April 22, 2018

Child Photo Christmas Cards

American card, circa 1940

You're darned tootin' (Image via Wikipedia)

Are we all getting an abundance of holiday cards right now?  Are many of those cards pictures of our friends’ very cute children?  We must admit that they are, oftentimes, very sweet photos, but is anyone else but me wondering why more parents don’t put their own images in their cards?  Admittedly, kids photograph much better than the rest of the aging population, but it seems to me that cards with pictures only of the children sends a negative message.  It negates the importance of the parents, like they are non entities.

It’s obviously harder to find photos we like of ourselves as we age but do we need to look like models to our friends?  It is interesting to see how the children grow and resemble their parents in different ways each year but I like to see photos of my far away friends, not just their children.  Even grandparents seem to be sending pictures only of their grandchildren these days.  Of course they are proud, but they should have more to show for themselves in their golden years than the offspring of their offspring.

News of my friends also seems to be vanishing in their letter updates.  So much verbosity is wasted on the excruciating minutia of their children’s lives that little or no room seems to remain for me to learn of the parent’s lives.  Okay, so little Bob likes soccer and his sister is excelling in ballet.  Enough, that’s all I need to know of them.  Are their parents still at their same jobs, traveling, or still  skiing avidly?  Are they happy?  Hard to know.

Parents:  We do enjoy pictures of your kids.  Even when they are in their awkward stage we still like to see them because they are products of you, our cherished friends.  But, really how are you?  What do you look like? What rocked your world this year (other than something your kids did)?  By the way, the picture of your baby with food all over his face – so adorable to you – not  so well translated into a holiday card.

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.

Why I Said ‘Yes’ to Kids

Today’s guest post is from Ana June, a mother, wife, writer, photographer and jewelry artist living in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Tattoo (photo credit Christopher Riedel)

Tattoo (photo credit Christopher Riedel)

In the spring of 2008, I sat down late one night to write the first installment for a newspaper column I called Planet Mom. While my youngest son slept on the couch next to me, I stared out at the night sky and tried to conjure my muse. By midnight, I had it–a relatively clear, concise, and honest introduction to the life I live as a mother to four. (Full installment is here.) In it, I wrote the following:

“This act of mothering is life in the raw. There are moments that threaten to unhinge me, followed closely by those that offer a glimpse of enlightenment.”

Nearly 3 years later, the truth in this statement still holds. Being a mother, especially to a brood the size of mine, is absolutely dichotomous. It’s unhinging and enlightening, sometimes all at once!

Choosing to become a mother was, for me, a no-brainer. I always knew I would have children…. Furthermore, I always knew I wanted to have children. This desire must have been hardwired or something–I can’t explain it much better than that. Having children gave me so very much–the opportunity to lose myself and find myself… the thrill of finding and dancing on the very edge of my every possibility. Being a mother has made me more human, more frazzled, more fully alive, more tired, more fully in love, and more humble than anything else I have ever done.

That said, motherhood doesn’t define me entirely, and it shouldn’t. I am also a photographer, a writer, a graphic designer, and a jeweler, though not necessarily in that order at any given time. I own my own business, set my own hours, and have been turning a profit for several years now. Today, Wednesday, I am a writer and a jewelry maker. I am both writing this and babysitting my jewelry kiln as it sinters tin and copper into bronze (making two sets of custom wine charms!). Next to me, dull gray pendants that will soon metamorphose into fine silver await their turn in the fire. I am an alchemist.

I am also a traveler. I returned from a whirlwind trip to New York several days ago, where I was photographing a friend’s wedding. I was blissfully childfree for this journey, and it was awesome. It was awesome as well to come home and see my family again. A few years ago, I had the amazing opportunity to travel with my husband, kidfree, to Baja to shoot the Baja 1000 with and for a group of firefighters who ride for The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (the prelude to that story is here. I apparently never posted the actual story). In a nutshell, that adventure was awe-inspiring, remarkable, incredible…. fill in the blanks. But again, it was also awesome to come home and see my family again.

Family is the absolute ultimate for me, and of course that is defined in large part by my children. Because of this, I simply don’t see parenting as duty-driven more than I see it as motivated by a deep and abiding love. It is not a job, it is my heart.

I can’t and won’t sell it to anyone, however. It is not something to do unless you feel that undeniable drive within you to create a child. It is never something to take lightly. It should never be a should. It was absolutely never a should in my own life–in fact, quite the opposite, since I was very young when I got pregnant with my son. I chose to have my children when I did–Soren, who is now 17, was born three weeks after I turned 22. I birthed him at home, with a midwife, and when I looked into his little face for the very first time I saw God. This agnostic borderline-atheist truly and absolutely saw God. You see, God isn’t some big judgmental guy lurking about the heavens waiting to smite sinners or whatnot. No… God was the design of my son’s newborn face. God was his first cry.

And I can’t expect anybody else, not even my son’s father, to understand that moment like I did. That was my moment as a mother, and I was fortunate to have three more like it in the years that followed.

