Friday, December 17, 2010

Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Pets and Pawrents

Okay I don’t have a pet but most of my friends do and sometimes I’ll bring a gift for their dog or cat because—let’s face it—to many people their pets are their furbabies.

So what do you give them? Another rawhide bone, another catnip mouse? Or one of the really cool things I found on the web recently. Here are some ideas:

Biodegradable, flushable doggie poop bags. Really convenient and good for the environment and bonus!—the company gives 10 percent of sales to ASPCA!

Bling Bling Blinkers for pets and pet owners. This LED blinker clips on to collars, leashes, or your belt clip to alert drivers that you and your pet are ahead.

The Rudy the Reindeer dog toy caught my eye because he was so darn cute and squishy. Pawrents beware, Rudy comes with a squeaker!

The Turbo Scratcher Cat Toy entices your cat with catnip, a ball in a track, and a scratching pad. Scratching pads are replaceable and part of the proceeds of the sales go to feed shelter animals.

Some of these sites offer free shipping and express shipping. It’s not too late to buy!

Have a fun and furry holiday season!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Childless in Babyville: Navigating In a Pronatalist World

Childless in Babyville is the title of a chapter in my book Two Is Enough: A Couples Guide to Living Childless by Choice. It’s a chapter that acknowledges that if you are single or in a committed partnership you will at some point feel the stigma of remaining childfree. I have yet to find one person who has not been second-guessed, challenged, or perceived as odd or seriously flawed because they have chosen a childfree life.

Recently I received an email from a 26 year-old woman whom I’ll call “Bella” who had seen me in a segment titled “Childless by Choice” on CNN’s Joy Behar Show:

I just wanted to say that I have just recently discovered your website after seeing an interview on one of the news networks and very much wanted to share my feelings about this. Let me start by saying this has given me confidence in myself knowing that I am not the only woman who shares these feelings about remaining childless.

I have no desire to have my own children and I have known this since I was 10 years old. I didn't realize until later in life how much this decision would ultimately affect me and could actually be a little stressful.

I work in the design department for a baby clothing company. I love my job and love the people I work with but there is this stigma that there is something wrong with me because I do not share the same interest to bear children like the rest of the woman I work with. And I don't understand why I am questioned so often as to my personal decision not to have kids. Sometimes I am afraid that it is going to affect keeping my job. Just because I don't share the need to have kids doesn't mean I don't like designing clothing. I am a creative, talented person with a lot to offer.

When ever having or not having kids is brought up I am always asked “why?” Sometimes I just didn't know how to respond without sounding strange. I am often told I am "weird.”

When I found this site and started reading the blog, it made me feel so much better about my choice (even though I have never questioned it). I am so glad that there are other people out there that share the same view.

I am not the only "weirdo" :)
Bella is right, she is not alone. There are millions of people who feel exactly as she does and struggle to find ways to navigate in “babyville.”

Flickr Photo by Ex.Libris

Friday, November 19, 2010

Will You Be Working This Thanksgiving?

This is the question CNN News anchor Don Lemon asked his childfree guest on Sunday night's news program.

He had invited this childfree man and Katherine Reynolds Lewis, The Fiscal Times. com reporter who wrote "Parental Guidance: Why Your Co-workers May Hate You," to talk about the workplace tension that exists, especially during the holidays, when single and childless employees may be expected to work holidays and weekends while their colleagues who are parents are allowed to take the time off.

While Don Lemon suggested that "hate" might be too severe a word, he did acknowledge that this workplace tension does exist in the CNN newsroom and is experienced by his single friends.

Will you be working this Thanksgiving holiday?

Flickr Photo by Riptheskull

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Supportive Sister

When you ‘out’ yourself as childless by choice you get all kinds of reactions. I documented many of them in my book, Two Is Enough--they run the gamut from disapproval to envy.

Bonnie has experienced most of them as a 53 year-old married woman who never wanted kids. Many of her peers and colleagues don’t understand her decision because she taught elementary school for 23 years, but her younger never-married sister does understand and support her older sister’s decision because she’s childless by choice too.

For many years, my 43 year-old sister and I have discussed the fact that we have made the right decision to be childless. We've also groused about society thinking that we are ‘not quite right’ to not want children. We've been treated like we're not ‘real women.’

We've seen women with children take advantage of health care, sick leave, and ‘mommy duties.’ We're the ones who pick up the slack at work, and then aren't fully appreciated for our efforts, since we don't have children at home. (We do, but they're the furry kind.) I've taught elementary school, working with children of all races and economic situations, and can honestly say that I've seen more BAD parenting than good.
Bonnie and her sister feel the lack of support most acutely around celebrations like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. They feel excluded.

My sister and I decided that WE need a day of recognition. We've wanted to go national with a ‘Childless by Choice Day’ but don't know how. We were not sure of a good day for ‘our’ celebration, but just prior to Mother's Day seemed ideal for us. For ourselves, we vowed to make that special day the day before Mother's Day.
Others have felt the same way which is why people around the world now celebrate “World Childfree Day” on June 4th. How you choose to affirm or honor your decision is fully up to you but I think it’s great to take a day or a moment to reflect and feel gratitude, especially with someone who loves and supports you.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I Can Better Serve the World by Not Having Children

The title of this post comes from the questionnaire I used to survey self-described childless by choice persons for the book Two Is Enough and the soon-to-be-released documentary The Childless by Choice Project. Close to half of the people I surveyed cited this as a compelling motive for their decision to remain childless.

