Thursday, April 21, 2011

The No-Baby Boom

This recent article from has people buzzing and tweeting. Not just because of the solid reporting and the cool charts but also because of the humor.

Brian Frazer, the writer of this piece, tongue-in-cheek, reports on the increasing costs of raising kids, particularly in a society that values conspicuous consumption. He writes “you can get a vasectomy at Planned Parenthood for less than the cost of a Bugaboo Cameleon stroller.” This shouldn’t be funny, but it is.

The Childfree trend not just an American trend as Frazer points out:
One Italian mayor has resorted to bribery to restock his town, offering couples $15,000 for each child they produce. Germany's baby shortage results in an annual population loss of 100,000. And the sheep-to-human ratio in New Zealand, which currently stands at 10 to 1, seems sure to increase, since a staggering 18 percent of adult men there have elected to get vasectomies.
In the past an article like this, heralding the trend of voluntary childlessness, would illicit dozens of comments predicting the end of civilization as we know it. Yet, the comments posted here seem to be much more thoughtful and less fearful. Could it be that we have turned a corner, to a place where we welcome the impact of lower birth rates?

Flickr Photo by FS999

Friday, April 8, 2011

Is coming out as childfree like coming out as gay?

This is the question posed by Lisa Hymas, senior editor at in a recent article. I had to ponder this question for just a few seconds before nodding yes. There are some similarities because there is still stigma attached to being childless by choice, maybe not as much stigma as being gay in our society, but stigma all the same. It all has to do about the assumptions our society holds and the judgments we make about what is good or bad for society.

In a November 2010 TIME article titled Marriage: What's It Good For? results from a Pew Center Research survey showed that 29 percent of the U.S. persons polled felt that more women never having children was “bad for society.” Forty-three percent of those surveyed thought that more gay and lesbian couples raising children was bad for society. So gay and lesbian couples raising kids is obviously perceived by more folks as “bad for society” than women not having kids. However as Lisa Hymas has observed:

While LGBT people face more vehement and vicious prejudice than the childfree, they can, if they choose, ultimately lead more conventional lives. Their families won't look like the Cleavers, but they can have what many people would at least recognize as a family, following the traditional parent-with-child pattern. We childfree people, in contrast, are messing with the notion of family in a way that's perhaps even more fundamental.

Maybe that's why gays actually seem to be further along in gaining social acceptance than the childfree. In my urban milieu, no one skips a beat or lifts an eyebrow if you say you're gay, but people do often frown or avert their eyes or awkwardly change the subject if you say you've decided not to have kids -- if they don't tell you what you're missing and try to get you to change your mind.

Take, as a pop-cultural example, the Sex and the City 2 movie. Carrie Bradshaw and the gang are having a gay old time at Stanford and Anthony's big, fat, same-sex wedding when a woman starts interrogating Carrie and hubbie Mr. Big about when they're going to have kids. "It's just not for us," Carrie responds. "So it's just going to be the two of you?" she asks, voice dripping with pity and disdain. Flamboyant gay lifestyle: A-OK. Heterosexual couple deciding to forego parenting: deviant.

A stranger’s reaction to our status in one thing but the real acid test for testing the level of stigma or perceived deviance is how our immediate family reacts to our contently childfree status. As Hymas points out: “Coming out as gay or lesbian might hit your parents hard at first, but at least you can still give them grandkids!” Flickr photo by Sea Turtle