It Doesn’t Matter If You Turned Out Fine

One of the recurring discussions that pops up on my social media feeds and blog rolls is one that people have strong opinions about: hitting or spanking kids to punish them. One of the most common exchanges/memes I see in regards to spanking goes like this:

“I got hit and I turned out fine.”

“Do you think it’s ok to hit kids? Then you’re not fine.”

I have problems with both elements of this exchange. While I agree that thinking it’s ok to hit children means you probably aren’t a paragon of ethics, I don’t think the response really gets to the heart of the matter, which is this: hitting someone is a Bad Thing. It hurts them. You do not need to show any additional harm beyond the actual hitting. You don’t need to show that it causes psychological damage later in life. Hitting another person all on its own is inappropriate.

The ONLY way that spanking advocates could show that they are correct is by a. showing that the benefits outweigh the negatives or b. showing that hitting their child does not actually harm the child at all. B seems fairly impossible since you are physically striking the kid. Maybe there’s some level of spanking that doesn’t actually hurt the kid at all, but then why are you doing it if the point is to punish?

Because once again, hitting someone else is IN AND OF ITSELF a harm. It is actually the most basic definition of harm most people can come up with. It causes physical pain and/or suffering. I do not know how else to explain that hitting someone is not a good thing, and that the age of the person is not relevant.

So we move on to a. The ONLY way that spanking would be justified is if it turns out it is actually a super effective disciplinary method that works SO MUCH better than any other way of raising your kid that it outweighs the immediate harm you’re doing the child.

It’s pretty easy to look around and see tons of amazing, awesome people who didn’t get hit as children. It’s easy to find studies that show negative outcomes of spanking in terms of its use in discipline. It doesn’t make kids better behaved: it makes them more likely to lie, more aggressive, and more reliant on external forms of punishment than internal morality. Really the only benefit you’re getting is kids whose immediate compliance is faster.

So yeah, it’s possible there are long term consequences to spanking that damage someone’s mental health. But it also doesn’t matter. Because you’re hitting someone. You’re hitting someone who’s defenseless and trusts you. That’s bad. And we don’t have evidence that hitting someone is a miracle cure for bad behavior.

 

So no matter how many awesome people did get hit, it doesn’t matter. Because the only thing that could ever justify hitting a kid is if there is literally no other way to discipline them. And that is just very clearly not the case. So next time someone brings up “well I turned out fine,” point out to them that it’s completely irrelevant! Lots of people turn out just fine with all kinds of disciplinary styles! The fact that your defense of your parents’ child rearing style is “it didn’t fuck me up,” says that you know it’s bad and are looking for an excuse.

No more excuses. There is no evidence that spanking turns out people who are better. And all other things being just about equal, not hitting people is better than hitting people.

Marriage Is What Brings Us Together Today

It’s that time of life where everyone is getting married. My brother has had a wedding to attend nearly every weekend since summer began, and even my not-so-interested-in-marriage friends are starting to get engaged. And so comes the phenomenon of name changes, and with it the anxiety that I get when I see my friends choosing to give up an identity marker as part of their relationship. While conversation about name changing has died off somewhat in the feminist movement, it’s still easy to find articles arguing both sides of the issue: women should be allowed to have the choice, it’s not unfeminist to do what you want to, women need to demand that men change their names, what on earth do gay and lesbian marriages bring to this debate, and why is it that 90% of the country still thinks that women should change their names upon marriage?

There’s a lot of deeper issues that names tap into. In literature, philosophy, sociology, and politics, names have importance. They help us define something, give it identity, allow it a place in the world. Names ground things in history, they give us a shorthand way of understanding what something is (this is particularly true of minority identities: having a name for your identity goes a long way towards making you feel part of a community or towards having legitimacy). So while many people might say that a last name just isn’t that important, that’s simply not true. Practically speaking, changing your name requires rebuilding your name if you have a career or contacts, changing a whole lot of official forms and documents (passports, driver’s license, etc), and changing even the way you think of yourself. It takes work, and that work far too often becomes the woman’s work.

Mary Elizabeth Williams argues that she doesn’t think most of her friends who changed their names are “pawns of the patriarchy” or that they’ve given up something by changing their names. It’s true that there are absolutely circumstances where a name change can be an act of liberation (e.g. changing the last name given to you by an abusive father), but for most people who choose to do it simply to please their partner/family/society, it might be time to get a little more critical. I doubt anyone is suggesting that women shouldn’t be allowed to change their names, simply that there’s a place in the conversation to ask why it’s always women and to challenge women to question. Choice feminism is great, but even freely chosen actions can contribute to an overall milieu of sexism.

