March 29, 2007

Nice to Meet You

Purple WomenTM new to this site and returning readers will enjoy discovering the buried treasures among our older posts. The categorization of all our older posts is nearing completion, so you can now search by topic of interest, or by author. We have had more than a dozen writers who have made their contributions here, both as Regular and Guest Contributors. We welcome your submissions by email. You never know where the next great post will come from!

In the meantime, I just wanted to say a great big...

W E is for Bubbles L C o M is for Marsden exhibition cabinet e all the new readers of this blog. You just can't buy publicity like we got recently in the San Francisco Chronicle article. Also, many thanks for leaving your thoughtful comments when you visit. I hope the changes to the sidebar have made us a bit more user-friendly.

It is so important for childfree adults to connect, online and in person. What is also true is that we may or may not have tons in common
when we come together, except that we are living unscripted lives. In the last couple of months I have really enjoyed writing for the new ezine by the same title -- Unscripted: the Childfree Life. The editors recently added the blog-type feature that allows readers to leave comments on a particular article. The topic for my next article is inspired by reader feedback.

As we approach our 30s and 40s a feeling of "disconnect" may creep up on you as those who have filled your life previously take the path of parenthood. You can do something about this.
The Internet is changing the way people find each other. I know more than one person who met their spouse online first. The Internet has evolved into a social networking tool that generations before us never had. It's not just online dating services any more. The new generation and those who wish to embrace it are living more online that ever before, with networking via picture sharing services and personal web pages such as MySpace and personal blogs. Organizations like No Kidding!, the international social club (90 chapters around the world) rely on the free Internet like YahooGroups to administer volunteer-run chapters and put on an annual convention each year. Hope to see you at the upcoming one in Las Vegas.

LauraS and I are proposing to the organizers of this year's Childfree Convention a joint presentation of our collective data from the independent childfree studies we completed last year. LauraS is currently fundraising for her Childfree Project, which will be debuted to a much larger audience as a documentary. If you appreciate her efforts, please visit her website and make a donation. If you donate $50.00US, you will receive a custom dog tag as a thank you gift, and you can watch a sneak preview video clip. How cool is that?

These endeavors deserve our support.

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March 27, 2007

Maybe a Baby

As part of the documentary component of The Childless by Choice Project, I have been following up with two undecided couples, one in Canada and one in the U.S.

The Canadian couple has decided to have a child and are expecting this summer. As an "early articulator" who, at 15 years old, had decided to remain childfree, I always hated when people suggested that I might change my mind. So did she, but later she acknowledged that she was changing her mind. She wanted to have a child.

What I absolutely love about this couple is their decision-making process. It was so intentional. Not only did they constantly check in with each other about how they were feeling about the prospect of a child, they spoke to others, and they went back and forth over the pros and cons of parenthood. They are going into parenthood with their eyes wide open.

As the husband said during one of our interviews, "If we have a kid, everything will change." He wasn’t sure he wanted everything to change. Much about their childfree life was very good. But after and long and arduous period of indecision, they choose to have a child together. Just one.

I hold them up as a model of intentional parenting. Their baby is a very lucky soul.

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March 23, 2007

Baby Fever

Guest Post by M
San Francisco Bay Area
Blog: M's Blog, Bay Area Love Letters
Babies, babies, babies. Five year plan for motherhood: engaged by (fill in desired age), married by (age), pregnant by (age ), first child by (age). Must stick to plan, must find suitable sperm donor, also known in some circles as "father," to cooperate with plan. Sperm donor must make enough money to allow mother to quit working outside the home and to engage in most important job an individual can do (forget brain surgeon, firefighter, teacher, and the like. Please. Raising one child is much more important), sometimes referred to as "working inside the home," and also commonly known as "SAHM" (stay-at-home-mom).

Lately, it seems everything I read, see, and hear is about babies. As a woman of prime baby producing age, I am very much out of the loop when it comes to the baby obsession sweeping my age group.

What to do? You can't escape it. The baby mania is everywhere. My eyes glaze over as I read the latest blog post about a mother's love for her child, part 20,000, by the latest blogger to turn mommy in my blog reading repertoire. The writing quality has gone down, while the ick factor has escalated, sharply. Time to cross another one off my list.

There isn't much new to say in the I love my child more than anything and it's the greatest experience on earth to be a mom realm, and the frighteningly undistinguishable blog comments, which I could crank out in my sleep after having read so many of the same ones over and over, praising the precious infant and adoring the loving mother ("This is the most beautiful post ever. A mother's love for her child is just so . . . so . . . precious. I am crying now as I write this. It is all just so . . . so . . . moving."), are just so . . . so . . . so . . . predictable and sickeningly syrupy sweet that they nearly put me into a diabetic coma.

