June 27, 2006

Opting Out

If you opt out of a family, will you have to defend it your entire adult life? Can you be a happy, fulfilled contributing, completely functional person? I think we have answered that here within our safe online community and within our childfree circles of friends, but more work is needed, because most people don't seem to know that. We're not really purple, we look like everyone else and it would be better for the goal of social change if we didn't blend in so well.

More accurate exposure is needed in popular media and books, fiction and non-fiction, as well as more published social studies, before others will catch on. This will take time. I believe we are developing a collective voice here and that we are creating a meaningful dialogue -- if our blog audience continues to build, we will be hard not to notice. I will be attending a conference on blogging end of next month to learn how to do this, but by all means…

...tell a childfree friend about Purple WomenTM!

When the childfree are cast in the light of dysfunctional, it perpetuates the myth that becoming a parent is the end-all and be-all, the assumed goal of adulthood. This is why I created Purple WomenTM the independent study, the blog and the book I plan to write. To date, more than 200 women have taken the online survey. I will close it at the end of this month and begin to compile the data. The quantitative results will be debuted here in July.

All this writing, blogging, connecting and sharing of what's on other childfree women's minds has been very inspiring and keeps me feeling like I am on the right track. My thanks to you all, contributors, bloggers, regular blurkers and the occasional reader a like. You inspire me to the task at hand!

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Boxing Tomboy said...

I was told that after I reached 40, I would no longer have to defend not having children. People would automatically figure out I was never going to have any. As long as society keeps harping on being a mother as the number one definition of being a woman, childfree women will always be on trial.

nomadshan said...

Teri - one of the things I hear from the childful is that my husband + I aren't contributing to the future workforce. What I really think they're saying is, "You need to have kids so I can have Social Security." I like knowing that I'm also not creating more mouths to be fed through unsustainable agriculture practices, or more people to need more resources, period.

BT - I find that people harrass me less about children now that I'm in my late 30s. Some folks consider it irresponsible to have a child at my age (36), and that's fine. Now the only response I'm liable to get is "You'll regret it." Hopefully I won't hear that often, because it's a waste of breath!

ChrisR said...

Teri, I'm glad you're inspired. Someone's gotta do it!

And we love you for it, don't worry 'bout that. :)

Anonymous said...

Boxing Tomboy - Women should define themselves. When I realized I wanted to embrace being childfree, and be happy about it, I ran smack into the controversy over what to call myself and how to describe myself. I went from infertile, to childless to childfree. Even childfree doesn't encompass the non-mom adult female experience. Some feel that it is flipant and intimates that we don't like children.

I really just side-stepped the whole "what am I?" issue by creating the term Purple Woman. At least it makes people curious. And an open mind gets the dialogue started! Language is so powerful and so limiting all at once.

NomadShan - I am starting to look my age which had helped. Just turned 40 and there was no celebration, but it was still big for me. I have to admit the "being alone in old age thing scares me more than anything. If genes are any indicator I will outlive my husband by decades. We bought long-term insurance for me, but making and maintaining my friends and family relations is up to me.

ChrisR - Awe, shucks...thanks you for that nice comment. And hey, I didn't realize you're an Aussie! You've added a wee bit to your profile recently, eh?

Elise said...

I kind of dislike the idea of that term, "opting out of family". My fiance is the closest thing to true family I've got (I have good relationships with my brothers, but my parents' marriage and subsequent lives have been non-stop horror shows). CF people are part of families (their families of origin, being aunts/uncles), and they frequently start families of their own: families of two, in the form of committed relationships and/or marriages. I dislike the prospect of giving that word over to parents only.

NomadShan, I couldn't agree more about the SocSec comment. Why anyone would govern their reproductive behaviour around a deeply flawed, increasingly fiscally unsound government program is beyond me. SocSec was originally designed to be a safety net of last resort for widows with children; somehow, it has become the retirement plan for everyone (well, not the *only* one, if they're lucky enough to have another way to contribute to their retirement savings and smart enough to take advantage of it!).

I've found less and less flak coming my way about being CF as I've gotten older (I'm newly 40 and had a *really expensive* dinner at this amazing ultra-contemporary Japanese place with my girlfriends for my birthday --- wow, it was great!). Some of it is my age; some of it is that my students all know I don't have kids, so their parents seem to eventually catch on; some of it is that parents of high school kids are at worst only a *fraction* as annoying as parents of infants and younger kids about The Wonders of Parenthood. I've seen my students be absolutely sweet and personable with me, then turn around and shoot daggers at their parents; believe me, I get more of their Kodak Moments at this age than their parents do (but then, finding other adults to learn from and hang out with is one of the developmental "jobs" of high school-aged kids). Parents of high school students know what the trade-offs of parenthood are...they have them tattooed across their souls!