June 19, 2018

Two Children or Three?

Small and romantic road

Romantic Umbria (Credit: adamo1978)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Childfree Christmas

English: Christmas-themed check mark

Childfree Christmas? Check… (Credit: Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Childfree Christmas Secret

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

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

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

Childfree Christmas Wishes

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

“Pretend” Santa Claus Photos (Credit: Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A very merry, holly jolly childfree Christmas to you!

Childfreedom: I Hate Being a Mom

67 of 365 ~ Mum

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google Noodling Childfreedom

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

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

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

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

At the bottom of the page I freeze.

I Hate Being a Mom

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

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

Google searches related to Childfreedom

Google searches related to Childfreedom

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

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

Bye-bye, bikini.

Bye-bye, bodice.

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

Why no kids? Enough said.

Bored Child Nightmare

“A bored kid at home might be dangerous…” (Childfree Commercial)

Aside from the generally crumby quality of this video (Let me guess, recorded on smart phone from a hazy old school television?) the imagery is disturbingly hilarious.

Wait. Did I just say that?

Please scratch that insensitive remark.

The commercial for a kid’s crafting book to occupy your bored child is amusing. In a decidedly sick way.

Better?

Part of what makes this video sticky is that you don’t really know whether the bored child is pulling a prank or trying to help. Favor? Or Oedipus Complex.

Bored

Bored Child (Photo credit: John-Morgan)

A bored child might be dangerous either way. In fact, that’s one small part of the concern with kidlets. Sometimes the line between prank, favor, and devious retaliation is blurry. And shifting. And unpredictable.

During a recent visit with my darling nieces, the four year old straight arm cold-cocked me in the family jewels. Bull’s eye! For a few minutes I stood on the pier sucking wind and seeing stars. When I got my act straight and bent down to ask her if it was an accident she smiled and shook her head from side to side slowly.

“You hit me on purpose?”

Still smiling, she nodded her head up and down.

“Do you have any idea how much that hurt?”

Side to side.

“Do you think it’s funny?”

Laugh. Up and down.

We sat. We talked. She apologized. And went back to building her sand castle.

I haven’t the slightest doubt that she considered the sucker punch to her uncle’s zipper zone a prank. I’m big. She’s teeny. I’m a man. She’s a girl. I like to roughhouse. She likes to roughhouse. We’re both pranksters, and we’ve frequently conspired on practical jokes. But her 4-year old filter for sifting appropriate from malevolent is limited. And sometimes it can’t keep up with her actions.

The video is goofy. And real. And sort of pitiful if you’re willing to purchase a kid’s craft book as a simple plug-and-play alternative to parenting a bored child. Lesson needed? No nut knocking, kid!

And then on to the next learning experience…

10 More Reasons to Not Have a Baby

Why no kids? Projectile vomit!

Why no kids? Projectile vomit!

As if you needed more reasons to not have a baby, I’m tapping Scary Mommy this morning for a few reminders why some of us opt to remain childfree.

Ready?

[Do a little dance!]

Jill Smokler’s motivation for scribling just a few (in the comments she admits that plenty more could have been added to the list) reasons to not have a baby was a comment directed at her family while visiting friends recently: “the Smoklers certainly serve as excellent birth control.” (Full disclosure: I admit, my bride and I have more than once cited others (friends and otherwise) as reasons to not have a baby…)

Unoffended but inspired, Ms. Smokler set out to trump their childfree quip with 50 Reasons To Not Have A Baby. Although you’ll enjoy all of her unfiltered quips, these are my favorites.

  1. Stretch marks on top of stretch marks.
  2. Sex with a fetus in the middle.
  3. The placenta.
  4. Worrying that the baby’s floppy head might actually fall off.
  5. Rectally taking temperatures.
  6. Sore nipples.
  7. Being incapable of having conversations with other adults.
  8. Projectile vomit.
  9. Spit up covered shoulders.
  10. Explosive diarrhea.

(via Scary Mommy)

From stretch marks to diarrhea, Scary Mommy squirms at nothing. Honest gripes from a candid parent. Thanks, Ms. Smokler, for reminding WNKers of a few less heady, more body-and-body-fluid reasons why no kids trumps kidding… Add them to your list of reasons to not have a baby, and if you’ve got a particularly gross addition, please add it in the comments.

Free Reads

Sometimes there isn’t anything to add, extract or analyze, and bite-sized blog post isn’t enough to satisfy. Sometimes the writing is so compelling the only thing to do is present the entire story. So here are some full meals to chew on (again if you’ve seen them already) repeatedly. The comments are also must reads.

1) Think Before You Breed – NYTimes.com.

2) Child-Free: Do They Change Their Minds?. – Slate

3) Laura Carroll: Why Childfree Couples Have It All. – Huffington Post

4) La Vie Childfree blogpost: Why Isn’t There More Talk about the Ethics of Reproduction?.

5) In Praise of Downtime – Ellen Ruppel Shell – The Atlantic.

