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4484Re: Why VHEMT? Why Not Having Kids Is Admirable, Not Selfish

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  • Alan Thomas
    Aug 20, 2013
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      I like that story, but does it really reflect the VHEMT worldview? I took
      it as "it's okay to have kids if you want to, or not to have kids if you
      don't want to", and I agree with that. I thought the VHEMT paradigm was
      just plain "not okay to have kids"...?


      On Sun, Aug 18, 2013 at 9:09 AM, Augie <augie1015@...> wrote:

      > **
      >
      >
      > Why Not Having Kids Is Admirable, Not Selfish
      > By Jill Filipovic [2]
      > August 16, 2013
      >
      >
      > http://www.alternet.org/gender/why-not-having-kids-admirable-not-selfish?akid=10818.1141789.d19EZC&rd=1&src=newsletter883895&t=5
      >
      > http://www.alternet.org/print/gender/why-not-having-kids-admirable-not-selfish
      >
      > To the child-free women out there: thank you.
      >
      > Contrary to popular media narratives and the critiques of those concerned
      > about the continued supremacy of the white race, women who don't have
      > children [3] are not selfish, emotionally stunted or inadequately grown-up.
      > In fact, they're the opposite: they're women with the self-knowledge and
      > maturity to buck enormous social pressure and choose a life that's right
      > for them.
      >
      > The increased visibility and acceptance of women who choose not to have
      > children is just one part of a social evolution away from the limited
      > "traditional family" model, and into a world where human beings with a
      > diversity of needs can create family arrangements that work for them.
      > That's not just good for the child-free; it's great for feminism [4] � and
      > even better for society and families.
      >
      > Bring up the possibility of educated white women choosing not to have
      > children [5] and you'll be met with intense hostility. The desire to forgo
      > childrearing is a "banal fantasy [6]"; having kids is the only way for
      > adults to avoid "destructive self-absorption". The photo of the child-free
      > couple on the cover of Time Magazine this month showcases "lazy yuppies
      > [7]" whose "matching swimsuits reek of self-satisfied, in-your-face Dinks
      > [double income no kids]." The cover model's smile [8]"is supposed to
      > communicate her disdain for her uterus and her utter satisfaction with her
      > size-4, cellulite-free, vacation-filled life".
      >
      > As for the actual words of child-free women, "the reasons couples give for
      > avoiding parenthood are deeply, deeply lame"; remaining child-free by
      > choice "is most definitely selfish", not to mention "anti-religion,
      > anti-family, [and] counter-cultural". Few people make a child-free
      > lifestyle sound more appealing than people (presumably parents) who are
      > bitter and resentful at all the alleged freewheeling, responsibility-free
      > fun that child-free people are having.
      >
      > Of course, that same level of vitriol isn't leveled at single women who
      > decide to remain child-free, or poor women, or women of color. Thosewomen
      > aren't selfish; they're rational, even commendable. Single women who have
      > kids, and women who are poor or of color see their choice to have children
      > criticized as irresponsible or indulgent.
      >
      > Yet, a married white woman saying "no thanks" to mommy-hood? She's a
      > selfish narcissist, putting her life of fancy vacations and spotless white
      > carpets ahead of her social and biological duty to reproduce.
      >
      > Most girls grow up in a culture of assumed motherhood. I was raised in a
      > liberal, tolerant household, but into early adulthood, I never
      > questionedwhether I was going to have kids � it was always how many and
      > when. That wasn't borne out of a deep, inherent desire for children. It was
      > simply how I understood the definition of "family": of course, you have
      > kids, just as you move out of your parents' house, and you get married, and
      > you die. That's the natural course of life.
      > If you don't have kids, you're a lonely spinster, wiling away your days
      > knitting booties for your many cats.
      >
      > To see some nebulous, grainy, other potential for which there are few
      > mainstream models and say, "I want that," takes courage and imagination.
      > That vision is behind many of the struggles for social justice in America:
      > a vision of a gender [9]-egalitarian world that has never before existed; a
      > vision of living as one's true self, including one's true gender, when you
      > were labeled something else at birth; a vision of equal rights and
      > opportunities regardless of skin color; a vision of public and private
      > spaces accessible to those whose bodies are deemed outside the norm.
      >
      > That isn't to equate child-free people with freedom fighters, feminists
      > and other activists, or to say that the discrimination child-free women
      > face is anything on the scale of systematic racism, homophobia, sexism or
      > other bigotries. It is to say that creating new norms and models is
      > powerful, and stepping outside the status quo often brave.
      >
      > Substantial numbers of people choosing not to have children also makes
      > clear that having children should actually be a choice for everyone.
      > Encouraging women and men to really assess their own lives, circumstances,
      > values and desires, and evaluate whether a child is an addition they want,
      > not only helps individuals to make more informed and affirming decisions,
      > but sheds light on the many factors that make reproduction so fraught.
      >
      > Hopefully, it offers insight into how to make childbearing truly a choice
      > for everyone. Recognizing that having children is staggeringly expensive
      > doesn't mean that individuals shouldn't have kids unless they're
      > financially well-off. It means that we need better social and political
      > mechanisms to ensure that families at every income level can raise children
      > who are healthy and who have access to good food, a decent education and
      > the prospect of social and economic mobility.
      >
      > Recognizing that having children is more often than not detrimental to a
      > woman's career and professional aspirations doesn't mean that women who
      > want to succeed shouldn't have kids. It means that we need a variety of
      > both policies and cultural changes to end discrimination against mothers,
      > equitably share child-rearing tasks between partners, and make sure that
      > the value of an employee isn't measured by hours spent at the office, but
      > by productivity and effectiveness.
      >
      > And parenthood is difficult in very particular ways. It should only be
