaps this is bravado, a sort of guy-to-guy way of dumping the parenting instinct on your spouse. But I suspect it’s sincere. I’ve never felt a burning desire to be a father. I’ve been curious at times, and I’ve even felt a poignant twinge of sadness now and then. This is especially the case when I witness my brother interacting with his daughters or my sister-in-law and brother-in-law interacting with their sons. But these same children, as my nieces and nephews, more than compensate for the few glimpses of sorrow. And in all cases these wonders and laments are short lived. From what I can tell, this ambivalence toward having children does not hinge upon finding the right mate. Some of us simply feel ambivalent about having children!

Walker’s notion of childfree men who’ve been motivated to forgo childbearing due to values or lifestyle overlooks some other likely reasons that both men and women elect to remain childfree. A couple of obvious examples are genetics and economics. Many childfree men and women do not consider their gene pool or their earning potential sufficient to safely risk procreating. Perhaps she sees these as somehow falling under the broad value/lifestyle categories, but these are important and relevant considerations when evaluating whether or not to have a child. If reproducing is genetically or financially risky, some prudent men (and women) opt for prudence.

Childfree Men Tomorrow

With an eye to the future, Walker acknowledges that choosing to remain childfree is becoming an increasingly acceptable option for individuals and couples. Perhaps low-cost and no-cost contraception, shifting social norms and broader education will reduce unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, resulting in intentional childbearing and a stigma-free childfree option. Walker concludes with an optimistic prediction:

Who knows, maybe in twenty years, no one will bat an eye if a man doesn’t have kids. He won’t be viewed as an immature playboy who never grew up. He may even be perceived as someone who is more able to fully focus on goals and aspirations, because he is not distracted by the responsibilities of parenting. (Psychology Today)

Let’s help make her prediction come true, childfree men!

 

Motherhood: A Choice not a Destination

Motherhood... is a choice!

Motherhood is a choice not a destination.

Throughout much of Latin America motherhood is more destiny than decision for many young women despite limited abilities to care for a child.

Vera Cordeiro, Founder and General Superintendant of Associação Saude Criança, gives details of the situation in Brazil that spans throughout many places in Latin America about the inherent beliefs of  motherhood:

Cordeiro says, “…in the favelas of Brazil the identity of motherhood is status–a ‘destination’ sought by teenage girls who view the opportunity to have a baby as a validation of their esteem even though they are unprepared to raise a child.

Favelas can be violent places to live. The rules are often different in places affected by abject poverty. And for young girls, pregnancy is often viewed as ‘protective’ in ways that outsiders may not understand. As it was explained to me, having a baby by a leader in the community associates that girl with a powerful man. That identity can protect her as her child will be recognized as belonging to the leader. This is the destination sought by many young girls.” (La Vie Childfree blogpost: Making Motherhood a Choice in Brazil.)

The Aconchego Project

While this debilitating mindset and incumbent social gridlock are prevalent, efforts are being made to combat the underlying challenges. Associação Saúde Criança was founded in 1991 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to help “poor families by providing help in the areas of education, health, income, housing, and citizenship” (Vera Cordeiro: Making Motherhood a Choice, Not a Destination). In 2005 the organization launched a major initiative called “Aconchego Teen” targeting teenage women and birth rates.

Volunteers group

Volunteers group (Image credit: Associação Saúde Criança)

“Aconchego Teen,” which means coziness, a place for warmth and security, is designed as a public square in which teenage girls receive education regarding motherhood and pregnancy. The objective was to change the embedded view in poor teenagers that suggests motherhood is a destination instead of a personal choice. (Vera Cordeiro: Making Motherhood a Choice, Not a Destination.)

The Aconchego Project, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, spans an average of two years for each adolescent and emphasizes other interests and perspectives so that the rate of teen pregnancy decreases (Vera Cordeiro: Making Motherhood a Choice, Not a Destination).

The project seems to be a success with teen pregnancy in Brazil dropping by 34.6% between 2000 and 2010 according to Brazil’s Health Ministry.

So far, over 200 teenagers have participated in Aconchego Teen and the feedback from both parents and teenagers is strongly positive. Not only has the project helped teens understand the difficulties of motherhood but it has also paved the way for a better communication and understanding with their parents. We encourage teens to stay in school and prepare themselves for the labor market. That way, they will experience motherhood when [and if] they are ready to embrace the joys of having a child. (Vera Cordeiro: Making Motherhood a Choice, Not a Destination.)

