Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Pile of Parental Smugness Under the Christmas Tree

To those of you who celebrate, Merry Christmas (a day late)! I hope you had a joyous day as I did.

We spent Christmas with my family at my parents' house (yes, my mother and I ended our estrangement and things seem to be going well so far). My entire family was there - my 2 brothers and their wives/girlfriends, their children (4), my parents and us...a total of 12 people.

The presents were piled high and the children, of course, were extra riled up in anticipation of opening their gifts. As is always the case, my hubby gets them even more riled up by roughhousing with them and being the crazy uncle who is throwing himself on the floor, playing "karate" with them and doing other shenanigans - anything to get them to laugh.

At one point, my brother Ron, my sister-in-law (the other brother's wife) and I were standing in the kitchen observing my hubby and three of the kids in the full throes of chaos. One of the kids had gotten an Indiana Jones whip as a present - a soft (harmless) whip that makes a real whipping sound when it makes contact with someone. So my nephew Anthony was whipping hubby and hubby was reacting like he was really getting whipped - falling over and making silly, pained faces. All of the kids were laughing, but the one laughing the hardest was my youngest nephew, Bobby, who is 2 1/2. He was laughing so hard, he was to the point of hysterics and his belly laughter had all of us in stitches. He was doubling over and holding his stomach each time hubby was whipped. Within moments the entire family was watching and being entertained and were laughing as hard as Bobby.

And then, my brother Ron (the father of the laughing toddler) said (obviously for my benefit), "this is the kind of thing that makes having a kid all worth it. It can be hard sometimes but moments like this make it all worthwhile."

Because I am keeping peace in the family and am careful to do NOTHING to cause any problems whatsoever, I said nothing but continued to smile and laugh at the scene before us. I simply did not respond.

What I wanted to say was this: "Well, I am getting just as much enjoyment from this moment as you, yet I do not have any of the burdens of being a parent. I win!!!"

But seriously, I just have to shake my head sometimes at the rationale people give for having kids. People love to rationalize that undertaking a life of burden, sacrifice, never-ending work, financial strain, marital strain, relinquishment of friends, hobbies and interests is worth it to get the rare moments like this - when one can experience the joy of watching his child laugh hysterically at his crazy uncle - a benefit that one can just as easily enjoy by watching other peoples' kids in situations like this (particularly if the kids are loved ones) or (as hubby says) by renting Three Stooges videos. My heart was bubbling over with just as much joy as my brother while watching Bobby's fits of belly laughter and yet my brother felt compelled to make a point that his joy was somehow superior to mine because he is the one who reproduced.

The irony of the situation, of course, is that it was hubby - a childfree person - who was the one to elicit said infectious laughter from the tot, not either of the parents. It is precisely because we are childfree that we are not jaded by the day-to-day grind of childrearing and are therefore more fun and engaged with the kids. Kids are a novelty to us and we, as fun grownups who enjoy kids and who are still in touch with our inner child, are a novelty to our nieces and nephews. We joyfully engage with them and play with them on their level, while the parents look on and feel grateful for a moment of rest.

So my brother feeling superior for being a parent was laughable, but I was proud of myself for having the self discipline to keep my mouth shut when I could have just as easily smacked him down and put him right back in his place. I just smiled and let him have his moment of smugness. If it makes him feel better, good for him. He needs the reinforcement more than I do, and I am well aware that it will be just a blink of an eye before that adorable, giggling toddler will be a sullen, backtalking teenager. We'll see who's feeling smug then.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I'm Dreaming of a Equitable Christmas

Okay, how do I vent about this without coming across as a petty whiner who has no perspective on the true meaning of Christmas? I am not sure, but let me say up front that I am keenly aware of the true spirit of Christmas - that's it's not about materialism and consumerism. In fact, I've been the one in my family to push for cutting back on the consumerism and focus more on the non-material aspects of the holiday. Sadly, my attempts at getting my family to agree to do a pollyanna fell on deaf ears.

Okay, now that I've cleared that up, there is something about the consumerist side of Christmas that annoys me and feels lopsided in favor of people with kids.

When hubby and I buy gifts for our families, we buy for our siblings and their kids. Every person gets their own gift, so for example, for my youngest brother and his family, we purchase 5 gifts - a gift for him, a gift for his wife and a gift for each of the 3 kids. When they buy for us, we each get one gift - from the entire family. So they buy us 2 gifts and we buy them 5.

If things were not lopsided in favor of people with kids, rules of fairness would dictate that since we bought each of their kids a gift, we should receive a gift from each of the kids. Now, we know that kids don't have money to purchase gifts, but the kids have parents who can give the kids money to purchase gifts for their aunt and uncle. Unreasonable? I don't think so. I have noticed that each of those kids "buys" a gift for their parents on their birthdays, Mother's Day and Father's Day and I am pretty sure it was the other parent who footed the bill.

To be clear, it's not about the gifts - we don't need more stuff and can certainly buy whatever we need. It's the principle of the thing. It's about people with kids always getting more than they give and living a life of entitlement. It extends beyond Christmas to every facet of their lives. They get more because they reproduced. They give less because they reproduced. It's all about them and their kids and their life of entitlement. It is not only accepted, it's expected. It's the perpetual parental subsidy - the never ending meal ticket.

People like to say that Christmas is for "the children". This is really just an excuse to shortchange the grownups.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Frazzled, Frenetic Friends

One of the main reasons I do not want to have children is that I do not want to have a manic and chaotic lifestyle. I have no desire to run around like a headless chicken all day and collapse into bed completely exhausted every night. I have no desire to live in a home that is filled with noise and commotion 16 hours a day. I have no desire to have every minute of my day filled to the brink and I certainly have no desire to live my entire life soley for a person who is completely dependent on me. Every person I know who has children lives this way and that lifestyle holds absolutely no appeal to me whatsoever.

When people see me with kids and see how much I enjoy them and how good I am with them, they cannot wrap their minds around the fact that I do not want kids. People assume that if a person likes kids, she must want them and that not wanting kids equals hating kids. For me, this is not true. I don't hate kids. I hate the lifestyle that comes with having them. When I tell people that, they look at me like I am speaking a foreign language. They just don't get it.

My very close friend Sara, who loves being a mom, demonstrates for me every time we are together why I do not want the parent lifestyle. We were together all day on Saturday at our house doing our annual holiday cookie bake - a tradition we have been enjoying for over 20 years. We start at 8:00 a.m. and go until well after dinner time, sometimes into the evening. Her kids stay home with her husband on cookie bake day (thank goodness) so we have the entire day together, just the two of us.

Even though Sara is sans kids for the day, she never escapes the demands of being a full-time mom, with her husband calling her on her cell phone every hour to check in and ask for her advice on every situation that arises with the kids. She's got to talk him through everything from what foods to feed them to how to get them to settle down for nap time to what time he should put the t.v. on, to who gets what snacks. He is helpless without her.

Last week, Sara and I went out Christmas shopping together at the local Target. I noticed that Sara always seems like she is on methamphetamines - she is always racing. While I am casually strolling through and aisles, browsing and looking at things in a leisurely and contemplative way, Sara is manically grabbing this thing and that, talking a mile a minute and making decisions quickly in a feverish rush, even when it's just the two of us and there is no reason to rush. I realized that her frantic demeanor has been honed from having to do shopping trips with her young boys who have very short attention spans that expire after 10 minutes a store, resulting in out-of-control temper tantrums. Sara has learned to think and act quickly and impulsively as a means of survival. Being with her turns my stomach in knots.

I have also noticed that with the onset of children, Sara has lost most of her attention span. When she and I are together and having a discussion, I have to get to the point quickly because she quickly loses her focus. She pretends to be listening, but I can tell her thoughts are elsewhere. Her brain has lost its ability stay with a train of thought for more than 1 minute. Again, blame it on endless hours of interactions with her kids who require rapid-fire responses from her - several per minute.

