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Fun With Unwanted Fertility October 19, 2012

Posted by craftlass in women's rights.
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I didn’t start this blog to rant about children or my lack of desire for them but it seems I do come back to this topic a lot these days. When the headlines are filled with the War on Women and a Presidential candidate talks about how women who dare to work need flex time to get home to their kids (which is a nice perk, to be sure, but one most people don’t even have as an option) I can’t help but return to this issue. It’s central to my entire existence and I’m just so tired of being told that other people know best what I should do with my life and body. It’s not a laughing matter or a minor issue.

Yet, there are laughs to be had. I stumbled across this old “Breeder Bingo” post and game card and it’s a great summary of what childfree people (primarily women) deal with constantly. I’m definitely going to print it out and play, if I actually leave my house again anytime soon. First, I’m going to give some answers to all of the arguments right here:

  • B-1: “It’s different when it’s your own!” Okay, I’ll admit this is the toughest one to argue. I have no way to compare my friends’ or relatives’ kids to having my own. I recognize that a flood of hormones during birth sort of forces women to love their kids but I also know too many parents who resent their children or even abandon them to assume that those hormones will be enough to completely change me. I’ve read enough stories about parents abusing or even killing their newborns to know that it’s not that simple. In the end, there’s a reason we now have “safe harbor” laws. There’s even a reason that those laws were abused by parents of non-newborns until clarifications were added to them. It’s arrogant to assume YOU know how ANYONE will feel about a hypothetical child.
  • B-2 “Who will take care of you when you’re old?” Let’s answer this with a question, shall we: How many seniors do you know who are actually cared for by their kids in this day and age in America? My family does have that tradition and I plan to be as involved in my father’s care as he will allow if/when it’s necessary, but that doesn’t mean that a child I have will live up to that. Plenty of kids grow up to have little relationship with a parent and even more are not equipped to care for an elder. What are the chances a thoroughly unwanted child would want to take care of me? Probably pretty small. So, kids or no kids, I have to plan for myself and count on having no help at all.
  • B-3 “You’ll change your mind!” As I knew from the age of 4 that I had no desire for kids I have heard this repeatedly for 32 obnoxious years. The most common age people say I would start feeling the tick of a biological clock was 30-35. I’m 36 and I have less desire than ever. The most annoying part of this conviction people have that all childfree women will change their minds? I’ve heard it from multiple boyfriends who genuinely believed that if I married them I would want to bear their children. That is a dangerous game of chicken to play and would have guaranteed that a few great dads I know would never have borne that title. Seriously, guys, if your girlfriend says she doesn’t want kids and you think you just need to wait out this “phase” you are setting yourselves up for major life-changing disappointment. Add in the fact that I’ve never had a desire to marry and you’ve got a big double-whammy for the men who thought they had a shot of a traditional family with this woman despite that fact that I told each one on the first date that these were deal-breakers for me.
  • B-4 “People who don’t want kids are selfish!” Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. I have yet to hear a single reason for having kids that is not selfish. I’m not saying that selfish reasons can’t be perfectly valid, even wonderful, and you have to have a certain amount of selflessness to be good at parenting, but it’s not exactly selfless to add to our already-too-large population on this planet just so you can fulfill your own desires. Can we just go ahead and admit that everyone in the world is selfish on some level?
  • B-5 “What’s the matter, don’t you LIKE kids?” Well, no, actually, not a big fan. I didn’t much like kids when I was one, I didn’t like being one, and mostly they just stress me out. That’s not to say there aren’t kids that I like or that I don’t have fun with them for a short time. I love teaching their little spongey brains and exposing them to new experiences when I can. The thing is, I have a very strict expiration point. After a couple of hours I just want to give them back and escape to my quiet and civilized adults-only life.
  • I-1 “Your child could grow up to cure cancer!” Yes, but my child could also grow up to become a serial killer or even worse. It’s the biggest crapshoot there is. John Wayne Gacy had parents. Benito Mussolini had parents that he appears to have been close to as a child. There is nothing you can do to guarantee that your child will be a good person, let alone a success.
  • I-2 “What if your parents hadn’t had kids?” Well, technically, biologically, mine didn’t. I was adopted by an infertile couple. As for my biological parents, well, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I am totally fine with the concept that I could have been aborted. There have been plenty of times where I really wish my biological mother would have taken that option, not because I don’t like myself but because she sentenced me to a life of unanswerable questions, depressive episodes that directly relate to being adopted, a missing component to my feelings of self-worth, and an inability to even begin guessing whether nature or nurture were larger influences on who I am. Granted, the last is a bit answered by the fact that I’m pretty much a perfect cross between my parents, but one does wonder, especially when one is interested in science and genetics. I will never know who I am. Finding the birth parents of a kid born in the 70s is a full-time job and I just don’t have the time or the vast amounts of money it takes to even begin. Overall, the world wouldn’t be any different if I wasn’t born and no one can miss someone who never existed.
  • I-3 “If everyone didn’t have kids, the human race would die out!” Okay. I’m totally fine with us going extinct. It’s going to happen someday whether any of us procreates or not, especially if we don’t fully fund space exploration with a goal of getting all the way out of our solar system (which is a long way off even if we poured the entire Defense budget into the effort). Our sun has a life span, too. Nothing lasts forever.
  • I-4 “You aren’t a real adult until you have kids!” A friend of mine with 3 children (2 now grown) answered this better than I could by telling me how I was lucky that I’d never really get old, because kids age you quicker than anything. Of course, in reality, once you move out of your parents’ house you are a real adult with real responsibilities, so it’s just a silly argument that is particularly funny in a culture that reveres childhood and encourages us to remain there as long as possible, even after taking on the mantle of “parent”.