Read the full article here: Vera Cordeiro: Making Motherhood a Choice, Not a Destination.

Follow Vera Cordeiro on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@saudecrianca

Top Twelve 2012 Posts

It’s new year’s resolution and year-in-review time, so I’m looking backward in order to look forward.

Despite the unlucky thirteen twaddle, I’m bullish on the incoming year. Much good is pent up and ready to burst out of the starting gate. Trust me.

And, despite rumors to the contrary, 2012 was a pretty jolly romp too. Is it possible that life’s just a twitch better when bathed in childfree limelight? I suspect the answer is yes. Yes!

And yet in the coming year I do firmly resolve to direct my mixed blessings upon several slightly more child-centric themes such as watersports, chocolate and uncle-dom. It’s high time I divulge my #1 reason for childfreedom and examine it methodically vis-à-vis AAA (aquatic adrenaline adventures), dark vs. milk cacao derivatives (It really does matter if you’re black or white!) and the merits of nieces and nephews. Hold onto your contraceptives, WNKers, I detect the first tremors of a maturity avalanche… And gravity always wins!

But before it does, let’s take a revealing glance in the rear view mirror. 2012 was a big year for Why No Kids? Why? Well, we suspect it has very little to do with our journalistic prowess and plenty to do with the childfree zeitgeist which is washing the globe free of preconceived baby bias just in time. The bottom line is the childfree space is buzzing. No. It’s exploding. No longer niche, childfree dialogue is mainstream. It’s — dare I say it? — almost hip.

Top Twelve 2012 on Why No Kids?

Anyway, enough prologue, and on with the top 2012 posts on Why No Kids:

  1. 10 More Reasons to Not Have a Baby
  2. Motherhood: Decision, Not Destiny
  3. Why no kids? Childfree celebrities!
  4. Childfreedom: More Happiness
  5. How much $ can I save by not having babies?
  6. Happy Non-Parents Day!
  7. Why Are You Childfree?
  8. Is Having Kids Selfish?
  9. Childfree Women Lack Humanity
  10. Photo Essay: Childfree Celebrities
  11. Childfree Families
  12. Nulliparity Health Risks

I remain a bit perplexed by the perennially popular childfree celebrity fascination, but I’m thrilled with interest in parenting as choice not default, the relationship between childfreedom and happiness and childfree finances. And the ongoing popularity of Miriam Schaer’s controversial exhibition has inspired us to take another look. What’s the artist up to in 2013? Stay tuned.

What’s on your top twelve childfree list?

Why No Kids? Elf on the Shelf!

Elf on the Shelf T-Shirt (Credit: Sweeneyville)

Elf on the Shelf T-Shirt (Credit: Sweeneyville)

If you’re a parent in the US, you’re likely already acquainted with The Elf on the Shelf. If you’re childfree (or childless) you might have missed out on this latest holiday marketing bonanza with eerily Orwellian overtones. Consider the following…

The Elf on the Shelf… is the very special tool that helps Santa know who to put on the Naughty and Nice list… Santa sends his scout elves out to Elf Adoption Centers. Waiting for their families to bring them home, these patient elves hibernate until their family reads The Elf on the Shelf, gives their elf a very special name, and registers their adoption online. Once named, each scout elf will receive its Christmas magic… these scout elves are the eyes and ears of Santa Claus… the elf will always listen and relay messages back to Santa. Taking in all the day-to-day activities around the house… these scout elves take their job seriously… after the family goes to bed, the scout elf uses his magical Christmas powers to fly back to the North Pole. Once there, the elf will make his or her daily report to Santa… Before the family awakes each morning, their special scout elf will fly back… to hide in the freezer… the fireplace mantle or hang from the chandelier… (Elf on the Shelf > About Us)

Spooky, right?

On the one hand, I tip my hat to Carol Aebersold, Chanda Bell and Christa Pitts who’s charm, vision, hustle and business savvy is inspiring. Bravo for transforming the publishing industry’s risk averse, survival-oriented error into an entrepreneurial success story!

The the elf story? I find it a little creepy.

