"Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life.
Don't be trapped by Dogma which is living with the results of other people's thinking.
Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your inner voice.
And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become."
- Steve Jobs

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Childfree and loving it - a review

I am at the moment reading quite possibly one of THE best books I've read in my entire life. It's called "Childfree and loving it!" by Nicki Defago. I'm halfway through it and have spent the entire reading time nodding, agreeing and laughing at the author's words.....everything she said is SO TRUE. I've witnessed it and even had similar experiences to the ones she talks about.

She talks of the parties and social gatherings she attends with her husband, and the constant questioning she faces (mostly hostile) about why they have made a conscious decision to not have any kids. She is frequently made to feel an outcast, a freak, an "unfeeling woman", a "selfish" woman, and one 'Yummy Mummy' even pulled her to one side and dared to suggest that "maybe you're with the wrong man if he doesn't make you want kids". She's been showered with the old lines "you'll change your mind", "how can any woman NOT want kids???", "well that's a result of today's selfish society" and other such gems. She questions the fact that parents are allowed to openly criticise her for NOT wanting kids, but if she turned the tables and said to these people "Oh my God, you have KIDS? Why? Why on earth would you do that???" then she'd be seen as a weirdo.

THIS IS SO TRUE!!!!! I'll be 36 in January and I'm still unmarried (through choice), and I absolutely do NOT want children. When I'm asked about this at gatherings I am now so used to the stereotypical responses that I'm past caring. I tell people I will die a happy Mad Old Rat Spinster, surrounded by my pets who will probably break out their cages and eat me once I've died and will be unable to feed them anymore. I tell them I won't be found until the smell permeates the neighbours' houses.

I also tell them that I will die happy and fulfilled, after travelling the world, seeing and doing what I want, having utter personal and financial freedom, and leaving not one penny in my bank account for the Government to take. What's wrong with wanting a life like that?

One woman said to me "you'll have such an empty life" to which I spontaneously snorted with laughter then immediately regretted it as she glared at me. My life is by no means empty, it's so bloody busy I wish there were more hours in the day!!!! Everything I do at the minute I enjoy, but it would all END if I had kids.

"Oh that's selfish" is the most popular response. But surely if I HAD a child I felt no maternal instinct for, nor a desire to nurture and care for and give up everything for...then that is MORE selfish. Having a child because of society's expectations of a woman and NOT because it's your heart's desire is THE most selfish act ever.

The worst comment I had was from a guy, who said "You're only talking like this because you've not found the right guy", and who assumed I was bitter and twisted, or a lesbian. I said that the Right Guy for me was one who shared my childfree views. WHY DOES NOBODY LISTEN when I tell them I have CHOSEN TO BE CHILDFREE? Is the stereotype of women and kids so deeply ingrained????

"But who will look after you in your old age??" people say, as if you should have a kid just so they'll care for you when you're old and decrepit. This isn't always guaranteed. Kids move away or emigrate, kids fall out with you, and kids may just stop caring and not give a stuff if you end up on the streets. Being looked after in your old age is NOT a reason to breed. As it is I will ensure I am financially sound to have the care I need but I hope to stay healthy enough to live a long and independent life. If something bad happens and I need special care then I hope by then that euthanasia is legalised. I will NOT live in a world where someone else has to wash and dress me, feed me and wipe my butt. That's not living.

There is a section that covers wifely jealousy of carefree and childfree couples and especially of childfree single women, who are immediately targeted as "a threat". Groups of mums and wives at parties gather together and glare at/ignore the "freak" couple who don't want kids and who don't react with glee when little Tommy spills ketchup on her Manolo Blahniks or sits on his Ray-Bans. Husbands are hurried away from the childfree singleton who has yet to develop stretch-marks or sagging breasts, who dresses nicely and who isn't worn down by the fatigue of chasing a toddler around the kitchen for 2 hours before the party. "She doesn't want kids!" "She's just after what she can get!" Women who don't want kids must be hard, unfeeling and uncaring, therefore they would not think twice of stealing someone else's man, right??? WRONG. And if they chat to your husband and he seems keen to chat back it's probably because it's nice for him to talk to a female about things OTHER than baby talk. And he's enjoying staring at your breasts.....ahem.......

