Monday, June 26, 2017

What We Get Wrong About Women Who Don't Have Kids

Refinery 29
considered this subject. In 2015, Los Angeles Times columnist Meghan Daum edited the collection Selfish, Shallow, and Self Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on The Decision Not To Have Kids, which included essays from Anna Holmes, Kate Christensen, Lionel Shriver, and Geoff Dyer. And although Daum has become a major face of the childfree movement, she isn’t a fan of the word itself. “I am sort of allergic to jargon, and it sounds like jargon,” she said over the phone from her home in L.A. “‘Childfree by choice’ is redundant.” Daum refers to herself as “childless by choice,” but she finds the phrase cumbersome and would rather keep working toward finding a sharper, snappier term. (She likes "barrenness," because it sounds like “baroness.")
Ultimately, we're each going to find what terminology, or lack thereof works for us. I think a lot of people don't like labels or jargon because we want to feel like individuals. Perhaps, then, the problem is not the term "childfree" but the assumptions we have that all childfree women are the same; that we all have an excess of disposable income, that we're all child-loving PANKs or child-hating non-breeders. If we can make room for the vast diversity within our community, we are then free to use the term to represent what we do have in common, and celebrate it.

I happen to find labels pretty handy. At the very least, it's a lot more efficient than describing my choice longhand each and every time, and it is a useful way to use a search term to find one another on social media. I don't think it makes me any less unique to accept that many other women have made the same choice I have, and many of them for the same reason. Or even that there is a community of childfree people who have made similar choices - an urban life, exercizing one's freedom to travel, opting for fewer work hours and serving the community and relishing the fact that we couldn't do that to the same extent with children. In the end, it's the combination of these choices, plus my hobbies, plus so many intangibles that makes me who I am.

But to each their own. I relish being part of a community that shares so much of my lifestyle, others bristle at being lumped together, and we each have to determine what we're comfortable with.

she adds, "One criticism that was made [of the book] is that a lot of people seem to be bending over backwards to say they like kids or feel like they have to apologize for it." That’s because Daum essentially had to reach two groups at once — she had to speak to parents who believed they’d made the right decision by having children but were curious about those who’d chosen to live a childfree life, but also be a voice for childfree individuals who felt like they’d been ignored by traditional narratives about families and relationships. That false dichotomy went back to Daum’s initial issue with the word "childfree" — it created a division that felt politicized, rather than simply identifying a group by name.
. . . .
The I-don't-have-kids-but-I-like-them community has been dubbed PANKs (Professional Aunt, No Kids). The term was coined by Melanie Notkin, who turned her Savvy Auntie blog, aimed at women like herself who were involved aunts or godmothers and wanted to buy kid stuff without the judgment, into a full-on lifestyle brand dubbed "Otherhood." She has been praised by some feminists for acknowledging all the underappreciated childrearing work done by non-mother family members and criticized by others for taking too much advantage of marketing opportunities.
. . .
Ultimately, Daum says, choosing not to have children is fascinating and controversial to so many people because it gets at a larger question about what it means to be an adult. Many of the social markers we’ve used in the past — owning a home, having a steady job, leaving the big city for the suburbs, being married — have fallen away or been redefined. The ongoing debates about whether women can “have it all” inquire whether a woman can balance a spouse, kids, career, and personal pursuits like hobbies — without stopping to ask what “all” would look like for a woman who’s not interested in one of the usual elements, or to consider what that means for women who marry other women.
I don't have any neices and nephews, but my cousin and close friend is a PANK and seems to love it (yes, childfreedom seems to run in our family). So while we forge toward more and more acceptance and new definitions, I'll be here representing the rest of the childfree. Those who don't really have children in our lives, and seek out childfree spaces to relax. The childfree community is madnotdefined by one or the other, and this divergence perhaps represents just how large we have become. At least, I hope so.
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Friday, April 07, 2017

Childfree Buildings in Edmonton

Edmonton Journal
The article here is disjointed and muddled (how are her experiences with bad adult tenants relevant?) but the comments are quite lively.
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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Kellyanne Conway Exalts Motherhood Because She Has An Agenda

Being a feminist is actually much MORE important, more vital to human progress, and more helpful for children than all women everywhere growing up to be mothers.
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Friday, January 27, 2017

