May 23, 2018

Celebrities, WiNKs, Taboos and The Childfree Apology

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

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

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

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

And when a mother DOES speak out against mothering like Roseanne did on Roseanne’s Nuts? Is she inviting the hatred and judgment hoisted on Casey Anthony? (Also guilty of not wanting kids at the very, very least.) No. But she’s entering taboo territory, a place where people overreact and use the word “crazy”. Roseanne was bold. Because these are words that mothers aren’t allowed to speak. “Don’t have kids” or “I wish I didn’t have kids” are somehow heard as “I wish they weren’t alive” or “I hate children”. It seems. What do you think?

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

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

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Two is Enough: Childless by Choice

Two is Enough: A Couple's Guide to Living Childless by Choise

Two is Enough: A Couple's Guide to Living Childless by Choise

I’ve just read a lengthy excerpt from Laura S. Scott’s Two Is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice. I’m hooked!

I’m pretty certain that Susan and I could have written this book… But just to make sure, I’ve ordered a copy. I’ll share my thoughts once I’ve consumed the whole book and passed it along to my bride for her thoughts. If you want a jump start, the excerpt appears in this article: “More couples going childless by choice?” To whet your appetite here’s a passage that grabbed me right off the bat.

I recognized just how strange I must have seemed to him. Here was a person who could not imagine a life without kids trying to understand a person who could not imagine a life with kids. I was struggling to find the words to explain why someone would choose a childless marriage, and “love” and “companionship” were all I could come up with. It was the most honest answer I could give, but it clearly did not satisfy him, leaving me with the very distinct feeling that the underlying question was “Is love enough?” (TODAY.com)

This is an all too familiar experience. I can only imagine how strange I must seem to my brother, the father of two intelligent, funny, athletic, beautiful girls. How strange I must seem to unabashedly relish time spent with my nieces and yet opt out of having children myself. Perhaps we’re not meant to fully comprehend one another’s choices…

I could understand why parents might have difficulty wrapping their brains around intentional childlessness. It was strange, even to me. Here I was, a healthy, happily married woman, surrounded by parents and parents-to-be, yet I had never felt a pang of longing for a child. I enjoy spending time with kids and I understand the appeal of children, but I’ve never wanted one for myself. (TODAY.com)

I suspect that many childfree couples will identify with this book. The notion of a guide intrigues me. Is that tongue-in-cheek? Or does it genuinely intend to instruct? Will it help me communicate to my parent friends why loving children but choosing not have have them is not a double standard? I’ll keep you posted! In the mean time, if you’d like to purchase a copy of Two Is Enough you can find it on Amazon. Cheers!

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?

Vicki Larson: How Not To Save A Marriage

READ – Vicki Larson: How Not To Save A Marriage.

Thanks to Vicky Larson and GINK – green inclinations, no kids for bringing us another compelling story, and an appropriate follow-up to the earlier WNK piece by Vicki Larson:  Are Childless Couples Headed Toward Divorce? Vicky is a great researcher and thinker, and certainly a conversation starter. She has responded to comments from our writers and readers, so don’t be afraid to share your own questions or thoughts.

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Five Reasons Childfree Adults May Be Happier Than Parents

"Psychology Today" magazine... Could...

Click Here for the full article: Five Reasons Childfree Adults May Be Happier Than Parents | Psychology Today.

This post may be worth revisiting, especially for those uncertain about having babies, or how doing so may affect their life and relationships.

To sum it all up, don’t have a child because you think it will bring you happiness or improve your marriage. If you’re not content with your life prior to kids, this discontent will likely continue after the child is born. Plus, it’s important to recognize the challenges that parenting will bring. There are positives and negatives in every life choice, and it’s important to weigh these out as you create the landscape of your future.

Psychology Today is an excellent resource for a variety of perspectives and studies.For more information search “parenting” or “childfree” on the Psychoogy Today website. There are many compelling pieces by Ellen Walker, Ph.D., author of Complete Without Kids.

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Video Vasectomy Shocker: A Survivor’s Tale of Survival

Jason Jones conducting an interview for The Da...

