January 29, 2006

No Kidding!

People wonder what adults without kids are doing with all that free time…

One of the best things I did last year was to start showing up at No Kidding! gatherings. That’s the name of a network of social clubs for marrieds and singles who are without children – really. There are more than 90 No Kidding! chapters (yes, it is proper to use the exclamation point) around the globe.

Now I am helping the local No Kidding! chapter leaders prepare for the 5th Annual Childfree Festival here in Toronto this June. It will be the first time it is held in Canada – and we are rolling out the red carpet for an anticipated crowd of 75-100 childfree adults.

I encourage you to find a No Kidding! chapter in your area, or perhaps consider starting one. Links are in the sidebar!

January 28, 2006

Poker for Purple Women!

I play in a Ladies Only poker game once a month. I met these great gals through my local childfree social club -- No Kidding! No, that's the name of the international social club -- No Kidding! (Yes, it is proper to include the exclamation mark.) There are more than 90 chapters around the globe. More on this in my next post.

This past year, in reviewing my life (can you tell I just turned 40?), I decided it was very important for me to find friends who reflect me, specifically, friends who have also decided not to have children. Emotionally, I needed this. As a past "fence-sitter" and a woman who discovered that she could not bear her own children, I am now embracing being a Purple WomanTM. I took a long time getting to this point.

When I met Mr. Right I was so nervous to tell him that I could not have children. You see, I already knew that I loved him and my worst nightmare what that it would drive him away. But he kept coming back for more. Before we got married I asked him if I could change my mind later. He told me what I needed to hear at the time. He said we could talk about it and that if having children was really important to him, he would have done it by now. We've been happily married seven years, and I am no longer sitting on the fence.

January 27, 2006

Book Review: Smilla's Sense of Snow

Purple Women are in Literature. One of my favorite movies is Smilla's Sense of Snow based on a book of the same title by Peter Høeg, a Dane. I felt fortunate to get my hands on a paperback copy of his book in a local thrift store. I have seen the movie several times and I am always drawn to the strong, beautiful lead character of Smilla Jasperson, played by the stunning Julia Ormond. She looks and dresses like a model and talks like a truck driver -- and as I read this passage last night, I realized she is childfree. You see she has too many barbs for a man to get close to her. Here is the quote:

"Why would the police know anything about my private life? I ask myself: How did the Toenail know that I don't have any children. I can't answer that question. It's just a little question. But the world is always so busy wondering why a single, defenseless woman, if she's in my age group, doesn't have a husband and a couple of charming little toddlers. Over time you develop an allergic reaction to the question."

-- Peter Høeg

Social Stigma

Dr. Carolyn Ray, a Purple Woman, has given me permission to re-publish this quote. It was written in an email to her in response to her website/essay about the social stigma of not wanting children. I've added added a link to the sidebar:

"My husband and I have likened staying child free to running down a hall with people throwing chairs in your way, trying to trip you up. The journey requires a definite thoughtful resilience in the face of overwhelming disapproval from family, friends and religious organizations."
--Jennifer Enright-Ford, childfree, married 15 years, August 2000

Social Stigma & Enlightenment

The Stage of Life

This quote appears below my email signature:
When a woman begins to see her childless state as an opportunity, she is on the threshold of expanding her female identity. -- M. Ireland, PhD

If you are not a mom, what are you doing with your life? I just turned 40 and I am pursuing my writing aspirations. I published my first online article last year on the WikiHow open format website. It's an article on How to Eat an Artichoke. It has been viewed 9,170 times as of today. I ask of other Purple WomenTM reading this blog,

What passion are you pursuing?

This is one of the most important questions I ask in the upcoming Purple WomenTM survey that will be launched next month. You can read more about the project and eventual book I plan to author on the official Purple WomenTM website.

January 24, 2006

Childfree vs. Child-haters

This may strike a nerve with some. I came across this article in a local weekly Detroit, Michigan paper. Let's blog about it and clear the air. The truth is out there.

I made up the term Purple WomenTM, so I get to define it. Purple WomenTM definitely do not hate children. We appreciate them; we are just not planning to have them (nor raise someone else's children).

According to the Centers for Disease Control’s 2002 survey, “Fertility, Family Planning and Reproductive Health of U.S.,” just saying no to kids is becoming a more popular option. Among the 61.6 million women aged 15 to 44 in 2002, 6.2 percent were voluntarily childless, up from 4.9 percent in 1982. Furthermore, the percentage of childless women who expect to have one child in their lifetimes (13 percent) was down by almost half what it was in 1995 (25 percent).