Back in September I spend an evening with a group of Asheville, North Carolina residents who where concerned about global population. Most in the room were inclined to remain childfree because of the environmental impact of overpopulation, including a woman who really, really loved children yet had decided she couldn’t, in good conscience, have one of her own.

Recently I received an email from Joanna, who wanted to express her gratitude that she “did not cave into the pressure in society to have kids.” She is a 56-year-old woman, happily married for 32 years, and this is what she wrote:
Both my husband and I never wanted children. I have been a teacher since I was in my early 20s, and now I work for a university as a teacher mentor. I have to [say] that people without children add an enormous amount of positive energy to our society. When I was a classroom teacher, the people staying long hours in their classrooms were always the teachers without their own children. Also, not having children has allowed me the time to do a lot of volunteer work.

With the population nearing 7 billion, people who choose not to have children are helping our beautiful, natural world survive and flourish. Both my husband and I are environmentalists, and we feel so happy that we have helped the Earth that way.
I too am grateful for the opportunity to mentor two terrific young women, both of whom have grown from your typical awkward teens to confident, accomplished women (and mothers). Had I had a couple of kids of my own I doubt I would have had the time to mentor these two. But I am so glad I did.

What are you grateful for?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Another Childfree Person Falls Through the Cracks

Earlier this month I wrote a post titled “Are We a Family?” Most childfree couples say “Yes, we are!” However, our social institutions sometimes don’t see it that way and some of the government agencies that are set up to help families in need overlook the families of two.

An example of this came to me by way of email by a woman I will call “Susan” (as she didn’t want her real name to be used). Susan wanted to share “a terrible experience” she recently had when a horse-related accident left her with limited use of her right arm.

I was collecting unemployment at the time from an earlier work lay-off. [My husband and I] were struggling financially and I was without health insurance when the accident occurred. I had four surgeries post accident to repair my shoulder/clavicle/arm. Though I was fortunate to not break my neck or lose my arm, the accident changed my life.

To make a long story short; with no health insurance and limited income, I turned to DSS/Medicaid for assistance. This was extremely defeating to me, but the system is there to help people through crisis (even though it’s widely abused). However, what occurred during my DSS interview was disturbing to me. I was unable to qualify for Medicaid because my unemployment earnings were too high for this county's cut off ($706 for a woman with no children).

During the interview I was also screened for any possible social service help that I might qualify for, and I qualified for NONE...... however, a social worker came into the [cubicle] where I was being interviewed and told me I qualified for ONE program - "Reproductive Counseling". I immediately asked if this included any gynecological services (pap smear etc), and it did not. Upon questioning exactly what this program was, it was explained to me that it is a program offered to all women that consists of counseling on abstinence and safe sex! The irony; I'm 40 with NO children....and I got to that age birth-free BY CHOICE. Did they think I'd be interested??! Hell no.

The moral of the story is--if I had been pregnant or had any amount of children, I would have qualified for many services that I desperately needed due to consequences from my accident. To me, this sends a 'back door message' to get pregnant so the system would WORK FOR ME! How ridiculous!
When I read Susan’s story, I wondered “How did this social worker come to the conclusion that a person seeking help with a limited mobility disability and medical care access would need reproductive counseling?”

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Are We a Family?

Alyssa Favreau called me last week for an interview for her university paper, The McGill Daily. She wanted to explore how our definitions of family have expanded over time. In her article titled The Ties That Bind she cited a study by Indiana University sociologist Brian Powell in which Americans were asked what they considered to be a family. Favreau noted:
In Powell’s research, the presence of children had a legitimizing effect on how a couple was viewed. In the 2010 survey, 100 per cent of respondents considered a married heterosexual couple with children to be a family, while 83 per cent considered an unmarried heterosexual with kids to be a family, and 64 per cent considered a same-sex couple with kids to be a family. Remove the children, and the percentages dropped down to 92, 40 and 33 per cent respectively.

Laura Scott, head of the Childless by Choice Project advocacy group and author of Two is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice, said that these findings are representative of how couples living without children are often excluded from the general definition of family. “The perception is that they’re just a couple, not really a family,” she explained. “There’s an attitude that if you’re a [child-free] couple, it must be temporary; eventually you’ll have children.”

This perspective, Scott said, often leads to a social marginalization of couples who are childless either by circumstance or by choice. “As a childless person you become socially isolated,” she said. “Childlessness is approaching 20 percent in women, and that’s huge. We can no longer assume parenthood for all...we need to assimilate those [child-free] couples into our society and recognize that it’s a viable life path.”

Though I do not describe the Childless by Choice Project as an advocacy group, nor do I advocate remaining childfree, I do advocate expanding our definition of family to include functioning, committed, and supportive family units of two or more regardless of gender, sexual orientation, marital status, or the number of offspring produced or adopted.

