Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Outlets help couples handle the pressure from family members who expect children.

Playdates, Podcasts Ready for Child-Free Couples
This disconnect often isolates childless couples from their childbearing friends. As a remedy, many couples who have proudly adopted the term "child free" are joining a growing community of like-minded people. One such couple in the San Francisco Bay Area has started an Internet podcast devoted to child-free issues. Many couples say these outlets help them handle the pressure from family members who expect children and the loss of friends who have gone off to start families of their own.

This perception that childless-by-choice couples are rare persists despite the fact their ranks are growing. In 2002, 6.2 percent of women age 15 to 44 said they were voluntarily childless, up from 4.9 percent in 1982, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Christine Fisher started the Adult Space Childfree Podcast in March 2006 to reach out to this growing community. Fisher, known as "The Fixed Kitty" to her listeners, says she's known since the third grade that she didn't want to be a mother.
. . .
"If every fertile female would make a great mom, we would not have any screwed up kids," she said. "Obviously some people don't make great moms."
. . .
The most difficult part, childless couples say, is the strain that often occurs in their relationships with friends who have become parents.

"You become more and more marginalized by your own friends," Sellers said. "Essentially you're shunted off in the corner."
. . .
"Maybe a couple years ago we were certainly experiencing anxiety when we would go home to a family holiday just wondering what questions we'd get," Andeel said. Now, she says, she has learned tips from a large online community of like-minded couples. "I just try and listen to them and acknowledge that they're allowed to have their feelings," she said, "and that I understand."
. . .
Before joining an online social network for childless couples a year ago, she and Mark knew only one other child-free couple. Now, as a member of No Kidding (, she can communicate with 10,000 other members who are childless by choice. The group, which has 79 chapters in six countries, including the United States and Canada, has helped Andeel come to terms with her decision.
. . .
Jerry Steinberg, who calls himself the "founding non-father" of No Kidding, . . . has seen the organization grow steadily over the past 24 years. In early April, new chapters were about to open in Manning, S.C., Huntsville, Ala., and Las Vegas. The individual chapters run their own monthly social events and meet at an annual national convention.

Steinberg is adamant that No Kidding remain purely social and not become a political advocacy group. But the Fixed Kitty has no such qualms: She closes each of her shows by urging listeners to "keep from breeding."
This article stands out a bit by focusing on the childfree community. An occasional challenge launched against us is why we have a community in the first place. Since those launching this criticism usually have no problem with an individual choosing not to have children, the contention apparently is that we should live our childless existence in isolation from others who have made the same uncommon decision.

It is often phrased incredulously - "Why do you need a community for what you don't have? Shall we launch a website for people without cats?" Which is perhaps evidence that the commenter on the last post was correct - there is often little point in arguing with those who do not have a very good grasp of logic. There is a difference between just lacking something, and lacking something the majority of people have. Do these same folks launch attacks on atheists for gathering (as in last weekend's incredible Humanist convention) and talking about not believing in god? Criticize the nudist community for gathering to not wear clothes?

The more common something is in our society, the more need for those who eschew it to form a community. Perhaps it will be one of support, perhaps it will be a purely social one, like No Kidding! New Humanism is creating a world of literature, music and art, fostering the creative atmosphere that many get in churches. So too can childfree people gather to provide for each other what opting out of parenthood excludes them from. When your circle of friends uses the playgroup as their new means of socializing, when tension with your biological family deprives you of that circle as well, it makes sense to turn to others who are likewise excluded.

Or, as in my case, it can be an addendum - a way to meet engineers, astronomers, wine connoisseurs, punk rock geeks, opera singers, and jazz musicians, all with a common thread that provides in spades seemingly unrelated qualities of wit, intelligence, and adventure. And, not quite so unrelated, it is a way to meet others who don't accept society's defaults. Those who question the seeming mandate to procreate, but also what we eat, how we worship, what a marriage looks like.

Or both. Whatever the cause, there is no need to question a community. If you ask me, the problem is never that we have too many, but perhaps that we don't have enough.

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Anonymous said...

I'm a happily single childfree woman and get really bugged that us singles always get ignored by the childfree community. Do our contributions mean less since we're not coupled? No wonder childfree singles stay far away from No Kidding events.

Unknown said...

No wonder childfree singles stay far away from No Kidding events.

That hasn't been my experience. At different points, the Chapters I've been involved with have skewed more towards singles at certain points, more towards couples at others. A lot depends on who the members are at the time, and who has time to go to events. No Kidding! has never struck me as being disproportionately couples.

L.T. said...

Well, the article did focus exclusively on couples. I don't see what that has to do with the childfree community or No Kidding. Jerry includes singles in the very subtitle of the organization.

The media is going to pay more attention to couples because they are more expected to have children. In their imaginations, social groups are made up of all couples or all singles, so the former group has more pressure/desertion from friends.

We know in the real world that it is hard enough to find like minded people without demanding they be mated. My No Kidding! Chapter now has one other couple, and is otherwise all singles. My group of friends from the conventions contains two other couples and four single people.

I guess it just depends on what is going on locally, as well as what you make of it.