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.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Childfree Confessions, #10 - Every Day It’s a Relief

I have written before about how my “decision” to be childfree was more of a realization or an epiphany that occurred when I was a teen. As I described this the other day to a friend, I used the word relief. As in, when I realized that I did not have to have children, it was a huge relief to me.

With that description fresh in my mind, I noticed that every day I breathe a sigh of relief that I don’t have children. When I watch people drag their children around a store (or restaurant or art gallery or movie, etc.), I feel relieved. When someone’s child won’t stop [insert annoying behavior or noise], DH will smile at me and say, “Thank you for not wanting one of those!” When I’m exhausted or ill, I can’t help but be grateful that I am able to get the rest and recovery my body needs.

But it is not just during the bad times that I feel this way. As DH and I lounge on the couch holding hands and watching Star Trek… as I frolic through a zoo… as I spend a quiet evening alone at home listening to music… climb a mountain, walk the steps of the Acropolis, straddle the Prime Meridian, sit around the Christmas tree sipping eggnog, savor paninis at a café – in all of these wonderful moments, I still hear it ringing in the back of my mind, “I’m so glad I don’t have children.”

I acknowledge there are many people out there who enjoy spending time with kids and cannot imagine their lives without them (hey, I feel the same way about animals!). I am happy for them. I’m just relieved that I realized early enough in life that I would not be one of them, and I was able to make decisions accordingly.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Some Thoughts on the Nature of God

Although I believe in the Bible as God’s way of trying to reveal God and a spiritual realm to us, I am forced to acknowledge that anyone as magnificent as an omniscient, omnipresent, eternal God who is not constrained to this physical realm would necessarily have to “dumb down” the revelation of a higher reality when confining that revelation to human language in terms that limited, mortal beings could possibly understand.

Our minds are small. Physicists believe that we live in about 10 dimensions, maybe more (don’t ask me to explain it, but the math works out with the theory and with the physical observations scientists have recorded only if you allow for at least 10 dimensions); and yet we humans really only perceive three dimensions (length, width, height), four if you count time. When I talk about 5-dimensional vector spaces with my students, I usually joke, “…but don’t ask me to draw that in the 5th dimension!” Imagine a God who experiences and understands all possible dimensions, a God who is not locked into linear time as we know it. How could this God describe reality to us in a way we would understand? How would you, as a three-dimensional being, describe a sphere to an entity living on a flat plane who had only ever encountered a circle – and only ever experienced that circle by circumnavigating it, unable to look down on it from above?

Our language is flawed. Some languages are more descriptive or have more nuance than others, allowing people to use words to describe difficult concepts with the utmost accuracy. Consider one of the well-known limitations of English when parts of the Bible were translated from Greek: agape, eros, and philia, three distinct types of love, had no other translation into English than the less-descriptive word “love.” Yet in any language, there is still a possibility of misinterpretation and misunderstanding, no matter how clear the speaker is able to be. I encounter this frequently with my students. They read my simple and carefully worded instructions on a task, and someone will ask me, “Do you mean for us to do X?” I will realize, “No, that thought never entered my mind, but I understand how you might construe the instructions that way!”

And so we attempt to understand God, the spiritual realm, salvation, heaven, etc., in terms that humans can comprehend, using words that pale in comparison to what we are describing. Thus the Bible is full of analogy and metaphor, God as father (or mother, Isaiah 66:13), the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed (Mark 4:31), “I am the vine and you are the branches” (John 15:5), and so on. I think a problem arises when we humans begin taking these things too concretely, making God out to be a physical being with exclusively masculine (or feminine) traits, believing in pop culture interpretations such as a devil with horns and a pitchfork, or oversimplifying the concepts of heaven and hell. The ever-perceptive Michael Card sang, “We’ve made you in our image, so our faith is idolatry.”

Christ often spoke in parables to help seekers understand spiritual truths (and apparently to hide the truth from those whose hearts were hardened to hearing the truth, Matthew 13). For those willing to look deeper and make the connections, parables can be a valuable tool. In my own broken way, I have begun creating parables for myself lately to help me understand what God might be like and why God might operate in certain ways -- is God like a teacher, is God like a farmer, is God like a person repairing a house? In future posts, I would like to share some of these (this post is getting long enough already). In no way can I claim that my “parables” illuminate The Truth, but I can say that my ponderings expand my mind, opening me to greater possibilities of who God could be. They help me attempt to make sense of things I will never truly understand in this life.

For now, I’ll leave us with the humbling thought that it is arrogant for any of us to think we have all of the answers, given the limitations of mortal thoughts and words. Perhaps if we exercised a little more humility, we could be more effective for Christ?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Losing Another Friend?

So, not too long ago I wrote about my unhappiness surrounding becoming an aunt.  Though I talked about my fear of losing my dear brother as one of my closest friends, what I did not mention at the time is my fear of losing my sister-in-law too.

From the first time I met her, I loved her.  She was someone I was thrilled to welcome into our family, a good companion for my brother, an instant friend to me -- and I don't make friends easily.  Pretty much anything I said about my brother in that last post, I could say something similar in reference to her.

But now the facebook drama has begun... pictures of distended belly, unwanted updates about bodily functions or pregnancy side effects, attention-whoring photos and comments (although, yes, I realize that facebook is all about attention-whoring for all people in all areas of life!).  For each offending story, I click "hide."  Unfortunately, until I look at the image in front of me or read at least part of the update, I won't know if it needs to be hidden.  By the time I view it, I cannot wash it out of my brain.  I don't want to have to hide everything she posts; I don't want to lose her completely.  But I wonder how long it will be, how much more I will have to stomach, before I feel compelled to cut her off.

It's not that that I want to dump her as a friend just because she is having a child, and it's not that I won't be able to see her or speak to her anymore.  But I worry that she will never again be that same interesting person I loved.  Someone said to me, "You make it sound as if someone died."  Well, in a sense, this does resemble the death of one personality and the emergence of a new person who could be just a disfigured shadow of what she had been before -- the kind of person I would not have befriended if I had first met her in this state.  How can I not mourn that loss?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thought of the Day

On more than one occasion here I have lamented the difficulties of being the way I am while acknowledging that I must be true to myself, that I must follow my own path.

My verse-a-day calendar brought me an encouraging reminder from Paul: "But by the grace of God I am what I am." (I Cor. 15:10a)  Though obviously Paul's context was different from my own, I believe the sentiment rings true for me too.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Summer Day in the (Childfree) Life

As summer comes to a close, I reflect on the beautiful, lazy days and look forward to recapturing them next year.

For most of us, having a job does mean life can be a rat race. Plenty of times, I have rushed around all morning to get to work and then spent a 9-hour day at the office only to bring 3+ hours worth of projects home with me. However, in the summer on the days I’m not working…
9:20am. I must have slept right through the noise of the garbage trucks this morning, because I don’t stir until about 8:45am. Bleary eyed and groggy, I need a little time to come out of my morning stupor. Lounge in bed for about half an hour as I continue to wake up.

