September 29, 2007

Family Reunion

It felt good to openly discuss my status as a Purple Woman at a family gathering today. In the same conversation, I mentioned that most of Tom's family probably assumes that my influence or malfunction was the reason for us not raising children. I don't think they really know that he has always been more sure about being childfree than me. I really caught his mother by surprise once when I asked her, "Why do you think Tom didn't want to have kids?"

We attended a family reunion on my husband's side of our family today. My mother-in-law passed away last year, so she was represented in her progeny and in story only. It was a glorious sunny day on Angel Island, not a wisp of fog that had plagued the previous day. We all felt so lucky to have this perfect day together on the San Francisco Bay. All my husband's cousins and siblings, minus a few key spouses and nieces and nephews, were there. It was a big crowd as Catholic family reunions tend to be.
To my surprise, it was our openly gay cousin who asked me "The Question" at the reunion:

"So when are you and Tom having kids?"
I know what Tom's reaction would have been, had he been within earshot. He, at age 49, feels he is well past the point of embarking on such an enterprise. I know this cousin and his partner pretty well, so I simply said,
"Why would I want to do that?!"
We shared a good laugh and he said, "Yeah, me too!" He admitted to being perfectly happy that others in his family are procreating. Without my prompting, he acknowledged that for women, child rearing and bearing, is an integral identity issue that does not exist for men.

I loved hearing one of my favorite terms of endearment being called out all day "Aunt Teri this", "Aunt Teri that". I love being "Aunt Teri". It is my privilege to be a connected to the next generation, to support their parents by being present at holidays and gatherings. To think of them on their birthdays. To be the person they can ask "fill-in-the-blank" as they get older and the world gets more complicated. Aunt Teri and Uncle Tom show them by example that they have choices ahead of them, and that there are all sorts of lifestyles within one big happy family.

Photo of the last family reunion Teri's mother-in-law attended. She is in the center front.
Technorati Tag:

September 28, 2007

The Next Generation

I recently attended my nephew’s wedding, in Paris. It was a wonderful celebration. The eldest son of three boys, born in Scotland but now living in London, marries an English girl living in Paris. For three years they had nurtured a relationship, connecting by cell-phone, email, and weekend trips under and over the English Channel. We called it the Eurostar romance, named after the train that carried my nephew though the "chunnel," the train tunnel that ferries passengers under the channel between England and France.

Close to a year ago, my nephew called me with the news. He would marry, finally, just before his 34th birthday. I was thrilled, of course. I had met his girlfriend at his younger brother’s wedding and I thought they made a great pair. He also gave me some other news. He told me that they would likely continue to keep separate residences as neither could figure out a way to transfer their jobs, and he also told me that they didn’t plan on having kids.

I realized he divulged this last bit of information because he knew his uncle and aunt had made the same choice. I had never considered that I might be a kind of "role model" for the next generation. I wasn’t in the habit of announcing my childfree status to relatives; most of them had figured it out on their own. But I did wonder: Did we somehow influence their decision making?

I didn’t think so. At most, we were the odd couple who lived a childfree life in America and seemed happy. They had come to the decision on their own, during the intimate conversations couples have when they imagine a life together and what that would look and feel like.

I was right. A week before the wedding, as I getting ready to pack, my nephew called me from London, wanting to know when would arrive in Paris. We talked about the schedule, what people would wear (kilts or suits?) and which relatives would be there. He told me that he had suggested that his friends leave the kids at home, that the wedding reception was intended to be "sans enfants."

So I was surprised to see a small child at the reception. It was the child of one of his best friends, a cute blond toddler in an oversized kilt, who was seated at the end of our table. All went well until the child started fussing loudly while the bride’s father was making a speech.

My focus was on the head table. The father continued with his speech, but the bride was clearly not amused at the interruption, or the noise. Fixing her eyes on the little boy, her expression looked like something between migraine and exorcism.

It was the face of someone who might be inclined to choose, for herself, a life "sans enfants." I must admit, at that moment, I felt both relief and empathy.