Are you childless by choice or circumstance? If so, what does your family unit look like?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

From Mumbai: It’s a Blessing Not To Have Children

I love hearing from people around the world who are living childfree by choice. Recently Leena contacted me from India with her story:
I am Leena aged 34 from India and I would like to share my story about being Childfree by Choice.
In India the only reason you get married is to breed. The primary reason is to have an heir for your family name and going against such an orthodox society means (you) get shunned and looked down upon. But I and husband Alex (aged 40) now have been married for 12 loving years and we are so glad that we took the decision against all odds to remain Childfree.
In spite of the fact that we are in the so-called "developed megacity Mumbai" you still get the "stare" and "comments" from most of the society around. At my work place, mommies share their agonies and I am the one having the last laugh, though I can not share it openly with anyone.
But I just want everyone to know the life I and my husband lead is a blessing. The intimacy we have after 12 years of marriage is not comparable to any couple married for that long. This is just a glimpse of my life but it comes right from my heart. I am blessed to not have children. My life is more complete, I have more to give to the world today as I don't have to keep anything for anyone. I have more love, more compassion, more of Life!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

You Won’t Know You Want a Kid Until You Have One

“You won’t know you want a kid until you have one.”

We’ve all heard a version of this. It’s the kind of warped logic that comes up when you say “I’ve never wanted children.”

The BBC New Magazine challenged this assertion in an article titled “The Women Who Choose Not To Be Mothers.”

This piece quotes a childfree step-mom who doubts her preferences will change with the arrival of a child, and a therapist who acknowledges that childless and childfree women can, and do, live very satisfying lives, despite the lingering stigma:

Julia Wallace, at 40 a step-mother to three children who live elsewhere: "They say, 'you don't know what you're missing, you won't know until you've had a child that that's what you wanted to do'. That's a hypothetical question - if you've got no motivation to have a child in the first place, why would you do it? I wouldn't chose to become a nurse on the chance I might love the career once I get there."

Beth Follini counsels women agonising over whether to reproduce. It's a decision she herself has struggled with. Until her early 30s, she hadn't wanted children and told her partner so. "Then I just started to feel this urge. I spent a year or two battling it out and in the end I decided I wanted a child. But I know that if I hadn't, I would have a very different but equally fulfilled life."

Many of her clients do not want children but feel pressurised. "Often this pressure comes from friends who have had children - 'you don't know what you're missing' or 'you'd make a great mum'. Or joking that you hate children. Sometimes it's from parents hoping for a grandchild."

But it can be the most passing of acquaintances who pass comment.

“Many people assume if you a single and child-free that you haven't met the right man yet. But if you are in a relationship, they ask 'when are you taking the next step?' A woman's fertility status is still very much considered public property.”

Follini is right. For some reason, people feel compelled show childfree folks the error of their ways. But is anyone really swayed by this?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It’s a Girl Thing!

Periods suck! Particularly if you are like me and my friend Karen who have a tendency to have monster flows—the kind that can’t be absorbed by any measly super-sized tampon or pad.

Sorry guys. You can skip this post if you like. Naturally, girls talk about these things and recently my friend told me about an endometrial ablation treatment she was considering, marketed under the trade name NovaSure. Endometrial ablation is the medical term for a procedure intended to destroy, through minimally invasive means, the lining of the uterus, or edometrium. In the case of NovaSure, this is achieved in less than five minutes by use of wand inserted in the vagina which delivers doses of electromagnetic energy. The resulting scaring of tissue means lighter periods or no periods at all for many of the women who undergo this procedure. Karen didn’t know what to expect but she hoped this treatment would at least remedy the ridiculous flows that had left her anemic and listless.

Karen gave me a report about two months after the procedure. She reported that her recovery had been complicated by an infection, and the fact that the procedure was scheduled just before her period was due meant she had to have a D & C to clear out as much of the blood as possible before her doctor went in. Karen experienced a six week recovery phase during which her body was still expelling blood and tissue but after that she noticed a marked improvement—a much lighter flow and a shorter duration of her period. She was very pleased she had undergone this procedure. Still, I had some more questions for her:

What other options did you have besides the NovaSure procedure to alleviate your heavy bleeding?
My other option was to get on the pill, or to have an IUD that releases progesterone into my system. Either way, the options were going to alter hormones. Given that I’m a happily medicine-free person, I didn’t want to go on any pills and the idea of having a foreign body in me made me really squeamish. I would rather be rid of the problem area, than put something else in it. I’ve already had my tonsils and my appendix removed— what’s one more unused body part?

Was your doctor proposing a full or partial hysterectomy as an option?
Neither of these was proposed, partially because of my age, and the fact that they tend to upset women hormonally. And nothing in my condition was that dire.

How did your doctor qualify you for this procedure?
I found my doctor on the NovaSure site. She was listed as a preferred physician who has done a lot of these. So she knew what to ask. She took a complete history, with good detail about what my most recent monthly periods have been like. She did a Pap smear, blood work and a urine analysis, to make sure that thyroid, diseases or other items weren’t causing the problems. They also did an internal ultrasound to verify that it wasn’t cysts or things like that. She was very thorough. As far as qualifying for it, and having it covered by insurance, the message was, if it’s making you miserable and your quality of life is suffering because of it, it’s a good enough reason to do it.

