My Mother's Day Gift to the Planet: Not Having Kids
- My Mother's Day Gift to the Planet: Not Having Kids
By Chris Bolgiano, Blue Ridge Press
May 6, 2010
It was Mother's Day, and the staff of the independent-living community where my mother resides had arranged a nice luncheon, with roses for all the mothers. When a cherubic child with golden ringlets pressed a flower into my hand, and I politely refused it, she became confused. No wonder, since it was assumed by everyone, that of course all adult women in attendance were mothers
At fifty-something I am an adult, but not a mother. And though some will gasp in horror, I consider that to be my greatest achievement as a conservationist, although finding the first saw-whet owl ever reported in my part of Virginia ranks pretty high, too.
For millennia, the relentless ticking of a woman's biological clock has equated her entire life with only one purpose: childbearing. And for my gender, menopause has always largely meant the end of meaning.
I've lived through that transition now, without despair or Prozac. And I'm not alone. Today large numbers of married women are choosing not to have children, if only because more opportunities are being offered to more women than ever before. It was my good fortune to come of age with such choices, and to find a husband who honored them.
It always seemed to me that childbearing was a quick way out of a hard hunt - providing instant meaning to life. I wanted to search for purpose elsewhere. Plus, when I first read the ingredients on jars of industrial baby food - this was long before "organic" was even a gleam in Gerber's eye - I couldn't imagine inflicting that stuff on an infant.
Which brings me to the state of the world.
Although few journalists cover this angle, almost every environmental disaster is caused by overpopulation - but not the kind many assume. It's not the black and brown babies of the developing world that most threaten our planet, but our own desire for stuff - a hunger for iPods and starter castles.
American consumption, and the global pollution associated with supplying it, is unsurpassed. It takes a Third World village to use all the resources that a single American consumes and, often, wastes every day. So even though the birthrate in America is historically low, curbing it further would be a good place to begin when trying to save the world. I am pleased to do my part.
But what about the joys that children bring? Isn't there a basic biological drive to reproduce? And aren't children our future, after all?
The only sadness occasionally seeping from my childfree decision is not having grandchildren - which my mother would have loved. Now and then, I've also wondered if my husband would have enjoyed life more with children, but I doubt it.
As for the future, I'm more concerned about the precarious outlook for saw-whet owls than the human race, which far outnumbers owls and has all the advantages. And I grieve for the generations of all living creatures that will suffer from our toxic legacy.
Meanwhile, a few fundamentalist preachers have noticed the childfree trend and condemned it because marriage, they say, is only for procreation. Others question whether the Lord really wants the world to have 9 billion people, many dying as babies because clean air, water, and enough food are only available to those able to afford them.
It seems to me that the encouragement of childfree couples is crucial to saving the planet.
A childfree life celebrates humanity's most profound conquest of nature: not the engineering of dams or genes, but control of conception. Give every woman that choice, and the world will change.
Like me, many women could discover that a childfree life offers meaningful experiences that balance the loss of mothering, and theirs could be a great gift to a beleaguered planet.
Chris Bolgiano lives in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia and has authored or edited five books, several of which have won literary prizes. She was a talking head in the 4-part PBS Series, "Appalachia: A History of Mountains and People."
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denisecm 1 hour ago
Thank you for finally telling the truth about the selfishness of bearing a child in today's horrific society! It takes courage and inner strength for women to realize what the best for their 'children' really is! I have shared the same view with friends many times to just hear..." you don't want one?" I look at them in awe...thinking about the ignorance and arrogance that exists.
ProfBob 32 minutes ago
Great idea! The selfish natures of most people and the traditions that have brought us to the present need to change. About a year ago Science Daily published the survey of the scientists in the environmental section of the State University of New York. They confirmed that overpopulation is our major planetary problem. Global warming is second. And obviously global warming, illegal immigration, the lack of fresh water, and other major problems facing us are all related to overpopulation. For those who want to be more updated on this area I suggest: overpopulationawareness.net and the interesting free book series that looks at a number of related problems of overpopulation, some solutions, as well as the ethical and psychological obstacles to saving our planet. It is called 'In Search of Utopia" and is found at http://andgulliverreturns.info
Of course doing something meaningful about overpopulation is probably impossible because politicians won't take on an unpopular cause which is counter to the conservative religions who want more souls to save and the shortsighted businesses want more customers today.
Guest 24 minutes ago
I have one child. Never wanted more than one. She had attention and love
and grew up to be a wonderful person. Lives without prejudice or judging
people and without the religion some people think makes a person "good."
I see people with more children than they can handle and ask myself "WHY?"
free2disagree 16 minutes ago
I think that some people choose to have a kid/kids for selfish reasons, and some people choose to not have a kid for selfish reasons. However, I think that most people are not selfish, whether they have a kid/kids or not.
I also think if a "friend" "shared her view" with me that all women who have a child are selfish, I might react a little more negatively than your friends, denise. Hmmm, I can't help but turn it around- the "ignorance and arrogance" of negatively judging other women's choices without knowing the details or struggles that she might have had to arrive at that point in time. Goes for both sides.
Not all women who have a child are materialistic, selfish or judging negatively women who do not have a kid. While there are a few out there, I would say most of the moms I know are not like that.
I applaud and respect the author's choice to have no kids, and one major reason we had just one child was out of concern for population growth. I definitely feel that every child should be a wanted child, and no one should feel compelled to have one, especially in today's world. I also think that people have different sets of life experiences and attributes that lead them to different and still valid conclusions and choices from someone else, without invalidating that other person.
Please let's all respect and try to understand each other, and not ascribe one set of attributes to such a large and varied group as mothers.
P.S. Oh, and one more small detail- I am 47 and my kid is in high school now, and I remember buying organic baby food, at least where I lived. Plus, I also used a food processer or just mushed up some of what I was eating and shared with him, as well. That part was not as difficult as some people think.
ThereseBrennan 0 minutes ago
I respect your choice of not having children out of pure love for our plant and its animals and birds but maybe your unborn child could have been the person who resolved the issue of distributing the still plentiful land and resources to every one of our brothers and sisters who need to survive? Or the person who made us all realise we must return to basics rather than the wanton must have mentality so many of us embrace? I agree with the last comment re: reading the baby food jar and making it part of your decision process, making your own food would have been more environmentally friendly and a practical solution. Children are our legacy, how we bring them up ensures their is a legacy for everything on our planet.
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