What strikes me most about these conversations is the fact that every reason to change your name feels like an excuse. Every reason or situation could be solved in some other fashion that doesn’t require a woman to join her identity to her husband’s but not the other way around. If a woman doesn’t like her last name or has uncomfortable memories with it, she doesn’t have to wait around for a marriage to change it: you can change your name at any point in time. In fact one of my close friends just recently did this, and she’s all the happier for it because it was a choice of her own identity rather than a switch away from a painful identity into another person’s identity. If you want a unified family, hyphenate or make a new last name. The only honest to god reason for wanting a woman to change her last name but not a man is sexism, whether it’s in the form of a man feeling a woman needs to commit or a family wanting to carry on their name or some other variation thereof.

Spoiler alert: nothing about a title or name should change how you feel about someone or your commitment to them. While names do have power, they don’t make or break a relationship. My mother didn’t change her maiden name. My parents have been together for ??? years, through some incredibly rough times. No one could ever accuse my mother of not being committed to her marriage and her family (and if you do I will personally rip you a new one). The only confusion that ever happened was that one of my Spanish teachers thought my parents were divorced. We all got a hearty laugh over that one. Sometimes my friends don’t know what to call her. It’s real tough for her to tell them “Kathleen”.

Stop expecting women to bear the burden of accomodation. I’ve heard a fair number of men say that it was important to them, to the integrity of the relationship, or to carrying on their family name for their wife to change her name.  Can I just suggest that if your husband has cited any of these reasons you question your choice of spouse since that’s a whole pile of double standard he’s throwing all over you? Anything that says “women should do this, but men don’t need to,” is pretty textbook sexism. It doesn’t mean that you’re wrong for wanting to do it or a bad person. It means you’re participating in a sexist system and that we all need to learn how to question it. If you honestly feel that your marriage will be better because your wife changes something about herself, question that. If you feel pressured to change your name in order to be a good wife, question that.

There is absolutely no objective reason that a woman should be expected to behave differently when adjusting to married life than a man should, so let’s stop pretending it’s all for family unity and get to the heart of the issue: sexism. I don’t think every woman who takes her husband’s name is deeply hurt or oppressed by that decision. But I do think letting lots of little things slide reminds us over and over that we’re in a culture that values men and men’s identities over women’s, and that I have a problem with.

 

Why I Hate the Phrase “Start a Family”

It’s not uncommon for a young couple to mention that they’re looking to “start a family” or for someone who is looking for a spouse to say that part of what they want is to be able to “have a family”. We all know what people mean when they say this: they mean that they want to have kids. As someone who has no interest whatsoever in having children, this phrase implies many things that seem unhelpful and backwards to me.

First, it limits what a family can be, and it almost always means heterosexual, monogamous, cis partners with children. It cuts out any other family structure, even those that may include children. Generally the implication is that if you are not biologically related to the children, you don’t have a family. Adoption is placed on a lower tier, poly families make NO SENSE AT ALL, and GLBT families are utterly excluded (despite the fact that they can and do have kids).

But what really rubs me the wrong way about this is the idea that children are what make a family. Families are the people who are closest to us, who support us, who care for us, who we include in our most intimate decisions. They are not defined exclusively by blood: you can marry into a family, adopt into a family, or even (if you so choose) include certain friends or partners as part of your family. Each different way that we bring people into our lives in an intimate way is important and valid. Every formation of family improves our lives by giving us a support system and people who care for us (I am not referring to abusive structures here, but rather just different ways of setting up healthy relationships). And without these adult, caring, supportive, interdependent relationships, we cannot be healthy people.

So why is it that children are what defines “starting a family”? Didn’t all of us start our families the moment we had an intimate relationship, a close friend, a good relationship with our parents or our siblings, or provided support and care for our extended family? What does it say about how we value adult to adult relationships if a family only counts when we have kids?

This devaluing of adult to adult relationships has some serious consequences. It means that adults are pressured not to take time to connect with their friends, their siblings, their spouse or partners, or their mentors. When adults don’t take the time to establish healthy family networks of all types, that means they don’t have support and care when they need it. They don’t have someone they can ask to babysit or help out if they’re called in to work last minute. They don’t have other role models and mentors for their kids. They don’t have people who can support them if they lose a job or need health care. They don’t have people who can talk to them and support their emotional and mental needs. It means we have adults who don’t learn how to do the appropriate self-care of having a support network and taking time to be with other adults.

