Today in Things I Wrote Elsewhere

I did my first feature on Salon, on the next generation of abortion providers. (That’s what kept me away from the blog for most of last week, btw.)

I also wrote this morning about how the vitriol aimed at women who choose not to have children is suspiciously similar to anti-abortion rhetoric. You think maybe the real problem is that some people don’t want women to control our own fertility at all? Just maybe? 

And finally, there’s one fat/book related item. Marianne and I are guest blogging at Powells.com this week, and my first post, about the title of the book, just went up. For post number one, I wanted to do a mix of Fat 101 and writing/publishing issues, so that’s where I started. Haven’t yet decided what my next two will be about (I’m doing Wednesday and Friday; Marianne’s doing Tuesday and Thursday), so if there’s anything writing/publishing/reading related you’d like to hear me ramble about, let me know here! (And if you’re moved to comment over there, it would be nice to hear from people who are familiar with fat acceptance, since I imagine the alternatives are either no comments or Trollfest.)  

Also, feel free to self-link or point us to other interesting stuff in the comments. Thanks for your patience, crew.

185 thoughts on “Today in Things I Wrote Elsewhere

  1. Ooh, that IS a really good idea, Pinky.

    You know, it’s been years since I read She’s Come Undone — and when I read it, way before finding FA, I related to the self-loathing completely and wasn’t attuned to the nasty descriptions of her, because I believed fat was just that repugnant. So I still thought of that as a good, sympathetic book about a fat protagonist. But I recently bought Wally Lamb’s latest and stopped reading about 10 pages in, because he’d already described a fat (tertiary) character so hatefully, I couldn’t be bothered to keep going. I was all, “WTF? Aren’t you supposed to be fat girls’ hero?” (He’s also the most famous grad of my MFA program, so I’ve had a theoretical soft spot for him because of that, too.) Reading that thread, I’m sure that reading SCU now would make me furious, so that explains a lot.

    And the “200 lbs.” thing… oh yeah, there’s a blog post there.

  2. I was reading this amazing article from my Salon RSS feed and then I realized it was by you! Great job!

  3. Also, I finally finished the book this week, and no surprises here, but I LOVED it. Made me want to fat tango all over the place. :)

  4. Googling Polly Vernon (from whom, somehow, I’d heard neither pip nor squeak since she wrote for More! when I we a teenager), I found this blog. It’s a bit rude to Polly, but is making me giggle a lot.

  5. OMG. Your article . . . that’s just scary. It really is. Yikes. It almost makes me want to go into medicine, but then I remember that I’m really squeamish about, you know, raw chicken, let alone anything else.

    But thank you so much for writing about it.

  6. I’ve been having thoughts about the ridiculousness of solutions to the Obesity Epidemic Booga Booga Booga and your post at Salon tied into one of the ridiculous thoughts I had. It seems that one of the best ways (and it would be more or less effective) to end this “epidemic” would be to stop having kids!

    Think about it, women would no longer be dealing with post-baby weight which would help with current obesity issues and without children there would be no OBESE children!

    I’m really surprised no one has suggested this yet!

    (I realize you guys don’t know me yet so I should clarify that this post is supposed to be a parody of current (most likely ineffective) solutions offered and in no way do I think we should force people not to have children.

  7. Great Salon articles, Kate—as usual. I have a chronic pain situation that makes it very risky to have children, plus I don’t really want kids (and neither does my husband, thank GOD), but I still deal with the guilt. You know, thinking that I didn’t get fat FOR A PURPOSE (e.g., from having kids), so my fat is without merit. Even though I got fat after injuring my back, dammit!!!

    Just thoughts . . .

  8. Oh yes, and I read novels regularly and it makes me sick when people describe women as being HUGE and weighing 200 pounds OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!! (I weigh 300, which makes me TEH DEATH FAT). And these women are seen as stupid and lazy, too. Most of these authors are men, by the way.

    The only positive, intelligent, fat woman I’ve read about in a book by a male author is Robert B. Parker, and he still tends to focus to much on the toned bodies of women.

  9. You know what else the rhetoric is suspiciously similar to? The crap that some folks aim at women who choose to place their children for adoption. I (a birthmom twice over) haven’t had a lot of it directed at me personally, but other birthmoms of my acquaintance have – the usual line is that we’re “unnatural women” because we supposedly love our babies so little that we can give them away casually.

