April 02, 2008


This journey has come to an end for me. I have to follow my heart, because life is not all about blogging. Sometimes you just have to log off and simply live it. When I started this blog, I thought I would write a book. I decided to focus on blogging instead.

Purple WomenTM is my trademark, yet I admit I know not what to do with it from here. I have reached a turning point in this project. It has served its purpose. I decided not to invest the time in publishing a book. Nor do I have ambitions to turn this into a revenue stream. Is anyone out there really marketing to childfree women? (Okay, I could turn that into a longer post, but it is time to close the door on this project, as new ones have opened for me!)

To my fellow bloggers, especially contributors to this site, Guest Posters and Regular Contributors alike, a huge thanks for blogging along and exploring the childfree topic with me these past few years. I'd like to think we helped our Co-Contributing Editor, Laura Scott along her path to actually publishing her book. She announced recently that she has secured a publisher. Wish her well, and please check in at her website from time to time: The Childless-By-Choice Project.

The comments will remain open and monitored by me, the Creator and Editor of this unique blog, however, without new posts our readership will drop off and Blogger will only continue to host this site as long as there are visitors. At some point, all our work here will be deleted by a mindless robot (aieeeeee!!!). We have collected 2+ years of posts here, all on the topic of being a woman who is childfree. My final task is to make a back up copy for posterity.

Feel free to explore!

This blog is officially closed. I invite you to visit me over at my personal blog: Peggy's Place.

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March 18, 2008

PW in Costa Rica

Purple WomenTM travel. They don't have to wait for spring break or summer vacation. They can go to Costa Rica during the peak season (now ending). If you go "high-end", you are almost assured a kid-free experience. We tend to avoid places that advertise themselves as "family-friendly", not that I mind a little interaction with the younger set now and again.

Thanks to LauraS for putting up the posts while my husband and I were commemorating out 10th anniversary of marriage in this tropical locale. I highly recommend Costa Rica, as many of our friends did for us. Whether your high is zip-lining, sport fishing or birding or just sunning yourself by the pool and sampling the local cuisine, you will appreciate the jungle remoteness with all the amenities. One night a baby boa constrictor landed on a tree branch in full view of our dinner table, close enough that we got pictures!

Costa Rica has one of the most stable economies in all of South America. They have a thriving middle class, and the government subsidizes their tourism industry by offering mandatory standardized training in preparation for this field. English is compulsory at the high school level, so it is really up to individual if they really want to learn. We were vacationing right alongside Costa Ricans. They are wealthy enough to enjoy their own tourist offerings.

When I thought it was all over, (life is just one big adventure, eh?) and we were just killing time at the San Jose Airport, I saw this pin exchange display offered by a bank along with their money exchange service. I traded a Purple Women
TM button for a Costa Rica one. What fun!

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March 17, 2008

Can We Have It All?

This week I caught an episode of TLC’s reality show The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom.

A mother of two pretends she is on a mom’s spa trip when, in fact, she is living her fantasy as a chef in one of L.A.’s top restaurants. While her husband is taking care the of the kids, she is testing her skills in the presence of the top food critics in Los Angeles—reclaiming her dream to be a top chef. At the end of her secret week, she is given the choice between taking the opportunity to be a full-time chef at Chocolat, one of L.A.’s premier dining spots, or to go home and resume her life as a full-time mom.

What does she choose?

Despite her husband’s verbal and whole-hearted support of whatever choice she makes, and with consideration of the financial implications of living solely on a chef’s salary, she tearfully chooses to remain a stay-at-home mom.

The 70’s feminist part of me shakes her head and wonders, have we regressed to Ozzie and Harriet days?

The childless by choice part of me understands.

I, too, chose between a career and children. It was a relatively easy choice for me, because I had difficulty imagining myself as a mom. But what if you had two young ones at home and part of your identity, and being, hinged on being the Mom you always wanted to be, and the other part hinged on accomplishing the goals you set for yourself prior to becoming a mom?

What would you do?

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March 07, 2008

A Paternal Instinct?

During my research for the Childless by Choice Project, I interviewed partnered and married childless and childfree men and I asked them, "Do you think there is such a thing as a paternal instinct?"

The responses were varied, but to paraphrase the majority of the men I interviewed, the response was: "If there is, I haven’t got it."

Beyond the anecdotel comes evidence from a major study conducted in the U.K. reported by The Daily Telegraph in Australia this past December, in an article titled For Dads, Happiness is No Kids.