9:30am. No place to be, so I’ll bum around the internet for a while. I enjoy some breakfast and coffee while I check e-mail and update facebook. Read the news, check the weather, see what’s up in the online childfree world, do a little blogging. Maybe I have time to research some upcoming purchases or new music or travel destinations. The cats take turns sleeping on my lap.

11:30am. Enough messing around. Time to exercise and then have a bite to eat.

1:00pm. Lawn needs to be mowed. I love working in the yard, so I take my time watering the flowers, pruning, weeding, and anything else I notice that requires attention.

3:30pm. Finally time to shower and fix myself up. Still no hurry to be anywhere, so I’ll dawdle through the process, stopping to take care of things around the house – unload the dishwasher, hang up my clothes that have been accumulating on the chair in the bedroom, balance the checkbook, whatever.

5:30pm. In anticipation of going to the drive-in tonight, we make a run to the grocery store to pick up some junk food.

6:15pm. My guy and I make dinner together and then eat a leisurely meal while watching some sci-fi and discussing the ethics of the prime directive (for you non sci-fiers out there, a prime directive is a code of non-interference with the development or practices of another culture -- i.e., another planet -- though it may go by a variety of names).

7:30pm. Head to the drive-in for a double feature. Popcorn – check. Candy – check. Drinks – check. Blanket – check. I wonder if I’ll stay awake through both movies?

2:00am. Finally home, and because I was able to sleep in this morning, I made it through both movies. Be that as it may, I’m eager to crawl into bed and listen to the quietness of the house.

I wouldn’t have my boring, quiet life any other way. (Wait – aren’t the childfree are supposed to be party animals? Or jet-setting in all of their free time?)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

I’m Going to Be an Aunt… and I’m Not Happy

Some years ago, one of my siblings expressed an interest in not having children. Based on the details of that conversation, I never categorized him as staunchly childfree, but perhaps more comfortably on the fence. He would have been quite happy to not have children, but becoming a parent would not be devastating either. Falling prey to carelessness, he is now going to be a father. And though I wish him happiness, I mourn the childfree community’s loss, and my loss.

My feelings on this are very complex, with tentacles that spread far and deep. I have spent (probably far too much) time reflecting on the extent of my sadness and why this should bring me to tears, and I believe I have come to a modicum of understanding of my heartbreak.

I acknowledge that many of my reasons are selfish. The rejoicing of my parents dredges up reminders of my family’s disappointment in me. I often think I have accepted, for example, my father’s wish that I, his firstborn, had been a son. Now that the son, the golden child, will give the family its only grandchild, I have a new and enduring reminder of why I am second-class.

I will be losing one of my dearest friends, at least for the next 12-18 years or so, and maybe for life. Every person I have known pre- and post-parenthood has become worse after becoming a parent. Perhaps I just know the wrong people, but I have only ever seen parenthood exacerbate people’s most negative qualities, or take otherwise kind and interesting people and push them further down the spectrum of selfish, entitled, single-minded, boring, obsessive, self-aggrandizing...

At the very least, I don’t like to be around children, not even relatives. I dread the thought of future family Christmases and reunions. We have had the most wonderful visits / holidays, vacations together, and so on. That will all be over. The quiet joy of meaningful conversation with people I love will be replaced with people being interrupted by and obsessing over a shrieking brat.

I wanted my brother to have what DH and I have. This one is a little sticky because, of course, for all of its benefits, it also entails the pain of being an outsider and a disappointment to others. Even still, I wished for him to have the best marriage possible, less worry, more general happiness, and freedom.

Or even, I wanted “more” for him -- more than just to follow the lifescript, more opportunity to grow his amazing accomplishments.

I’m also sad for the orphans. I realize I risk opening myself up for some snarky comment like “How many kids have you adopted?” or “Why don’t you adopt, then?” (uh, I’m not in the market to increase my family size), but I cannot help but find it devastating when someone chooses to create a new human being when millions upon millions of children out there are crying for homes.

And I’m sad for the child itself. The dangers and demands of my brother’s job are unfair to the child. The burden of the U.S. financial situation will fall even more heavily on the next generation. The world is in a tremendous state of unrest (as it always has been, I suppose). I still cannot fathom why anyone would rejoice in condemning a new life to this earth. "Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3)

So I muster a half-smile and a nod when the family talks about the impending child, but all the while I’m crying on the inside.

(Flashback: True Confessions about becoming an aunt.)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Swimming Against The Tide, Part II

So, in my last post I spent most of my time complaining about why I don’t fit in and how isolating it can be. I still feel it very keenly, but today I want to focus on hope.

Feeling like no one “gets you” can be difficult and painful, no doubt about it. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by it. My last post was written after DH and I had spent a few days away from each other, and I was feeling lost. As much as I hate to be so reliant on another person (hey, my nickname has always been “Miss Independence,” and my tagline is, “I can do it myself!”), he is my greatest ally -- the one who makes me feel “normal,” the one who understands my opinions and preferences, the one who swims against the tide with me. When I am with him, I am different but I am safe and supported.

When I said in my last post that I felt that I don’t even belong on this planet, I realize that feeling is not new-to-the-world either. In Hebrews, Paul* described people of faith as being “strangers and foreigners on the earth” who “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:13-16 NRSV). Regardless of who we are or what characteristics we possess (or don’t), we believers are all aliens here. My hope is that someday we will find ourselves in a place where we do belong and that those elements that once isolated us will no longer matter.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis describes this in a way that moves me every time:
Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.

I don’t fit in here, but that’s OK. I’m not meant to.

*I know there is some dispute about the authorship of the letter to the Hebrews. Here I am following the tradition I was taught in my theology classes.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Swimming Against The Tide, Part I

I know that a lot of childfree feel at least a small sense of alienation from the rest of the world because of our counter-culture decision not to breed. I have encountered many of us (myself included) whose unconventional attitudes extend beyond family to many other areas of life. In a few of my posts about religion, marriage, and left-handedness, I have described or alluded to feelings of not fitting in. Recently, events have occurred in my life making me feel that not only do I not fit in with a certain group of people, but that I don’t even belong on this friggin’ planet.

While I will probably wait until some other time to blog about those specific events, right now I feel compelled to reflect on why these events hit me so hard and to share a small bit of camaraderie (ironically) with anyone else who feels as alien as I do.

Some of this is in my core personality. Laura Carroll and others have noticed anecdotally that many childfree are introverts. In the article “Revenge of the Introvert,” we read that the style of an introvert is in contrast to “noisy” American culture. We are misunderstood by the extraverts who dominate the culture, sometimes accusing us of poor communications skills, of holding back ideas, or of social awkwardness / shyness. Worse for me, in many settings I actually am socially awkward. All of this makes it hard for me to connect with most people. (I highly recommend that introverts and extraverts alike read this article. For introverts, it might help you verbalize what you already know about yourself; for the extraverts, it might help you understand what goes on in the heads of us introverts. One warning though – unfortunately for me, it also dredged up some old hurts that I have suffered at the hands of extraverts.)