    I didn’t really notice the similarities until I read this post and the pieces it links to – I was aware of the logical inconsistencies but hadn’t quite put it together.

    (Also, the comment thread for your first Powell’s post can never be wholly Trollfest – I was a bit surprised that mine was the first.)

    Sunflower

  10. I read the Salon article on abortion providers last night, but managed to miss your byline. Very good article! I have been considering what it would take for me to become an abortion provider, but the time and expense for the whole doctor thing … I just don’t know.

    On voluntary childlessness: Egad, do I hear that! I had a tubal ligation at 28 — after searching for a doctor off and on for 7 years (since the day I turned 21). With no children and no husband, no one would even talk to me.

    But what shocked me was the disgust I met … I started with the ob/gyn who delivered me because my mother has always really liked him. She contacted him for me, and he yelled at her — literally yelled — that she was a terrible mother and a terrible person for allowing me to even consider such an option. (She never went back to him. 30 years and 4 babies between them, but she wasn’t going to put up with that.)

    I eventually made friends with a general practitioner whose wife had had a tubal, and he introduced me to a friend of his who would sometimes perform the operation. It took me months of expensive appointments to convince the doctor that I was sane and knew my own mind, and on the day of the surgery he almost backed out at the last minute.

    Seriously — I was already under and my partner had to convince the doctor *again* that I wasn’t going to change my mind and sue him. My partner got the worst of it that day — once the nurses found out what I was in for they went out of their way to be nasty to him while he waited. At one point he thought they were going to throw him out even though he was my ride home.

    Anyway … sorry for the long-winded comment. I am very aware of the moral freight attached to voluntary childlessness, and I am very, very glad to see someone writing about it.

    (By the way, one of the excuses the doctor tried to make to dissuade me was that I was too fat for surgery. Amusingly, I was also (according to him) too fat for pregnancy.)

  11. Kate, you’re one of my new favorite writers, seriously. I can’t wait to get the book!
    *curses her empty bank account*

    On a totally off-topic moment I finally got around to looking up Beth Ditto and The Gossip on YouTube, and I am in love! I think “Standing inThe Way of Control” could be a candidate for an FA anthem. (Unless one of these amazing Shapleings here wrote one!)

  12. Great articles, Kate.

    It’s funny, because I don’t remember anyone ever asking me if I had kids or if I wanted them, and having them mumble, “Oh…excuse me forever, I have to go wash my feet,” and get out of there in a hurry when I answered no to both. I think that’s because I’m aspie and therefore don’t register as “officially female” to a lot of people, so nobody actually bothered to ask me that. Of course *I* shouldn’t have kids, that’s a terrible idea! I think even my own family thought that, and pinned all the hope for grandchildren on my brother, who delivered (hee).

    Not that they’re wrong about my being unsuitable for motherhood, exactly. Just sayin’.

  13. Suggestions for Powell blog:

    1. You touched on this in your Powell post, but how about more of the challenges of getting a book that flies in the face of the (very lucrative) diet book business? What did you two encounter, and how did you overcome?
    2. The responses of the media maelstorm you endured after the book came out….you know, the ad nauseum interviews you both did with pro and con interviewers AND the resultant troll comments once the interview was posted/published. For that matter, the treatment you received from the Television media in response to you book.
    3. Finally, how about more background on your “research” for the book? I know you two took most of your info from your blogs, but how else did you glean your viewpoint and knowledge of FA?

    I know that I am curious about these things, and hope my suggestions are viable.

  14. Excellent article, Kate! Though, you know, also terrifying. I thought I was aware of the choice issue but I clearly was kidding myself. I had no idea the percentages of women who end up having abortions in this country. If all those women need to be able to speak to doctors who at least know the information even if they aren’t offering abortion services and the majority of doctors don’t even know the information, not only are we looking at a loss of service providers but the rate of complications and probably the death rates from unintended or dangerous pregnancies are going to start rising in the next 10 years as we lose the few remaining doctors with anything resembling expertise.

