December 1, 2021

Open Letter to a Green Mama

A landfill in Poland

Image via Wikipedia

Dear Green Mama,

I just bought diapers. They are for your new baby. As a childfree woman this is an exceptional and eye-opening day for me. Thank you for taking the time to research the environmental impact of having a child and choosing to use cloth diapers instead of disposables. And thank you for educating me on the new technology of the old standard cloth diapers. Gone are safety pins and saggy rubber pants. Cloth diapers are now made of wool, bamboo, unbleached hemp, and cotton with snug waterproof covers in every color in the Crayola box. You also told me about the burden of disposable diapers on our landfills:

“An average child will go through several thousand diapers in his/her life. Since disposable diapers are discarded after a single use, usage of disposable diapers increases the burden on landfill sites, and increased environmental awareness has led to a growth in campaigns for parents to use reusable alternatives such as cloth or hybrid diapers. An estimated 27.4 billion disposable diapers are used each year in the US, resulting in a possible 3.4 million tons of used diapers adding to landfills each year.” (Source Wikipedia)

There has been much debate over landfill for disposable diapers vs. water usage for cloth diapers. Which is better for the environment? Bleached industrial cotton is terrible for the environment and so is using a washing machine and detergent. However, if you use a full load (pardon the pun) and green laundry products they are better both baby and the world.

Fact: The use of cloth diapers goes up in hard economic times. Parents will spend between $2,000 and $3,000 before potty training on each child vs. $300 for cloth, and the cloth diapers can be recycled and reused for additional children. (Or how about skipping that next child to save some money and the environment?)

But are the cloth diapers better for baby? Many experts believe that potty training is easier for kids with cloth diapers because they can actually feel when they are wet. The fabrics are also free of chemicals and are relatively easy to use.

Back to Green Mama. Thank you also for having a “green shower” free of wrapping paper, decorative paper bags, and plastic bows. Instead, presents will come in reusable baskets and “wrapping” will include cloth diapers with reusable bows. Just during the holidays alone wrapping paper makes up four million tons of waste. I love the idea of eliminating wrapping paper and using cloth instead of disposable. This is one idea that we can all make part of our routine. Just a suggestion, you may not want to wrap your gifts for the childfree in cloth diapers.

Dear WNKers, What do you buy your friend’s babies for gifts?

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Excuses, Excuses…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bad Parenting? Sue Your Parents!

Should mothers be sued for bad parenting?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gawker weighed in with a curious twist:

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

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

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The cost of raising a child climbed 40% over the past decade

CNN

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Read: The cost of raising a child climbed 40% over the past decade – Sep. 21, 2011.

“Forget designer strollers and organic baby formula, just providing a child with the basics has become more than most parents can afford.”

Needless to say, earnings have not kept pace and the fact that it is more difficult to save today, as a result of financial costs, cultural norms and the slow economy, many people simply can;t afford to choose to have a baby. Or, by the time they have saved enough to consider procreating, there are entirely new risks (costs) to consider.

WNK promises to examine the costs, (hard and hidden) of raising children more closely in the near future. In the meantime, check out the article in it’s entirety and the comments below, including my response to the following attack on childfree and childless people:

“People who opt to not have children are a burden on the SS and Medicare systems. They shouldn’t be entitled to these benefit since the taxes we are paying today go to our parents benefits as they paid for theirs before them. I am raising two children to replace my wife and my contributions to the system. What are you non-procreating people contributing to our beloved social systems? Nothing.” (Cont’d)

I have some difficulty with the way these articles classify what people spend, in this story it is “middle-income” families, as “cost”. People certainly raise children for less, so it is misleading I think to classify spending as cost. And someone (possibly me) should seek some clarity about inflation assumptions and other factors that are used to come up with the alleged $226,920 a middle-income family will supposedly spend on raising a child BEFORE paying college tuition. Regardless, the true costs of choosing to have a child, many children, or remaining childfree, deserve to be examined more closely. If you have more questions, comments, contributions or confusion, let us know and we’ll try to address them soon.