Okay, when Aebersold recounts the back story, a family tradition which helps her defeat an almost paralyzing psychological defeat, I’m rooting for her. When mother and daughters team up to revitalize the magic of Christmas, I’m rooting for all three of them. And when they decide to self-publish The Elf on the Shelf because traditional publishers couldn’t quite grok the market value of a catchy product tied to the sellingest holiday of the year? I’m cheering for Aebersold, Bell and Pitts.

Elf on the Shelf Ambushed (Credit: livinglocurto.com)

Elf on the Shelf Ambushed (Credit: livinglocurto.com)

But then there’s a snag. Buy a spy? Infuse Christmas anticipation with selfconsciousness and anxiety posed by a sneaky, lurking voyeur? There’s something threatening and decidedly un-jolly about a tattletale with super powers sneaking around young children’s homes. A miniature Big Brother. Frankly this “tradition” feels a bit un-Christmas-like to me. But then again, I’m not a parent. I don’t need to threaten and bribe my tribe to behave or else…

And then there’s the potential for distorting this latter day Christmas tradition. Consider Stephen King tackling this Elf on the Shelf theme. Or Alfred Hitchcock. All sorts of terrifying Peeping Tom elf scenarios come to mind. Even the whole adoption center prologue creeps me out. Not only do elves have super powers once they are adopted, but until then they hibernate?!?! Like bears, I suppose, or rattlesnakes or laptop computers. Weird.

It turns out I’m not alone.

I hate the Elf on the Shelf. I hate his evil, dead-eyed sidelong smile. I hate that he invades innocent children’s homes without compunction. I even hate his full name. “The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition.” I hate how it sounds like it’s a threat, like, “I’m not just the Elf: I’m the Elf who will return every goddamn Christmas of your life…” I hate how he seems to become more powerful with each passing year. (Salon.com)

That’s Mary Elizabeth Williams (@embeedub), the author of Gimme Shelter and dauntless chronicler of her cancer crusade. Her article, “Santa’s evil Orwellian spy” nimbly sums up the equation.

Today, the Elf is a best-selling, full-blown industry. He floated triumphantly this year at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and he’s been all up in our faces ever since. And why not? He’s eminently marketable. Like American Girl dolls, or Cabbage Patch Kids in days of yore, part of the Elf’s allure is his customizable nature. There are girl elves and boy elves, blue-eyed elves and dark-skinned elves, all waiting to be “adopted.” Right, like I’m going to adopt a narc. (Salon.com)

Elf on the Shelf: The gift of giving... (Credit: articlesofabsurdity.com)

Elf on the Shelf: The gift of giving… (Credit: articlesofabsurdity.com)

Thank you, Ms. Williams. Christmas is supposed to be innocent and slightly goofy. Giggles and jelly bellies and flying reindeer. Christmas is about hope and forgiving and generosity and loving. Christmas is about family and intimacy. Not spying and tattling. Do we really need to infiltrate the last bastion of whimsical childhood naivety with this malicious, eavesdropping drone? Again, I defer to Ms. Williams:

Part of why I dislike the Elf is the same reason I dislike Facebook’s privacy settings — he’s an Orwellian nightmare. Let’s teach our children that privacy is meaningless! I may have grown up with a Santa who sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake, but my Santa was never lurking around in my house, keeping tabs on me for weeks at a time. I don’t know, I just find the whole concept of an advent-long period of intense scrutiny by some judgmental little voyeur in a pointy hat creepy. (Salon.com)

If you’ve concluded that Williams and I are cynical, anti-Christmas Grinches (when it comes to Elf on the Shelf, though little else,) we’re in good company:

If you are unaware of the tradition of Elf on the Shelf, it is where parents get a creepy looking little elf doll and put him all over their house to act as their children’s parole officer. The Elf then flies to the North Pole each night to report to the big guy himself on whether the kids’ behavior is good enough to land them on the “nice” list. It is a genius idea for behavior modification through gratuitous lying. (Sweeneyville)

The elf creeps me out. I said it. I said what you might have been thinking. His smug grin and vintage eyes creep me out. He’s playing tricks and sneaking around our house. CREEPY. (whitehouseblackshutters.com)