Did she try to make sure you did not plan on having children?
She did ask me this, to be sure, because the procedure does significantly, if not remove, the chances of becoming pregnant. Give my age, 39, and my desire not to have children, we eliminated this as an obstacle.

Does this procedure interfere with egg production?
It does not. I still drop an egg. But because the lining is gone from the uterus and can no longer hold blood, there’s nothing for the egg to attach to.

Does it affect hormones?
No. Because I still cycle, drop the egg, have my ovaries, etc. I liken it to a telephone system. If an office building has 15 phones, and you unplug one, the other phones still get calls going in and out. The phone jack is still in the wall, but there’s no phone to ring anymore. My uterus just doesn’t get the call to store up blood anymore, and there’s no lining there to hold it.

Does it affect mood?
Yes, for me it has to do with lack of stress and discomfort. I’m no longer fatigued, bloated, nervous about accidents, or scared to wear white pants. And so it’s one (gigantic) less thing to worry about. It’s made me feel sexier, more desirable, and more confident – that plays well in the bedroom. And now, I don’t have to take 5-10 days off from the gym, so my energy level is up, and my weight is down.

Two important things to note. This procedure is not recommended for those women who plan to get pregnant after the procedure as pregnancy poses risks for both mother and child, and it is possible to become pregnant after this procedure which is why doctors recommend birth control for those women who are still in their childbearing years.

I’m not a medical expert by any stretch but I was very pleased to learn we girls had another tool in our arsenal to combat the Monster Period. If you want to find out more go to the FAQ section of the NovaSure website or ask your OB/GYN about NovaSure.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Do U.S. labor markets favor single and childless women?

A recent article in the New York Times made this observation:
The last three men nominated to the Supreme Court have all been married and, among them, have seven children. The last three women — Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Harriet Miers (who withdrew) — have all been single and without children.
The author of this piece, David Leonhardt, notes that even though we now have many more women in the workplace, and we are moving toward better female representation in our Supreme Court, women who take time off the career path to raise children or switch to part-time hours still fall short of their male peers in earnings in the U.S. labor marketplace. He cites a study titled “Dynamics of the Gender Gap for Young Professionals in the Financial and Corporate Sectors”:
A recent study of business school graduates from the University of Chicago found that in the early years after graduating, men and women had “nearly identical labor incomes and weekly hours worked.” Men and women also paid a similar career price for taking off or working part time. Women, however, were vastly more likely to do so.
As a result, 15 years after graduation, the men were making about 75 percent more than the women. The study — done by Marianne Bertrand, Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz — did find one subgroup of women whose careers resembled those of men: women who had no children and never took time off.
As a freelance writer, I have been outside of the corporate world for some time now but had I pursued that corporate career track I might have been one of those women. Are you childless and on an uninterrupted career path? If so, do feel like you have the same labor incomes as your male peers who work a similar number of hours?

Flickr Photo by mirimcfly

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Two is Enough is Designed for Singles Too

Don’t let the title Two Is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice fool you. I have designed the content of this book for singles too.

I recently received an email from a single woman who works in the social services field. She wrote: "I wanted to thank you for writing Two is Enough...Although I am single, the research was relevant to me as well. I'm glad your book corrected the myths that childless couples are selfish or do not love children. I do not want children for medical and environmental reasons, but I enjoy working with children. It is important to our society that women have more information like the research you provided."

I pleased to receive this email. I interviewed a number of single women and men in the course of my research for Two Is Enough. I found that the primary motives and rationales for remaining childfree are the same for singles and for couples. In Two is Enough I address the fact that singles have the additional challenge of finding suitable partners in a dating pool filled with candidates who imagine a life with kids even though they haven’t really given it much thought. How does that turn out? Read the profiles in Chapter Five of Two is Enough to find out.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Childfree Women: Could it be the Hormones? Asks Madison Mag

I granted an interview to Madison Magazine in Australia last year and they published a very good article in March posing the question: Why does society vilify women who choose not to have children?

There were many great quotes from women who had been harangued and criticized because of their choice to remain childfree and some interesting opinions from a sexologist who had made the suggestion that lack of desire for children might be inherited and have something to do with hormone levels.

This is what the sexologist Dr. Frances Quirk suggested may be happening, as summarized by Alexandra Carlton, the author of this article:
We’re equipped with a physiological arsenal of drives, urges, hormones and synapses that will us, continuously, to make babies. But just like someone can be born without perfect hearing or eyesight, or be good or poor at athletics or maths or drawing, some people are born with lower levels of certain hormones. In women, it’s thought low oestrogen levels or high testosterone levels could result in a diminished to entirely eradicated desire to have babies.

Of course, it’s not all about hormones. Dr Quirk suggests that for nature to influence our behavior, there needs to be a fair amount of nurture at work, too. A person’s upbringing, experiences or current situation will generally play a part in controlling their desire to have, or not have, children. Two of the women Madison spoke to for this story – Annabel and 31-year-old children’s model agent Nicola Allan – admitted that their own mothers had confessed that kids hadn’t exactly been in their grand plans. “My mum always said, ‘If I had my time again, I don’t think I’d have kids,’” relates Allan, who says she personally adores being around children – something she does every day through her work – but has no urge to have any of her own. “I don’t take what she said as an insult. She loves us to death and she’s a great mum. But I can see where she’s coming from. I’ve known from the age of 14 that I didn’t want kids either.”

