news item: “Child-Blessed vs. Child-Less”

I live in Portland.  Yes.  Portlandia Portland.  And yes, it’s pretty much spot on.

Here in Portland there are two types of adults (at least the two most vocal types.)

  • The Child Free- OMG don’t you bring your child near me, I hate them, and you are ruining the world by over-populating it with selfish brats (which all children are.)
  • The Crunchy Mamas- OMG don’t bring up the idea of vaccinations, fluoride in the water or disposable diapers. I will feed my children all natural vegan foods, unless the eggs come from our free range backyard chicken and butter from our hormone free pet cow.  No. Seriously.  (I may have exaggerated about the cow, but the chicken is totally accurate.)

When I was younger, I vowed to not be that parent… the one who loses touch with all their child-free friends.  Then I looked at my collection of Facebook friends (because obviously that is the best way to evaluate your real friends… right? /sarcasm.)  Now, I’m surrounded by couples whose child is the center of the universe, or people who just “don’t get” why anyone would have a child.

Somewhere along the line of evolution, women have been led to believe they haven’t achieved their full life’s potential without becoming a mother. We are made to breed, society says. This leads to the clash of beliefs here in Portland, because the strong, independent women think children will diminish their value – or keep them from fulfilling their goals.  Women are asked to balance work and family and to do both amazingly well. An article Josey sent me titled “Childless people are full of sadness and regret’ is something that people that have children say” sang words of truth to me.

Did you hear that, ladies? If you’re really ambitious, you should have a career and children, and a successful life will mean mastering both! And if you don’t have children, well, you can expect that your Mommy friends will bail on you, and you’ll feel totally left out of the riveting conversations about lunch strategies, daycare, how to deal with sick children, and poop!

… Childlessness is a source of sadness and regret. Most of those 43 per cent will have gone through fertility hell, or never met the right guy, or left it too late, or have any number of unhappy stories.

Few would say: ‘I don’t want, and never wanted, children.’

The NYT posted an Article entitled “Can Parents Stay Friends with the Child-Free?”  says:

With fertility treatment widely available, not to mention adoption, even clinically infertile women have more options than ever to become mothers, which increases the possibility that any woman who doesn’t will be judged for her choice.

Which brings me to my question: Do we, as women who are also mothers, judge women who are not? And if we do, do we do it overtly or subconsciously — or just by excluding and including people in our lives based on proximity and similarity without realizing that the path of least resistance is one that, for a parent like me, includes mainly friends who are piloting similar family boats?

If by judgment you mean choosing who to hang out with at a cocktail party, then maybe we, or at least I, do judge. I have child-free friends, but I’m forced to admit that since being a parent became my primary non-work activity, more and more of the friends I’ve made have been parents as well — to the point that I can’t, at the moment, point to a real friend I’ve made within the last five years who doesn’t have children.

Among my friends is one solitary married girl who does not ever plan to have children.  Though she be young, and still might, I’ve never had an issue… nor questioned her desire not to, but she immediately started to explain why… with an extensive list.  When I asked her why she felt she needed to explain, she said “Most people, especially women, just don’t get why I wouldn’t want to.  I just… don’t want kids.”

One day I was at a friend’s daughter’s birthday party.  A single 20-something gal was chatting with some mutual friends.  I over heard her say “I just don’t get it.  It’s SO annoying when people put up so many photos on Facebook of their kids.  Usually it’s 10 photos of the kid doing the same thing, with a slightly different expression.  It’s obnoxious.”  (She then went into a lengthy diatribe about shoes and manicures, which I’m sure I found equally obnoxious.)  And though I promised never to talk about any fluids from my child’s body, nor share nude-y pictures of my son… I hate to admit it, but it’s true. Interestingly enough, a couple months later she became an aunt and posted OHSOMANY photos.  I overheard her later talking about and sharing multiple photos of her nephew… doing the same things, with slightly different expressions.  I may have smirked.  Just a little.

The NYT article goes on to say:

As a parent myself, I don’t read my tendency to gravitate toward fellow mothers as judgment — I read it as practical. Fellow parents are more likely to understand if I bail on dinner because of a sudden teacher conference, and their eyes are less likely to glaze over if my preoccupation at that dinner is more temper tantrums than, say, the right way to temper chocolate (which might once have held my interest for hours). In fact, I’d argue that it’s win-win.

As a full time SAHM (who works outside the house in the evenings) I have little to talk about other than my son, so it’s way easier to have complex conversations of interest with other parents.  They are more than happy to entertain my thoughts of toddler beds vs cribs… or hear my latest rant about nap-time roulette.

The author suspects that the “child-blessed” judge the “childless” about their choices. My response would be that those who are childless *by choice* are having far too much fun running around unencumbered by the demands of children that they hardly care if they’re excluded from “cultural conversation” about the choice they’ve made.

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What do you think?  Do YOU have a lot of child-less friends? Does infertility factor into any of your thoughts on this issue?

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Julia, formerly a molder of young minds, has briefly stepped away from that task to manufacture a child of her own. Along with the standard baby accessories such as hands and lips, she is planning on installing chrome side-pipes, rollbars, and a bitchin’ spoiler. She is fending off accusations that Jesse James is the true father.

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