My belief system also plays a role in my isolation. While most of the country seems happy to put themselves in the box of a mainstream political party, of course I have to identify as a Libertarian, putting me at odds with both Democrats and Republicans. Indeed, shortly after President Obama took office, Libertarians were pretty much placed on a Homeland Security watch list as potential terrorists (never mind that Libertarians tend to be pacifists…).  I suppose it’s no wonder that a recent study found that Libertarians tend to be more unhappy than Republicans and Democrats (perhaps also because we are the ones whose eyes are wide open to government trampling on freedom under the guise of “being for the common/collective good” or “upholding America’s moral values”).

And when a patriotic holiday rolls around and I go to the house of God where I am asked to pledge my allegiance to the Republic, and everyone around me is all “yay America,” I wonder if I am the only one who has an issue with the “worship” of the U.S. government? (One of these days on this blog maybe we’ll have a chance to talk about separation of church and state. For now, I have to give a shout out to a Mennonite brother who does a beautiful job articulating his church’s stance on this: “Why I Don’t Sing the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’”)

Even when I’m not trying to be different, I always end up doing my own thing, the opposite of what everyone else is doing. I don’t mean to be so contrary. I don’t want to be all alone. Of course, each of us is unique, and when I feel that I’m the only childfree-Christian-introvert-southpaw-Libertarian-X-Y-Z, someone else could easily say that she is the only Buddhist-Democrat-dermatologist-iguana owner-A-B-C. In that sense, I suppose we are all alone.

And though I like who I am and wouldn’t change a thing -- and I believe that God has sculpted me into the person I am -- I still cannot help but think that life would be so much easier, possibly even happier, if I were just like everyone else.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Something That Could Change My Mind

I was enjoying an old episode of "Dr. Who" last night, an episode called "The Doctor's Daughter."  In it, the Doctor lands on a foreign planet and is immediately apprehended by some humans who force his hand into a machine that takes a tissue sample.  A moment later, a beautiful young woman looking to be about 16-20 years old steps out of a chamber of a "progenation machine"... the Doctor's daughter.  She is intelligent, thoughtful, and friendly, with a winning smile.  Though programmed with the knowledge and skills she needs to survive, she still has things to learn, and she spends the episode finding out what it means to be the daughter of the Doctor.

I looked at my husband and said, "Hmm.  I would really strongly consider it if it could be just like that, that easy!"

Monday, May 23, 2011

So, Am I Really “Childfree” Anyway?

As I navigate the childfree community online, I have found a variety of definitions for being childfree. Some of them are extremely strict -- you cannot call yourself childfree if you have or are even willing to have stepchildren, godchildren, or foster children, or even if you would be willing to take in someone’s children (nieces/nephews, for example) in an emergency. And you must be committed to having an abortion if you were to get pregnant. Some definitions are looser -- stepchildren are OK and godchildren are fine, as long as you don’t actually want to be a parent. And others don’t seem to worry too much about the details; you haven’t borne a child and don’t want to? You’re childfree.

I have spoken several times on the blog about adoption and have occasionally described how I thought I would adopt an older child someday. I have also stated that it seems that God is not asking that of me, at least not right now.

But the reality is that I am open to it. I always have my heart wide open, ready if the right circumstances presented themselves. That seems to be the way God works with me; I think he knows that I can be a little distracted and oblivious, maybe thick-headed when I start to over-analyze things, so for the big stuff, he pretty much drops clear-cut opportunities right in my lap.

A friend told me a story of a woman who opened her home for a few months to a teenager from another country as a humanitarian gesture. During that time, she fell in love with this young person and decided to adopt him. Another friend of mine adopted her first child, a teen, when my friend was in her 50s. One of my favorite stories is that of a couple who mentored a young adult and adopted him when he was in his mid-20s!  I could see any of these things happening to me and my husband.

And I think that one of the appeals of a relationship with a young adult is that I would much rather have a mentoring relationship with a young person than to be a parent. I have neither the stamina, nor the wisdom, nor the patience to be an authority figure or disciplinarian. In addition, when I see what parenthood has done to most of my friends & acquaintances, how most of them have changed for the worse with their sense of entitlement, their self-absorption, their myopia, their descent into traditional gender roles, etc., I don’t want to fall into those traps. I would be loath to have a young person refer to me as “mom.”

So I’m definitely pregnancy-free and baby-and-kid-free, but perhaps I should say I’m comfortably on the fence with respect to teen/young-adult adoption, accepting whichever way God would nudge me. And if I’m only ever nudged in the direction of mentoring, child sponsorship, and supporting the adoptions of others, that’s just fine with me.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother’s Day

I don’t have a problem taking a day out of the year for each of us to thank our mom. After all, I would guess that for a significant number of us out there, mom loved us when we were unlovable, and she tried her best to help us grow into decent people.

I know that some childfree people have a beef with this celebration, and I understand their reasons. Some feel it is society rubbing in that they are second-class citizens; some just want recognition for their contributions to the world; some feel left out. For me, rather than feeling left out when I saw people on facebook posting greetings to each other, I was flooded with relief. No one was going to equate me to my uterus with a “Happy 1st Mother’s Day, So-and-so!” In fact, I actually felt a little sorrow for some of these women -- interesting people who have done some pretty magnificent things, but now people treat them as if they are only a mother and nothing more. They are their reproductive ability. (This kind of treatment of women is similar to something I described in Love Being Married, Hate Being “Mrs.” I suspect that even if I had children, I would want to keep a low profile on Mother’s Day.)

Actually, however, the toughest part about Mother’s Day for me is picking out a card for my mother. I love her, she loves me, and she has helped me through a few really tough times in my life, but she doesn’t fit the profile of the typical card oozing about how perfect, how great, how best-in-the-world she is. (I hate the sappy sentimentality of most greeting cards anyway, which is not unique to Mother’s Day.) There is no card that says, “Thanks for trying.”

Attributable in part to my mother’s upbringing, she was an impatient parent who was quick to grab a belt. I’m sure she would swear up and down that she wanted to be a mom, and I know she loves her kids, but from all appearances she did NOT enjoy being a mother (and probably should have been childfree; she would have made a wonderful aunt). As soon as I was old enough to watch my siblings, she left stay-at-home motherhood for a 70 hour/week job. I don’t know whether I should be relieved that she wasn’t home all day to scream at us, or remain bitter that I was saddled with raising the other kids. Ultimately, her other interests left little time for the rest of the family. We took family vacations without her; she never attended any of my sporting events; I think she made it to a few of my music events …but always arrived after I had performed.