Following is the full article:

The patter of tiny feet has long been thought of as the key to happiness. But according to a study, having children makes men less satisfied with their life, while women only enjoy motherhood once their offspring are packed off to school.

Between the ages of three and five, children made mothers less satisfied with life, while being the father of a child under five "significantly reduces"' life satisfaction.

Women with children aged five to 15 were happier than those who did not have children. Even children of school age brought no increase or decrease in happiness for men.

The study, carried out by the Institute for Social & Economic Research in Colchester, England, surveyed nearly 4000 couples between 1996 and 2003.

A caveat: I have not seen the original study. However, this rings true to me, based on my interviews.

What do you think?

Flickr photo by fusionstream (cc) /Technorati Tag:

February 28, 2008

Housekeeping and Guest Contributors

Purple WomenTM, I want to remind you that this Blog Mistress is always looking for new voices. Would you like to contribute your story or opinion? If you have a story idea on our topic of discussion, please send Teri an email so we can collaborate to get your words on the "top of page". I often feel that the comments are as interesting as the post itself. In the blogosphere, it's all about the dialogue after all!

I tend to write "first person" shorter posts, but your Guest Post can be any length. About 500-words is a good target, but it's okay if it's longer. I will help you put up some great art, courtesy Flickr Photos and Creative Commons copyright for the Internet age. All of our Regular Contributors started as Guest Contributors.

Good blogs have good content and I ask for your help to keep this unique site a quality site.
On a personal note, I am happy to report that to celebrate 10 years of marriage, my husband and I will be in sunny Costa Rica for 10 days. We have vowed to leave the computers behind, so you may not hear from me for a couple of weeks. We'll be fishing and swinging through a rain forest jungle, birding, hiking and generally lazing around. I encourage you to visit our archives in the meantime. Various "labels" that are tied to each post and they are "searchable" key words -- all listed in the sidebar. Scroll down a bit and click through on any word to view all the posts tagged with that label. Happy reading!

You will find that the words of Purple WomenTM Contributors past are still very relevant to our current experience as childfree women today. Perhaps one of them will inspire you to a post of your own.

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February 27, 2008

Motherhood Manifesto Not Just for Moms

I recently spent part of my weekend free time reading and watching The Motherhood Manifesto, a book and DVD encouraging moms to fight for new laws and workplace policies that would benefit the lives of mothers and their kids.

Yeah, I know, I’m childree, but I have great respect for the author’s of this work: Joan Blades, co-founder of MoveOn.org and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, an award-winning author and consultant on environment policy. Also, I was curious;

I wondered, is their initiative likely to further the divide between mothers and non-mothers in the workplace?
In my humble opinion, the answer is yes, and no.

Most of what is advocated in The Motherhood Manifesto are changes that would benefit all: Flex-time, benefits for part-time workers, more paid vacation or sick time, minimum "living" wage, and equal pay for equal work.

Where it gets prickly is the instances where the push for maternal/paternal leave, after school programs, affordable childcare, and universal healthcare for kids (just for kids??) may leave childless workers with valueless benefits; benefits which, essentially, they pay for in sweat and are an important part of their compensation package.

The book exposes some very frightening facts, including the fact that families with kids are three times more likely to be forced into medical bankruptcy. But when you think about it, of course, it makes sense; the more people you have in your household the greater chance one of them will have a illness leading to catastrophic, impossible, medical bills. Parents by virtue of their choice to raise a family expose themselves to any number of risks, including sleep deprivation, severe stress, and—in the case of mothers who take time off to raise a family—loss of seniority and promotion opportunities, resulting in serious long-term loss of income.

I sympathize. The current U.S. work culture is not friendly to working moms, Americans pay far too much for health care and insurance, and I believe employers can do more to help the next generation and those who care for them. However, I think in the spirit of fairness and sound economics, benefits should be doled out in value units and the worker should have a menu of benefits and be invited to choose those which would benefit them the most. The parent might choose subsidized day care or flex time, the childfree and empty-nesters might choose affordable long-term health insurance, or paid time off to volunteer or tend to elder-care duties.

I once took a job which required me to travel state-wide. Some days it would take me two to three hours to get home. This situation forced me to drop my volunteer work as a tutor at an after school program. I would have loved paid time off for my volunteer work, but no dice. I was a part-time consultant. No benefits.