It also devalues the lives, accomplishments, and relationships of those who can’t or choose not to have children. The implication when someone says “start a family” to mean having a child is that those who don’t have children will never have families. It once again sends the message (especially to women) that their lives will be empty and alone if they don’t have kids. It says that they can’t possibly be getting the same kind of fulfillment and joy out of the relationships that they do have because they don’t “have a family”. Who on earth would want to refrain from having children? They won’t have a family!

All of this plays into the pressure to build your family in a certain way. It plays into the idea that unless you’re married or blood related, your relationship isn’t as important (which disproportionately affects people who are already oppressed). And this means legal rights, like right of attorney and inheritance. It means that I would not be able to visit the person I’ve lived with for the last 2 years if she were in the hospital simply because she’s “just a friend”.

It also means that children who have abusive or cruel parents are pressured to continue to interact with them, honor them, and respect them simply because of biology. It artificially divides relationships into “important, family” and “not important, other” through biology and the parent/child relationship.

This may seem like an unimportant phrase that comes from another time when families were all built a certain way. But the phrase implies that families look one way and there is one time when you begin to build your family. That’s simply not true and the consequences are that people are left more divided and more alone than they need to be.

I’m not playing by those rules anymore. I started a family ages ago. I started when I decided I wanted to put in the work to have a good relationship with my parents. I started when I decided to reach out to my brother. I started when I chose to reach out to new people and tell them that I care for them and wanted them in my life. I have a family. I don’t need to start one.

Adulthood: Mourning The Past

I’ve been having a lot of ennui about being an adult lately. This is not uncommon. Twenty somethings excel at ennui and not wanting to be adult. But there appears to be more to this ennui than simply being overwhelmed or not really wanting to take responsibility.

Accepting adulthood doesn’t just mean taking on new responsibilities and learning how to do practical things. All of those are difficult and stressful, but what might be the most difficult part about growing up is the changing relationships and the loss of the world that existed when you were a child. When you begin to take responsibility for yourself, it shifts every relationship you have been in with an adult it shifts how the world looks, it shifts what consequences look like and how you handle them.

One of the most difficult of these for me is relationships. I’ve had an extremely close relationship with my mother since I was young. When I was a kid, this meant that she took care of me, she protected me, she made the world an easier place for me while teaching me about all the awesome stuff I could do in it. She was amazing at making things happen that I deeply wanted to happen (e.g. going to that really cool summer camp).

Now that I’m an adult, that person that my mother was no longer exists. In childhood, parents can become a bit godlike. Sometimes they’re kind, benevolent, awesome gods (like my parents), and sometimes they’re shitty gods, but they do hold all the power in the relationship. Sometimes this means they can come across as faultless. No matter how you view your parents when you’re a child, you’re not seeing them as real, complex human beings (because that’s not the relationship parents and children have).

As you grow up and the power dynamics in your relationship even out, you see your parents in more and more realistic ways, as human beings with faults and fears. The god that protected you as a child dies. This hurts. A lot. It’s a little bit terrifying too. The relationship you had with the adults in your life will change drastically, and that is also scary and painful. You’ve replaced your parents with these new, odd people who are very much like your parents but suddenly can’t fix things for you and screw things up sometimes and have a history and want to do things other than cook you dinner.

This may sound very selfish, but at its root its about losing someone you love. Of course I still love my parents, but they’re not the people that I saw as a kid. I’m never going to get back the feeling of Mama Bear Who Will Fix All My Problems And Make Everything Ok. That’s a good thing, but I miss her. Part of growing up is mourning. Oddly though, we never talk about the fact that it’s a good and healthy thing to stop and feel sad for the things that are gone. Generally the attitude is “well you knew you had to grow up, everyone has to do it, move on”. That’s unhealthy and callous. Setting aside some time to feel sad that things have changed makes perfect sense and makes it easier to go on and do the difficult work of paying your bills and organizing your own damn vacations and building a new relationship with these people who are your parents.

There are other things to mourn though, and other places to notice that as your perspective changes, you may have to learn to be in relation to new things. A big part of this is consequences. As a kid, consequences are often arbitrary and usually limited by the adults around you: in all likelihood nothing you do will have the consequence of you ending up homeless, getting fired, going hungry (there are circumstances in which these things happen, but for the most part you aren’t going to cause them). As an adult, these things are possible, and your actions could cause them: you can get fired, you can lose your apartment, you can not have enough money for food! AH! Your relationship to the world has expanded into a much bigger and much scarier territory.