Dr Quirk says Allan’s attitude may be an indicator that she’s inherited a low oestrogen level from her mother; as a result, each of them could harbour a low or non-existent desire to bear children. Or, “the daughter may be having a psychological reaction against being told that her mother didn’t want her” and doesn’t want to put another child through that feeling of rejection.

But most people who identify as childless by choice will refute the notion that there’s some subconscious, must-get-to-the-bottom-of-this, someone-call-Dr-Phil abnormality behind their decision not to reproduce. “People always think there’s some deep-seated reason for why I don’t want children,” says Jenifur Wale, a 34-year-old model and art teacher from Melbourne. “But it’s really not that complicated. I have a wonderful family. I love kids, especially my nieces. I have had meaningful relationships with men. It’s just that having a child has never been for me. I feel really fulfilled; I don’t need a sense of purpose and I’m not looking for something to fill my time. And I feel loved, so I don’t need a child to give that to me.”

So is it nature, nurture, hormones? What do you think?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Truth About Parenting

Chris, one of my Facebook friends posted a link on the Two is Enough wall to a New York Magazine article titled All Joy and No Fun. It’s an extremely well-written overview of recent studies showing how and why the fun has gone out of parenthood. Studies reveal that parenthood is getting harder with each successive generation. Even with their tight schedules parents actually spend more time with their kids then their parent’s spent with them, on average, but they get less out of it.

But outside of academia people just don’t want to believe these findings:
The idea that parents are less happy than nonparents has become so commonplace in academia that it was big news last year when the Journal of Happiness Studies published a Scottish paper declaring the opposite was true. “Contrary to much of the literature,” said the introduction, “our results are consistent with an effect of children on life satisfaction that is positive, large and increasing in the number of children.” Alas, the euphoria was short-lived. A few months later, the poor author discovered a coding error in his data, and the publication ran an erratum. “After correcting the problem,”it read,“the main results of the paper no longer hold. The effect of children on the life satisfaction of married individuals is small, often negative, and never statistically significant.”

Yet one can see why people were rooting for that paper. The results of almost all the others violate a parent’s deepest intuition. Daniel Gilbert, the Harvard psychologist and host of This Emotional Life on PBS, wrote fewer than three pages about compromised parental well-being in Stumbling on Happiness. But whenever he goes on the lecture circuit, skeptical questions about those pages come up more frequently than anything else. “I’ve never met anyone who didn’t argue with me about this,” he says. “Even people who believe the data say they feel sorry for those for whom it’s true.”

Why is this important to the childless by choice? Well, the next time someone says, “You’ll regret not having kid.” or, “Parenthood is such a joy, you’re missing out” you can send them a link to this article.

Flickr photo by The Enabler

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Prop 8 Trial Exposes Flaws in Marriage Equals Children Argument

In my google search to catch up on the latest news on the Prop 8 case I came across Nan Hunter’s blog titled Hunter of Justice. Nan is a professor at Georgetown Law in DC and has also been following the progress of the Prop 8 same-sex marriage case in California. In her blog post, Hunter points out that the argument that children are integral to a marriage made by David Blankenhorn, founder of the Institute for American Values, at the Prop 8 trial, comes at the same time that U.S. trends show a weakening of the cultural assumption that marriage equals children.

Hunter offers an excerpt of a NY Times commentary written by Tara Parker-Pope who pointed out that while Blankenhorn makes the argument in federal court that: “Extending marital rights to couples who cannot conceive children would change marriage from 'a child-based public institution to an adult-centered private institution' and 'weaken the role of marriage generally in society’” US couples are spending less of their married years, or none at all in our case, raising children, according to a Rutgers’s report called “Life Without Children: The Social Retreat From Children and How It’s Changing America.”

And as revealed in a 2007 Pew Research Center survey, “only 41 percent of respondents said children were important to a happy marriage, down from 65 percent in 1990.”

So what is happening? Increasingly, more people are choosing to remain childless in early adulthood and/or choosing to have less children, resulting in many more years of “childfreedom.” No longer is the bulk of our adult experience consumed with raising children. So for Blankenship to suggest that we will weaken the institution of marriage if we allow same-sex couples who can’t conceive children to marry, he is essentially ignoring the millions of couples, gay and straight, who are proving him wrong and finding strength, stability, and happiness in their childless marriages or are choosing to use surrogates or donor sperm, or be adoptive parents.

In my opinion, Blankenhorn’s argument is a weak one, unsupported by evidence, and I hope and believe that Ted Olson and his team will prevail and prove that a ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

What do you think?

Flickr photo by Jamison Wieser

Monday, June 14, 2010

Carrie and Mr. Big are Childfree

I just saw the new Sex and the City 2 movie and was thrilled that characters Carrie and Mr. Big came out as childfree.