Image via Wikipedia

A Survivor’s Tale of Survival – I Survived – The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – 08/04/11 – Video Clip | Comedy Central.

This isn’t just another vasectomy story. Ot is it? Jason Jones is seeking a cure for a “disease” that makes him exhausted, fat and dirty?

Jason Jones narrating: “The doctor held my life in his hands.”

Jason Jones: ”Would you say I have a larger than average vas deferens?”

Surgeon: “You have a great size vas deferens

Jason Jones: “Thank you Dr. Weiner

Ann Landers on Childfree Families

Ann Landers: It's OK to not want children

Ann Landers: It's OK to not want children

Sometimes it’s important to analyze artifacts, decrypt opinions, interpret statements. And sometimes it’s important to step aside and let the evidence speak for itself.

The latter was my reaction when we received this old, yellowed news clipping from a reader. A quick search online turned up a copy of the the original text which I’m including below to make it a little easier for you to read. The piece is tongue-in-cheek, and all the richer for it. Enjoy!

Dear Ann Landers: I have four children, all grown up, married and on their own. They were quite a handful to raise, but they turned out great.

I have a fond recollection of a column you printed a few years back about the joys of having kids. Our two oldest children now have kids of their own, and I think they would appreciate a good laugh.

Will you please run that column again?

Reader in Gary

Dear Reader: It’s one of my all-time favorites too. Thank you for asking.

Musings of a Good Father on a Bad Day

There’s nothing sadder than the childless couple. It breaks your heart to see them stretched out, relaxing around swimming pools in Florida and California, suntanned and miserable on the decks of boats, trotting off to enjoy Europe like lonesome fools–with money to spend, time to enjoy themselves and nothing to worry about.

Childless couples become so selfish and wrapped up in their own concerns that you feel sorry for them. They don’t fight over the kids’ discipline. They miss all the fun of “doing without” for the child’s sake. It’s a pathetic sight.

Everyone should have children. No one should be allowed to escape the wonderful experiences attached to each stage in the development of the young. The happy memories of those early years–saturated mattresses, waiting for sitters who don’t show, midnight asthma attacks, rushing to the emergency room of the hospital to get the kid’s head stitched up.

Then comes the payoff–when the child grows from a little acorn into a real nut. What can equal the warm smile of a small lad with the sun glittering on $1,500 worth of braces–ruined by peanut brittle–or the frolicking, carefree voices of 20 hysterical savages running amok at a birthday party?

How sad not to have children to brighten your cocktail parties–massaging potato chips into the rug and wrestling with guests for the olives in their martinis.

How empty is the home without challenging problems that make for a well-rounded life–and an early breakdown; the end-of-day report from Mother, related like strategically placed blows to the temple; the tender, thoughtful discussions when the report card reveals that your senior son is a moron.

Children are worth every moment of anxiety, every sacrifice. You know it the first time you take your son hunting. He didn’t mean to shoot you in the leg. Remember how he cried? How sorry he was? So disappointed you weren’t a deer. Those are the memories a man treasures.

Think back to that night of romantic adventure, when your budding, beautiful daughter eloped with the village idiot. What childless couple ever shares in such a wonderful growing experience? Could a woman without children equal the strength and heroism of your wife when she tried to fling herself out of the bedroom window? Only a father could have the courage to stand by–ready to jump after herThe childless couple lives in a vacuum. They try to fill their lonely lives with dinner dates, theater, golf, tennis, swimming, civic affairs and trips all over the world.

The emptiness of life without children is indescribable.

See what the years have done. He looks boyish, unlined and rested. She is slim, well-groomed and youthful. It isn’t natural. If they had kids, they’d look like the rest of us–tired, gray, wrinkled and haggard. In other words, normal. (Chicago Tribune)

Permissive Parenting


Interview with LZ Granderson on taming your toddler from: www.cnn.com (share this clip)

LZ Granderson tackles a sensitive topic in “Permissive Parents: Curb your brats“, reminding parents that consistent, ongoing discipline is critical to good parenting. And to preventing your friends from hating your kids!