2-Year-Old Unaware He’s Basis For 6 Couples’ Decisions Not To Have Kids

The Onion
". . .the toddler has thus far failed to recognize that his temper tantrums and messy eating habits have motivated several of his mother’s friends, as well as a couple who were eating near Gibson’s family at a restaurant, to go their entire lives without ever raising children of their own."
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Monday, January 23, 2017

Q&A with 2016 Childfree Man of the Year, Vincent Ciaccio

International Childfree Day In this Q&A, Vinny discusses his Master's thesis research, his Dissertation, why he chose childfreedom, and the current status of the childfree today. His MA work included looking at the childfree demographic, including why people choose not to have children and what political views we hold. His dissertation brought to light new information regarding childfree stereotypes; they vary greatly by gender.

In my very biased view, I found his take on our status very intruiging. While the news media tends to cover us in positive-neutral ways that reflect a growing acceptance,

"Bad news part one is that entertainment media (sitcoms, movies, etc.) still generally show the childfree as selfish, hedonistic, or in the case of men who don’t show an interest in parenthood, being immature man-children. Having a kid is still portrayed as a civilizing factor. . .
I think this reflects the notion that, although society has improved in its awareness and acceptance, we still have a long way to go. I believe individuals and even communities vary greatly in their perspective on, and acceptance of, the voluntarily childless. Vinny is working on publishing his research; in the meantime I recommend reading the entire Q&A to get a brief description of his results.
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My Nephews Taught Me That I Didn't Want Kids

Everything with them requires two trips. To eat, I picked up one boy, all twenty pounds of him, and strapped him into his highchair. He started banging the chair against the floor while I grabbed the other and started the process all over again. Trying to feed two hungry one-year-olds simultaneously was rather difficult. Trying to balance the yogurt on the spoons while aiming for their constantly moving mouths while trying to minimize mess was impossible. The boys showed me their mess making skills by getting yogurt into their eyes, noses, and on the floor. Somehow yogurt got in their ears, which I still don’t get how they managed that.

Then there were the times when they both wanted comfort, whether they were sleepy or they had fallen. My arms aren’t big enough to hold both of them. I tried to switch off who got hugged first but I always felt bad. I felt like I was showing favoritism that was going to scar them for the rest of their life. Then they’d hit each other and I’d have to separate them, and they both started howling. It took forever to calm them down; when holding one, the other was crying. Set the calm one down to help the other, and the calm one started crying again. There were fun times when they both wanted to play, but they overwhelmed me.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Looking Back: Positive Childfree Trends In 2016

HuffPo by Laura Carroll
This year film, Maman? Non merci! (roughly translated as Being a mom? No thanks!) by the 2014 Childfree Woman of the Year, Magenta Baribeau, won the Best Feature Film Award at the London Feminist Film Festival ... More Use of the Word, “Pronatalism” in the Media ... More Talk about Regret
Read the article to see more movies in the pipeline, examples of these media trends, and other childfree hallmarks of 2016. What changes have you noticed recently in the way childfree people and the parenting decision are portrayed publicly? One thing I have seen is that work-life advocates have shifted more towards flexible hours for all of us, or time off for all our endeavors, where previously giving that only to mothers was the main ask. I think we're starting to see fairness as part of the equasion, and benefits to employers when all employers have their needs met.
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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Silent Culture War: Exposing Discrimination Against Childfree People — Op-Ed (SCREENSHOTS)

Silent Culture
Not as much news as a curated collection of Reddit posts. I found the Indonesian one particularly intersting, and it certainly checked out.
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Thursday, December 08, 2016

New Studies - Parents Have Higher Highs and Lower Lows

Are people without kids happier? Studies offer mixed picture
The Princeton-Stony Brook study -- which involved an examination of a survey of 1.8 million Americans, including parents between the ages of 34 and 46, conducted by Gallup from 2008 through 2012 -- did find one difference between parents and the childless: Parents tend to experience more highs and lows. "They have higher highs. They have more joy in their lives, but also they have more stress and negative emotions as well," said Stone.
I'm always a little skeptical of these studies. Whenever people self report something, especially something as subjective as happiness, how reliable is the data? This would be especially suspect if something in the study tipped off the participants to the fact that they were studying this topic. Some parents have an agenda to convince the world that parenting is both the hardest job in the world and the most rewarding - an agenda that might eclipse any inward reflection. The presence of this type of parent could mar the results. Even if they didn't realize what was being studied, the mentality might be pervasive.

