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 Match.com Lady who Lived in a Shoe

One of my close friends uses the dating service Match.com. 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 Match.com 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!