Monday, June 20, 2011

GASP! Gen-X Women Have Everything (Except a FAMILY!!!)

Thank you to Laura Carroll who shared a link to a Daily Mail article entitled, Successful and Childless: The Career Women from Generation X who have it all...Except a Family.  After giving this article a look-over, a rare thing occurred: I was at a loss for words. Well, for a moment at least. My readers will be happy to know that my speechlessness lasted only a minute and then my reaction began to take shape.


Where do I begin?

Let's start at the title of this article which tells us that we are in store for yet more tired stereotyping of childfree women - you know, that we are all self-absorbed, ladder-climbing careerists who willfully and selfishly sacrifice the most important thing in life - children - at the altar of personal ambition. After all, what other reason(s) could a woman possibly have to forego having children - the ultimate path to joy and fulfillment in life and the most important job in the world!? She must be all about me me me.

Note that the title also promotes the equally tired stereotype of childfree woman as "family-less". (Another deep sigh). Let me set the record straight:  the childfree are not without families. We have spouses and partners. We have parents. We have brothers and sisters. We have nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and grandparents. My husband and I started a family the moment we got married. Yes, a family of two - five if you count the moggies.

Once we get past the title, we are then assaulted by three carefully-selected images which further promote the stereotype of childfree women as confused souls torn between the important thing in life (motherhood) and the siren song of career ambition. Photo #1: a career woman with briefcase in one hand and baby in the other, trying to decide between one or the other. "Which road should I take? Do I want the great career or the family? I must pick one because a woman only gets 2 choices: she either wants to be a family woman (i.e. mom) or a career woman. I desperately want both, but only one choice can reign supreme. Which woman should I be?"

It's a tough decision, so let's look at pictures #2 and #3 which perhaps can help us narrow down the choices and give us some insight into which woman she might want to be. Let's see - there's the serious, bookish lawyer-looking woman on the left - obviously depicting the cold, selfish old maid (obviously all business and not having much fun). And then on the right we have the soft, glowing, smiling, content, happy mom who gazes down adoringly at her reason for living. Hm, can we guess who has her priorities straight? Who made the right choice?

Aside from the title and photos, there are many problems with this article, but here they are in a nutshell:

1. News alert!  There are many women - myself included (and I am sure many of my readers) - who do not feel at all torn between career and motherhood. I didn't choose to be childfree because my career is more important than having kids. I choose childfreedom because the lifestyle ROCKS and from my perspective PARENTHOOD SUCKS. Sorry - I am not usually this crass, but dumb-headed articles like this compel me to dispense a good smackdown.

2. There is no such thing as "too many choices".  I live in America where choice is a GOOD thing.  It's a virtue that I stand 100% behind and nobody can convince me I shouldn't.  If being born in 1966 means I am of a generation of choice, then I'll wear the Gen-X title with pride. I am glad that I was born at a time when I actually have the choice to be childfree. I am grateful there is effective birth control. I am lucky nobody can force me to be a parent. And I am glad others have the choice to be parents if it makes them happy. To each her own.

3. If family = kids, then yes - I am a Gen-X woman who has everything...except a family - and guess what? I'm thrilled about it! Don't throw me a pity party. Don't tsk-tsk me, lament that my sad state is the result of "too many choices", and shake your head that I'm too busy with my career to see what's really important in life. I know what's important in life and I'm living it. In fact, from what I can tell, I'm doing a hell of a lot more living than the parents I know who are buried under massive piles of diapers, kindercrap, PTA meetings, screaming matches, play dates, debt and diarrhea blow-outs.

4. I am not "left without a family of my own". I am blessed with a beautiful family who I cherish, the most important members being the ones I have willfully and thoughtfully chosen to share my life and household with. I find it insulting and frankly, irritating that in this day and age when every configuration of people under the sun defines itself as family, I still have to endure the pity and judgemental attitude of people who think a happily married couple sans kids is a sorrowful state of emptiness and lack.  It's a flat out lie, and I am sick to death of articles like this spreading the lie around. I'm here to spread some truth.

Finally, let it be said:  Not all GenX women bought into the myth of:

Husband + House + Career + Kids = Have it All

I have 3 of those things and I know for certain that if I had the fourth, I'd have way less.


