About this Blog

After banging my head in frustration over the obsession everyone around me had with procreation, I went online to find a community of people who were more like me. I have met some fascinating people along the way, but I have also found that many in the childfree community are quite hostile toward Christianity and a Christian world view. I understand that, unfortunately, many of my Christian sisters and brothers have given them a lot of ammunition (undoubtedly, I have been guilty of this at times too). Not wanting to be perceived as "trolling" for expressing my Christian perspective on other people's forums and blogs, I use my own blog to share my musings on childfree life while at the same time expressing my faith.

My intention is to show support to childfree people, both Christian and non-Christian, but from my own Christian perspective. Questions and constructive comments are welcome; negativity and intolerance are not.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Childfree Confessions, #6 (pregnancy announcements)

I cannot bring myself to be happy for anyone who announces a pregnancy.

Stereotypically, women are supposed to respond to such an announcement with squeals of delight, hearty congratulations, and girlish giddiness. I just feel a little ill.

Sometimes I try to fake it with a half-smile and an un-heartfelt, “Congratulations,” in which case I feel like a fraud. When I have more time to think about it, I am able to pull together a more honest response such as, “I wish you the best.” With a couple of my closer friends and acquaintances, I have blurted out without thinking, “Well, better you than me!”

There are so many events in which I can share another person’s joy (new house, adopting a pet, getting a job or promotion, etc.) that I have asked myself over and over again, Why must I feel so unhappy when these expectant parents proclaim their news?

I can promise you that it is not envy or jealousy. I have not ever, even for a fraction of a second, wished that I could be the one making the announcement. I have no questions or concerns about my childfree status, nor do I ever desire any part of the lives of my childed friends (in fact, whenever I leave the home of someone who has children, I am overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that I can retreat to my quiet, peaceful, clean home). That is, unless you count the simple feeling of being on the outside. They are being initiated into the parent club, and I will not be joining. They will have their conversations about exploding diapers and sleepless nights, smiling knowingly at other parents while they make comments to me along the lines of, “You can’t understand unless you have kids.”
And so, “I’m becoming a parent” = “I’m better than you now.”

I will admit that some of my ire springs from pure selfishness. When my peers become parents, without fail they stop spending time with me. No more invitations, no more e-mails. They cannot come to my parties because they cannot find a sitter. They cannot come to my house for dinner because they need to go with little Isabella to her friend’s birthday party. They cannot attend event X with me on Saturday because the kids have a soccer game. (And of course, on those rare occasions when they do spend time with me, they remind me that I’m not a part of their club anyway.)
And so, “I’m pregnant” = “It was nice knowing you, but don’t bother contacting me anymore.”

But it is not all about me. Every new pregnancy means the loss of a potential home for a less fortunate child who has already been born. I have expressed before that I am passionate about adoption and about caring for the world’s orphans. As the reality sets in that may never be ready to adopt a young person myself, I grow increasingly weary that people who want children completely close their minds to adoption. Many times I have tried to plant the seed in the mind of a future parent, but my words have always fallen on deaf ears. The lack of compassion and empathy breaks my heart.
And so, “I’ve made a baby” = “Who gives a rip about the orphans suffering in the world? I need someone with my own superior DNA!”

Corinne Maier said, “…every baby born in a developed country is an ecological disaster for the whole planet.” I consider that hyperbole more than anything else, but I do believe that every child born in the U.S. is headed down a road filled with unbridled consumption and waste, the likes of which the orphans in the world could never imagine.
And so, “I’m having a child” = “I and my family are going to become more gluttonous and wasteful than ever before.”

Wait… why should I be happy about a pregnancy announcement?!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Open Your Hand Wide

This time of year always puts me in a more charitable mood, as I know it does many people, and Deuteronomy 15 has been on my heart lately.
(7) If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. (8) You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. (10) Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord will bless you in all your work and in all you undertake. (11) Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.”
The King James translation adds, “Open thine hand wide” unto the poor in the land. Opening my hand is something that I was raised with, so it comes somewhat naturally to me, but “open your hand wide” has been ringing in my ears lately. As the soup kitchens in my area fret that they are serving nearly double the number of meals that they served last year, as the layoffs continue at the local companies, as the cost of living increases, I look at how I have been blessed and I know that God would have me share that with others. Still, in the back of my mind I will think, “But I should stash away some more in savings in case I lose my job,” or, “I should set aside more money for my retirement,” or whatever other excuse I would like to make. But I feel the tug again… “open your hand wide.”

Oddly enough for a childfree person, I have given a great deal of attention to organizations that support children. Despite the fact that I don’t particularly like most children, I don’t want to see them harmed by the adults in their lives. I don’t want them to be hungry; I don’t want them to be cold; I don’t want them to go without Christmas gifts. In most cases, these children are victims of situations that are so far out of their control, and I want to help. I have had the recent pleasure to buy gifts for “tween” girls through the Salvation Army’s angel tree program, and I have sent extra money for Christmas gifts for the girls I sponsor through World Vision. My husband’s favorite cause is the summer camp where he used to work.

We are also mindful of the local food pantries, shelters (for people and for animals), and other service organizations. Still, I am always asking myself, is it enough? And is it going to the right places? And will it be used for the right thing?

I am blogging about this to share my struggle but also to call others to action with me. It is sometimes frustrating to be generous when there are some lazy and unscrupulous people out there who abuse the systems that the government or private charities have put in place. However, we cannot be excused from doing what is right just because there are others who are doing what is wrong.

Some of you reading this may feel that what little you have to give would not mean much, but I would remind you of the widow’s mite story in Mark 12:42-43. Jesus said of her, “This poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had.” And your gift in concert with the gifts of others will grow into something more meaningful than you expect (think of the money the Salvation Army raises as people donate their pocket change to the Red Kettle campaigns!). Others of you may need to be on the receiving end at this time, and there is nothing wrong with that. Be a good steward of what you are given, and some day you will be able to give back to someone else in need.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. -Matthew 5:11-12

To repeat what I say in the introduction of my blog, many of us Christians give the world ammunition to hate us. From misguided misinterpretations of the Bible (I didn’t realize until I was a senior in high school that there is NO verse in the Bible prohibiting the consumption of alcohol), to judgment and unforgiveness toward someone who sins, to angry and violent diatribes against anyone who believes differently, I have seen it all and hung my head in shame… especially in the instances where I am guilty myself. Fortunately for all of us, God’s gracious heart is big enough to accept all of us, no matter what faults we have.

