July 31, 2007

The Purple Closet

I find myself in new situations all the time, since moving back to the town where we got married nine years ago. We bought a house, so now you know we're committed. Yep, we're settling in the for the long haul, and we're in the 'burbs -- the outer limit of the greater San Francisco Bay Area. We even adopted four girls. Chickens that is.

We've been here about 10 months now, and I thought I'd report in from a purple perspective on how all this is going. We find ourselves surrounded by families with kids. That much has not changed. It's still a great place to raise children, and that's partly why I felt so alienated when we first moved here as newlyweds. It's the new developments that tipped the balance in my decision about whether or not we should live here for the the foreseeable remainder of our lives. For example, we now have our very own Trader Joe's, and there's an outlet mall under consideration by the city council.

Out of all the places we could have chosen in the Bay Area, this was not first on my list. This is my husband's home town, and we have many friends here that he knows from the kindergarten days. Being welcomed back to a place is a most wonderful feeling. I am also making a concerted effort to meet new people, to expand the possibilities of our social horizons. In particular, I wanted to connect with other childfree people, not just on the Internet.

In the new social circle that is forming around us, the question about kids always comes up right away. More for me, than for my husband. Men simply don't go there. Women do. I usually handle it matter of fact-ly. I don't go around introducing myself as the Purple Woman, but I get it out there now. And, then I move on. Next topic?

I don't define myself by a my vocation or my family choice, and I am only associated with an "old family" by marriage as I kept my last name. Getting to know the real me takes a little time. My husband has four generations of history in this valley. It may also take time for us to overcome preconceived notions that others have about childfree people in general. We are in no hurry.

I like what I see in this community. I like who I am meeting and how the place has grown, all-be-it very slowly. There are lovely vineyard-esque housing developments set to a backdrop of generous rolling hills. The downtown redevelopment has gone very well, and the trees and wisteria will only be more beautiful as time goes on. My favorite stores are still there, as well as a few new ones. There are two or three restaurants we'd feel confident to taking visitors to. How many more do you really need?

I get a little nervous telling my new acquaintances about Purple Women & Friends. It's a growth area for me. Still working on coming out of the deep purple closet. Somehow, I am more intimidated to be openly childfree in a suburban setting, but so far so good.

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July 26, 2007

News Just In--Happy Childfree Couples!

This morning, ABC’s Good Morning America aired a segment titled Couples Happy to be Child-free.

The segment featured two couples who made the choice to remain childfree and I was happy to see that the ABC producers chose sound bites during which the couples challenged "the childfree hate kids" assumption.

After the segment, the GMA anchors suggested viewers share their opinions on this topic on the ABC website. In the four hours after this segment aired, over 450 comments were posted, many debating whether or not childfree couples are selfish. Also included in these comments were postings from parents who admitted that if they had it to do over again they would have chosen not to have kids.

Is this news? Not to us. But what is news is the fact that Pew Research Center recently reported a significant decline in the number of Americans who agree "that children are very important to a successful marriage."

The ABC segment quoted Cary Funk, a researcher at Pew, who said (of the survey respondents):

"About 65 percent say that the main purpose [of marriage] is to form a union for personal happiness and fulfillment as opposed to having and raising children."

So it appears that the majority of Americans are motivated to marry in order to achieve personal happiness and fulfillment.

Personal happiness and fulfillment. I suspect that might be what everyone would want for themselves, married or unmarried. Kids or no kids. So, is that a selfish motive?

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Not Cool

Guest Post by
Anonymous Purple Woman

One of the greatest things about the Internet is the way you can connect with others to share ideas and points of view; however, I have been forced to question this recently because of my experience on my own blog. There are some people out there that I definitely do not want to deal with.

Here’s my story:

I’m twenty nine. For a few years I’ve realized that I don’t want to have my own children. Though I’ve done quite a bit of volunteer work with children, I’m just not willing to cope with them 24/7. This wasn’t something that I discussed with people. In fact it didn’t arise as an issue until I married two years ago and started being perceived in a new way – as a potential mother. Just before I got engaged I started my blog as a personal diary. I wrote about issues that I cared about which, after I married, increasingly included the difficulties being childfree in a child filled world.

Like many of us, I got the kid question and the condescending response “of course you’ll change your mind”. The more people asked the more infuriating it became. So, as many people do, I took it out in the blog, writing down what I wanted to say to people, if only they would listen.
When I found relevant articles in the press I would link them and comment on them. At first, I didn’t have problems with comments. When I said something that people didn’t agree with they did weigh in, but in a civil way, stating why they disagreed. I was happy to respond.