Political analyst and commentator Taylor Marsh noticed too and in her Huffington Post review of this film she gave kudos to SACT 2 writers for tackling issues of female empowerment around the world and challenging the myth of marriage and motherhood as a state of perpetual bliss:

As the plot deepens, Carrie has become a nag to Mr. Big about every little domestic thing. Newsflash, ladies. Domestic bliss compared to the emotional high wire can feel a bit mundane for the unprepared. In the end, finding out that as a relationship writer and expert on the topic, the one who knows more about marriage is her man. Aidan enters for the set up. All of this amidst Carrie and Mr. Big's challenge of choosing to be child-free in a world that still expects women to assume there is only one choice.

I can't lose the nanny moments come rarely, but few are funnier. Charlotte feels guilty about wanting to let out a primal mother scream because her girls are driving her insane. But Miranda comes to the rescue knowing how she feels, hoping to help Charlotte admit it over cocktails so she'll survive it all. Both mothers know how lucky they are to have help and take an emotional cocktail moment to salute the mothers who don't.

I agree with Marsh—this is a funny and very bold film which challenges conventional thinking and stereotypes. I went to the movie with two other childless/childfree women and we were thrilled that Carrie did not show regret over her childlessness like so many characters in previous Hollywood films and I was extremely pleased to hear Carrie and Mr. Big agree that "Two is Enough." I was tempted to imagine that the writers had read my book but perhaps this is just a coincidence.

What was clearly intentional was the implied acceptance of all choices that women might make and the resulting suspension of judgment, which is long overdue. Wear a burqa, or revel in your sexual appeal; have kids, or don’t have kids; adopt traditional models of family and marriage or make up your own rules. All options are embraced within the story of these four women, and that is something to celebrate!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pregnancy is No Longer Taboo for US Teens

An alarming new report issued by U.S. National Center for Health Statistics shows that 40 percent of unmarried teens are having sex and some are hoping they will become parents as a result.

It appears the taboo of teen pregnancy is waning, much like the stigma of debt and online nudie pics. This caught the attention of the editors of Bloomberg Businessweek who published an article on this report and made a very valid point about this trend in terms of the economic impact to this next generation:

"One of the great success stories of the past two decades has been the extraordinary declines in teen pregnancy and childbearing," said Bill Albert, chief program officer at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "This progress has recently stalled out."

Perhaps more surprisingly, one in five teen girls and one in four teen boys who had had sex said they would be pleased if they or their partner got pregnant.

"This is really quite alarming," Albert said. "I don't think it takes a Ph.D. to understand that in this day and age and in this economy the route to success doesn't begin with a family at age 16."

Flickr Photo by Jessie Romaneix (CC)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Post Natal Depression Suffered by Men Too

We’ve all heard about, or have witnessed in our own families, the devastating effects of post natal depression on women and their children. Now, a statistical review of previous studies conducted by researchers at Eastern Virginia Medical School has revealed that some men experience post natal depression too. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal noted that:

Some 10.4% of fathers experience depression during the postpartum period, the analysis showed. In the general population, 4.8% of men are believed depressed at any given point in time, according to government data.

For women, the rate of postpartum depression was estimated at nearly 24%, according to the new analysis, which was published Tuesday in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"When we look at the impact on families and children [of depression in new fathers], this is a public-health problem that goes beyond the individual," said James Paulson, a child clinical psychologist and pediatrics professor at Eastern Virginia and the first author on the paper.

The reasons for paternal postpartum depression are likely similar to those that contribute to the condition in mothers, including sleep deprivation, stress in the parents' relationship and isolation from friends, Dr. Paulson said.
Though the reasons for the depression may be the same for men and women, women are more likely to feel sad and internalize the guilt and pain, where as “depressed men are more likely to exhibit hostility and even aggression.”

The authors of this review are hoping that both men and women seek help for these symptoms as depression in one partner can trigger depression in the other. Maybe if we can recognize that parenthood is not all sweetness and light and acknowledge the challenges more parents will find the help they need.

Flickr Photo by ChrisGoldNY

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Okay, So I Lied....

Jen Kirkman, a stand-up comedian from LA tweeted me her sad/comic story of being lectured by a manicurist for not having kids. The next time she was queried in a salon she, well, lied and pretended to be pregnant. It all started when a manicurist saw her wedding ring and asked if she had kids.
When I told a Korean manicurist that I did not and put my nose back in my magazine, she stopped filing and squeezed my hand until I made eye contact with her. She scolded me saying that in her country to choose not to give a man a child and a parent a grand-child is a sin against the family and woman-hood. (I so wanted to ask, “So, aren’t you glad you are no longer living in that country?”)

She told me that I would change my mind and predicted my grim future of changing my mind when it’s too late and I have no eggs left!