Clearly, there are shared objectives if these types of advocacy efforts can be more inclusive. So I was happy to see that on page 72 of the Motherhood Manifesto, in a sidebar titled It’s Not Just Mothers, John de Graff (who directed the Motherhood Manifesto film and is the National Coordinator of Take Back Your Time) acknowledge that moms, dads, singles, and couples are all suffering from "time poverty," pointing out:
"The average American works nine weeks—350 hours—more each year than the average Western European."
Time…aaah; time for leisure, time for family, time for sanity and health.

Now that’s something we can all get behind.

Flickr photo by edtwilight77 (cc)
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February 21, 2008

Less Fulfulling?

by Shelley
Regular Contributor to Purple Women & Friends

As a childfree woman who has been blessed with a fulfilling career, I have often been the subject of erroneous assumptions that I am choosing money and prestige over children. Anyone who knows me well enough to judge understands that my reasons for not having children are primarily spiritual and have nothing to do with my job. The whole “selfish” accusation is bored and tired, so I refuse to be bothered by the ignorance and close-mindedness of others.

However, I find it considerably more difficult to keep my cool when people take it one step further and imply that my childfree status somehow cheapens my accomplishments. I have nearly bitten a hole through my tongue as I’ve sat and listed to bitter co-workers imply that if I had kids like them and the playing field was level, I wouldn’t be more successful than anyone else.

What a pathetic concept. It’s just as bad as the runner who postures that he would’ve come in first place instead of second if his shoe hadn’t come untied.

Why on earth do some people think it’s okay to make their children convenient excuses for life’s disappointments?
And what does that do to the poor kids? I’m sure it can’t be good for the ol’ self esteem to hear Mom on the phone telling her pals that if it wasn’t for Junior here, that promotion would’ve been hers. It’s seriously sad.

I would never disparage any woman for taking a break from her career to focus on her children – it’s a decision I respect and can appreciate. However, I shouldn’t have to feel guilty for taking advantage of opportunities that arise in the meantime. The Corporate world is tough enough for women, and we only make it worse when we turn on each other.

Flickr photo by maxedaperture (cc)
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February 18, 2008

The Influence of Culture

I have been researching and writing about the childless by choice in North America for four years. One thing I have learned is many of us are pressured to have kids, or stigmatized because we don’t, because of the culture in which we live.

The culture may be a mixture of religion, race, family, or tradition, but the results are the same. Our decision making and our coping mechanisms are influenced by our culture.
I recently signed a book deal with Seal Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group, to write a book on the Childless by Choice in North America. Yesterday I was working on a chapter in which I profile couples who have arrived at their decision to remain childfree in very different ways. The couples I interviewed are a very diverse group. Some are children of immigrants from India and the Middle East, some are atheists, some are lapsed Catholics, some are devout Jews. Each of them has found their own unique way of navigating what is very often a pronatalist culture.

As a young black woman, how do you remain childfree in a culture where fathering a child is considered a critical rite of passage for most of the young males of your race? Do you date outside your race, do you remain single or celibate, or do you defend yourself by arming yourself with condoms and praying he knows how to use one, or by going to your doctor and begging for a tubal ligation?

If you are an observant Jew do you pass as infertile, do you isolate yourself, do you lie when asked why you haven’t done your part to produce a child for the tribe. The future of Israel is at stake!

It’s tough. So tough in fact that I have yet to meet an observant, orthodox Jewish woman who is intentionally childless, or a African American couple who remained childfree through a lasting, fertile marriage or partnership. I know they exist. They are out there, I’m sure of it. It’s just that I have not met them, even though I have worked and lived along side orthodox Jews and I have mentored young black women.

Fortunately, I have had the pleasure of knowing so many others, who despite being raised in a culture that assumed parenthood for all their members, became one of the few who resisted the pressure, based on a hard-won sense of who they were and what they truly wanted. (Click here for a short excerpt of a Mexican couple who did just that.)

The decision to remain childfree is not made in a vacuum. You may be caucasian, 5th generation American, atheist, and surrounded by childless and childfree siblings and friends, but you probably still had a parent who hoped for a grandchild one day; who said,
"You would be a good parent if you just put your mind to it."

[Flickr photo by Stephanie Booth - cc]
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February 17, 2008

Family Friendly

As a Purple Woman, (hint: I am childfree) I consider myself both kid friendly and family friendly. The term family-friendly has been used is a synonym for kid-friendly. Have you noticed?