Did everyone receive some sort of baby drug that drives them to praise everything baby (even poop is cute if it belongs to a baby!) and shed tears at the slightest mention of a child's existence? And why didn't I get a dose then (not that I want one, mind you)?

Well, not to worry, I could easily carry on a parenting conversation with the baby obsessed if I so choose. Just insert the following words into a paragraph or verbal exchange: "Precious, most amazing experience ever, changed my life, nipple, motherhood, little man, nothing like it, he/she's perfect, from the moment I saw her/him, priorities, most important job, baby, baby, baby."

M's Note: This is meant to be a humorous depiction of what occurs when you read too many posts about baby poop. Please don't read into this what isn't there. I support well-behaved parents and non-parents alike, just so long as they aren't dull, cheesy, and monotonous (just kidding--sort of!).

[Flickr photo by MichelleBlack]

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March 20, 2007


Okay, that's not really a word, but we are making up our own lexicon here, right? Just wanted to let all Purple WomenTM and our friends know that this site is undergoing a bit of construction.

You will note some changes in the sidebar. I have modified the Ground Rules to encourage leaving a comments (gifts). Also added more specific instructions on "how to" leave a comment, as it has become apparent to me over time that it is not obvious at all within the form. The most important thing we are doing here is starting a dialogue -- not a photo contest. (I can always find amazing purple photos to illustrate posts on Flickr!)

At the same time, I've made the big leap to the new Blogger
version with this blog, after testing it for months on my other blogs. The most important new feature is the ability to search by topic of interest with the addition of "labels", which we've been applying to posts for a couple of months now. Our blog, with more than 300 posts, has been otherwise difficult to navigate.

Now I am going through our archives to properly label all the older posts, so y
ou will not read a lot by me over the next couple of weeks. Please know I will be slaving behind the scenes!

In the meantime, enjoy a string of Guest Posts. If you are interested in writing one for us, please send me an
email with your story idea. It is always a real charge to "hear" a new childfree voice. It reflects the diversity within our ranks, and perhaps some common ground as well.

The objective of these changes is to make it easier for visitors to this purple, childfree space to enjoy the great posts that we have put up in the last year and a half. They will be able to go directly to the topic that interests them the most, in addition to reading the latest. And, hey, they may even leave us a thoughtful comment.

uploaded to Flickr on February 23, 2007 by MichelleBlack]

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March 19, 2007

Mean People Suck, and Some Post

I read with interest the comments posted on in response to the San Francisco Chronicle article. A few people posted "who cares if these people don’t want kids?" comments, or supported the choice to remain childfree. But most posted mean-spirited comments critical of the choice or directed at Valerie and her cat.

Obviously something about this article prompted them post a comment. However, I suspect it has more to do with them than the childfree.

Scratch each comment and you’ll find an underlying emotion: fear, anger, or just plain delight at the opportunity to cough up some bitter bile that’s been accumulating in their system. To me, they sounded like a bunch of Ann Coulter wanna-bees.

Apparently, in some Republican circles, mean is cool.

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March 15, 2007

Travel and Social Responsibility

Guest Post by Jeremy Jacobs
Professional Presenter and Speaker & Childfree Brit
Blogs: From Margate to the Maasai, Corporate Presenter

Just a few days ago, a close friend of mine said “Jeremy, you've had a bit of a spiritual experience haven't you"?

She was, of course, referring to my recent charity trek, on behalf of Breast Cancer Campaign, to the Foothills of the Maasia in Northern Tanzania. I don't know whether or not it was a spiritual experience – and in any case, the meaning of the term "spiritual" varies depending on whom you are speaking to. But I will state this; the thrill of walking 70 miles in temperatures approaching 90 degrees F over six days and on difficult terrain was certainly an achievement to be proud of. Those months of preparation paid off!

Now I've been back a couple if weeks the cerebral enormity of what I and my fellow trekkers achieved is starting to sink in. The ten of us all had something in common - either losing someone close in tragic circumstances or with a strong sense of social responsibility. And in nearly all cases, both. I think it was that "sixth sense" that kept us together and ensured that all who participated came through without incident, unnecessary physical pain or nagging self-doubt.

