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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