I just had to jot this funny down and share it with you. As my husband and I were traveling up north to go camping overnight, we passed a billboard sign that claimed a certain venue was the most "family-friendly" of it's kind. My husband, said "Well, I guess we don't need to stay there."

It sure isn't the way to target market to the childfree among us now is it? We are the ones that tend to travel in the less busy times, not during Spring Break for example. And, we don't have to wait for summer to plan our week-long holiday. Call it a perk.

Purple WomenTM will also appreciate the latest article by Married No Kids editor Kim Kenney, Kids at Concerts. Tell it like it is girl!

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February 08, 2008

The Environmental Motive

Are we motivated by environmental concerns to remain childfree? Some of us are. The Daily Mail recently published an article titled:Meet The Women Who Won't Have Babies - Because They're Not Eco Friendly.

These women, living in the U.K., were compelled to seek sterilization to ensure they would never give birth to another consumer. They felt this was one thing they could do to help reduce their environmental footprint and save the planet.

Toni, 35, who works at an environmental charity, had to go doctor shopping to get sterilized at 27 years old. She did so with the full support of her soon-to-be husband and she has no regrets:
"Every person who is born uses more food, more water, more land, more fossil fuels, more trees and produces more rubbish, more pollution, more greenhouse gases, and adds to the problem of over-population."

Not everyone can understand this rationale, as Toni came to realize: "a woman like me, who is not having children in order to save the planet, is considered barking mad."

So, are we nuts to point to environmental concerns to justify our choice to remain childfree?

Flickr photo by patty_colmer (cc)
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Animal Kingdom

Purple WomenTM, Would you have attended a discussion described below?

"Like the rest of the animal kingdom, perhaps our only true purpose in life is to reproduce, and then devote our lives to the rearing of our offspring. Parenting is promoted by economists, church leaders and our own innate desires. But is there a dark side?

Jacques Costeau once said virtually every problem now facing humanity can be traced to over-population. Indeed, over-fishing, global warming, pollution, deforestation can all be attributed to too many people pursuing too few resources.

So, does the world need more children? And is having children yourself an act of selflessness, or selfishness? Come join this malthusian discussion on what it means to have children."
This topic was presented by the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco on Tuesday, February 5th, 7:00 p.m. If anyone reading this blog attended and would like to give us a review, it would be a most welcome Guest Post.

They did put up a blog post on their site, with a general overview of how the debate went: This House Believes it's Selfish to Have Children. Not so surprising given our liberal-minded corner of the U.S.

Flickr photo by hi_dr_rat (cc)
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Childfree Catholic - Revisted

I was reminded that we just may be doing something important here, by way of sharing stories, experiences, and information, when I re-read the thoughtful comments on an older post. Even though I published it months ago, it just got a new comment this week. The topic is still valid.

Here is one in particular by Coffeine that stood out for me:

"An update and shout-out to Teri and WordWench. I recently, after 29 years and my last post, parted ways with the Catholic Church, as it was getting in the way of my relationship with God.

It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but I know it was the right thing to do. The dogma, politics and female-repressiveness just became too much. Especially when, in an effort to find some sort of counsel, I approached several priests, including my parish priest, with my "childfree by choice" stance, questioning the free will and internal conscience in the eyes of the Church and God.

Apparently, in the eyes of the Church, those reasons --internal conscience, knowing yourself -- are not good enough. One priest said that he doubted the validity of my marriage in the Church, because I married knowing I might not want children and he even suggested annulment.

I had the "Be fruitful and multiply" line tossed out at me on several occasions, with no one viewing it as a possible blessing rather than a command to breed. I left the Church and its man-obsessed dogma and took God with me. I have never felt closer to the Holy Spirit and able to focus fully on God in my own way.

God and the Church are two entirely different entities from one another, moving in two different directions. In my parting ways from the Church,

I too, have just started a childfree, recovering Catholic blog, Crafting the Schism - Finding God Outside the Catholic Churchianity.

Thank you, Purple Women, for leading the charge and putting this topic up for discussion. God Bless!"

Purple WomenTM -- we learn from each other.

Read all the comments: Married Childfree Catholic. I want to thank everyone who commented on this difficult and personal topic. I very much appreciate the elevated level of the conversation on this post. Together, we have created a safe space to explore the sometimes volatile topic of being a woman and being childfree.