And there is a certain trickiness to following God, especially when it comes to interpreting the Bible and determining how to act upon our interpretation. We try to take pieces of the Bible in their proper context and struggle with whether or not some parts of the Bible apply to modern life. On top of that, I do think that it is an important (but sticky!) business to distinguish which biblical messages are a description of the way things were versus a prescription for how things should be. (I must credit the pastor-author Paul Smith for that phrase.)

While there are many things about modern life that the writers of the Bible could not comprehend, many of us Christians believe that we should focus on relevant, consistent themes throughout the Bible ("love your neighbor", "care for the orphans", etc.) and use those themes to guide our approach to modern issues. And of course, the modern issue that seems to cause the greatest rift among the church and the childfree is reproduction and birth control.

As a Protestant, I don’t answer to the Roman Catholic church, so I completely divorce myself from any of the official Catholic teachings about reproduction and birth control. (This is not to show contempt to my Catholic sisters and brothers; it is a respectful disagreement. I acknowledge that those in service - priests, nuns, etc. - do not have children, and many Catholics do practice one form or another of family planning, but that is probably a discussion for another post.) Although there are some Protestants who range from hesitant to resistant to birth control, I would claim that as a whole - based on my own personal experiences in many churches in several parts of the world - the Protestant church does not generally have a problem with people using birth control. And when I talk about “the church,” I mean the people - not an organized body of leadership that lords over the masses or some man who gets some inflammatory work published.

I have found no prohibition of birth control in the Bible. In fact, the apostle Paul supports husbands and wives making a joint decision to refrain from sex for a specified time (I Cor. 7:5), which allows for birth control by means of abstinence. In my mind, it seems that if the Bible condones the only form of family planning that would have been available at that time, I cannot conclude that God would prohibit other forms of family planning that would be available in the future. (I would also point out that there is no verse in the Bible that specifically addresses abortion either, but I need to leave that topic alone for now.)

…behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. -Luke 10:3

The painful spot I am in is that even though my own Christian cohorts have no objection to birth control, and even though most of my own Christian cohorts have no issue with my childfree status, being around church-folk does not give me any relief from the idolatry of pronatalism. Some look down on me for disliking children. At best, many think I’m strange; at worst, some do think I’m evil.

But when I go to the childfree community, I’m not fully accepted there either. Even when comments are not directed at me personally, it is hard to bear the rants against “fundies,” “born agains,” “anti-choicers,” and “religious nuts”; the mockery of people who “found Jesus”; or the equal-opportunity critics who disparage anyone “stupid” or “primitive” or “ignorant” or “unenlightened” enough to believe in a spiritual realm. Churched or childfree, there is every bit as much judgment and intolerance against those who have the audacity to believe differently. (And this is not to say that all or even most people in the childfree community hate religion. I have just run into it more often there than elsewhere lately.)

So here I stand, one foot in each of two cultures, neither culture willing to accept the things that I find most critical in my life. And what I hold to be greatest is derided not only by people I respect and with whom I hoped to identify, but by the secular culture in general. Still, I cannot help but feel that Jesus is nearby, looking on with compassion and saying, “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.
For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness of is stronger than human strength. Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.
-I Corinthians 1:18-29

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Childfree Confessions, #5 (the kid I do like)

There is actually one child I like, a 5-year-old whom I’ll call Anna. In fact, I spoke about her in a previous post: my friend’s child who is demanding and self-centered.

Ay carumba, is that girl a pistol! But for some reason, she and I have always had a connection. Perhaps it is because her mother and I were so close when Anna was born. Perhaps it is because she was one of the rare children about whom I could honestly say, “Oh, what a pretty baby.” Or perhaps it is because she is exceptionally intelligent. When she was between 2 and 3 years old, I recall being able to have a unexpectedly rational conversation with her. As she has grown and her communication skills have increased, I have found that she and I have many common interests such as reptiles, cats, insects, and anything science. On several occasions, I have been in stores that sell educational toys, and I always find things that I know Anna and I would love -- a terrarium in which to cultivate carnivorous plants, an ant farm, a kit for growing crystals.

Recently my friend noted in her facebook status that she was taking pictures of Anna’s preschool artwork. I commented, “Are you going to post them for us?” What? Did I just type that? Did I just express a genuine interest in some kid’s preschool artwork? Why, yes, I did. And when the work was posted, I looked through the album and made comments. “Tell Anna that I enjoyed looking at her pictures,” I added. (This gives me some hope that if my siblings ever have children, I can at least be a decent aunt. I have often worried about that, and I dread the day that my brother or sister calls me with the news.)

Even so, as much as I enjoy my occasional visits with Anna and express an interest in her life, I surely would not want to be her mother! Bless my friend for her patience.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Meerkat Manor

The Childfree Life has published another piece of my writing called "Watching 'Meerkat Manor' is Like Parenthood." In this essay, I poke a little fun at myself for my bizarre love-hate obsession with "Meerkat Manor," and I relate it to what I imagine my life would have been like if I'd had children.

This is also a bit of a play on another TCFL member's essay, "Visiting Wall Drug is Like Parenthood", so be sure to check out that one too.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I Don’t Want to Be...

that kind of person. That is what I said about a certain type of parent in my last post. And coincidentally, just a few days after typing those words, I stumbled across someone who exemplified what I would not want to become. I saw an excerpt of her writing while perusing a childfree site, and I actually thought the author was being facetious. I went to the source site to see if this was intended to be serious (it was), and I was dumbfounded by the following quote: “You created life and forever more, you will nurture life. Mothers are almost God-like in that way. And when you carry that force out into the world, you will be awed by the power you have to effect change everywhere. You are now a mother in the world. All hail before you.”

I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes think too highly of myself. But… wow… just, wow. After I recovered from reading the paragraph above, I remembered something that I recently read in Luke 11:27-28: As [Jesus] said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

I found it fascinating that when someone praised the mother of our Savior for giving birth to and nursing him, he immediately shut the person down with the response that it was instead blessed for someone to keep the word of God. What an interesting set of priorities.