  • I-5 “The children are our future!” Yes, they are. What does this have to do with me, personally, having one? There are plenty of ways to contribute to the development of children that have nothing to do with bearing them. There is a place for those without children in the lives of children, we don’t think like parents and kids tend to trust us more than parents, as safe people to turn to who can still relate to their perspective. We are often an integral part of the village that raises every child. Many teachers are childfree because they want to devote their energies towards their students without distraction, for example (granted, some of them are also just glad to come home to a house without kids after a long day around a bunch of them). Me? I write songs about learning and exploring. One of my biggest fans is a kindergartner. That’s pretty cool. Maybe I can reach a bunch more of them and inspire some to become the great thinkers of tomorrow. That is so much more valuable than just adding another number to the population.
  • N-1 “People like you SHOULD have kids!” I actually got this comment right on this blog awhile back. Some people apparently think I’m pretty smart and that should be passed on. There is a bit of truth to this in the sense that most childfree people tend to be intelligent, since it’s a decision that is often based on solid logic and a sense of purpose. If all smart people stopped having kids and only the less-intelligent kept having them we’d be in trouble. It’s hard to comment on intelligence but we do know that less-educated people are more likely to have more children, which is indeed a little troubling. Still, it’s really hard to justify ruining my life just so the world could have one more possibly-intelligent being. We are not in danger of running out of smart folks in the next generation, not by a long shot!
  • N-2 “The only reason to get married is to have children. “ Well, I’m not fan of the institution of marriage, anyway, but let’s tackle this as if I was. The only real reason to get married is economic, whether you have children or not. Tax incentives, health care, inheritance perks – these are the mechanisms our government uses to push us into marriage and they are tempting as can be. Also, how does that statement make an infertile woman or man feel? Should we bar all infertile people from marrying? Should invasive testing be part of getting a marriage license?
  • N-4 “Children are a woman’s greatest achievement!” If that is true then I just don’t want to live in this world anymore. I’m sorry, but Chelsea Clinton is not a bigger achievement than being Secretary of State, even though she’s grown up to be pretty cool (opinion based solely on her recent work). My mother’s own greatest achievement was certainly not me, it was turning troubled high schools into ones that produced college graduates. This concept is patronizing, sexist, and outdated.
  • N-5 “Don’t you want genetic immortality?” Considering I have no idea what my genes really are, nah. I’m totally fine with whatever mix I have dying with me. Also, quite a few childfree people made the decision because they know they have genes that include mental or physical disorders and having a child risks passing those on. We know a lot more about genes these days and that leads some people to wisely want their genes to quietly die out, ending generations of suffering.
  • G-1 “You were a baby once, too!” I’ve never understood where this one comes from. What does it have to do with having them? Please, if you have any clue, let me know in the comments. I can’t even counter it without understanding it.
  • G-2 “It’s all worth it!” Well, great, I’m glad you feel that way. However, this opinion only applies to the person who is giving it. There are plenty of parents who disagree and no guarantee of which type I would be. The amount of older women with grown children who have told me they are jealous of my generation’s options and would never have had children if not deeply pressured into it betrays the nonsense behind this statement. Some of my greatest support in my choice has come from these mothers. Children are not an 18-year commitment, they are a lifetime commitment. If you don’t find it worth it there is no escape unless you truly abandon your child and that’s just cruel.
  • G-3 “But the Bible said, ‘Go forth and multiply!” The Bible also tells me that I should submit myself to my men, never get a tattoo, never have bacon (oh, the horror!) or shellfish, never wear two types of cloth at the same time, and stone a bunch of people I love. Not exactly a great guide for living in modern times, not by a long shot.
  • G-4 “Don’t you want to give your parents grandchildren?” This one did give me guilt for awhile (as an only child whose father is an only child, so I used to be his one shot at them) but then my father remarried and in the process got 4 grandchildren. He’s a great Poppy and loves it, but I think 4 is already on the overwhelming side for him. Since I’m not genetically his kid I can’t pass on his genes, anyway. Sometimes life really does sort itself out!
  • G-5 “Nothing is better than ‘new baby’ smell!” I have yet to smell a baby I thought smelled good, this only really applies directly after a bath. Then the aroma of stale milk and the need for a diaper change creeps in and there are few smells in this world that disgust me more (I can’t even bear the smell of fresh milk). Add in the fact that they are babies for such a brief time and you have the world’s dumbest reason to have a child.
  • O-1 “What about the family name?” If I had kids in the traditional in-wedlock manner I wouldn’t be passing on my name anyway. Besides, how many surnames are so in danger of dying out? I have a really rare one myself but there are still dozens of us scattered about the globe and most of the others have already spawned this next generation.
  • O-2 “The biological clock is ticking!” Never heard it, still don’t hear it, and I can’t express in any amount of words how badly I want menopause to come. The horrible side-effects are more than worth never having to have a period again!
  • O-3 “You forget the pain of labor and birth!” I was really lucky as a kid to have a riding instructor who was way more honest with her charges than most adults. She spent an entire long drive to a horse show telling us in detail about her own labor and birth experience eight years after the fact. I’m amazed anyone who was in that truck ever had sex, frankly. There is not a horror movie in the world as scary as her tale and she had a relatively easy time of it. A quick internet search will reveal that women recall all kinds of details about the pain and most baby showers are basically like sitting around the campfire telling scary stories, only the goal is to utterly freak out the guest of honor about her impending experience. This statement is pure propaganda without an iota of truth behind it.
  • O-4 “It’s the most important job in the world!” No, it really isn’t. There is no way that a job that anyone with a functioning reproductive system can get, even by accident, is the most important job. There is NO “most important job” anyway. If you have children, yes, it’s most important that you take full responsibility and do your best with it, but I contend that even a lot of great moms do something much more important in their careers, things that truly affect us all.
  • 0-5 “Aren’t you curious to see what they would look like?” Here we have it folks – the most vain and selfish reason to have a baby!!
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Comments»