    *sigh*

    On the childless by choice thing – when I had to have my ovary removed last year, my doctor kept assuring me I was still fertile and my chances of getting pregnant didn’t really decrease that much, even though I told him repeatedly I didn’t want kids and was never planning to have any even if were to get into a relationship at some point. He just didn’t hear it and kept trying to reassure me. I was a lot more worried about what losing an ovary would do to my cancer risk than my fertility. But of course, I was supposed to be worrying about babies because I’m a woman and that’s what we all want more than anything no matter what we say aloud! Grrr.

    DRST

  15. I forgot to add that I really appreciated both the articles!

    Another slightly related note, awhile ago I came across a post that a woman had written about her experiences with both adoption and abortion and how she had found giving up a child for adoption much more traumatizing and people couldn’t understand why saying “at least you can have more” wasn’t a satisfying response (not the least of which because she didn’t want children).

    I don’t remember the site or the link. Does anyone else know it?

  16. One other scenario where this same kind of rhetoric comes up: women who need infertility treatment, especially IVF, to have children.

    The contradiction between that and the criticism of the childfree, and of birth mothers, is left as an exercise for the reader.

  17. When I read the “kids vs. child-free” debates, there’s a naive part of me that always wants to say, “What’s the big deal? If you want kids, have ‘em. If you don’t want ‘em, don’t have ‘em.” I say that as a woman who was convinced for many years that I’d never want children but changed my mind in my thirties. So I sort of, almost, understand why people sometimes patronizingly tell women, “You’ll change your mind.”

    Still, that comment is so inane. The most baffling thing anyone ever said to me about it was, “You’re not a selfish person, so I’m sure you’ll want to have kids one day.” She was a nice person, and I was glad to know that she considered me unselfish, but what on earth does that have to do with having children? My childless women friends are musicians, doctors, ecologists, engineers, and political activists, and they include some of the most generous people I’ve ever known. When I think about these women, the vitriol directed at women who choose not to have children becomes even more incomprehensible.

  18. So, this is incredibly off topic but I need some help and having read Shapelings’ comments on a bunch of posts, I’m hoping that you will have some insight.

    I came across SP about a month or so ago but really got into reading about the FA movement a little over a week ago. Since then, I haven’t had a lot of the problems mentioned about embracing my size but I have huge problems with interacting with the world. I feel like I’m revved up for a fight every time I leave my apartment and the way my relationship with society has changed leaves me a bit dizzy at times. I feel like all this information is constantly mediating my relationship with the world and while overall I want my relationship to change it is a bit overwhelming to have this all at once. I think part of it is that I’m just horrified and incredibly sad about all the discrimination that I wasn’t aware of that goes on but part of it is I’m just angry that our culture is constantly disseminating misinformation about fat.

    Does anyone know of any ways to cope with this sudden and all-encompassing change I’m experiencing in my relation to the world?

  19. I like the childless by choice article too. I’m childless by choice not because I don’t want to have children, but because I don’t want to be a mother. I always like to stress that it is the role I reject, not the children.

  20. Shit, Kate. Great first feature. :)

    I’m 21 years old. Everybody seems to think I’m old enough to pay taxes, to join the military, to have a credit card, to own a car, to work as many jobs as I can handle, to pay for university myself, to consent to medical procedures, to get a full back tattoo of Hello Kitty being eaten by a fat vagina dentata, and to get married to whomever I want (in Canada, at least), if I so choose. But there are still people who think that I am too young to decide that I don’t want kids. That I “might regret it later” is a ridiculous argument; if I were to regret getting the tattoo or joining the army, that would be my problem, not the tattoo artist’s or the recruiter’s. As a fully-fledged, legal grown-up, I’m allowed to maybe regret my decisions someday.

    I find it extra unsettling that men don’t seem to have to jump through similar hoops to be sterilized. I understand that tubal ligation is a more invasive procedure than a vasectomy, but that doesn’t seem to be the real issue here. Lots of doctors are happy to perform invasive surgery for other reasons; are WLS or breast augmentation patients told by their doctors that they might regret their choices later?

  21. Waah… my comments don’t show up. Even though it is I, cggirl, who hath been here many times before.
    Maybe it’s cuz I’m logged in now? Oh well.

  22. (Ooooh i think my comment didn’t work because of the links? I shall try now without them.)

    Wow Kate this is great stuff, I’m so glad you linked to it here.

    I’m particularly interested in what you wrote about voluntary childlessness.

    I’m currently making a documentary film about women deciding whether, and when, to have children, and the pressures that they face. I love that you wrote about this, and in fact, I would love any input you have on the subject!!