That’s not to say that she did nothing good. I do have some fond memories of her looking after me when I was a child. Once she left our family, I was able to see a kinder, very nonjudgmental side of her; perhaps the stress of raising children is what had brought out the worst in her. And when I was an adult, my relationship with her improved significantly.

So on this Mother’s Day, I thank my mom for loving me, and I pause to reflect on how hard it must have been for her to raise me, given her family history and her temperament. She did the best she could with what she had.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Reader Asks for Help

I received a message from a reader asking for help. Rather than have the message buried in the comments section of another post, I thought I would share my response here and invite other readers to weigh in on the dilemma.

“I need help please” wrote:
I have been married for 3 years now and I have never wanted children. I am willing to have a child with my wife because she wants one but she just told me, 2 days ago, that she wants more than that. First, I cannot and will not have more than one if we do. Second, she wants me to want to have children, to want to be a father. Now she believes that if we separate for a few months and we go to counseling on our own that I will come back and want children with her. Its not that I don't want children with her, I don't want children at all. I have no desire to be a father. Am I selfish for this? Am I sinning?

I am humbled that you would seek my advice, though I am not sure that I am qualified to speak with any authority on your situation. If you do believe that I can offer any valuable insight, I would like to first direct you to some of my other posts on the topic of whether or not it is a sin to limit the number of children you have (including 0).
Is "Childfree Christian" an Oxymoron?
Rebellion Against God
The Purpose of Marriage
Being Childfree and Christian Part I and Part II

The short of it is that I can find no biblical evidence that not wanting or not having children is a sin. But as with all major decisions in life, we should consider where God is leading us.

I recall a story from a pastor whose daughter came to him in tears one day. “Dad,” she said, “I’m afraid that if I tell God I’m willing to go to the mission field, he’ll send me to Russia, and I don’t want to go to Russia!” The pastor wisely replied, “Sweetheart, if you open your heart to God, either he will not ask you to go to Russia, or he will ask you to and you will want to go.”

I have no idea whether or not God will ask you to become a father. But if he does, I believe he will give you the heart that you need. And if he is asking you not to become a father and you do anyway, the children may suffer for it. I have seen in my own extended family the agony caused by ambivalent parents.

Adults can suffer too. Study after study has shown that marital satisfaction takes a serious hit when children come along - and many of these were wanted children!

Are you selfish? Of course, as we all are. But you are no more selfish than your wife is for trying to push you into having children that you don’t want to have. And, I see modern procreation as an immensely selfish act, one that usually is done with little to no regard for what is in it for the child.  In contrast, the fact that you are willing to have a child in the first place tells me that you are the kind of person who is willing to make a selfless sacrifice for the sake of someone else’s happiness. That your wife would ask more of you makes me wonder whether she is willing to make any selfless concessions in return. Perhaps there is more to this than just the issue of children?

I wish you the best and hope that you can find the answers you are looking for.

Readers, what do you have to say?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Childfree Quotes

I like to collect quotes on a wide variety of topics, and I thought it would be fun to start a quote page on my blog. I’ll continue adding as I find more, and I hope my readers will add too.

Some of these quotes are from people/organizations with whom I don’t share much philosophy (such as VHEMT) but are nonetheless spot on. Please don’t read more into those quotes than is intended. And while some quotes are serious, others are intended to be funny – so please keep a sense of humor about you! :)

If the act of procreation were neither the outcome of a desire nor accompanied by feelings of pleasure, but a matter to be decided on the basis of purely rational considerations, is it likely the human race would still exist? Would each of us not rather have felt so much pity for the coming generation as to prefer to spare it the burden of existence, or at least not wish to take it upon himself to impose that burden upon it in cold blood?
-Schopenhauer (1788-1860), in his essay On the Suffering of the World

It goes beyond elitism for us to create replicas of ourselves while tens of thousands of Others' children die from lack of care each day.

I have never even idly thought for a single passing second that it might make my life nicer to have a small, rude, incontinent person follow me around screaming and making me buy them stuff for the rest of my life.
-Tim Kreider, “The Referendum” (NY Times, 9/18/09)

Oh, I sacrificed my beautiful body for nothing; this must be what it's like to a have a baby.
-C. Montgomery Burns (“The Simpsons”)

'It takes a village.' That's just a saying. Us other villagers are busy, okay? I have other things to do in the village.
-Bill Maher ("Be More Cynical" on HBO)

It’s strange to have a creation out there, a deeply mutated version of yourself, running loose and screwing everything up. I wonder if this is how parents feel?
-Dexter Morgan (“Dexter,” season 2, episode 12, “British Invasion”)

I am old and have lived a long time but I will never understand why people agree to become parents so casually. I do more research when I choose a vacuum cleaner.
-Jane, The Childfree Life

…all this droning on about baby and toddler world is not, in the long run, doing any of us any good. For me, and many other women, it's boring and selfish, and it implicitly casts judgment on the way we choose to live our lives. For men, it just confirms what many of them secretly think, which is that women, bottom line, are only really interested in one thing, and that is making babies, and why should they be promoted or taken seriously or paid well?
- Rachel Cooke (guardian.co.uk, 2/8/09)

Most of my married friends now have children, the rewards of which appear to be exclusively intangible and, like the mysteries of some gnostic sect, incommunicable to outsiders. In fact it seems from the outside as if these people have joined a dubious cult: they claim to be much happier and more fulfilled than ever before, even though they live in conditions of appalling filth and degradation, deprived of the most basic freedoms and dignity, and owe unquestioning obedience to a capricious and demented master.
-Tim Kreider, “The Referendum” (NY Times, 9/18/09)

Reason #6,437 why I'm happily childfree: the satisfaction of knowing that I'll never become a walking septic tank.
-Dar1a, The Childfree Life, in response to the fact that "by the 36th week of pregnancy, amniotic fluid is comprised of primarily urine and dead skin cells."

Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.
-King Solomon, Ecclesiastes 4:1-3

Parenthood is not a Caribbean cruise, it's a big, expensive, loud, smelly, irritating and thankless job.
-Gibson, The Childfree Life

They had assumed human form in order to visit Earth, I suppose for amusement. But in vulgar human fashion they proceeded to conceive a child. And then like mawkish humans, they became attached to it. What is it about those squirming little infants that you find so appealing?
-Q (Star Trek The Next Generation, "True Q")

Children are an expensive hobby.
-a facebook acquaintance, regarding her child

The choice to have children calls for more careful justification and thought than the choice not to have children because procreation creates a dependent, needy, and vulnerable human being whose future may be at risk. The individual who chooses childlessness takes the ethically less risky path. After all, nonexistent people can’t suffer from not being created.
-Christine Overall, "Think Before You Breed" (NY Times, 6/17/12)

[I]t’s not simply that a baby puts a whole person-ful of problems into the world. It takes a useful person out of the world as well. Minimum. Often two. When you have young children, you are useless to the forces of revolution and righteousness for years.
-Caitlin Moran, How to be a Woman (quote is based on her experience having children)

I love her in that way that isn’t a friend or a lover or anything besides a child. Even though she’s not mine. And maybe for me that was the most important part of not having a child. Learning to love and not want to possess.
-Beth Lapides, "I Just Don't Want a Child" (from time.com, 8/1/13)

Lisa: Who says we're going to have kids of our own?
Bart: Not me man, this cycle of jerks has to end!
-Lisa and Bart Simpson ("The Simpsons")

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What’s In It For The Kid?

