December 29, 2006

Reflecting Back on a Year Gone By

I don't do well making resolutions. Generally the excitement of a new year seems to get the better of me and I make grand plans that then fall flat as reality sets in. But a new year is a good time to reflect and make changes, as well as evaluate future goals and dreams. It's also a great time to think back over the previous year and remember highlights and special times. Was it a good year overall?

Some of my memories (good or bad) of 2006:
-Becoming a contributor here at Purple WomenTM
-My mom falling and breaking her hip and having to have hip replacement surgery in Africa
-Meeting my nephew for the first time
-Playing and bonding with my 4-year-old niece
-Going to my mother's family reunion and seeing cousins I hadn't seen in years
-Moving to a new role at work with new responsibilities
-Celebrating 9 years of marriage
-Having the Super Bowl in Detroit, my home area
-Hiding our first cache as part of geocaching
-Starting a monthly scrapbook crop at our church
-Watching my sister run her first marathon

What are some of the highlights of your 2006? Do you have any specific goals going into 2007?

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December 27, 2006

The Little Girl Who Came to Dinner

Kids say the darndest things. I have a story to tell that involves a little girl who came to dinner with her parents last month. She is cute as a button, a future prima ballerina, and all of three and a half years old. Her parents don't seem to curb her much and I really had to hold my tongue a few times.

We currently live in my mother-in-law's house, the house my husband grew up in. This lady was known to many as grandma and there are toys all over the place to prove it. Some of the toys at this house are genuine antiques, the likes of which have never been seen by the current generation of kids. We were rather hoping that if we introduced our friend's daughter to some of these toys that she would settle down and entertain herself. No such luck. She expected us to give her all our attention, and she got worse as the evening went on.

At dinner she busted my chops for giving her a paper napkin instead of a nice cloth napkin like the adults had. She spilled her water glass all over the table and I was never so grateful for the custom table cover as not a drop of water got through to the beautiful wood underneath. After dinner, my husband and the little girl's father sought refuge by remaining in their seats and talking amongst themselves on their favorite topics of hunting and fishing. I was left to clearing the table and to entertaining our little guest. I didn't really like the separation of sexes. I felt as if I was in a Victorian era time warp and that the men might pull out stogies at any time.

I have to stop myself here and say something positive about this child. Our little guest tried everything on her plate without a fuss. That really impressed me and my husband as our nieces and nephews are the most finicky on the planet.

The child's mother told her that there would be no dessert if she did not finish her plate, which I thought was a good disciplinary move; however, I couldn't help notice that she did not finish her place and the child got dessert anyway. I guess you have to pick your battles. After dessert and coffee, her mother then suggested we put on music so she could dance for us in the living room. I politely acquiesced. Big mistake. She danced for us and at first it was really cute, then she wouldn't allow us to talk during the performance.

The most surprising thing that happened on this social experiment of an evening was a conversation my husband had with the little girl when I was out of the room. He said she was standing next to him in the kitchen, staring at him for the longest time. He could tell there was a big question forming in her little brain. Then she blurted out:

"Why don't you have children?"
This made him smile as he replied, "We do have children. We have lots of nieces and nephews."

Perhaps this was not the most direct and honest answer, but it seemed to satisfy her at the time. It must have seemed strange to her that we were surrounded by toys and not children. As my husband I reflected on the evening the next day, trying to think through how we could have made the evening any better, we realized we may be the only childfree adults this little girl has ever been around.

As hosts, we felt we should have served dinner earlier, as it may have been much past the child's normal dinner hour. Her mother could have had a better plan for this too. I am sure the whole evening had them off her normal routines, which are very important for little ones. A new mother doesn't always know these things nor how to coordinate with a hostess. If my mother-in-law had been present I am sure she would have offered this sage advice. As a childfree adult, I kept my mouth shut.

This whole episode in my life reminds me of Twiga's post, Friendships, which addressed the awkwardness Purple-minded folks sometimes experience when mingling with their childed friends .

