Monday, April 27, 2009

Corinne Maier Regrets Having Children...

...and wrote a book about it.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Oprah Shines a Light

Thanks to CFVixen for forwarding me this article about a recent Oprah show in which the spotlight was focused on the harsh realities of motherhood.
Now, if only Oprah would do a show about the childfree lifestyle, we could really claim progress. Trust me - it'll never happen.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Today Show Hosts Experience Another Bout of Cognitive Dissonance

If you've ever taken a psychology class, you may have heard the term cognitive dissonance. Simply stated, it refers to an uneasy state of mind in which a person tries to maintain two contradicting ideas at the same time. Well, I had to laugh out loud at this example of cognitive dissonance on display on the Today Show when the hosts report on research which shows that married couples with children have lower levels of marital satisfaction. Watch how the hosts - who, in keeping with the pro-parenthood stance of the show, do their best to rationalize, justify and minimize the impact of this research. You can just feel their unease as they try to stomach this research which flies in the face of the pro-parenthood messages they are constantly pedaling.

This isn't the Today Show's first offense on this matter. Remember this?

While the Today Show does its best to poo-poo and pay minimal lip service to the research on the negative impact of children on marriage and on happiness, I am going to re-publish for you graduate level research which pays this subject the attention it deserves and doesn't soft-pedal on the issue of what children do to marriages and levels of personal happiness.

From No to Children, Yes to Childfreedom: Pronatalism and the Perceptions and Experiences of Childfree Women:

"The relational advantages of childfreedom are most pronounced in the area of marital satisfaction. Several studies have concluded that childfree marriages are happier than the marriages of parents. Crohan explored how styles of conflict resolution change for spouses after they become parents using data from the first and third waves of the First Years of Marriage Study conducted at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Results showed that spouses who became parents report lower marital happiness and more frequent conflicts after the transition than before having children. White parents also reported higher marital tension.

Feldman studied intentional parents and childfree couples and found that while levels of marital satisfaction were similar, childfree couples have significantly more positive marital interactions for example, “having fun away from home”, “having a stimulating exchange of ideas”, “working together on a project” and “having sexual relations” more often. He found that childfree marriages are more interactive, with more conversations in the areas of “work”, “health”, “feelings”, “cultural” topics, “mutual friends”, “politics” and “sexual relations”. As would be expected, parents talked more frequently than nonparents about rearing children. Similarly, Somers, who conducted a study comparing childfree and parents, found the childfree groups scored higher on marital satisfaction and showed significantly higher levels of cohesion (working together, discussing and exchanging ideas) than parents. Additionally, the childfree showed higher levels of dyadic satisfaction (measured by the frequency of quarrels, threats of divorce) and scored higher on the life satisfaction scale than parents. Callan, who interviewed 60 mothers, 36 voluntarily childless wives and 53 infertile women noted that the childfree women reported more time with their husbands including higher levels of consensus and more exchanges of ideas.

Twenge, Campbell and Foster, who conducted a meta-analytic review on 97 articles containing 148 data points on parenthood and marital satisfaction, concluded that parents report lower marital satisfaction than non-parents and that there is a significant negative correlation between marital satisfaction and the number of children. The effect of parenthood on marital satisfaction is more negative among high socioeconomic groups, younger birth cohorts and in more recent years. The data suggest that role conflicts and restriction of freedom are responsible for this decrease in marital satisfaction.

Renne, who conducted a study on 4,452 married couples (including childless couples, couples rearing children, and couples with children no longer living at home), found that parenthood detracts from the morale and health of married persons, particularly among younger couples. Childless marriages were found to be happier, even among older couples and while childless marriages appeared to improve with time, the marriages of parent couples tended to deteriorate. Renne concluded that childless marriages are happier, regardless of the length of marriage or age of the couple.

Cowan and Cowan, authors of When Partners Become Parents: The Big Life Change for Couples, describe what happens to parents when they become parents. Upon having a child, the household tasks become more specialized and the division of labor with respect to child care falls more to the mother than the father. Their study, as well as a study by Pleck, indicate that husbands whose wives are employed do little more housework and caring for the children than husbands whose wives do not work outside the home.