Flickr Photo courtesy of Nina`H (cc).
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January 28, 2008

Never Be Bingoed Again

Purple WomenTM always need some extra social ammo when getting bingoed in public and in social settings. Britgirl has an excellent compilation post this week: The Childfree Bingoes - Revisited.

She is a Brit living in Toronto. I am pleased to tell you I know her personally!

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Something Seasonal

I have been half-starting blog posts in my head for three weeks now. You may have wondered if I was ever going to write again. I have not been feeling very childfree lately. I've been under the weather, and let me tell you, we are having some weather right now in California -- okay, okay, just a little rain!

I think that from the time I started this blog to present day I have been on an evolution of Self. I have come to terms with that part of myself that is very obvious to everyone who meets me. I am a woman without children. It makes people wonder. I take time to get to know. I did a lot of reading (see our compilation post on all the childfree genre book reviews) during this time. I suspect that turning 40 was a bigger deal that I was willing to admit at the time.

I suspect that every woman who remains childfree, for whatever reason, will go through a similar transformation. Those who choose this path early, often called early articulators, will have a different story. We all do. This is one area one does not want to make assumptions, yet people often do. I am acutely aware of how different my life is compared to most childed women around me. It was not easy in my thirties, let's call them the early married years. There were expectations then; I am decidedly outside of the mainstream in my family choices. Being childfree is reflected in almost every aspect of my life, some parts are simply more visible than others. Now I am hanging out with women whose children are grown.

("Write something seasonal Teri -- write something!") We celebrated Christmas our way this year. Mostly, we have shuttled from family home to family home since we've been married. It was nice to be in our home for a change. We hosted close friends, a couple from Atlanta, my adopted Italian grandma, and an old high school chum. It made for some interesting conversation in the kitchen and at the dinner table. We went for a hike, laughed and told old stories to new listeners. It's not all about the kids for us. Our tree was an outdoor tree with colored lights and the good decorations stayed in the box this year. The halls were decked minimally and I am still trying to put all of it away. I didn't wrap a single gift. The gifts where stacked in the hallway, in the brown UPS boxes they came in, labeled "to" and "from". We splurged on our home-cooked food and focused on our guests.

As we approach Valentine's Day I've been reflecting on the fact that we have not planned anything, and I cannot remember the last time we took a week-long vacation together. Trying to figure out how to celebrate our 10th anniversary this year has been torturous. We've always been more of a "weekend-get-away" couple. Our spontaneity sometimes gets in the way of proper social planning. It is a real challenge for us. Not unlike our childed counterparts, we find many demands on our time. Perhaps demand is too strong a word. A child's schedule is demanding; we feel pulled in many directions. We have the family "must attend" functions, and we have hobbies and seasons to our lives. For my husband it is hunting season, deer and duck. For me it is opera season, and the two months up to a performance are busy indeed now that I have joined the "working board" of the local company. I have always been one to make commitments as a volunteer. It connects me to my community, wherever I happen to be. If I was there for more than a year, I was volunteering. For me, it is part social strategy. Volunteering is a great way to make new friends and feel significant. You matter when you are a volunteer.

Although we have no plans for Valentine's Day, I feel we have more than a little romance in our relationship. It has been a long time since we have had a long weekend, or a non-work related trip. We have uninterrupted dinners together almost every night, sometimes I even light candles. On weekends, we read the paper to each other over brunch. We say "please" and "thank you" and "I love you" often. We have every day romance. I don't mind that my husband may be away on a business trip on February 14th. We still hold hands in public.

I realized that today, compared to when I started this blog, I am in a different emotional place. Last weekend, I was invited to cake and coffee at our neighbor's house. I had not yet met the neighbors across the street and was pleased to know they would be coming too. Both of them, as it turns out, are retired school teachers. The first comment the wife made, after the obligatory "nice to finally meet you," was "I haven't seen any children." I simply confirmed, "We don't have children," and let it hang a moment as if it needed no explanation. Luckily, we had plenty of other things to talk about. "How do you keep gophers out of a garden?" "Will the city allow you to re-open the strawberry patch ?" A rousing conversation of gardening and local politics ensued.

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January 22, 2008

Celebrity Baby Mania

By LynnS
Regular Contributor
Ireland, U.K.

. . .and What it Means for Childfree Women

Purple WomenTM . . .I have a challenge for you! Open any newspaper or magazine, browse any Internet gossip site. See if you can find any articles, interviews or pictures regarding celebrity moms and their pregnancies or babies.