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December 25, 2006

Happy Holidays

All the season's best to Purple WomenTM and their childfree and parent friends everywhere!

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December 23, 2006

Blogging Chicks are Purple Too

In an effort to expand our network, social networking online specifically, I've taken a cue from Twiga and added this blogroll of Blogging Chicks. Gotta love their art.

Also recently added MyBlogLog to the sidebar. This is a neat tool to help us get to know our readers.

In other news, I am proud to say two social networking groups that I participate in are in the top 10 finalists for the Weblob Awards 2006 - Best Online Community Category: Book Crossing and BlogHer. Alas, still no nomination for us.

Hope these developments will help other Purple WomenTM - and those considering the childfree path - discover us!

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December 20, 2006

Meet LauraS

The S stands for Scott.
Laura Scott is the person behind the labour of love she calls The Childless by Choice Project: a research, book and documentary project on those who are childless by choice in North America.

Laura spent two years on a research road trip to ten of the United States and two Canadian provinces interviewing, filming, and surveying over 170 voluntarily childless/childfree individuals.

"As North Americans continue to delay marriage and childbearing, the assumption of parenthood is losing its grip." Laura observed. "What happens when the question 'When should we have kids?' turns to 'Should we have kids?' The childfree show us."

"I wanted to explore, beyond my own experience in a childless by choice marriage, this decision-making process, and to determine the most compelling motives to remain childfree."

Outside of The Childless by Choice Project, Laura's passion is travelling.

"I get antsy if I stay in one place too long. We're always planning the next trip. Which is why we don't have a pet, unless you count our papier mache dog, Spike. It would be unfair and irresponsible to have a dog now when I can barely keep my plants alive."
We are proud to have Laura as a Regular Contributor and as a member of the Purple WomenTM community.

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December 18, 2006

We All Have Mothers

One of my Purple WomenTM informants was kind enough to send me an article from San Francisco Weekly called New Mother's Work by Eliza Strickland (12/6/2006).

The post title above is a quote by Joan Blades, co-founder of a new political action group called Moms Rising. Her co-founder is author Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner who recently debuted some new data in her first book, The F-Word: Feminism in Jeapoardy:

"For every dollar that a man earns today, a childless woman earns 90 cents — not perfect equality, but close — while mothers earn 73 cents, on average, and single moms earn 60 cents. These numbers represent disparities in hourly wages, so part-time work schedules and unpaid leaves don't skew the statistics."

We childfree have a true workplace advantage. We still don't have pay equity with the men, but I will say her numbers make it look like we've progressed. How we will fare with the pull of this newly realized political organizing is yet to be seen.

When Blades says "we all have mothers," I am reminded of how hard it must have been for my mother, a single mother in the beginning. I need to read more about their agenda, but initially I am captured by their cause - even though I have no intention of raising kids.

Moms Rising could be good for all women. Backers like Sens. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Ted Kennedy would be wise to recognize families of two as they push for new family-friendly legislation and workplace policies. The two should go hand-in-hand.

As Purple WomenTM we are unwitting feminists, whether we like it or not. My question is, are we going to have a voice in the changes that inevitably take place, or will we simply take a backseat to mothers?

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December 13, 2006

Café or the Cafeteria?

Should employers continue to grant extended benefits coverage to parents and decline to transition to “cafeteria” plans that set a single dollar amount for each employee?
This question was recently posed by Ms. Laura Ciaccio, Spokesperson for No Kidding! International, author of the Childfree News blog and, and also a Harvard Law student working on the above question for a course project. Here is the argument I sent her for her site.

We have to appreciate what we have in this country, the good ol’ U.S. of A., and one of those things is a free marketplace. Burgeoning entrepreneurship is a sign of a healthy economy. This well spring is the direct result of a healthy middle class, the size of which is also an indicator of a strong economy and a happy populace. Macroeconomists would agree but it’s hard for most of us to get the bigger picture. We all prosper when our economy prospers, and prosperity is not tied to what hand-outs our employers give us.