Flickr photo by austinevan (cc)
Technorati Tag:

September 24, 2007

Happy Purple Monday

Woooooooo -- Hoo!!! It was so awesome, to use a surfer term, to receive this cool comment on the recent blog post titled Top Ten Tips on how to survive the question, "Do you have kids?":

I think that the more comfortable I am with my choice, the less this question bothers me.

People will always make assumptions and ask the same social questions that we all ask. What about them cowboys in last night game or what about the weather.

They are just trying to make a connection and children seem to be the easy glue.

I am a teacher, and most assume that I would have children, and I am asked this on a daily basis by everyone. My answer," No I do not" is my simple and direct reply.

It is nice, no extra tone --- nothing. It stops people dead cold. I smile and the conversation goes another direction.

They are caught off guard-- that I don't have an excuse or a reason, and don't imply any sort of tone. It works great. I think lack of tone keeps them from thinking they can attack, because they never do.

I also get this from kids on a daily basis. I work with teens, and I love them. I love everything about teens, but I am happy at the end of the day not to have one at home.

They ask me, both male and female, "Do you not have kids?" I add more to my normal punch line, [my reply] changes with my mood, but it might go something like this:

'Nope. Love teens, but you guys are enough to handle -- don't want a house-full!'
They laugh and get the point better than most adults. Or I might say, nope I have other interests and I am happy with my choice. Some times if its a girl she might add that she would like not to be a mom, and I encourage her to do what is best for her.

I am a walking, living example to everyone that the choice to not have my own children is just fine. I live a more than active lifem: work, husband, extended family, full time graduate school, and Phd research.
So the next time some asks, maybe just smile...
...and know they really deep inside wish they had the courage to find what they really wanted before they fell in line with the tribal drum beat of "have kids or your life is over."

I say, "Bring it on!" and "Ask me all you want," I have all the answers to make your head spin. I am a Purple Woman you see!"

Teri says: Thank you for this gift oh Anonymous Purple Woman. This is a great way to start our week!

Artwork by Henri Matisse (cc)
Technorati Tag:

September 19, 2007

Wouldn't Change a Thing…

Ask any new parent how their life has changed now that they have a child and you will get an earful. Some changes are perceived as positive, some are perceived as negative, but all parents will admit that life with kids is, at the least, different.

A woman named Vicki emailed me through the Childless by Choice Project website to share her story and pose a question. Like many Purple Women ™, Vicki never felt a longing to have children but assumed that, by her mid-thirties, she would "have a sudden desire to have children."

It didn't happen. Now thirty-five and happily married, Vicki and her husband have decided to remain childfree.

So she wrote: "Here's a question that I want to pose... The statement "having a baby changes EVERYTHING" couldn't be more true... So what if you're completely happy and content with your life and don't want to change a thing?...

Technorati Tag:

My Purple Identity

Some Purple WomenTM are single. Some Purple WomenTM are married. Some will marry a man who already has children from a previous union. Yes, women who are step-parents strongly identify as childfree. That's something I have learned along my purple journey these last two years.

No matter what your marital status, single or married --- (BTW, why do they ask if you've ever been Divorced on these doctor's office forms? It's none of their damn businesses. Please tell them so) -- I say we are Purple.

Am I childless, child-free or childfree? Depends on who you ask. Personally, I choose to define myself. I am Purple, and sometimes that's hard to define.

Technorati Tag:

September 14, 2007

Purple Fridays

Purple WomenTM are discovering this blog all the time. I am excited to announce that our subscription offer just got sweeter. Did you know that you can have the latest posts sent to your email box directly? Yes, it will arrive in your In Box once a week on Fridays. Something to look forward to at the end of the week!

I would also like to encourage you to forward our content to all your childfree friends. There will be a button making it easy to do this in the weekly feed. The formatting will be a little different as Feedblitz has offered publishers like me some new bells and whistles.

If you wish so continue subscribing, please remember to:

  • Add to your address books or email whitelists immediately.
  • Only unsubscribe using the links provide in each Feedblitz email; please do not use your ISP's spam or abuse button.
  • Heads up for a message from FeedBlitz advising you that a change has taken place regarding your Purple Women & Friends subscription.
I have added a chicklet just under the sign up form in the sidebar, so you can watch our community grow. We get a regular readership of approximately 1,000 unique visitors per week. As you can see, not everyone takes advantage of the free subscription feature!

