June 19, 2018

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)
Enhanced by Zemanta

(Child)Free Money #1: Can I afford to have kids?

There is ample evidence that household finances affect relationships, stress levels, lifestyles, choices and happiness. Financial security and flexibility are obviously on any list of reasons childfree or childless couples are often happier than parents.

 

So if you are planning to have kids or wrestling with the decision, you might want to consult a calculator or accountant, especially in this uncertain era in which resources are limited, household incomes are stagnant or shrinking, inflation is lurking, and the cost of raising and educating kids has increased rapidly.

 

The USDA’s “Cost of Raising a Child Calculator” is a great place to start. “Cost” is a bit misleading, because the USDA numbers reflect what parents spend on kids before they are 18.

Dr Mark Lino, USDA Economist, explained in an email to WhyNoKids:

“The data we use (the Consumer Expenditure Survey) examines what families are spending. Cost can be a somewhat subjective concept. For example, we look at how much families are spending on children’s clothing. This is a different concept than what it may cost to adequately clothe a child (two pairs of shoes a year, five pairs of pants, etc.).“

 

The USDA site and study are worth a look. But start with this story published July 16:

Priceless and pricey: USDA tallies child-raising costs | Management content from Western Farm Press.

 

Middle income parents of a child born in 2011 can expect to spend about $234,900 ($295,560 if projected inflation costs are factored in*) for food, shelter, and other necessities to raise a child over the next 17 years. Let’s look at the breakdown:

  • A middle income family, defined as a married couple with two children and a before-tax income averaging $79,940, spent approximately $13,050 per year on each child for their first 18 years of life.
  • Expenses averaged about $760 less for younger children from birth to 2 years old, and averaged $1,270 more for teenagers between 15-17 years of age.
  • Teenagers are more expensive because they have higher food costs, as well as higher transportation costs when they start to drive.
  • Housing accounts for the largest expense (30 percent) for a child.  Housing expenses escalate with the need for additional bedrooms and bathrooms. This is followed by child care/education (18 percent) for those with this expense, and food (16 percent).

 

In (Child)Free Money #2, we will calculate how much money couples can save over 18 years by not having children and investing what they would have spent instead.

Enhanced by Zemanta

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?

Nulliparity Health Risks

Pondering nulliparity health risks.

Pondering nulliparity health risks.

Almost nine months ago I attempted to define nulliparity in the context of childfree couples, (“Nulliparity Definition“), and I asked readers to consider stretching the definition at least, at least rhetorically, to include both males and females in nulliparous relationships.

Derived from Latin… a usable nulliparity definition would be the condition of not bearing offspring (normally applied to a human woman). (Nulliparity Definition – Why No Kids?)

A medical term used to refer to a condition or state in which a woman has never given birth to a child, or has never carried a pregnancy. (biology online)

At the time, my endeavor was mostly academic. Educate myself. Educate Why No Kids? readers. Move on. Instead, I’ve stumbled upon worrisome nulliparity health risks.

Is Nulliparity Bad?

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’m drawn to dialogue inspired by (and surrounding) childfree by choice couples. I’m not a strident advocate for childfreedom, nor am I categorically opposed to bearing children. In fact, at times, my conviction is admittedly blurry, but I am always intrigued by the conversations and debate provoked by the parent/childfree divide. It’s a healthy and often entertaining topic, and — though I’m still not prepared to hypothesize exactly why — it’s a debate that provokes ample emotional and intellectual opinioneering.

That said, I’ve never given much credence to claims that choosing not to bear children is ethically wrong, biologically bad or — this is real, folks — a religious sin. Such binary reasoning strikes me as naive, not infrequently hateful and always intolerant. My world is not painted in primary colors, and it’s certainly not black and white. I believe that the parent/childfree divide hinges upon subjective opinions and preferences.

Nulliparity Concerns

But my previous nulliparity post has catalyzed some new questions and concerns for me including the potential for some troubling nulliparity health risks. Ever since publishing the post, we’ve experienced a dramatic uptick in traffic from visitors looking for information about nulliparity. Sure, that’s logical enough. But I was surprised and I remain surprised at the volume of people trying to learn more about nulliparity. Certainly they’re not all “childfree curious”…

Google Insights shows that the trend is global, and that it’s been about seven years since people began looking for more information about nulliparity. A little data mining reveals these top three search queries:

  1. nulliparity definition
  2. nulliparity define
  3. nulliparity breast cancer

The first two are effectively the same search for a definition of the term nulliparity, and their popularity explains the popularity of my first attempt to define nulliparity. But the third most popular search offers a hint at why there’s been growing interest in nulliparity globally. Fear.

Nulliparity Fears

Is nulliparity dangerous? Are there conclusive indications of nulliparity health risks? A quick glimpse at some recent articles suggest that nulliparity may indeed be dangerous.

Changes in decade of first birth and nulliparity do not explain the changes in breast cancer incidence… [but] breast cancer incidence has increased in the same cohorts. (National Institute of Health, NCBI)

A higher incidence of SPM [second primary malignancy] of the breast is observed in women treated for papillary thyroid cancer. Additionally, this risk is increased by nulliparity… (WJSO)

Catholic nuns… pay a terrible price for their chastity because they have a greatly increased risk of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers: the hazards of their nulliparity. (The Lancet)

Nulliparous women had a 44% increased risk of hip fractures independent of hip bone mineral density… childbearing reduces hip fracture risk by means that may be independent of hip bone mineral density. (National Institute of Health, NCBI)

Incidentally, this eerie, late night film plot resurfaces in “Why nuns might be stoking cancer in quest to stay chaste“. Spooky, right? Looks like more research is in order.

Nulliparity’s Silver Lining

Fortunately not all nulliparity news is bad news.

In a linear regression model… it was found that nulliparous women and women who went through menopause later in life had significantly less cognitive decline. (National Institute of Health, NCBI)

So where does this leave us? It’s clear that many people all around the world are concerned about a possibly causal relationship between nulliparity and breast cancer and about nulliparity health risks in general. But from my standpoint, not much else is clear.

Does Nulliparity Increase Health Risks?

I’m hoping that one of our readers will know more about this and share their insights. Does (or should) the definition of nulliparity include increased health risks?
Are there additional nulliparity health risks that I’ve overlooked?

 

What Makes a Family?

The definition of a family has changed to include same sex couples and single parents, even unmarried couples with children, but if you are in a child-free partnership you are not a family.  What makes a family? Children. According to dictionary.com a family is a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not: the traditional family. That means same sex couples and married or unmarried couples are still not considered equal in society. While it warms my heart to see people post charts that include same sex couples and their children as families, I am sad to see that my choice to be child-free keeps me out of the family category.

An ABC news story on a 2010 survey by sociology professor Brian Powell shows that most Americans believe that kids make a family:

“In 2010, almost everyone — 99.8 percent — agreed that a husband, wife and kids count as a family. Ninety-two percent said that a husband and wife without the kids made a family.

“Children provide this, quote, ‘guarantee’ that move you to family status,” Powell said. “Having children signals something. It signals that there really is a commitment and a sense of responsibility in a family.”

For instance, 39.6 percent in 2010 said that an unmarried man and woman living together were a family — but give that couple some kids and 83 percent say that’s a family.

Thirty-three percent said a gay male couple was a family. Sixty-four percent said they became a family when they added children.”

So while we are making baby steps with our wider definition of family it seems that the child-free might be considered family-free for now.

Hey WNKers do you consider yourself part of a family?

Related articles
  • ‘Traditional’ family not typical (bbc.co.uk)
  • http://www.themotherco.com/2011/11/what-is-the-traditional-family/
  • http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/features_momsatwork/2011/07/guest-post-what-makes-a-family.html

Childfree Chicks

Childfree Chicks is a Facebook group set up by Tasmanian Tori Hodgman for “women who have ended up without kids” for various different reasons including:

  • childfree by choice (couples who decide not to procreate)
  • childfree by mistake (couples wait until its too late to procreate)
  • childfree by biology (baby making bits and pieces compromised, etc.)