I love Sara and our friendship goes back many, many years. I am sure our friendship will go on until the end of our lives, but being around her now gives me bad nerves. I keep telling myself to hang in there - that in a few years, when the kids are older, things will settle down and she will return to the calm and attentive friend I once knew. In the meantime, I just have to remember to take deep breaths when I am with her and try not to absorb the frenetic tension of her manic lifestyle.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sanctimony and Santa Claus

Sanctimonious, self-righteous parents.

How often do we childfree people have to endure their self-congratulating and their holier-than-thou conceitful arrogance over how selfless they are and how their life was so meaningless before they had children and how NOW they are Mother Teresa incarnate because their life is all about their children and taking care of their children and putting the needs of others before their own (implying, of course, that YOU - the pitiable, confused, self-absorbed, materialistic, hedonist creature - are far less evolved).

Yet, amazingly, from these same saintly parents, I witness scenes like this every Christmas season:

And who, pray tell, is placing this terrorized child on Santa's lap? Why, it is said sanctimonious parent who -in her relentless quest to get the requisite Santa photo - will kick her child's psychological well-being to the curb if she has to. There are some things that are just too important to miss out on and this is one of them! What will Aunt Martha think she doesn't receive a Santa photo?

I've witnessed this scene many times over the years and again just last night while at the mall. As I exited Macy's, I heard this God-awful screaming - like a child was being killed. It was coming from Santa's Village in the mall court and there, sitting on Santa's lap was this poor terrorized child, beet red and screaming his lungs out. His mother had placed him on Santa's lap, despite the child's feeble attempts to cling onto his mother for dear life. My heart broke for the little tyke as I observed the scene. He was kicking and flailing his arms and legs, screeching in terror and reaching out desperately for his mother, who was standing next to the camera elf making silly noises and faces and clapping her hands like a cymbal monkey to convince the child that this is FUNNNNN! Hurray! Look at mommy! Isn't this fun!!?? Santa is a NICE MAN! (clap clap clap)

Dad joins in, and then little sister and now the whole family is in on the abuse. The baby will have no part of it and screams louder. Now he is so upset he is gasping for air and turning blue. The elf finally gives up and takes the photo. Santa gives a hearty chuckle. A terrorized child memorialized for eternity.

Now, isn't this what Christmas is all about?

Once the photo is taken, mom runs over to rescue the screaming child from Santa's lap. She picks him up and presses him against her, consoling him and patting his back. The child is grasping onto her like a Titantic survivor clinging to a lifeboat. "It's all over now. Now that wasn't so bad, was it?" The mom and dad are giggling between themselves with a knowing look as if to say, "oh, the things we have to go through as parents" (as though torturing a child like this is some kind of parental obligation).

Yes folks, these are the same people who look down their noses at the childfree for our "selfishness".

Isn't that like Santa calling the Pillsbury Doughboy fat?

Friday, December 4, 2009

You May be Surprised

A couple of posts ago, I discussed my dismay at the fact that in our culture, "family" = couple + children, and childfree couples are not thought of as a family. I posted a link to a recent Redbook article that addressed the question of how many kids a couple should have, completely disregarding the option of "none".

I posted a poll asking what you thought - is a married couple without kids a "family"? Not surprisingly, a vast majority of my readers voted "yes" and a couple people commented that my poll would get very different results on a non-childfree site.

So out of curiosity, I posted the same poll on another site - a non-childfree discussion board. The members of the forum are primarily women from all walks of life. Most are moms or are planning to be moms at some point. A few are childfree. Some are childless. They are a pretty good cross-section of women.

Well, you may be surprised to know that with 130 votes cast so far, in answer to the question, "is a married couple without kids a 'family' "? they responded as follows:

Yes: 93.8%
No: 3.8%
Not Sure: 2.3%

Surprised? I am.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Is 30 Rock Pronatalist too?

I received this e-mail from a reader who gave me permission to print it. If you're a fan of 30 Rock, please let us know what you think:

"I must say I love your blog and appreciate the time and effort you put into it. I enjoy reading it and it inspires me not to be afraid to think for myself. I recently started watching the NBC sitcom 30Rock (a quick trip to can explain this show better than I can...) but unfortunately this is in my honest opinion the worst episode that aired recently called "Sun Tea"...

It started out pretty good. The two characters, Jack Donaghy and Tracy Jordan, plan to get vasectomies together after exploring the disadvantages of having kids. In Jack's case, he seemed like the childfree type from the start. His hero is "publicly humiliated by his own family" and he's glad he doesn't have to experience this himself. Yeah, he's rich enough to afford multiple kids but he doesn't have them anyway. He seems to have a good head on his far.

In Tracy's case, even though he already had children (2 boys I think), his reasons were: " This Cosby Show lied to me!" (you know, the usual perfect or in some way appealing family that everyone would love to be a part of) and the inability to tell "the stripper story" in front of Tracy Jr.

Both men had no problems getting their surgeries approved but in the end, they both decided not to go through with the vasectomy because Tracy was stupid enough to listen to his Cosby Show hallucination during his vasectomy and Jack bonded with Tracy Jr. over homework in the waiting room. What's even stupider is they add some "green" propaganda. But there's obviously nothing "green" abotu having children...hypocricy much, Tina Fey? She's a mom of course as well as the creator of this show.

Please tell me this episode pokes fun at people who have stupid reasons for having children. I want to love this show, I really do. The past ones weren't painful to watch like this one was. It kind of makes me fear for the future just a little bit more...

Here's a link to the episode. I hope it's able to show up so you can judge for yourself.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Notice from Redbook: This is NOT a Family

First off, Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate. I hope you did like me and ate everything in sight because this is the one day of year where it's not only acceptable - it's encouraged! This year I am thankful for many of the things you'd expect - my hubby, my health, my adorable furboys, the fact that I have a job. The list goes on. I am also thankful for you, my dear readers - for reading my rants and through your feedback, validating my feelings and making me realize that there are way too many people who share my feeling for me to be crazy. I hope my blog provides a little validation for you too.

On Wednesday, I left the office at 2:00, but before I did, I stopped by the waiting room and grabbed a magazine to read on the train. I really don't care for our office's selection of magazines - it's the usual tripe, and the women's magazines usually end up annoying me more than entertaining me, but I went against my better judgement and grabbed the November issue of Redbook to read on the way home.

In addition to finding a yummy-looking recipe for cranberry apple chutney, I learned something very interesting while reading Redbook. Hubby and me are NOT a family. Redbook is very clear about this in their article entitled What's the Right-Size Family? The tag line to the title is "Sometimes you build your family by choice, and sometimes by chance. These eight couples share the stories of how 1, 2, 6...even just the right number of children".

So against my better judgement, I tortured myself and read through the entire article just to make sure they really didn't present a couple who chose not to have children. Heck, I would have even be happy to see a presentation of a childless by circumstance couple who, in the normal feel-good Redbook fashion, overcame their circumstance and came to embrace their life as-is.

Ah, but alas, this was all just fantasy on my part. As would be expected from such a typical rag, the usual assumptions were made: first, that all couples have or want children - that it's not a matter of whether a couple will have kids but how many. Second, that a couple who does not have children is not a family and of course, the underlying sub-message to that - that if you desire to live and create a family lifestyle for yourself, you'll need to pop out at least one kid.

I got to read heartwarming stories of blissful families like Jody and Chad who have come to terms with the fact that they will only have one child together (Chad already has a brood from a previous marriage and had a vasectomy before meeting Jody). Of course, it never occurs to them to adopt, but that's another issue. And then we have Aly and Jay who started with one but ended up with five and talk about how "awesome" it is to have this many kids, even though, Aly admits, there are days when she doesn't sit down for 12 hours straight. Lisa Renee and Russell opted to have 2 (and no more) because having 2 is manageable enough to allow them to "put their marriage first", for example taking 3 trips per year by themselves (yeah, we childfree couples know all about putting marriages first, if anyone's interested).

Then we get to the "faithful" family of Kate and Ray who allow God to determine how many kids they have. No surprise, they're up to 12. While saying it can be difficult, they mostly stress how blessed they feel and how the local business just love to see their van pull into their parking lots (can you imagine the carbon footprint of this family?)

