Sunday, June 28, 2009

Keep Running (it prevents thinking)

Sometimes I have this thought about people who have kids and I wonder if it is just my own prejudice or if I am on to something. My thought is that many people have kids because they are lazy and want an easy way to create a life for themselves. They don't have anything interesting going on, and are too lazy to put real thought or effort into creating a meaningful life for themselves. Becoming a parent is an easy way to create an instant sense of purpose in their lives.

This thought occurs to me frequently when I observe the lifestyles of people with children. The constant on-the-go, hyperactive, rat-on-a-treadmill, day-in-day-out doing doing doing, running running running from dawn until dusk, keeps peoples' focus permanently off themselves, off the greater good, off introspection, off the pursuit of self actualization, off personal, intellectual and spiritual growth. Those who have children would argue that being a parent is a means to self-actualization, achieving a higher purpose in life and contributing to the greater good. Of course it's easy to maintain this idea when it's so heavily reinforced in our pronatalist culture. But I disagree with this on a fundamental level.

The fact is, in thinking objectively about all the people in my life who are parents, my assessment is that aside from raising children, they have nothing else going on. They are busy, busy, busy and doing, doing, doing, but what does all this busyness and doing amount to? It amounts to expending one's entire life energies solely to raise a child who will grow up to become a parent who will be busy, busy, busy, doing, doing doing and the cycle repeats itself ad infinitum. And for what purpose? What purpose does all this serve aside from keeping humanity going?

Keeping humanity going is seen as the greatest purpose in life and parents are ascribed hero status for doing their share toward contributing to this most selfless of goals. But for the sake of argument, I would like to ask a question which never gets asked: why do we assume that the continuation of the human species is a heroic goal? Or even a worthwhile goal? Are humans so egocentric and self important that we cannot imagine a world without ourselves, or see how much of our planet would benefit from a reduction in our numbers? Do we really believe that the earth would cease to exist without us in it?

Even if one ascribes to the idea that continuing the human species is important, the world is already severely overpopulated. Environmental resources are strained. The earth is overheated and polluted. Ice caps are melting. Sea levels are rising. There are millions upon millions of poor and starving human beings inhabiting our planet, many in our own country. Do we really need to add more? Given the fact that the earth is teetering on the edge of extinction thanks to mankind and the exploding population, perhaps the mandate that we each replicate ourselves is not only outdated, it's dangerous to our very existence.

The parental rat-on-a-treadmill existence may keep minds occupied, calendars booked, mini vans running, wallets emptied and consumerism in high gear, but aside from that, I think the question really needs to be asked of what the greater purpose of all this really is and why we are so easily brainwashed into the idea that reproduction is the highest of human aspirations. In reality, having children is the path of least resistance, of greatest reinforcement and when all is said and done, it's no great accomplishment. So why do we continue to treat it like it is?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Most Excellent Answer

Have you often wished you had a snappy answer to the inevitable (and often annoying) question "Do you have kids?"

A friend of mine (who is a mom) told me she was chatting with a guy recently and asked him if he had kids. His response?

"Do I look unhappy?"

Is this not the most excellent answer ever?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Father's Day Tribute (A Little Late)

A friend sent me a link to this video (thanks, George). I think you CFers will enjoy this.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Loud and Proud

I really enjoyed this article by Polly Vernon in The Guardian, It Takes Guts to Say: 'I Don't Want Children'. (Thanks, CFVixen). Polly touches on several themes that have often been addressed here in Childfreedom, for example how vocally childfree women are marginalized and made to feel they are freakish, horrible people for not wanting children. She starts the article by applauding Cameron Diaz who, in a recent interview, spoke up in defense of childfree women:

"I think women are afraid to say that they don't want children because they're going to get shunned ... I have more girlfriends who don't have kids than those that do. And honestly? We don't need any more kids. We have plenty of people on this planet."

Go get 'em, Cameron! But do us all a favor - if and when you do make the final decision to remain childfree, let's hear from you again. And when we do hear from you, please don't tell us you decided not to have kids because you're "too selfish", you're "not mom material" or are otherwise defective in some way. Say it loud, say it proud.

Monday, June 22, 2009


One of the many myths used to promote parenthood is that having a child provides security in old age - someone to take care of you when you are too old and frail to care for yourself.
I think we all know there is no guarantee of this, as evidenced by the scores of lonely elders (who have grown children) rotting away in nursing homes, pining for visitors.

The flip side of this myth that rarely gets discussed is that many times it is the parents who end up caring for their kids well into adulthood, long after they should be gone and taking care of themselves. Just this morning, as I made way up to the train platform on my way to work, I encountered a lovely older woman who struck up a conversation with me. She asked me about the train schedule and I provided some information to her about how often the train runs. Since she seemed a little unsure of herself, I asked her if this was her first time riding the train to work. She said no, but it's been many years since she last rode it. She told me she is 65 and is just going back to work to help her grown son who lost his job and moved back in with her. She told me he is having "problems" and the way she said this led me to believe he was having mental health or substance abuse issues. I complimented her on being such a devoted mom in helping her son this way. She said with a resigned sigh, "well, that's what it is to be a mom. You just do what you have to do and make it work."