So what did Jen do the next time she was asked by a manicurist “Are you a mother?”
I said, “No.” She said, “I’m sorry.” I said, “That’s okay.” She said, “Do you want to be a mother?” I sat still. How would I answer this in a way that allowed me to go back to reading? She said, “You not ready yet but you will be a mother.” So I said to her, “Well, if you can keep a secret….” and I nodded to my stomach. She said, “How long?” I said, “We haven’t told anyone yet. Very early.” She waved me off. “Okay, okay. I see. I see. Just a few weeks along. I ask no more.”
This story cracked me up because I have passed as tragically childless just to avoid having to explain. In fact I did it today when I was volunteering as a ball spotter for a junior golf tournament. A fellow volunteer asked if I had kids and I just said “No.” He gave me the pity frown. I though briefly about adding “by choice” but I wanted to get back to my side of the fairway and watch for incoming golf balls.

Was I wrong?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Feeling Isolated? Reach Out!

In my book Two is Enough I noted that one of the few downsides of being childfree is the feeling that you are the only couple or person without kids in the neighborhood. It may seem that way but, as I found out when I reached out in my community for childless by choice couples to interview, when you actively try to find others who share your childfree status they come out of the woodwork in numbers.

For example, Beverly, one of the Two is Enough participants sent me a link to a Fort Bragg forum where an intentionally childfree woman posted an appeal to find others on base who didn’t have kids.

I’m sure she was surprised how quickly people responded to her appeal. Check out the comments to her post.

Outside of community forums, there are Facebook pages like the Two is Enough page, there are childfree Meetup groups and No Kidding! social clubs. In fact, the Houston No Kidding! group is hosting a No Kidding! Convention this month from April 23-25. I will be there along with other childfree folks from all over North America.

No matter where you live, the childfree by choice are only a mouse click or two away. Join us on the web or at a Meetup or your community forum and start building a community!

Flickr photo by Knokton CC BY-NC 2.0

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My Children Are Dogs

Janine Adams admits her children are dogs—standard poodles, in fact—and she says Kramer and Scout are “a huge part of my life.” Adams is a freelance writer who specializes in books and articles on pets and makes no apologies (except to her parents) for saying her dogs are enough in her article My Children, My Dogs:
I have dogs. I don't need kids. At least for now, they fill whatever slight maternal urges I might have. (Sorry, Mom and Dad.) I'm happy to say that I'm not alone. A survey of pet owners by the American Animal Hospital Association in 1995 revealed that 61 percent of the dog owners surveyed believe that caring for their pets fulfilled a need of parenting. The previous year, 69 percent of dog owners surveyed said they give their pets as much attention as they would to their children and 54 percent of the survey respondents said they felt an emotional dependence on their pets.
Adams points out that that raising well-behaved dogs is very similar to raising well-behaved children but with some advantages—when the dogs are really bad she can put them in a crate.

Flickr Photo by Sailing Footprints: Real to Reel (Ronn ashore)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Earth Days

Before electric cars, curbside recycling, before energy-efficient light bulbs and wind farms there was a handful of pioneering “greenies” who wrote articles and books or worked to organize protests, demonstrations, and sit-ins for environmental issues as varied as DDT use, nuclear bombs, overpopulation, and pollution.

These efforts sparked a groundswell of awareness and political and social activism which led to the first Earth Day in 1970 and new research, initiatives, and numerous government bills which have changed the way Americans think and act as stewards of the land upon which they live.

A PBS/American Experience film called Earth Days documents the early days of the environmental movement and features interviews with activists and influencers such as biologist/Population Bomb author Paul Ehrlich, Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand, Apollo Nine astronaut Rusty Schweickart, and Silent Spring author Rachel Carson.

In an unprecedented move, PBS will offer a “social screening” of this film through Facebook at 8 p.m. EST on April 11, eight days ahead of the film being broadcast on PBS American Experience on April 19 PBS 9 EST/8 Central.

I was still a kid during the 60’s and 70’s protests but, as I wrote in Two is Enough, I recall being urged to eat my veggies because there where starving people in Africa. Later, in my twenties, I would get very angry when people threw litter out of car windows and was very pleased to see that littering fines were being enforced by cops patrolling the highways in Canada.

I was recently contacted by a man who informed me of the Earth Days film and told me he had made a pledge not to have children and had the vasectomy to back it up. I admitted I was not motivated primarily by environmental concerns to remain childfree. However, I am motivated by environmental concerns to recycle, drive less, and conserve food and water.

Were you motivated by environmental concerns not to have children? If not, how has the environmental movement influenced your behavior?

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Benefits of Marrying Well are More Pronounced for Men

It used to be that women were motivated to marry, in part, to ensure their economic security. Now, a new Pew Research Center report titled New Economic of Marriage: The Rise of Wives reveals that the increase of college-educated working women has been a boon for the men who marry these women, not the other way around.

The report's authors, Richard Fry and D'Vera Cohn, wrote:

“From an economic perspective, these trends have contributed to a gender role reversal in the gains from marriage. In the past, when relatively few wives worked, marriage enhanced the economic status of women more than that of men. In recent decades, however, the economic gains associated with marriage have been greater for men.”

Forty years ago, the typical man did not gain another breadwinner in his household when he married. Today, he does—giving his household increased earning power that most unmarried men do not enjoy. The superior gains of married men have enabled them to overtake and surpass unmarried men in their median household income.”

Another benefit of marrying well for men is increased longevity according to another Swedish study, which showed that married men with college-educated wives live longer than men with less-educated wives, likely because of the higher incomes which fund good health care and the fact that men with well-educated wives are more likely to eat healthier and seek care for their ailments at the prodding of their partner.