And this shall be my priority too. I know what I don’t want to be; instead, I do want to be the kind of person who hears and keeps the word of God.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More About Teenagers

I was at a party primarily for adults (there were a few children who had been relegated to another part of the house), and I was surrounded (blissfully) by people without young children: some childfree, some childless, and some parents of teens or adults. One of the mothers brought her 15-year-old daughter whom I’ll call Greta. Poor Greta was looking a little bored from feeling out of place -- a feeling I know all too well -- and since we now know that I like teenagers, I thought I would strike up a conversation with her. I found her to be a sweet, intelligent, and interesting young woman, and I enjoyed bringing her into the conversation.

To my dismay, however, every so often mom would chime in to either answer for Greta or to tell a story about her. For example, I asked Greta what her least favorite subject was at school. She paused to think for a moment, and her mother jumped right in to answer. I listened politely, but then I turned back to Greta to discuss the topic further.

This is a prime example of why I teach college rather than high school. Even though I encounter plenty of helicopter parents, there are still federal laws that support me in working with students and squeezing their intrusive parents out of the picture when appropriate. This situation is also another reason that I don’t want to be a parent: I don’t want to become that kind of person. (Though it isn’t just helicopter parenting. I also don’t want to develop that sense of entitlement, grandiose self-importance, single-mindedness, and self-centeredness that I witness in many parents. I have watched parenthood turn too many decent and interesting people into narcissistic boors.)

But getting back to my topic… If anyone has advice on how to lovingly, politely, and diplomatically let mom know that I want to hear what her daughter has to say, I would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Childfree Confessions, #4 (teenagers)

I’m one of those rare people who likes teenagers. Obviously, not all teens -- some of them are disrespectful, irrational, or just plain mean. However, I think that most adolescents do not deserve to be painted with that stereotype.

When I was in college, I worked with the high school youth group at my church. Being shy and not a very good conversationalist, I don’t know that I was a particularly good youth worker, but I did enjoy it. I loved the energy of the teens, and I was quite fond of the girls who were in my small group.

More recently, I have worked with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship club at my college, at times acting as club advisor or being the guest speaker at one of their group meetings. I have found the students to be receptive to what I have to say, and the students in turn have encouraged me on many occasions.

I think I may have an ability to reach out to the more difficult young people too. During my weekly volunteer work at the local humane society, I am often side-by-side with adolescents who have been sentenced to community service. I have the luxury of not being an authority figure to them, so I am often able to convince them to do something for me or coax some respect out of them more easily than their leaders can. I find that showing the kids some respect -- smiles and hello’s, thank-you’s and excuse-me’s -- truly does go a long way. Some of the kids ask me about my work there, and when they learn that I have been happily giving my time to the shelter every weekend for the past nine years, they seem to see more value in their work… if this lady does this because she wants to, maybe it’s not a “punishment” after all. I recall one incident where a girl complained and disparaged the work for several minutes. Finally, I approached her and very lovingly said, “Please don’t call this ‘ghetto work.’ [her words] What you are doing is really important, and the shelter appreciates it. And even though the animals can’t say it to you, they are grateful for it too. I’m a math professor, so I have a full-time job and don’t need to be here doing these things, but I come every week out of love and because I know it’s important. I just want you to feel good about what you are doing too.” Bless her heart, the girl’s attitude changed completely, and I didn’t hear another complaint. One of her leaders took me aside afterward and thanked me.

My admiration for adolescents and young adults has influenced my choice of profession as a community college professor, and I describe this in an article published on The Childfree Life this week (Why Do I Need a Child When I Already Have 100 'Kids'?). I feel that I get all the perks of being in the lives of those young people without all of the headaches of parenting.

If only I didn’t have to survive pregnancy and all of those early childhood years, perhaps I would have wanted to be a parent (though maybe someday I will be compelled to adopt). But now that I think about it, being a role model or mentor to the scores of teens that I have worked with and will work with is probably far more valuable to society than my being a parent and focusing my energies on just my own one or two kids.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Family Legacy

During my morning run, my mind wandered to my family and to my previous blog post, and I began to think about family legacies. Last time I saw her, one of my aunts on my dad’s side -- a lady from the old school -- expressed concern about the passing on of our family name. She hoped that her nephew’s soon-to-be-born child would be a boy so that “Family X” would live on. (Never mind that I kept my name when I married, and so I am perfectly capable of passing it on if I were to so choose.)

But after that incident, it occurred to me that as Christians, the legacy we pass down should be that of Jesus Christ, not our own. To be concerned about passing on our family name is not only narcissistic, but smacks of idolatry. Yes, we in Family X are a talented group, but our purpose on this planet is to be a light that shines for Christ. Our talent, our mental capabilities, our work ethic, our ability for tolerance… those are all gifts from God and must be used as such. Should God see fit to carry on our family name and heritage, so be it. But our concern should be to leave an inheritance of eternal value, something that glorifies God and not ourselves.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What a Christian Family Should Be

Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my mother’s family. I do love them, but they can be difficult to get along with: old-fashioned, resistant to anything different, sometimes judgmental, and engaged in too much drama… simple things become such a scandal in the family. Though I was a bit of a black sheep among them, I always identified with them because of my familiarity with them. Over the past 12 years or so, I have had several occasions to spend time with my father’s side of the family, and being around them has been like looking into a mirror. Despite the “nurture” of being with mom’s family, I and my siblings are by “nature” like dad’s family.

Prior to my parents’ divorce when I was 18, my mother had an affair with a married man. When the details of this came to light, my mother’s family all but disowned her -- but not until after yelling angry, hurtful things at her or sending her hateful letters of condemnation. The next step was to refuse to speak to her or even be in her presence. At about the same time, my paternal grandmother died. My mother came to the visitation to pay her respects (after all, this had been her mother-in-law for about 20 years), and my father’s family welcomed mom with open arms. There were tears, hugs, and kind words. This woman who had hurt all of us and crushed my father was shown such love by dad and his family. It became more and more clear which side of the family I wanted to identify with.

As you can imagine, much of my mother’s family is not too pleased with me being childfree, although I have been able to deflect much of the judgment by saying that I might adopt someday. Of course, this means that at every family event, my aunt wants to know the status of the adoption. And at every event, I am surrounded by obsessed aunts and cousins doting on all of the babies. I know they all think I’m a bit of a freak.

