Showing posts with label childfree. Show all posts
Showing posts with label childfree. Show all posts

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Review: Complete without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance

Complete without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance Complete without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance by Ellen L. Walker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Walker approaches the subject first by re-framing it as "childfree" instead of "childless". Linguistically, this intrigued me from the start because it speaks of how we tend to frame adults. They are lacking--"childless". In a culture that orgiastically worships children and youth, to be "childless" means you lack any connection to what's important. Curiously, the word has overlap with the word "chilly"--clearly not a conspiracy of any sort, but interestingly nonetheless as that is somehow childfree adults are described as the author points out.

The book operates as a guide for things to consider if a person is on the fence or a reinforcement of the decision for those that have decided. In fact, in many ways the author tries to play to several different audiences ("Childfree living by choice or by chance" as the subtitles reads) and I don't know that it works out as successfully if she had just charged in deep to one specific audience. She does provide a panorama view of the things to consider from coming to the decision, to engaging the world from this vantage point, to the new choices opened up to you by moving in this direction. She also emphasizes differences in relationship, wealth, and opportunities for those finding themselves along this path.

My major critique of the book is that it doesn't really have a substantial strong male presence or approach about what it means to be a male without children. I don't think she fully considered that there are different experiences for men who don't have children than women. I would argue that there is. This is not a case of one has it worse than another, but how that decision is challenged or questioned often plays out differently. For women, not having children can often mean they are looked at as less, devalued, or not seen as a complete woman. For men, the judgment comes in other forms such as challenges about our masculinity and even implications or raise eyebrows as somehow being more predatory than men who do have children. So I think she misses the boat on that one (mayhaps the book I need to write?).

All in all, she provides some good food for thought even for people who believe they are going to have children but want to think more critically about it before moving forward with the decision. I have to wonder if people had the opportunity to have a genuine conversation on the topic of whether to procreate or not, how many of them actually would--especially when we consider that about half of children born were unplanned.

View all my reviews


Creative Commons License

By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Review: Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on Their Decision Not To Have Kids

Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on Their Decision Not To Have Kids Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on Their Decision Not To Have Kids by Meghan Daum
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Daum edits this collection of sixteen writers as they discuss the topic of being childfree. I've talked before on this blog about my decision to be childfree and other books within this realm. I liked the diversity of takes in Daum's anthology. Some, I really connected with, others I felt were annoying, and some gave me new ways of thinking about being childfree. I appreciate this mix and it does include three males writing on the subject. Again, I would prefer some of these works to be more balanced because in part, I think the male's voice about being childfree is equally useful to be heard and contribute to the conversation. Regardless, I'm happy with the selections as they provide a diverse range of thinking about what it means to be childfree and how people happily live their lives.

View all my reviews


Creative Commons License

By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Obnoxious Tones in the Childfree Debate

This article in the Daily Beast on childfree living that was brought to my attention definitely irked me...a lot.  It had enough condescension and judgment about the nature of childfree living that I got a bit twitchy and proceeded to write.  Many of you know that I have opted for the childfree life and regularly engage in the conversation about the conscious decision not to procreate.  I've read and discussed it here on this blog and most of my friends know--it's one of my soapboxes for sure.  I understand and appreciate why people procreate, I just don't care for it and I get annoyed about the ways in which people decide they know what's best for me and other people making the conscious decision. I get further annoyed when writers attempt to talk about people opting for childfree living deliver articles that still echo of judgment.  Of course, some child-filled folks aren't likely to see the strong bias or underlying misdirects that the authors point out since the childfree lifestyle is often foreign to them (note--it's foreign but not incomprehensible--no more than the child-filled life is incomprehensible to childfree folks.  Too many on both sides of the discussion argue that the other can't "truly" understand what the other's life is like.  I find that an extremely misleading assumption.  Our entire lives and interactions with one another are extraction of personal experiences to understand the other person and that has the potential to extend to all aspects of life).  

So here are some of the faults I find with the article. 

Let's start with the first paragraph:  "First, for many younger Americans and especially those in cities, having children is no longer an obvious or inevitable choice."  The problem here is the last bit:  "no longer an obvious or inevitable choice."  Since when is an "inevitable choice" considered an actual choice?  It's not.  If you can have any choice of color of a Model T Ford so long as that color is black--it's not a choice.  So the authors' frame to imply "choice" when historically there wasn't any speaks to a bias of that's what "should" be done.  This bias is made crystal clear by the second sentence:  "Second, many of those opting for childlessness have legitimate, if perhaps selfish, reasons for their decision."  