In addition to being a Purple Woman, I am also known in my family as Miss BloggyPants. So this may be more exciting news for me as the owner and a Contributing Editor of this blog!

Technorati Tag:

September 13, 2007

Do Your Breast

A certain body part has come under particular scrutiny Purple WomenTM. You know the ones, they come in pairs are considered by many to be "weapons of mass destruction," they are associated with erotica, and most recently deemed objectionable by Facebook when a mother posted a photo of this body part exposed while nursing her baby. Frankly, I am more offended by swearing in public.

Women are so villified, and not just by Islam. I blog about this today because there is a Purple Woman out there doing something about it. Her name is Sue Richards. She is the Breast Health Empress -- breast health, not breast cancer. Breast health includes having healthy attitudes towards our breasts and our bodies, and how to care for them -- before a diagnosis. Let's call it preventative.

Denise, over at BlogHer is an official Breast Ambassador
(you can become one too) and she posted about this topic recently. I also met Sue at BlogHer. In fact, she was the first person I met. We were sitting out by the pool because we both had registered so late we could not get in to the first day. Each of us had flown all the way from Ontario, Canada to be at BlogHer '06. We marveled at how far we had to come to meet each other when we lived, at the time, in the same province.

I later went to interview her at her home in Guelph, right before we moved back to California. I will feature her in a new series of posts called Profiles of Purple Women.
With her permission, I will publish her story on this blog. Stay tuned for the upcoming story. She is a self-described Social Entrepreneur and a heroine of mine.

Technorati Tag:

September 08, 2007

Top Ten Tips

How to Survive The Question: "Do You Have Children?"

1. At all costs, resist answering, “No, do you?” You will regret it immediately if you and this person are total strangers.

2. If applicable, turn to your spouse and say, “Honey, this one’s for you.”

3. Roll your eyes and say, “I’ll take History for $200”.

4. Get a wistful look in your eye, pause, then tilt your head in a thoughtful way and say,

“Just once, I wish someone would ask me if I am childfree.”
Be on your toes, and be mentally and emotionally prepared for whatever comes next.

5. Instead of replying, ask them a question: Any question, such as, “how do you know the host”, or “what got you involved in __________”. This will subtly communicate what you shouldn’t have to say: “I am not comfortable with your personal question”.

6. Answer honestly, and give them a “handle” to grab onto conversationally. The handle would be what you do spend your time doing since you don’t have kids.

7. Just start laughing and say, “Why would I want to do that?” Don’t be surprised if they agree with you, they may have teenagers.

8. Raise your eyebrows and make your eyes really big and say, “U-oh, gotta run…” Walk quickly the other direction. This is a not-so-subtle way of communicating that you don’t appreciate their personal question. Works like a charm on relatives who ask, “So, when are you and ______ going to start a family?” too.

9. If someone ever does ask you if you are childfree, they have taken the time in conversation to get to know you first, and made an accurate assumption. Immediately embrace the Purple Man or Woman!

10. If you’re really caught off guard and cannot for the life of you remember items 1 though 8, fake an allergic reaction to “fill-in-the-blank” and begin a mock sneezing fit. Walk quickly toward the bathroom. Re-group and come out swinging – socially speaking of course!

Flickr photo by by ores2k (cc)

Technorati Tag:

Purple Man at Lunch

I grossed myself out this week and opted for a "quick" hot dog at Costco for lunch. I only had a half hour allotted and it was the closest solution. It didn't end up being quick at all as this lunch venue is so popular, I spent almost 10 minutes just standing in line to spend $1.50 on the dog.

What took even longer was the interesting man, let's call him Steve, that sat down next to me. He just didn't belong. I thought he looked a little bookish and out of place, bespectacled and all. Trim physique. Plus, he had come prepared with a hard cover book and a New Yorker.
As it turns out he was a Purple Man.

After clearing him for landing in the bench zone next to me, my first question to him was, "Are you a writer and are you from New York?" In my experience those from the East really give it up to the Big Apple and consider it the center of culture in the U.S. I think they should all be required to visit Venice Beach, California in order to reconsider their position.

