Thursday, June 15, 2017

Need a Kid to Leave a Lasting Legacy? Not if You are Dolly Parton!

People assume that if you are not a parent you are not a contributing member of society. Yet, I regularly see news reports of childfree people making a profound difference in their communities. A recent example is the generous help singer/songwriter/entrepreneur Dolly Parton offered families who had lost their homes in the devastating wildfires in her home state of Tennessee.

When I interviewed couples for my book Two is Enough: A Couples Guide to Living Childless by Choice, I noted a similar desire to help people and all living things. Scratch the stigmatized veneer of a childfree person and you will find a volunteer, philanthropist, pet rescuer, mentor, coach, activist, or advocate.

Childfree people may not be nurturing their biological children but they are finding ways to make a difference in their worlds using the time, energy, and resources they are grateful to have; they are finding ways to share these resources with others.

Think back on your own life and recall all those who have helped you--teachers, coaches, youth ministers, mentors, neighbors and relatives. I suspect there is a childless or childfree person among them. Just like parents, we want to leave a legacy, but our legacy justs looks a little different.

What legacy are you creating?

Friday, January 27, 2017

Why 1 in 5 German Moms Regret Parenthood

Many German women feel they have to choose between career and raising children and when they choose children, one in five feel regret. A recent study exposes just why Germany has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe and cites many factors, the most noteworthy being, "Lack of satisfaction from parenting."

This challenges the whole notion, "Oh, it different when they are your kids!!" No, it's not. It's harder because society, especially German society, assumes that every woman wants to stay home full time to raise their babies and provides little or no day care or support for women raising infants and toddlers who may want to work part-time or full time after giving birth. This the hard choice: Kids or Career?

Apparently 1 in 5 German men also regret parenthood and the reasons for the regret are often shared by both partners. The study authors are going back to the male respondents to drill down further on the males' regret but my guess is that they cite the change in the relationship dynamics. As we say in the south, "When Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!"

Monday, December 5, 2016

Adele on her Motherhood Moments: "I F*ckin' Hate This!"

In the December issue of Vanity Fair magazine, Singer/Songwriter Adele speaks frankly about her experience of motherhood. When the Vanity Fair contributor Lisa Robinson commented that she thought it was brave of Adele to have a child in the midst of such a big, successful career, Adele responded:
"Actually, I think it's the bravest thing not to have a child; all my friends and I felt pressurized into having kids, because that's what adults do. I love my son more than anything, but on a daily basis, if I have a minute or two, I wish I could do whatever the fuck I wanted, whenever I want. Every single day I feel like that."
Adele admits she suffered from postpartum depression, a feeling of being very inadequate, but was afraid to talk about it until she had a vulnerable, quiet moment with a friend who was also a new mom.
"One day I said to a friend, 'I fuckin' hate this,' and she just burst into tears and said, 'I fuckin' hate this too.' And it was done.  [The depression] lifted."
When asked if she'll have another child, she said she didn't think so. Her boyfriend Simon, the father of her child, has a daughter from a previous marriage, so Adele's son already has a stepsister who is a big part of their family.

She understands that her friends without kids really don't want to sit around listening to her "chat absolute mush" about her kid, so she seeks out the company of other mothers who don't pretend child rearing is a never-ending River of Joy and who won't judge her for taking the time she needs for herself--an afternoon a week--when her son Angelo stays with the nanny, and she gets to do whatever the heck she wants!

I have to say it was refreshing to see a woman speaking honestly about her experience of motherhood. Adele is at a place in her life where she really doesn't care what you think. In the hubbub of motherhood and 43 city world tour, she often forgets to shave her legs and shaves only when she thinks the people in the front row might notice the leg stubble as she runs up the stairs to the stage. When asked if her boyfriend minds that she sometimes that neglects her personal grooming, Adele retorts, "I'll have no man telling me to shave my fuckin' legs. Shave yours!"

This rebel energy reminds me of the type of energy childfree women bring when someone suggests  they should just fall in the line and have a kid, like everybody else. It takes a certain amount of courage, and a dose of "f*ck you" attitude, to stray from the conventional. Nothing about Adele is conventional and that's why we love her!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Mothers Speak Out about Regret

The Guardian recently published this article titled Love and Regret about mothers who wished they had never had children. The comments that follow this article reflect gratitude that we can finally talk honestly about the hardships of motherhood without trying to paper over the pain and draw a happy face.

If women can talk about post-partum depression or abortion regret without stigma, why can't women talk about regret around motherhood? These women do love their children but they don't love the role of mother. Motherhood comes wrapped up in glittery paper and a bow but often the gift of a child comes with thwarted dreams, gendered roles, health and wellness challenges, and unanticipated burdens and outcomes of all kinds.

 Orna Donath, a sociologist from Israel who was decidedly childfree interviewed 23 mothers who regret having children and published her findings in which she noted that while motherhood “may be a font of personal fulfillment, pleasure, love, pride, contentment and joy”, it “may simultaneously be a realm of distress, helplessness, frustration, hostility and disappointment, as well as an arena of oppression and subordination”. The women she interviewed had expressed “the wish to undo motherhood” and Donath, being a childfree social scientist, did not judge them for it but instead described their stories as the “unexplored maternal experience”.

Kudos to Donath and her study participants for their bravery and honesty!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

An Australian Politician Advocates for the Childless/Childfree

This is my speech on childlessness; it's gone 'viral', as they say. I delivered it in the period leading up to passage of the government's 'No Jab No Pay' legislation. In it, I point out just how much taxpayers' money parents of children receive, money they ought not expect. I go on to thank the childless, who pay more tax, receive less welfare, and worse, get no thanks for their generosity.
Posted by David Leyonhjelm - Liberal Democrats Senator NSW on Sunday, November 22, 2015
David Leyonhjelm, a Liberal Democrats Senator from New South Wales, Australia took the opportunity to speak in support of the "No Jab, No pay" (legislation that would deny government family support payments to those parents who refuse to immunize their children) to say a hearty thank you to the childfree/childless persons in Australia who generously support families through their taxes and get "No thanks for their generosity.