I am a Democrat, trying to develop Republican sensibilities. Now that liberals have won back both House and Senate, majority leaders and their followers have a responsibility to listen to the other side. Republicans have morphed into religious fanatics lately but they remain true to their true pro-economy, capitalist core. It is even more important to develop the ability to dialogue and come into the conversation open-minded. If we really feel like socialists at heart, we should move further north.

When I first heard about Ms. Ciaccio’s project and her stance, I cringed because telling a corporation how to take care of its employees feels a bit heavy handed. I look forward to the dialogue she stirs up and applaude her for doing so. Here’s my take and you are free to disagree with it:

I think we, the childfree, need to take responsibility for our own choices. We decided (or accepted) our status, and regardless the reason, we should not expect compensation for phantom children. The Achilles Heel of the argument that Ms. Ciaccio puts forward is that in fact we should have extra disposable income since we don’t have extra mouths to feed. As an employer, it is proper to take care of your employee and his or her family. This argument will not find a sympathetic ear with the great masses of parents (who outnumber us, by the way). The U.S. tax code already allows employers to offer pre-tax spending options for unreimbursed medical and caregiving expenses, be they child or elder. That is available to us all equally.

If we advocate that a company provide equal value in benefits to each employee, where would that money come from? Profits would be the first thing a board or business owner would move to protect. Head count and salary would be the likely target, so would the company picnic and ironically, the company-sponsored cafeteria. The proposal is called a “cafeteria plan” of packaging benefits, in which each employee gets one a voucher for the same amount with which they can pick and choose from a benefits plan.

Put on your business-owner hat for a moment. Look at your total cost per employee. Parents cost more for businesses so heavily weighting their bennies to families with kids, yet, which employee gets promoted? Unfortunately, the odds are that the guy telling jokes at the water cooler, the married man, yes, one who has the right number of kids does. Oh, and the tall people. So many subjective factors come into play, rather than job performance, but I would bet that all business owners look at employee cost when making staffing decisions. They have to or they wouldn’t be in business.

So, why would childfree want to advocate to make themselves more expensive and less attractive in the workplace? Instead we should shed some light on what a bargain we are, always filling in for the ones who have to dash home for a child’s activity. Use it to our advantage. The cafeteria plan would impact women in the workplace most directly. Many talented working women are also mothers and if employers were forced to offer equal benefits for all employees chances are some of theirs will go away. The economic impact to the business would be too great for it to turn out otherwise in reality.

Ms. Ciaccio, if you want to eat at the cafeteria, go ahead. Our co-workers who have kids are probably eating lunch a sack lunch at their desk. I’ll take my compensation in dollars and cents, and eat across the street at the café with my extra disposable income, and only sign up for as much health coverage as I need.

For more on this topic and others visit Childfree Issues.

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December 09, 2006

PW Top 10 Posts

Here are the posts with the most number of comments thus far:

# Author, Post Title (Date of post)

20 Robin, Fence Sitting (8/25/2006)
16 Robin, Childfree with Child Support (11/9/2006)
16 Twiga92, Career or Child? (10/16/2006)
14 Teri, Respect and Little Dose of Humor, (8/1/2006)
14 Teri, Purple Men (4/15/2006)
13 Robin, A Childfree Life (7/7/2006)
12 Teri, Pets As Kids? (10/28/2006)
12 Twiga92, Married and Childfree (10/18/2006)
11 Twiga92, Being Christian and Childfree (5/25/2006)
11 Robin, Furmommy (11/3/2006)
11 Robin, Why I Will Never Be 100% Childfree (7/17/2006)
11 LauraS, Something for the Gratitude Journal (10/6/2006)
11 Twiga92, Friendships (11/18/2006)
11 LauraS, But Can She Walk in Those Jimmy Choos? (4/30/2006)
11 Robin, Peace and Quiet (6/29/2006)

Okay, okay, so there are 14 posts on the list. What was I supposed to do with a seven-way tie for 11 comments?

I am so proud of these posts, they really represent our best. Kudos to the team!

Enjoy visiting them again (or for the first time). None of these conversations are closed, so feel free to weigh in.