When my posts became more personal, someone got angry. One post of mine in particular about "bad experiences with parents in public places who ignore the effect their children have on others" was linked to their website and mocked. Now this person has a “weekly feature” making fun of my posts has started. It’s all very high school. Other posts on this anonymously authored site mock local TV personalities and café owners. I don’t know who the psycho is who is doing this, but I do know that it makes me miserable that they are getting their kicks this way.

Reasonable discussion isn’t an option when someone is calling you a bad person. Or is it? I’d be very interested in your point of view.

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July 25, 2007

Top 10 Ways

...to Have a Party Without Kids...

  1. Be direct. Say it's an adult party, clothing optional. "Let's do some swinging!"
  2. Have a "No Weenies, Just Martinis" party. Serve only martinis and insist everyone have one. Remind guests that it's a drought year and you're trying to conserve water. (Okay, this will only work in the Western U.S.)
  3. On the announcement, tell your guests a White Elephant gift exchange is planned and to bring a gift-wrapped adult toy to the party.
  4. When you leave a follow up message to see if they're coming, ask each guest to bring their best dirty joke or limerick.
  5. Use a good swear word or two when you're calling again to see about their RSVP status.
  6. If you actually get them on the phone, say, "you don't mind if we do a little "weed/crack/snort/coke/heroine/spleef/dubbie/hash" do you?" Wait -- no one will come if you do that.
  7. Mention that there will be no lifeguard at your backyard pool party, even if you don't have a pool.
  8. If your friend calls you to ask if you really meant it about their kids, say in a firm voice, "Yes, because my cats hate all children."
  9. If they still want to bring their kids, mention that you have really cool neighbors and they are going to come over too, so everyone's going to get "really crazy".
  10. If none of the above works, look up their son/daughter's MySpace page and tell how much you really want them to be there because you want to set them up with your niece/nephew from (somewhere they'd hate to visit). Oh, and that you'll be playing Twister.
Purple WomenTM I am jesting, of course!

Flickr photo by vanse1980 (cc)

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July 23, 2007

To Be A Woman

Guest Post by LynnS

"It is insulting and condescending, not to mention untrue, to claim that a childfree person is somehow incapable of understanding and experiencing the depth and variety of emotion a childed person does."
Last month, I bumped into an old friend of mine I hadn't seen for several months. She looked pale and haggard and a good deal thinner. I suggested we go for lunch to catch up. On our way to the cafe, she told me that she'd taken a leave of absence from her job to care for her elderly father, who'd been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. All I could do was listen as she confided in me about her father's deteriorating condition - she was finding it increasingly difficult to care for him though she's a nurse, yet she wouldn't hear of him being put into a home.

In the meantime, two women were at the table behind us - one of them had a baby aged about six months. I couldn't help overhearing the mother say to her friend "You don't know what exhaustion or sacrifice is till you've had a baby".

Uhmmm . . . excuse me? Isn't what my friend doing a sacrifice? She also looked pretty exhausted to me!

I was offended by her comments but it got me thinking. Why do some parents feel the need to hijack emotions in this manner? It's not just exhaustion or sacrifice the childfree apparently don't understand.

It's unconditional love. It's true happiness. It's selflessness. It's responsibility.

What does this mean?

Are we to believe that our own experiences and feelings pale in comparison to those of parents? Are we to believe that every life experience, no matter how good or bad, no matter how ordinary or extraordinary, can't possibly compete with the exalted state of parenthood?
As for parents themselves, why are they so quick to dismiss and invalidate their lives pre-children?
Irritating as this is, there's something else which disturbs me: the sometimes spoken, sometimes implied belief that you have not fully lived life until you become a parent.

The belief that as a childfree person, you are in a state of arrested emotional development. The belief that raising children is the only worthwhile thing doing in life. The belief that simply by reproducing you automatically become a complete person. The belief that children are necessary to allow you to fulfill your potential as a human being - which includes living through the whole gamut of human emotion.

Hogwash, I say.

Parental hijacking also makes me suspicious. If you are at peace with the decisions you make, it should not be necessary to "big yourself up" by dismissing and invalidating your life pre-children. It is insulting and condescending, not to mention untrue, to claim that a childfree person is somehow incapable of understanding and experiencing the depth and variety of emotion a childed person does. It is not the job of the child to help you fulfill your potential. That responsibility is yours and yours alone.