So the next time your wife brings home another order of Chinese take out because she is working late or she nags you to eat your veggies or to go to the doctor, just thank her.

Flickr Photo by

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Take Me To Your Tweeple

I’m feeling like the aliens shown above because I’ve just created my first Twitter account CbyCproject and I feel like I am on a different planet.

The Childless by Choice Project social media outreach began with the Childless by Choice Project website, a Squidoo lens, a blog (first as a contributor of Purple Women & Friends and now this blog), then the Facebook Page for Two Is Enough, and now Twitter.

I was reluctant to sign up for Twitter at first because I really didn’t have the time and I didn’t know how I might use it. Then a month ago I signed up for a class on social media at a writer’s conference and began to understand where twitter fits in an outreach program. I realized this was another way to connect with other childfree folks and to continue to learn and share.

There is no possible way one book or one documentary can encompass all there is to know about the childless by choice demographic. We are not one homogeneous blob. So I like to go beyond my survey respondents and the participants of the Childless by Choice Project and hear from childless and childfree people from all over.

I was recently contacted by a woman from Argentina. She found me through Unscripted, the ezine for the childfree, after an online search and she wondered if there was a Spanish language version of Two is Enough or the documentary. Unfortunately no, not yet. However she reminded me that childfree people exist in every corner of the world and in every corner of the web.

If you are a twitter user please tweet me at CbyCproject and let’s start a conversation.

Flickr Photo courtesy of State Library and Archives of Florida

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ted Olsen, Conservative Lawyer, Fights to Overturn California’s Gay Marriage Ban

Yes, you read it right. Ted Olsen, the same guy who got George W. Bush into the White House by arguing for Bush in Bush v. Gore in the Supreme Court went to district court last month (Perry v. Schwarzenegger) to argue that California’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

Why would he do that? One, because he thinks he can win and two, he thinks marriage is a good thing, for individuals and for the community. Gay or straight.

Here’s what he wrote in his article for Newsweek, published prior to the trial, titled The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage:

What, then, are the justifications for California's decision in Proposition 8 to withdraw access to the institution of marriage for some of its citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation? The reasons I have heard are not very persuasive.

The explanation mentioned most often is tradition. But simply because something has always been done a certain way does not mean that it must always remain that way. Otherwise we would still have segregated schools and debtors' prisons.

The second argument I often hear is that traditional marriage furthers the state's interest in procreation—and that opening marriage to same-sex couples would dilute, diminish, and devalue this goal. But that is plainly not the case. Preventing lesbians and gays from marrying does not cause more heterosexuals to marry and conceive more children. Likewise, allowing gays and lesbians to marry someone of the same sex will not discourage heterosexuals from marrying a person of the opposite sex. How, then, would allowing same-sex marriages reduce the number of children that heterosexual couples conceive?

This procreation argument cannot be taken seriously. We do not inquire whether heterosexual couples intend to bear children, or have the capacity to have children, before we allow them to marry. We permit marriage by the elderly, by prison inmates, and by persons who have no intention of having children.

Thank you Mr. Olsen for acknowledging the childfree marriage and our right to be married under the law. I know you are not fighting on behalf of voluntarily childless couples but if you and your very capable co-counsel David Boies succeed in your efforts to overturn Prop 8, you will have gone a long way towards challenging the antiquated idea that couples who are unable or unwilling to procreate should not have the right to legal marriage and to enjoy the benefits of that institution. If intentionally childfree or infertile heterosexual couples can marry, why not gay couples? Children don't make a marriage, committed partners do.

Closing arguments have yet to be presented. However, I will be following up on this trial in this blog. If you would like to read the transcripts from this hearing click here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Personality Theory: Results So Far

Thanks for posting your type here. We also invited the Two is Enough Facebook fans and The Childfree Life (TCFL) book club to do the Carl Jung and Isabel Myers-Briggs topology personality test and post their types and out of the 45 people who did so by January 20 we had a whopping 16 INTJs.

This is significant because INTJs are rare, said to represent only 1 percent of the general population but represented 34 percent of this childfree population. The next types in line were ISTJ (representing 11 %) and INFJ (representing 11 %) and ISFJ (representing 9%) and ENTJ (representing 9%). Note all the Judgers here.

Of course, this was not a representative or scientific survey by any stretch. However, the results do beg real research on this theory.

Any doctorate students out there willing to take this on?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Testing the Personality Theory

In Two Is Enough I suggested that certain personality types may be more likely to remain childless by choice. My theory is that Introverts and those that are Myers-Briggs Thinker and Judger types might be more predisposed or inclined to challenge the assumption of parenthood and embrace a childfree life.

The members of The Childfree Life book club are testing this theory in the discussion thread and are posting their types. The majority who have posted their types after taking a Carl Jung and Isabel Myers-Briggs topology personality test are reporting they are T/J’s (Thinkers/Judgers) and most are introverts as defined by this test.

How about you? Are you childless by choice? If so, click on the link above and take a few minutes to do the test and post your type here. We’ll see if the theory proves out.