Saturday, July 30, 2011
Today Show Gets it Right for Once (mostly)
Looks like the Today Show is making some strides in addressing the issue of childfreedom in a more balanced manner than they have in the past. In this piece, the Today Show speaks with Lilit Marcus, a young childfree woman, psychiatrist Janet Taylor, Laura Scott, author of Two is Enough: A Couple's Guide to Living Childless by Choice and Sarah Brokaw, therapist and author of Fortytude: Making the Next Decades the Best Years of Your Life - Through the 40s, 50s and Beyond. The guests discuss the subject of women who choose not to have children.
There are a couple good things about this piece. First, the women discuss many of the negative stereotypes childfree women must endure, such as the assumptions that we are selfish, cold, heartless people who do not know our own minds (you know - we'll change our minds later about having kids). They also discuss the assumptions that all women should aspire to be moms, that motherhood is the one true path to adulthood, maturity, fulfilment and a purposeful life and agree that these assumptions are incorrect, and that there are many ways women can lead satisfying and fulfilling lives apart from having children.
Then there are the downsides:
1. I wish the message was conveyed that not only can childfreedom be equally as fulfilling as motherhood, but many childfree women feel it is more fulfilling and this is an important reason many women opt out of motherhood.
2. It is incorrect to say that all childfree women have doubts and second thoughts about their choice. Childfree women are no more unsure or doubtful about their life choice than mothers. In fact, while moms are flooding the internet with "I hate being a mom" and "I regret having kids" posts and discussions, one would be hard-pressed to find any "I hate being childfree" or "I regret not having kids" posts on the web. So which group is the unsure and regretful one? And why is it always assumed that the childfree woman is racked with doubt? Just another false stereotype about childfree women.
And do we really need the lonely, stark photos of empty playground swings accompanied by a shift in music from upbeat to creepy and forboding at the very moment the issue of childfree doubt arises? (reinforcing the message that childfree women might be making a big mistake).
3. While the negative stereotypes about childfree women were mentioned, such as selfishness, I wish the piece took the next step and discussed the truth about childfree women: that they are in fact often better able to live a more selfless and giving life thanks to the freedoms they are afforded by foregoing childrearing - more time to devote to their spouses, families and other personal relationships, more time to be involved in their communities, more time for volunteer and charity work, etc.
4. Ms. Brokaw's comment at the end of the piece about there being many ways a woman can relate to children without having to be a mom was well-meaning, but reinforces the stereotype that all women are maternal and have a need to express that instinct. In fact, while many childfree women (including me) consider themselves maternal and express that part of themselves in a variety of ways, there are also many childfree women who have chosen not to have kids precisely because they recognize that they are not maternal - and hurray for them for recognizing this! There are far too many non-maternal women who have no business being mothers, who go ahead and have children anyway because "it's just what you do" - and the children pay the price. Additionally, while many childfree women enjoy being around kids or working in careers which place them around children, there are plenty of childfree women who do not enjoy kids and have no interest in caretaking jobs such as social worker, teacher, nurse, doctor and so on. Not all women have a need to have children as an important part of their lives. However, I suspect this viewpoint (as well as the others I listed here) might be a bit too much for the Today Show's audience to digest.