The article goes on to feature 4 more families: one with a big age gap between their 2 kids, one who opted for just 1 child, another one with a big brood. Some of them (like the only-child couple and the couple with 6 children) describe the judgements they suffer from others who think their choice of number of children is wrong. Ha! They haven't seen anything. Try stating aloud that you have chosen not to have kids and then you can talk about judgements.

I guess what irritates me the most about this article is the title itself and the one obvious missing answer: What's the Right-Size Family?" The question begs for at least ONE of the answers to be "2 - just the couple" and yet, despite the fact that 7 - 10% of all couples opt to be childfree and very much consider themselves a family, not a single sentence in this article mentions this option as an answer to the question it presents.

I don't know about you, but I consider hubby and me (with or without our furry boys) a family. I always have. Hubby is my family. He's more family to me than my parents and siblings. He is the person who loves and understands me the most. He is the person I have built a life with - who I share and run a household with, who I go through all of life's joys, trials and tribulations with. We grow and develop together and make each other better people. If that isn't a family, I don't know what is. Frankly, I am sick and tired of being marginalized and treated as though we do not exist when the truth is - not only do we exist, but we flourish because of our chosen lifestyle.

Rags like Redbook (and the media in general) love to expand the boundaries of what constitutes a family and for the most part, I think that's a good thing. Today, family is no longer narrowly defined as a married couple with children. We have blended families, single-parent families, even families with 2 moms or 2 dads. The idea of family has been stretched so far beyond it's original definition that almost anything will be defined and embraced as family - that is, except for childfree and childless couples. For some reason we cannot seem to earn that title. We've come a long way baby, but we haven't gotten there yet.

So what do you think? Is a couple without children a "family"? Cast your vote on my new poll.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Just Your Typical Mom

Guess what the big celebrity news is right now? Heidi Klum strutting her glorious post-baby bod down the Victoria's Secret catwalk. See, ladies - it's just like they always tell us - pregnancy and childbirth is the best thing a woman can do. It makes her BETTER. It makes her more beautiful. It makes her sexier and more glamorous. You can have all the babies you want and still be a hot chick - just look at Heidi. She is proof it is true!

So what are you waiting for?! Pop out those babies! We guarantee you - no stretch marks, no droopy boobs, no weight gain, no big hips.

Whatsamatter? Don't you believe me?

Monday, November 16, 2009

An Easy $300

In 1992 I was 26 years old and already certain I did not want to have children. At this point, hubby and I were still dating and only a year or two into our relationship and I counted my lucky stars at my good fortune in finding a man who was on the same page concerning children. We were excitedly planning our future together, saving for a house and in the early stages of talking about getting married.

At that time, I was employed as a legal secretary while I worked my way through college. A memory came back to me the other day of a certain attorney who worked in the office with me. He was about 40 years old and I recall he was a bit of a jerk and a chauvinist. One day, I was having a conversation with my boss about how I was not going to have children and the chauvinist overheard me. He said in a very knowing tone, "oh, yes you will. All women want to have kids. You'll change your mind", to which I replied that I most certainly would not. He kept insisting that I would and said he'd bet money on it. I said, "really?" and together we drew up an Affidavit which my boss notarized. He bet me $300 that by the age of 35 I would have a child.

That was 17 years ago and here I am at age 43 and still happily childfree.

I have debated about contacting that attorney and seeing if he'll pay up. I no longer have the Affidavit (I have no idea what I did with it). Do you think I should? It might be worth it just to make a point.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Meeting CF Folks

Today I thought I would pose a question to all of you: how do you meet other childfree folks? I don't know about you, but my experience has been that most of the childfree people I connect with are on-line, through sites like this, or discussion boards or other places where I am not likely to meet them in person.

In "real life" I know very few people who define themselves as "childfree". I know people who don't have kids, but in some cases I think they hold that distinction by circumstance, not by any deliberate decision.

I have been very proactive in trying to foster childfree friendships. I once even ran a childfree social group through While this was a great idea in principle, and's web site is very well organized, easy to use and attracts plenty of members, I came to discover that most people who sign up for social groups on-line are all talk and no action. They sign up in droves, but very, very few actually turn out for gatherings or make any meaningful effort at getting to know others. With over 120 members and an vast assortment of events for members to choose from, I was lucky if 3 or 4 people turned out at any given event.

This surprised me. I had this idea in my mind that childfree people would not only have plenty of free time to invest in social relationships, but given their marginalized status in our baby-crazed society, would be STARVED to meet like-minded folks who could spend an evening talking about something other than diapers and school systems.

How about you? Do you have many childfree friends? Do you meet many childfree people? How do you do it?

Also, for our single readers who are looking for a childfree soulmate, how does one find one? (I am sure many would love your tips if you've had success in this area). I was lucky to find mine by chance, but I know it's not that easy for many.

Please share by posting a comment.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Childfree Celebrity Spotlight: Renee Zellweger

Actress Renee Zellweger enjoys being an aunt, but perceives parenthood as a form of slavery.

"Motherhood has never been an ambition. I don't think like that. I never have expectations like, 'When I'm 19 I'm going to do this, and by the time I've hit 25 I'm going to do that'. I just take things as they come, each day at a time, and if things happen then all well and good."

"My brother has two children now, so I've been playing aunt Renee. They're two and four. It's chaos. Moms out there, kudos to you. The cool thing about being an aunt is like, I can leave. No offense to my big brother Drew, but that is slavery. I dare you to take a shower. You can't do anything unless they let you. It's a dictatorship. They're little dictators in their crib."

"Every now and then I'll step up and say, 'You know what, everybody sleep in, because you guys need some sleep and aunt Renee is going to take charge. I've got it, I've got it.' I so didn't have it."

Want to see what other celebrities are childfree by choice? Check out my list and be sure to let me know if you learn of others so I can be sure to add them!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Bitch & Backpedal

Here's something that I find utterly fascinating about some parents - perhaps you too have witnessed this. I call it The Bitch & Backpedal. This is how it works.

A parent is bitching and complaining about their kids and about being a parent. They're really letting loose and spilling all the beans. You know the scene. You're quiet and listening and letting them vent. They are going on and on full steam about how exhausted they are, how their kids suck the life out of them, how they are a shell of their former self. The venting feels good, so they keep going. They proceed to detail the sorry state of their financial affairs - the criminal cost of day care, having to hold down two jobs so they can pay the bills and save for their kids' college educations, how they can't afford to go out to dinner anymore and no longer have the time or money to do any of the things they love to do. And the kids are so damned UNGRATEFUL! They just take and take and take and take and don't appreciate a damned thing. You nod in sympathy and your compassionate response elicits further revelations. Their sex life has gone to hell. Even if they wanted to have sex, there's no time or energy left at the end of the day and both of them collapse into bed exhausted or too angry at each other from fighting over the kids. Parenthood has sucked every sexual impulse out of them.

You suggest that maybe they should schedule a "date night" or spend some time doing adult things together on the weekends. "Ha!" the parent laughs. "We're chauffeurs every weekend - Johnny has soccer on Saturdays and karate on Sundays, Belinda has art lessons on Saturday morning, fencing Saturday afternoons and Girl Scouts on Sunday - oh and on Tuesday nights we have PTA, on Thursdays the kids both have swim meets and Friday night is when we schedule play dates for them. We're running every day and night of the week!"

Now the parent is on a roll, ranting about their home being something akin to a war zone with toys and clothes everywhere, constant bickering and fighting, power struggles over chores and homework, evenings spent patrolling television, internet and cell phone use. And the back talk! They are at wit's end - every type of discipline they have tried has failed. The latest news is that 11 year old Belinda has been caught "sexting" nude photos of herself to several of her male classmates and has been suspended from school. The parent dissolves into a puddle of tears.

And then, without thinking, it slips out of you. "Man, I am so glad I don't have kids."

