Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Stereotypes Don't Match What Many Women Want

Women Without Children Stand By Choices
It seems odd that these stereotypes would continue to live today, suggests
. . .
"Every woman's dream is supposedly to have children. Does this mean I am not a woman, because I have chosen not to have any? No," said Henderson. "Instead, it makes me responsible for my actions."
. . .
"Childlessness is growing in the U.S., and the reason is that more and more women are becoming educated and entering the work world," said Cain. "They're in a position to make some powerful decisions in their lives."

And, she said, sometimes they didn't know that they would decide not to start a family.

"(Childless women) didn't think they'd be childless. They always thought they'd have children," said [Madelyn] Cain, [author of "The Childless Revolution: What It Means To Be Childless Today".] "Often, their jobs took up a lot of energy, and they decided life was too frantic, or they didn't feel that being a working woman and a mother blended in a way they thought was right."

Cain said that these are not the "tragically childless" or those who made the decision when they were young.

"One thing that surprised me was how many childless people were in the service field as nurses, teachers or therapists," she said. "They are very nurturing people, by nature."
. . .
"We are a hypocritical society," said Cain. "On one hand, we tell women that they have the right to have an abortion, but we expect them to have children at some point in their lives."

If we're going to champion women's rights, we can't pass judgment onto those who choose to live their lives without having children, Cain said.
This is dead-on. There are ads on the NYC Subway for Planned Parenthood. The header reads "We'll be parents someday" as if attempting to placate the anti-abortion group with the warm fuzzies over these future parents, or bluntly divorcing their image from the evil childless. I can't pintpoitn articulately what is offensive about these ads, but they get under my skin each time.

But parents who have children without the expectation that their children will care for them in their older years can be disappointed. Often, children offer little more than a few visits a year.

"Having children to take care of you as you get older is selfish," said Cain. "If you were a good parent, you would nurture your children and raise them to take care of their dreams, not care for their parents."

It is understandable to be concerned about the older years, but those choose to be childless seem unconcerned -- emotionally and financially. According to, Baby Boomers without children fare just as well during their retirement years as their peers with children.

Many communities developed for retirees focus on active lifestyles and self-sufficiency. Individuals find that these communities offer something far different from the nursing homes from years past.

"Now that things are changing, it will be interesting to see the power and influence these women have in the future," said Cain.
I cut some very well-written portions of this article for posting here, so I recommend going to the source; the entire article focuses on the childfree, and Ms. Cain is one of our best allies. She does not make a point of telling people she is a parent, but in my mind it grants legitimacy to ehr opinions when she does.
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Anonymous said...

This is a great article and Cain is one of our supporters. I was a little bothered by one of her statements in the article though. She says that the childless women didn't start off thinking they would be childless. They thought that they would be parents. Maybe this goes back to the childless versus childfree debate but the comment bothered me. As an early articulator I have always known I wouldn't have them. But maybe this is not really talking about the childfree.

L.T. said...

I read that statement as talking about only one faction of the childfree - it does mention early articulators as a seperate group. I believe it was just poor phrasing in quoting her.

Dori said...

I definitely fall into that category, and see why she says that. I think there are a great many of us who didn't know early on, and just assumed we would someday. It's pretty disconcerting when you then reach the tail end of your childbearing years and realize your assumptions about your life were way off! Not only do we hav to deal with pressure and judgment from society and our family, we have to figure out our own position on the issue. I am envious of those who knew early on.

(I may have actually had an inkling early on, but was discouraged from sticking to my convictions on it).