ChildfreeNYC said...

Amen! I was just telling a friend of mine yesteray (who is a mother) that ever since highschool, when we had to carry around a raw egg for a week, I have resented the idea that anyone could ever force me to be a mother. I hated having to carry that egg around under the "honor system" based promise that I would take it EVERYwhere and be careful with it. I had places to go and things to see. I didn't ask for that stupid egg, it was assigned to everyone in the class (the boys too). Well, the lesson worked on me. I already knew even before that point that I didn't want kids, but the egg exercise was one of the many events in my life that helped cement my utter fear of having to be a mother someday. And, like you, I am quite grateful that I was born into the Gen x generation. I am so thrilled to be a family of 2!! Thanks for your comments...our society has such a lot of growing up to do!

Sea_creature said...

Thank you for this. I'm not a career minded person, either so according to society I have nothing. Such a crock of shit.

mitsy said...

Those kinds of articles just make me mad, so I try to avoid reading them for the most part (especially the comments because I'll get all fired up), but I'm so glad to be able to read a well-composed and thoughtful response to it from someone like yourself that allows me to rest assured that our child-free lifestyle is represented... even if it doesn't gain headline news like the more pro-natal ones do. Thanks for being you!

Also, thought you might enjoy the following Facebook comment string from one of my long-time friends who wasn't planning on having kids and then got pregnant accidentally.

I posted this link on my FB page at 4:22pm:

And her comment at 4:52pm that day was (copied directly): "You post about this regularly. You know I totally support that choice. But... Wonder what your specific reasons for not wanting kids are. Just so you know. If you change your [mind] you would be pleasantly surprised. :)"

Before I got a chance to respond, she commented again at 5:03pm: "Wait rescind that comment.... My kid was walking around naked in the back yard and pooped... Um on the grass, on his shoe, down his legs... I had to pick it up then hose and wipe him off and his shoes and the grass. Now I'm just pissed u didn't post this 2 years ago haha."

And my long-winded response at 5:06pm was: "LOL! But since I already wrote this much already: My reasons are many - time with Justin that would be lost, added stress, money woes, plus myriad other things we wish to pursue in life that kids might preclude us from. Never wanted to be a parent, just like I've never wanted to be a WWF wrestler, and I don't intend to find out the hard way if I would actually enjoy it. Other people might not be so apt to find out if being child-free is a real option for them, so I post these articles hoping that someone on the fence will consider their choices carefully and from the heart. But that still cracked me up, R!"

It's nice to know you can make a difference even if it feels like the whole world is against you!

Spectra said...

Kids are not the only component of a family. I have a husband, a wonderful sister and brother, nieces and nephews, loving parents, and a whole bunch of inlaws. Plus I have my pets and a house. I have pretty much everything any other woman has--I just chose not to bring kids into the picture. If having a family means having kids, then anyone who's an empty-nester would not be considered to have a family any more and we all know that's absurd.

Julia said...

Oh you fell into the trap of reading the Daily Fail! You'll not do that again in a hurry. If the editors of the Fail had their way then anyone with a slightly darker-than-Aryan complexion would be put on a ship and sent back to "the colonies", even if they'd never actually originated from there, house prices would be sufficiently high to ensure all Englishmen kept their castles and no first-time-buyers could afford it at all, benefits would be cut for anyone with acne or a baseball cap, and all women would be housewives, barefoot and pregnant, while their husbands went out to work.

Frankly, I adore being someone that the Daily Fail hates and thoroughly disapproves of. My career is awesome, and my family of three (me + husband + gecko) rocks. And I have enough time to shower both with the attention they deserve.

sara star said...

I love it when commenters get all ranty about how we can't be expecting their kids to shell out Social Security for us to retire on and take care of us since we didn't have kids.

Newsflash, workers pay into their own social security, it isn't supposed to be paid for by the next generation--that is a misuse of the system.

Anyways, many childfree folks are able to put away what would have been college tuition for kids or other child expenses into retirement nest eggs--so we won't need as much public assistance anyways--by in large.

Temujin said...

That article has so many assumptions about the ideal life that I don't know where to begin.