I looked into her pretty made-up eyes and I saw defeat and sadness. I could tell she did not want to be on that platform and she did not want to be heading to work. This was supposed to be the golden twilight of her life - the time to relax and reap the rewards of so many years of hard work. Instead she was all dressed up in business attire, trying to figure out train schedules. I felt sorry for her.

Sadly this type of situation is not uncommon, especially in the current economy. With the unemployment rate at record high levels and record numbers of foreclosures, more and more displaced workers are having to rely on their elderly parents for help and support.

The responsibilities of parenthood never end.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The racket

By this point, I think it's pretty clear that I hold the opinion that parenthood is a racket. But it's not just a racket in the way you are thinking. Today I am talking about the NOISE!

This may seem like a trivial issue and certainly not a primary reason not to have children but it is worth discussing. How on earth can people stand the chaos and noise that comes along with having kids?

I have a very close friend, Sara, who I've known for 22 years. She's like a sister to me. Through 16 years of our friendship she was sans children, and then in her late 30s she got married to her second husband and they decided to have kids. They have two sons - one who is soon to be 6, the other who is 2.

Sara and I get together about once every 2 weeks. Usually she comes to my house or we go out someplace together, but there is the occasional get-together that entails me visiting her at her house, like last night.

The second I step into her house, I immediately feel my stomach twisting into knots. The kids come running to me and are clearly happy to see me (they even refer to me as an "aunt") but from there, it's all downhill. The entire time I am visiting, the 6 year old is talking (i.e. yelling) at the top of his lungs and continually interrupting Sara and me as we are trying to have a conversation. He thinks that because he says, "excuse me" repeatedly, it's okay to interrupt. Sara does little to stop him - she gently encourages him to go play in the other room, but when he doesn't (and keeps interrupting us) she allows him to sit there and be a non-stop annoyance. Sara tries to have a conversation with me, but hears nothing I say. I give up trying to talk with her.

The 2 year old is in the throes of "terrible twos" and has a hair-trigger temper tantrum reflex that get set off by the tiniest of things. The entire time I am visiting, he is squirming, and fighting and yelling and being a generous nuisance.

The house is in complete disarray with toys and junk stewn everywhere. This, combined with the noise level puts me into fight-or-flight survival mode, and I get this urgent impulse to run screaming from the house. It's hard to sit there and maintain a calm exterior because inside I am churning.

Sara's house is not unique. Everyone I know who has young children lives like this. Noise, chaos, stress, power struggles, negotiating, mess, pushing, pulling, fighting. It starts the moment they wake up and it ends when they finally collapse exhausted into bed each night. How can they stand it? Is it is something that one just becomes immune to over time? It seems that way because as I sit there with my anxiety level at 10 and the violent urge to run for the hills, I look over at my friend and she doesn't seem the least bit flustered. Her face is relaxed as she dutifully jumps up and down to deal with each crisis. This is her new normal.

Sara is happy in her life (she's one of the few moms I know who sincerely seems happy in the role), so I am happy for her, but I have to say - my occasional visits to her house always impart on me a HUGE sense of relief for the life of calm I have chosen. When I got home last night and walked into my serene house, I was greeted by the gentle purr of my three furbabies. Hubby was flopped on the couch watching a movie. I had entered our oasis. All was right in the world.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Childfree Celebrity Spotlight - Stevie Nicks

As one of the lead singers and songwriters of Fleetwood Mac, as well as a solo artist in her own right, Stevie Nicks decided early on that she would forego having children. Music was her true love and she knew that having children would interfere with the life she most wanted to lead. Stevie has been very open about her choice to be childfree. Here are some quotes from Stevie about her decision not to have kids.

"I made a conscious decision that I was not going to have children. I didn't want others raising them, and looking after them myself would get in the way of being a musician and writer."

"I don't really need children. I have a niece who's six, who certainly fills
my life up as far as a child goes. I'm gonna just work on my work. I don't think the world is going to have that much of a problem with me not being married or having a family. I don't think that's why I came here. I have something that's really important to do, and I don't think I've done that yet. "

"Do you want to be an artist and a writer, or a wife and a lover? With kids,
your focus changes. I don't want to go to PTA meetings."

”...I now really understand what an incredible commitment it is to
have a child, and how difficult it is. I know I could not have done both. I'd have ended up having to stop doing my music, or pretty much letting someone else raise my child ~ which would have made me very unhappy."

"As the years went by I pretty much realised that that was a good
decision because... with a child in my life, I can't just be, 'Well, I know you're in second grade and you love your school but guess what? We're going to New York.' "I instinctively knew that that would not be being a good mother. I did not want to be a half-assed rock star and a half-assed mother."

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!