That is the trigger for The Backpedal. Abruptly the gears come to a screeching halt and the parent reverses into an alternate self, like the little girl in The Exorcist after the demon is exorcised from her, or Sybill when she switches between her multiple personalities. Their entire demeanor changes. Their face softens and takes on a glowy hue. Suddenly parenthood isn't bad at all. In fact, it's downright peachy! It's the most important job in the world and they can't imagine having any other life. You really don't know what you're missing. Those little moments when the child says, "I love you mommy and daddy" make it so worth it. There is nothing like the feeling of those little arms around your neck. It is a love that is stronger than any love they have ever felt. They are a better person for having kids - they have grown so much as a person and aren't so selfish anymore. The entire human race is better off because they have kids. Being a parent is so wonderful and their most important and gratifying role in life. (At this point, they're worried you aren't buying it, so to bolster their position they whip out the photo album - and immediately flip to the most heartwarming photos in their collection - photos you might see on the front of Hallmark cards with the child and parent gazing adoringly into each others' eyes, the proud daddy carrying his son on his shoulders, parents, kids and dog wrestling in a pile of colorful leaves on a crisp, autumn day).

I've witnessed the Bitch & Backpedal so many times at this point I can almost recite the script by heart. The Bitch & Backpedal is truly fascinating. It is like watching a glassy-eyed cult member rattle off the dogma of his leader, or a Stepford Wife robotically praising and complimenting her husband as she obediently serves him a martini like a remote control mannequin.

When I try to dissect this perplexing behavior, I can only come up with this theory:

Parenting, for the most part, sucks. Sure, it has some redeeming elements (like those little "I love yous" and arms around the neck - which, by the way, you can easily get from your nieces and nephews if you crave it) but a much higher percentage of parenthood is drudgery than pleasure. Of course, nobody tells people this going in because our pronatalist culture is laser beam-focused on beating us over the head with messages that unrealistically glorify and glamorize parenthood. Since most people are sheep and don't know the slightest thing about independent thinking, they blindly buy into every lie they are spoonfed. And let's face it - when it comes to parenthood, there are plenty of lies to go around.

So then, like good little automatons, they have children and reality hits. What?! It's not a picnic!? It's not sugar and spice and everything nice!? It's not puppies and rainbows!? It's not a life overflowing with Kodak moments!? No, for the most part, it is hours upon hours of drudgery puntuated by rare, fleeting moments of joy. Not what you bargained for? Sorry, you can't give them back. Becoming a parent and hating it is not like having a job you hate. Don't like your job? Quit and find another one (okay, maybe not too easy in this economy, but you get my point). You can even go back to school and change careers completely! Don't like your kids? Don't like being a parent? Miss your spouse, your friends, your hobbies, your love life, your personal identity, your peace of mind? You want your old life back? Tough bananas. You're stuck for at least 18 years (usually more) and there's no way out. Yes, I know it's a cliche but Sonny, you made your bed.

This is what I believe is at the root of The Backpedal. Simply stated, it is a coping mechanism. It is a form of self-delusion - a facade many parents try to uphold to avoid truly facing the harsh reality of what they have done - the fact that like all the billions of suckers before them, they were hoodwinked into a life of voluntary incarceration. So when in a moment of overwhelming frustration they inadvertently let the cat out of the bag to someone who is brave enough to acknowledge the suckiness of their life, it sends them into a tailspin. They simply cannot endure it because it confirms their deepest fear - what they know deep inside but do not want to admit - that parenthood is a prison they have no means to escape. Since they are going to be locked up for a long, long time, they might as well paint their prison in the prettiest, most uplifting shade they can find. Takes their attention off the bars.

Friday, October 16, 2009

IVF: Getting into the God Business

When the Octomom story broke a number of months ago, my head was spinning at the revelation that a fertility doctor had implanted an unemployed, single mother (who already had 6 children and who was sponging off her parents, living in their small 3 bedroom house) with 8 embryos. Somehow the doctor's behavior seemed even more insane to me than the behavior of Octomom herself which says a lot. The story got a ton of media - all the talking heads were flapping their gums (and wagging their fingers) over it, but we never did hear from the doctor himself, did we? No, he avoided the limelight, probably because he knew his behavior was nothing short of criminal. The man should have been thrown in jail.

I haven't written about the subject of in vitro fertilization (IVF) before today, but it's been on my blogging back burner. Thankfully, two of my readers e-mailed me to vent about the subject and their eloquent letters (which they permitted me to reprint below) raise some very interesting questions and I'd love to hear your thoughts:
Is in vitro fertilization in line with "God's plan"? (assuming one believes in God)

Is IVF an act of selflessness, or selfishness?

Is having children an entitlement? Is the capacity to give birth a medical necessity? Should health insurance companies be required to cover IVF?

Are those who pursue IVF (and the docs who perform this procedure) "playing God"?
By the way, thank you to ALL the readers who contact me with blog post ideas or forward links to me. I save them in a little file called "Blog Post Ideas" and my folder is getting pretty big. I plan to dip into it on a regular basis. Please continue to send me your ideas, letters, links and vents. You can reach me at firecracker_mandy(at)yahoo(dot)com.

And now to the letters of our esteemed readers, HawkMom and Shrodinger's Kittens (thanks, ladies).


I'm a mother (obviously) but I just love reading your Childfree blog. I've been to other places that just rant about "greedy moos". I don't take it too personally, though, as I've heard from some childfree acquaintances that parents are often self-righteous and arrogant towards them. All of what you say is spot on. When having children, you gain a lot emotionally and spiritually (if you're into that), but you give up a lot more. If kids were adults, we wouldn't put up with them. It's all take, take, take. I adore my girl to pieces, though, so I don't mind being temporarily insane for the next 18 years, which is basically what parenting is. I'm okay with that. : )

Anyway, I was about to write a post on my own blog about IVF and fertility treatment. I've written about it before and commented on forums, but I was charbroiled beyond recognition. These ladies are brutal. I'm in a weird place, as I am unapologetically pro-choice. However, fertility treatments in general make me uneasy. I'm one of those natural birth loons, so forgive me in advance, but I do find it offensive that many of the same women pumping themselves full of hormones and graded embryos are rallying against gay marriage and abortion as "against God's plan". Hypocrisy much? I lost a friend over this recently, when she found an old blog entry of mine. As diplomatically as I could, I explained to her in an e-mail back-and-forth that her twins (formerly triplets) were more the result of her selfish desires, that her PCOS was not a life-threatening disease comparable to cancer, and I just couldn't sit back and pretend that she was selfless and brave, no matter how many treatments she went through. She had "no regrets" over the fact that one of her babies died before the end of the first trimester and another one almost died in utero, spending the first few weeks of his life on breathing machines, clinging to life. She said she would do it all again, because I "wouldn't understand" what it's like to want something so many other women can have. The jaw drops when I think about this. I did apologize for offending her, if that helps. I thought you may understand my perspective, because those of us who have biological children or don't want any altogether are forbidden to have an opinion. I was actually searching your archived posts for something about the topic. I have to go run some errands now, but I was wondering if you could link me up to an old entry or if you were interested in writing about it in a newer post. My interest in all of this has been piqued even more with that recent mix-up in Wisconsin.



Every time I see an article that argues assisted reproductive technologies should be covered by insurance I can't make a coherent argument. It makes me too angry. Covered by insurance? It should be illegal. Nobody ever died from not having a baby. And then you get a situation like Jon and Kate--note in the article when they started trying for another baby she told the doctor she would not selectively reduce. This is the thing I hate most about assisted reproduction: for some reason your body is not able to sustain an embryo or bear a child, but we can chemically torture it into doing what it shouldn't, all because society says you are a failure as a woman if you don't pursue every possible option to get a baby, no matter how impractical or expensive or detrimental to your health. Look what Science can do for you! Oh, so many beautiful babies! It's a miracle!

Then a few months later the doctor sits them down and says, "You have to think about selective reduction. There are too many embryos," And mommy and daddy say, "Oh, teehee, I can't play God!" Guess what, you got into the god business when you started this chain of events. Everyone screams about their right! to have a baby, but nobody wants to take the responsibility. So God, in the guise of the taxpayers, pays for their defective litter that's plagued with physical problems and learning disabilities. Because no sacrifice is too great for a baby, especially if other people do the sacrificing.

