June 26, 2007

Childfree Advocate

Guest Contributor, M, has given me permission to share a recent comment she made in response to an archived post by LauraS titled Am I A Childfree Advocate?:

"I think advocacy is absolutely needed, however none of us are obligated to be advocates simply by virtue of choosing to be childfree. We do not have to speak for or defend the group just because we are a(n unofficial) member.

And I agree that many or most of us are not pushing for a childfree society; only speaking up for the legitimacy of our personal choice to not have children and defending that choice as one that is equally valid as the choice to be a parent.

Some think childfree means wanting no one to have kids, or hating kids, or hating parents, etc. etc. etc. when all it really means is voluntarily choosing to not have children of our own.

I think most of us just want our choice to be respected and not routinely criticized, questioned, or judged (of course, we can't control others' thoughts or speech, about any matter, nor expect others to think as we'd like them to). And, we want to be treated fairly in society (this I think we can and should expect to change or better control), which is partly where the advocacy part comes in.

I, for one, think it's really important to speak up and work toward employee-friendly policies at work and elsewhere, or family-friendly policies that are truly friendly toward all families, including those without children."

Her thoughts ring clear as a bell with me, though I do not know a lot about the specific issue of workplace "policy" equality. Please let us know if you'd like to hear more from her on this topic!

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7 comments:

LauraS said...

M-
I here ya! I have been the victim of people who feel free to push their values, their religion, their opinions on me. Sometimes I find that is very intrusive and judgmental. I don't want to return the favor, so I am relucant to "advocate" my childfree choice. It worked for me but I don't presume it will work for everyone.
I think that our very existance as an "out there" happy childfree couple advocates the idea of intentional childlessness as a choice, as much as intentional parenthood inspires me.

M said...

Laura,

I agree. I am sensitive to not pushing my views on others or assuming I know better than they what is right for them because of having to face that kind of treatment so many times myself. We don't want to turn into exactly what annoys/offends us to begin with.

As for the example we all set, I agree. Showing that here we are, totally happy with our choices and their consequences, talking about it and sharing our lives, is important and demonstrates that there is more than one way to go about life and that many paths lead to happiness and contentment. And one person's path won't necessarily work for another.

The more we hide our feelings and lifestyles the more disservice I think we do to others in our shoes and ourselves, because that will help perpetuate the mistaken belief that without kids our lives are lacking and empty, whether we realize it or not.

Being out there and showing that we are as happy and our lives as full and rich at least as those with kids helps to fight those old stereotypes.

Britgirl said...

I don't "advocate" my childfree choice in that I would never insist that everyone should be childfree.

Which makes it very puzzling that parents do exactly to opposite. While I realize that they are simply echoing society's general feeling towards the childfree, it is annoying that we do not receive the same respect from parents and organisations. Not tolerance. Respect.

I do believe though that this isn't going to change unless childfree people stand up for being childfree. Write to our representatives if - or dare I say when - we feel that we are being discriminated against in favour of parents. Advocating for equal treatment. Workplace "family-friendly" policy is heavily weighted towards parents with children. In fact it isn't weighted - it is all about children. While mothers and fathers can have different types of leave - maternity and paternity - childfree men and women do not get the same benefit nor anything near it.

I think that will have to change as more and more childfree people begin to actively question this, however until we do, it will stay the same and we will lose out.

I don't hesitate to say I am childfree if the occasion necessitates, but sometimes it seems like while we tolerate parents going on an on about their choice to have children, we tend to want to be quiet about our equally valid choice because we don't want to rock the boat or draw attention to ourselves and our choice.

Perhaps because we do not feel supported. I know I am guilty of this sometimes and I'm not the shy retiring type.There are times I simply cannot be bothered.

On one UK childfree blog, one member wrote to her MP to complain about some of these issues as they affected her. That got me thinking.

Will it change things now? Maybe not, but as more and more people doing this it will start getting people's attention.

There are more of us now.

Teri said...

LauraS - As you pointed out once, there are not too many religions that embrace childfree as a legitimate option.

M - You are a most thoughtful and though-provoking blogger! Thanks for speaking up and for this post this week.

BritGirl - I've missed you! Couldn't agree more...

"...it is annoying that we do not receive the same respect from parents and organisations. Not tolerance. Respect."

Everyone - If you would like one of those eye-candy Purple Woman buttons as in the photo, just send me an email.

Bravo Purple Women!

Kate said...

"the mistaken belief that without kids our lives are lacking and empty, whether we realize it or not."

Yep. I don't tell the parents I know that I think they're wrong to have had children. But some of the parents I know feel compelled to try to convince me that their choice is right for me.

Despite being old enough to vote, drink, rent a car, and own a home, I apparently cannot be trusted to make my own decisions regarding my reproductive organs.

LauraS said...

Great comments all!
It's true the workplace favors parents over singles and the childless/childfree. Should "family leave" policies include care for partners and elder care. Absolutely!
Should there be a personal time allowance for everyone--whether employees use it for a vet visit or a kid's soccer tournament is up to them. Employers should not dictate how that time is used, or who is worthy.
Would I advocate for that? You bet!

M said...

Please excuse my using one comment space to resond to a few people.

BritGirl--

I too find that sometimes for various reasons I've held back about my own views to some degree when talking to the childed. Less so now than in the past, but still . . . And I totally agree that for any change to happen in any area, awareness is needed, and some outspokenness is needed.

Change does not usually occur without people strongly pushing for it and often fighting for it. And the first step in that process is raising awareness and unifying as a group. Without a proactive effort, from individuals and organized groups, society will always remain at the status quo.

Teri--
Thanks for your compliment. I really appreciate this site a lot. I wish I could come up with more to post here. But I am working on it.

To All Commenters--
Thanks all for your thoughts. It's always so refreshing when one's one's views and experiences are echoed by others and it is reinforced that we are not alone, even when it might seem that way.

As childfree people, we don't always get that validation and confirmation in our everyday life
like parents do, so it is even more important to connect online, go to childfree meetups, and the like, in my opinion. Both to strengthen the "movement" and for our own happiness and contentment.