“Don’t read the comments… don’t read the comments… don’t read the comments…”
I say it over and over to myself whenever an online source opens a piece of text to the public for comments, whether it be the local newspaper, a major news outlet like CNN or FoxNews, or even just a thread in a facebook newsfeed.

But when Laura Carroll invited her readers to comment on her response piece to Caplan’s “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids,” both published in the Wall Street Journal, I considered leaving a supportive comment for Laura. Instead, I found myself wading through a sea of negativity and bingoes, interspersed with a few intelligent observations from those who took the time to think about what Laura had to say.

My mind was a flurry of activity, and I soon realized that all of the things I felt would take up far more space than would be appropriate for a comment, so I decided to post here instead. I have no desire that most of the aforementioned commenters would read my blog, so what I have to say is mostly a catharsis for me.

When it comes to how many children someone should have (including 0), one of the things that is seldom discussed is what is in it for the child. For everyone, reproducer or not, the choice ultimately boils down to one selfish reason: it’s what I want (or don’t want) to do. There may be addenda to this reason (…because I want someone to take care of me when I’m old, because I want to experience unconditional love, because I like children, because I don’t like children, because I don’t want the responsibility, because I want to nurture the relationships I already have, etc.), but it is still about me and my desires. From the title of his piece, Caplan clearly does not dispute this; in fact, he quite encourages everyone to follow their own desires to have children.

People sometimes object to the word “selfish,” but I’m not trying to imply that it is necessarily wrong to follow your heart’s desire when deciding whether or not to reproduce. However, in response to Caplan’s encouragement for people to have more children, I would like to say wait -- what about the children? Shouldn’t we think a little harder about this?

Laura tackled several relevant issues in her piece, so I want to zero in on the one that has been weighing on me lately: what is in it for the child. My view, of course, is colored by my being a highly introverted, somewhat misanthropic, quasi-antinatalist, depressive realist who wonders why anyone would want to bring a child into this suffering world in the first place. None of these would-be children asked to be born, and each time one of us has a child, we force that child into a harsh and tumultuous world to experience a lifetime of pain. Personally, I think that if my parents had taken the time to consider that, they could have saved me a hell of a lot of grief. Yes, I would have missed out on all of the amazing things my life has had to offer, but by not existing in the first place, I would have been none the wiser.

And going back to the impetus for this post… reading the comments to Laura’s article only served to reinforce that I would not want to impose a world of such nasty people onto my potential offspring.

Now I realize that God may have a plan for each of us, blah, blah, blah, and so I cannot bring myself to believe that no one should have children simply for the reasons I described above. What I must believe is that we ought not be so flippant about procreating; it should be done with thoughtful and prayerful consideration. We should also carefully consider the effects of bringing additional children into this troubled world -- children who are more likely to just be entitled consumers who gobble up resources and cause more trouble than to actually solve any problems -- rather than focusing our financial and emotional resources to something that is likely to make the world a better place… say, adoption of any of the 140,000,000 orphans who are already out there?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Childfree Stereotypes: Travel (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas)

Another stereotype that I have often encountered about the childfree is that we are really into traveling. This is a stereotype that I do not find to be negative, although it is usually stated by someone who is clearly envious of the mobility that comes with not having children, and so there is often a jab associated with it like, “Look at how much money you are selfishly wasting on all this travel,” or, “Your life must be so empty so you need to fill it with all of this travel.”

I’ve met enough childfree people now to realize that plenty of them are homebodies and feel no urge to travel; others cannot afford it. Personally, I fit the travel-loving stereotype perfectly, but it’s not to fill any sort of void. In fact, it is my parents who instilled a love of traveling in me. They taught me to be curious about new places, to love learning, to seek adventure. By the time I was a teenager, I had logged thousands of miles in cross-country trips with my family. The travel budget could not accommodate airfare for the five of us -- mom, dad, and three kids -- so I grew up with a solid appreciation of The Road Trip. That appreciation has thrived to this day, but I must say that the road trips I have taken alone or with a friend have been far more peaceful and have often generated happier memories than those childhood trips filled with sibling rivalry. (How and why my parents tolerated traveling with us kids will forever remain a mystery to me.)

A couple of years ago, I realized that this lifetime of road trips had landed me in about forty of the fifty states, and I made it my mission to visit all fifty states. Some of the decisions were easy: a conference in New Orleans, Louisiana? Why, of course I’ll attend! Others, not so much…
Me: I guess I would like to go to Connecticut and Rhode Island this summer.
Husband: What’s in Connecticut and Rhode Island?
Me: I don’t know; I’ve just never been there.
Husband: Well, OK, if that’s what you really want.
Me: “REALLY want” might be too strong. But I need to cross them off my list.

However, I have been pleasantly surprised at what each state has to offer.

Some states really are destinations. If you must fly there, fine. There will be plenty to do once you get there. Other places provide all kinds of enjoyment, but you are better off road-tripping it so that you can see all of the little details – the things that might not be worth planning an entire trip around. I’d like to take a few posts to offer what I have enjoyed about the states I have traveled to and through.

We’ll start with the As:
Alabama: I only ever drove through this state, but as you near the Florida border, the landscape is quite beautiful. I suspect that border area would be a relatively inexpensive, warm, and lovely place to vacation.

Arizona: Phoenix is a big city like any other. Good for shopping, restaurants, airports, and the like. To see the “wild west,” get out of the city.
Jerome is an adorable little town for a short visit (good for a road trip around Arizona). It almost became a ghost town, but it retained a small population and some interesting historic sites. Cute shops there too.
Williams is the town that time forgot once I-40 drew traffic away from Route 66. But it’s a great place to have a big biker-dude at a café grill you the best sandwich ever, and you can also take a train to the Grand Canyon from Williams.
Stand on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. It’s easy to make a quick stop as you drive to or from the Petrified Forest national park near Holbrook.
Flagstaff is the place to stay if you can’t afford the resorts at the Grand Canyon. It’s only about an hour drive between the two. Flag (as the locals call it) is the largest city in northern Arizona and will provide you all the amenities you need in that part of the state. If you head west from Flag on I-40 to California or Las Vegas and you see a sign that says, “No services for the next 60 miles,” take it very seriously. If you need gasoline, a bathroom, water, whatever, STOP IMMEDIATELY. They are NOT kidding. You won’t see another sign of civilization until you hit Kingman.
Sedona will blow you away with its beautiful rock formations, and you mustn’t miss the drive up (or down) 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff. There is also an exciting arts community there. And though the spiritual “vortex” and new age influence (plus the UFO sightings) might make a Christian expect spiritual conflict there, God’s presence is very strong in northern Arizona.
Finally, whatever the weather is like, whatever time of year you are there, I don’t care if it’s snowing in the mountains or you get a daily downpour in the “monsoon season” in August, bring lots of water. Always have it with you.

