Every week I’ll be sharing what I read with you & please share with me what you are reading to inspire ✨each other and break out of our filter bubbles. What I’m reading 📖 this week: CHILDFREE BY CHOICE // Want to know more? Read on!
THE SHIFTING POSITION OF CHILDREN
During the summer holiday I went to an open air museum in the Black Forest in Germany. It showed daily farming life in the past centuries, one display was about children's lives.
In short, you needed offspring for practical and economical reasons: from the age of 7 they had to go to work and help provide for the family. Because infant mortality rates were high, you also had to have a fair amount of children since half of them would die before reaching an adult age. Having an emotional attachment to a child was not really useful.
Fast forward to this day and age, there seems to have been an enormous shift in how we perceive the role of children. In Western cultures, raising children is seen as a lifelong task and one in which emotional investment supersedes economical investment. To become a parent is also quite glorified, especially for women it seems the mother role is the most worthwhile in life.
BIRTH OF A BOOK
Amy wrote this book to add to the larger conversations in society on how we make choices in our reproductive lives, in our families, our work, our free-time and how we'll age. She draws on her own research, studies by others and her personal experiences.
CHILDLESS OR CHILDFREE?
Amy has not been a stranger to a wide range of negative responses when she shares with people she doesn't want kids. This choice is not culturally accepted and goes against the norm. In this book Amy investigates the childfree choice in the past and present and from different perspectives, like gender, race, sexual orientation, politics, economics, and so on.
To begin with the terminology to describe people who do not have the urge to procreate. Sex & The City actress Kim Cattrall promotes to use the term 'childfree' She says:
“It’s the ‘less’ that is offensive - childless - it sounds like you’re ‘less’ because you haven’t had a child.”
REACTIONS TO BEING CHILDFREE
In the book childfree people share their experiences on telling others that they are childfree. The emotional responses are often one of the below:
- Confusion: how can you not want a child?
- Anger: you should have a child, just like all of us
- Convincing: you may not want to have one now, but you will change your mind
- Pity: you probably can't have a child
- Jealous: wow, you have so much time for yourself
These reactions are often for the childfree perceived as judgements and they feel they should defend their choice. While no-one is asking parents to justify why they wanted to have children.
REASONS TO BE CHILDFREE
"In our world, parenthood is presumed to be the singular most meaningful experience a person can have."
But what about maternal instinct?
"There is no scientifically evidence to claim that there is a maternal instinct that automatically gives women the desire to have children, makes women more emotional than men and makes them better equipped to rear children than men."
The book also touches upon gender differences and describes stories of childfree men. They don't get called selfish and also don't need to explain themselves as often as childfree women. These men feel their choice is more accepted by society than for childfree women. Moreover, their male friends are often even jealous of them for not having kids instead of convincing them to also join the parents club.
Are parents and non-parents so different? Maybe childfree people are more egocentric or selfish? Maybe they dislike children? Or did they experience a negative childhood? Studies show that parents and non-parents hold the same values in life. Both groups want intimacy, happiness and fulfilment in private life. They also value the autonomy to have the life of their choosing, whether one with our without children.
Childfree people are also not child haters. Another survey found that in the lives of 80% of childfree women, children played an important role. They are teachers, aunts, mentors, doctors and counselors of children. They are also all advocators for children's wellbeing, not one of them wishes them harm.
Check out the trailer of the upcoming documentary "My so-called selfish life" for interesting quotes and takes on people who choose a childfree life.
This book touches upon many other topics, like being childfree &....: same-sex couples, leaving a legacy, creating a family, planning for old age, and so on. If you're looking for more insight into the childfree choice, read the book and explore.
In the end it all comes down to not judging each other too much on the choices we make. As parents and non-parents, we share the same values in life, let's just see each other for who we really are instead of having culture or politics make us narrow minded on this topic.