'The most problematic issue for men and women in the early family years is who cares for the children. Neither the traditional male/female division nor the new egalitarian sharing arrangements stand out as ideal: Modern couples get penalized either way. When one parent brings home the bacon while the other stays home to look after the child, both can feel underappreciated and strapped economically, which burdens the marriage and the children. When both parents work outside the family, they tend to feel better about themselves and about their contributions to the family economy, but parents and children are breathless, often missing the opportunity for intimate moments.” (Cowan and Cowan, p. 203)'

In addition to having higher levels of marital satisfaction, childfree marriages tend to be more egalitarian with more freedom to modify conventional sex roles. Veevers explains that in ordinary families, “the coming of children tends to accentuate biological sex differences and to buttress conventional sex role expectations. The birth of a baby signals the beginning of a traditional division of labor with the woman taking on more of the childbearing chores, regardless of her employment status outside the home.” (p. 104). By comparison, childfree couples maintain roles which are interchangeable and more equal. Without the constraints of child care, childfree couples are better able to negotiate an equal partnership, especially since both partners are likely to work outside the home and are therefore likely to see themselves as equal contributors to the marriage."
Another researcher, Harvard Psychologist Dan Gilbert, has also concluded that parenthood has a negative impact on happiness. The Sydney Morning Herald did an article on this aspect of his book which I previously posted here.

Happy reading!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Parallel Universe

One of the oddities of being childfree, and particularly a childfree woman, is that oftentimes I feel like I am living in a parallel universe. I operate on an entirely separate plane of existence from most people. So much that I see around me does not apply to me. I turn on a morning program and they are talking about how to balance work and children. Doesn't apply to me. Or how our culture is not accomodating enough to women (in other words, mothers). Doesn't apply to me. Or how to get your husband to be a more involved dad. Doesn't apply to me. Or how to be on the lookout for teen "sexting". Doesn't apply to me.

I go to work and hear my coworkers talking about school systems, and day care centers, and discipline problems and money problems and tiredness. Can't relate.

I go onto Facebook and read updates from friends and family like "heading off to Johnnie's softball game tonight", "trying to figure out how 3 kids can generate 20 loads of laundry", "feeling blessed to be home with my new baby". Can't relate.

At the office, I stop by the waiting room to browse through a womens' magazine or two, passing over articles like "Raising Self-Confident Kids", "Healthy Lunches Kids Love", "Teaching Your Daughter to Love Her Body" and parenting advice columns. Doesn't apply to me.

Everywhere I go, I feel like my reality is unique and I wonder if anyone notices my alternate reality. Does anyone notice that I am calm and centered most of the time? That I am not running in 12 different directions? That I am well-rested? That my life is not comprised of worries upon more worries? That I am not scanning the self-help aisle of the bookstore for advice on work-life balance? That I have lots of free time? If they do notice, do they connect the dots?

Probably not because they are too consumed in their own universe where existence is a matter of simply staying afloat. When you're drowning, you're not likely to notice the lilting sailboat drifting calmly off in the distance.

There is one place that I don't feel like a universe unto myself. Here - when I read your insightful comments, when I click on your blogs, when you echo and validate my feelings, or add to my thoughts, or say that you have experienced the same thing, or feel the same way, when you declare a resounding sing it, sister. It is then that I do not feel like an anomaly. I feel like a member of the in-crowd, the popular kids, the ones who have it all - who carry a special secret.

Yes, that's exactly what childfreedom is - the world's best-kept secret. (If I have my way, not for long).

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Compliment

Today I thought I would share a story with you about my father. This is the true story of the only compliment he ever paid me. Yes, you read correctly. My father has given me the total of one compliment in the entire 40-odd years of my life to date. So that you will be better able to comprehend this, I need to describe him a little for you.