So where does it end? Thanks for letting me rant, I apologize if I got wordy, but I thought you might have something (more coherent and less ranty) to say about this article if you hadn't seen it already. Take care.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Father Puts Kids up for Sale

Not really. He's a blogger dad who's just venting and being funny, but you know the humor comes from the fact that it's all true. It almost reads like The 101 Reasons Not to Have Kids. Here you go:

For Sale

Thanks to SwissBarb for forwarding this to me.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Lady who Lived in a Shoe

One of my close friends uses the dating service Every so often he forwards me the profile of a particular woman he finds interesting in some way. Here's part of the profile of one woman he came across:

"About my life and what I'm looking for: If you are looking for ordinary don't read any further. I am currently attending graduate school earning a 4. 0 as a reading specialist in education. I work for my family business, and I am the very proud mom of 10 children. My oldest is 21 and my youngest is 2. My ex left when my son was just 8 months old for another lifestyle. I am and have always been financially independent and am not looking for a father or caretaker of my children."

10 children! ?

How would it be possible for a man to marry this woman and not become the default father and caretaker of her children? Would he just ignore the children in the household and pretend they don't exist? Would he sit back with his feet propped up and a newspaper in his hand and watch her do all the work? Or hope that the ex husband, who fled for another "lifestyle" (a childfree lifestyle, I imagine) will suddenly reappear on the doorstep to sweep the 10 kids off to Disneyland for an extended vacation?

And where exactly would the new guy fit into her life? She has 10 kids, PLUS is attending graduate school, PLUS holds down a job, PLUS she's gotta sleep sometime, right? All this and romance too!?? The guy better be into quickies.

Interestingly, the photos the woman posted of herself on her profile included one of her in a bikini, and she really rocks it (amazing considering how many puppies she squeezed out). I guess when you are saddled with 10 kids, you have to pull out all the stops to attract a date. No offense, guys but I imagine the bikini shot would be enough for some men to look past all the kids in the shoe.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

"Fascism" China-Style: Why All Americans Would Benefit

Today's post is from a guest contributor: my hubby.

In recent weeks, the less-educated and more reactionary on the political right have been calling the President a "fascist" (apparently talk radio blowhards weren't generating enough anger from using "socialist"). Anyone familiar with history, or the first pages labeled "F" in the dictionary, knows how ludicrous this is. But the irony of our democratic society, where pronatalism is inextricably bound to the political right and religious zealots, is this: many of the complaints leveled at the president from them could be solved by us adopting a single concept from Communist China:


Now, of course I'm being facetious, knowing it would never happen here. But before you grab the torches and pitchforks, hear me out a moment.

As discussed here on my wife's blog, the average cost of raising an American child is several hundred thousand dollars, not including college or weddings - an extraordinary burden on parents, especially in this economy..but wait! It's often NOT on parents.

Despite a declining US birth rate, 4,247,000 children were born here last year. The growing poverty rate in the US was listed by the government as 13.2% for 2008. If you apply that percentage to the number of children born, it's credible that close to 321,700 of them were born to parents who are, or will be, partially or completely dependent on taxpayer support to provide for the kids. Multiply that times the average cost per child: a possible 64-billion-plus eventual taxpayer dollars, times the adjusted birth numbers, for each fiscal year!! Of course, once the children arrive, we have a moral obligation to see that they don't end up dead or living in the streets. But one of the many problems with pronatalism is that it's message isn't selectively parsed - according to society, religion, and the media, EVERYONE should have kids.

Consider just one example: Nadya "Octomom" Suleman is reviled for her selfishness, as well she should be. But, change the channel, and we have the sickening spectacle of 'poor' Kate Gosselin raking in the dough as she bequeaths a video diary of self-pity and infidelity to her own octo-brood. Her relative mental stability and likability compared with Octomom's becomes semantic: she appears on the surface to be more fit as a mother than the average apathetic, unemployed and/or drug-addicted mom..but the end result is still another narcissistic child-woman who bought into the 'more is more' philosophy of child rearing, and now depends on the profitability of our voyeuristic culture to try to put strained carrots on the table.

In rural areas, the 'quiver-full' philosophy has a better chance for a happier outcome, given that others in the community often step in to help with care, yet it also has more sinister undertones: in misogynist cultures (which traditional ones usually are), the easiest way to keep women 'controlled' is to keep them breeding..and, as Christianity declines in popularity worldwide, what better way to produce converts than to 'manufacture' them? Of course, at the moment of conception, none of these outcomes is guaranteed - so then the taxpayers must step in. A popular bumper sticker seen on cars owned by conservatives in the '70's, during the peak of our mismanagement of the welfare system, read: "The more we feed, the more they breed." The racial implications of that statement notwithstanding, every pronatalist should pause to consider how the breeding imperative has backfired on the stated value of fiscal responsibility that many of them espouse. Many pronatalists have fought for decades to eliminate comprehensive sex education in schools, especially regarding realistic birth control options (and abstinence doesn't count as one of those when you're talking about teens - sorry, it's just human nature, not politics!). The result, of course, has contributed to the problem outlined above, as people without knowledge consistently make bad choices. But luckily those pronatalists have been losing of late, as statistics show.

Irony strikes hard again, though, as many of the apoplectic, socially sheltered talk radio fans chanting for the president's death due to the kind of projected spending that I've outlined above, would direct the same level of anger and obstinacy toward their own children if greeted with: "We don't want kids".

Of course, we'll always need new citizens. But as we continue to become a less agrarian and industrial society and a more technical one, creating more 'laborers' becomes less of an imperative. And if smaller government is an ideal of fiscal conservatism, it stands to reason that a smaller, yet just as productive, society would be also. Knowing that quality education for everyone is also the key to this, this speaks to another frightening trend: It's the dumb ones that tend to breed the most.

Sorry, call me elitist, but a major aspect of intelligent people is planning. Great leaders, generals, scientists, businesspeople..they all have this in common. If the financial, emotional, and pragmatic aspects of child rearing were carefully considered by everyone..the fewer children who WERE born would be so well cared for, loved, and developed, that almost every American would have a shot at greatness..and before you could say "welfare state", we'd have transformed ourselves to most-profitable-nation-on-Earth status!

So consider all this, America (and the world), and then ask yourselves: wouldn't a little sacrifice of technical "freedom" result in a better life for all of us? Of course, this is the same argument used to make torture seem patriotic, so I'll stop typing now..and you can all resume the procreation!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Friend, Thy Name is Narcissus

Are you up for a long story today?

Being that most of you reading this are childfree, I know I am not alone in lamenting the loss (or demotion) of good friendships once a friend has children. Many times we feel as though we've been dumped once children come into our friend's picture.

Here's my question for you today: have you ever dumped a friend after he/she had kids? I did. Here's the story.

Paula was someone I had met in 7th grade when I started at a new school. We became fast friends and were best friends through 7th, 8th and 9th grades. We were inseparable. Then in high school we split off and went separate ways for many years until we later reconnected as adults.

It's interesting to reconnect as adults with someone you were friends with as a child. You never know how it will work out - if you will still be compatible. I was confident Paula and I would still be compatible - many things about her were still the same and many things about me were the same. But there was one big thing that had changed. Paula was desperate to have a child.

I didn't think this would necessarily be a problem. I may be staunchly childfree, but I have had several successful friendships with people who have children. However, Paula's desperation to have a child was more intense than anything I had witnessed before. This was illustrated by a comment she made to me in a letter stating that if she can't have children she would "rather die". I was worried, but she soon became pregnant and all was right in her world.

What was not right was what happened to our friendship. From the time the child was born, and for a few years after that (until our friendship ended), Paula was obsessed with her child to the point that I felt invisible in our friendship. Much of our interaction took place in letters to each other. She was a prolific letter writer, and I enjoy writing too, so we would send letters back and forth, about one per week. What really started to bother me was that in Paula's lengthy letters to me, the entire 5 pages were about her child - endless details about everything from the brand of diapers she uses to the child's sleeping schedule, to the temperature of her fevers, to the evaluation of day care centers, and on and on and on - lengthy, boring tedium that nobody in their right mind would subject another person to.