While it’s quite likely that you won’t end up making any of these huge mistakes and you probably know that, the fact that they now exist is something that’s scary and new. The world has changed in an irrevocable way. This is another thing that you get to mourn. Every couple of months if you need to, you can sit down and have a good old worry fest about the fact that it’s now up to you to make sure you have a roof over your head and food in your tummy and no deadly molds growing on your bathtub. And once you’ve felt that worry you can stand back up and remind yourself that you’re capable and not going to make any deadly mistakes, then go about your day.

The natural emotions that are part of growing up aren’t a bad thing, but for some reason it’s become normal and acceptable to tell young people that they should just get over it and ignore those emotions because hey, it’s just being an adult and everyone has to do it. Newsflash: there’s lots of things that everyone has to do that are unpleasant and terrifying and that deserve some time to respect that. A great example of this is that everyone’s parents dies and it’s absolutely understood that you get time to grieve. Similarly, growing up is a time of flux and change and confusion. All of these come with natural emotions and it makes sense to feel those emotions.

Let’s stop with the shame and start accepting that a part of adulthood is mourning what you lost when you put childhood aside. Sometimes you do get to sigh deeply and miss having Mom tuck you into bed when you’re sick, or having long afternoons of playing outside in the dirt. You get to mourn the things you miss, and hopefully you can figure out how to reincorporate some of those things into your life in appropriate, adult ways. growing up

 

I Am Not A Puzzle to Be Solved

Note: I do not mean this post to be a criticism of my parents or any of the other people in my life. I know that everyone is doing the best they can in the relationships that they have.

One of the things that I have come to value most in relationships is honesty and vulnerability, particularly the ability to be straightforward and ask questions. I have learned to appreciate this because in many cases, arguments or disagreements can be solved simply by finding out what the other person is actually thinking or feeling. More often than not, brainstorming solutions together will solve the problem.

Unfortunately, this is not the way that we’re taught to interact with people. From the time we’re little, we’re treated as little puzzles that need to be solved, as if there’s some code that can crack the behavior of a small child and get them to do what you want. I think that my parents did a fantastic job raising me, but even they bought into this mentality in some ways. When I’ve spoken to my parents about their techniques, my mother has told me things like “If you keep a kid on a schedule, they’ll be much less cranky” or “If you ignore a kid who’s throwing a tantrum they’ll stop”. Now these are effective techniques, and for new parents they can be a godsend, but unfortunately they don’t do much to validate the actual feelings of the child involved or teach the child what to do when they’re feeling overwhelmed or upset.

In contrast, I’ve been reading Libby Anne’s blog lately and there has been a surprising amount of content about treating your child as a real human being with legitimate needs and wants and the amazing returns that she’s gotten as a parent by adopting this technique. This involves validating a child’s emotions, trying to communicate and compromise where possible, and explaining why the answer is “no” when the answer has to be “no”. Instead of coming up with a series of tricks that will have a certain effect, Libby Anne prefers to work with her children to identify their emotions and brainstorm solutions so that in the long term they will learn how to manage those emotions themselves.

Unfortunately, most parents work by trying to devise methods to get their children to a certain behavior, rather than working with their children to create healthy behaviors and tools to live well. The most obvious and harmful example of this is corporal punishment: if you beat the child then they’ll do what you want and learn to do what you want them to do. But we all do this to some extent or another. Think of the magazines that boast “this quiz will tell you if he likes you” or “10 ways to tell if your relationship will last”. Every teenage girl has engaged in this behavior: trying to discern what the text means, trying to “unlock” the secrets. And media is even worse when it comes to portraying women (they’re a mystery!  A complete mystery! Buy her things to unlock the secrets!).

Friends do this to each other as well. There are “rules” to friendship (e.g. it’s against the rules to date your best friend’s sibling). Dating relationships are potentially the worst culprits. While many people say that they value communication, it is still all too common for people to try to figure out how to get their partner to act differently while not actually talking to their partner about what’s bothering them. “Nice guys” are a prime example, but I’ve been known to do this as well, thinking things like “If I just don’t speak up ever about what’s bothering me then they’ll think I’m nice and want to be with me forever” or “I’ve already texted x times and they haven’t texted back. Is it against the rules to text again? What are they trying to tell me? Do they hate me?” It’s a process of both mind-reading and personalization, in which every action must mean something about you and in order to crack the code you need to behave just so.