January 20, 2006

Wanted: Purple Women Bloggers

Do you like to write? Have a penchant for crafting succinct and thought provoking posts? We have room for one or two Purple WomenTM on our team blog. (Yes, it is okay to go beyond three paragraphs...on occasion, when the subject really warrants it.)

The subject matter is focused on all things related to childfree living. Share your reflections, a book review, your musings, a good story and your sense of humour and/or outrage on the subject. (Hey, it's okay to rant once in a while -- just don't let it become chronic!)

Already a blogger? As a perk of joining the team, a link to your blog will be placed in the sidebar. If you are interested, please send an email to Teri. To learn more about this social conscience-raising project, please visit the Purple Women official website. Thank you!

January 19, 2006

Best of Blogs - Call to Action

Oh, how I covet this award. We are only in our fledgling year, but I can dream. Blogging is so new, the Best of Blogs Award is only in its second year and I am honored to know my bloggy friend Andrea who's blog Coloring Outside the Lines is one of 10 finalists in the Art category.

Categories include Best: Mommy Blog, Daddy Blog, Fertility/Adoption Blog, Blog Whore, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Blog, Music Blog, Educational Blog, Sports Blog, Humour Blog, Knitting/Craft Blog, Cooking/Recipe Blog, Book/Literary Blog, Photo/Art/Poetry Blog, Snarkiest Blog, Weight Loss/Fitness Blog, Podcast Blog, Inspirational Blog, Overall Blog, New Blog, and Sex Blog.

As a Purple Woman, I feel marginalized by the omission of the cheerfully childfree. (Maybe Best Blog Whore(s)...? LOL!) How does it make you feel?

I encourage Purple WomenTM to visit their website and post a comment suggesting a Cheerfully Childfree category. Let's unite in voice and be heard!

January 18, 2006

Road Not Taken

Sometimes I look at other people's children (O.P.C.) and think about the path not traveled. I think about how at my age, my own mother had a 20-year-old daughter. Our lives couldn't be more different. And I know she would really have enjoyed being a grandmother -- was even looking forward to it. I know it, even though we never speak of her disappointment, which I think is very kind.

It was hard for me when my 90-something grandmother, who passed away last year, looked deep into my soul with her Irish blue eyes and told me how much she really wanted to see me become a mother, as if she knew a secret to life that I did not yet possess and she did not want me to miss out on this. She never made it to Paris, though in her youth she had a serious offer. Children were the world to her.

I wouldn't call it family pressure, but it was emotionally distressing. Ever felt anything like that?

My next article will be on O.P.C.

January 15, 2006

Ugly Family Cars, Being H.S.P. & Teenagers

Here are some things I don't like or want in my life. It doesn’t mean they are not for every one, it means they’re not for me! I just don’t fancy them, just like I don’t fancy becoming a nurse or a lawyer for example. It doesn’t mean I think no one should work in these wonderful and very important occupations! It just means I don’t fancy it for myself and it would not be a good lifestyle choice for me! It doesn’t mean I think it would not be a good lifestyle choice for someone else. There are many people who become lawyers or nurses and absolutely love it. There are also many people who become parents and absolutely love it. And there are also people who choose not to become parents because it would not be right for them and they absolutely love not being a parent (like me)!

Right, so now, without further ado, here are some things I don't fancy or don't want in my life!

First of all is them big “family cars” No offence to anyone who drives them but personally, I think some of them are really ugly! I’d rather drive something a lot smaller! Or even better, something really sporty, like a Lotus Esprit or a Porsche! Maybe one day! The little cars are very easy to park and I live in a city which has some quite narrow streets and limited parking in some areas. I’m not currently driving anything but if I do again in the future, it’ll be small, sporty or both!

I see a woman on the bus most days who has four daughters. They are quite cute and they are quiet on the bus, but every single day she has to try and find seats on the bus for five! I only have to find a seat for one. Some times people will give up a seat or two (and yes, sometimes me!) but many days, most or all of the girls have to stand. Whereas, it’s a rare day I don’t get a seat!

Furthermore, I like to be a bit “in my own little world” in the morning. Alone with my thoughts, or enjoying songs I love on my MP3 player. I don’t really like conversations before about 8am! That’s the earliest I get to work – unless there’s something major I have to do – and when I have to start chatting. So before then, it’s nice to be “alone” with my thoughts, even though I have people around me, I don’t have to interact with any of them. It’s highly likely that if I had kids I’d be having to chat with them on the way to school and well, when I got on and off the bus, I’d have to make sure they all got on/off safely, not just think about me.