The popular group is open to “blokes” as well as chicks, and it provides a place to connect with other childfree couples. It’s absent the vitriol and activism often present in other childfree forums and childfree blogs, offering a refreshing place to share stories among kindred spirits.

In a family-oriented community like Tasmania, not having kids can present social, emotional and professional challenges. Tori Hodgman and friends founded Child Free Chicks, a Facebook that has over 300 members, including some passionate blokes. Here’s what she had to say… (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Despite the fact that Childfree Chicks welcomes men, the catchy-if-somewhat-risque name of the group highlights the fact that so much of childfree discourse is woman-centric. Undoubtedly this is due to the disproportionate bias against childfree women, but I’m curious to understand why this imbalance exists. Men often flaunt their childfree status as a badge of honor, but women are frequently derided. It’s as if society expects women to procreate, but willingly allows men to shirk responsibility.

The decision to have a child with a romantic partner isn’t one most adults take lightly. There’s usually quite a bit of discussion involved, and generally both parties have to be into the idea of procreating before they try to conceive together. However, a Daily Mail article published this week suggests that in many cases, one partner — the driven career woman, specifically — is making the decision for both people involved, and she’s deciding to deprive her husband of the joy of fatherhood. (Huffington Post)

Perhaps this disproportionate emphasis on women’s responsibility to procreate is echoed in the disproportionate numbers of single mothers versus single fathers. Now that I’ve wandered well into wild generalization, it’s worth noting… No, I’d better rein it in. Another time, perhaps.

If you compare the terms “childfree chick” and “childfree bloke”, the former sounds vaguely derogatory or dismissive and the latter sounds practically complimentary. Or at least lighthearted.

Just because a woman has a womb, doesn’t mean she should have to use it. That is the opinion of former Waikato University masters student Theresa Riley… who interviewed 10 childfree couples in the course of her year-long research, said people did not have to justify the decision to have children, but couples who chose not to have children often faced cruel judgment for their decision. (Stuff.co.nz)

I agree with Ms. Riley that women’s biological endowments shouldn’t obligate them to procreate, and yet I’m becoming increasingly conscious that society’s expectations and behaviors don’t always agree.

 

From Birth Rates to DINK Perks

‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Bill og Melinda Gates unde...

Bill and Melinda Gates (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you haven’t been active on the Why No Kids? Facebook page lately, then you’ve missed out on some good childfree reads. But don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Here’s the recent hit parade:

  • Melinda Gates’ New Crusade: Investing Billions in Women’s Health “[Melinda] Gates made a decision that’s likely to change lives all over the world… she has decided to make family planning her signature issue and primary public health a priority. ‘My goal is to get this back on the global agenda,’ she says.” (The Daily Beast)
  • Teen Birth Rate Hits Historic Lows “The teenage birth rate declined 9 percent between 2009 and 2010, hitting an all-time low, according to new data released by the National Center for Health Statistics.” (US News and World Report)
  • Growing Number of Women Want to Become Moms to Get Out of Work Apparently pregnancy is looking more and more appealing to British woman, who, according to a new survey, are more likely to want to get pregnant these days so they can score the 52 weeks of maternity leave that is standard in England. Yes, you read that right: Women want to have babies to avoid working for a year. (Glamour)
  • Procreation vs. Overpopulation “In ‘Fruits of Philosophy,’ Knowlton took up the subject of sex… Knowlton was worried about the hazards of fertility… Unlike Malthus, who saw no remedy except plague or abstinence, Knowlton believed that a more agreeable solution was at hand. What he called the “reproductive instinct” need not actually lead to reproduction.” (The New Yorker)
  • Why I Love Being A DINK Although this article trots out rather inane seed answers to to the following question, we know that you can do better! Why do you love being in a dual income no kids relationship? (Business Insider)

Thanks WNKers for your reading recommendations. Please keep them coming!

Childfree Women Lack Humanity

Childless women lack an essential humanity. (Miriam Schaer)“Childless women lack an essential humanity.”