Unfortunately, human beings are not puzzles. There is no secret combination of words and presents that you can present to someone in order to unlock their love or kindness or good behavior. When we approach children in this fashion, we teach them to approach all relationships like this. And when we do this, we set them up for all kinds of problems. If relationships are about getting the other person to behave in the way that you want them to (whether that’s them being happy or that’s them doing whatever you want), and the way to do that is to find the “correct input”, then you end up with problems like people thinking they’re owed sex, or people believing that they’re allowed to do whatever it takes to get the result they want.

It can also lead to the flip side: people assuming that if others aren’t ok then it’s their fault, people thinking they have to manage the emotions of others, or people who have never been taught appropriate ways to deal with their own emotions because they themselves have always been “managed”.

For me personally, I have found that thinking there are things you should be able to do that will make feelings or bad situations stop has led to really bad behavior. It didn’t teach me that sometimes things had to feel bad and that I would get through it. Even worse, it let me stay in relationships that were abusive and painful because I felt that if I simply found the right combination of actions, the other person would stop behaving the way they did.

More than anything, I wish that I hadn’t been convinced that there was a right way to behave towards others when I was first forming my identity. I can no longer tell whether I became sexual because I wanted to, or simply because I thought it was what you did with someone you loved and it would make them happy. I followed the scripts that others told me would work, the scripts that not only were supposed to make the other person happy but were supposed to make my emotions work in a certain way. I never felt that I could openly speak about what I wanted or didn’t want, and when I did say no to things there were reasons that had to be stated (because otherwise it will be rejection and that makes the other person sad: you didn’t input correctly). I wish that I hadn’t been spending my time trying to suss out how to get others to act, but rather taking the time to think about what I actually wanted and what I care about.

When I was asked recently about how I would be in a relationship without feeling that I needed to manage the other person, I replied that I can’t even imagine what I’m like just being myself in a relationship. This is a good part of why I’m finding the question of identity and orientation very confusing. I feel like every relationship I’ve been in, I’ve acted the way I felt would make the other person happy, repressed the parts of myself that wouldn’t have the right reaction, and said things I didn’t wholly mean becuase it was what you were supposed to say in order to make another person smile. I went through grandiose gestures of romance because that was what it meant to “be in a relationship” that was how you were supposed to show your love and if you did that then your relationship would be good.

All of these ways of approaching relationships are about looking at outward signifiers (what action did I take and what action did I get in response) instead of actually trying to get information from each person about what’s happening internally. I want to be honest in my actions instead of spending my life trying to manage exactly the right stimulus to garner the right response in people I care about. If I have children, I don’t want to try to come up with tricks to get them to behave well. With myself, I don’t want to bypass what my emotions are telling me by coming up with some action that shuts off the bad feelings. I am not a code to be cracked. I don’t need anyone else trying to figure out how to fix my feelings, nor do I need to fix myself. I need honest communication that asks how I can recognize my emotions, understand why they’re happening, and deal with the source of the problem.

Being Childless: Prejudices and Pitfalls

Note: This post is very much an exploratory post for me about a variety of issues. I’m taking some time to examine how I feel about children and try to understand what about my behaviors might be disrespectful to children. I’d really appreciate it if you find something offensive in this post if you were polite about it and helped me come to a better understanding of why it might cause harm. I’m also going to be using childless and childfree somewhat interchangeably here, although I know that that’s not the most appropriate. I’m aiming to stick with childfree when it’s a choice and childless for an overarching term of those without children.

Somehow children and having children have decided to take over all of my blogs and twitters and internet haunts and have become the topic of the day. This is weird. I don’t really have any friends with children, I don’t have children, and I have no desire to ever have children (and if you tell me that it’s just because I’m young and some day I’ll want them and it will be great you can just leave now). I’m not used to thinking about children or the difficulties and questions surrounding raising children. And I particularly found myself challenged by a few posts by Libby Anne about prejudice against children. Many of the things she was saying were attitudes that I held: I don’t particularly like kids, they make me uncomfortable, I often find them frustrating when they’re in my spaces. Generally she suggested that people who hold these types of attitudes are “childist” and are discriminating against others. I’d like to delve into some of the nuances of what it means to be childless and still respect children and their parents.