That wasn't much of a challenge at all, was it?

We live in a celebrity-obsessed culture, no doubt about that. So is this fascination with celebrity babies a harmless offshoot? Or is there a more disturbing implication? And what does it mean for childfree women?

Articles about who's "infanticipating" and "yummy mummies" abound. We're bombarded by up-to-the-minute reports about every single detail of celebrity reproduction, no matter how trivial or boring or personal: weight gain, pregnancy cravings, who's trying for a baby, who may be pregnant, who was "too posh to push" and who wasn't.

My head will explode if I have to read another gushing article along the lines of "Motherhood is the best thing that's ever happened to me/it's the most unconditional love you'll ever feel/I loved being pregnant/I was wearing my size zero jeans three weeks later/I cycled home after the birth," etc. (Okay, so I exaggerated the last part but at the rate things are going, it wouldn't shock me).

So why does this obsession with celebrity pregnancies and babies bother me so much? Shouldn't I just dismiss it as superficial-yet-harmless fluff? Can't I tell myself it doesn't affect me and forget about it?

Except it isn't harmless. And it's a fantasy that's portrayed as reality - with insidious, far reaching consequences. I'm willing to bet that the average woman's experience of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood is a million miles away from the way it's portrayed in glossy magazines.
How many times have you read an article speculating as to whether or not a female celebrity is pregnant? The speculation seems almost frenzied if the woman does not have children. It never seems to occur to anyone that maybe said celebrity is perfectly happy and likes her life just the way it is.

How many times have you read an article referring to a female celebrity, no matter how successful and significant in her field, as mother of (insert number of children here).

As if that is all she is. As if that is all that matters. As if woman automatically equals mother.

The underlying message seems to be: it doesn't matter how successful you've been. Life has no real meaning or value unless you reproduce. You'll never be truly happy or fulfilled until you do. Oscar-winning actress? Nobel Prize winner? Astronaut? CEO of a Fortune 500 company? That pales in comparison to what society considers your real worth, your greatest achievement: your ability and willingness to reproduce.

In 2008, is the most interesting, worthwhile, laudable thing about a woman her womb? And that is what I find so disturbing.

This has implications for childfree women, too. Most Purple WomenTM know what it's like to feel isolated from time to time. Chances are, we've all thought "Am I the only woman in the world who doesn't want children?" when yet another friend/relative/colleague announces their pregnancy. We've all probably found ourselves in work and social situations where we're the only women in the room who don't have or want children.

Purple WomenTM know what it's like to feel dismissed or belittled from time to time. The myth that a childfree woman is less mature and less responsible, less feminine even, than a childed woman persists. All this celebrity baby mania means that a childfree woman is isolated and dismissed even further.

I'm stating the obvious, I know, but
Purple WomenTM are savvy enough to understand that motherhood has always been romanticized. The thing is, motherhood is practically a fetish now and that should concern us, because there's something frighteningly regressive about it.

It's very worrying that this celebrity baby mania/mother worship is happening now - at a time when women's reproductive rights are coming under increased attack on a global basis.

Coincidence? I think not.

So what can we do?

First, I think that we can take a step in the right direction simply by casting an objective eye over the portrayal of celebrity motherhood/celebrity baby obsession. Let's recognize it for what it is: idealized fantasy. We are not media dupes, after all.

The harsh reality of what pregnancy, birth and motherhood can do to a woman's mind and body is not what sells magazines. Most of the general public are not interested in that - they want and expect the Hallmark card, not the real thing.

So the next time you come across a "Kodak moment" article or picture tell yourself that it's exactly that.
  • We can remind ourselves that giving birth does not mean you will become automatically whole and wise and instantly adjust to the role of mother.
  • Happiness and satisfaction will not be achieved by caving to societal pressure.
  • Happiness and satisfaction will be achieved by staying true to ourselves.
Then again, if you're a Purple Woman, you already know that.

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January 09, 2008

A week with a five year old

One of my very best friends, her partner, and their five-year-old son visited last week. I looked forward to giving the little boy a few swimming lessons, teaching him a thing or two about or regional wildlife. Instead, he taught me a few things, like:

Food and drink can only be enjoyed if it is slurped or crunched loudly.

Kids can enjoy salads for lunch but only if they’ve never seen the inside of a McDonalds.