1. Norma Tallulah Shea - October 19, 2012

Wow this was SO refreshing!!! I completely identify with your perspectives and I am so frustrated to see all my peers churning our children for the most superficial reasons, and then trying to convince me that I should do that too! Being child-free will enable me to have the energy, focus, and love to spare to help all the thousands of children out there whose parents have FAILED them.

It takes people like you, me, and others who have the tenacity to live by our own rules, to change the world and leave a legacy. I know now that the reason NASA chose me to attend the tweetup, is because I was destined to use my passion and talent for a greater purpose: to contribute to a new generation filled with hope who will help us escalate Space Travel to new levels. THAT is my purpose, and I would rather spend my life dedicating myself to the lost children of the world, and giving them something to aspire to, then to spend my life changing diapers and going to little league.

I admit, as my mother’s only daughter, I do feel regret and sadness that I can not give her grandbabies. It would mean the world to her. I still have trouble dealing with the emotions for that. Any advice or words of wisdom?

I am so happy you produced this well-written post about being a child-free woman this day in age. Thank You!

Pete 'Happy' Thomas (@happypete) - October 19, 2012

Wow! As a parent of 3 I can tell you that my only problem with this article is that N-3 wasn’t a free space. I mean…really @CraftLass …you’ve played Bingo, right?

To be or not be a parent is an important and inherently personal decision–fie on anyone who presumes to judge someone else’s decision about whether or not to have children.

craftlass - October 19, 2012

LOL! Actually, it was, if you look at the card I linked to (couldn’t find contact info to get permission to reproduce it here), it reads “Free Stork Parking” with an adorable illustration. 🙂

Thank you so much for being the first parent to comment, it means a lot when someone like you supports those of us who have made the choice to not have children. Just as feminist men are key to women ever gaining full equality, so is the support of parents important to changing opinions on this issue. I wish society would let this be a truly personal choice with no stigma for anyone, it seemed like we were making great strides until this election cycle really got going. It’s especially frustrating that the party who crows about “personal responsibility” wants to prevent me from making responsible decisions. As I mentioned in my reply to Tallulah, if I had a child at this point I would be draining the system instead of contributing in any way. That’s not fair to my country, my state, my city, or a hypothetical child.