  23. Oh and to you Juliah, that’s really interesting, and those are compelling comparisons that you make to other types of invasive surgery. If you or any other shapelings wish to weigh in about this, please do! I find this very important research for my film and my LIFE, seeing as how I’m torn about the whole issue myself.

  24. cggirl – I’ve only started closely investigating reproductive health issues, despite the fact that I’ve never wanted children (and, yeah, it’s already come up in romantic relationships). The most astonishing thing I’ve learned so far is that some people think they have (or should have) control over another person’s fertility.

    Personally, I’ve never really liked young kids. I’m afraid I’ll accidentally break babies, and forever screw up young children by doing or saying something horribly wrong. And I’m at a point in my life where I’ve started to make Big Career Choices, and those choices seem to be leading me towards endless years of grad school. That’s what is important to me right now.

    Most of the time, people who cluck their tongues at me when I say I don’t want kids are the people who say that I “just haven’t met the right man yet!” when I tell them I don’t want to get married. I think it’s silly to plan a large part of my life around perhaps wanting kids one day, and maybe meeting someone I’d want to marry someday.

  25. Heater, DRST, are you thinking of this article: http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2009/03/breaking-silence-on-living-pro-lifers.html

    people who cluck their tongues at me when I say I don’t want kids are the people who say that I “just haven’t met the right man yet!” when I tell them I don’t want to get married. I think it’s silly to plan a large part of my life around perhaps wanting kids one day, and maybe meeting someone I’d want to marry someday.

    So true. I would like to meet the right man one day and have kids, but I’ll be a hell of a lot more disappointed if I don’t if I spend my entire life on the assumption that it is worthless until I do, rather than on getting on with living it.

  26. I had a tubal ligation at 24, with no kids (and no husband – I’m now 32 and still no husband!) and yes, I know the “disgust” reaction well – from doctors, aquaintances, guys I go on dates with….etc.

    FWIW, I really like kids, which I think throws my detractors off. Many people tend to assume that if you don’t want to grow a child in your own uterus, then you must automatically “hate” kids. In fact, I think I like *all* kids equally, while some of my parent friends only seem to like their own!

  27. I think the reason people dislike child-free people, is they tend to be the most outspoken when it comes to parents not being such good parents. If you’ve ever visited a child-free website you’ll know what I mean.

    They can be harsh, but in all fairness should parents really be free from judgment when it comes to putting their child at risk by neglect in a public place, like leaving kids alone while mommy goes shopping. Or raising children with conflicting messages, such as “When it suits me I can take what belongs to you, but you cannot take what belongs to me” in the name of discipline.

    Most parents I’ve spoken too, are extremely aggressive when it comes to even suggesting how they could help their child. They take it as if it’s a personal attack on how they parent, instead of someone wanting to offer help.

    I find most of the child free people I’ve talked to, don’t want children aside from other reasons, also because they see parents behave so irrationally that they don’t want to be involved with or become someone who behaves like that.

    Now, I’m not suggesting ALL parents are like this, certainly mine aren’t. However, from my experience having Hyperacusis, a sound sensitivity syndrome, even asking a parent of small children to understand to sit elsewhere before they’ve sat down to eat, is a invitation to them for an attack.

    I’ve been told I hate children, that I’m looking for attention, ect. This all because, I would feel bad upsetting that parent’s children should I have a meltdown, and behave erratically in front of them due to the noise. My point is, that I am not bringing this up because of my concerns, I’m bringing it up out of concerns for that parent’s children. The parent who is so ego-centric, that they fail to see it benefits them and their child they sit somewhere else, instead of disturbing their children by lashing out at a stranger for trying to offer them consideration.

    So that’s one of the reasons I side with child free people when it comes to their views on parents. I like to say, having a small child, doesn’t entitle you to behave like a small child. It seems the only person who gets that besides myself, are the people on the child free sites.

    What frightens me is that parents are so adamant towards receiving any help from non-parents, that their children will be the ones who pay for it. People who don’t have children, may remember more about how things felt for them as a child, and I think many parents could benefit from the perspective of someone who understands that mindset.