One of the most fearsome creatures that ever roamed the earth was a giant sloth.

I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to penguins.

Manipulation is an art form.

Santa sucks.

And, I am definitely NOT smarter than a five year old.

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January 04, 2008

The Flip Side

By LynnS
Regular Contributor
Ireland, U.K.

Several years ago, I had a conversation with a young woman on a train that I've never forgotten. We began chatting in that curiously intimate way strangers sometimes do when traveling. It wasn't the happiest time of my life - I was getting over an engagement that I'd broken but that didn't make it any easier. There were quite a few reasons for the break up: for one, I simply wasn't ready to marry. I'd noticed a controlling, jealous streak in him that worried me. Back then, I didn't know who I was. (In fact, I would reach my 30s before I did). There was one reason, though, that set the seal on my decision to call it off:

I had always known I never wanted children and I had made that clear to him.
He would make patronizing remarks like "you'll change your mind when you're older" despite my repeated insistence that I wouldn't. He couldn't seem to wrap his head round the fact that I had not the slightest desire to reproduce.

I wasn't prepared to compromise. I definitely wasn't prepared to spend my life with someone who would disregard my feelings and who seemed more interested in going along with society's expectations than examining the reasons why he wanted children. So I called the engagement off. Shortly afterwards, I got chatting to this young woman who I'll refer to as K.

K had a two-year-old daughter, despite the fact that she'd never wanted children. She told me that she'd, quote "caved in" unquote and had a child. Her husband and her mother pressured her and society had done the rest. K knew almost immediately she'd made a mistake. She hated being pregnant and said that she didn't appreciate how her body was her own until then. The thought of giving birth terrified her. When her daughter was born, everyone was delighted - except her. "I felt nothing towards her. She didn't even feel like mine. I thought it was the baby blues and it'd get better but I still feel detached from her two years on."

I told K that I never wanted children. K was supportive of my choice and said it was an equally valid one and should be respected. (If the term 'childfree' was around then, I hadn't heard of it).She freely admitted she envied me and warned me to stick to my guns and "not to give in to pressure like I did. If I could turn back the clock, I would." K felt that nobody ever tells women the truth about motherhood.
She told me that she felt she no longer had an identity or independence. Her husband, especially, did not seem to view her as an equal partner or a person in her own right.
K went through the motions of caring for her daughter, saying "I put up a good front but I feel like I'm living a lie."

Listening to her, I felt sad and angry. She succumbed to pressure, yes, but how unfair that that massive pressure was placed on her in the first place. I sensed she was overwhelmed by feelings of guilt and shame and probably had no one to confide in. I think she was able to talk so openly and honestly with me because she knew I would not judge her. I hope I was able to help a little.

This is the flip side of the coin we never hear about, I remember thinking. K seemed to feel so alone but I bet she's not.

We got off the train and said goodbye. I never did see her again. I've thought about her from time to time and wondered how she's doing.

I'm grateful we met, though. I'd been second-guessing myself about my broken engagement and I'd been feeling irrationally guilty for refusing to have children. Meeting K cleansed me of that. Whenever I'm bingoed, I remember her because I know if I'd gone with the societal flow I'd be walking in her shoes.

I'm convinced we met for a reason. I learned an invaluable lesson that day.

Listen to your instincts. If you're in any doubt about having children - don't.

Flickr photo by Malingering (cc)
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January 01, 2008

Do I Want to Be a Mom?

A simple question right? For this generation, maybe so.

But for our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers, it is quite likely this question never crossed their minds.

This reality was brought home to me in a casual conversation with my mother over this holiday week. We were remembering my grandmother who passed away roughly ten years ago. Born in Poland, she was a very strong and determined woman who survived wars, near starvation, and the loss of her family home and business.

My mother lamented that at my grandmother’s funeral people stood up and spoke mainly about my grandmother’s devotion to the church and family. A woman who knew her as a much younger woman was not able to speak that day. If she had, she would have told the assembled crowd about a woman who was an accomplished horsewoman, a woman who ran the family business in her early teens while her ailing mother barked orders from her sickbed, a woman who used her smarts and her powerful determination to navigate through the worst atrocities of World War II.

My mother, acknowledging the whole spectrum of her own mother’s experience and personality, remarked, “If she would have been born in today's world she would have been childless and running her own business.”

My grandmother was born close to a hundred years ago. She had eight children.

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