It was for moments like this that I became a mother. My decision to do so had very little to do with economics or leisure or opportunity for myself. It had everything to do with feeling and expressing a love that eludes definition. It wasn’t happy happy happy, but it wasn’t sad sad sad either. It ultimately isn’t any one thing. As I recently wrote in another post on my blog (full post here):

“…motherhood is the end-all-be-all of a woman’s existence…except when it isn’t. Motherhood will thresh your very soul and lift you to heights of joy you never thought possible… except when it doesn’t. Motherhood will sweep you up to the pinnacle of beauty…. except when it’s anything but beautiful. When you have shit on your hands because the baby decided to do gymnastics after you removed the stinky diaper and the phone is ringing and the dog is barking and the older kid is whining about cookies or some such… and the diaper pail is full and the room smells like digested green beans and you haven’t showered in two days and your breasts start leaking and then the baby pees all over the changing table and all the while you suspect, in a grim sort of way, that your mortgage check will bounce this month….

Nope, that’s not beautiful at all. Motherhood isn’t always anything except raw, demanding life. Base and beautiful humanity.”

And though it is a commitment, that sometimes makes you feel like you should be committed, it can be–should be?–one gleaming facet in a multifaceted life.

It should follow the sentiment I have tattooed on my upper left arm:

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
(Alfred Lord Tennyson)

No matter what we choose in this life–parenthood or not–there will forever be more to explore, more to learn, more to love. Or at least, there should be. And that is the only should that I, personally, understand.

Postscript: For anybody who is still unsure about having a child, ask yourself this: if you attempted to place your coffee mug in the cup holder of your car, one frenetic morning, and found that the space was already occupied by a large piece of dusty, hairy, dessicated bacon left therein by one of your children (one of your teens, in fact!), how would you feel? Your answer to this may help clarify your child-bearing decision…. at least a little bit. 🙂

You can follow Ana June on her blog, Non Compos Mentis Mama, or visit her professional site, Ana June Creative.

Baby Makers and Biology

Just becasue you can reproduce doesn't mean you should.

An honest and candid post from Nyx (@Nyxks on Twitter) called “Women Are More Then Baby Makers” warrants sharing:

I 100% disagree with the statement “its embedded in every womans biological makeup to be a mother, to carry and give birth to this beautiful baby.” … I know that there are several of us who… have chosen NOT to have children we have chosen to be Childfree by choice… many women out there in the general population who have no ticking of the biological clock… Having a child… is a choice that one makes, it does not come down to the simple deal of it being a biological necessity… Being childfree or childless makes you no less a woman or man then being a parent makes you “all grown up”… I am no less a woman because nature took my ability to have children away or because I chose to be childfree… (Nyxks Musings)

Tick, tick, tick. My biological clock is ticking. But when the alarm sounds I hear, “Windsurf before you’re too old to enjoy it!” Or “Wander the globe while you’re still young and energetic.” Or, “Less wine tomorrow night, you don’t bounce back like you used to…” Nobody’s immune from the biological clock. But its alarms are diverse. And, for some of us, they don’t include, “Make a baby. Make a baby. Make a baby!”

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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No Kids Trending

Recently whynokids.com has been getting pounded with traffic, an uptick that prompted me to poke around in search of answers.

What are people searching for? Are they finding what they’re looking for? What “sticky content” are we offering visitors to Why No Kids?

Why No Kids? logo on Facebook and Twitter

Why No Kids? logo on Facebook and Twitter

Combing through our stats (analytics) and tickling Google’s ivories has offered afew hints. For example, the term “no kids” seems to be driving the surge. But why? Is it possible that suddenly there’s an upward trend in couples considering a childfree lifestyle? Perhaps. Or perhaps there’s something else happening. What do YOU think?

I’m reserving judgment for the time being. It’s exciting. It’s encouraging. But it’s premature to determine why whynokids.com is experiencing a dramatic increase in readers.

That said, I know that our readers are responsible for spreading the word, so it’s time to thank you. All of you! You’ve encouraged and prodded and joined Why No Kids? conversations on Facebook and tweeted up a storm with Why No Kids? on Twitter. You’ve emailed posts and emailed us suggestions. In some cases you’ve even emailed us guest posts. You’ve joined the conversation about why not to have kids (and even–in some notable exceptions–why to have kids), and this conversation is what fascinates us. The four bloggers who founded Why No Kids? have chosen childfree lives, childfree marriages, but we don’t preach. We encourage breeders (I know, it’s a loaded term, but sooo catchy!) to participate in conversation. Bring on the debate. Bring on the disagreement. But bring on the civility, and bring on the levity.

Life’s too short to anger and alienate over personal decisions of childbearing. But the Why No Kids? crew firmly believes that ongoing, informed conversation about whether or not to breed stands to improve the lot for all of us!

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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August 1st Happy Non-Parents Day!

 

Over 30 years ago, the National Organization for Non-Parents (which became National Alliance for Optional Parenthood, or NAOP) ), deemed August 1 Non-Parents Day.

via La Vie Childfree.

Hey WNKers how did you celebrate your Non-Parents Day?

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More NYC women are saying no to having children

Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, New Jersey
Image via Wikipedia

Whether they call themselves “childless,” “childfree,” “childless-by-choice” or even just “still on the fence,” a significant number of New York women in their 30s and 40s are taking a pass on motherhood.

via More NYC women are deciding not to have children – NYPOST.com.

What do you think WNKsters?

Does having a career in the big city mean you can’t have kids? Why are NYC women opting for childfreedom?

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!