So not only do adults have actual choice, but they may have actual "legitimate" reasons to not have children.  However, one should be weary because those legitimate reasons are "selfish."  Wow.  First, the assumption that the decision to not have children is "selfish" while whelping out a pup is considered unselfish is problematic.  In many ways, procreating can be argued as an ultimate act of selfishness--particularly in a modern world where each child puts further demand on a ecosystem that humans are already overtaxing and in conjunction with the massive number of children who have no homes or families.  Choosing to procreate in that light would be seen as much more selfish and self-centered. 

But why do my reasons for not procreating need to be legitimized?  I've consciously and purposely chosen not to have children whereas nearly half the pregnancies out there are  "unexpected."  That suggests to me that our lack of legitimate reasons and conscious decisions for procreating in all likely still contribute significantly to the gender gap, since procreation invariably impacts females substantially more than males (both directly and indirectly).  That many can't legitimize their need to breed beyond "because" isn't entirely reassuring and again, given the aforementioned environmental and social issues above, are much more suspect and problematic.  After all, my decision to not procreate puts no further potential burden on the larger social system than that which I already represent.  But those who procreate increase the direct (in terms of resources consumed) and potential (should the parents rid themselves or lose the right to have said child) burden upon society.  But my decision needs legitimacy?  To be clear, it's not the act of procreation that I take fault with.  It's that my decision to not procreate needs to be legitimize and is regularly framed as "selfish" when there's clear reasons why we would want to legitimize the selfish decision to procreate.  

The next problem I see in this article is the term "Postfamilial America."  That somehow not procreating means you are beyond the traditional family?  Again, it hints at this idea of being non-family oriented.  However, many of the people I know that don't procreate are very-family oriented.  Connected and close with their families in ways.  And if by post-familial refers to the idea that we extend ourselves beyond our traditional family bonds; that too is inaccurate.  The 1900s gave us the nuclear family, but "family" has had a much larger meaning throughout history and extended to a variety of people that weren't necessarily family or superficially family.  
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b7/Population_curve.svg/360px-Population_curve.svg.png
History of Human Population--we have little
 to fear about a population decline

The article flailing cries that "Postfamilial America is in ascendancy as the fertility rate among women has plummeted, since the 2008 economic crisis and the Great Recession that followed, to its lowest level since reliable numbers were first kept in 1920."  This statement is a bit confusing since first, by fertility do the authors mean women who are potentially fertile or women who have become pregnant?  But I think it's the nationalistic vibe that permeates the article that we see start to rise.  Population decline may be happening in pockets, but the global picture continues to be one of substantial growth.  We're 7.1 billion and counting.  In the course of visiting the Population Institute website for about 10-15 minutes, it was reported that the population had grown by 1000 net births.  

The authors continue to fixate on the concerns and challenges that are supposedly created by those selfish non-procreators.  Whose going to replace the workforce?  What about all those elderly entitlements?  (Of course, he seems oblivious to the fact that adults without children--particularly DINKs--are likely to have more resources to work with and be less of a social burden).  The authors are not concerned about the overall continued population growth in the world, but about the United States.  So much of the challenges that he points to--only exist because of a self-interested and one might say selfish approach to looking at human population.  These are artificial threats created by an artificial barrier called nation.  Here, the authors are playing upon a xenophobic bias (his own and the readers) to ignore the larger picture and just frame the US in a state of crisis (making note that we could go the way of Europe or Japan who also face population declines) that is in part, caused by the childfree selfish people.   

The overall assumption that the population growth of the 1900s was a positive thing seems ridiculous at best given when we know not only about the environmental impact but that in this country millions of children go undernourished and uncared for.  In the end, the idea that childfree living is somehow connected to a potential decline in our culture negates that the practices of the 1900s have created a variety of problems that childfree living actually addresses much more than negatively impacted.  Yes, we have benefited greatly from that growth--I won't argue that.  But the idea that it is sustainable and childfree people are compromising America's future by having legitimate yet selfish reasons for not procreating is ludicrous.  

Ok, there was a lot more that I wanted to write, but I think I'll save that for a book.  This article probably doesn't deserve any more attention.

Creative Commons License
By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Booked Thoughts: Complete Without Kids

Based upon a recommendation from a good friend, I took the time to read Complete Without Kids:  An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance by Ellen L. Walker.  It proved a decent read for those making the conscious decision to not having children or even those who might be considering having kids but wanting to consider all possible options.  I have my critiques of it which will follow shortly, but I first wanted to explore the purpose of such a book and why I am writing about it.  Many friends know that I made the conscious and permanent decision to not reproduce years ago.  I regularly make note of this in various social media and when interacting with people.  Some have certainly accused me of talking about it "too much" and this usually takes two forms:

1.  Thou doth protest too much

This is the argument that I talk about not having kids and being happy with that decision but really do want them and am pretending or faking myself out to believe I don't.  That's more likely a projection of the other person than it has anything to do with me.  As someone who is constantly processing and putting time and thought into his actions, I have been more than comfortable with my decision; it's not something I've faltered in.  It's something I'm assured of and feel it's only right that I boast of my choice just as those who choose to have children also do so.