When it was first released this video went viral, and I trust this video will open a dialog around appropriate uses of taxpayer dollars, and shed light on the many ways that the childless and childfree contribute to the common good.

What would you say if you had the lectern for a few minutes and could speak to the law and policy makers in your country?

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Making a Case for Flex Time for All

It annoys me that many companies offer flex time for mommies but when a childless person asks for it they resist. The assumption being that if you don't have kids you are out partying or in your basement hosting swinger parties. Let me share with you what the childfree people I interviewed for Two is Enough were doing when they are not at work covering for all the parents that can't work a 12 hour day.

1) Elder care. It's no surprise the childless siblings bear the bulk of the elder care responsibilities in the U.S.A. The exception is when parents invite Mom to move in so she can babysit and do the laundry.

2) Volunteering. The majority of the folks I interviewed had volunteered for at least one non-profit, including Big Brothers/Big Sisters, animal shelters, equine therapy programs, youth advocacy, volunteer coaching and mentoring, and other charities they were passionate about.

3) Second jobs. Contrary to popular belief some childfree folks need to work a second job to pay school debt or just plain pay the rent. Others are entrepreneurs with start ups or artists or writers and their creative or entrepreneurial pursuits can't pay all the bills.

4) Childcare. Yes, some childfree persons actually help care for other people's kids. I interviewed folks that were temporary guardians for kids whose parents couldn't handle them or care for them. Some took nieces and nephews on vacations and college search trips because the parents couldn't afford to travel or take off work.

5) Recuperating from illness or injury, or caring for pets. Many childfree people complain that when parents ask for time off for a school recital or a snow day they are quickly granted the time off but when a childfree person asks for time off to go to physical therapy or a vet appointment they are denied. This is wrong!

Jenny Noyes, a writer from Australia, make a strong case for equal opportunity for Flex Time in her article titled "The childfree deserve workplace flexibility too" with the astute observation that "having it all" means different things to different people.

I know from my interviews with childfree folks that they have many interests, pursuits, obligations,and responsibilities outside of work and a flexible schedule would be a welcome benefit for every working person. Flex time is a benefit that everyone appreciates and it should be offered to all. Ideally, everyone should be expected to work the number of hours they are paid for, on a schedule that allows for a life outside of work. What you do outside of your work is your own business, unless the cops or social services are knocking on your door.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Has Birth Control Made Us Richer and Happier?

After reading Amanda Marcotte's recent article in Rolling Stone titled 5 Ways Birth Control has Changed America, I had a little gratitude moment that I was born 2 years before the birth control pill was available in America.

Had I been born even 25 years earlier things might have been very different for me. I likely would have been married at 18 or nineteen with 2 or 3 kids by my 25th birthday. I never would have gone to college, or started my own business, or travelled the world. I would likely be divorced, a single mom struggling financially. My kids would be struggling too, trying to put themselves through college, or burdened by a mountain of school debt as they try to make their way in the world.

I probably would be have found a way to be happy. I might have remarried, negotiating the step mother role in a blended family. I would be have taken pride in my children's accomplishments and my role in shaping their lives. I would like to think I would have been able find meaningful work outside the home, but the odds would have been stacked against me.

Fast forward to today and I see women in their twenties and thirties graduating college as single women, postponing marriage and child birth into their thirties, and pursuing careers that are both emotionally and financially rewarding. Most of them don't realize that it not for the pill and other reliable methods of birth control, their experience of young adulthood would be very different.

And America would be very different too. Here's how America has changed as a result of access contraception use, according to Marcotte:

"A 2012 University of Michigan study that examined women's gains over a period of decades determined that a whopping one-third of women's wage gains from the Sixties through the Nineties were attributable to greater access to contraception. Moreover, they found that the earlier women started taking the pill – at age 18 instead of 21, for instance – the more money the made over a lifetime.

Conversely, research on the effects of unintended childbirth shows that it is deeply detrimental to your pocketbook. Unintended child-bearing is linked to lower participation in the job market and higher dependency on government services. That so many Republicans would rather see more women on welfare than condone non-procreative sex tells you a lot about where their priorities lie.

There's been a mind-boggling decline in the teen birth rate. Most people think the teen pregnancy rate has been going up lately – there's this idea out there that kids today, with their hip-hop music and their "revealing" clothes, are somehow less "moral" than ever and therefore must be experiencing more unintended pregnancies. But in fact the teen pregnancy rate has been declining steadily since the late Fifties, and is now at an all-time low. But teens aren't having less sex than they did in the Elvis Presley era. The main reason for the decline is better contraception use, plain and simple.

Women's educational attainment has surged. These days, greater percentages of both men and women have college degrees than they did in the past – but women's rate of growth has trumped men's dramatically. In 1970, only 8 percent of women and 14 percent of men were college graduates. Now, more than 35 percent of women ages 24 to 35 have a college degree, while fewer than 30 percent of men do.

This shift can be attributed to a lot of factors – more schools accepting women, more women seeking professional careers – but birth control has played a huge role. It should be obvious that avoiding unwanted pregnancies helps women complete college, but in case you're a skeptic, there's plenty of research showing that in states where more unmarried women have access to contraception, more of them finish college."

Are we richer and happier because of our access to birth control? Richer, for sure. Happier? Well that depends if you achieved what you wanted to achieve. But, really it depends on how you navigate your circumstances because, with kids or without kids, happiness is a choice.