Choices.

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Hi. My name is Vanessa.

Who are you?

I’m interested in exploring the experiences of people who make the choice to not have children. You know, folks who choose not to become parents.

I am one of them.

And I’d like to explore the issue more deeply.

I’m also creating a depository of resources, articles, stories and miscellany about the topic. Because, quite frankly, we live in a world where the default is choosing / having kids. (I recognize it’s not actually a choice for everyone.) It’s not always a big, warm welcoming hug out there for people who opt out. This is a support group. Or, really, just a bunch of links.

Come along. (And introduce yourself along the way.)

[P.S. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while. Extra time isn’t exactly abundant these days… So, I’m only allowing myself the time to re-post wonderful articles, essays and resources here. If you have something to share, or would like to write something here, leave a note or get in touch. I’d love to hear what you have to say.]

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Choices.

From the Top

I love the Note To Self podcast from WNYC. Love. (This, along with Hidden Brain are my two favorites.) I was astounded, in a good way, with the host’s recent conversation with Chelsea Clinton (Bonus: Chelsea Clinton talks global equality and breastfeeding) captured at a public event. Yes, it’s largely about her own parenthood. But, there is so much goodness in the language she uses about parenthood. Parenthood is not the default in her language. All options are good options. And the way she talks about it places equal emphasis on the choice to be, or not to be, parents. It’s just lovely, and balanced. And I think you should listen here.

From the Top

Cold, (Not So) Hard, (Qualitative) Facts

Huff Post does provide a good space for conversation about the kid versus no-kid life. [Did you think I was going to use the word lifestyle there? NEVER!]

A new article highlights some recent research, looks like interviews, with a set of folks opting out of kid-hood. [See the commentary at the end about the research methods.]

Here’s the opening

Survey data rarely distinguishes between the involuntarily childless and the consciously childfree, but 2014 census figures reveal that 47.6 percent of women between age 15 and 44 have never had children ― the highest rate ever tracked. By age 40 to 44, 19 percent of women remain childless, according to a 2014 Pew report.

Now, a new study looks into how people come to this decision. It reveals the decision is rarely a one-time conversation, as past research has suggested, but instead an ongoing discussion a person has internally and with a partner.

Amy Blackstone, a gender sociologist at the University of Maine who specializes in childfree research, hopes that her study helps question the assumption that little boys and girls will grow up to become parents. Breaking down this assumption would give them space as they grow up to decide whether or not parenting is the right choice for them.

“Right now, girls in particular, but girls and boys both, are raised to imagine themselves as parents of children,” she explained. “But if we more critically thought about the question of whether or not to parent, then everyone would have the opportunity to make the choice that’s right for them.”

You can read the rest here5 Things ‘Childfree’ People Want You To Know. And, now that you know things you can go back to your daily life.

Other things: the woman who conducted the research blogs about not having kids here.
If you have access to academic journals, here a link to the article.

Cold, (Not So) Hard, (Qualitative) Facts

Ann Landers Reports 70%

Last summer Terry Gross interviewed journalist Michelle Goldberg about her history-of-yoga-in-the-US book. That interview was great, but the absolute highlight comes at minute 25:43 of the interview when Terry asks Michelle about two articles, split by twelve years, topical to being (or not being a parent). The 2015 article is titled I was a Proud Non-Breeder. Then I Changed My Mind, in response to the article To breed or not to breed she wrote in 2003. I’ll leave you to read both articles, but if you’re included to listen (instead of read) the Fresh Air interview is tops. (Just be sure to skip to minute 25:43.)

The title here refers to a interview reference. Michelle Goldberg was questioning how many mothers regretted becoming mothers, but recognized the inherent lack of reporting because of the obvious reasons. She found some old Ann Landers columns in which, anonymity held, 70% of women who wrote to Ann Landers on the topic reported a sense of regret in becoming a mother. [We can argue survey methods all day, let’s just say it suggests when given a private outlet, women may not be as all-around-pleased as otherwise stated.] Listen to the interview for the full notes.

