Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mom Bloggers Weigh In On The Childfree by Choice

Christine Tarbet, the Web Producer of Momversation (a site that features video from mom-bloggers) emailed me last week giving me a heads up about a new video they had produced titled, "Childfree by Choice." It features some the top mom bloggers and their view of the childfree by choice “movement.”

Apparently one of the mom bloggers spent half a day scanning some the sites and forums, was taken aback by some of the content she saw there, and came away with the impression that the childfree hate kids and by extension their “breeder” parents for hogging all the tax cuts and benefits afforded exclusively to parents in our society.

Let me go on record. I don’t dislike children and I have no problem with parents unless they neglect or abuse their children. I confess I have used the term “ankle biters” in reference to children but so have some of my friends who later became parents. But I have never used the terms “crotch droppings” or “semen demons” (used by some childfree forum users) because I find them offensive and rude. I don’t look at a kid and automatically grimace because I have found some kids to be very cool and fun to be around, others not so. Likewise, some of the childfree just plain don’t like kids and some really enjoy their time with the little munchkins.

Writer Sarah Klein did a pretty good job resolving the question: “Are the childfree a fast-growing, misunderstood movement — or just a bunch of mean ol’ kid haters?” in her 2005 Detroit Metro Times article titled “Oh Baby.”

Klein noted that the Childless by Choice come in all stripes and flavors and quoted Psychologist Debra Mollen: “Many parents get upset because they internalize the criticism, and feel like their choice, the choice to parent, is negated. But most childfree people are simply saying, ‘This is what works for us.’”

In this article Mollen also acknowledged that the parents are afforded privileges not extended to the childless. “Pregnant women get preferential parking, those without children are expected to work longer hours, people with children get tax breaks,” Mollen says. “There’s social sanctioning for having children.”

Maybe that’s why the childfree feel the need to rant. If you look hard enough you are going to find the radicals, the shock jocks, and the righteously pissed-off in any population, whether you’re right wing, left wing, religious or atheist, parents or non-parents.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Warning: Slouching into Parenthood May Result in Marital Discontent

One thing that really impressed me when I started interviewing couples who were childless by choice was how many had discussed their feelings about parenthood with their partners early on in the relationship. Sometimes this happened on the first or second date; sometimes it was discussed prior to marriage. The most important thing is that it was discussed and these couples were in agreement—they wanted to remain childless.

A new study by researchers Philip and Carolyn Cowan cited in a New York Times article titled Till Children Do Us Part written by Stephanie Coontz reinforces the benefits of having what I call the “kid conversation” early on. The Cowan’s findings show that those parents who are not in agreement, or are ambivalent, or have children just to please their spouse are much more likely to experience dissatisfaction with their marriage. Some of this dissatisfaction may also be attributed to the roles men and women adopt after the child arrives.

Coontz explains:

“Some couples plan the conception and discuss how they want to conduct their relationship after the baby is born. Others disagree about whether or when to conceive, with one partner giving in for the sake of the relationship. And sometimes, both partners are ambivalent.

The Cowans found that the average drop in marital satisfaction was almost entirely accounted for by the couples who slid into being parents, disagreed over it or were ambivalent about it. Couples who planned or equally welcomed the conception were likely to maintain or even increase their marital satisfaction after the child was born.

Marital quality also tends to decline when parents backslide into more traditional gender roles. Once a child arrives, lack of paid parental leave often leads the wife to quit her job and the husband to work more. This produces discontent on both sides. The wife resents her husband’s lack of involvement in child care and housework. The husband resents his wife’s ingratitude for the long hours he
works to support the family.”

This study and others show how important it is that both partners are fully on board and have a plan on how they will handle the arrival of a child—or not. Whether you desire a child, or you are planning for a life without children, the strength and happiness of your marriage is dependent on your spouse being a willing participant, whatever you choose.