Arkansas: I want to tread lightly here so that I don’t offend potential readers from Arkansas. It’s been years since I visited a friend near Little Rock. Glad to be able to say I have been there, have no interest in going back.

Feel free to comment with your own travel advice for these places!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Why Aren’t You Moving to Ohio?

I have been reflecting on some of the things I said about justifications in a previous post and about why I felt I needed to start justifying myself. Based on the comments I received about that post, I think that most of my readers understand. For anyone who doesn’t, I offer up an analogy - a composite of first-hand conversations, experiences of friends, or criticisms aimed at the childfree in general.

Q: So when are you moving to Ohio?

A: Wait - what? Ohio? Who said anything about moving to Ohio? I’m not moving to Ohio.

Q: Oh, I just assumed you would. Everyone else you know moved to Ohio when they finished college. Why don’t you want to move there?

A: I just don’t have any desire to. [This is where the conversation should end.]

Q: But moving to Ohio was the best decision I ever made. Surely if you tried it, you would like it there.

A: I drive through Ohio all the time, so it’s not as if I have no idea what it’s like. Plus, I’ve had friends who lived there. I enjoyed visiting them; it’s a nice enough place to travel, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

Q: Well, yes, you have visited there, but it’s different when you actually live there.

A: Yes, I’m sure it is. But that still doesn’t make me want to move there. It’s a big country, and there are so many other places I would rather be if I were going to move. Besides, there are no jobs in my field there right now, and the cost of housing is far greater than what I am enjoying in my current location. What’s the incentive?

Q: There’s your problem. You just don’t have enough faith. If you moved to Ohio, God would provide you with a job, enough money for housing, and anything else you might need to live in Ohio. I think that you are just rebelling against God’s plan for your life.

A: I suspect that if God really wanted me to move to Ohio, he would have given me a clear path in that direction. Not everyone is meant to live in Ohio. There is much work to be done elsewhere. And what do you suppose my life would be like if I moved to Ohio against the will of God?

Catch my drift?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

If There Was Ever Any Doubt Before...

This past weekend we stayed with a friend who has a preschool-aged child.  It's no secret to all of my friends and family how I feel about small children, though it is also abundantly clear that I would never hurt anyone's children nor do I hate them.  I am kind to children and keep any personal negative feelings under wraps (as I do around the adults I don't like -- I have no interest in stirring up unnecessary conflict).  Some kids even surprise me, and I find myself enjoying their company.

This was not the case, however, with our nephew (we call the tyke our nephew even though there is no blood relation).  Throughout the entire weekend, my anxiety was sky-high, dipping only when the kid was asleep.  I must admit that the most enjoyable part of the trip was when everybody else went out for a couple of hours and I had the house to myself.

The noise, the drama, the tantrums, the interruptions, the demands...  Even when he wasn't being obnoxious, he was still unpleasant to be around.  My friend said, "Oh, but when the kid says, 'I love you,' your heart just melts."  Yeah, I saw the kid say "I love you" -- but only when he wanted to manipulate our friend.

I never doubt my choice to not have children, but if I had any doubts, this weekend would have affirmed my decision.  In fact, if I hadn't already had a tubal ligation, I think my tubes would have tied themselves!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pets: All Joy and All Fun

(One more, and then I’ll change topics next time. I know, I know, I could talk about animals for hours.)

Ok, I’m being a little facetious with the title of this post. Cleaning up hairballs, scooping litterboxes, and stuffing cats into their carriers for a trip to the vet may not exactly be fun (though you will never hear me complain about it). And suffering the loss of a pet is so devastating that it sometimes makes me wonder why I adopt another.

But as I think about the daily life I have with my pets, I find it a stark contrast to the many articles I have read about the drudgery and unhappiness of parenting, yet another reason I think it is ridiculous for people to stereotype the pets of the childfree as replacement children. In the article “All Joy and No Fun,” the author describes the unpleasant work of raising children and discusses some of the reasons children can put a strain on relationships and people’s happiness. In this article and many others that I have read, people with children describe emotional highs and unrivaled joy that their children bring, and some recognize that these are so monumental that it lessens the unhappy feelings they have for the day-to-day of parenting. It makes the intolerable tolerable.

When I arrive at home, the cats greet me at the door. They eagerly follow me around the house as I put my car keys away, change out of my work clothes, and wash my hands for dinner. I’ll stop to give each one a scratch and will talk to them as I go about my business. It’s pleasant to have them at my heels, even when they insist upon coming into the bathroom with me.

We settle into the couch for some TV in the evening… one cat on my lap, one on the footstool next to me, and one on the coffee table in front of me. They sit quietly most of the time, or maybe one will stand in front of the TV and block our view. My husband and I just laugh.

I sit at my computer for a while to get some work done. Each cat takes a turn sitting on my lap. Sometimes they jump up on the desk and walk across the keyboard. With a smile on my face, I brush them aside and delete the “qqqqqqqqqqqqq1111``” that they have just contributed to whatever I’m working on.

Every moment I spend with them, regardless of what “annoying” thing they may be doing, is nice. In contrast, my parent-friends on facebook use their status updates to gripe about their children doing these very kinds of things.

One of my cats will perch on her back feet and stretch out her arms to be picked up, just like a child. The other day I scooped her up, felt her little arms grasping around my neck and shoulders, felt her soft fur against my face, and listened to her soothing purr. In that moment, it was no exaggeration to say that I experienced absolute euphoria. It reminded me of the extreme highs that I read about parenthood, and I felt like was I was getting away with something… all joy and all fun instead of all joy and no fun. Even if the “high” someone might experience with a child were a thousand times greater than what I was experiencing with this furry critter, I don’t feel the need for something more. And why would I even want to trade regular euphoria and consistent contentment for constant drudgery with only very rare thousand-fold euphoria?

So while my pets are not child substitutes as I explained in my previous post, I see that as an unintended consequence, a happy accident, they can gratify me in ways that children gratify their parents -- but without the high cost.

(P.S. Yes, I realize that this post could also be filed under “crazy cat lady,” haha.)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Follow-up to Pets as Children

How interesting that today I was told about one of our parent-acquaintances who referred to his dog (or should I say, "former dog" -- apparently the poor beast got tossed to another home once the kids came along) as a "practice child."

So perhaps that is the mentality that feeds the childfree stereotype -- the mentality that pets are just disposable "practice children," but the childfree haven't made it to the stage of disposing of our pets and replacing them with children.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Childfree Stereotypes: Our Relationship with Pets, Part II

Regarding pets as a manifestation of our secret desire for children…
(a) The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that nearly 60% of households own a pet (the Humane Society of the U.S. breaks some of this down with 39% of households owning at least one dog and 33% of households owning at least one cat; obviously some of these households will overlap). I know from personal experience that many of these households include children too. What I am getting at is that pet ownership is sort of the “normal” American way of life. The childfree likely adopt pets for many of the same reasons that people who have (or want to have) children do.
(b) Don’t be silly. Animals are way better than children!

In 2009, a childfree couple was on the Tyra Banks show, and when the subject of pets came up, Tyra responded with something to the effect of, “Of course your dogs would have human names.” Uh…wha…? I work at an animal shelter. About half of the pets there have human names. It’s what people sometimes do, regardless of whether or not they have children. Most of my mom’s cats have human names; my friends with children all have pets with human names. My pets, on the other hand, do not have human names. I chose names that fit their coloring, shape, or personality; if a human name accomplished that, I would use it.

Some years ago, as well-meaning friend said something about my cats being my children, and at the time, it was kind of an “aha” moment for me that, yes, my cats were more valuable to me than I was willing to admit (I had been raised with this idea that they “were just animals” and not worth spending money on, even sometimes to the exclusion of necessary veterinary care). While my friend’s comments did free me of some of the hang-ups I had about how to appropriately care for a pet, I have since realized that my relationship with my cats could not be further from a mother-child relationship. Well, my boy cat acts like a mama’s boy, so I suppose we have somewhat of a mother-child bond, but my other cats are more like roommates.

Even so, I haven’t the slightest desire to have a parent-child relationship with my animals. I love taking care of them, and I also love the amount of self-sufficiency they have. I love them precisely because they are animals and not people. My whole life I have been an animal lover, and having pets is just one way that I express that. And if I did want/have children, animals would still be a major part of my life.

Ultimately, for me and for many of the childfree with whom I have discussed this in the virtual world, pets are not a replacement for the children who are “missing” in our lives. We have animals because we love animals. End of story.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Childfree Stereotypes: Our Relationship with Pets, Part I

One of the negative stereotypes about the childfree is that they have pets as a replacement for children. I call this negative because the spin is usually that we are overly indulgent toward our pets (frivolous, selfish, etc.) or that we are hiding from the fact that deep down inside we really do want children, so we pretend our animals are our children.

As far as indulgence… I grant you that someone who is not spending hundreds of dollars on diapers, strollers, baby food, etc., probably can use that same money to spend on pet grooming, pet toys, beds, doggy day care, and the like. There are definitely people who are indulgent toward their pets. The pet care industry has been booming over the past decade or so, and even in families with children, pets are often seen as part of the family and are treated accordingly. I admit to a little bit of indulgence myself. When one of my cats was insistent upon drinking out of the kitchen tap, I was concerned about him potentially sitting in e.coli in the kitchen sink. I bought him a Petwell drinking fountain as an alternative. Indulgent? Maybe slightly. Solving a problem? Definitely.

And though my cats have a couple of beds around the house, I realize that they don’t appreciate designer fabrics. My pet beds were $10 at Big Lots.

On the other hand, my pets receive a lot of emotional indulgence. I gladly take the time every day to snuggle them, talk baby-talk to them, flatter them, brush them, let them sit on my lap, and give them free reign of the house. (If you don’t like that fact that my cat walks on the countertops, then don’t put food on the bare countertop.) After all of the emotional support they give me, how could I not act in kind?

So before you believe the stereotype about indulgence, think about a few things…
  • So what if people are good to their animals?
  • There are plenty of people with children who are just as nuts about their animals as the childfree are -- I work with many of them at the animal shelter!
  • This childfree gal proves that spending extravagant amounts of money on pet pampering is not a universal trait of the childfree.

Oh, and by the way, not all childfree people have pets.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

But Your Child Could be the [Insert Awesome Accomplishment Here]

Today’s post is not against having hopes and dreams for one’s child, nor is it intended to diminish the value of raising children to do great things. It’s more a backlash against people who use having children as an excuse to isolate themselves in their own little world, expecting that their children will do the things that they themselves were not willing to do; and it is a backlash against people who try to convince me to procreate because of what my kid could potentially do, ignoring that I myself have an important, God-given function to perform on this planet. I also recognize that for some people, their purpose in life might in fact be to raise the next generation of good citizens rather than to engage firsthand in research, teaching, ministry, charity, etc. However, I tend to think that most of us are meant to do something more than just reproduce.

That being said, I think it is one of the biggest cop-outs in the world for people to leave it to their children to make an impact on society. Many people fantasize that their child will be the one to cure AIDS or become a future president or be a Nobel prize winner or whatever. It's great to try to raise productive members of society, but that should not be used to abdicate one’s own responsibilities. (Not only that, but what a tremendous and unfair burden to place on one’s child. Who can live up to that kind of expectation?)

The Bible is full of instructions regarding our impact on the world – and nowhere are we allowed to “pass the buck”…
- Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16 (emphasis mine)
- Care for orphans and widows in their distress. James 1:27 (not just “teach your children to do this”)
- The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-12 (we all have a job to do)

With respect to Christian ministry, some of Christ's last words in the Gospels were for his followers to go out into the world and spread the news of salvation (the "Great Commission", Matthew 28:18-20). YOU do it; don’t leave it up to someone else. Go into the existing world and preach. Christ did not say, "Go home and have lots of children so that you can create more followers for me." He told us to evangelize to those who are already here.

I’m definitely not saying that parenthood and service to God & society are mutually exclusive. But for anyone -- parents and nonparents alike -- to leave the responsibility to the next generation to serve God, rather than to make good use of the resources/talents God gave us, is wrong.

I leave you with the parable of the talents from Matthew 25:14-27.
For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 

After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you have handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”

Then the one who had received one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. …throw [this slave] into the outer darkness.”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Myths and Justifications

It has long been researched and written that parenthood does not make people happy, so that much is really not news.  That notwithstanding, our cultural mythology still insists that children bring happiness.  A couple of weeks ago Wray Herbert published an article about the Myth of Joyful Parenthood in which he provided some explanation for why this belief is held so strongly even though the data says otherwise -- i.e., cognitive dissonance, a way of justifying life choices.  Now, I'll let you read the article for yourself because I want to take my thoughts in a different direction rather than worrying about whether or not children bring happiness, whether or not happiness should be anyone's ultimate goal in life (I personally don't think it should be), or whether or not there are kinds of fulfillment that are more important than happiness and what those things may be.  But I digress.

Author Laura Carroll posted her own insightful commentary about the article, and what stuck with me were her statements about how the childfree might experience cognitive dissonance and sometimes feel a need to justify their choices.  Like Laura, I find it easy to focus on all of the perks of being childfree.  In fact, not a single day goes by that I don't sigh with relief and say, "Boy am I glad I don't have kids!"  So, like parents, we childfree can be so focused on the positive aspects of our choices that it becomes easy to downplay any of the negatives.