Embroidered across the front of a delicate white toddler’s dress in scarlet letters, this searing slander offers a 21st century modern twist on the proverbial “scarlet letter”. Miriam Schaer a multimedia artist and teacher (Columbia College, Chicago), directs her creative wizardry on childfree women in her online installation for the International Museum of Women‘s MAMA: Motherhood Around the Globe.

New York artist, Miriam Schaer, has created a series of almost disturbing pieces about the perceived value of a woman who chooses not to reproduce… I think you’ll find Schaer’s toddler dresses embroidered with expressions of both confusion and disdain, hurled at women who choose not to have children, both unsettling and thought-provoking. (Strollerderby)

Almost disturbing? I’d suggest that these images are disturbing.

But they also are provocative in their simplicity and their “scarlet letter” resonance. No audio guide is needed to engage the viewer or to invite reflection. These quotations are familiar to the childfree, and they drip with prejudice and downright hostility. But rather than hurt or defensiveness, they trigger a more profound (and more important) question: Why? Why are childfree women threatening? Why do childfree women lack humanity? Why do childfree women meet with intolerance?

Baby (Not) on Board: The Last Prejudice?, addresses the question of why the existence of women who choose maternal independence over child-rearing angers or offends so many people and institutions. The work presented here is part of a continuing exploration of our culture’s pejorative views about women without kids. For Baby (Not) on Board: The Last Prejudice?, I hand-embroidered representative negative comments on baby dresses using red thread to create scarlet letters. Gathered from interviews with childless women, online research, and personal experience, the statements taunt and accuse, and are typical of an endless flow of critical statements that seem to be growing bolder even as non-traditional families are gaining greater acceptance. (Miriam Schaer)

Each image vibrates with smug intolerance, but collectively the images tell a different if somewhat elusive story.

I detect a theme of fragility, of an almost desperate attempt to denigrate and disempower women who have not chosen to be mothers. I detect fear, fragility, urgency, desperation and intolerance. I detect an unquestioning, un-curious, bullying theme. And why? I suspect it is because childfree women are actually gaining respect and acceptance.

Prejudice increases in proportion to the perceived threat, and the perception that more women are choosing not to have children threatens the beliefs and biases of many. In short, the prejudice is a barometer of the increasingly mainstream conversation about a woman’s reproductive freedom. Childfree women are increasingly visible, respected and vocal, so it is inevitable that their detractors will grow louder, angrier. But underlying these images of intolerance is a message of hope, a message of tolerance and perhaps even growing acceptance.

Do you share my optimism? What is your reaction to Miriam Schaer’s images?

Why no kids? Rattlesnakes!

Timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)

Timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve had rattlesnakes on the brain for the last few days.

Timber rattlesnakesCrotalus horridus.

And even Massassagua rattlesnakes. Sistrurus catenatus.

It’s spring in the Adirondacks, and spring means critters, LOTS of critters. I witnessed a hawk shredding a live pigeon about three feet from our breakfast table before my bride donned her pink dish washing gloves, chased the hawk away and saved the wounded pigeon. Sort of. It died, but not in the hands of a vicious raptor.

The hawk’s an efficient and frequent diner at Rosslyn, and judging by the fresh piles of pigeon feathers every few days, we’re up to a half dozen in just two or three weeks.

And two nights ago we startled an ermine imitating a boa constrictor, coiled tightly around the bird feeder. I’m not sure if he was digesting a woodpecker, suet or birdseed.

A little earlier in the spring we had a red fox that cleared out about a half dozen squirrels.

Spring. Critters. Predation…

All of this backyard safari action got me to thinking about kids. Actually, it got me thinking about kids and predators.

Especially the hawk. That bird was a killer. And powerful.

Wikipedia doesn’t list human children as part of the diet of any of these critters, so I should be relieved. I mean, I don’t even have any kids to get eaten alive by a hawk.

And yet while whipping up a couple of posts about rattlesnakes, in particular one massive and extremely lethal looking serpent who appeared and promptly vanished in my rhubarb patch three years ago, I realized that it’s a pretty major relief not to have to worry about these critters getting hold of my own progeny.