Let’s start with a fact: children are an imposition. They are in fact a burden. Many people would argue that that isn’t the case because they provide so much back to us and they are human beings that are deserving of respect and love. I’m not trying to say these things aren’t the case, but they are human beings who are not capable of caring for themselves, or even of fully processing their world. This means that they impose upon adults in order to survive: they require the time, money, and resources of adults. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many things in life involve some sacrifice and imposition and a whole lot of joy, and kids are probably one of those things. It doesn’t seem to me to be prejudice to recognize that fact.

Children are also different from adults. Yes, they are human beings, yes they have legitimate emotions, and yes they are fully autonomous. However their brains have not developed completely, they don’t know how to manage their emotions or their world yet, and they often simply view the world differently from adults. Again, this is not a bad thing, but it is not prejudice or stereotyping to say that children’s brains are different from adults’ brains. That’s a fact.

As someone who is child-free on purpose, I have taken these elements into consideration. I am not very good with children because of those reasons. Realizing that another being is wholly dependent on you is a scary proposition, and as a responsible adult I know I’m not cut out for it. Because of that, I avoid children. I’m not good with kids and so I don’t want to be around them because I don’t like being around people who I cannot socialize with. Interestingly, to many people this would be viewed as a prejudice, or as discrimination against children.

It’s widely recognized that childless adults, particularly adults who choose to be childless are often badgered and sometimes oppressed or discriminated against by the people around them. Many people with children want to say that the childless have turned things around and begun acting the same way towards them and their children. Of course there are some childless individuals who treat children poorly, just as there are some people with children who treat children poorly. But making statements about disliking children, about wishing children weren’t in your spaces, or about preferring people not to talk about children are not prejudice: they’re preferences. Children are a very different type of being, and each of us gets to choose what sorts of people we have in our spaces. For those of us who are childless, children can be difficult and scary. Wanting to avoid that is 100% logical.

Just the same as I choose my social spaces so as not to be around racist or sexist people (who I don’t know how to be around), I choose my social spaces so as not to be around children (who I don’t know how to be around). (This is not to say that I am equating children with racists and sexists, but rather that they’re both groups of people whose brains I don’t understand). It’s frustrating to me that I’m expected to coo over small people who confuse me, rather than running for the nearest exit as I would with anyone else that I’m afraid of (yes children scare me. I don’t like being confused). I’m frustrated that it’s labelled as “prejudice” when there are in fact major differences between the brains of children and adults and I don’t know how to bridge that gap. It’s frustrating to me that when I say kids are LOUD and I don’t really want to be around them, I get labelled as someone who thinks kids don’t have humanity or don’t deserve my respect.

While the world is not my personal garden and I can’t edit it to my taste, I should get some choice in the question of who I am around, particularly whose noise and body are in my space. We accept this with adults. And yes, kids don’t understand it, but I’m still allowed to make adjustments for myself and to request that the parents make adjustments. Particularly because children often don’t understand boundaries and more often don’t understand auditory boundaries, it doesn’t seem out of line for the childless among us to avoid them because we like our boundaries.

Now I will in no way defend people who call kids scum or evil, but I have been known to call them (to steal a phrase from Tennessee Williams) no neck monsters. But I’m going to level with you: I would call anyone who was screaming on the bus a monster. It’s not about dehumanizing the kid, it’s really just about me and my desire to express my discomfort. Like I said, kids are a burden, and I think we get to recognize that, particularly those of us who didn’t choose that burden but sometimes get saddled with parts of it simply because we’re out in public.

Of particular note here is friends with kids. I love you. I have no problem with your kids. But I want no part of the responsibility of children because I might break your kid so please don’t put your kid near me or in my lap because I will freeze up like a deer in headlights and start wondering what would happen if I accidentally dropped them. If I’ve made it clear that I am not comfortable around children, please don’t expect me to be overjoyed when you bring your kid over, or when you ask me to come over and be around your kid.

With all these thoughts in mind, I do still have some questions: Is it prejudice to recognize the differences in child and adult brains and have a preference between them? Is it a privilege to be childfree and to be able to avoid children? What are the potential oppressions that the childfree can enact on those with children? I’m not sure about many of these, but I suspect that there are some great privileges that people without children get, and which they often expect people with children to have (like time, flexibility, etc). I do suspect that we need more communication on all sides, and more exploration of what the needs and wants of all parties are so that public spaces can better accommodate everyone. And more than anything, the question that has been looming in my mind through this whole post is whether or not it’s prejudice or disrespectful to avoid children. I’d love some feedback.