Holy crap, y’all. It was working! I had accidentally implemented a moralistic police state in my own home… That got me thinking about the other 11 months of the year…. After much consideration I’ve decided to introduce another Big Brother-type helper to our family. (Rants from Mommyland)

Would it shock you to discover that our home is not and will not ever be a haven for this little Santa snitch? … It made me uncomfortable to wield the Santa weapon over my children’s head…. It makes already anxious children even more paranoid around this time of year… And this physical representation is placed in their home! It is there to scare them into submission every day from Thanksgiving until Christmas time. It invades the child’s one safe place where nothing will harm them, the place where they are encouraged (rightly so) by their parents to feel protected from all the ‘bad’ and ‘evil’ things out in the world, the place where they are loved unconditionally for who they are and not by what they can or cannot do nor for what they do or do not do. How can this sanctuary remain so when there is something sitting there on the shelf or mantel staring at them and judging each behavior every minute of each day from November 25th until December 25th? (Lunar Wisdom)

Enough. You get the point. Why no kids? Elf on the Shelf!

2012 Childfree Data Dump

The Ultimate Christmas Present

Ultimate Christmas Present (Wikipedia)

So it’s almost Christmas and you’re sending your third post card (easier for elves to eavesdrop) to Santa asking for a sexy digital tablet. An iPad, Kindle, Nook, Nexus,… anything!

“I just want to read Why No Kids? from the comfort of my sofa! Is that so wrong?”

No. It’s not wrong. It’s your childfree right. And it’s very, very good.

In anticipation of your glossy new, backlit ereading device we’ve compiled a WNK digest to turbocharge your first day on the sofa. Er, ahem, your first day on the sofa reading Why No Kids? on your sexy new tablet.

Actually… that’s not 100% true. The reality is, 2012 is winding up and we’ve got almost four dozen post “stubs” that we haven’t managed to finish and publish. And we don’t want them to drag into 2013 without you’re getting a chance to plunge into the wild and wooly world of WNK wonkery. Really. So, we’ve decided to wrap up some of the best almost-published posts in shiny holiday wrapping paper and frilly Technicolor ribbon for you to enjoy. Before they get stale.

Don’t worry, it’s not four dozen. Or even one dozen. But ten. Ten you’ll-thank-us-afterward childfree gems for you to savor on your new toy. I mean, your new tool. Enjoy!

Childfree Aggression

There are two types of childfree people; those who like children but are happy without their own, and those aggressive ones who down right hate children and wish they would disappear from the face of the planet – or would at least be locked up with their breeder parents into a kennel somewhere out of sight until they turn 18, or preferably 25. The later mentioned are to the childfree what “breeders” are to parents – the ones that give all of us a bad rep.

What troubles me the most about aggressive childfree people is that they often demand respect for their choice to not “breed”, but offer no respect to the parents choice to have children. ~ Sebastyne (insightfulpath.net

Laura Carroll on Childfree Myths

The Childless Revolution, by Madeline Cain

Childless Revolution

Laura Carroll, an early and inspiring friend of Why No Kids? is the author of Families of Two. Watch this video excerpt of Laura Carroll on The Early Show exposing myths about childless couples. “When asked about making a childfree choice, Laura recommends seeking mutual understanding, being open and truthful with family and friends as well as being selective about who you tell…” (YouTube)

42% of American Women are Childless

A blast of Pure Oxygen with Madeline Cain, author of The Childless Revolution, reveals that nearly half of the women in the United States do not have children. This interview includes two early middle age adults who’re childfree by choice. Discover why… (YouTube)

No Kids Allowed: Childfree Movie Theaters

When I went to see Spider-man… A young couple had a child of about 3 who yelled, cried, and squirmed throughout a good portion of the movie… The parents tuned out the child and blissfully watched their movie… When Jake and I were at the Avengers, there was a couple a few rows up who had about 5 children under the age of 7. Up and down the aisles they ran, while the youngest cried and fussed. The parents took nary a notice… Parents, you have to understand, whatever disturbance your children were to you during the movie, it was 10X worse for everyone around you. (Hackman’s Musings)

Bill Maher on Children and Childfreedom

This pair of Bill Maher videos uploaded to YouTube by somebody less worried about copyright than about spreading the childfree gospel is entertaining if occasionally chaotic: Politically Incorrect, Childfree People and Children, Part 1 and Politically Incorrect, Childfree People and Children, Part 2.

