November 10, 2007

Letter to a Purple Woman

From time to time, I hear from a Purple Woman. I have been encouraging women to connect with me by sharing my email, with promise of a PW button mailed in return. One reader inspired this reply:

Dear Susan,
Thanks for writing to me. I really enjoy hearing from a reader directly. It motivates me. You are lucky to have found a Purple Man, of course, I assume. He could have children from a previous marriage. You mention that your retort to those who ask The Question (Do You Have Children?) is an innocent, "I was blessed with infertility!" That is a very safe response, and can engender pity. I too discovered myself unable to have kids in my early 20s. I didn't want to travel that path, but it took me a long time to embrace the happiness that can be found in walking the less traveled childfree path.

When there is not a reason, like a fertility issue that childed others can get their minds around, it is difficult for them to grasp the idea that an adult would choose this life. The mainstream media has focused on these individuals first, but now the coverage is starting to broaden. Their questions are getting better. I was contacted by a grad student reporter who claimed to be doing an article for the New York Times and he wanted to focus on those who we call the early articulators. I tried to tell him there is way more to the story than that. We didn't do the interview.

Such a foreign idea, that one who is able to have kids and does not wish to do so, can make a person of strong faith, regardless of denomination, defensive of their scripture. Not everyone has the same grasp on religion; interpretations can vary. There are childfree church-goers, to use a convenient Christian term. We have had two bloggers associated with our blog who have covered this religious aspect of our existence. In fact, Shelley, our Regular Contributor, leads a bible group for childfree couples at her congregation.

The misunderstanding is not just founded in religious belief. The concept that an adult can and would choose to take a step away from "what we were put here to do," as one relative put it to me, goes against their personal belief in the rightness of their actions, and reveals that they believe their "truth" applies to all others.

I did not mean to write so much. But, in truth, there is so much to talk about. That's why I started this blog two years ago!

Be well,
P.S. I really only meant to say, yes, we still have more Purple Woman! buttons and I am mailing yours today.

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Anonymous said...

As childfree Christians, my husband and I have been reprimanded by mainly people our own age about our "duties" and our lack of living a "life of consequence as Christians" because we haven't had or adopted children.

It saddens me that people don't understand our reasons (or hear one and assume that's the entirety of the truth of our reasoning, when it's really only just the beginning of the whys we have)--or don't attempt to understand. We have both prayed about this, and it just feels right to both of us.

(This is anonymous because the above info is pretty identifying to certain people, if they should happen upon it.)

LauraS said...

Anonymous--I hear you. When I did a survey of the childless by choice in North American, I identified 18 + motives for remaining childfree. When people ask me why I decided to remain childfree, I am often tempted to say, "How much time do you have?"

Our rationales are complex, yet people want to put us in a box and just call us selfish, or ungodly, or child-haters.

Yet, there is a discernment process which most people who make this choice embark on. It's not something we take lightly, or without self-reflection, or, as you pointed out, without praying on it.

Some people don't want to understand because doing so might mean they would have to let go of some major assumptions about parenthood.

shsimko said...

On the other side of the coin, I can't tell you how many people I know who do have children but really, truly, shouldn't. (My sister and my sister-in-law are two of them.)

I think it takes a much stronger person to look deep inside themselves and decide that this isn't for them. It's really easy (for those that don't have physical problems) to go along with what everyone else thinks is right for you since society always persecutes those that don't march to the music of the masses.