In contrast, however, parents receive constant societal support for their choice to be parents (that is my perception, at least) while the childfree do not.  So while parents may feel a need to justify their choice to themselves, we childfree are often put on the defensive and asked to justify our choice to the rest of the world.  When I first realized -- as a child myself -- that I did not have to have children when I grew up, that seemed the most normal, natural, and correct path for me.  At the time, I felt no need to justify it; I just knew it was right for me.  But when I became an adult and people began assaulting my decision (not always directly, sometimes it was just in a cultural undercurrent), my "I have no desire to have kids" became this long list of "I'm not going to / shouldn't because of A, B, C, D, E, F, ..."

I need to get back to that place of clarity that I had as a child and let go of the justifications.  The truth of that moment is the only reason I need.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Disadvantages of Being Childfree

After seeing this topic on other blogs and forums, I began reflecting on it and decided to share my own perceived disadvantages. After all, I have already talked about the fringe benefits of being childfree, and every decision in life is not without its opportunity costs.

One of the disadvantages that I have generally come to grips with is disappointing my family. I’ve confessed before that it saddens me to not give my mother the grandchildren she so desperately wants, especially when her siblings’ kids are populating small villages with their oodles of offspring.

And then there are lots of more “trivial” disadvantages, things over which I don’t lose much sleep, but they are annoying at best and often unfair -- I’ll never get to cash in on maternity leave; the “family” health insurance premium my employer offers costs me the same for 2 of us as if we were the Duggar family; on that note, I’m also paying for my insurance that covers prenatal services that I will never use; fewer opportunities for tax deductions; I don’t park in the “expectant mother” spots; no shower gifts; ignorant people with their “bingos."

But the one I have struggled most with, especially in my thirties, is… alienation. I’ll be the first to admit that as a pretty extreme introvert, I’m more likely to find difficulty creating and maintaining friendships than the average person. I imagine that some childfree people who love children or who are more outgoing would suffer less from this. As for me, I often joke that I have no “real” friends. I realize that I am as much to blame for this as anyone else. Because of my disdain for being around most children and my lack of tolerance for potty-talk from adults, I have allowed nearly all of my friendships to dissipate after the birth of people’s children. I sometimes grieve the loss, but I cannot say that I regret allowing it to happen.

It’s not just about friends, though. Sit at a table with a half-dozen people, and it seems that pretty soon the parents take over the discussion with talk of diapers, play dates, or school lunches. Yes, tell me to change the subject. Many of us introverts aren’t much for conversation to begin with; I’m not jumping into that lion’s den. So there I sit on the outskirts of yet another kid-centered conversation.

And then there’s the tired old bingo, “You’ll never understand unless you have children of your own.” I become annoyed when people say this because it is usually accompanied by a condescending, holier-than-thou tone, as if I cannot possibly understand love, fear, commitment, or anything else because I haven’t reproduced. Once I get past my annoyance over someone purposely trying to insult my intelligence and my human experience, I am willing to accept that there may be some things with which I cannot empathize. For example, though I sympathized with the pain and loss of friends whose grandparents died, I had a deeper understanding of it after sitting at my own grandmother’s deathbed. I get it.

So, with respect to being childfree, I also feel alienated because maybe I won’t ever empathetically understand X or Y (or maybe I just don’t want to, but that might be another analysis for another day).

Fortunately for me, I do have some strong allies -- my husband, for one, and some wonderful childfree colleagues at work. And in the virtual world, many of us have found solace in ranting with each other, encouraging each other, and reminding each other that we are not really alone. All things considered, the disadvantages seem like a small price to pay.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Look for the Blog

I'm no designer, so I rely completely on Blogspot's templates for my blog layout.  The last template was nice, but I have long felt it was a little too crowded and probably did not fit my personality -- which tends to be much neater and tidier.

I was bored last night, so I began playing with the design settings.  The new look is a little plain, but I find the simplicity and the clean lines very soothing.  We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The End of a Child Sponsorship

About five and a half years ago, I selected a 10-year-old African girl from World Vision's list of "Hope Children" - children whose communities had been devastated by AIDS. Over the past five years, we have exchanged cards and letters, and I have received annual pictures that allowed me to watch her grow from a child into a young woman. World Vision allows sponsors to send additional donations earmarked, for example, as a Christmas gift to a sponsored child. Last Christmas she used her money to purchase not only some school clothes and household goods but to invest in some livestock to support her family. I was proud of her wisdom and the entrepreneurial spirit she was developing.

I guess I always sort of assumed I would be supporting her until she aged out of the system, and I hoped that as an adult, she might still wish to be in contact with me as friends. However, I recently received notice from World Vision that her family has moved outside of the service area and she is thus no longer in the sponsorship program. With all my heart, I hope this move means more opportunities and resources for her and her family, but at the same time I am deeply saddened at the loss of our relationship. In fact, I has been far harder on me than I had anticipated, probably because of the suddenness and the finality. I will probably never know where she went, how she is doing, or what happens to her in the future. All I can do is continue praying for her well-being and be grateful for the short time that I was blessed to know her.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

God Is Love

Many years ago, I took a road trip that involved a few days touring Arizona - visiting the petrified forest, wandering through Flagstaff, hiking the Grand Canyon, and basking in the glory of the desert. I was so impressed with my time there that I chose my graduate school primarily because of its location in northern Arizona.

During my short residence there, I fell further in love with the physical beauty and geographical diversity of the state, as well as the climate, but also with the people, particularly those in northern Arizona. There was a friendly, Libertarian spirit there; a sense of freedom with a little hint of the "wild West." Everyone was earthy, open, accepting. (Sure, you'll meet some nasty people wherever you go, but I found them to be few and far between.) This is one of very few places I have ever felt I fit in, perhaps because all of us there were peculiar in some way but were happy to embrace the differences.

What's more, I had some spectacular spiritual experiences there. I like to say that although I have been a Christian for most of my life, I met God in Arizona; and though I believe God is everywhere, I also like to say that God lives in northern Arizona.

It's been years since I left Arizona, and I believe I'm where I am supposed to be, but I still feel a connection and a draw "home." I still feel a kinship with the people there. So when I heard of the shooting in Tucson over the weekend, my heart ached. This was an attack on my people. I mourn for the victims and their families.

The political bickering over it has been hard to bear, but what has brought me to tears is the Westboro Church's plans to protest at the funerals. Make no mistake about it - these people are not Christian. They parade around behind signs that say "God hates you," and in the process dishonor God. Yes, there are things that God hates... lies, pride, murder, people who "sow discord" (Proverbs 6), but the Westboro Church chooses to ignore these. The overwhelming message of the Bible is that God loves, that God IS love.

My prayers are with the people affected by the shooting.

God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. I John 4:16