So when I went to a gathering of my dad's side of the family last weekend, and I knew that my cousin's new baby would be there, I felt a little trepidation. Would someone ask me to hold the baby? Would the baby be the focus of the entire get-together? Would someone suggest that I would/should be "next"? I kept reminding myself that dad's family is not like that. They are accepting, non-judgmental, and rational (doctors, mathematicians, architects, computer programmers, etc.). But I was still nervous.

After I arrived, I realized that none of the other cousins there would be bringing children. One cousin is 35, unmarried, and has no kids. My sister is in a similar situation. A younger cousin is still in high school. Most of the other cousins (who were unable to attend) do not have children. A few of our oldest cousins have children who are now ‘tweens and teens. Ok, so I don’t stand out so much.

At one point in a conversation, my husband said something about us being "done" having children after zero kids. It's no secret, but I sank a little as I held my breath for the fallout. NO ONE in the room even batted an eye. The conversation just carried on as if he had said the most normal thing in the world.

When the baby arrived, of course his grandma wanted to spend a lot of time with her first grandchild. There was a very small amount of baby conversation, but most people just went on about their business. For most of the time, the baby was quiet and in a separate room from everyone as a few people took turns holding him. We cousins (including the baby's mom) had a chance to catch up, and I was pleased to see that the mom did not appear to have placenta brain. Instead, she wanted to talk about things like triathlon training.

So, I am once again grateful to have been surrounded by intelligent, educated, and informed people who are kind and accepting of people for who they are. This is what a Christian family should look like.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Childfree Confessions, #3 (I don't like kids.)

I don’t find your child cute.

Some people love looking at baby/toddler pictures or cooing over babies. I’m sorry, I just don’t. I have seen a few pretty babies or toddlers before, but I generally don’t find them cute. Now, show me a picture of a baby animal or walk past me with any sort of cuddly critter, and I’m a pile of mush. But show me a picture of a kid, and you might as well be showing me a photo of a tarantula.

On facebook, it’s easy just to keep scrolling down the page or perhaps hide a baby-obsessed friend’s posts in my newsfeed. In person, I have to make an effort to be kind. When you stuff a stack of photos in my hand, I will smile politely and flip through them. I will find something positive to say… “oh, that’s a cute outfit,” or “what a big smile,” or “this photo is my favorite of the bunch.”

Photos are one thing, but please don’t ask me to hold your baby. Just being near a baby or toddler I feel my heart rate increasing; I fear a panic attack may be imminent. I don’t know why I am so afraid of your offspring, but I am. Maybe it is paedophobia. (Again, think “tarantula.”) I might politely smile at your child, but more likely I will just try to ignore him or her. Please don’t take it personally. Maybe your dog could use some of my attention instead?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Childfree Confessions, #2 (boring conversations)

I find conversation about kids and child-rearing really boring. (I thought about calling this, “You used to be interesting until you had kids,” but I decided that was a little unfair. Read on.)

I was at a party once where a guy monopolized a conversation by talking about comic books for probably a good hour. Few of us could get a word in edgewise, and even when we did, the conversation kept going back to comic books. I and everyone else in the room grew completely bored; some people left. Eventually I just zoned out, possibly even taking a short nap in my chair.

I have no problem with someone collecting and enjoying comic books. As a kid I read them myself, and as an adult I frequently enjoy comic-based movies and TV shows. I could even quite happily entertain a 5-minute conversation about comics. But I don’t have the interest to hear someone drone on and on and on and on…

I have a similar experience when people talk about sports. I don’t care for sports, I don’t watch them on TV, and I’m not even sure which teams represent my state or which team names go with which sport. (The Buffalo Sabres… ummm… do they play baseball?) I do run regularly for my health, and I participate in organized 5k races to help keep me motivated -- but I don’t even enjoy running.

Consequently, when conversations turn to sports, I roll my eyes a little and hope that the subject changes soon. I don’t judge people for being interested in sports, I don’t think sports are bad or evil, and I might even enjoy an interesting anecdote or two about something funny that happened at a game. But I cannot stomach extensive interchanges about scores, statistics, and who traded whom to what team.

The reason I bring up these examples is that I feel the same way when I’m stuck in a group of parents swapping kid stories. However, when someone voices the opinion that conversations should be about more than just parenthood, some parents become extremely defensive. I don’t hate you for being parents, I don’t hate your children, and I do understand that parenthood is an important and integral part of your life. But to me, you are being comic-book-guy or sports-obsessed-guy -- a big boor who cares only about what you have to say.

I’m sure that if I waxed on incessantly about the antics of my cats, about the politics in department X at my workplace, or about the care of houseplants, you would be just as bored. So how about if we all try to focus on those around us instead of being too intent on what we have to say about ourselves?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Childfree Confessions, #1 (life of a parent)

The life of a parent is completely unpalatable to me.

The more sites I frequent online, the more often I see parents accusing the childfree of being envious. “You’re just saying critical things about our sense of entitlement, the obnoxious behavior of our children, our negative impact on the earth’s ecosystems, the mundane aspects of child-rearing, or _____ (fill in the blank) because you wish you had children / you waited too long to have children / you feel like you have missed out / etc.” I can honestly say that, no, this is most definitely not the case. When I see any aspect of parenthood, I am turned off. This can range from mild disgust (similar to when I see someone eating mushrooms, and I want to say, “How can you put those in your mouth?!”) to downright disdain (as when I see someone make what I believe to be an unwise financial decision… “Why on earth are you buying a brand new $45,000 car when you have $60,000 of student loans to pay off?!”). I don’t understand it, I don’t need it, and I don’t find it the least bit appealing.

I have one friend in particular who has completely immersed herself in traditional motherhood. Sometimes I think she judges me or feels sorry for me, but there is no good reason for it. So here is my confession to her and to all of the parents making accusations about the childfree who are bitter about what we are missing.

Dear Friend,
I am truly glad that you find such joy in raising your children. I am glad that being a stay-at-home-mom is a good fit for you. I am glad that you enjoy playhouses, scrapbooking about the kids, pre-school graduations, and all of the things moms do. I really am happy for you, I think.

