Thank you to Laura Carroll who shared a link to a Daily Mail article entitled, Successful and Childless: The Career Women from Generation X who have it all...Except a Family. After giving this article a look-over, a rare thing occurred: I was at a loss for words. Well, for a moment at least. My readers will be happy to know that my speechlessness lasted only a minute and then my reaction began to take shape.
Where do I begin?
Let's start at the title of this article which tells us that we are in store for yet more tired stereotyping of childfree women - you know, that we are all self-absorbed, ladder-climbing careerists who willfully and selfishly sacrifice the most important thing in life - children - at the altar of personal ambition. After all, what other reason(s) could a woman possibly have to forego having children - the ultimate path to joy and fulfillment in life and the most important job in the world!? She must be all about me me me.
Note that the title also promotes the equally tired stereotype of childfree woman as "family-less". (Another deep sigh). Let me set the record straight: the childfree are not without families. We have spouses and partners. We have parents. We have brothers and sisters. We have nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and grandparents. My husband and I started a family the moment we got married. Yes, a family of two - five if you count the moggies.
Once we get past the title, we are then assaulted by three carefully-selected images which further promote the stereotype of childfree women as confused souls torn between the important thing in life (motherhood) and the siren song of career ambition. Photo #1: a career woman with briefcase in one hand and baby in the other, trying to decide between one or the other. "Which road should I take? Do I want the great career or the family? I must pick one because a woman only gets 2 choices: she either wants to be a family woman (i.e. mom) or a career woman. I desperately want both, but only one choice can reign supreme. Which woman should I be?"
It's a tough decision, so let's look at pictures #2 and #3 which perhaps can help us narrow down the choices and give us some insight into which woman she might want to be. Let's see - there's the serious, bookish lawyer-looking woman on the left - obviously depicting the cold, selfish old maid (obviously all business and not having much fun). And then on the right we have the soft, glowing, smiling, content, happy mom who gazes down adoringly at her reason for living. Hm, can we guess who has her priorities straight? Who made the right choice?
Aside from the title and photos, there are many problems with this article, but here they are in a nutshell:
1. News alert! There are many women - myself included (and I am sure many of my readers) - who do not feel at all torn between career and motherhood. I didn't choose to be childfree because my career is more important than having kids. I choose childfreedom because the lifestyle ROCKS and from my perspective PARENTHOOD SUCKS. Sorry - I am not usually this crass, but dumb-headed articles like this compel me to dispense a good smackdown.
2. There is no such thing as "too many choices". I live in America where choice is a GOOD thing. It's a virtue that I stand 100% behind and nobody can convince me I shouldn't. If being born in 1966 means I am of a generation of choice, then I'll wear the Gen-X title with pride. I am glad that I was born at a time when I actually have the choice to be childfree. I am grateful there is effective birth control. I am lucky nobody can force me to be a parent. And I am glad others have the choice to be parents if it makes them happy. To each her own.
3. If family = kids, then yes - I am a Gen-X woman who has everything...except a family - and guess what? I'm thrilled about it! Don't throw me a pity party. Don't tsk-tsk me, lament that my sad state is the result of "too many choices", and shake your head that I'm too busy with my career to see what's really important in life. I know what's important in life and I'm living it. In fact, from what I can tell, I'm doing a hell of a lot more living than the parents I know who are buried under massive piles of diapers, kindercrap, PTA meetings, screaming matches, play dates, debt and diarrhea blow-outs.
4. I am not "left without a family of my own". I am blessed with a beautiful family who I cherish, the most important members being the ones I have willfully and thoughtfully chosen to share my life and household with. I find it insulting and frankly, irritating that in this day and age when every configuration of people under the sun defines itself as family, I still have to endure the pity and judgemental attitude of people who think a happily married couple sans kids is a sorrowful state of emptiness and lack. It's a flat out lie, and I am sick to death of articles like this spreading the lie around. I'm here to spread some truth.
Finally, let it be said: Not all GenX women bought into the myth of:
Husband + House + Career + Kids = Have it All
I have 3 of those things and I know for certain that if I had the fourth, I'd have way less.