Malaysia Airlines Childfree Change

No children under the age of 12, including infants, will be permitted in the airline’s 70-seat coach-class zone, which will be located on the upper deck of the airline’s new Airbus A380s… The posh airline will only allow children in the 300-seat main lower deck… Malaysia is the first airline to ban children from any economy class section. Last year, Malaysia Airlines banned infants from first class sections of all of its long-distance flights. (budgettravel.com)

3 and 6 Year Olds Crash Car

A large hole is in a wall of a Fairborn [Ohio] apartment building after a young child drove a truck into it Saturday morning… Fairborn police said a 3-year-old and 6-year-old were operating the truck when it smashed through the building’s wall… The two boys took the keys to the truck while their parents were asleep in the family’s apartment, Fairborn police said. The boys hit a pole with truck before crashing through the wall… (whiotv.com)

Do Parents Matter?

In his new book, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think, Caplan tackles the conventional wisdom about parenting. In a world of Tiger Moms and helicopter parents who monitor and agonize over every minor activity in which their children engage, the father of three says that parents actually have minimal influence over long-term outcomes for their children… (Reason.tv.)

No Kidding!

No Kidding! International is an international non-profit social club created for singles and couples who have never had children… There are numerous chapters in Canada, the United States and several other countries… The stated purpose of No Kidding! is to give childless and childfree adults a place to talk about interesting topics without being alienated by peers who consistently talk about their kids, and the opportunity to make new childfree friends. (Wikipedia)

Childless Women: From Pitied to Empowered

Off to Ireland for our final childfree gem, this time to explore the increasingly open dialogue about and among childfree women with — among other unencumbered women — unmarried and childless Cameron Diaz. After you’ve read “What to expect when you’re childless” let us know what what you think about the present and future of childless women. (Herald.ie)

Two Children or Three?

Small and romantic road

Romantic Umbria (Credit: adamo1978)

Time for a timeless flashback… Topic? Children versus adventure. Children versus carefree, fiesta marriage lifestyle. Children versus spontaneous travel. Remember this riff?

In The Juggle,  WSJ.com blog about “choices and tradeoffs people make as they juggle work and family” John J. Edwards III waxed nostalgic for the early days of marriage before he had children.

Like many married-with-kids jugglers, my wife and I look back fondly on our pre-children days… we had many fun times and adventures, from frequent parties in our apartment to a surprise long weekend in Paris. (WSJ.com)

He ruminates on the lifestyle freedom enjoyed by couples who opt not to embrace parenting but concedes that

it’s a cohort that often finds itself misunderstood or even ostracized as friends procreate. (WSJ.com)

He refers to a story posted at DINKlife.com by a woman who has endured countless painful experiences due to her childfree choice.

“but the statement we feel best sums it all up was when a very close couple told us that they did not see us in their lives anymore as we were making the ‘unnatural choice.’ ” (WSJ.com)

The author wraps up with a palpable yearning for the days when he and his bride could zip off to Umbria, Italy like his childfree colleagues at work, but is quick to admit that his suburban social bubble is kid central with nary a childfree couple in the mix.

In fact, the big question generally is “two children or three?” rather than whether or not to have kids. (WSJ.com)

Childfree Christmas

English: Christmas-themed check mark

Childfree Christmas? Check… (Credit: Wikipedia)

While Christmas is arguably the most family-centric holiday of the year, it poses discomfiting challenges to those of us Aurora Bordeaux (author of the perennially engaging childfree blog, Baby Off Board) dubs “Childfree martians”.

Being surrounded on all sides by kids kids kids makes you a little raw by the end of the day. Kids don’t bother me most of the time unless they’re being loud, but what nags me is… [that] I begin to feel like a Martian…

This is something I go through every year, but this year is different… I’m more adept at dodging or ignoring questions about the status of my aging uterus. I am more comfortable with who I am, plus I have this widely read blog to sound off on. I may be temporarily out of my element, but the minutes tick by a lot faster when I consider that tomorrow I’ll publish this and at various points across the globe, other people who I’ve never met may identify with my Martian status.