Aside from the fact that you can have a perfectly wonderful life without children, you can also have a perfectly wonderful life without:

a husband
a career
owning a house

I can actually see this kind of article backfiring, if its goal is to get more women to have children. I can see a lot of women coming to the conclusion, "well, if I have to choose, then...okay, no kids."

Temujin said...

In a way, the article is also kind of insulting to women who are stay-at-home moms. Seems to me staying at home to take care of children is something of a career in itself -- lousy pay, terrible benefits, difficult employees, but certainly what some people think of as a calling. Someone who's a stay-at-home mom is doing nothing? It's patronizing to women either way.

It was a bit ominous when it suggested women have "too many choices" today. Assuming that's a bad thing, I wonder what the _Mail_ would suggest be done about that....

Anonymous said...

I cannot tell you how glad I am that I found this blog. I have felt odd and abnormal for a long time because I do not want children and everyone thinks I should. I happen to love children. I was a preschool teacher, then director of a daycare, and now a nanny. I adore children but do NOT want any of my own. With each article here, each post, I feel less and less strange.

I may not have some all important career, I may not have a ton of demands and stress in my life...but I DO know that having children would cause that for me. I have no doubt that I do not want children and am thrilled to find some like minded women here. Thank you so much for this post.

Gillian said...

Articles like this is why the Daily Mail is called the Daily Hate by many in the UK!

It was a lazy stereotyped article which is typical of the Daily Mail. If its not immigrant or refugees they're stirring up hatred towards, its women for not conforming to their housewife steretype...

Personally I ignore anything that comes from that vile publication!

Dave said...

At the risk of being repetitive, I will paste here what I wrote in Laura's blog on this topic:

I think the answer is far more simple. The definition of “having it all” is not what it was 30 or 40 years ago. Today, “having it all” for many men and women does NOT include having children. For me, having it all meant retiring at age 45 and getting out of the rat race.

A secondary issue is the decline in religiousness of Gen-Xers and younger people in general. The decline of religion and religious pressure makes it a lot easier to be childfree. I am an atheist so all those religious bingos simply bounce harmlessly off me.

Even though I am technically a Boomer (born in 1963), I have always considered myself a Gen-Xer because when I first encountered the term “Baby Boomer” decades ago it referred to the “Post-war Baby Boom,” referring to all the babies born to those fathers (mainly) returning home after serving in World War II. My dad was slightly too young to have served in WWII so my birth does not fall into that paradigm.

Did any of you happen to read any of the comments to the linked article? What I like to do is to click on “Worst Rated” to see all of the most horrible ones filled with bingos and other insults and click on the red “down” arrow. Then I click on the “Best rated” and see all the really good ones and click on the green “up” arrow.

cmhabibi said...

What exactly is a "career woman?" If it's a woman who cares more about money and power than people/family/living a meaningful life, then no, I am not a career woman. If a "career woman" is someone who takes her job very seriously, in fact, sees her job as a mission, and therefore works hard to excel, then YES, call me a career woman! If I never become filthy stinking rich or never become a CEO, that's okay. But I do want to be a leader and do my job well. And yes, I do believe having children would prevent me from being that kind of "career woman," and I value doing a good job in good work over reproduction.

Violet said...

i thought the 1980's backlash against women working was over.
career gals.
just one more outdated dichotomy where women are seen as cold bitches [the new whore?] or mommies...
how trite and sentimental.
semi-mental, if you ask me.
i could not be described as a career gal, or a mommy.
thank goodness, now people have to actually get to know me to classify or judge my choices.

lauracarroll said...

Hey Laura Families of Two here: You go! Agree on all counts. It may appear in an e-pub that many locals loathe, but what is disturbing is that the researchers are the ones making ridiculous interpretations. As I rant in my post, they sound like a bunch of patriarchal academics! Laura

Trish said...

I hate the assumption that not wanting a baby means I am obsessed with a career. It's actually the opposite for me. It's about NOT having to "work" all the time. I don't want kids because I want more FREE time.

caroline said...

This type of misogynistic garbage is expected from the "Daily Hate". However the comments section cheered me up a bit though.

Roxie Harlow said...