Here are a few quick highlights from today’s CNN story:

“From buying groceries to paying for gas, every major expense associated with raising a child has climbed significantly over the past decade, said Mark Lino, a senior economist at the USDA.”

 

“All of this comes at a time when incomes are shrinking and unemployment is near an all-time high. Over the past decade, median household income have fallen 7%, according to a recent report from the Census Bureau.”

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Fatherhood Diminishes Testosterone

Caveman Training

Image by hall.chris25 via Flickr

According to a study reported in the New York Times and delicately recapped in The Art of Manliness, dads suffer from diminished testosterone.

after a man has a kid, his testosterone levels drop, and the more involved he gets in child-rearing, the lower his T levels fall… This reduction in testosterone is thought to help men commit to their families and stick around to rear their progeny. (Fatherhood Leads to a Drop in Testosterone)

In a big-picture kind of way, I get it. By the time junior arrives on the scene testosterone has already put in a hard day at the office. It is largely responsible for making a man big, strong and virile which may (or may not) be why a woman is drawn to him. Testosterone is also tied to aggressive behavior, ostensibly valuable for courtship and defending the female from other aggressive suitors. And then there’s that testes part, also important if junior is going to get started. And then suddenly, testosterone is less relevant. In fact, it might even get in the way. Time to cut the T levels so daddy can focus on hearth, home and juniors. No more chest thumping or wayward adventures. No need for testes. Time to change diapers and make airplane noises while trying to plug rubber-edged spoonfulls of mush into junior’s mouth. And then clean it up from his chin. And the floor.

the more he gets involved in caring for his children — changing diapers, jiggling the boy or girl on his knee, reading “Goodnight Moon” for the umpteenth time — the lower his testosterone drops. (In Study, Fatherhood Leads to Drop in Testosterone)

Perhaps the perfect papa is virtually testosterone-free? This study might generate interesting hypotheses about men’s mid-life crises. Kids are packed off to college and Viagra is floating around. Maybe long hibernating T levels start to awaken…

But, fathers, take note. Subgrade testosterone levels don’t make you a wimp. Really.

“Unfortunately,” Dr. Ellison added, “I think American males have been brainwashed” to believe lower testosterone means that “maybe you’re a wimp, that it’s because you’re not really a man. “My hope would be that this kind of research… would make them realize that we’re meant to be active fathers and participate in the care of our offspring. (In Study, Fatherhood Leads to Drop in Testosterone)

Active fathers, yes. Wimps, no. Sensitive, caring, nurturing dads who are less likely to be distracted by that sexy new associate who joined the firm. Which isn’t to say that your mojo’s totally shot, just diminished. A bit…

The lowering of their testosterone did not prevent the men in the study from having more children. “You don’t need a lot of testosterone to have libido,” Dr. Kuzawa said.

“If guys are worried about basically, ‘Am I going to remain a guy?’” Dr. Worthman said, “we’re not talking about changes that are going to take testosterone outside the range of having hairy chests, deep voices and big muscles and sperm counts. These are more subtle effects. (In Study, Fatherhood Leads to Drop in Testosterone)

So you can keep your bark, but you might lose your bite. Or something. Go, dads!

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!

I Am the Population Problem

This is one of the most compelling, well-written pieces I’ve read recently: I Am the Population Problem | RH Reality Check.

“Real reproductive freedom has to include social acceptance of the decision not to reproduce.”

Borrowed from friends at GINK – green inclinations, no kids, this story includes some enlightening statistics, great writing and an apology.

“I recognize that I am the population problem. I’m trying to be part of the solution.”

Here are some of the many highlights:

“Population isn’t just about counting heads, although by this October we will be counting 7 billion of them worldwide. The impact of humanity on the environment is not determined solely by how many of us are around, but by how much stuff we use and how much room we take up. And as a financially comfortable American, I use a lot of stuff and take up a lot of room. My carbon footprint is more than 200 times bigger than that of an average Ethiopian, more than 12 times bigger than an average Indian’s, and twice as big as an average Brit’s.”