(PS the section on "grown-up" parties/social gatherings and kids brought along to parties is also a hoot and a great read :D)

Nicki examines today's overpopulated world and the environmental impact of people having more and more kids. She questions families living on the poverty line who insist on churning out children, while the taxpayer (and childfree people) happily foot the bills, and nobody seems to step in and say "now hang on, you can barely look after yourself yet you are having MORE kids??" It is Satanic to question a "woman's right to a child" no matter how WRONG the situation may be or how inept/incapable/unsuited the prospective mother may be.

She points out that it's far easier in today's society to have a child - no matter what your personal or social situation - than to NOT have a child. She questions the plastic toys, the packaging that fills rubbish tips and never rots, the traffic hell caused by "School run mums", the insanity of parents spending ££££££ on their kids at Christmas and getting into massive debts because of their inability to say "NO" to the latest gadget, the increasing social problems, the fact that you can't smack or shout at your child in public now in case someone calls the Police or a Social Worker.

She talks about how neighbours with kids knock on her door if she has a noisy party, and tell her to turn the music down as "the kids are in bed", which she happily obliges and turns it down. But another time when screaming kids playing outside were disturbing her study, she was ostracised and ignored by all the other parents in the street after she dared open her door and ask the kids to "keep it down" as she was working. They even stopped putting Christmas cards through her door every year. Again she felt like some evil witch monster, because she'd not tolerated Other People's Kids.

One particular chapter that interested me was about working mums. To quote: "There'll never come a day when time off for an art class is accommodated as swiftly as time off for childcare, but it does seem unreasonable that while a mother is unquestioningly granted paid maternity leave perhaps two or three times in her career, a childfree person seeking an unpaid career break is invariably turned down. Many people would love the opportunity to take time out of a profession to study but, although this would benefit employers, it isn't considered worthy of compensation".

This is interesting to me and yes, the workplace does grant absolute flexibility to working parents...which is all fair and good....but at a time when I have reached a glass ceiling with Fuzzbutt, and would LOVE to discuss flexible working hours so I can develop my business....I fear that I will be met by a solid refusal from my workplace to accommodate this. Yet if I announced I was pregnant people would be falling over themselves to help me adjust my hours to suit. This is not fair!! Instead, I stay at work while other women go on maternity leave, and their jobs are stapled onto the back of mine to take on for no extra wages but for far more stress. Hang on, maybe I can have a pretend pregnancy....get one of those "fake" tummies to wear, play the whole act, then get paid leave for 10 months and finally develop my business. Genius! It seems to be the only way I will be able to do it.

Then today, the newspapers talk about David Cameron's tax break for couples bringing up children. An estimated 1.8million families would be up to £2,000 a year better off under the proposals, to be announced formally next week.

In America, parents can claim approx $1000 annual tax credit for each of their children, and Australia offers yearly payments for each child and a lump sum of $AU2000 on the birth of every new baby. UK parents get a £250 voucher to invest for each child, and they can also claim Working Tax Credit. Those who employ nannies can claim between £7000 and £10,000 per year to offset the cost. Pregnant women now get a £250 allowance "to spend on fruit & vegetables". Yeah right, like that money will go towards cabbage and broccoli.....

It seems that you get rewarded for having kids, but NOT rewarded for being single or choosing to be childfree. "Single supplements" apply to hotel rooms or package holidays, making the Singleton feel like another freak or outcast. Single people who have the balls to holiday alone are assumed to be "sad and lonely" and are forcibly taken under the wing by the Smug Couple or the family, who will then badger her as to when she will "find the right man" and have a family. Not a thought given to the fact the person may be happily independent and fiercely opposed to being pigeonholed. Are there holiday companies that cater for childfree couples? That insist NO KIDS ALLOWED, and go to venues/locations/hotels that will be noise-free and won't contain a "Plastic Princess Palace" filled with screaming toddlers? We live in a child-centred society, and to oppose that means to be criminalised and outcast. This should not be the case.

People CHOOSE to have kids, and people CHOOSE to not have kids. Why is one choice accepted and one demonised? Why are childfree people not rewarded for having LESS impact on the environment, which is now the priority for all the political parties (for now anyway). We don't do school runs - we buy less food and so generate less packaging waste, we don't buy plastic toys and nonbiodegradable nappies, we don't need benefits/childcare supplements from the State, and we don't take the Government tax breaks which you would THINK the Government would love us for! "Hey!! We PAY you taxes and don't take any back for our kids! YOU SHOULD LOVE US!!!"