But please understand that I find your life appalling. The big, gaudy jungle gym in your back yard is something I would never want in my yard. The toys strewn around your home are a bit of a disaster. I would never be able to relax with all of the noise in your household and the incessant “mommy mommy mommy!!!” that you have to listen to. Your children are nice enough, but one of them is overly demanding and self-centered and the other one is just plain dull. I don’t know what I would do if I had children of my own like that, or worse.

I would hate the tedium of bath time, meals, and playing with or entertaining the kids. “Momversations” with children are so boring. The things you do (want to do? have to do?) with your children are things with which I would have no patience. Just thinking about it makes me want to tear my hair out.

I don’t think that having children has helped your relationship with your husband either. I know the two of you have always been in more traditional roles than my husband I and are, but the imbalance seems to have grown greater since you had children. I wouldn’t want my relationship with my spouse to change; it is wonderful as it is. Your “date nights” are bizarre to me, I guess because what you consider to be “date night” is what my husband and I consider to be “every night.”

And you have lost yourself. With your incredible talent, you were on the cusp of an amazing career. I’m glad that you seem happy about giving it up, but I cannot imagine many things in my life that would make me unhappier than to throw away that kind of potential. Instead, everything you say or do is about the kids. Everything. Where did you go?

You probably think I am a horrible person for having these feelings, which is why I generally keep them hidden from the rest of the world. When people like me show our true faces, we are punished with nasty comments like, “Well, it’s a good thing that someone like you DOESN’T have children!” I suppose I should not be hurt by such comments because, yes, it IS a good thing that someone who does not embrace children and motherhood does not have children. But the condescending, holier-than-thou tone serves as a painful reminder of all the people who think I am a freak for my feelings and choices.

Still, I would not trade my life with yours for all the money in the world, but I will keep reminding myself that it’s good for you. So please don’t feel sorry for me, and I’ll try not to feel sorry for you.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Parents, you are really not selling it!

Today's link ties in with my 7/25 entry about "it's all worth it" where I question the sincerity of parents who follow up their complaints about their children and parenthood with the cliche "but it's all worth it."

This week, I had an article published on The Childfree Life website called, "Parents, you are really not selling it!" Check it out.

Monday, August 3, 2009

It’s Not About Me, Me, Me

Although my primary reason for not having children is that I simply do not want them, and further I feel called to not have them, I also believe that it would be selfish and cruel of me to impose this world of suffering on a child. In that sense, I have some mild antinatalist leanings. Being keenly aware of the misery of life, I quite often think that I would be better off to never have been born. I am not clinically depressed nor suicidal, but I am a realist. Each of us is born with a death sentence, and the closer we move toward our expiration date, the more loss we experience: a friend killed by a drunk driver, a grandparent losing a battle with cancer, heart attacks, plane crashes, old age… not to mention the daily trials of illness and injury, stress, and dealing with nasty people.

Please don’t get me wrong - I recognize that I have a wonderful life with a loving husband, dear family, fulfilling career, rewarding volunteer work, beautiful possessions, and precious pets; and I am extremely grateful. And yet, if someone had shown me this world before I was born and asked me whether or not I would like to come into this world, even knowing what my life would be like I would have declined the offer.

This is indeed one reason that I cling to my faith. If this life is all there is, and once we die we just disappear, well then someone might as well kill me now. It’s all a big waste or some cruel cosmic joke. However, if there is a heaven, then someday I might truly appreciate that I came into existence. Even the apostle Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) I am reminded of the old chorus we used to sing at church…
“It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.
Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ.
One glimpse of his dear face all sorrow will erase.
So bravely run the race ‘til we see Christ.”

Recently at church, the pastor spoke about suffering and about our tendency as humans to ask why. He concluded that it is not for us to know why, and then he said something that struck me to my core. I don’t remember his exact words, but the message that seared my mind was, Life in this world may not be worth it to me, but perhaps my life is worth it to God. My toils here are part of a greater plan, and this isn’t about me. It’s not about my pleasure, it’s not about my relief when I finally make it to heaven, and it’s not about what I am getting out of this deal. It’s about God’s purpose, something that is worth it to him. (This was kind of a “duh” moment - something I have always known - but sometimes you need to get smacked over the head with something to help you remember it again.)

This is not to say that God is unsympathetic to my condition. After all, he has blessed me beyond what I could have ever dared ask. But this is to say that when I have those dark moments like the prophet Elijah, I need to remember that living on this world is not all about me, me, me, and I must remember to listen for the still small voice of God to point me back in the right direction. (I Kings 19:4,12)

One final thought from Revelation 21:4: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” This is our hope!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

“…but it’s all worth it.”

Many of us childfree folks have heard this bingo before, generally from a condescending parent who disrespects our multitude of reasons for not wanting to have children. However, perhaps more frequently I hear it (or some version of it) as a postscript to a parent’s tirade about all of the horrible things her children have put her through; so often, in fact, that it has become a cliché. I often wonder, do people say it out of guilt? To convince themselves that it IS worth it? Or is it actually worth it?

Undoubtedly, for some people it is worth it. I too have done difficult things in my life that were ultimately “worth it” (graduate school comes to mind). I know people who never - or at least seldom - complain about their children or about parenthood, and I can completely believe that parenthood is worth it for them. And yet I also have had people admit to me that if they had it to do over again, they would not have children. Apparently all of the trouble isn’t worth it to everyone.

Years ago, advice columnist Ann Landers, in response to a query about having children, asked her readers, “If you had it to do over again, would you have children?” She received over 10,000 responses, 70% of which answered NO. While this in no way implies that 70% of all people wish they had not had children, it does tell us that around 7,000 of Ann's readers had experiences that were unpleasant enough to compel them to write to Ann. That’s a lot of readers!

This sort of reminds me of the events surrounding the story of Noah in Genesis 6, when God expresses sorrow for having created humankind. If God himself can regret having children, it doesn’t surprise me that human beings could feel the same way about their offspring.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God is this...

…to care for orphans in their distress. (James 1:27, NRSV) Today’s post is a follow-up to my comments about adoption in a previous post. I shared a very personal conviction about adoption that day, but my feelings go far beyond just my own experience. As James says, all Christians are called to care for orphans.