Kid Free and Likely to Remain So

Arg. So I ran across a link to this article today about why it’s so very horrible to not have kids. I’m a bit miffed to say the least, as I don’t intend to ever have children and this person apparently thinks that this means I’m selfish and will be alone and uncared for in my old age. But here’s the problem: this article makes pretty much 0 logical arguments about what the actual problem with people who don’t have kids is. It suggests that they’re taking up valuable space where families with kids could have schools or be living in larger houses…but really the problems there seem to be bad access to education (not enough funding or bad layouts of cities) or not enough affordable housing for large families. The family of two living in the suburbs really isn’t taking away from other families, as suburbs are a privileged living situation in the first place and one of the larger housing markets. And if they’re miserable out there, isn’t that their own business?

 

It suggests that childless couples are heartless and want to ban kids from everywhere, or that they should go live some sort of crazy party lifestyle in downtown instead of living in the nice residential neighborhoods with schools. Well those are some pretty broad generalizations with no support to back them up, and if someone wants to live in an area with a school in it they’re completely entitled to do that. Honestly they’re putting in money to the school through taxes and local referenda and not using the resource, so I don’t see how it can be a negative. This suggests that a childless couple has nothing to contribute to a neighborhood which is highly insulting in my opinion.

 

As for the heartless idea, many childless couples actually love kids but don’t want them for themselves. Lots of couples with kids are actually really bitchy towards kids. So…that’s a pointless argument.

 

So as far as I can tell, this article gives no real reasons why it’s BAD for society to have childless married couples. It seems to hint that it might not be a choice that leads to happiness or fulfillment, but it also recognizes that happiness is subjective and different people might want different things, so…not sure what to make of that. However I can give you a multitude of reasons why I feel that it is ethical for me to remain childless.

 

1.The world in general has an overpopulation problem. We don’t know how to distribute our resources in an equitable manner. With this being the case, I think that it’s a better use of my energy and resources to try to care for the people who are already alive than to try to bring more people into the world. If I did want children, I would adopt.

 

2.I have a mental illness. This impacts my decision in a number of ways. First, I do not want to pass that on to any children of mine. I KNOW that all of my mental illnesses are highly heritable (particularly eating disorders) and if a child of mine ended up with one I would not be able to forgive myself. Second, I don’t think that I could be an adequate parent knowing how I react to stress. I would not want to bring a child into this world knowing that they have a high potential for mental illness and knowing that the stresses of raising a child would make me a less than ideal parent and potentially trigger relapse for me.

 

3.I don’t have the resources to adequately care for children and I don’t think I ever will based upon my career path. It’s unethical to bring a human being into this world if you can’t take care of them.

 

4.I feel that I can contribute more to my community in other ways. If I were to have children, I would be more likely to turn into one of those angry, bitter people who wants kids out of all restaurants. This may be selfish of me, but I think it’s entirely ok to be selfish enough to take care of your well-being. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact our world might be a little more ethical if all of us were willing to take a little more time to think about how we can care for our mental and emotional health.

 

Maybe I will never get having kids. That’s ok. There are people who will never understand what it’s like to be a married woman without kids (because if there’s something that’s frowned on in this society that’s it). There are people who will never understand having a mental illness or being black or being rich or being poor. Not all of us have to have all the same experiences. THAT’S OK. We can still respect each other and the choices that others make, and try to stand up for our own needs while taking others into account (so for example I’m terrified of kids. I might choose to go to a more upscale restaurant or a bar so as to avoid kids, but I would never try to get kids kicked out of a restaurant because I know that having kids can be tough and that’s rude).

 

We don’t need any more us vs. them logic, especially in terms of marriage, child-bearing, and family choices. We’ve got that from here to the moon. We’ve got stay at home moms vs career moms, we’ve got religious vs non religious, we’ve got married vs unmarried…what we DO need is more empathy on all sides and the recognition that each of us find fulfillment in different ways and contribute to society in different ways. I may never produce a brilliant child who goes on to do something awesome, but perhaps I will do some amazing organizing work that contributes to mental health access or to education access. Perhaps I will write something that touches other people. There are so many ways I could contribute to the next generation and I don’t to be pigeon holed as selfish because I have chosen not to use my reproductive organs.

Look at how happy I am up there without any kids and with someone who loves me. I think I’m doing pretty well.