Ann Landers Reports 70%

Selfish Shelf

I want more essays and books like this, but by not-famous people. Just by every day people. And maybe every day people who the rest of the world doesn’t have a lot of strong opinions about. And, dear goodness, can we please remove the word selfish from the entire conversation (although, it is used sarcastically here)? I do appreciate all discussions about the variety of reasons to opt-out of kids:

“People’s reasons for not reproducing remain as varied as ever, encompassing the personal, political, financial, environmental or the anti-narcissistic, as in the case of John Warner, the author of the novel “The Funny Man,” who self-deprecatingly wrote in an email, “I’m not convinced my genes are anything to wish on anyone.”

Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids. A collection of pieces, edited and compiled by Meghan Daum.

Here’s the NY Time article about the essay collection. My only issue with this article/review is that it focuses on all the things about child-rearing that deters people from having them. (I don’t want to attend birthday parties. I don’t want to be part of mom communities.) I’d like to see a stronger discussion of, and focus on, the positive reasons why people want to be without kids – as in Time for… and A focus on

Selfish Shelf

Million Dollar Question

  1. I am breaking my own rules. My compromise with myself is this is a place to re-post only. But…I had a gold-star mental run-around during my thinking time today.
  2. It goes something like this… (the super abbreviated version)…
    1. Am I so concerned about not having enough money that I choose not to have kids because I’ll never have enough money to feel comfortable in doing so.
    2. Yes, I know the common argument is people have kids without having a plan or sufficient funds all the time, that shouldn’t hold you back.
    3. So, I asked myself What would I do if I had one million dollars?
    4. This was a fun thing to think about for a long time.
    5. And, the answer seemed to be the same thing I’ve seen appear over and over….
    6. And if I could have whatever I wanted, and money wasn’t an issue…
    7. It still didn’t have anything to do with kids. (I’d work part-time at my current gig, live in a small cabin by the river in Vermont / small farm in Wisconsin and make art.) [And this is how I know I’m on the right path for me.]
  3. So, if you feel like you need to get closer to what you really want, without those other pesky variables…spend some time visualizing yourself, or your future self, with one million dollars – and then think / share / picture / sing about how your life would be without limited financial constraints.
  4. Let me know how it goes.
Million Dollar Question

“The Ghost Ship That Didn’t Carry Us”

Thanks to Helen over at Weekly Findings for this fantastic recommendation from Dear Sugar:

DEAR SUGAR, The Rumpus Advice Column #71: The Ghost Ship That Didn’t Carry Us

Helen makes the suggestion because it carries the oft under represented male perspective in the whole do I actually want to have a kiddo scenario. I like it because, at its heart, the response is all about making choices, and choices in general. And, quite frankly – that we can’t have it all. (That’s the five-word summary. Read the whole thing for something a smidge more subtle.)

I’ll never know and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.

Also, I adore this long-winded piece of advice because there is, basically, a giant exercise in the middle of the response to help anyone deal with making a decision about anything. And we all know where is nothing I love more than a good activity and a good list.

 

“The Ghost Ship That Didn’t Carry Us”

The Most Realistic

Yes. This is a collection of stories about choosing not to be a parent. But every once in a while a piece comes along that speaks with eloquence and balanced honesty about the realities of being a parent. As in, the good, the bad, the challenges. No sugar coating. Here is one of them.

The podcast Note to Self just finished a four part series about working moms (it’s actually about two moms who are trying to start an app, so it’s actually really more about “We can do anything, but we can’t do everything”…but don’t get me started on that.)

The best thing to come out of the series is this interview with Andrew Moravcsik that didn’t fit in the four episodes. It’s the bonus material. I’ll just leave it at that. If you want to hear a progressive perspective on parenting in a two-parent household, here’s your shot.

Also, Anne-Marie Slaughter: Why Women Still Can’t Have It All published in The Atlantic.

[It’ll all make sense when you read and listen.]

The Most Realistic