June 05, 2006

Is Motherhood Our Patriotic Duty?

In the month between Childfree Day and Independence Day, this question begs an answer. In her book Barren in the Promised Land: Childless Americans and Their Pursuit of Happiness historian and author Elaine Tyler May asks:

Why this lingering obsession with reproduction?

I recently spoke with Elaine to get a historical perpective on voluntary childlessness for a chapter of my book. She pointed out that in America "family is revered—it’s where citizens are born and bred." And mothers—not the village—continue to bear most of the responsibility for raising the next generation of citizens.

As NikkiJ documented in a recent post, childfree women still experience stigma over our choice to remain childless. Why?

Elaine Tyler May believes that politics has a lot to do with the obsession over reproduction. In a pronatalist period of our history, she observed:

"Americans care more about each other’s reproductive behavior than they care about each other’s children."

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Anonymous said...

Elaine's book was one of the first I picked up from the library when we first moved to Canada from northern California. We settled in a Jewish neighborhood due to its proximity to the freeway access and other desirable amenities of our building.

It was my first trip to the neighborhood library, and on the way home I decided to stop by the Second Cup coffee shop to take a first peek at my new acquisitions. I got extremely uncomfortable and self-conscious when I realized that people in the coffee shoppe where checking out my titles.

Picture me living in the "promised land", a haven of Hassidic Jews in Toronto, reading about being barren - in public! I actually got sweaty palms. I wonder what they were thinking?

NikkiJ said...

They were probably pitying you! :-)