Again, don’t get me wrong, I value children, I work with children. I love them, I appreciate them, I have fun with them, learn from them and daily they amaze me with the things they say! But I love giving them back at the end of the day and going home to my much quieter flat. I also love going home and not being the “responsible” one anymore. All day at work I have to be responsible and think about others’ needs and wants and put myself last. It’s nice to go home and it’s just hubby and me and the person who shares this flat I have to think about. I can relax (well, aside from the studies and working out!) hubby and I have our chats.

Another thing I want to add, cos people seem to say it so rarely, is I’m not really fussed on the idea of having teenagers.

That’s right, having teenagers. When people say “I want a baby” well, it’s not just a BABY you’d be getting. It’s also a child, teenager and adult! So you need to be pretty happy with all those stages of life.
I’m not comfortable with teenagers. Let me elaborate a bit. I know, when I say I don’t want teenagers, the first thing many people will think is, that I wasn’t comfortable being a teenager. Well, yes, I did feel pretty disempowered at times, and I certainly had my share of teenage angst but in some ways, being a teen was a magical time for me. In my mid-teens, I made some of the biggest decisions in my life. Including that I wanted to work with children and that I didn’t want to have any of my own. But it’s not my teenage years I was uncomfortable with. It was my brother’s.

He went through a really bad stage. Sometimes he would swear at my mother or throw her things against the wall and break them. And I’m sure her heart was also breaking at those times. I know mine was. I’m sure she never expected her son to treat her like that. But I knew that going through things like that was something I just didn’t want to handle.

I’m more sensitive than my mum. I don’t mean that she’s really cold – she’s lovely – or that I’m a real wimp, sometimes I can be really strong. But I am...
more sensitive than average, more sensitive to light, to heat, to noise outside my control and to my own and others’ emotions. (e.g.: I can often “read” people pretty well.) And I also need more time to unwind than average. There are a whole lot of people like me out there, about 20% of the population, apparently. They’re known as Highly Sensitive People or H.S.P.s and I’m one of them.
Some of them have kids and make great parents. A lot of them choose to be child-free. And a lot of people who aren't HSP choose to be child-free too. And a lot of people don't. And that’s all perfectly OK cos. there’s no one right path for everyone.

Back to teenagers. Some of them are amazing people in so many ways. So intelligent, so kind, so creative etc. But some of them, I’m sorry to say, act in ways I really dislike. I have seen teens spit on the ground on public pavements, litter, fight, swear continuously very loudly at the top of their voices and my friend saw one try to stab someone! Yes, some of them are very respectful, quiet, smart and so on but…..

It’s all very well to say it depends on how they were raised. Sometimes, maybe usually, yes it does. Some people make terrible parents and have terrible teens. (Or, should I say teens who do terrible things.) Or they make great parents and have great teenagers and I've met some of those too! But, you know what? My parents used to say that. That it’s all in the way the kids/teens were raised. And I believe they raised us the best they knew how and many, I’m sure, would say my parents were wonderful, textbook parents. And then my brother developed a drug and alcohol habit that marred several years of his life. At one stage he even tried to kill himself and we were right there.

My brother has turned his life around a lot but he was the last nail in the proverbial coffin of parenthood for me. If there’s even the slightest chance of me giving birth to someone who puts me through all that then I don't want to have babies/kids/teenagers.

January 11, 2006

Book Review: Families of Two

This is the title of a book by Laura Carroll with photos by Krista Bartz. It very simply presents the lives of 15 couples who are happily married and without children -- by choice. The same dozen or so questions were asked of each couple. The paths leading them to the same lifestyle choice are diverse, but the adjectives they use to describe their coupledom echo throughout the book. Here is a link to the author's related page: Families of Two.
(Photo above by Teri Tith)
Do Purple WomenTM experience greater relationship satisfaction than couples whose lives are focused on children? If both partners are cheerfully childfree, I would guess -- yes.

January 08, 2006

Made a list, checked it twice...

I have been thinking a lot about being child-free and is it really for me. I basically decided at the tender age of 16 that I never wanted to be married or have kids. I changed my mind about getting married and have been happily married for about 2 years and 8 months now but haven't changed my mind about being child-free! However, on the odd occasion I've had second thoughts but this has been the exception rather than the rule. On Friday I had some of those second thoughts!

You see, I work with children and I really adore the children I am currently working with. They are adorable, cute, sweet, smart, funny and I'm really proud of them. And on Friday night I was feeling a bit clucky, thinking, well, I'm in my 30s, am I really SURE I want to stay child-free and not have one of my own in the future?