And as I have mentioned before, we're not good in general at gauging our own happiness. We tend to remember the Kodak moments and the rest gets fuzzy.Dr. Daniel Gilbert explors this in his book Stumbling Upon Happiness.

Yet all this aside, on some level this just feels true. I've definitely had this conversation with childfree people. And while there are childfree people I know who chase the highs and lows - people who own businesses, have more dramatic relationships, or just have that kind of life for whatever reason - it isn't built into our lives. I live a life without a lot of those lows, without that kind of stress. And I suppose the trade-off is not experiencing the comiserate highs.

Of course, childfree people can have a great deal of happiness. We find joy in our friends and family, in our careers, in our pets, in our passions. Parents have those things too, and some will say it isn't the same. Or that they had that life before, and it doesn't compare. Maybe they're right. Who can tell? It's hard to put ourselves in anothers' shoes, and childfree people may feel a particular way about a spouse or career that a parent couldn't understand. A way that tells them they could never, ever, cut back on time with their husband, or time pursuing their passion, to have kids. Not all of us, but it does raise the possibility that you can never really compare feelings.

Ah, well. Even if they do have higher, highs, I would take this option all over again. I'm just not interested in an emotional roller coaster. I have enough joy in my life that it would never be worth buying a bit more with stress, worry, and all those other costs.

But at the end of the day, it is pointless to compare happiness. A lot of women would be miserable without children, and many most) of us would be miserable with them. Perhaps even immune to that joy. Trading places just isn't an option. It's all just an intellectual exercise. At the end of the day we all just have to make the best choice we can for ourselves, then find as much happiness as you can within those choices.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

It Wasn't Our Imagination

Crying Babies in Various Cultures
Apparently, some cultures are surprised at how much caucasian babies cry. As someonebwho lives in an immigrant neighborhood, this confirms what I thought I was experiencing. It always seems so loud when I go to the Upper East Side!
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Saturday, March 19, 2016

We've placed motherhood on such a high pedestal we've forgotten the huge pros of being a child-free woman

Voices | The Independent

"In the advertising world, our vision of womanhood is barely more diverse, with the ‘Busy Working Mum’ a keen creative cliché.  ‘Housewife With Kids’ is an equally popular trope, ignoring the fact that in the 1950 working mums were the minority, and today over 70 per cent of women with children also have a career. The idea of a woman as a full-time mum is becoming increasingly redundant. 

Then, of course, there’s the political favourite: the ‘hardworking family’, just doing the best for their offspring. So what happens when you don’t fit into this paradigm? What happens when you become the Not-Mum? 

In the US elections as reported by New York magazine, single unmarried women are set to wield the most decisive influence on the run for the White House. They accounted for 23 per cent of the voting electorate in 2012, and some 40 per cent of the African American electorate."
In 2015 the Not Mum Summit was the first landmark meeting of an organisation founded by Karen Malone Wright to promote and protect the rights of those women choosing not to have children.  

Interesting!  While childfree is slowly gaining awareness as an acceptable, normal choice, this is something fairly new.  Childless women (and next, childless men) as our own demographic, our own voice, and our own agenda.  Now, getting us to agree on what our needs actually are. . . that could be a challenge.

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How I Learned Being Childfree Was A Part of My Identity


An author realized she was feeling shame, not indecision, over being childfree. Here's how she came to terms with it.

But what if it’s not really a choice for everyone? What if some of us are simply born this way? . . . I say this not to make an argument for what some might call a “lifestyle choice,” as if it were akin to moving to Portland, but to clarify that childfree is part of my identity, a filter through which I make sense of my place in the world. This might explain why telling people about my husband’s vasectomy has felt a bit like coming out. (Incidentally, I've often wondered if my feeling of apathy toward babies at all mirrors that of non-heterosexuals watching a hetero-normative sex scene, i.e. “meh.") The fact is that childfree is not recognized as an identity — the kind of born-this-way mentality that sexual orientation and gender identity rightfully command. I can’t list how many times I’ve said in my 20s and early 30s that I don’t want children only to have it dismissed with the wave of a hand and a quick, “You might change your mind.”
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