2.  Attacking parents

This argument usually argues that I'm trying to make parents feel guilty about their choices or to somehow devalue people who decide to have children.  Again, this is more projection from the person than it is accusation from me.  I understand why people want to be parents; I understand the beauty and wonder of raising children (See side note below).  However, my choice not to do so is often an affront to their choices (conscious or not) to have children.  Thus by saying, I'm happy in my choice to not have children, they hear it akin to me saying they could have been happy without kids (or future possibility of kids).


Book cover: Complete Without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree  Living by Choice or by Chance by Ellen L. Walker
Complete Without Kids:
An Insider's Guide to Childfree
Living by Choice or by Chance

by Ellen L. Walker
So then why do I talk about it so much?


1.  It's a significant part of my life.  

Just as having children is a big part of parents' lives, not having children is equally a significant part.  It changes the course of one life and perception of time.  Instead of my 30s being a time of nesting, raising pups, and running around like crazy taking care of children, I'm exploring different physical, intellectual, and spiritual experiences while contributing to the world around me in myriad ways.  Much of my successes and opportunities stem from the choice not to reproduce.


2.  To open up the idea to others

There is no real discussion or space in our culture for those that choose not to procreate.  Our culture like many others celebrates the act of reproduction through stories, rituals, and traditions.  And yes, a culture should celebrate its youth and encourage reproduction for the stability of the culture.  However, we do so largely in this culture at the disregard of those that don't have children.  There's no real place for them in society and very little encouraging in our culture for people to consider to not have children.  Just like how we communicate gender norms throughout childhood, we largely inform our youth that their purpose is to procreate and don't have a healthy or reasonable dialogue about not having children.  So I choose to talk about it regularly to give the opportunity and space for people  to make a more conscious decision about it.

Onto the book!  Walker approaches the subject first by re-framing it as "childfree" instead of "childless".  Linguistically, this intrigued me from the start because it speaks of how we tend to frame adults.  They are lacking--"childless".  In a culture that orgiastically worships children and youth, to be "childless" means you lack any connection to what's important.  Curiously, the word has overlap with the word "chilly"--clearly not a conspiracy of any sort, but interestingly nonetheless as that is somehow childfree adults are described as the author points out.

The book operates as a guide for things to consider if a person is on the fence or a reinforcement of the decision for those that have decided.  In fact, in many ways the author tries to play to several different audiences ("Childfree living by choice or by chance" as the subtitles reads) and I don't know that it works out as successfully if she had just charged in deep to one specific audience.  She does provide a panorama view of the things to consider from coming to the decision, to engaging the world from this vantage point, to the new choices opened up to you by moving in this direction.  She also emphasizes differences in relationship, wealth, and opportunities for those finding themselves along this path.

My major critique of the book is that it doesn't really have a substantial strong male presence or approach about what it means to be a male without children.  I don't think she fully considered that there are different experiences for men who don't have children than women.  I would argue that there is.  This is not a case of one has it worse than another, but how that decision is challenged or questioned often plays out differently.  For women, not having children can often mean they are looked at as less, devalued, or not seen as a complete woman.  For men, the judgment comes in other forms such as challenges about our masculinity and even implications or raise eyebrows as somehow being more predatory than men who do have children.  So I think she misses the boat on that one (mayhaps the book I need to write?).

All in all, she provides some good food for thought even for people who believe they are going to have children but want to think more critically about it before moving forward with the decision.  I have to wonder if people had the opportunity to have a genuine conversation on the topic of whether to procreate or not, how many of them actually would--especially when we consider that about half of children born were unplanned.

Side note

Some will read that line and say "You can't understand what it's like to be a parent because you aren't one."  If you hold that line to be true, which seems to imply I'm devoid of feeling or sense making about something profound as life and love, and happen to be a parent or at least contemplating becoming a parent, then you cannot understand what it is like to be an adult who has consciously and permanently chosen not to reproduce.  It's a silly argument that parents often put upon people who don't--or haven't yet--reproduce.  By that logic, we can never understand addiction unless we're an addict, we can never understand any type of trauma without being exposed to it, and so on and so forth.  It's simply silly.


Creative Commons License
By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.