Tag: Childfree

My jaw dropped

Published / by sandymichelet / 1 Comment on My jaw dropped

It was a LOT different than I thought it would be. Looking back, I should have read the agenda for the 2 day conference a lot better. It clearly stated the event’s purpose. However, my brain decided that it would be something similar to the Gateway-Women’s retreat. I was wrong.

For the purpose of clarification….this blog defines childless as those who cannot have children (for whatever reason). Childfree describes those who have made a conscious decision not to have children.

On Friday, a childfree keynote explained the backlash she received after a 1974 interview on CBS’ 60 Minutes. She and her husband discussed their decision to not have kids. The morning after the TV show she was fired from her job, received death threats and was ostracized from her friends/family.  After realizing the footage had been edited to remove any positive references, she became an author and now in her 70’s, continues to advocate for and celebrate those who decided not to have children.

The message, though, was a little hard to take. The keynote was cheering (arms in air) about not having kids….actually celebrating….mere feet from childless women who had come to the event unsure of what they were looking for….but I don’t think this was it. She was celebrating not having the one thing that some in the room desperately wanted but couldn’t have. The more she spoke, the lower my jaw dropped.

Please understand. I have nothing against Marcia Drut Davis. I admire and applaud her for taking a stand and setting the stage for women to be able to make the choice to have kids. (After the conference I purchased her book for a friend and asked Marcia to sign it…which she happily did.)

So why was I so….so….shocked? Confused? Honestly, I think I had just geared myself up to hear a supportive talk for the childless and was surprised by the obvious lean to the childfree life.

After the keynote, 4 superstars in the childless/childfree community took to the stage for a panel discussion and a Q&A. Based on the comments and the audience participation, I guessed the room was split about 80% childfree, 20% childless. Childfree women shared their stories. More cheering. So far, nothing from the childless.

I reallyyyyyy started to question if this weekend was going to work for me. And I don’t think I was alone.

I watched the mic move throughout the room while I sipped on coffee…I initially had absolutely no plans of speaking up…….I was full from lunch and happy with the caffeine. But my heart started to break for my new childless friends who I knew had to be listening to everything I was….and who were not being acknowledged as attendees. I raised my hand, asked for the mic and started to share my thoughts (insert your surprised face here):

  1. “Yay for you if you decided not to have kids. Seriously, it is your choice….and I applaud you not having kids just because someone/society/your mother says you are supposed to have kids.”
  2. “Something was becoming very clear to me. We actually had three groups in the room: a.) The cheering childfree, b.) the childless who were well on their journey to peace (like me) and c.) those who were coming to terms with their childlessness and accepting that their life wouldn’t turn out like they’d planned. That last group was rightfully raw with emotion….and being completely ignored.”

A few random claps…and I felt like I had alienated myself from the rest of the group. Way to go, Sandy. Making friends in Cleveland….

The conference organizer, Karen Malone Wright thanked the panel then addressed the group. From the podium, she spoke directly to me with sincere concern for the childless women in the room who (at least in my mind) had previously been unacknowledged. Then….she clarified the format for us….and realized that she hadn’t done it at the beginning over the conference. The first day’s keynote was dedicated to the childfree, the second day the childless. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh. That made a LOT more sense. I immediately felt better. Kudos to her for starting The Not Mom group to provide a safe space for women who (for whatever reason) do not have kids. She is passionate about making this group inclusive and protected.

After the clarification, I was flying high. And ready to meet some peeps. Ba BAM!

During the break I was lucky enough to meet women who felt the same way I had all morning….and they wanted to speak up but didn’t know what to say or, as one woman said, didn’t have the strength to say it. So…my estimation of 80% childfree, 20% childless was actually wrong. The childless were there…but just not ready to talk yet.

So….that meant that the following day was for us. And Jody Day did not disappoint.

Next Blog Post: The Super Hero of the Childless

GUEST POST – Childless & Childfree – Two Peas in the Same Stigmatized Pod

Published / by sandymichelet / Leave a Comment

Below is our first guest post written by an incredible author….. Grab a glass of wine, sit back…and read a different perspective. In her own words: 

I have worked with Sandy for several years, and anyone who knows anything about her will know she is one kick-ass party planner. I’m sure she has planned her own funeral because honestly, she wouldn’t trust anyone else to get it right. I can just hear her voice from beyond the grave, “Those chairs with those tablecloths?! What kind of monster…”

That’s why it came as no surprise when three months into my engagement she informed me that my unborn child’s first birthday party was already planned – theme decided and Pinterest board full.

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“Every party needs a theme and deviled eggs”

                                      –  Sandy and every other Southern woman, ever.

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I am used to having this conversation now, but I still tense up when I have to tell someone what I told Sandy that day. “We don’t want children.” [Enter collective, audible gasp from audience here]

Did you know there are actually two types of women in regards to having children?

  1. Childless  – these are the women and couples who want children but are biologically unable to bear them due to a plethora of reasons.
  2. Childfree  – the women and couples who do not want to add children into their lives due to a plethora of reasons.

The more Sandy and I talked, the more we realized how mainstream society stigmatizes the childless and childfree in similar ways. Let me be perfectly clear: I don’t pretend to understand the burden and heartbreak a childless woman feels. No one can possibly understand until they walk that walk. I am certainly not suggesting that our journey is the same – only that when it is all said and done, we get lumped into the same group.