“Far and away the biggest contribution I can make to a cleaner environment is to not bring any mini-mes into the world. A 2009 study by statisticians at Oregon State University found that in America the climate impact of having one fewer child is almost 20 times greater than the impact of adopting a series of eco-friendly practices for your entire lifetime…”

“Here in the United States, the Pill has been available for more than 50 years. It’s now almost universally accepted that women will use birth control to delay, space out, or limit childbearing. But there’s not so much acceptance for using birth control to completely skip childbearing. At some point, you’re expected to grow up, pair up, put the Pill off to the side, and produce a couple of kids. Deviate from this scenario and you’ll get weird looks and face awkward conversations with family members, friends, coworkers, and complete strangers.”

“Many women who have not already had children find it difficult if not impossible to find a doctor who will perform a tubal ligation. Doctors warn that sterilization is an irreversible, life-altering decision. But having a child is an irreversible, life-altering decision and you don’t find doctors warning women away from that. The broadly held prejudice, in the medical profession and much of the rest of society, is that becoming a parent is the correct and inevitable choice.

Over recent years and decades, it’s become more acceptable for mixed-race couples to have children, and single women, and gay couples, and women over the age of 40, and that’s all good. Acceptance has been slower to come for the decision not to have children. There’s now a fledgling childfree movement, but some who are part of it say they still feel like they’re violating a taboo.”

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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?

Top 10 WNK Links

Clearly, I'm going through something.

Image by missbhavens via Flickr

The proliferation of childfree news, blog posts, etc. is a telling gauge of the growing acceptance of (and interest in) the the choice not to have children. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

  1. Economic and social pressures are loosening the filial obligations that have long bound Chinese society. The younger generation longs for more personal comfort. Many Chinese wouldn’t have larger families even if they were free to do so. Some want no children at all. (Los Angeles Times)
  2. Go to the local grocery store. Take with you the closest thing you can find to a pre-school child. (A full-grown goat is an excellent choice). If you intend to have more than one child, then definitely take more than one goat. Buy your week’s groceries without letting the goats out of your sight. Pay for everything the goat eats or destroys. Until you can easily accomplish this, do not even contemplate having children. (Childfree Me)
  3. If at some point you’ve had an irrepressible, inexplicable urge to make a baby, you may be interested to know there’s a term for that — baby fever — and that it’s a bona fide physical and emotional phenomenon… Although it may be linked to another baby-craving phenomenon commonly known as the “biological clock,” … baby fever isn’t specific to women. Men can get all goo-goo-ga-ga too… (TIME Healthland)
  4. Beyonce confirmed she was pregnant. And Showed off her baby bump. The major news outlets could barely contain themselves and it was the leading news in most of them… What does that say about our society? I think it says society is still obsessed with women having babies no matter how successful they are. Never mind the number of famous people who say they are childfree. (thebritgirl.com)
  5. Hollywood comedies about parenthood depend entirely on making raising a kid look a ridiculous, hectic mess. Then, eventually the leading man finds out that in the end, the rewards make it all worth it… [But] there’s plenty of stuff those movies don’t show you. If they did, their zany comedy about a single father finding a baby on his doorstep would quickly become a nightmare inducing horror that would shut down the genitals of any aspiring parent. (Cracked.com)
  6. Children are an economic liability and parents are desperately trying to find joy in the experience to feel they are getting their money’s worth… Kids are a major purchase. They are kind of like buying an overpriced boat without fully thinking it through… After a while, the newness wears off… [and] you realize that having a boat is more work than you expected… At this point, it might begin to feel a bit like a chore. You don’t want to admit that, so you shove those thoughts away and tell yourself you just love boating because otherwise you’d have to admit to yourself was a stupid fucking idea it was to get the damn boat. You start joining every boat-enthusiast group you can find online and declaring your superiority to all those poor saps who don’t have boats. (Happily Childfree)
  7. I know for a fact that my marriage is happy thanks in large part to being childfree. The stressors that we have avoided in our marriage are too numerous to count… Hubby and I are focused on each other – on making each other happy – on creating special memories together – on sharing life’s ups and downs and being a devoted support system for each other. We are not distracted and neglected… We are not fighting over household tasks. Gender roles. Who does more. We are not stretched to the breaking point… We have all that we need. Each other. (Childfreedom)
  8. Less than half of millionaires who are members of the famously selfish generation—boomers, not their kids—think it’s important to leave money to their children. What’s more important, apparently, is for boomers to enjoy their golden years. (TIME.com)
  9. Children are back in school, and travel deals abound! This week marks the beginning of the off-season for many warm weather destinations, so if you put off your summer vacation due to crowds and peak pricing, now is the time to reward yourself with childfree travel at significant savings… now is the time that the industry gives incentives to those of us who are not hampered by the school year calendar. (No Children by Choice Blog)
  10. I cringe every time I hear some bimbo mommy justifying her stupidity and crap parenting by suggesting that it’s “all natural.” I’m not just talking about breastfeeding “natural” argument, but about a whole slew of other stupid behaviors I’ve heard mommies justify lately with this “natural” bullshit… (Happily Childfree)
  11. I would argue that many of the women who are miserable being moms, regret it with their entire being and would do anything to go back to their life before children, are the very same women who are scornful of the childfree, lie to other women and continue to promote the “scam” that having children is the one true path to happiness and fulfillment. (Childfreedom)
  12. Every now and then a person will make a wild connection in their mind when they hear I’ve chosen not to have kids… they decide that I must be racist… because I don’t have kids of my own, I also automatically don’t like people of other nations and cultures. That is just plain weird to me. (Child Free Zone)