I've done a LOT of soul searching about being child-free, especially lately. What I did on Friday night was write down some of the things I have done as a child-free woman and some things I'd like to do in the future. After I'd done that. I decided I was so happy with my child-free life, I've definately made the right choice.....
For ME. The right choice for ME. It doesn't mean I hate kids, I love them! It doesn't mean I don't respect women or men who choose to become a parent - far from it! And I DO see it as a beautiful, wonderful life-choice. But that's exactly it - being a parent is a choice. Some people seem to think it's inevitable. But it doesn't have to be! It's an option. While it's an option that is wonderful for some and terrible for others, it's an option I choose not to take.

Anyway, I'd like to share my list with you, of some of the things I want to do and have done. It might inspire you, whether you choose/have chosen to be child-free or not:

I've got a degree, diploma, travelled to Hawaii, Australia, Las Vegas, Belgium, London, Avebury, Warwick Castle, Stratford Upon Avon, Cotswolds, Spain (Madrid, Toledo, Seville, Granada, Gibraltar) Edinburgh in Scotland, Singapore, Paris, Venice, also Murano, Burano, Torcellino, Egypt (2x) Finland, Austria (Vienna and the Lake district) Prague and Wales (Cardiff and Pembrokeshire.)

Also, have a lovely marriage, lots of sleeping in and free time! (Well, sleeping in on weekends, anyway!) Am currently working on my career – full time work plus studies and working out a
bit – losing weight!

Working on my spiritual development plus met some positive people. I've had lots of alone time when I wanted it, DVDs galore to enjoy, internet, games online which I can play undisturbed. I have a lot more free time and money than I would if I had children. Here are some things I hope to do in the future with my child-free life and time:

Learn the saxophone
Learn the drums

Travel EVERYWHERE on my list:
Salzburg, Bahamas, Caribbean – esp. Pink Sand Beach e.g. Harbour Bay, Denmark, Dubai, Egypt (Luxor etc.) Provence, Greece, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy (Rome, Florence, Capri) Japan, Jamaica, Jordan, Mauritius, Madeira, Russia, Spain (Barcelona) Scotland (Orkney, Skye,) England (York, Bath, Cornwall, Wookey Hole) Turkey, USA (Dallas/Fort Worth, Florida (Orlando) Grand Canyon, New York, Virginia, Hawaii, Seychelles, Zanzibar African safari, Cruise, go on an archaeology dig, learn origami in Japan and of course explore Japan!
Go on an Abraham Hicks Cruise, Date with Destiny

Become fluent and literate in Arabic and French.
I could get a Masters degree (although that sounds like too much hard work!)
New career
Have a cat
Have Horses
Perhaps live on a farm (when we are much older)

Early retirement (do you know how much money kids can cost? I've seen such research - the answers would SHOCK you!)

All night dancing
Regular dates with hubby
Buy a boat
Get published
Invest in property
Help my husband with his career
Have my best body (figure) ever
Work part time
Lots more options…

I don't think I will exactly have a boring, unfufilled life!

January 07, 2006

Child Substitutes

Got pets? Some childfree sterotypes involve the idea of filling in for something that is lacking (kids). I may have my thinking wrong on this, so please feel free to correct me. I am married with two cats, and you? I wonder how many Purple WomenTM have pets they adore and dote on? This is my Vladimir. He and I were a package deal when I met my future husband, Tom. Thank goodness he was not allergic!

January 04, 2006

The Question

Are you Childfree?
Of course, that’s not what people really ask when they are trying to get to know you. They ask, “Do you have kids?” As a middle-aged, married woman I get it all the time. How you answer can either lead to immediate bonding over the trials of the “I’m a Parent Too” club or any number of awkward, borderline rude comments, including completely uninvited queries into your very personal affairs. How can people on both sides of this conversation help each other?

A friend of mine, herself a grandmother, confided that she always feels immediately awkward when someone of obvious child-bearing age answers that “no” they do not have kids.
Where to go with the conversation from here? I don’t know how she handles it when it happens, but I’d bet money that she’ll keep on asking The Question. Her chances of getting to do parent bonding are in her favor, and I know how much she values reaching out to other human beings. Most of us would like to know how to do it better, judging from the number of books that have been published on the subject.