Thanks for being a dedicated parent and such a caring person in general! 🙂

craftlass - October 19, 2012

Thanks, Tallulah!!! You make some truly excellent points that I didn’t even get to here, so glad you commented!

I don’t really have very good advice re: the grandchildren issue except to remember that you would be the one responsible for the child (and the pregnancy, unless using a surrogate or adopting), not your mother. There are lots of kids who could use an “adopted” grandmother, too. I wrote in a song, “Blood may be thicker than water but love is what brings us together,” and I think that applies here. If she wants to nurture young children there are plenty of volunteer opportunities that could bring her together with kids who really need a positive influence in life and that would be even more rewarding than just having grandkids the usual way, in my very humble opinion. Maybe you even have some friends with kids who don’t have easy access to their own parents and would love to develop a relationship with your mother. Just a few notions off the top of my head, of course. No, those wouldn’t be the same but they could be every bit as fulfilling.

I completely agree that those of us with the strength and determination to do something a bit more unpredictable with our lives need to not only try our hardest to do so but we need to speak up so those without a voice can hopefully have an easier time of just going about life. The only thing that has ever changed the world for the better is dedicated people devoting themselves to the task. I would never say that we can’t do what we do if we had children, after all, we know plenty of parents who do, but it sure makes it a lot easier to stay focused when you don’t have to worry about small people who are completely dependent. I can say for certain that, if I had a child right now, I would be on welfare and food stamps and be a drain on society in every way, plus I would have to give up every one of my dreams. Children are the most common reason for performers to quit and it makes perfect sense. Heck, I can barely take care of myself! lol

2. ct_la (@ct_la) - October 19, 2012

Very seriously awesome post. Agreed 1000%.

craftlass - October 19, 2012

Thank you so much!!

3. @jtmahony - October 22, 2012

Excellent post.

I have 2 kids and I love them more than anything in the world. But it was a joint, private decision between my wife and myself to have kids. We were married 8 years before deciding we wanted them -until then it was party party party! For a few of those years we put up with constant comments along the lines of “any news?” “no bun in the oven yet?” with a little grin as if to say “what’s the hold up?”. It was almost like getting married is a license AND obligation to have a baby. I think people must have thought we had fertility problems because it eventually stopped a couple of years after we got married……mind your own f***king business, people!

Anyway, even though I don’t regret it for a second, it’s very, very hard work raising kids. It’s very costly and definitely puts a strain on even the most solid of relationships, especially when they’re little. Even though one can never be fully prepared for parenthood, it should be a conscious decision, not a whim and certainly not because society deems it appropriate (for whatever reason) that you should have wee ‘uns, and have them NOW. It’s a simple courtesy: people should mind their own affairs and not comment on the choices of others just because they doesn’t coincide with their own….all the excuses above are just that: BS excuses to get others to think in the same mould as those who put forward that crap. It all comes down to controlling those who do it differently. So, again, to those who persist in perpetuating these myths of parenthood, or lack of desire therefor I say simply this:

Mind your own f***king business.

craftlass - October 22, 2012

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!

There are few people I admire more than good parents who make a conscious choice and follow through. Your kids *should* be the most important thing in the world – to you. While you can’t be fully prepared you definitely can analyze your capabilities (financial, time-related, etc.) and get some idea of what sort of life you can give to your offspring. I’ve always said that if I changed my mind and adopted (there is no way I could do the pregnancy thing myself) it would be because I had plenty to give to a child. I was lucky enough to have pretty excellent parents, they set a high bar that I would only attempt to leap if I thought there was a good chance I could succeed. I want every child to have parents with that attitude, not just because it’s “what you do” when you grow up and certainly not as a “punishment” for daring to enjoy sex!

I can understand why loved ones care to some extent about our choices, it’s the relentless barrage from acquaintances, old friends I’ve run into, and even perfect strangers that are crazy-making. For example, the rabbi that wrote that open letter to Sarah Silverman about how she wouldn’t be so angry about politics if she did what she was “born to do” and settled down into raising a brood. I don’t understand how someone can have opinions about a stranger’s choice in this matter. Have you ever seen a single male comedian in his 40s get that sort of treatment? No. Lifelong bachelors are considered quirky but lifelong bachelorettes are considered deficient. Why?

Studies show that people without kids are happier than people with kids, but the latter finds more meaning in life. It’s all a big trade-off. Let’s all make the choice with purpose, shall we?

Again, thanks for the comment, it’s always refreshing to hear parents speak the truth about parenting. If we were all a little more honest I think people would be better-equipped to find the right path for themselves. 🙂


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