One man interviewed for the book says:

"Reactions toward me are almost always negative, especially from those with children. I have now given up trying to explain my reasons for choosing to be childfree because it often provokes a hostile or aggressive reaction. I believe people with children find these issues challenging and react with guilt when their own selfishness is implied.

1) They assume that people are willing to tolerate noise/disturbance from their children (eg using supermarkets as playgrounds, or screaming constantly on a train)
2) parents appear unable or unwilling to understand or value people who have chosen to be childfree.
3) Women often complain about having children, even though contraception is now widely available. I am constantly told "Just wait - your turn will come", and all my comments and reasons outlined for not wanting children, are just swept away and disregarded. If I stick to my guns and say "no it won't, I DO NOT WANT CHILDREN, they look at me like I'm some sort of freak....I guess I don't help myself by saying "I prefer my pet ratties"....
4) There is a lack of positive parenting which is contributing to anti-social behaviour in our society. Children grow up expecting instant gratification.
5) Women at work openly discuss pregnancy, childbirth and the messier aspects of parenting that I don't find appealing or interesting to listen to. However if I dare look bored or not make understanding noises, again I'm met with hostility."


The same happens to me when a new mum brings her brood into work for all the other office girls to fawn over. If you don't fawn you feel like an uncaring harsh bitch, even though the sight of yet another Winston Churchill dipped in pink paint leaves me cold. Now if they'd brought in a puppy or a hamster or any baby animal, well I'd be gooey eyed and cooing like a mad thing. And then there are the endless tales of what little Chantelle did at Nursery, or how little Billy walked his first steps but then fell into a puddle. If you don't make the right noises or seem interested in these endless kiddie tales, you find that the mums stop talking to you about it and cold-shoulder you. Well I'm sorry but I'm just not into listening to kids talk....if I know someone isn't into rattie talk or Stormtrooping/SciFi talk, then I won't subject them to it. Simple as.

Shirley Conran, author of "Superwoman", says of parenthood: "You're signing yourself up for 24/7 guilt and anxiety and I wouldn't do it again. Everyone knows about the tantrums, the teenagers with loud stereos and inappropriate boyfriends or girlfriends, but nobody tells you how never-ending motherhood is and that's what I struggle with. They are always your children, even when they're adults and adult problems of depression, debt and failed relationships are bigger and scarier than those of a toddler who wets his bed or steals sweets in the supermarket. The responsibility of parenthood is overwhelming and incredibly stressful, and it's for life. Don't give up a pleasant life, for a life of unpaid drudgery. Your standard of living will drastically decline, and the kids take off as soon as they can, without a backward glance".

Jerry Steinburg, founder of "No Kidding! The International Social Group for Childfree People" says "I have been asked on radio talk-shows how I can say that I like kids but don't want any of my own. I always respond 'I like breasts but don't want a pair!'

Some people would view the book as a massive negativity campaign against kids, and may even view this blog as the same. I'm quite nervous posting it TBH, as people on my blog "friends" lists have kids....but in no way is this meant to offend them.

The book doesn't look at the positive aspects of having kids or being a parent, and the rewards that it CAN bring to people who want and enjoy their kids. That's not what it's about.....there are tons of OTHER books about the rewards of family life out there, this book is just trying to get across the author's frustrations of being childfree in a Child-Friendly society and world, and trying to communicate to parents that making the choice to be childfree is NOT a "freaky" choice, nor a selfish choice, but a decision to be respected and understood just as people automatically respect a woman's decision to HAVE kids.

It's Saturday morning now, I woke early and read a bit more of the book, which prompted me to get up and write this blog. The house is gorgeously still and quiet, as is the neighbourhood (kids not yet out of bed and fed sugary cereals). The day is mine to do as I please, as is my life. Ahhhh bliss...

3 comments:

JohnN1988 said...

ABOUT...FREAKIN'...TIME...THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS...ALL CAPS NECESSARY

ElizabethR1533 said...

Brilliant! Love it. I am CHILDFREE myself and I love my life. I'm 35 and have been married for 10 years to a man who doesn't want children. Life is great, we're happy.
This is my blog about being childfree:
Part 1 http://bit.ly/abCWrm and part 2 http://bit.ly/ctRGfM

VAller said...

I agree with JohnN1988. I got recently married and the constant question of "when are you having kids?" is annoying. I want a peaceful life without clutter or noise or disruptions. Thank you for writing and validating that being child-free is okay!