Now of course, I expect that a mother will talk about her child - the child is a big and important part of her life (as it should be). What was troubling was that in all 5 pages of each letter and in our interactions in person, she talked about nothing else. Not her job. Not her husband. Not current events. Not any interests. Nothing. If that was not bad enough, she showed no genuine interest in me and the happenings in my life. It was completely a one-way friendship.

So in response to her 5-page letters about her child, I would write back, politely commenting on the things she wrote about and then updating her on what was going on in my life. In return, in her letters to me, she did not acknowledge anything I had written about my life, but instead spent another 5 pages updating me about her daughter.

Needless to say this got old after awhile.

I turned to a close friend for help and at his advice, I began to turn the faders down on our friendship. I didn't feel comfortable coming straight out and telling her, "look, I feel completely ignored in our friendship and you show interest in nothing other than your child". So I figured, I'll just quietly ease away from the friendship. I undertook a deliberate plan of action to make her tire and lose interest in me. I took longer to reply to her letters. I shortened my letters. When I did write back, I didn't spend much time acknowledging the things she had written about. I took her approach and began to talk endlessly about myself, spending little time focusing on her. I figured in time she would either get the hint, or just get bored with me (since I would not be fulfilling her need for an active audience) and drop out of the picture.

Thinking back now, I was being a coward and a weasel. I didn't want to hurt her feelings so I figured I would just try to ease myself out of the friendship. My reasoning was that since she didn't have a sincere interest in me anyway (I was just a sounding board for her to rattle on and on about herself and her child), she wouldn't really care or notice.

But it didn't work. No matter how short my letters became, how little acknowledgement I gave her in my letters, how much time lapsed between letters, or how self-absorbed my letters became, she'd write back with full gusto - her usual 5-page dissertations about her daughter. I realized she was using our letters as a writing exercise - a diary to document her life. What's worse, she was actively pursuing me for in-person get-togethers which were just as bad as the letters, only in person which was more agonizing.

I was at wit's end.

The final straw for me was when I had mentioned (in an e-mail to her) that I was really excited because I got an A in my first graduate school class and her response was, "Oh, I didn't know you were in graduate school." Well, of course I had told her I was in graduate school in one of my prior letters. This just illustrated how little interest she had in me that she did not remember such an important fact. It was clear she didn't care, because her entire commentary on my being in graduate school consisted of just that one sentence and she was off and running on another lengthy diary entry about her daughter.

I was so exasperated by this that I forwarded her e-mail to my close friend (the confidant who was trying to help me figure out how to extricate myself from her) with the comment, "CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS?!!!" Well, fate must have stepped in at this point to help me out (in the form of a blessing in disguise) because somehow I did something (perhaps hit "reply" instead of "forward"?) and the e-mail went right back to Paula and she discovered I had forwarded her message to another person.

Of course, a blow-out immediately ensued and she was extremely hurt that I had betrayed her confidence. At that point, I could do nothing but be completely straightforward with her. I told her exactly how I felt - that I felt alienated from her because she seemed to be interested in nothing other than her child, and showed no genuine interest in me or the goings-on in my life.

Her reply? "Of COURSE I am interested in my child! She will always be the center of my life!" (I think she missed the point). And then, she lambasted me for telling her the honest reasons I no longer wanted to be friends with her. "You couldn't have just told me something like 'I feel we've grown apart' " - you had to be TRUTHFUL and tell me I bore you and show no interest in you!"

And that's when I stopped feeling badly because it was at this moment that she illustrated the precise reason I wanted out of the friendship. Even at this moment, when a friend was ending a long-standing friendship with her, her thoughts were only on herself, on her feelings, with no concern for her friend's unhappiness or what led her friend to want to pull away. She didn't care about my feelings or why I no longer wanted to be friends with her. She would prefer be lied to than to know how her behavior had driven away a friend.

So that was the end of that friendship.

This happened about 7 years ago and it came back to mind when I was writing my recent post about Baby Mama Facebook Drama. I realized there is a common thread between that story and this one. Some parents believe that the second they give birth, the entire world revolves around them and every detail of their lives. They believe that the life of childrearing is so scintillating and engaging and captivating to everyone that we are all hanging on the edge of our seats, salivating in anticipation of the next detail. They give a pitying nod to anyone who has any interests, endeavors and pursuits other than childrearing because none of those remotely compare to the earth-shatting importance of parenthood.

They believe this because this is what is drummed into our heads from the moment we are born - that the most important and gratifying role in life is that of parent. All roads lead to parenthood. It is the ultimate goal. It is the purpose of marriage. It is the purpose of sex. It is a love like no other. It completes you. It defines a woman and makes her "whole".

Given this thorough brainwashing, is it any wonder that parents (especially women) believe they are God the second they pop out a child? That trumpets of heaven will sound the moment they become parents? That everyone around them will bow down in worship? That we will be hanging on their every word and action? That their role as mother trumps all else?

Thankfully, there are parents who do not fall under this brainwashing spell - they are small in number, but they are out there (some of them are friends of mine). In the meantime, it can be difficult and hazardous navigating our way among all the others.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Casting Stones

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The Today Show likes to talk about families, and babies, and pregnancy and parenting A LOT. They spend lots of air time promoting and glorifying parenthood - just one of the thousands of voices in the deafening chorus of media pronatalists singing the praises of having children and providing endless support and encouragement for people who choose that lifestyle. I challenge you to find one 30-minute slot on The Today Show in which you will not be subjected to a piece on motherhood, or babies, or parenting techniques, or infertility treatments, or mid-life mothering, or debates over innoculations, or child discipline, or child health issues and the list goes on adfinitum. The pro-parenthood propoganda never stops...

EXCEPT when it comes to the Octomom. I guess even the parenthood-obsessed Today Show has to draw a line somewhere. Watch the above clip and listen to Dr. Almighty Snyderman (a Today Show regular) cast her judgment on Nadya Suleman, Suleman's doctors and our culture's obsession with multiple births and bad parenting, a.k.a. "bad parent porn."

I agree with Dr. Almighty, but here's the rub: The Today Show is one of the very outlets that relentlessly feeds our culture's breeding obsession, and fuels the attention-seeking, baby-obsessed psychosis of human breeding machines like Nadya Suleman. This in turn ramps up the demand for unethical doctors who will do whatever they can to service women like Octomom, yet now The Today Show stands in judgement of the very monster it helped to create.

The Today Show may cast all the stones it likes, but today I am casting some stones right back at it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Lovely Letter from a Reader

I received a lovely e-mail from a reader of this blog who gave me her permission to share it with you. It really warmed my heart in more ways than one. (Thanks A)

"Good afternoon!

I just wanted to say thank you for your blog, it has been so insightful and interesting to read, particularly as I share your values. My husband and I have declared ourselves completely and utterly child free and are just loving our lives. It has been hard though as we are now reaching the age where children are expected of us (I am 27, he is 33) and it has began to get harder and harder to avoid the "pitying" glances when we explain we have no interest. Luckily my parents are wonderful and have put no pressure on us, although my mother sometimes says "give it a while" whereas my husband's parents have only recently come around to us - a couple of years ago we were "selfish" and now they say they respect whatever we choose. It is also beginning to reduce our social circle as friends vanish off the face of the earth, or so it seems. This is a shame but inevitable as we are no longer of any use - our home is not a place for baby sitting or children in general - spiky furniture, fragile ornaments and orchids and my precious fish tanks. And I love it that way.

It is very exciting to know that there are others out there that are coming to the realisation that having children is not a requirement (I think I was about 23 when I realised I didn't HAVE to have children) and reading blogs like yours is very inspiring - in fact I have read all of your blog in one day. I can do this as I am at home, on my own, while I am in the middle of a career change - which I can do because I don't have mouths to feed. I may also be about to undertake a degree - which I can do as it is my money and my time. I love it! My husband, the eternal child anyway, may actually have realised earlier than I did that kids were not in the plan. His favourite thing is to be left alone after work, to play on the computer, read e-mails and relax with a big gin before joining me to do whatever we want whenever we want. A night in or out can be spontaneous and we are so happy. Going to the shops is an experience these days and often encounter at screaming children, strollers (Why do mothers attempt to take these things down the most insane narrow streets? Why do they seem to think they have the right of way with these behemoths when the child is nine times out of ten in one of the parents arms??) we tend to catch each others eyes and the relief and absolute pleasure that we will never have to go through it is just... fabulous!

