Sunday, November 22, 2009

Optimism Unwarranted for Past President of the National Organization for Non-Parents

Last month I got this email message from Marie Bernardy, who once served as President of NON/NAOP, one of the first childfree groups in the United States:
Hi Laura -

I was just forwarded an AOL article about your book on childfree couples. My husband and I were members of the National Organization for Non-Parents in the 1970s and 1980s; both of us served as president of the organization. Below is a wikipedia reference, in case you haven't run across it, which gives some details on the history of the "childfree movement."

I had my tubes tied at 23; my husband had a vasectomy at 24. We've been married 35 blissful, childfree years. I feel sad that so much of what we worked for so many years ago (education, acceptance, insurance equity, etc.) is still a problem for so many. Physicians are still reluctant to perform sterilizations, families continue to pressure for grandchildren, friends with kids ostracize those without.

Keep up the good work.

Marie was right. People like her have been working for decades to promote understanding and acceptance for the choice to remain childfree, yet not much has changed. She told me that NON/NAOP shut its doors in 1982, because of lack of funding the “thinking that the concept of being childfree was well entrenched” and that other organizations like Planned Parenthood and ETR would continue to provide materials that would invite people to consider the childfree life as a viable option. Marie now says “We were probably more optimistic than was warranted.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dear Prudence Advice Raises Objections

I came across an old article in Slate titled Terrible Twosomes: What's Wrong with the Childless? by Geoffrey Andersen.

This article was a compilation of comments that were posted when Slate’s Dear Prudence advice columnist suggested that a decidedly childfree couple rethink their decision not to have kids. Prudence wrote:
I will join the chorus of people who are driving you crazy. You are about to get married, and as life's circumstances change, it is worth re-examining your goals, especially this one (and yes, I know, I am offending all happy childless people). You're only in your 30s—if you have children now, they'll be grown by the time you reach your late 50s! You say you love children, but as close as you may be to your nieces and nephews, that's no substitute for having your own.
Anderson featured one comment from Lee63 who clearly understood what it was like to be constantly questioned about her decision by those who feel compelled to list all the things she’s missing out on:
I was angry by the response Prudence provided because I know how it feels to have EVERYONE second guess my decision. I don't understand why people think the decision to not have children is this sudden thing that came about with no thought. Sometimes I think I'll scream if I hear one more person tell me I can adopt, or tell me a story about a 45+ women who had a baby. I know what's available out there, but I also know me and having a child is not the right thing for me. When someone goes on and on about why I should have kids, it's the same as coming out and saying "you are wrong" and I find that offensive. I say hats off to all the parents in the world AND to all those who will not have children. There are ups and downs either way.
This comment reflects the frustration many childless by choice people feel when people try to change their mind on parenthood. There is an underlying assumption that you made this decision without much thought, or you made it without complete information, or without an understanding of some of the benefits of parenthood.

But based on my interviews with childfree couples and singles that assumption does not hold true.