The charitable leitmotif, as you would expect, dominated conversations amongst the participants and some of our Tanzanian guides. Sharing experiences with complete strangers about ones personal life, close family members, faith and politics had an atavistic feel about it. Reminded me of school-days and holidays at summer camps. The amazing surroundings also made for a surreal few days. Every waking moment seemed to be filled with some new phenomenon, from the "Milton Keynes" style elephants outside Nairobi airport to the magnificently named "Superb Starlings", a brightly coloured version of that bird. Then there would be the confrontation, verbally, about female circumcision, followed by a description of termite hills, a Maasai boma, and who would be first into the field shower back at camp.

Wildlife featured heavily. Giraffes, ostriches and a nasty looking bull elephant took pride of place on the first full day. A deceased caracal (a type of wild cat) was the subject of much discussion over the campfire that night. Soon, a puff adder would be incinerated in full view of the gang. "Just as well" said one of the crew. "They're responsible for 25,000 deaths in Africa each year". We all guffawed and stared at the heavens which resembled a crisp new "Milky Way" chocolate bar wrapper with a low crescent moon completing the scene. Baboons; wildebeest, zebras; elands, Thomson gazelles; egrets, and lilac-breasted rollers were all viewed along with the vast numbers of goats and cattle belonging to the Maasai farmers. The most voluminous animal seemed to be the African donkey. At times, it was like trying to battle your way through an over- crowded beach at Margate or Blackpool!

Food and drink were plentiful and we were well looked after by our Maasai guides and crew. The latter all employed by the Tanzania Travel Company who in turn were under instructions to look after us by the overall trip organisers, Charity Challenge from North London. The camp sites were erected and dismantled each day in military-style efficiency. However, there was a moment when one of the party fell down a poorly constructed field toilet. The screams would have been heard for miles. Sorry Laura!

Earlier that day, a local school was visited. The classrooms reminded me of a scene from a Dickensian novel. You know, six to a desk and share the pencil. The following morning after nearly 2 hours of trekking, school-children could still be seen walking to that particular educational establishment which by that time was some 10 kilometers in the distance behind us. A black-backed jackal and a newly-born goat caused sensations that day but nothing could have prepared us for the entertainment that lay ahead. Firstly, there was the awesome "sunken crater", followed by traditional Maasai "jumper" dancing, then play-time.

Picture the scene - two jeeps, a variety of passengers in each, pitch black outside - its hunt the wildlife time. This involved the switching off and on of headlights until bands of wildebeest and zebras realised what was going on. They ran in all directions for their lives! After 30 minutes of animal baiting we headed home. Or at least tried to. Night-time in the middle of nowhere with no "SatNav" meant an hour of frustration ensued.

Twelve miles were covered in the heat on the last trekking day before another school was visited. Entertainment that night included a Maasai version of "show me the way to go home". The Ngorongoro Crater with its lions, cheetahs, hippos, flamingoes and hyenas was visited on the last day. Now that was something very special and I would recommend you pay it a visit [click here for Jeremy's crater picture].

[Editor's note: Jeremy raised thousands of pounds $$$ for breast cancer with his trek.You can view his individual fundraiser page here. There are some great photos on his trek blog. I will post a few here when Blogger fixes their upload bug! Jeremy suggests having a look at Charity Challenge if you are interested in doing something similar.]

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March 13, 2007

Childfree Optional?

A single man I met recently shared this intimate story with me. With his permission, I am sharing it with you. He is thinking it over...his childfree status that is.

"I've been going through some intense stuff around the childfree issue. The best relationship of my life ended in October because my girlfriend dreamed of having three kids. I told her that I could be open to one child.

Just a few days after that last meeting she came back to me and said that one child could be a possibility, so we are once again talking. Living childfree is an attractive option - one that I would choose under the right circumstances.

I am trying to live my life honestly and open-heartedly. That has meant not closing my heart to the possibility of children. At the bottom of everything, my love for this woman is bigger than my attachment to the childfree ideal.

If I do end up becoming a parent, I certainly won't be a judgmental and tiresome one."

We all start out childfree, and different adults evolve in different ways, some parents, some not. Ideally, it is a conscious choice. We are all part of God's village. We all have something to contribute; we all make a difference. We are all deserving of love and kindness, unless our actions warrant otherwise.

Purple WomenTM, whether single or married, can you relate? The question I had for him was, how long had you been dating before this topic came up? There is no right and wrong, but it could be painful if you wait too long and the answer to the question, "Do you want kids?", is not the same.

In my case when dating my future husband, I let him know very early on, because I was very drawn to him, that I was not able to bear his children. To my surprise, he kept coming around, and I love him all the more for it. To me, having the man I love was more important than raising children. I had the desire, but not the equipment. Just the opposite for my groom-to-be.