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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)
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Childfree News: From Tubal Ligation to the Baby Matrix

Topless in the Adirondacks via virtualdavis

Topless in the Adirondacks via virtualdavis

Drowning beneath the avalanche of childfree news? It’s staggering how quickly and widely childfree news has been transformed from whisper-only taboo to mainstream media fodder. So much is being pondered and debated, it’d hard to believe that even a few years ago childfree news was so hush-hush that television, newspapers and magazines didn’t want to touch it with a ten foot pole.

Childfree News Glut

Today we’re awash in childfree news, and not just in the blogosphere. Mainstream media finally read that memo about more and more couples are opting to remain childfree by choice. Concerned about spiraling audiences, niche audiences took on a sexier appeal. Result? It’s tough to find a new outlet who isn’t flogging the childfree news horse. It’s always fun to swing from the fringe to the mainstream, at least at first, but it’s actually become challenging to keep up with the latest childfree news because there’s just so much of it.

We’ll attempt to distill the best from the rest, making it that much easier for you to join the childfree intelligentsia! Or at least wile away a sleepy afternoon at the office…

Top Childfree News

Sterilize Me, Please: Why is it so difficult for young women to get their tubes tied? (By J. Bryan Lowder) There are some people who don’t want to have kids. Then there are some people who really don’t want to have kids… some men and women never heed (or even feel) the tick of the biological clock. But others are more proactive. Monica Trombley is in the latter camp… [she] decided at the age of 26 that permanent sterilization by tubal ligation—a procedure colloquially called “getting your tubes tied”—was the right choice for her. But as Trombley quickly learned, many gynecologists disagreed. (Slate Magazine)

I Wish I’d Never Had Children (By Sonja Ebbels) Over coffee with a group of friends recently, there was an understanding atmosphere when one of the mums, a close friend of mine, started discussing the struggle she was having with her children. We all nodded sympathetically and sighed with agreement, until she announced that if she had her time over again, she wouldn’t have had children. At once each of us looked around, ensuring our children hadn’t heard her comment. (Stuff.co.nz)

Please, Please, Please: Do Not Make Your Kid The Center Of Your Universe (By Cassie Murdoch) It’s so hard to know whether becoming a parent will ruin your life or be the only thing that makes it worth living. We may not get a grand verdict anytime soon, but new research has at least figured out one thing: moms who believe they are the most important person in their baby’s life and that they should always put the kid’s needs first are way more likely to be unhappy. Perhaps feeding them like a bird or hovering over them like helicopter is the key to their lasting happiness, but is it the key to yours? (Jezebel)

I Want to Want a Baby (By Liz Ference) Having a baby would, of course, be terrifying – but at least I’d have the benefit of knowing that everyone else around me would be going through the same thing and I wouldn’t be alone, and that my remaining days would now be filled with a very definitive purpose. Going it alone… means that I’d be, well…alone, and entirely responsible for defining my purpose in life – coming up with some reason why I’m walking the Earth and making meaningful use of my time. (Maybe Baby, Maybe Not!)

Accidentally Childfree (By Farzana Gardee) I never imagined that I would one day be discussing a childfree life, let alone my childfree life. I had never been taught to think of this as an option… My family is large — babies popping out of every crevice — with only a scattering of childfree women… They lead fringe existences when compared to other robust women speed cycling between pregnancy and breastfeeding and changing nappies and doing school-drop offs and living lives as full as their engorged breasts… And today, I am childfree. (The Huffington Post)

10 Things Never to Say to Childless Friends (By Charlotte Latvala) When you’re an enthusiastic member of the mom club, it’s natural to want your pals to join too. But making assumptions about your buddy’s baby-making plans can be offensive and invasive—and thinking you know better because you’re a parent can hurt your friend’s feelings… Whether a couple is childless by choice or struggling to conceive, prying questions are likely to hit a nerve… Here are some gaffes to avoid with childless friends–and what to say instead. (Glo.msn.com)

Laura Carroll Interview About The Baby Matrix I want people to know what pronatalism is, its origins, and why it remains so pervasive in our society, even though in so many ways it is to our detriment. I want readers to understand why we have believed seven long held pronatalist assumptions for so long despite the fact that they either no longer serve us or have never been true to begin with. I want readers to understand why it is time to stop blindly believing pronatalist beliefs, realize their serious costs, and why it is time to move toward what I call a “post-pronatal society.” (Laura Carroll)

Childfree News Recommendations

What are you reading in childfree news? Anything we missed that you think we should pass along to other WNKers? Please add your recommendations in the comments below. Thanks!

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?

You’ll Change Your Mind: Why No Kids? Celebrity Edition

One of the comments that the childfree just love to hear is, “You’ll change your mind!”

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 05:  Actress Port...

Here’s a gallery of celebrities from our friends at mommyish.com  that are still rocking the childfree lifestyle.

The list includes the childfree celebrity “all stars” Cameron Diaz, Simon Cowell, Jennifer Aniston, and

Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi with a funny quip about why they don’t have kids:

“We thought about it. We love to be around children after they’ve been fed and bathed. But we ultimately decided that we don’t want children of our own. There is far too much glass in our house.”