My guess is that at the time James penned those words, caring for orphans in a practical way might have entailed giving alms, maybe even adoption in some cases, but most families probably could not afford to take on another child. As I look at the abundance that many in the world have (and I am especially thinking about Americans since I’m from the U.S.), I think that the practical application of caring for the orphans should go beyond giving a little money to charity and should focus on adoption of the 130 - 140 million orphans in the world (source of that statistic: United Nations). Every time another friend, family member, or acquaintance announces she is pregnant, I can’t help but feel a deep sadness for an orphan who would have done well in that home. I try not to be judgmental because I hate it when people judge me for being childfree, but I begin to wonder if it is morally wrong for a Christian to procreate if it results in that Christian shirking her/his God-given duty to care for the orphans.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Childfree Christian Friends

I have had the luxury of working with many childfree people in my field, so I tend to feel more "normal" and comfortable in my daily surroundings than do many of the childfree people I meet online. In fact, three of the four people with whom I work in my immediate department are childfree! (However, to be honest, one of them could be childless instead of childfree, but I have never pried into her personal life to find out why she never had children. She does carry herself as someone who has a very rich and full life without children, and she doesn't seem all that interested in other people's children.) In addition, two of those childfree folks are also Christians. When I visited yet another childfree Christian friend this past weekend, I was struck by how fortunate I am to have these people in my life.

All four of the people I mentioned above are in their fifties, long past the stage where they could be in danger of developing "baby rabies." They have all done amazing things, have wonderful careers, continue to develop their careers and their interests, and have fulfilling lives. None of them show the slightest sign of regret for not having children. The woman I visited this past weekend has recently started a doctoral program, is editing a college textbook, and is gearing up to write a textbook of her own. It was so much fun to talk with her about her exciting life, to discuss a little bit of politics, to share our faith, and to not have the typical topics of kids and child-rearing enter the conversation (something I cannot escape hearing about from 99% of my friends and family members).

These folks have also mentored me tremendously in my career, and I believe they could not have done this quite as effectively if they had children -- mainly because of the time, energy, and career experience involved. My childed colleagues have never been as helpful, probably because they were so wrapped up in their own lives that they couldn't take the time to share with a new, young colleague. And I don't say that as a judgment; it's simply a statement of fact.

I am eternally grateful for these childfree Christian friends and role models that I have. I hope that I can follow their example to continually grow in my career, exercise my talents, and become a mentor and role model to others.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Purpose of Marriage

One of the bingo card links I recently posted has a box that says, “The only reason to get married is to have children!” In the modern day, Western, happily-ever-after fairy tale culture in which I was raised, I suppose I was indoctrinated to believe that the only reason to get married is love, and that message came at me from both the secular and religious worlds. But OK, let’s talk about whether or not marriage is just about having children.

I think my deepest held beliefs about marriage sprang from the story of the creation of Eve in Genesis 2: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper* as his partner.’ So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them… but for the man, there was not found a helper as his partner.” (v. 18-21, NRSV) So God created Eve, brought her to Adam (easiest wedding in history!), and we have the conclusion (v.24), “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

As I write this, something one of my high school Bible teachers, Mr. L, used to say rings in my ears. In Genesis 1, we read over and over again that “God saw that it was good” after each stage of creation, but after creating only one human, God said, “It is not good…” I recall at least one occasion where Mr. L., in response to this passage, said to the young men in the class, “Guys, women are not your problem, they are the solution to your problem!”

I am not here to debate whether Genesis is intended to give us a history lesson of a literal, seven-day period of creation or if it is an allegorical tale to help humans understand our purpose on this planet. Even so, if you will pardon my digression for a moment… I was always taught that Moses wrote the book of Genesis, but some scholars believe the book actually has several authors; and if you look at the two creation stories presented in chapters one and two, there does seem to be a different tone to each one. Indeed, the description in chapter two (beginning about v.4) seems to imply a slower and more gradual creation of the planet. In any case, I think there is still something to be learned here.

I do acknowledge that the creation story in Genesis 1 gives the blessing, “Be fruitful and multiply.” Having two sexes enables reproduction as we know it; Adam couldn’t have filled the earth on his own. But this blessing is noticeably absent in the story in Genesis 2. Instead, we are shown that the first marriage was primarily about companionship. It may also be worth pointing out that God intended marriage to be forever and not just for the duration of the upbringing of children (“What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate,” Mark 10:9), so while marriage might serve a useful purpose in providing a stable environment for having children, children are clearly not the only reason to be married. Interestingly, a growing body of research has been showing that marriage is good for people’s well-being, while having children is not. (Perhaps another topic for another post.)

This is why I married, and I genuinely believe that one of my purposes on this planet is to minister to my husband. I know that his life is better because of me, and mine because of him. Further, I believe that our having children would divert us from that purpose, and that would be wrong.

* The use of the word “helper” for Eve really ruffles some people’s feathers as they think it implies she was to be Adam’s servant. However, as Paul Smith explains in his book Is It Okay to Call God “Mother”?, the Hebrew word for helper, ezer, refers to one who comes to someone’s aid in a desperate time of need. This very same word is often used for God, such as in Psalm 70:5, where God is “my help and my deliverer.” It stands to reason, then, that Eve was not intended to be a helper as a subordinate, but rather she was coming to Adam’s rescue. (I’d like to make a quick plug for Smith’s book, since it revolutionized the way I view God. It brought me to a point of anger where I thought I would have to leave the church for its idolatry and discrimination, but it also helped me feel the tug of Christ, saying, “Let go of people’s ignorance, but don’t let go of Me.”)

Do you see the partnership aspect of marriage as being just as important as (maybe more than?) the procreative aspect?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bingo! (Or, Doesn’t Anyone Have an Original Thought Anymore?)

Before I started participating in online forums, I had not heard the term “bingo” before in reference to someone making an insensitive comment about another person’s choices or beliefs. As I began reading the stories of people all over the world who were being bingoed for their childfree choice, I realized several things. 1) It wasn’t just me being overly sensitive. 2) Apparently I was not doing anything wrong or doing anything that inadvertently triggered people into bingoing me. 3) People across the globe are completely unoriginal, but they seem to think they have just made some comment of such astounding enlightenment that it will most certainly change the childfree person’s mind.