Don’t believe me? Let’s compare using the Five Stages of Grief, DABDA, aka the Kubler-Ross Model. This model is typically used to describe the stages of coping with the death of a loved one but isn’t it metaphorically perfect? Our families and friends must cope with the death of their expectations of us as mothers.

During a woman’s prime child-bearing years, she’s likely to hear these things from friends, family and even strangers as it becomes more and more clear she won’t reproduce:

1 DENIAL

  • What society says to a childless woman
  • What society says to a childfree woman
    • You’ll change your mind.
    • You’re still young! You don’t know what you want.
  • What they really mean
    • You’re not taking this seriously. I’m not taking you seriously.

Both responses imply that the woman has put little thought into her current situation and what she wants in life. The truth is, these two types of women actually think about, research and defend their situation more than anyone else.

This is the most hurtful stage for the childless woman. For the childless woman, this is the stage they are pouring the most effort, emotion and money into their dreams of being a mother. By saying “just relax” you’re actually saying “you have control over this situation and you’re mucking it up somehow.”

For the childfree woman, this is the stage they have arrived at after endless conversations with their partner/friends/mothers and deep self-reflection. For me, I have spent countless hours reading books by women who have bypassed motherhood (like this one) as well as lengthy conversations with my fiancé. To be told I will simply change my mind one day is laughable. This decision was not made by me solely or on a whim. I don’t say I don’t want children in the same casual way I say I don’t want pickles on my burger. My life partner and I arrived at this decision after serious consideration. If we do change our decision (not likely), it won’t be from influence from anyone else but us.

Recently, a coworker asked me if my fiancé and I would have children right after the wedding or if we would wait. “Are those my only two options?” I asked. From my perspective, this is like asking someone at their retirement party if they will move to Florida right away or wait a few years. “I don’t want to move to Florida…” Sure you do! Everyone wants to retire in Florida. You’ll change your mind when you’re older.

2 ANGER

  • What society says to a childless woman:
    • Who’s going to take care of you when you’re old?!
  • What society says to a childfree woman:
    • Not having children is selfish. You only care about yourself!
    • You HAVE to have kids. It’s a life experience you can’t miss out on.
    • Who’s going to take care of you when you’re old?!
  • What they really mean:
    • I’m uncomfortable with what’s happening because my expectations of you are not being met in reality.

Selfish is a word that gets thrown around a lot when people hear someone has chosen not to have children. Even the ultra-cool and modern Pope Francis called us out. A person living their life the way they want to is not selfish. Being mad that someone isn’t living their life the way YOU want them to, is. Creating a human simply because it’s a life experience and (potentially) would add to my happiness is not a good enough reason for me. My decision is not a personal attack on your lifestyle and it’s ok if you feel differently. That’s YOUR life… you see how this works?

Ah…  the infamous who’s going to take care of you when you’re old question. Nursing homes are full of people who had children. Are our fates really that different? Also, having children as a deposit for future care sounds kind of, dare I say, selfish?

3 BARGAINING

  • What society says to a childless woman:
    • Why don’t you adopt?
    • Have you tried IVF?
    • Have you tried unicorn tears?
  • What society says to a childfree woman:
    • Just try! If you don’t conceive, it wasn’t meant to be. But you can at least TRY!
    • You’ll feel differently when it’s your child.
  • What they really mean:
    • I know what’s better for you than you do.

Again, they’ve tried. Again, we’ve thought about it. I will handle my own life decisions, but I’ll be sure to file your suggestions appropriately.

4 DEPRESSION

  • What society says to a childless and childfree woman:
    • I feel bad for you. You’ll never know true happiness. Being a mother is the greatest joy in life.
    • I’m sad for your parents. They would’ve been great grandparents.
  • What they really mean:
    • Maybe one last guilt trip will help you get pregnant/change your mind? No? Then I’m just plain sad. This is something I wanted for you and wanted to have in common with you.
    • I do believe that mothers feel a different kind of love. I won’t ever experience that and that’s ok. There are a lot of types of love to experience in life and mothers don’t own love as an emotion. I am not less loving because I am not a mother.

5 ACCEPTANCE

  • What society says to a childless woman:
    • .
  • What society says to a childfree woman:
    • .
  • What they mean:
    • We have not evolved enough to understand this.

We still have work to do. Blogs like Sandy’s and articles like this one from Time Magazine are helping to create an American culture where women and couples aren’t seen as unfulfilled, depressed failures if they don’t have children. Forbes magazine even did a piece on “Otherhood” and the change of casting the 19 million+ childfree women in the USA as frivolous or desperate.

I never dreamed I would have so much in common with a woman who wanted children so strongly, but Sandy and I have become advocates for each other’s cause. I am now hyper aware of and sensitive to situations that isolate the childless women and I am amazed at everything I didn’t notice before. Yes, there are pregnancy magazines at the foot doctor and even while Pope Francis was shaking his pope finger at the childfree, he managed to isolate the childless by talking about what a holy gift children are and how lonely a marriage will be at the end without the joy of children. I’m aware of these things because Sandy decided to speak up about her daily life through the eyes of a childless woman.

To my childless friends, when you cross the bridge from the battle of infertility onto the other side of “what the heck happens now,” know that there are more women here in your corner than just those who struggled with infertility. There are the childfree women who are also being asked “who’s going to take care of you when you’re old?” Behind that question is a choir of childless and childfree women who are all answering in unison “We will.”

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THANK YOU to this incredible guest post author…I hope we can have many more from her! I’ve read this post 20 times and love it more each time. The conversation has started. Let’s keep it going.