So glad a long time friend sent me a link to your blog!! She sent it in response to a post of mine lamenting the fact that I'm surrounded by people with kids and feel like an outsider because I don't want them. I'm turning 30 next month and I'm more certain than ever that kids are not for me! I've got a wonderful boyfriend and 2 ferrets that I love. Thanks for this blog! It makes me feel like less of an outsider. :)

felisdomestica said...

what's wrong with everything is about me-me-me? i, personally, think there's nothing wrong with it. i'm happy to be that 'everything is about me-me-me' person! oh, how i love this life!

Anonymous said...

Why are there never articles about MEN having to choose between a career and kids?

CFVixen said...

It amazes me that there are still articles like this out there. What century are we in?

As much as I enjoy my career and know that I probably couldn't balance it along with kids, it wasn't the reason I decided kids weren't for me. Heck, I knew that long before I had a career.

There are SO many things you can choose to do with your life. The opportunities are endless. Yet somehow society tells us that reproduction is the only REAL choice. How sad.

Kara said...

Yeah, last I checked I didn't spring, fully-formed, into existence from seafoam or something.

Just because I don't personally have a kid(s) doesn't mean that the rest of my family (husband, parents, brothers, in-laws, nephews/nieces, etc etc) are completely irrelevant.

(cue massive eye-roll)

This sort of article is really for those people whose only reason for existence is their kids, and who apparently need a lot of reassurance that they are "winning" the Game of Life. Because the fact the people exist who made different life choices is oh so threatening to their psyches, don't you know.

Z said...

I don't know about you, but I love NPR. But Even they are doing stories like this:

Is this NPR or TLC?

Erin said...

This kind of crap annoyes me. I DO have a family; fortunately, they do not live in my house. :)

As some others have referenced, I do not consider myself to be a "career woman". Rather, I have a professional, full-time job that allows me to pursue my hobbies, interests, and passions outside of the office (which is how I define myself), none of which I could have if I had kids.

hiphophunny84 said...

Any article published in the Daily Wail should be taken with a pinch of salt. It is a sensationalist trashy tabloid that masquerades as a broadsheet. In fact I have a running joke with friends where I will announce that I am off to read the daily Wail in order to find out how I will die today, as they claim everything from fresh air to vegetables and using deodorant can give you cancer! In fact I'm pretty sure that in the space of a week they have claimed that childless females are more likely to die from ovarian cancer and then in another article claimed that experiencing child birth can also increase your risk of cancer!

Newspapers like this seem to thrive on whipping people into a hysterical frenzy and encouraging animosity between groups of people. In this case Childed vs Childfree

Ken Banks said...

What an amazing response to a positively silly article. Man oh man, am I glad I stumbled upon your blog--it makes a terrific diversion from my boring Friday workday!

Anne said...

You are so right! A childfree by choice lifestyle is looked down by many as the ultimate "unwomanly" thing to do. Having a child can be life-altering in more ways than one can possibly imagine and it is an extremely personal choice. Yet women who choose to go childfree have to be prepared for raised eyebrows, weird looks, inquisitive questions, thinly-veiled remarks as well as a phenomenal amount of pressure both from family and society as a whole. If this is the case in developed countries, it is even worse in developing ones like India-where women are expected to have a child after marriage by default. Yet some women have had the courage and the conviction to defy convention. Do read about them in this article​me‐health/lifewise/item/ch​ildfree‐by‐choice.html?cat​egory_id=10

Links said...

felisdomestica: what's wrong with everything is about me-me-me? i, personally, think there's nothing wrong with it. i'm happy to be that 'everything is about me-me-me' person! oh, how i love this life!

I totally agree! I don't understand why people who want to fulfill their own dreams and desires and live their life the way THEY want to are labeled as bad, selfish people. If you're happy being a mother, good for you. If you're happy without children, that's good too. It's annoying seeing people get so bent out of shape because other people don't agree with their lifestyle choices.

Anonymous said...

Great post. It is nice to see all of the different perspectives responding to these ideas. I am not a career ladder climber and because of this, some people are confused about my being childfree. I quit a fairly high prestige job (though not particularly high-paying) in order to take a lower stress position. I am so happy. My life choices center around my own happiness and comfort. To some, this is very strange or even immoral. To me, it's the key to satisfaction and contentment.

A proud Gen X-er