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Tick Tock

Purple WomenTM do not suffer from the biological clock. We've made a decision, however, since we are not really purple, there is really no good way for people to know that just because we happen to be a woman, we do not plan on becoming a mother.

Carrie Friedman of Los Angeles
illustrates this point beautifully in her guest editorial for Newsweek. Carrie looks forward to being a mother and even admits she infantilizes her pet dog, but she doesn't want people asking her about her family status all the time. She calls out the double-standard that women are held to, noting that her husband does not get the same invasive questioning.

I hope you have a chance to read her article: Stop Setting Alarms on My Biological Clock (
Newsweek, My Turn; page 16; July 23, 2007).

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July 19, 2007

Childfree and Pet-Free

When people ask if we have pets I respond: "Heck no, I can can barely keep a plant alive!"

It’s true. If plants could talk, Home Depot would be at my door demanding I relinquish custody of their neglected fern. My lucky bamboo is lucky indeed, having survived months in stale, stagnant water.

We are childfree and pet-free, in part, because we could never figure out how we could manage to take responsibility for dependent beings, given our crazy lifestyle.

When I married my husband, he was working in international sales and I was a fashion sales agent. There were many times when we wouldn’t see each other for three weeks at a stretch. Our work, and our vacation travel, has taken us hundreds and thousands of miles away from home.

Even now, our luggage is stored in the laundry room so we can unpack, wash, and repack. I suspect there are some pairs of my husband’s socks that have never seen the inside of a drawer.

So when the assignment editor at Unscripted e-zine, a web-based publication focused on childfree living, was looking for someone to write a feature on pet-free CF folks, I volunteered to do some research and report back.

The resulting article No Kids and No Pets exposes the common rationales for pet-free living. I was surprised how many dog lovers I encountered amongst the pet-free. They expressed sentiments similar to mine: my husband and I both like dogs, but we like them too much to leave them for weeks at a time with a pet-sitter or parked at a kennel.

We don’t have pets for many of the same reasons we don’t have kids. I feel guilty enough about the plant; at least I won’t ever have to worry about the animal protection folks or social services at my door.

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July 17, 2007

Meltdown on Aisle Five

You know the topic: Other People's Children (OPC). We've blogged about this before, but on a limited, non-rant basis. That's a hallmark of Purple WomenTM, to avoid base ranting at the possible cost of being a little boring. It serves no purpose, except for commiserating. Still, it has earned a spot in our topic list, and the topic is unavoidable. The subject of OPC is easy fodder. Here's another take.

I stumbled upon a relatively new childfree blog yesterday. (The more the better. Our topic doesn't get enough accurate exposure in the mainstream media, so we make up for it in the blogosphere.) The front page post was a typical rant complaining about OPC in public spaces. Get used to it, kids have a right to exist and parents cannot control every move an offspring makes. There's lots of advice out there to help parents manage their tots, but even if they follow all that well-meaning advice, it still may not work. As one tipster offered, "shop when kids are in school or at home eating dinner"!

I recently got to try my hand at substitute teaching. The school year is over now and I am trying to decide whether or not to go back to it in the fall. I had one special education class that I will never forget. These poor kids couldn't even sit still. All of them were medicated. Pill-popping is our society's solution to the problem.

The kids you see acting up at the mall up may not be controllable without medication. I've seen it up close and personal. Some families try hard to avoid that solution. There are examples within my own family. I think we childfree make a huge assumption that parents can control their kids. Perhaps some are just not equipped with the right skill set, but consider that the deck may be stacked against them. It scares me a little to go down this line of thinking. Is our environment so toxic that our children are sick?

The special ed class I subbed for was so tough, I was compelled to go to the library to read up on it. The diagnoses of autism have increased dramatically in the last decade or so. It is a whole continuum of degrees of illness. Some autistic people are highly functioning, but they do not relate to the world in the same way.
There is a lot of speculation about autism being linked to mercury. I hope there is a lot more research done in this area, because I believe our society needs to make some fundamental changes and reverse this trend. In the meantime, eat organic, and let's do what we can to support these challenged parents. We are not qualified to make the diagnosis, nor is it our place to discipline someone else's child. Parents do the best they can, just as our own did. All we can offer them is our patience and a little understanding.

Flickr photo by sean_alexander (cc)
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Miss Bloggy Pants

That's what my husband dubbed me when I first discovered blogging. A few months later, I created this blog and the concept of Purple WomenTM. I was planning to write a book. Now this blog fits the bill.