      > entered into entirely voluntarily. There is no "voluntary" in a culture
      > where parenthood is a required part of adulthood.
      >
      > Parenthood is, at its best, also really fun (or so my parents tell me).
      > Many parents choose to have kids not because having kids is a
      > socially-required slog, but because the process of raising a tiny human
      > into an adult sounds challenging, exciting and transformational. For lots
      > of other folks, though, the very real challenges and difficulties of
      > child-rearing outweigh the benefits.
      >
      > And that's a legitimate position that should not just be accepted, but
      > fundamentally understood without issue, since it's true in many other areas
      > of life. I get a lot of pleasure and excitement out of trying new and weird
      > foods; some people get pleasure and excitement out of skydiving; some get
      > pleasure and excitement out of long periods of reclusive meditation. And
      > others only want to eat things that are familiar, or not risk their life
      > jumping out of a plane, or feel anxious when alone. Newsflash: people are
      > different and need different things. For some folks, childrearing is a
      > wonderful challenge; for others it sounds awful. For still others,
      > parenthood is entered into involuntarily or even angrily; too often,
      > children suffer the consequences.
      >
      > Romanticizing parenthood as beautiful and life-affirming obscures the
      > reality that for many kids, a "parent" is someone who physically hurts
      > them, belittles them, damages them or makes them feel small and worthless.
      > Compulsory parenthood doesn't just limit those of us who are agnostic about
      > having kids or don't want them at all; it breeds resentment and anger
      > toward children, who are ultimately innocent in their parents' decision to
      > bring them into the world. And it assumes that because parenthood is both
      > paramount and natural, parents should have enormous levels of control over
      > their kids, too often at the expense of those kids' personal safety and
      > individual rights.
      >
      > Extremes like child abuse aside, the normalization of a child-free
      > lifestyle would simply give us a wider variety of acceptable lifestyles to
      > choose from. There is, of course, always peril in choice, as there is some
      > psychological ease in just going with the assumed flow of things and
      > accepting one's circumstances as inevitable. Choice means knowing there are
      > doors left unopened and paths not taken; choice always offers the potential
      > for regret, or at least wondering what might have been. But working through
      > that, and owning the choices we make, are how we get to happiness, instead
      > of simple satisfaction or complacency.
      >
      > We all have one life on this planet. Seeking happiness selfishly, at the
      > expense of others, isn't laudable. But seeking happiness and pleasure for
      > oneself by making choices that serve one's needs and values, which don't
      > harm other people? A society in which members collectively decide that
      > their own needs are important, and that creating social structures to
      > support a diversity of needs is a path to prosperity?
      >
      > A society that prioritizes pleasure and self-worth sounds a whole lot
      > better than one that valorizes denial, unnecessary sacrifice and general
      > resignation at the way things are (at least for women).
      >
      > The "selfish" narrative about child-free people also sheds light on many
      > of our cultural dysfunctions. There's little angst over the many men who
      > choose not to have children, and little social condemnation. Consider
      > simply the difference in meaning of "bachelor" versus "spinster". Women who
      > don't have children are particularly offensive because part of our cultural
      > understanding of the ideal female hinges on being nurturing, emotional and
      > care-giving. To reject childbearing pushes back on the basic assumption
      > that women have an obligation always to make their lives about someone else.
      >
      > There are 7 billion people on the planet. It seems unlikely that all of
      > them would be inherently and necessarily more fulfilled, more mature and
      > better-off if they all made the exact same choice � whether that's to run a
      > business or start an organic garden or practice yoga or do any other
      > particular thing. So, why do we assume that having kids is the universal
      > choice of the unselfish and the personally transformed?
      >
      > Normalization of being child-free is a gain for all of us, whether we
      > choose to have children or not. It reminds us that kids are people, who
      > deserve to be raised and nurtured by adults who proactively want to have
      > them. And it reminds us that women are people, too � that we exist once on
      > this planet, and we have one life in which to seek happiness and pleasure
      > and goodness. Making choices that center on our own needs and desires isn't
      > selfish. It's radical. It's transformational.
      >
      > See more stories tagged with:
      > parenting [10],
      > children [11],
      > family [12],
      > normalization [13],
      > status quo [14]
      >
      > Source URL:
      > http://www.alternet.org/gender/why-not-having-kids-admirable-not-selfish
      >
      > Links:
      > [1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/
      > [2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/jill-filipovic-0
      > [3] http://www.theguardian.com/society/children
      > [4] http://www.theguardian.com/world/feminism
      > [5] http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2148636,00.html
      > [6]
      > http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765635631/Time-Magazines-deceptive-fantasy-of-the-child-free-life.html?pg=all
      > [7]
      > http://in.lifestyle.yahoo.com/blogs/itsaparentthing/is-being-childfree-selfish--debating-time-magazine-s-touchy-new-issue-204219641.html
      > [8]
      > http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/time-magazine-asks-who-needs-kids-anyway/
      > [9] http://www.theguardian.com/world/gender
      > [10] http://www.alternet.org/tags/parenting
      > [11] http://www.alternet.org/tags/children-0
      > [12] http://www.alternet.org/tags/family-0
      > [13] http://www.alternet.org/tags/normalization
      > [14] http://www.alternet.org/tags/status-quo
      > [15] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B
      >
      > Augie
      > Live Simply So That
      > Others May Simply Live
      > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Yoga-With-Nancy/
      > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SignSoFla/
      > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SoFlaVegans/
      > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SoFlaSchools/
      >
      >
      >


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