So, fellow childfree Martians… You’re not my family, but that doesn’t mean you don’t mean a lot. I’m glad you’re there, wherever there is, because when I’m in the midst of the in-laws, deep down I can remind myself that I’m not the only one of my kind. (Family Vacation, Part I: I am Martian)

Bravo, Bordeaux! You nailed it. Christmas remains one of the most un-childfree times of the year. Or maybe the most childfree misunderstood times of the year. I suspect that much of it hinges upon the conventional understanding of what constitutes a family.

Is a childfree couple a family? Hell, yes! (Sorry for the profane affirmation, folks, but the sacred is always sexier when coupled with the profane, no?) Childfree families are no less families than divorced families or deceased grandparent families or gluten free families or homeless families…

And yet my bride and I are frequently told, “Well, you don’t have a family, so…” Read: no kids equals no family, and no family equals no real Christmas. After all, Christmas is all about the children, right? Perhaps. At least for parents who sign a pledge the day they reproduce that they will henceforth live through their progeny; they will henceforth sublimate their whimsical, carefree desires while bending over backwards to provide same for said offspring; and they will henceforth swear that they’ve known no greater reward than sacrificing for their mini-me’s (usually expressed after a lengthy vent about their baby “buyer’s remorse”.)

Childfree Christmas Secret

So, yes, perhaps real Christmas is for children. But the really cool secret of childfree families is that we’re still kids. No, not all the time. We’re card carrying members of the adult club — in fact, we’re afforded a boatload of VIP only perks denied to parents — but we’re also lifetime members of the kiddy club. Which means, Santa Claus and the Easter bunny (and sometimes even the Tooth Fairy) still believes in us and vice versa. And trust me, this is good. This makes for much anticipation leading up to Christmas and one heck of a romantic Christmas morning. Unfortunately, parents, we childfree families also sign a pledge that includes the clause:

We do solemnly swear to keep mum about the emotional, erotic and mysterious indulgences of childfree Christmas eve and morning.

Sorry. We don’t want to upset the social balance. After all, we depend on parents to keep the species around, the economy up and the childfree lines short. We depend on parents to soak up the stress and cynicism so that we have room to dream and fulfill our dreams. I know. Selfish. We hear that a lot. Yes, at Christmas too. While we do have a few opinions about who’s being selfish in the grander scheme of things, Christmas isn’t the best time to sound off. Parents are fragile right now. We get it. We’re sympathetic. We’re grateful.

Childfree Christmas Wishes

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Espera...

“Pretend” Santa Claus Photos (Credit: Wikipedia)

So we’re giving you a free pass now, but there are a couple of matters we’d like you to consider while we’re celebrating Christmas among childfree families. Cut us some slack in the “You’re not a family” department. At least until after New Year’s. Scratch that. Until January 2nd, because childfree families really like to party on December 31! Check out Laura Carroll’s “The Art of Childfree-Parent Conversation at Holiday Parties” for some pointers.

We’re coming into holiday party time, and as the childfree know, at these kinds of gatherings often people’s kids are a major topic of conversation… Parents often talk a lot about their kids because it is secure social conversational terrain for them. (La Vie Childfree)

We’ll talk junior news for a bit, but let’s find some common ground after you’ve covered the basics. It’s one thing if we dive in, ask questions, encourage you to wax on about Jillian’s poopy progress or Preston’s playground prowess. But if we don’t, if our heads begin to bob and our eyes glaze over, try something else. What are you reading? Seen any interesting art lately? What about concerts, opera, foreign lands, exotic restaurants? You get the picture. Almost anything!

And a closing thought, again culled from the bodacious Bordeaux.

The Santa experience doesn’t seem to be as much about the child now as it is about the photograph… Many parents seem obsessed with creating a magical photo that outshines the season, one that’s concrete proof that their precious little one experienced the whimsy and grandeur of the holiday rather than waited in line for hours with a bunch of other crying kids with H1N1 who don’t understand what the hell is going on. (Baby Off Board)

Childfree families really, really don’t get this ritual. We’re not judging, but it’s totally antithetical to the way we live. As outsiders, parenting sometimes seems to include a lot of “pretend” moments immortalized in photos and anecdotes. Pretend we love being parents and don’t ever regret it. Ever. Pretend that photo of a catalog-perfect family wasn’t taken after a 15 minute tantrum, a slew of bribes and a gangplank of threats. Pretend it was worth wasting a sunny afternoon that you could have spent skiing or quaffing vin chaud to get that darling snapshot of Jillian and Preston on a red nosed Santa’s lap.