Truth is, forums never appealed to me. Too much "noise" and off-topic or negative banter for my taste, plus, I thought that blogs were nicer to look at. I try to blog well. I take liberties with humour and punctuation, as my proofreader (and I do need one) will vouch for. Sometimes it works; sometimes if doesn't.

One of the things I appreciate most about blogging is the ability to connect with others, to discover a new line of thinking. You can take this discovery a step farther by joining the debate or leaving a comment, and the highest form of flattery is to be "linked to". It's generous and risky. There's always a chance that a reader will click away without reading every single post on your front page, but I say, let the journey continue. Offering links that are related is a kind of service, or recommendation. It increases the search engine ranking of the link recipient's site. Pretty cool huh?

I was catching up on a rather well-written blog in the childfree genre this morning. I like the tone of the writing, but dislike that it is a strictly commercial blog, written by the author of a humor book in the same genre. It's probably in her publishing contract to continue writing the blog so as to sell more books. All the links in her sidebar have to do with how to buy her book, no other external links. I think that's a shame. I link to her blog anyway because she does a really good job on a topic that needs more exposure. I will decline to give her another plug here, but she did inspire my next post on the topic of...

...children in restaurants and how much we childfree like to complain about it.
I'd like to take a moment to all the people who have linked to this blog or told someone about it. I was surprised recently to find that our logo image was featured in AnitaD's sidebar! Feel free to do the same. (Just right click and save it to your hard-drive, then place it in your sidebar.) Wear it with pride, and if you would like to have the image on an actual button, send me an email with your address. It's almost time to reorder.

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July 15, 2007

Against All Logic

by Shelley
Regular Contributor to Purple WomenTM

It is completely illogical for my husband and I not to have children. When people point this out to me I always agree, which tends to throw them for a loop. But I know they’re right.

My husband and I have a very strong Christ-centered marriage. We both have good jobs and have the financial resources to raise a child. My husband even has the option of taking a few years off to be a full-time dad. We don’t have any physical, mental, or emotional barriers that would affect our ability to parent. And we have an excellent network of family and friends who would provide a great source of support and strength. We’ve got the whole happy-family package, yet we will not have a child. Makes no sense.

And simply because it makes no sense, others in the Christian community are prone to assume that I am not following God’s will. I beg to differ.

Jeremiah 29:11 says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

It doesn’t say anything about those plans being logical to the population at large.

I mean think about it – this is the God who told Noah to build an ark to prepare for a flood, at a time when the world had never even seen rain. The same God who enabled Joshua to defeat the walls of Jericho by having him march around the city a few times and yell really loud. If God did everything in a way that makes sense to us, we wouldn’t really need to trust Him. And if the world could be run on common sense alone, why would we really need God at all?

In a strange sort of way, when I don’t understand what God is doing with my life, I gain confidence that I am in His will. He’s never led me astray, and I have no reason to doubt Him now. After all, He’s simply asking me not to procreate – if plans for an ark mysteriously show up in my mailbox, then I’ll start panicking.

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July 13, 2007

Moral Superiority

Guest Post by LynnS
Childfree Irish Lass (yes, blogging from Ireland!)

Does being a parent make you morally superior? Why does this generation in particular act like they invented parenthood?

A few weeks ago, I was chatting to a woman I'd just met at a social function. She seemed very chatty and friendly and we were getting on really well. Until, that is, she hit me with The Question. Yes, you know the one I mean. The "do you have kids?" question. I responded the way I usually do - I calmly and politely replied that I didn't.

"Well, I have two, and I can tell you, you
don't know what you're missing".

And just like that, her whole attitude changed. One moment, we'd been having a civilized conversation, the next she was literally looking down her nose at me. What could possibly have caused her to judge me and find me inferior in those few seconds? She is a parent and I am not. In her eyes, and in the eyes of most of society, that makes her somehow superior to me.

It's not the first time this has happened to me, and I bet it won't be the last. It does beg the question, though: exactly why do so many parents feel morally superior, especially to non-parents?

Popular wisdom has it that being a parent is the most important job in the world. I disagree. If parenting were advertised as a job, would you take it? Think about it: no sick leave, no holiday leave, no overtime pay, being on duty 24/7. Not to mention the fact that handing in your notice if it gets too much isn't really an option. Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that some parents are so self-congratulatory.