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December 08, 2006

Prosperity and the Birth Rate

Lately, much has been written about the "Birth Dearth," the point at which we as a nation or a world fail to replace our dying population with new births. The fear is that we'll be a country of old people without enough young working people to pay into the fiction we call social security. As tempting as it might be for some to point the finger of blame for this dilemma at the childfree, it's not that simple.

In his article 300 Million and Counting, published in a recent edition of Smithsonian Magazine, Joel Garreau rightly points out that the more affluence and education a person attains the fewer children she will likely have, and he credits immigration for the fact that the U.S. has managed to avert the "Birth Dearth:"

"The United States' population is growing at the rate of almost 1 percent per year, thanks in part to immigration…Not only does the United States accept more legal immigrants as permanent residents than the rest of the world combined, but these recent arrivals tend to have more children than established residents…"
That is true, but their children may not. The native born children of immigrants, encouraged by their parents to achieve success in their home country may go to college, delay childbearing, and as a result have fewer kids. Just like their fifth or sixth generation American peers. They may be busy working two jobs just to pay the mortgage, or, as Garreau observed, helping to "create companies such as Intel, eBay and Google."
So if you’re looking for someone or something to blame for declining birth rates and populations, look beyond the childfree. Blame education, opportunity, and prosperity.
The reality is: global birth rates decline as populations find their own versions of the American dream. The children of those who had three or more children are having two, one, or none.

In the short term, it’s unlikely we will see an increase of families with three or more kids and many countries in the developed and developing world will face declining and aging populations in the coming decades.

That's the reality. So let’s stop the blame game and just deal with it.

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December 05, 2006

Popular Media

When hubby and I moved back to California after a two-year stint in Toronto, Canada one of the things we were really looking forward to (other than the obvious this time of year -- brrrrrrrr!) was re-establishing our Netflix subscriptions. We are just that lazy and really like getting DVDs in the mail and no late fees. Best of all, the U.S. Postal service even delivers on Saturday unlike in Canada.

One of my favorite (favourite for you Canadians who spell funny) comedians is Steve Martin. He also writes books and plays (Picasso at the Lapin Agile). He directed and produced his novel Shop Girl which debuted the movie at the Toronto Film Festival last year.

We recently watched one of Steve's earlier films (you can tell because he has so much hair): Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982). It's a really neat film noir tribute with glimpses of silver screen legends spliced into it, such as Joan Crawford, Burt Lancaster, Lana Turner and Humphrey Bogart. Steve plays gum-shoe private eye Rigby Reardon and the leading lady is Rachel Ward as Juliet Forrest, the Purple Woman in distress.

I was surprised to find a poignant piece of dialogue between them.

JULIET: You're a very smart man.

RIGBY: So was Abraham Lincoln and look what happened to him. Smart can getcha killed.


Would like to what? Kiss me? Yeah, that would be nice. It would give me chance to tell her I was starting to feel something for her too. Something warm and squishy. But how could I explain that a man in my business can't take on a wife and have a bunch of kids...

We wouldn't have to have kids.

What?! [AWKWARD PAUSE, AS HE EYES HER SUSPISCIOUSLY.] Look this is getting us no where...[HE MOVES QUICKLY TO SHOW HER THE DOOR.] You better go now. Marlowe is coming over here to talk.

If you need me just call...


Have you seen any Purple WomenTM in the movies lately? Please tell us where!

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December 03, 2006

Scrapbooking Together

If you're looking for an activity to do together as you gather with relatives for the holidays, scrapbooking is one alternative that can be fun and engaging. All you need to start is photos, glue stick, some construction paper or cardstock, scissors, a pen and some stickers. It can be as simple or creative as you want to make it.

Sitting around a table and pasting pictures onto some cardstock can be a way to reminisce about holidays past and fond memories. Using stickers to accent the page helps to spice up what would otherwise be a normal photo album.

Journaling about the photos brings the scrapbook full circle for others to enjoy looking at and reading about the events and people depicted in the photos. You can punch holes in the edges and string ribbon through them to create a small photo journal to give as gifts.