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Family Idiot

Remember this post about inconsiderate parents? Well, my inlaws were over again this past weekend and in the knick of time I caught my brother-in-law's girlfriend in the act of getting ready to change our niece's diaper on our area rug, with no pad under him. I was in the kitchen and I heard her say to my nephew, "do you need your diaper changed?" (checks diaper) "Oh, yes! You're SOAKED!" She then takes him into our living room and proceeds to lay him down on the floor - on our nice area rug - with no barrier between him and the rug and starts taking his pants off to change his soaked diaper.

This time I said something. I handed her a towel and said, "would you mind putting this under her?" She gives me a puzzled look and asks "Oh, why? Because she's wet?" No because I think she looks more attractive lying on a towel then on our rug. HELLO?! Do you really think I want our area rug soaked with PISS!? Have some consideration! (I didn't say this, of course. I just said, "yes", but come on!)

I am telling you, I really wonder about people sometimes. Does becoming a parent kill brain cells?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Big Red F

Okay, I admit it. Over the past few months I have become a Facebook addict. I never thought it would happen because frankly, when I first heard about Facebook, I didn't understand it and didn't get the appeal. I didn't even get the appeal when I first signed up. But over time, as more and more of my old friends, neighbors, coworkers, band mates and long-lost family members began connecting and interacting with me, I finally got the appeal and now my daily visits to Facebook are not only an addiction, they are a virtual episode of This is Your Life. Very, very fun.

It's interesting being a childfree person on Facebook in a sea of cyberparents. Every day I am greeted with their updates, many of which concern their children, and here's the interesting thing - when people comment about their children, inevitably their comments are negative. For example:

"Mom's Taxi..still up and running at 1:45 am! ugh!! .... No matter how old they get, Mom is still the 1st one they call! (but I wouldnt mind being the 2nd or third once in a while EITHER!) lol"

" selling her encyclopedias...I have a 20 year old that thinks he knows EVERYTHING!!!"

"...poor baby G was screaming and teething all day long."

"...Is wishing everyone would stop needing me! (just for a little while).... needs an escape!!!"

Here's an observation I have often made about parenthood - and it is precisely this observation that was critical to informing my decision not to have children:

If parenthood is so wonderful, if the benefits of having children far outweigh the costs, if all the hardship is so worth it as parents like to claim, why is 80-90% of what we observe coming out of parents concerning parenthood negative?

I observe the people in my life who are parents. I watch them interact with their kids. I listen to them talk about their kids. I read their Facebook updates. I observe the effects of parenthood on them - their physical, spiritual, psychological and emotional health and what do I see? I see exhaustion. I see aggravation. I see stress. I see upset. I see financial strain. I see marital strain. What I do not see is joy, happiness and fulfilment.

A parent's typical answer to this is "yes, it is really hard, but it's so worth it. The good makes up for the bad."

Okay, so for a moment, let's take parents at their word. Let's assume the good of being a parent outweighs the bad. Here's my question. If the good makes up for the bad, and even outweighs the bad - if the cost of being a parent is lower than the rewards, shouldn't we observers see more happiness and joy from said parents than unhappiness and strain? How about a 50/50 split? Even that would be somewhat convincing that the good makes up for the bad. But that's not what I see. When I look around and observe the people in my life who are parents, what I see is primarily strain and unhappiness. I observe closely to witness this overriding joy and happiness they claim makes up for all the strain and unhappiness, but the joy and happiness I see is at most brief and fleeting - the occasional smile, laugh or look of love at a child, followed by a corresponding 12 hours of stressing and straining under the burden of them.

I do realize that the love a person feels for their child is larger than almost anything in life and there's nothing like the feeling of intense love. But at what cost do people pursue this version of love? I have an intensity of love for my husband which is greater than any love I have ever had for any person or any thing and guess what? It doesn't cost me anything. I don't have to struggle, stress and strain to enjoy our love. It flows freely and evenly and there is no cost associated with it. Parents might argue that the love one feels for a child is greater than the love one feels for a spouse. My response is that I don't want to love anyone more than my spouse. Hubby comes first in my life and always will and I like it that way. I love making him my first priority and the object of all the good, the giving, the joy and love I have to offer. I also enjoy coming first in his life too. It's a good deal all-around - a real win-win situation.

When I tell people that I am happily married, they can observe my hubby and me together and their observations will validate my claim. Try applying the same test to parenthood and what do you get?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Some general housekeeping stuff today:


Thanks to everyone who voted on my "Who are You?" poll. It was interesting to see the breakdown of the Childfreedom audience. I wasn't surprised that most of the audience for this blog is childfree, but I was surprised to see we have a small percentage parent readers too.

I just put up a new poll, so hope you'll take a moment to vote. It asks you to estimate the percentage of parents you know that are truly happy being parents. Parents, you can vote on this one too.


Just wanted to thank those of you who have been sending me links to interesting and relevant articles and news stories. I really appreciate it - keeps the blog posts flowing. Please continue to send me any links you think I need to see. Also, if you have been thinking, "I wish Childfreeeee would blog about this", please send your ideas to me. I am always looking for new things to blog about. You can post your ideas here or e-mail me directly at firecracker_mandy(at)yahoo(dot)com. If it's a topic that grabs me, I will most certainly write about it.

Thanks and I'll be back soon with a new post.