I haven’t successfully identified the snake, but I suspect it was a rattlesnake.

I now suspect that I may have spotted a massasauga rattlesnake with markings totally unlike our local Adirondack timber rattlesnakes. (Rosslyn Redux)

Rattlesnakes! (Cochiti Pueblo, NM)

Rattlesnakes! (Photo credit: virtualDavis)

I’m probably wrong. Odds are it was a timber rattlesnake (we have a large, healthy breeding population just a few miles up the road) with unusual coloring for our area. Or possibly, at least in the opinions of some naturalists I’ve spoken to, it was a Northern Copperhead that had wiggled a bit north of their usual northern limit which is apparently a couple of hours south around New Paltz, New York. Global warming?

Lest you’re missing the bottom line, these cool looking snakes are all venomous. (Read poisonous.) Adult fatalities are rare if medical attention is immediate. But kids? Especially little bitty kids? The odds are a bit spookier.

Fortunately rattlesnakes tend to be reserved, preferring to avoid contact and altercations.

Most resources concur that timber rattlesnakes only strike if/when provoked. And common sense should compel anyone happening upon a timber rattlesnake in the wild to avoid provoking it. If the snake is behaving aggressively, coiling and preparing to strike — perhaps even false striking — its defensive behavior indicates that it perceives a threat. Avoid further threatening the snake and withdraw cautiously, slowly. In all likelihood the rattlesnake, no matter how large and menacing, will slither off without striking. (Essex on Lake Champlain)

Good news as long as your tyke is prudent. But it’s a bit of a gamble, no?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m no alarmist. I grew up in the Adirondacks’s Champlain Valley a short bicycle ride away, and I never had to ward off a hungry hawk or get pumped full of anti-venom to save my bacon. But I could have…

So, rather than worrying all the conscientious parents out there who are 100% attentive, shepherding their kids through life’s wilderness perils, I’m just taking a moment to savor the profound relief I feel about never having to worry that junior could stumble across that 3+ foot long snake in my rhubarb patch. The one that’s probably poisonous.

Have a great week!

Leila Revisited

Matti

Image via Wikipedia

In reflecting on the movie Leilait is easy to see the conundrum couples face in traditional cultures when they can’t have or don’t want children.  Many cultures just don’t accept childless unions.  How many people do we know, however, who really might be having children largely for their parents, or for the tradition of having children to carry on their family gene pool, so ingrained in every society, even the most modern of ones?  It’s not uncommon.

I have to admit, the continuity of family heritage, and pleasing one’s parents or in-laws with the gift of grandchildren are compelling reasons to procreate.  My own parents and in-laws have been exceptionally supportive of my decision not to have children, but if I told all of them tomorrow that I had changed my mind, or that I was pregnant, would they be over-the-moon elated?  You bet.  Multiple year-long celebrations would be initiated.  Who doesn’t like to make people you love that happy (especially because of all they did for you)? Who doesn’t like the idea of having your parents and in-laws helping to shape your child if you know they would be great at it?  That part of parenting would be ideal – the part where the baby’s grandparents are cooing over the child, playing on the floor, cleaning up the mess, while you’re reading a book or having cocktails with friends.  But, then the grandparents leave, and you’re stuck with all the responsibility.

Perhaps if we lived with our siblings and parents as adults, like in some traditional societies, raising a child wouldn’t be that daunting, what with all those extra hands to help out. Frankly, multiple wives made it much easier too (but don’t get too excited about that idea until you see the film Leila).

Leila grippingly explores the consequences of ignoring one’s own needs and instincts, and one’s own biological destiny to please another entity, or a culture at large.  It serves as an important reminder to know ourselves and our partners and to ensure that when our partner tells us that he or she does not want a child, to believe it and to discuss that choice with frankness and honesty.

Moreover, people choosing not to have children or questioning whether it is the right choice also need to have those same frank conversations with their parents.  Hopefully, if they love you enough, and if they are not as imperious and opportunistic as Reza’s mother, they will happily accept the grand dog or cat and more quality time together (because you’re not saddled with the time demands of parenting) that you offer them instead.