Anyway, this is getting overly long, I just felt compelled to write and thank you for a very refreshing blog with some excellent insights and a very captivating read!

Take care A."

Friday, September 11, 2009

More Baby Mama Facebook Drama

Remember my recent post about the Facebook "friend" whose non-stop updates about the minutia of her baby's life were driving me crazy?

We're not friends anymore.

One day, she posted yet another baby-related status update announcing that the cost of daycare is CRIMINAL and she can't believe it's 40% higher than it was back when she had her first child (who is now 11). So a bunch of her FB friends (parents) posted comments to her update sympathizing and agreeing with her, some specifying how much they pay for childcare and what an outrage it is. It was a big pity party.

So, feeling a little frisky that day, I posted this comment: "Another reason I am happy we don't have kids".

A day or so later, I went back to that thread to read comments after mine and guess what? My comment was gone. She deleted it! So guess what I did? I deleted her. I de-friended her. I know that sounds extreme and probably makes me an official Facebook meanie, but we were just acquaintences and I had been tossing around the idea of de-friending her for some time because her incessant "Baby Joey" updates had been driving me spit-bubbles (hence my vent on this blog). She is a nice person, though, and to date I had always felt too guilty to de-friend her. I just couldn't bring myself to do it - until now.

Of course, just my luck: she immediately noticed that I de-friended her, assumed it was because she had deleted my comment and sent me a private message apologizing and explaining her reasons for doing so. Apparently one of her FB friends is a young woman who is pregnant and anxious about having children and she thought my comment might make her feel even more anxious. She said she occasionally deletes friends' comments if she thinks they will hurt or offend any of her other friends. She encouraged me to re-friend her.

My response to her was that I didn't see how my little comment about being happy we don't have kids is any more anxiety-producing than the drawn-out discussion about how expensive childcare is. If anything is going to produce anxiety in a young, nervous mother-to-be, I think a detailed accounting of exhorbitant daycare costs will do it. Realizing that I did not want to re-friend her, I decided to be honest and told her that I think she's a really nice person and I wish her all the best, but I wasn't connecting with her constant updates about the baby and it felt like too much for me.

She got defensive and didn't take it well, and the conversation went downhill from there. She accused me of being closed-minded, saying that she has FB friends of all kinds - people who have kids, people who don't have kids, people who like kids, and people who don't like kids, and they are all open-minded enough to indulge her updates.

At this point, I could have let it die (and perhaps I should have), but I didn't. Let's just say I was in a mood. So I told her that I think it would be helpful for her to consider her audience when posting updates. Perhaps her friends may like to hear about other things besides her baby and may tire of hearing every single detail of Baby Joey's life and nothing else. I gave her the example of my cat (the example I wrote about in here) and asked her if she would enjoy reading daily updates about every aspect of my cat's life and nothing else - her vet visits, the flavor of food she ate this morning, how much hair came out in her daily brushing, the brand of cat litter we use. I told her my feelings about her updates had nothing to do with liking or not liking children, and I was sorry if she took offense with my honesty, but I really thought it would be helpful to her to know the truth of how I feel.

(I didn't say this, but I am also sure many of her non-baby obsessed FB friends who are similarly tired to death of her boring-ass updates would be CHEERING me on for my honesty, if they knew about our exchange).

As you might imagine, my cat-update-comparison didn't go over too well and her reply was something to the effect of "you can't compare cats to kids" and "good riddance" and that was it - the end of our Facebook friendship. I felt a little badly at first because I know I was a bit hard on her, but I think after months of enduring those awful, mind-numbing, narcissistic Baby Joey updates, her deletion of my comment was simply the final straw.

Edited to Add: For those of you who have similar Facebook issues, I have since learned that there is a way to stop a friend's updates from appearing on your wall without de-friending them. If you put your cursor over the friend's name (on their update), you will see a link appear to the right of their update that says "Hide (friend's name)" Click that link to "hide" the person and their updates will no longer show on your wall (although they will still be in your friend list).

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Childfree Lifestyle Must be Catching On

Just a quick note in between blog posts.

The childfree lifestyle must really be catching on. Every time I check sitemeter to see how people are referred to my blog, the majority are google searches for "reasons not to have kids" or similar searches.

Do you find that as interesting as I do?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Having a Child is SO Worth it!

Really? Is it worth $221,000? Because based on surveys with thousands of households, that's what it costs for a middle income family to raise a second child today. And that's only to age 17. That figure doesn't even take college or wedding costs into consideration. So let's say we add another $105,000 for college education (the average cost for a 4-year state school), plus $20,000 for a wedding. Now the figure is at $346,000. And that's only for one child. Since most people have at least 2 children, sometimes more, you are looking at a total expenditure of a half a million dollars or more for the privilege of having children. If you want to be a parent, you better start getting really good at playing the stock market (or really lucky playing the lottery). According to this MSN article, Raising Your $221,000 Baby:

Typical families, those making from $56,870 to $98,470 a year, will spend a whopping $221,190 to raise a second child born in 2008 through age 17, estimates the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (.pdf file), a division of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Higher-income families will spend even more. Those earning more than $98,470 will spend $366,660 overall in the U.S. to raise a second child; that figure rises to $406,680 in urban areas of the Northeast.

Though not as steep, the figures for lower-income families are just as unsettling: $159,870 for families making less than $56,870 to raise a second child. That averages $8,882 a year for a lower-income family, $12,288 for the middle-income group and $20,370 for top earners.

Ah, but fear not! According to the author of this article there's no need to take a vow of celibacy because there are ways to trim costs. (Interesting, isn't it that the only choices presented here are having kids or taking a vow of celibacy - no mention of the obvious other option of using birth control and not having kids at all.)

I continue to be utterly fascinated by the undying devotion to parenthood and the never-ending claim that it is so worth it. So worth working yourself to the bone for? So worth giving up any chance of saving for retirement? So worth endlessly struggling to make ends meet? So worth ruining your marriage for? So worth losing your friends for? So worth giving up your hobbies for? Your personal privacy? Your sex life? Your sleep? Your mental health? Your energy? Your free time? Your attention span? Your career advancement? Your community involvement? Educational opportunities? Your sleep? Your health? and on and on and on and on.....?

Oh, that's right. Of course it's worth it. Having children is the most joyful, blissful, fulfilling experience in life. This is so evident when we look around at our friends and family with children, isn't it? Aren't they all just beaming with joy and happiness?

Here's my theory about the it's so worth it line. I think this line is nothing more than parents' rationalization to convince themselves they didn't majorly f*ck up by having kids. They realize they have gotten themselves into deep doo-doo, and they are coming to terms with the fact that they can't undo the doo-doo, (they can't take their kids back to the hospital and get a refund), so they delude themselves chanting the it's so worth it mantra, like glassy-eyed Stepford wives, because facing the truth head on is simply too horrifying.

To be clear, I do not claim that there are no joys involved in parenthood. There most certainly are joys. But to date there has not been a single person who has effectively convinced me - either through discussion or by example - that the joys of parenthood outweigh the costs. Yet somehow, despite the fact that the painful costs of parenthood are in everyone's face all the time, the having kids is so worth it mantra continues to wash over everyone like mind-numbing Muzak and we are all hoodwinked.

Well, not all of us.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Father in La-La Land

Browsing around, I came across an article called 10 Reasons Not to Have Kids Yet...or Ever which is not exactly the most comprehensive list in the world (at least compared to The Top 100 Reasons Not to Have Kids)...but nevertheless...

Because I posted a comment to the article, I get sent notifications when other posters post comments. Here is an interesting response from a father:

I am a happy parent of two, and here are my reasons to have kids:

1) Having a captive audience. Who better to listen to your cheesy renditions of bed-time stories than a wide-eyed child? Or your off-tune renditions of lullabies?