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March 09, 2007

Ouch! That Hurts

No big surprise. There has been some negative feedback to the article that ran in the San Francisco Chronicle last Sunday. Last night, I met Valerie Francescato, our new Purple poster girl, who was featured in the story. She coordinates a childfree social group using the MeetUp software (at her own expense, it's not free to use the software). My husband and I wanted to meet her and she was hosting an outing in the City last night, so we went. Lots of topics came up, and there was a lot of buzz about the recent article.

Almost everybody liked it; however, a conservative Republican blog has taken exception to the lifestyle we represent. Apparently, the photo of Valerie
holding her cat in the her kitchen was lifted, (not sure that doesn't infringe on the publisher's copyright), re-posted on this site and a string of mean-spirited comments ensued.

What alerted Valerie was that fellow MeetUp organizer said he had to de-list from her MeetUp group because it was doing weird things to his own site's stats. Well, this peaked her curiosity, so she had to investigate.
She Googled her name.

We know that like the man from Texas, who was quoted by Laura L. Shawne (author of Baby Not on Board) in the article,...

"I did a lot of radio call-in shows where I was called a lot of names," she said. "One man in Beaumont, Texas said my husband and I deserved to die alone."
...not everyone approves of our choice to remain childfree, regardless of our reason for being so. I feel sorry for the infertile couples who come up against this attitude in real life. I guess after they tell their story and clarify that they are really "child-less" they get sympathy, or pity, not anger.

Not sure which is better. See for yourself at mean comments that won't be repeated here. We've got rules in the side bar!

The photojournalist came to my home too, took similar pictures of me holding my cat. Now I am glad they weren't published. (Probably because I don't live in the city proper.)

Purple Women
TM what say you?

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March 05, 2007

Reader Says

"Dear Ms. Tith:
I read the article in the Sunday Chronicle that made reference to your site, which prompts this email.

My wife and I decided sometime in the mid 1970's not to have children. We enjoyed the usual benefits of two incomes and no kids. And were quite happy with one another.

About three years ago my wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Following two surgeries and many rounds of chemo, she died about four months ago.
I mention this because there is at least one study that suggests that women who have had children have a lower incidence of gynecological cancers.
I am afraid I will always wonder if the choice we made not to have children may have contributed to my wife's death.

There are, in my opinion, many valid reasons not to have children. However, I do believe it would be advisable for women to have a thorough discussion with a knowledgeable gynecologist before making an irrevocable commitment to that choice. Especially if the woman is a member of a genetic group with high incidences of cancer (e.g., Ashkenazi Jews).

It might be useful to your readership to initiate a discussion of medical issues related to non-child-bearing on your website.

Best wishes,
Mr. Nicholas"

This email was the first one in my box yesterday. Nik has given me the topic for my next byline in Unscripted. This will take some research. If there was a study, was it duplicated? Was it definitive? What were the recommended outcomes? In the meantime...

...Purple WomenTM do you have any light to shed on the subject?

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March 04, 2007

In the News

Katherine Seligman has the byline on this feature story about being childfree in today's issue of the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine. Chris The Fixed Kitty podcaster, our friends Teresa and Jay, and AlphaGirl, a frequent Guest Contributor, are interviewed, as well as our very own LauraS.

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Proud to be Purple Day

Sometimes a little red
full of passion
Sometimes a little blue
sad and serious
The color of the early night sky
or fresh and fun like posies and plums
A symbol of royalty
of ceremony
I am sometimes powerful
I am Purple

Special thanks to aka JeSais for permission to re-post her 2001 creation in honor of our first holiday. She made this art before I had even concieved of this blog and book project. I think I may have found the original Purple Woman!

It is nice to know we have readers and that what we are doing here registers with someone. Without comments or the occasional email as feedback we don't know how we are doing or how we can improve. If this site registers with you, please tell a friend. Send them a link.

There were no formal entries for the photo contest, thus no winners, no cash prizes, no purple duct tape, and no donations to women's charities. The poem and image above were worth the effort alone.

I know Purple WomenTM are out there making a difference -- living full lives. This holiday was created to celebrate our state of being. I am open to your ideas for how to celebrate next year. Please email Teri directly.

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March 03, 2007

Theoretically Speaking

by Guest Contributor Laura Thérèse
Harvard Law Student & Spokesperson for No Kidding! International
Blogs: Childfree Issues, Childfree News

History is full of theories that have not been fully thought through. Let's add to that list the idea that intelligent people have a responsibility to procreate.
I have heard many times that those with low intelligence are out-breeding us. There is some substance to this: the more education a woman has, the fewer children she has, and the more likely she is to have none at all. Now I am not contending that education is synonymous with intelligence, (I know some brilliant people who founded successful companies with a high school diploma) but there is at least some correlation there.