If you have seen the 1970s sitcom All in the Family and are familiar with the character of Archie Bunker, you pretty much have met my father. In his heart he is a decent person, I know he loves me, and he has some good traits, for example he can be very helpful - but his exterior is gruff - complaining, criticizing and delighting in being a bigot. He even walks like Archie Bunker. He is the type who will hover over you when you are cooking so he can point out everything you are doing incorrectly and what a mess you are making (I even nicknamed him hovercraft, which I found outrageously funny and which I could tell he thought was funny too, although he tried to act annoyed). He enjoys (and is fixated on) seeing people get punished, which I suspect may stem from being raised by an abusive German mother. He is politically and socially conservative to the extreme and sees everything in black and white. He cannot accept anyone who is different from him, is liberal or who thinks independently. A psychologist might describe him as having an authoritarian personality.

As you might imagine, he and I exist on opposite poles of reality.

My dad has never paid me a compliment, other than an occasional approving nod when eating one of my gourmet family dinners with the occasional comment of "tasty". When I made the honor roll and National Honor Society in high school, he didn't attend the award ceremony or even congratulate me. Ditto for when I got my bachelor degree and later my masters. I can't think of anything I have accomplished in life that has impressed him and if it did, he simply could not bring himself to tell me. It's not in his constitution.

Except for once - the one time he complimented me and rendered me speechless.

I had taken him shopping with me one day to help me purchase tires for my car (my dad is an expert on cars and fixing things and likes to be helpful with things like this). We went to one of those big wholesale clubs which has its own auto and tire department. After picking out the tires, we had a half hour to kill while the mechanics put the tires on the car. So we walked up and down the sterile, flourescent-lit aisles of the store.

While browsing in one of the aisles, there was suddenly a loud ruckus in the next aisle from us. A family with young children was carrying on with such ferocity that everyone in the store was gaping at them. The kids were screaming, the parents were screaming, merchandise was being knocked off store shelves. It was the typical center-of-the-universe-obnoxious-family-disturbing-the-entire-environment scenario which I have often complained about in this blog.

When the ruckus reached a fevered pitch, my father turned to me and said, "you are smart not to have children. Your mother always says you should have kids, but I think it's smart what you're doing." I blinked in disbelief. Was this a compliment from my father? He continued, "your life is so much easier because you don't have kids. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't have had kids either." Then, realizing what he was saying to his daughter, he added, "I don't mean that I would give you and your brothers up now - I mean, I am glad you are my kids, but I'm just saying that knowing what I know now, I wouldn't do it again."

My father, "Archie" - the unlikely childfree advocate.

I don't remember how or if I responded, but I believe I was rendered speechless, since being told I am smart or anything positive by my dad is completely novel, uncharted territory.

This was several years ago. Since then, several parents have told me the same thing - that if they could do it all over again, they wouldn't have kids. I've written about many of them here and will continue to do so as I encounter more and more parents who open up to me this way. Of all the parental revelations I have received, though, my dad's will hold a special place in my heart because I know that his revelation to me was a breakthrough for him, and also for our relationship. I realized that somewhere deep inside him and to some extent, he gets me and that's a good feeling.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Grandchildren at all Costs

Sometimes I worry that eventually I will run out of things to write about in this blog. It has to happen someday, right? I mean how many issues and topics about pronatalism and childfreedom are there to write about? Eventually the well has to run dry.

But, just when I have this thought, another story always presents itself. And here is the next one: a woman, whose 21 year old son died in an assault, petitions the court to harvest his sperm so she can have grandchildren.

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While I sympathize with this woman for losing her son (who she obviously loved very much), I have to say that this is about the most selfish and unethical thing I have ever heard. When I saw this on the Today Show this morning, I was actually rendered speechless, so what does that tell you?

Your thoughts?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Life in Full Bloom

A couple weeks ago, hubby and me went to a free preview of the film I Love You, Man. This was a cute comedy about male friendship - funny and entertaining - a good renter, but I wouldn't pay $20 to see it in the theater (actually, there are few films I am willing to pay $20 to see).