He was a scientist and from the East Coast indeed. He was there getting a flat tire fixed. It was a jaunty conversation, well worth the trip to Costco, and not at all what I was expecting. I wanted to know his whole story, but men don't need or want to articulate about being childfree like we women-folk do. He readily agreed we get all the pressure and men simply fly below the radar. I gave him my Purple WomenTM business card and sincerely hope that he writes us a Guest Post sometime -- or at least leaves us a comment!

Purple Men are out there. Sometimes I wish they would speak out more and help alleviate the double-standard that seems to exist. Their silence is not supportive of the women they love.

Photo by roboppy (cc)

Technorati Tag:

Need Book Reviewed

Are there any Purple WomenTM out there who have read this book and can review it for us?

Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution
by Ardrienne Rich

"In order for all women to have real choices all along the line," Ardrienne Rich writes, "we need fully to understand the power and powerlessness embodied in motherhood in patriarchal culture."

Technorati Tag:

September 02, 2007

Grateful for a Flame-Free Blog

I was reading a guest post titled Childless at Work published in the On Balance work-life blog of The Washington Post. It was written earlier this year by a childless woman who felt she was discriminated against when she was told by her future employer that she would be allowed to telecommute a couple days a week, only to find out later that only women who were mothers had that "luxury."

Her situation is not unusual. Many such stories have been posted here and on other childfree sites. What was unusual was the nature of the comments posted in response to this guest blog. Almost all of the comments where dismissive, unsympathetic, or blatantly cruel.

Some might think that flaming and blogs go hand-in-hand, but I beg to differ. I think you can encourage dialogue and debate, and allow people to express their diverse views, in a flame-free environment.

Proof that it is possible can be found here.

Technorati Tag:

September 01, 2007

Does a Christian Have a Choice?

by Shelley
Regular Contributor to Purple WomenTM

It’s supposed to be every little girl’s greatest hope: to grow up, marry her Prince Charming, buy a nice house in the suburbs, and finally find ultimate fulfillment by becoming a mother. Ah, the American Dream.

And apparently, it’s supposed to be the Christian Dream too – just ask Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and prominent Right-Wing Evangelical commentator. In his popular article on what he calls “deliberate childlessness,” he asserts that,

“The church should insist that the biblical formula calls for adulthood to mean marriage and marriage to mean children.”
Okay…but when it comes to adopting a “biblical formula,” I think it’s wise to actually refer to the Bible and see what the Scriptures have to say.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 7, Paul advises the Church on marriage. He discusses two options – getting married or remaining single. The Bible doesn’t directly address the issue of being married and childfree, because at the time the Scriptures were written, no one could have dreamed it would be possible. After all, reliable birth control didn’t exist. To be married was to have sex, and to have sex was to have children. So when Paul speaks of marriage in verses 25-28, we can assume he is also speaking of parenthood:

“Now I write about people who are not married [don’t have children]…The present time is a time of trouble, so I think it is good for you to stay the way you are…But if you decide to marry [and have children], you have not sinned…But those who marry [and have children] will have trouble in this life, and I want you to be free from trouble.” Hmmm….

Marriage is not the only option, and the ability to remain single is actually a gift from God. And children aren’t a requirement either, since when Paul advises not to marry, he is inherently advising not to have children.

So where would Paul stand on being married and childfree? I would never dare to put words in his mouth or assert my opinion as Biblical Truth. But personally, I know that God uses my husband to help me grow, and that I’m a better person because of him. And I also know that the ministry God has given us as a couple would not exist if we had children, because they would become our priority. We could not invest in others at the level we do today.
Based on Corinthians 7, I think Dr. Mohler’s statement is a bit of a stretch.
I’m certainly no theologian, but I think that when the Bible is vague on an issue, it’s probably best to let God decide how to work it out in individual lives and not assume the responsibility for yourself.

According to Dr. Mohler, the Apostle Paul, who was personally visited by God, was responsible for bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles, and wrote the majority of the New Testament, was "morally rebellious and did not fulfill the responsibilities of adulthood". So who do I believe – Paul or Mohler…Paul or Mohler…?

Technorati Tag: