October 28, 2006

Pets as Kids?

When someone suggests that my cats are my children, it raises the hair on the back of my neck. I don’t like child-substitute thinking. There is a huge difference between pets and children and it's a stereotype that often gets placed on childfree people. It is a sign of a pro-natal society and thinking, thinking that assumes something is missing.

"Oh you have pets, they’re your children,” said the realtor in a condescending tone.

“No, my cats are my pets.”
Imagine how the comment above would cause emotional pain for someone who was really trying to start a family.

A parent/grandmother friend of mine wisely points out that children grow up, go to college and sometimes move out. Pets just stay and stay and love you unconditionally until they die. I am not looking forward to this last part. I have an older cat and his kidneys are starting to fail. It is sad to see him declining.

This same friend recently forwarded a funny letter written by a pet owner called “Dear Dogs and Cats.” Normally, I groan when something like this lands in my email In box, but this one was quite entertaining. I particularly enjoyed this quote:
If you don't want hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. (That's why they call it "fur"niture.)
I try to warn people that I have cats before they come over. (Some people should warn about their children – ha, ha). Some of our friends actually bear their suffering allergies just to accept our dinner invitations. When friends come to dinner with their children, the cats hide under the bed. Only my cats are child-haters, not their owner - really.

My point, and I do have one, is that adults with children enjoy pets as much as infertile couples and childfree Purple people do.

[Photo: Foot Job by Miss Lucy, and yes, it felt great.]

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October 25, 2006

The Reward

"The reward of not having children [is] if I get blown up tomorrow, I’ll have lived long enough and I won’t have to worry about my children"
– Helen Gurley Brown

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October 23, 2006

Childfree eZine - Finally!

And they have opted to use the unhyphenated version of our popular descriptive term (childfree, not child-free) - yeah!

Purple WomenTM & Friends will be most interested to learn that this new online magazine (that's what ezine means) is called...

Unscripted: The Childfree Life

Yo, check it!

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Childrearing: Trick or Treat?

I was at an INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) oath ceremony watching my husband become a U.S. citizen, when a screech erupted in the packed courthouse. A child, bored and restless, started wailing and flailing nonstop. When his mother tried to calm him, he started hitting her in the face with a ring of keys.

Everyone turned their attention to these embarrassed parents who were unable to calm their son. An elderly woman beside me whispered,

"That boy's going to leave bruises. He needs a smack."
I suspect that most of the people in the room that day would be inclined to agree, having been raised by parents in the old country who didn't hesitate to discipline their children in public.

This couple didn't dare, knowing that to do so in front of 100+ people and a federal judge might prompt a visit from social services. So stoically, they endured, as did we.

Later in the week, we were dining with a middle school teacher who agreed that it was impossible to raise a child in the manner she was raised. Three of us at the table were childfree; the other was a Brit who had raised his children decades ago. All of us acknowledged that we were glad we didn't have to raise a child in America today.

It wasn't just the discipline issue; it was the school violence, the crazy-making schedules, and the keeping up with the Joneses.

Is parenting too hard these days? Or do the childfree conveniently justify their decision making by pointing to a world that seems increasingly scary?

[Image: Trick or Treat Halloween Flat Note Card, originally uploaded by thesoulofhope.]

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October 21, 2006

Survey Says

Hey gals and guys of the purple persuasion, here's a chance to speak up and speak out about your childfree experiences. A woman who is a doctoral student in the Cultural Studies department at Claremount Graduate University (located in the hills of Oakland, Calif.) contacted me and asked for help distributing her survey.

I took it this morning and it is obvious that she has put a lot of thought into it. She'll be presenting the results and her paper at a conference in December. Pretty cool, huh?

Here's a link to her survey comparing attitudes of parent's and non-parents on the subject of, you guessed, childfree. You can give her your email to view the results directly and remain anonymous.

Survey closes October 31 (Halloween).

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Pass The Grey Poupon

I hit the grandame of mega, bulk container shopping yesterday – my once every other month shopping torture at Costco. This is always an interesting cultural peek at the other side for me. I remember once I went with my cousin who now has three children. We could hardly push the shopping cart (did you know they call them buggies in Canada?) together as we approached check-out.

Strategically, I wanted to get there before school let out, because I figured that mega-shopping Moms would be absent. My cousin is always home to greet or shuttle her multiple-sport kids somewhere at that time. It proved to be a good strategy.

So you can imagine my surprise, after being in the store 5 minutes when I thought I heard a clerk say to me,

“Hey, you’re missing a child.”
The little voice in my head sounded an alarm, “What - do I have it stamped on my forehead now?” I had to laugh at myself as I turned around only to see that he was actually speaking to a parent pushing an empty stroller. Am I paranoid or what? I would hate for that to be integral to my definition of Purple.

Shopping ensues. As I was reflecting on how difficult it would be to navigate this busy store, though it was not at the time, with kids in tow, I placed the first must have item in it: my favorite scotch, a bargain at $50 for the 1.75 litre bottle. I fought the urge to immediately put some Clorox handi-wipes in my basket, just to make it appear more wholesome. I didn’t really need them, so I quickly moved on.

The giant sizes mostly intimidate me, and there are some things that just never seem to hit my shelf, or if they do, they last a very, very long time. Take Peanut Butter for example. I simply do not need three shrink-wrapped 40 oz. jars of the stuff. What in the world would childfree me do with 8 plus pounds of nut butter? Don’t even go there. Ditto for the gargantuan Cheez-it® boxes (though I admit I love the white cheddar flavor my cousin stocks as snacks for her kids when I go to visit them).

Pardon Me...
Originally uploaded by ikelee.

Thumbs up for the 36 oz. container of Dijon mustard, great in recipes, my husband swears by the stuff, low cal and high on flavor. And, everybody knows Costco has the best bathroom tissue. The rest, I will leave a mystery for fear of boring you with too long of a post.