This can also be a way to entertain those nieces and nephews who are old enough to participate. Most children will enjoy pasting pictures onto construction paper and putting stickers on to decorate. They can write their own thoughts about the pictures and have a great page to show others. This gives us points into the "Cool Aunt/Uncle" category. Make sure there are duplicates of any photos used in case they are damaged beyond repair.

For the particularly ambitious, home-made Christmas or Holiday cards can be done on cardstock in a similar fashion. This allows for some creativity in the card with personalized journaling and photos. Got a great picture of yourself doing one of your favorite activities? Why not paste it on a card to send out to relatives, showing the hobbies and fun you are having?

Scrapbooking is not for everyone, but can be a simple craft to do with friends or family to highlight those great pictures from the past year for future memories. You can even journal and scrapbook those New Year's resolutions!

Photo Originally uploaded to Flickr on November 4, 2006 by Olivier B

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Meet Twiga

Twiga joined the Purple WomenTM team blog as a Regular Contributor in March 2005.

Twiga’s Journey to Childfreedom:

Twiga and her husband made the decision not to have children when they were engaged. Growing up, she had never really had a desire to have children, something that was talked about when she was a teenager. Her mom had even mentioned that she had never been very "motherly". As she began to fall in love with boys throughout high school and college, she realized that she would probably have children for the sake of the man she loved and married. So throughout these years she assumed that she would have children.

When she and her husband were engaged, the discussion about children came up. Imagine her surprise and delight when he said he didn't really care if he had children or not! They decided to wait before taking any drastic measures such as sterilization, but both were sure this was the right choice for them. At that time, Twiga had never heard the term "childfree" and didn't realize how making the choice to not have children would impact her life.

Many of those who choose not to have children get asked the question why. There is not always a simple answer. For Twiga, the decision had mostly to do with lack of desire. She likes children, but doesn't want any of her own. She enjoys her niece and nephew, but doesn't have to take responsibility for them. She has seen that her introvert nature would not blend well with having children, as well as her low energy levels and independent streak. She also has OCD, which could make pregnancy complicated due to the medications she is on. Financially, she and her husband can not afford children either.

Twiga and her husband have now been married for 9 years. They are as sure of their childfree decision now as they
were 9 years ago, perhaps even more so.

Pet Peeve:

The "you'll change your mind" comment.

Twiga’s Hobbies:

Reading, scrapbooking, blogging, and geocaching. Twiga and her husband are also very involved with their local church and their two cats Storm and Mocha (pictured).

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December 02, 2006

Childfree in Social Settings

Purple WomenTM may need a little fortification when attending their company picnic/bbq/holiday party. Regardless of the season it's good to go armed with a dose of humour in these less-than anonymous social settings.

Those still pretending to be a future mom (you know who you are, when strangers say "no kids yet?" you reply "maybe some day")...
...may want to roll these potential retorts over in their mind as a they touch up their makeup and dash out the door.

Here are some good one-liners that will give people a clue as to who you really are (witty and charming, and Purple of course, right?):

Q: Any children?

A #1: Oops, we forgot to do that!

A #2: We're supposed to have kids?! (With a mock horrified look on your face.)

A #3: No, we have cats. We can leave them alone on the weekends...(wink).

A #4: No, let's talk about sex instead...(in your best Kim Cattral voice if it's someone you're attracted to!)

A #5: Never had the urge, I just enjoy my fill-in-the-blank too much to give it up.

A #6: You know, I was really hoping you'd ask me that, but let's talk about
fill-in-the-blank instead...!

A #7: I think my mother's calling me...(and just walk quickly in the other direction).

A #8: Did my mother put you up to this?

A #9: Hell no! I create enough garbage for landfills on my own. (Don't actually recommend this one, because a horrified parent might think you are talking about the child itself, not the amount of trash they generate!)

A #10: Why would I want to do a thing like that? Perfecting my golf game (or
fill-in-the-blank) is way too important to me.

Which one of the above fits your Purple personality?

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