But wait a minute. Isn't parenting an option? For our generation, certainly. We now have the choice to forgo parenthood altogether, if we choose. Doesn't being a parent make you a better person? Not necessarily. I have seen people who are so stressed out from the unrelenting demands of parenthood that they certainly are not better people. The exact opposite, in fact.

One thing I have noticed is how often parents claim that being a parent makes you a lot less selfish and more concerned about the state of the world. Even if you feel you could do with a little self-improvement and contribute more to society, surely it shouldn't be necessary to become a parent to accomplish that?

What about today's parents, then? My gut feeling is that we live in such a heavily pronatalist world it's hardly surprising so many of them feel superior. No wonder they act like they've invented parenthood.
Society worships children. Society is obsessed with them. More than ever before.

Kids eat free. Kids fly free. Kids stay free. You get the picture.

If you have produced a little being, ta-dah! Instant status!

If you haven't. . . well, you don't know what you're missing. You're shallow/selfish/irresponsible/immature. Your life is incomplete without one. You're not a real adult, and you're definitely not a real woman. Or so society in general would like you to think.

People are still led to believe that children equal nirvana. Despite the thousands of children languishing in foster care. Despite the abuse statistics. Despite the fact that rapists, murderers, terrorists were once somebody's children. Despite the fact that studies are consistently showing the strain children place on relationships and finances. Need I go on?

Of course, there are superb parents out there. In my experience, these are the ones who will admit that children demand sacrifice and that parenthood can be exhausting and thankless. They will admit that parenting isn't for everybody, and they won't try to ram their life choices down your throat. They certainly won't think that the mere fact of being parents means they're morally superior.

Next time you find yourself bingoed, remember this: parenting is nothing new. It's been going on for millennia. Giving birth is no miracle when millions of women are doing that every day. As a childfree person, you don't need a Mini-Me to make your life complete. You've most likely thought long and hard about your decision to be childfree, rather than blindly following society's script. You realize that there are lots of other ways you can contribute, and that raising children isn't the only worthwhile thing in life.

Finally, it means realizing that some people just aren't capable of understanding and it's impossible to have a rational discussion with them. The only thing to do is ignore it and move on. Anyone who thinks they're superior to you simply because they're a parent clearly has issues. If, like me, you find yourself almost starting to feel guilty, remember that.

In the end, what you think of yourself is really all that matters.

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Meet LynnS

Lynn S is out newest guest contributor. She's from Ireland, she's thirty-something, and is owned by a samoyed. When she's not working in the health care field, she enjoys reading, writing, shopping, yoga, and ensuring that her owner is kept in the style he's accustomed to. She's looking forward to posting and is always pleased to meet other Purple Women™

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July 09, 2007

When is a Purple Woman Green?

I watched part of the Live Earth concert series this past weekend. The music and media stars who participated in the concerts in New York, Tokyo, Shanghai, Johannesburg, Hamburg, London, Rio de Janeiro, Sydney, and Washington waived their appearance fees and pledged to cut their CO2 emissions.

So I am inspired to come up with new ways to reduce my personal environmental footprint.

Hmmmm. I already recycle; I bought the expensive "sundowner" windows for the house to save energy; I carpool when I can; I changed all the exterior lights to the energy-saving ones. But I can do more.

I pledge to use cloth bags for groceries. I pledge to refill my plastic water bottles instead of buying more. I pledge to continue taking my birth control pills.

Looking back on my Fourth of July week on the beach—all those discarded swim diapers, styrofoam coolers, and plastic beach toys—I’m thinking that my birth control pledge might be the easiest and best one yet.

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July 03, 2007

Welcome Shelley

S Château de Chenonceau 'Universal L L E Y
Please help me welcome Shelley to the Purple WomenTM site as our newest Regular Contributor. Shelley is new to blogging, but seems to be a natural, and we can all be jealous that she is still 20-something!

She is employed as a Human Resources Manager and describes herself as a Southern girl trying to “embrace her Faith without shutting off her brain.” She says she tries to lead a practical Christian life in the Bible Belt with her husband of 7 years. They have recently decided that the only “children” she will ever have will be the furry four-legged variety. Her current fur-kids include a kitty named Tillman and a retired racing Greyhound, Bowman. The 1st person who can figure out why these pet names are significant and leave a comment gets a "Purple Woman!" button. Post your guesses here.

Shelley and her husband lead a home group, their church’s version of Sunday School for other young couples without children, and they provided the encouragement she needed to start the blogging journey with End of the Tunnel. Please welcome Shelley to our Purple space in the blogosphere!

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