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October 18, 2006

Married and Childfree

Recently my husband and I celebrated our 9th anniversary. We've been married long enough and are at the age that most people probably look at us and assume that the reason we don't have kids yet is because we're not able to have them. We've learned over the years to keep our mouths shut and let the assumptions fall where they may.

I do wonder if being childfree would be such a big deal for me if I was single. In Christian circles, if you're single/never-been-married, the assumption is that you wouldn't have children. But if you're married, you're expected to have kids at some point. There seems to be more pressure put on married couples than on singles.

The flip side of the coin is that if I was single, I would probably feel societal pressure to marry. It seems to be everywhere - dating and match sites, sitcoms, all putting out the idea that if you're single you should be looking for a mate. I'd be interested to hear what experiences you've had, whether as a single or married childfree person. Is there more pressure to procreate if you're married? Or does it seem to equal itself out?

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October 16, 2006

Do We Count?

Or rather, are we being counted? Beyond speaking up, speaking out and merely holding our heads up as functioning, not just merely contributing, but perhaps less polluting...childfree adults, it is also important to be counted. Oh yes.

Intentionally childfree people in the U.S. are invisible, demographically, as they are currently tracked by bean counters in the highest levels of government. What do Purple Women™ and men have to do to be counted? This is how we are currently recorded by
U.S. Census Bureau:

Marital Status
Married-spouse present
Married – spouse absent
Never Married

I propose the Bureau add a new category:

Family Status
Non-parent (not planning to have children)
Foster parent
Undecided about children.

In order for Purple WomenTM and men to be better understood and officially exist, we must be counted.

What's it like in your country? Are you counted?

[Author's note: for more a more in depth examination of this posed question, please visit Childfree News blog post.]

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October 08, 2006

Married No Kids

If you haven't gone over every link in our sidebar with a fine-toothed comb, you may have missed another great online gathering place for...you guessed it...married no kids types. Kim Kenney is the Married No Kids column editor at Bella Online, another women-centric site and a community of childfree adults online.

She has been doing it a bit longer, and she sets a great example of how to elevate the conversation.

At Purple Women & Friends we also try to maintain a...

"place where we can all feel accepted for our decision and explore what the child free childfree lifestyle means to us, not a place of negativity like so many other child free childfree sites can be."
I subscribe to Married No Kids.

[Note: For an explanation on why childfree should be one word, visit this archived post (tee, hee)!]

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October 06, 2006

Something for the Gratitude Journal

I was trying on some clothes in the four-stall fitting room at a department store when a woman walked in and tested all the doors to see if they were occupied. The woman in the stall across from me said, "We’re full in here but I’m almost finished. I’ve got a 9 month old I’ve left with my husband."

The woman waiting replied, "I’ve got a 4 year old and 6 year old and this is my first day of shopping without them in close to a year."

"I love shopping alone. Isn’t it awesome?" crowed the new mom.

"God, yes." Laughter from all the stalls. Except mine.

I was struck silent, thinking, "Hey, this is another childfree benefit I take for granted: shopping without kids in tow."

Later, in another store, this benefit was dramatised, as a mother walked in with two young kids. The eldest, a boy of seven or so, started to whine. "You said you were only going into one store. This is two stores. We need to get out of here."

He started to act up but the mother deftly negotiated five minutes more shopping time in exchange for a trip to McDonalds.

Which brings me to Benefit #2: I don’t have to eat at McDonalds.

I haven’t been to a McDonalds in…. Gee, I don’t know how long it’s been. Ages…since I burned the roof of my mouth eating a hot apple pie. Do they still sell those things or has someone finally sued them over the fact that those pies took two layers of skin off your palate?

Anyway, I’m a bit of a food snob so the reminder that I will never to have to eat at McDonalds again sent me into another spasm of gratitude.

What about your childfree life brings up feelings of gratitude?

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Foreign Issue

Picked up the October 2006 issue of Wired Magazine at an airport recently. It covers all things high tech, from the latest gizmos to how technology enhances our modern lives. I was not so much interested in the gaming section, but this tidbit on surrogate birthing, using "the uteri" of young women in India caught my eye.

Apparently, it’s just one tenth the cost of using a North American surrogate -- and unregulated. I wonder if they factored in the cost of the plane ticket? Not sure how many would be needed…I hear it's a long plane ride. My what lengths people will go to in order to become parents.

This brief mention appears under the sub-head "Wombs" on page 040 in their "Outsourcing" section really creeped me out. The very idea of procreation at all costs
(a bargain at $3,500 for the full term in India) makes my hairs stand on end. I have many questions about what seems like a Far East version of a Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood).

I am guessing at the mindset of the parents-to-be, but what is the mindset of these young women? Is it a selfless and perhaps profitable act on their part or a debase use of poor women’s bodies? What price do we pay as a global society if we use young women this way? When we don’t protect the young, the poor, the innocent – what does that make us?

Or, is it truly a win-win? Even the middle man wins in this case. Who takes what profit? How much does the surrogate get? How risky is this procedure for them? Are they compensated adequately? What is their average age? Where do they come from? How are they recruited? Whose brainchild is this anyway? Is this the dark underbelly of capitalism in the world’s largest democracy? So many questions.

New medical devices and procedures are not meant to be welcomed with open arms. We should questions them, put them up to the bright light of scrutiny, whether it is the newest form of birth control or the latest cure for infertility.
Beyond passing clinical trials with "marketable results, we must apply moral tests of the heart. Just because it’s legal somewhere, should we do it? Should we regulate it? The answers we come up with may differ. Let’s at least discuss it.

[Incidentally, in India when someone asks about family status, they say, “Any issue?”]

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