2) Best cure for loneliness or boredom. It takes a lot to sever your relationship with your child. Sure, it takes a lot of love, time and understanding, but tell me something worthwhile that doesn't require effort? Put some love and time into it, and it's probably your best bet for a lasting, close relationship with another person.

3) Relive your childhood. If there were things you loved about your childhood, you can recreate them. Things you hated? You have a chance to set them right.

4) Live comedic performances for free. If a 1-yr old baby playing fetch with your labrador or dancing in the buff to a Michael Jackson tune won't make you smile, nothing will.

5) A witness to your greatness and to your shortcomings. If you continue to screw up-- tell half truths-- your kid will know. If you are prone to tantrums, your kid will know. Likewise, if you love unconditionally, give your time generously, and are truthful, your kid will know. What better inspiration to become a bigger person than that little beloved witness in your house?

6) Getting old will be easier. This I'm speculating on, as I'm not yet old. But I dread to think what holidays without children would be like. Imagine being 75 and spending a lonely Christmas in a retirement home. Yuck! Or my wife, being a solitary widow when she outlives me. Thank God for my two boys. And if they give me grandkids, I'll have little babies to buy xmas gifts for.

7) Will bring your relationship with your partner to its true light. If you are unsure of how strong your relationship with your partner is, there is no better measuring stick than the challenge of bringing up children together.

Well, that's it for now. GTG.

There are a couple of things I found very illuminating about this response:

First, the fact that a parent can state that he had children so that he can have a captive audience, cure loneliness and boredom, be entertained, make getting old easier to bear and have a witness to his greatness screams SELFISH to me, but who am I to judge? Oh, that's right - I am a selfish childfree person, so what would I know about selfishness? ;)

Second, in response to the items listed by the father above, I feel compelled to post a line-item response to this gentleman:

1. Do you really find performing before a long-suffering, captive audience fulfilling? Why not spare everyone the agony and sing into a mirror?

2. Make some friends. Be a devoted partner or husband. Take your wife on a date. Take a class. Develop some listening skills. Show interest in other people. Become a volunteer. Go to school. If having children is the only way you can prevent being lonely or bored, you aren't really living your life.

3. Want to relive the fun things of your childhood? Go ahead. You don't need kids to do it. Ride a rollercoaster, have a pajama party, write in your journal, play board games, play a game of touch football, have silly theme parties with your friends (and make silly videos), laugh until your sides hurt. I do, and you'd be surprised how many other adults, when given the opportunity, like to do these things too. Or if you really can't bear the idea of doing these things without children in tow, take your nieces, nephews or friends' kids out for a day. And then when you're all tired out, turn them back over to their parents and get on with your peaceful life.

4. Get pets. They are endlessly entertaining. I highly recommend having multiple cats and watching their wrestling matches. Boatloads of fun. Or marry a funny person like I did. Rent vintage Eddie Murphy stand-up routines. Your library probably rents them for free. Classic! Here's my favorite Eddie Murphy routine of all time. I laugh just thinking about it!

5. I have news for you. Your kids aren't the only witnesses to your greatness and shortcomings. Have a wife? She's a witness. Have friends? (maybe not, since you rely on your kids to cure your loneliness) - if so, they are witnesses. Have a job? Your boss is watching. If you only care about what children think of you (and not adults), you are selling yourself (and everyone else in your life) short.

6. Follow my advice in #2 above and make some friends. That way, when you get old, you won't have to rely on your adult children to keep you company out of obligation - you will actually have people who voluntarily hang out with you (and really, isn't that more rewarding?) - people to share your life with, to do fun things with, to talk with. Can't bear the thought of not having children around at Christmas time? Invite your friends and family over. Most of them probably have kids - make it a big party! Better yet, adopt a needy family and shop 'till your heart's delight. There is certainly no shortage of kids who would be thrilled to receive Christmas gifts.

7. Have an affair. Develop a drug or drinking problem. Max out all the credit cards. Develop a gambling problem. I mean, come on. If you have to add "challenge my marriage to see how strong it is" to a list of reasons having kids is so wonderful, you're really stretching. This is a minus, not a plus. I am very happy not knowing my marriage's stress threshold, thank you very much.

Edited to Add: I just remembered that my very first post on this blog was about holding onto your inner child. Very relevant to this post.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Even in the Animal Kingdom (Motherhood is a Pain in the Ass)

Hubby and I just got back from a week-long vacation camping at Assateague State Park in Maryland. For those of you who have never heard of Assateague, it's a state park that is located on a barrier island, so we were camping on the beach all week. Heaven!

There's plenty of beautiful wildlife at Assateague, the star attraction being the wild ponies that inhabit the island. Of course, it being the shore, there are also plenty of seagulls, and those of you who have had experiences with seagulls know that they are adorable, but they can sometimes be annoying.

Every morning, all morning long, there was this annoying, loud, relentless screeching like nails on a chalkboard coming from the dune behind our campsite. Upon closer inspection I observed that it was the sound of a baby seagull screeching for food from its mother. The baby was almost as big as the mother, and able to fly, but apparently he was still dependent on his mother for feedings. All morning long he would stand right next to her, pace in circles around her, while loudly screeching in her face, demanding food from his mother. The mother gull would try to ignore him, or occasionally (we observed) try to get away from him. We never did see her feed the baby, but she did seem to be annoyed by him (or maybe we were just projecting?)

Hubby and me just had to laugh. Even in the animal kingdom, motherhood is a royal pain-in-the-ass.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Childfree and Painting the World Green

Global warming sucks. Every time I turn on the news, it seems there is yet more bad news about the state of our planet: the melting of ice caps, the warming of our climate, the rising of sea levels, the predictions of entire shorelines being washed away in the not-too-distant future (there go my trips to the Maryland shore) - non-stop doom and gloom. It is so depressing, that I confess...when I come across news on this issue, I turn the page, or turn off the television. I feel anxious and helpless. I do what I can to save energy and to live as green as I can, but I am not kidding myself. How much difference can one person really make?

Well, according to a new study from statisticians at Oregon State University, apparently I make a big difference, simply because I am childfree.

The carbon legacy and greenhouse gas impact of an extra child is almost 20 times more important than some of the other environmentally sensitive practices people might employ their entire lives – things like driving a high mileage car, recycling, or using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs.
In other words, a typical American who tries to live as green as possible - driving a fuel-efficient car, recycling, using efficient light bulbs, using energy-saving appliances, etc. - undoes the positive impact of his green efforts 40 times over by having 2 children - increasing his carbon footprint 40 times.

The researchers smartly point out that curbing population growth is rarely addressed in discussions about climate change:

In this debate, very little attention has been given to the overwhelming importance of reproductive choice...When an individual produces a child – and that child potentially produces more descendants in the future – the effect on the environment can be many times the impact produced by a person during their lifetime.

Under current conditions in the U.S., for instance, each child ultimately adds about 9,441 metric tons of carbon dioxide to the carbon legacy of an average parent –about 5.7 times the lifetime emissions for which, on average, a person is responsible.

While the researchers do not advocate for government regulation of reproduction, they do hope to educate people on the environmental consequences of reproducing.

Some people who are serious about wanting to reduce their 'carbon footprint' on the Earth have one choice available to them that may yield a large long-term benefit - have one less child.

I'll take it a step further. Consider not having any children at all and you'll really do the Earth a big favor.

(Thank you Amy and CFVixen for forwarding me this study).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

On the Radio!

Guess who was on the radio yesterday? Yours truly! Canadian radio host, Laurie Langcastor of CJOB-68 in Manitoba interviewed me yesterday on her live afternoon radio show. The interview was about the choice to be childfree and also about my Childfreedom blog.

The station is supposed to send me an MP3 soon so I can post it here. In the meantime, you can listen to it by following these instructions:

Go to:
CJOB's Audio Vault

August 12, 2009
3:00 p.m.

When the Windows Media screen comes up, slide the little blue bar right below the screen to 27:39. This will take you to the beginning of my interview.

Let me know what you think.