Again, we’re not judging. But a quick glimpse is plenty. Even no glimpse if you’d rather share with another parent better attuned to pretend pictures.

A very merry, holly jolly childfree Christmas to you!

Childfreedom: I Hate Being a Mom

67 of 365 ~ Mum

Childfreedom: I hate being a mom (Credit: tanya_little)

Just to be clear, I don’t hate being a mom. In fact, I’m not a mom at all.

So what’s with the title, “Childfreedom: I Have Being a Mom”? Good question. I’ll try to explain.

Some people Google their name. Others scour Twitter for self referential tweets. Google gargle, chirp-chirp…

While it may seem just about as peculiar, Team WNK Googles (and Twitter searches) for childfree topics. For fun. In our spare time. While waiting in line at the grocery story. Or riding the elevator and trying not to stare at the gargantuan pregnant lady huffing and puffing beside us.

Yes, it’s a little obsessive, but we’re fascinated. The more we think and read and talk and blog about childfreedom, the more curious we become. And it turns out we’re not alone. The media and the social web are every day more obsessed with the parenting vs. childfreedom debate(s). It’s become a “thing”!

Google Noodling Childfreedom

So the other day I was searching Google on a whim, “noodling” as some say. My search term? Childfreedom.

There’s something undeniably slogan-y about the slang term “childfreedom”, but I love it.

I picture it emblazoned across the bikin’ed buttocks of a fetching middle aged lady striding down an exotic beach. Perhaps my bride? Or embroidered into an elegant bodice. Definitely my bride. (I wonder if I can dig one of those up for Christmas…)

Linguists recoil at words like childfreedom, a derivative of a derivative. Diluted. Meaningless. Except that it’s not. Childfreedom is the conjunction of childfree (a slang conjunction in its own right) and freedom. My eyes pour over the newest results for “childfreedom” and I follow a few links, read, take notes, click back to Google.

At the bottom of the page I freeze.

I Hate Being a Mom

What? At the bottom of Google search result pages — and just above where you can click to go to the next page of search results — Google provides a list of related searches. In this case it reads, “Searches related to childfreedom” and it lists the following:

Most of these search queries make sense. I expected them. But the first one, the top recommendation from the smart, smart, smart robots over at Google was not what I expected. And yet here it is:

Google searches related to Childfreedom

Google searches related to Childfreedom

Of course, I was simultaneously appalled and fascinated. Google, in it’s infinite wisdom — deduced from millions of searches all around the globe all day, every day — associated “I hate being a mom” as the most likely related search term for somebody interested in the idea of childfreedom. Even before the rather obvious “Childfree by choice”!

I can’t help but imagine the desperate keystrokes of a frantic mother.

Bye-bye, bikini.

Bye-bye, bodice.

Needless to say, I clicked and discovered that Google indexes about 70,200,000 web pages for the search term “I hate being a mom”. Yes, over 70 million!

Why no kids? Enough said.

Why No Kids? Golden Eagles!

Sometimes my clever riffs on absolutely-positively-definitively why no kids demand detailed explanation. Diagrams. Graphs. Sometimes even interviews and strategically constructed arguments are necessary to spell out the childfree merits of the decision that my bride and I made and continue to make. But today, my why no kids explanation demands neither diagrams or graphs. Not even interviews.

Why No Kids? Watch the Video!

English: Golden eagle

Why no kids? Golden eagles! (Wikipedia)

I’ll mash up a pair of brief quotations to spell out the video action for those who need a little hand holding:

A video from Montreal shows a giant Golden Eagle swooping down and snatching a small child… [at] Mount Royal in Montreal. The cameraman has the video tracking a giant Golden Eagle as it glides through the air, but then the bird marks a sharp turn and descends downward toward a child sitting on the ground… the Golden Eagle snatches the child, who appears to be two or three years old, eliciting a curse from the cameraman who goes running to help. (The Inquisitr)

Fortunately, the eagle was not able to pull off the greatest aviary caper in world history, probably because small humans weigh many more pounds than big rodents. (Gawker)

Why No Kids? Golden Eagles!

The equation is simple. And definitive. Why no kids? Golden eagles!