Okay, I’ll admit that I just turned 40 this past year. I’ve been married seven years and I just moved to a new town and recently started a new job. All this to say that I have had this question posed to me a lot in recent months. Being in new social circles gives people plenty of reason to ask questions in an attempt to get to know you. It has not always gone well, despite my best efforts. Usually I feel like a doe caught in the headlights, and I end up I am making up excuses for not having kids, explaining too much. And yes, it is possible to give too much information! So, when my co-worker asked about offspring, I tried a new tack and was reasonably pleased with the results, if not the reply. I could tell from the unframed art affixed to her office wall that she had kids, so...
I knew the question was coming, and I replied with a smile and simply said “No and none are planned, unless you count my two cats.” She immediately launched into a conversation about her kids anyway,...
but did manage to mention that we have two cats also. Instead of closing the conversation like a circle with a finite “yes” or a “no”, I gave her something on the end to reach out to. She almost missed it.

Towards the end of summer, my husband and I were invited to a backyard barbeque gathering. We were so pleased to get out and meet some locals in our newly adopted town. The hostess was a friend of a friend who was visiting with us. Our hostess ran a daycare center out of her home, a lovely person indeed, but we were having a hard time finding what we had in common – other than both being women and living in the same proximal neighborhood. Perhaps the reason for this lies in the fact that much of the evening’s conversations revolved around other people’s children, the O.P.C. dilemma. At one point in the evening, another party guest, formerly employed by our hostess, asked me directly “Any children?” I replied with a “no.” Bad move. She chose to dismiss my closed remark with an arrogant “Oh, not yet!” I was floored by the complete misunderstanding that just occurred and the conversation, mostly one-sided, just rolled right along. I exchanged glances across the patio with my sister-in-law and I think she approved of my silence. It was the kinder, easier thing to do, and I realized I created this situation by leaving her no clue as to my status or interests. By replying with a closed “no” I gave her nothing to hang onto, conversationally.

I discussed the backyard BBQ incident with my husband later and asked if he overhead this briefest bit of conversation and indeed he had. He was incredulous at the comment since this woman had met him already and not noticed his advanced age, which in his opinion is too old to start a family. I guess at the same time I should be grateful for being such a well-preserved 40 and flattered that people would still think I am young enough too.
The miracles of science have extended the possibilities of fertility far beyond the reasonable, for those who can afford it.
As one friend pointed out, I have aged well because of the fact that I have not had kids. Soon the smile lines will deepen and people will just assume I have them, unless I help them to see otherwise.

In fairness, I have also been on the other side of the conversation. We all have. After asking “So, do you have kids?” I almost immediately regret it, as I am leading myself into the O.P.C. trap, a willing victim. It is deceptively easy as an ice-breaker. Too easy though, and as a childfree woman I vow in the future to break myself of this habit. Socializing is an art form and a real skill. Asking a good open-ended question that one can expand upon is lost on most of us from what little I do. If someone has kids, it will be easy to find out in the natural course of conversation, as parents find them impossible not to mention. They’ll tell a story and mention multiple names or use terms like “the family” or make a joke about being a “soccer mom” depending on the time of year. The question itself is really unnecessary. If you get a “no,” and then nothing to hand onto in conversation, I really feel for you. Ask yourself though, do you really want to inquire further and force someone to admit they’ve been trying to have a family for years, spending thousands of dollars and tears in an effort to conceive? Why risk it?

I apologize publicly to my cousin-in-laws who finally adopted a baby from China.
I have no idea what they went through before reaching that decision – and it is none of my business, but since I was also in a position to ponder our family options, I always asked about it whenever I saw them at family gatherings.Now, if I hear someone mention their kids in a conversation, I whole-heartedly embrace asking about them. People love talking about their kids. So, it’s kind to listen and draw them out a little. Just know that they will inquire likewise, and if you are childfree like me, be prepared with a better answer than just “no.” For example try, “No, Frank and I value our art / travels / silence / disposable income.” You may at least get a laugh and you may avoid the O.P.C. trap. Of course this advice is for folks who do not have kids, nor plan to. My most rewarding reply so far has been a response from a parent, exclaiming the virtures of the path not traveled.

My sister-in-law says she so appreciates the childfree adults in a room, because they are the only ones not stressed out from chasing kids around. According to my new doctor, the childfree are less of an aberration these days. It’s much more common that it used to be. Coming from a doctor, it must be true. When he asked me The Question on my first appointment, I thought perhaps it was professional in nature, then he shared that he and his wife are also childfree. He said we used to be “regarded as freaks.” I hope that has changed. We may not be able to control what people think about our choice, but we can help the conversation a little. I can daydream about strangers asking “Are you childfree” in place of “Do you have children,” but I won’t hold my breath. I know we’re outnumbered. Just once though, I would like someone to ask a good follow up question like “what are you doing instead?”