From this problem, people immediately jump to the conclusion that intelligent people should go out and have more kids to compensate. Side-stepping for a moment the disputed idea that intelligence can be so readily passed on genetically, and ignoring the offensive eugenics overtones, this conclusion has other serious flaws.

What is the point of having smarter kids? Theoretically, it is so that society as a whole will improve. We hope future generations will break cold fusion, cure cancer, debunk string theory, and craft a better government. The supporters of this idea think their next generation will move us forward, or at least keep us on track better than a less-intelligent populace can.

This theory needs debunking if it is to ever go away. If we are not encouraging young women to get joint MD-PhDs and devote their lives to medical research, they will face the same cultural pressure to have children and raise them for the same flawed reasons. Where does it end? It is like arguing that a branch should create more branches, instead of leaves, so that there will be more branches to make leaves. Somewhere along the line, there has to be a leaf-maker. Why not Purple WomenTM?

Now this first theory relies upon a related theory that one cannot 'have it all', (I do hate that phrase) that women cannot crack cold fusion while nursing two infants. I would say that while working mothers can indeed make contributions to society, some of the really big advances will need to be made by someone who is married to their work. Perhaps it can be done by someone whose spouse watches the children, but unless our culture changes dramatically, this will be the women. Flash forward to a future depicted by Canadian author Margaret Atwood in her novel, The Handmaid's Tale, where intelligent women exist as incubators for their own superior DNA while brilliant hubby saves the world. A disturbing prospect.

An even larger flaw of this 'solution' is that it rests on a conclusion regarding nature v. nurture that is far from settled science. Is passing on superior genes enough? Do people really think that a brilliant couple who has no interest in having children, but do so out of a sense of obligation, will make good parents?

The “therapy culture” we live in is not going to fade anytime soon. I have serious doubts that my own theoretical offspring will make any great contributions when they're appearing live on Dr. Phil working through the psychological scars of being unwanted. Children know when they are unwanted. A child will notice the fact that she was raised by a nanny, or a mother constantly grumbling under her breath about all she had to sacrifice. I reject the assumption that her child is any more prepared to change the world than one who was raised by parents who really loved and wanted their child, regardless of I.Q.

The next time someone espouses this theory of passing on your superior genes, ask them if they have thought it through to its logical conclusion.
In the meantime, I will firmly reject the notion that I am duty bound to pass along my biological material, rather than making my own contribution to society.
After all, my own parents sacrificed what might have been far-reaching careers to educate the young minds of America, including mine. I am not making the best of their contributions by being just another branch on an endless family tree.

[Photo originally uploaded on February 27, 2007 to Flickr by Photos of Nature's Calm.]

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March 02, 2007

Latest Issue

Purple WomenTM and their purple men friends are in the news in the latest issue of Unscripted: The Childfree Life ezine. Feature story on contraception by yours truly.

Kudos to the Unscripted team for adding the comments feature to the articles. Tell a childfree friend!

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"Good" Parent?

I have often been told I would make a good parent. Most of the people who have told me so knew I was childfree. Maybe it’s because I enjoy older kids. Maybe it’s because I’ve learned a few things mentoring teens. Maybe it’s because I care about what happens to kids, and can appreciate the challenges they face.

Yesterday, I was the speaker at a women’s writing group talking about my childfree research project. I was telling them that many of the childfree people I interviewed had thought a great deal about the pros and cons of parenthood prior to making the decision to remain childfree. In some cases, couples had actually sat down and made a list of the downsides and the upsides.

One of the attendees, a parent, commented that she thought that a person who engaged in that kind of thoughtful process would make a good parent because they would have gone into it eyes wide open. I didn’t say it, but I thought, "But there would be one thing missing there, and that would be desire."

For me, desire is the HUGE missing element. If I had a burning desire to have a kid, I would probably overlook all the cons on my list. So what, I lose sleep, I’m stressed all the time, the kids disrespect me, call me names, hate me for a couple years. Who cares? I would rationalize or minimize the risks, the downsides, because I really want a child. I might even subject my body and my wallet to expensive and invasive fertility treatments if I had trouble concieving.

But I didn’t, and I don’t.

I don’t want a child, and that takes me out of the pool of desirable parents, in my way of thinking. I don’t have the desire, the "joy of parenthood" vision, the dreams of grandkids, the need to birth and nurture a child to sustain me through the "con" list.

Would I be a "good" parent? Perhaps, on paper. But, probably not a happy one.

God help the children.

[Photo originally uploaded to Flickr on April 11, 2006 by MichelleBlack.]

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