Anyway, in one scene, one of the main characters makes an interesting comment. He is feeling badly about himself for being what he considers a loser and says something to the effect of, "most people at my age are married and have kids and look at me".

It strikes me as curious that people equate marriage and children with success.

As you know, I am happily married and childfree. I also consider myself a successful person, as far as living a pretty happy and fulfilling life. Yet, I do not consider myself a success because I am married, nor do I consider marriage a necessary component of a successful life, although my particular marriage is a very big component of the happiness and fulfilment in my life. I am married because I happened to find a wonderful and compatible man with whom I want to spend the rest of my life in a committed relationship. Had I not, I am fairly confident I would have had a happy and fulfilling life as a single woman. Would my life have been as happy as my current life is? I guess we'll never know, but I can tell you I certainly wouldn't have married any old guy just so I could feel I met some adult success requirement.

I also do not consider myself an unsuccessful person because I do not have children. What does it say about our society that children are used as status symbols and tools measuring adult success? Is this their purpose - to make us feel accomplished? (Don't get me started. You know how I feel about childbearing being touted as an accomplishment). People are often touted as having it all if they have a spouse and children, yet there are so many unhappily married people and also so many unhappy parents. Is this the all that everyone is so desperate to have?

This subject brings back to mind a comment one of my brothers made to me back when his girlfriend was expecting their first child. He said he really wanted to have a kid because "when you look at life, what else is there, really?" and he looked at me as if he expected me to agree with this. The sadness I felt for him at that moment was palpable. How unsatisfying must his life be that he looks to fatherhood as his life's one salvation - the only worthwhile endeavor that will save him from a completely meaningless life? What a huge burden to put on a child.

I didn't respond to his question - I figured my feelings on the matter wouldn't be at all helpful to him. What else is there in life? There is so much in life that my biggest worry is about time going by too quickly - before I've had a chance to experience it all...enjoy it all...explore it all...learn it all. Life is such a wonderous adventure, like an intricate flower with so many unfolding petals, each one more beautiful than the next.

It's interesting when you think about it. My brother chose to have a child because he perceives there is nothing else worthwhile in life, and I chose not to have children because I feel there is so much worthwhile in life that having a child would keep me from.

We obviously have very different perspectives on life.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Smart Young Woman

Found this video on YouTube and thought it was worth sharing with you all. This is a very articulate and intelligent young childfree woman who at such a young age, is already wise to the bull.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Men's Mag Jumps on the Pronatalist Bandwagon

Okay, I know I am hyper-focused on the relentless pronatalism in our culture, but I just have to say this. You know things are out of control when MEN'S magazines are pushing baby-making!

Browsing on the internet, I came across this article in Men's Health: "Eight Monumental Sexual Experiences You Must Have". Now remember, this is geared toward men. Let's see, we have:

Wedding Night Sex
Honey-I'm-Home Sex
Makeup Sex
Breakup Sex
Birthday Sex
Vacation Sex

and last but not least:


Now, let me ask you. Do you really think men are sitting around worrying about whether the sex they are getting is of the let's-have-a-baby variety? Does Men's Health Magazine really think men worry about making sure they have this monumental form of sex? From what I know of men, I think they are happy to be getting sex of any variety, whatever day of the week, no matter what occasion or what circumstances surround the sex. I assure you, they are not sitting around all misty eyed over having baby-making sex.

Secondly, from what I understand about let's-have-a-baby-sex, it's not great sex. For most couples, it's scheduled and calculated like a science experiment. There's no romance or spontaneity. The man is basically a stud horse and certain protocols must be followed precisely for the best chance at success. Crack the whip!

And then, putting pronatalism aside, there's a whole 'nother problem with this article. Not only does it assume all men will make babies, it also assumes all men are heterosexual AND will be married.

So maybe Men's Health Magazine should change it's name to Married Straight Men Who Aim to be Fathers Magazine. That would be a more fitting title.