Interestingly, I have received very few bingos from my fellow Christians, and the ones I have received have been no different from the rest of the bingos that come from the rest of the world. The first (and only, now that I think about it) “religious” bingo came from a girlfriend at church who protested, “But God said to be fruitful and multiply.” I was quick to point out that this statement was made only to Adam & Eve and then later to Noah and his family, and at a time when there were no other people on the earth. With the billions we had now, that directive had been fulfilled. This stopped my friend dead in her tracks. (I have since learned that some scholars recognize this as a blessing and not a command.)

In case any of you are unfamiliar with these bingos, some clever people have put together “bingo cards” that you can use to track all of the clichés that people might hand you.
Here’s one.
And another.
(Because it appears on the cards above, I do feel compelled to clarify that in childfree circles, some folks use the term “breeder” as a derogatory term for bad or ignorant parents. In general, they do not use it for thoughtful parents who are working hard to raise good children. I personally avoid the word altogether, except in the comfort of my own home where my husband and I sometimes jokingly use the term in its most literal sense to refer to -- very neutrally -- “one who breeds.”)
The Childfree Life even has t-shirts, mugs, bags, etc., to display your bingo card. Sit back, have a chuckle at the cards, and reflect in amazement with me at how so many people can say the same things over and over with nary an original thought.

What’s your favorite bingo? Or your favorite “religious” bingo? More importantly, what is your best, Christ-honoring response to a bingo?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Clear Path to Follow

I do believe I was actually called to not have children, although the reason was not always clear to me (and sometimes still is not). In fact, God decided to lay out a very clear path for my life in many respects.
  • When I was 10 years old, I discovered what I would like to study in college.
  • When I was 12 years old, I realized what my future career would be.
  • At 17 years old, it was so clear which college I should attend that I filled out only one college application and was awarded a full scholarship to that school.
  • At 20, God put me in the path of a young woman who introduced me to the study abroad program, and I spent the following fall in England as an exchange student. God used this to re-direct the path I had been on by expanding my view of the world and expanding the scope of my career.
  • At 21, God intervened (mostly through that study abroad) in an unhealthy relationship in which I had spent many years. I rededicated my life to God and told him I would be willing to remain single forever if it would suit his purposes. Within a few months, I met my husband-to-be. I held him at arm’s length for quite some time until I could no longer deny that we were supposed to be together.
  • As with my undergraduate college, I applied to only one graduate school when I was 22. It was clear where I should go, and God blessed us abundantly during that time.
  • As I neared the end of grad school at 25, I applied for about 50 jobs in several states, all the while asking God for clarity about where we should go. The answer was clear: one job offer (and I am still at that job 9 years later).
I could continue the list indefinitely, but I think you get the picture. While my life does have plenty of uncertainty, God has always been faithful in providing direction for my major decisions. So when I felt the absence of any desire to bear children, and when I realized around the age of 15 that I did not have to have children, this seemed as clear a part of God’s path for me as any of the other scenarios I described above. There was no rebellion, no questioning God, no drama, no real decision-making, none of the soul-searching that many other childfree people have to go through. It just WAS what it WAS.

At some point when I was a teenager, I had a glimpse of why God might want me to be childless: adoption. As I watched and listened to stories of orphans, I could hear the still, small voice of God saying to me, “This is what I would have from you.” So I agreed with God, “OK, someday.” However, this is where the path has become uncertain… will someday ever come? I am still open to adoption, particularly of an older child, but the call has become all but silent. In the meantime, I sponsor a couple of children through World Vision, and I support Show Hope. I ask myself if perhaps this is what God wants for me, at least for now. There is one thing about which I am certain: when or if the time for adoption comes, it will be abundantly clear.

[As kind of a post script to this blog… I wrote a more detailed and secular version of my thoughts on adoption for publication on The Childfree Life, called “Childfree, but Passionate for Adoption.” Check it out, and expect to see a few more posts about adoption on my blog in the future.]

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The State of Our World

I had a discussion recently with a colleague of mine, a childfree Christian now in her 50s. When I mentioned that the state of the world and its suffering was one of many reasons that I don’t want to have children, she shared that this was one of the reasons she and her husband also made that decision. She believes that we may be living in the “End Times.” I don’t know whether we are or not, but Jesus did express that times would come when it will be much better for those of us without children, “And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days!” (Mark 13:17) And, “For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’” (Luke 23:29)

Our current world is a dangerous place, full of suffering, inhumane action toward each other, natural disasters, corrupt leaders, many of the things described in Mark 13 (nation rising up against nation, earthquakes, famine, children putting parents to death). Here’s a sampling of today’s headlines:
“N. Korea Warns U.S. of 'Thousand-Fold' Military Action”
“California Teen Fugitives Arrested in Mother's Murder”
“Apparent Minnesota Tornado Leaves Path of Destruction”
“Parents of Murdered Pizza Deliveryman Sue Domino's”
“Teen Sentenced for Dragging Boy in Noose”
“Al Qaeda Blamed for Somali Security Minister Attack”
“Ex-Major League Ballplayer Sentenced 45 Years for Raping Girl”
“Hunger continues to threaten families in Kenya”

When I look at the world we live in, I cannot keep myself from thinking, “Blessed are the wombs that never bore!”

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Rebellion Against God

I came across an article from 2003, “It All Right for a Married Couple to Choose to Remain Childless?”, which concludes that a prayerfully considered choice to be childless is not necessarily wrong for a Christian couple. There are a few facets of the article upon which I would like to comment.

I was particularly struck by the statement, “Just as couples who choose childlessness must carefully consider their motives and callings, so must couples who desire to become parents.” Amen to that! I am so tired of the childfree constantly having to justify our reasons to the world, while those with children are never called out on their reasons for having children, however selfish they may be. Contrary to what our society seems to say, and how our culture seems to promote parents to the status of sainthood, people do not always have children for the “right” reasons. It cannot possibly be “worse” to be childfree than to have children for idolatrous or self-serving reasons. Children are not toys, accessories, status symbols, hobbies, or experiments. They are people with minds, feelings, and their own purpose. Having children should not be taken lightly.

