Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Kid Stuff

People who are not childfree do not appreciate all the subtle and insidious ways we are made to feel invisible. Even when not expressed directly, the message that adulthood equals parenthood and that parenthood is the ultimate purpose of life is so tightly woven into the fabric of society that it gets to the point that I sometimes wonder if I exist.

An example:

I was flipping channels the other day when I came across one of the home shopping channels. I paused because they were hawking a product that caught my attention - it was a scanner that you can put your old photo slides in, and it translates them into digital color photographs which you can then download onto your hard drive.

Since I am something of a shutterbug, I listened and watched while they displayed how the device works. I started to think of all the old slides I have that I would love to use this for.

As the company representative demonstrated the device, the host of the show began gushing about how marvelous the scanner is - "Just think of all the uses for this! That photo of your child's first Christmas, his first day of school? His first birthday? All those moments with your child that you want to preserve forever can be achieved with this device!"

Okay, so I am asking myself, is this some kind of device FOR PARENTS? Are parents the only people who have valuable slides and photographs that are important to them? Are children the only subjects worth taking photos of? I waited to see if she would talk about other types of important photographs that someone might want to save - travel photographs, wedding photographs, nature photographs, photos of beloved friends and pets. Nope. The entire presentation pitch was geared toward parents who want to preserve photos of their children.

Just flip on the t.v. and notice how many sales pitches are made to parents that shouldn't be - cleaning products, cars, even shampoo - products that all types of people use, yet are marketed primarily to parents.

I am not naive. I know it all comes down to dollars and cents. Parents are the biggest consumers in our society -they certainly consume a whole lot more than childfree me. I imagine my consumption is 1/5 the consumption of a parent. When directing their marketing dollars, I am sure the companies are thinking let's get the most bang for our buck - and that's why they target parents as their potential customers. Restaurants go out of their way to be "family friendly". Shopping centers roll out the red carpet for pregnant women with Stork parking spots. She who spends the most money wins, and it's a good thing I am not competitive by nature, because I'm losing this contest.

(BUT, loser or no loser - I'm still zipping into those stork spots like Daisy Duke! Still waiting for someone to try to stop me.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Dr. Phil (almost gave me a thrill)

One of the regular commenters on my blog, HawkMom, kindly emailed me a few days ago to alert me that Dr. Phil was doing a show on non-traditional families, featuring a childfree-by-choice couple (thanks, HawkMom).

I missed the show, but I went to Dr. Phil's website to see if there was a clip from the show.

There is a brief clip, and also a short written summary in which Dr. Phil asks the couple if they have considered whether they might come to regret their decision once it's too late. The couple answers that yes, they have considered that, but do not feel that having kids is the right choice for them, and it's more important to do what is right for them, then to cave in to society's expectations.

Dr. Phil was supportive of them, telling them that if they have doubts about having kids, they shouldn't do it, no matter how much others are pressuring them, but he also suggested that they re-visit the subject once a year to make sure their decision still stands.

I'll give Dr. Phil a grade of B on his approach to this couple.

On the one hand, he was supportive of their stance and encouraged them to stand by their decision and not cave in to pressure from outsiders. Had he stopped there, I would have graded him an A, but alas, he also went on to question whether they might regret their decision later, and suggested they continue to re-visit the subject every year to make sure their decision still stands.

What I would like to know is this: how often are people who are planning to have kids questioned how much thought they have put into their decision? How often are they encouraged to think about whether they will regret their decision to have kids? How often are those who have decided to have kids encouraged to think carefully about their decision over a period of time, and make sure they aren't making a mistake? Considering that having children negatively impacts all of the major facets of a person's life - their happiness and well-being, their marital satisfaction, their financial stability, and on and on, doesn't it seem reasonable that someone contemplating having children think long and hard about potential regrets?

It always comes back to the same assumptions about the childfree:

- that we are confused, misguided, ill-informed souls who do not know our own minds.

- that most likely we will come to regret our decision.

- that being childfree is pathological and those who choose the lifestyle suspect.

Dr. Phil did mention briefly that some parents have regrets (that was a shocker!), giving the impression that parental regrets are rare but they do occasionally happen. The truth is, I have never met a childfree-by-choice person who regretted their decision not to have kids, yet I have met several parents who have told me straight out that if they could do it all over again, they wouldn't have kids. From my experience I have also observed that childfree folks put much more careful thought into their decision to not have kids, than parents put into their decision to have kids. In fact, most people who have kids don't even consider it a decision at all. It's just a mindless bodily function like breathing or going to the bathroom.

And yet it is we - the childfree folks - who are suspect.

It blows the mind.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Marriage is for WHAT?

I normally don’t get political on this blog, however, yesterday I was listening to the news concerning the ongoing battle in California over gays having the right to marry, and I heard something that made my hair stand on end.

First, I should say up front that I am strongly pro gay rights and believe that all consenting adults, regardless of their sexual orientation, should be able to marry whatever other consenting adult they choose. I mean, come on people – this is supposed to be a free country – at least that is what we were all taught growing up.

It seems to me that the anti-gay marriage movement is running out of legitimate arguments and devolving into outright silliness. The statement that made my childfree hair stand on end was something to the effect of “marriage is for the purpose of procreation, therefore, gays should not be allowed to marry”.

Hm, well if we use that logic, then hubby and me, and every other married childfree heterosexual couple, should have our marriage licenses revoked, since our marriages were not formed for the purpose of procreation and no spawn will emerge from our married loins. Let's also not forget the childless married couples. They too should have their marriage licenses revoked, since their marriages will not produce any children.

Is this not the most ridiculous argument you have ever heard?

The fact is, many people marry for love, not for procreation and cheers to them! Let’s also not forget that many people procreate outside of wedlock but interestingly, the same people trying to prevent gays from marrying by using the argument that marriage is for procreation aren’t fighting to enact laws to prohibit unmarried people from procreating. Shouldn’t reverse logic be true: if marriage is for procreation, then people who procreate should be married?

The bottom line is: there is no good argument for prohibiting gays from marrying and the anti gay marriage folks know it. Prohibiting gays from marrying is a denial of their civil rights and it is only a matter of time before our country comes to its senses and grows the frig up, just as it did when it allowed women the right to vote. Just as it did when it allowed interracial couples to marry. Just as it did when it ended slavery and segregation. Hubby and I were shaking our heads in amazement last night discussing this issue and feeling like we were in the Twilight Zone. What century do we live in? Isn’t this the 21st century? We swear, sometimes it feels like the Middle Ages.