by Sharon Mollerus, Guest Contributor
Blog Author, Educator, Parent & Grandparent
Teri has graciously invited me to offer a guest post to this childfree blog, and I am honored to be the first parent to write here. Our "meeting" was by chance. She chose to include a photograph of mine to illustrate companionship, a lovely scene of an older couple that I caught as I was walking by. After learning of the context of this site, I gave my snitty reaction to the word "childfree" on the post titled Childfree Senior.
The term "childfree" is more deliberate, I think, than the word "childless". A couple we are very close to is childless, by circumstance rather than choice. I have often felt pained when in my friend's presence someone asked a pointed question about her family status. People can be particularly rude about personal issues of parenting, whether asking invasive questions about a pregnancy, offering some condescending advice on childcare or commenting on how many children one has. Couples without children are also often subjected to some judgment about their ability to parent.
Women in particular are tired of being valued for a role rather than for themselves. The word "childless" emphasizes the lack, as if having children were necessary to complete a person. However, the word "childfree" to my ears is a pejorative of a different kind. It reduces children to the category of burden. For a parent (even on our worst days), the idea that a kid is no more than some category of trouble is the flip side to the insult that women can be valued only as breeders. I don't have an alternative to offer for this term designating family "status" (even that word "status" is a problem) which would offer full respect to both women and children.
I have been married 25+ years and have had three children and two grandchildren. My first daughter Claire was premature and died after fifty days. Our second daughter is adopted. In answer to prayer, an unforeseen opportunity arose, and we said yes on very short notice. Our third daughter was born to us a year later just after my husband started medical school. I would never answer those questions and assumptions about which were "planned" and why we had "stopped at two". Each person’s life is too mysterious for such calculations.
As a writer, I love schedules. I have times for teaching, housework, prayer; then I guard those blocks for solitary writing. There are quiet evenings with my husband (we are just now empty-nesters) and noisy ones with friends.
Still, I find that the real stuff happens in the margins and spills out of bounds. I would have nothing to write about if it were only what I had planned for my life. From hard experience I have learned that easy relationships are not always the most valuable. Naturally we pad our lives with comforts and bar the door against misfortune, but we can also risk to miss the best part. I like to leave something to chance.
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