I was discouraged by the subtle implication that most(?) childfree people tend to be selfish and irresponsible:
“Are they being self-indulgent or making an idol of career or money?”
“My concern, however, is with those who choose not to have kids because they think the task of bearing and raising children robs them of their ‘freedom’ to do and have what they want.”
Back to the previous paragraph, most people have children because it’s what they want to do/have. Why is it somehow more wrong for a childfree person to do/have what she or he wants?

I think another reason that stereotype bothers me is that I have conversed with many, many childfree people (some of them Christians), and the stereotype actually seems to be the minority. Most childfree people who articulate the reasons for their choice have a very logical, selfless, and thoughtful rationale for their decision. Christian or not, the childfree tend to take the decision quite seriously and do not see it as a frivolous issue.

For myself, I just plain have never wanted to have children. This feeling is no more selfish and no more rebellious than my not wanting to move to Alabama or not wanting to go camping or not wanting to be a psychology major in college. As I have been pressed by society to justify my position, I have carefully considered additional reasons to have and to not have children. And I have considered moral reasons to not have children. Sometime I will tell you about the day I believe God actually called me to not have children.

“Childless-by-choice couples always should ask whether they have a special responsibility to serve God's people in ways couples with kids can't.” From what I can see, most people with kids aren’t doing much to serve God’s people because they are so wrapped up in their own kids’ lives. Their own family takes priority above all else. Between the little league games, band camp, ballet lessons, karate practice, both parents working so that they can afford a 3,500 square foot house and two giant vehicles to tote their offspring around town, there’s not much time left to serve God. I would guess that anyone who doesn’t have kids is more capable of serving God than someone with kids. Whether they have a “special responsibility” or not, the childfree couple certainly has the ability “to serve God’s people in ways couples with kids can’t” (or won't).

So while the author does conclude that deliberate childlessness can be morally acceptable, there is still a tenor of “just make sure you aren’t rebelling against God with this decision.” When people start throwing that admonition at people having children, I might take it a little more seriously.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Nothing More Than Idolatry

For a lot of us Christians, there are many things in our lives that start to take priority over our relationship with Christ… money, career, material possessions, status, a significant other. On my bulletin board in my office, I have tacked a few lines from a dc Talk song:
The subtleties of darkness never cease to amaze
As a physical world creates a spiritual haze.
Blinded by distractions
Lost in matterless affairs
Reaching through the darkness
Trusting you will meet me there.
This serves as my reminder not to let the cares of my job (“matterless affairs”) cause me to lose my focus on Christ.

My observation of parents, Christian and non-Christian alike, is that their children are the primary focus of their life. I’m not saying that taking care of one’s children should not be a priority. Clearly, parents are instructed to lovingly raise their children with guidance and discipline (Eph. 6:4). However, I am bombarded with people claiming that they love their children more than anything else or that they focus on their children above all else, including above their spouse. I am bombarded by people acting as such, with the constant chatter about their children, the use of their child’s photo as their facebook profile picture, an unremitting barrage of photos and videos of the latest antics of their child… and a tremendous concern that all of the rest of us need to procreate.

For some reason, I would expect the Christian community to be different from the secular world, less nosy, less busy-body, less child-focused and more Christ-focused. We do still believe in the Great Commission, right? To go out into the world and preach to the people who already exist (not just to create new people who we can hopefully indoctrinate in order to build the numbers within the church)? I wondered if I must be the only one who was bothered by this, and then I ran across this scathing diatribe against the church’s treatment of children, family, and the childfree. (Be aware that the link is not friendly to children, so please don’t read the commentary if you are easily offended. While I don’t take quite as extreme a stance as the author, I think there are many good points in the writing. And for heaven’s sake, if you read the article and are offended, please don’t embarrass us all by sending hate mail to the author.)

The main idea I want to leave you with is that too many Christians are spending more time glorifying their children than they are spending worshipping Christ. All of this obsession with offspring seems nothing more than idolatry to me.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Is “Childfree Christian” an oxymoron?

My short answer to that question is “no.” Before I get into the details, I’d like to share a little about my background… a sort of “resume,” if you will. I’d rather not have someone accuse me of being an ignorant fly-by-night who hasn’t read her Bible.

I probably went to church for the first time within a week or so of being born into a Christian family, and I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was four years old. Dad read Bible stories to my siblings and me every night before bed, and we were all regular church-goers – Sunday school, morning and evening worship services on Sundays, prayer meetings or youth group meetings on Wednesdays. To top it off, my parents enrolled me in Christian schools where I spent thirteen years getting a solid academic and spiritual education. I memorized countless Bible verses, completed rigorous studies of both the Old and New Testaments, and attended doctrine classes.

And yet somehow, through all of that, though I observed that it was “normal” for most people to have children, I never had the impression it was morally wrong to not have them. Nothing in all of my Bible studies, all of my school lessons, all of the sermons I heard, ever struck me as an imperative to procreate. The blessing, “Be fruitful and multiply,” in Genesis had no effect on me as I considered the billions of people on the planet and determined that humankind had already answered that call. Instead, I concluded that the Bible does not forbid being childfree, nor does it necessarily promote it.

There are so many things I would like to tackle in this blog about this subject, but I think it would be best to discuss them in several separate posts. I’ll leave you with what I believe to be the most powerful support of being childfree from I Corinthians 7. Here, the Apostle Paul focuses on sexuality, marriage relationships, and God's call to serve. Paul, as a single man, encourages other Christians to remain single (verses 7, 8, 26, 38, 40) in order to “free [them] from anxieties” (v.32) and to enable their “undivided devotion to the Lord” (v.35). He does acknowledge that this is not a command from God but is Paul’s own opinion (v.25), and he encourages the believers to take the path to which they were called, whether that be marriage or the single life (v.17). Because Paul equates singleness with abstinence from sex, this would naturally lead to being childfree. Indirectly, Paul’s message thus encourages Christians to remain childfree so that they can devote their attention to serving God.

I realize that Paul doesn’t go so far as to encourage married Christians to remain childfree, but this is not surprising since birth control options were limited in Paul's day. He does, however, condone a couple’s decision to abstain from sex for a period of time for spiritual reasons (v.5). There is nothing to say that pregnancy prevention couldn’t be one of those reasons.

And of course, let’s not forget that Jesus, the center of our faith and the one who we are to emulate, was also childfree.