We’ve all experienced it, even the most kid empathetic amongst us. You’re waiting to see the dentist, and a three year old is spreading magazines all over the waiting room floor. Or you’ve just settled into your seat for an overnight flight across the Atlantic Ocean and the ten year old in front of you starts playing video games with the volume cranked, bouncing back and forth in his chair, gradually pounding your knees to oblivion. Every day we come across absentee parenting scenarios that frustrate, annoy, even anger us. But can you parent somebody else’s kids? The verdict’s still out on that one.

“The rest of the world should not have to be subjected to your bratty kids.”

I’ll second that! And yet we do. Every day. “Kids are not the center of the universe,” Granderson reminds us, and we shouldn’t allow their whims, urges and needs to dictate our social interactions. And yet so many parents do exactly that. And in the process they allow their kids to alienate others in their social circles.

So what should parents be doing differently when it comes to raising and disciplining kids? I won’t try to armchair quarterback the question, because I don’t have kids of my own. I’ll admit up front that the best ones to answer this question are parents, and ideally parents with well behaved kids. Nevertheless, I am an uncle four times over, and I told middle school and high school students for enough years to learn a few things.

I agree with Granderson that discipline must start early and never waver. It must be real and fair and reliable. And infractions aren’t mortal sins; they’re learning opportunities. But discipline’s an easy out. As Granderson acknowledges in this interview, discipline means different things for different families. And I don’t think that there’s much merit in arguing what universal yardstick could be applied to all families and all situations. It’s probably also worth admitting that I’m not a fan of physical punishment.

I submit to you that even more important than discipline is ongoing instruction. Teach your children what is appropriate again and again, and most will eventually grok the big picture. Create consistent, inalienable expectations and parameters. Kids need boundaries. They need to test them and even need to break them sometimes, but they need boundaries. I’ve literally had students tell me this. I’m not kidding! Exceptions are confusing to kids, and your “nice” exception today blurs expectations tomorrow. I also believe that parents often neglect to teach their kids that different domains/situations demand different behaviors. So many youngsters operate in only one mode. No good. Help your kid understand the difference between interacting with children and adults, informal situations like play dates and formal situations like school or church, home and school, etc. Vocabulary, voice, gesture, physical interaction differ in all of these contexts. Help your kid recognize and understand these often subtle differences, and the world (and my day) will be better. Thanks!

Rip, Laugh, Repeat

It’s all in the timing. After sharing the “Why no kids? Wino kids” video as a tongue-in-cheek debut post on the WNK website and the WNK Facebook page I stumbled upon this baby humor gut-buster. Actually, it’s one of three similarly goofy videos of babies laughing at ripped paper. Not that funny you say? No? Did you laugh? Thought so.

Actually, it’s not that funny. Not three videos-worth, and yet I watched all three. From beginning to end. And I laughed during all three videos. Kids are funny, even when it’s inane-how-can-this-still-make-you-laugh humor. Parents love this stuff. Love it.

“Did I show you the video of my kid laughing at ripped paper? Oh, you’ve got to see it again. It’s sooo funny!”

But after a while it isn’t. Not so much. Unless you’re a parent, perhaps.

See, for those of us who’ve sidestepped the baby, the paper ripping and the video virus, our interest diminishes with each new photo, video, anecdote. I’m sorry. I’m being honest. Really, I’m not a curmudgeon. I want to like the video of your child’s funniest home video. I really do. But after a while… I don’t. The funny wears thin. I’d love to discuss the book you just read, the mountain you just climbed, the sculpture you just created out of mud and ideas. I yearn to laugh and smile and joke about your most recent adventure in Central America, your latest boardroom SNAFU, the chocolate souffle you accidentally prepared with salt instead of sugar. I miss shooting the breeze about politics, windsurfing, fly fishing, heirloom tomatoes…

Do you follow me? Kids are funny. Videos of funny kids doing funny things are funny. But sometimes I miss the old you, the one I enjoyed spending time with before everything was baby, baby, baby.

(Hat tip to Brett Valls for curating this quirky content and Jane Friedman for spreading the love!)