Okay, so I can’t count. I was aiming for ten stories, but I wound up with a dozen. Just goes to show how much childfree buzz there is…

What have you been reading? Watching? Please share your suggestions in the comments below. Thanks!~

Noni Hazlehurst Reads the F**kin’ Sleep Book

I’m returning to familiar territory this morning for no good reason except that I couldn’t resist the temptation to pass along this video of Noni Hazlehurst reading Go the Fuck to Sleep. We’ve featured Adam Mansbach’s Go the F**k to Sleep before. Amy asked, “Is this the beginning of a new trend in ‘kidding around’ lit for parents?” And more recently we chuckled along with Brian while a granny read Go the F**k to Sleep to her less-than-interested grandchild.

Sure, the book’s germane for WNKy DINKs as Mansbach spelled out pretty clearly:

“Despite the tremendous culture of parenting there’s a lot that doesn’t get talked about. Hopefully, the honesty of this book will open up the conversation. These are legitimate ways that we feel, and we should laugh about it, and be honest about these tribulations.” (Today Show)

Opening up the conversation about the breeding/childfree choice is ground zero for Why No Kids? There are plenty of “breeder bashers” and vehement childfree voices calling for change, and though our individual perspectives may sometimes overlap, this blog is an attempt to move beyond entrenched disagreement. This blog is an attempt to provoke, encourage, nurture and support conversation. Dialogue. Debate. The authors do not speak with a unified voice or vision about our childfree choices, nor do we expect that from our readers. But we do hope to catalyze the sort of constructive and healthy consideration that underpins smart choices.

Humor (I’m showing my cards here) is an effective icebreaker. Though Go the F**k to Sleep has inspired the ire of some, many have laughed, have understood that Mansbach is laughing at himself, that he’s employing levity to provoke candor and reflection. He’s not a hater nor an opportunist spotlight junky. He’s a self-deprecating but acclaimed author, and a visiting professor at Rutgers University. Pretty legit credentials, right? And he’s asking you to laugh. And think. And — I’m going out on a limb here — I believe that Australian actress Noni Hazelhurst is doing the same thing in reading Mansbach’s book aloud.

I totally related to it,” she said. “My first child didn’t sleep until he was two, and the first time he did sleep through I thought he’d died.”

The book, and her reading of it, is a bit of fun, she says, “but there’s a serious underlying issue. People need to understand when they’re talking about how nice it would be to have a baby that it’s a huge undertaking.” (The Age)

I hope you laughed. I hope you thought. Don’t stop!