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.

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.”