    Finally, I really do believe a child learns nothing from autocratic discipline like taking something of a child’s to teach them a lesson, or physical abuse..I mean spanking. Both teach the child that they belong to a home where there is a serious power imbalance, and this may lead them to believe might equals right, and bully other children when they are school age, because they were taught at home that the way to be is to hold power over another person.

    If a child doesn’t receive empathy or consideration from their parents, and instead receives strict harsh rules, they will make sure that child will not learn how to express empathy for others. Most of the parents who have treated me the most harshly, are parents who believe in spanking or autocratic discipline. It makes me fear for their children, who live with such a bully on a daily basis.

  28. I think the reason people dislike child-free people, is they tend to be the most outspoken when it comes to parents not being such good parents. If you’ve ever visited a child-free website you’ll know what I mean.

    Jackie, this is an insupportably broad generalization. Choosing not to have children—or to have children—does not guarantee a set of behaviors around other people’s children.

    I’m sure A Sarah has a more coherent response to the rest of your comment than I do this early in the morning.

    But there are still people who think that I am too young to decide that I don’t want kids. That I “might regret it later” is a ridiculous argument; if I were to regret getting the tattoo or joining the army, that would be my problem, not the tattoo artist’s or the recruiter’s. As a fully-fledged, legal grown-up, I’m allowed to maybe regret my decisions someday.

    What always bothers me about this kind of policing of imagined regret is the biological fetishism. Now, I’ve never really wanted kids, and my womb doesn’t start thumping when I see babies or anything like that, so maybe I am just not understanding the biological urge to be pregnant or to pass on your genes or what have you. But some of the most loving familial relationships I’ve had have been with people who are not biologically related to me: my stepfather, my stepmother, my stepgrandmother, my sister-in-law… I guess what I’m saying is that giving birth to a child is not the only way to acquire a family, and I really resent the assumption (implicit in many “you’ll regret it” statements) that children who bear your own DNA are the only ones worth caring for.

  29. I can’t believe people (aside from my mother) care if I don’t have children. My selfishness isn’t the reason, but if it were, at least I would have been aware of this character trait before creating a 24/7 person who wants and needs me. (Knock on wood.)
    Babies are cute and I can get my fill of them without creating one or more. And it’s comforting to know I’m not the only woman who doesn’t crave children.

  30. I am always astounded by the opinions of military WOMEN on being child-free, even if it’s very probably temporary. My husband’s in the Air Force, and we don’t have kids, we decided we weren’t ready, and to wait to see how we felt about it later. (We got married when I was 22 and he was 19) And when the women he works with finds out we don’t have kids, they get offended and angry, even going as far as telling him he should “force me to have kids.” Other WOMEN saying this, as though I have no say in the matter.

    I really can’t believe that even other women think they have the right to tell me what to do with my uterus. I’m not even in the life long child-free camp, I’m just not sure about having kids. And it seems like the older I get the more people want to push kids on me, I’m only 25, I have time to make up my mind, why rush? If I bring a child into this world I want to be the best mom humanly possible to them, yet people have called me selfish for that. How the hell is that selfish? I’m concerned about the well being of a child that may or may not ever exist.

  31. Dear god, reading your comments about women who remain childless by choice really hit home to me.

    I knew even as a teenager I never wanted children, and that never changed as I got older. Rather, I became even MORE sure as I approached my 30s that I didn’t want to have them. I have nieces and nephews, I love them dearly, and I had and have no desire for my own.

    When I got into my early 30s I started having gynecological health issues. Brutally painful, horridly heavy periods lasting 30 days at a stretch, etc. Over the course of 4 years I saw 7 gynecologists. I was patronized, handed hormone pills that trashed my heath, insulted, yelled at, told to lose weight and it would clear up. One jerk obtained a biopsy sample without warning me beforehand and laughed when I jumped and screamed at the pain of it.

    At one point after going to a gyn and putting up with a 45 minute lecture on my weight and acting like a hypochondriac, I left the clinic and sat in my car crying for like half an hour. I just wanted it to end. I was exhausted from anemia, tired of bleeding so heavily that I had to change both a maxi pad AND a maxi tampon hourly – for literally a month at a time. Tired of crippling daily pain, tired of having a life that could only revolve around my periods, tired of being treated like trash and subjected to verbal abuse. I drove back to work and sat at my desk just numb, and the thought went through my mind that the only way I had out of this agony was to die. And I wanted to, just to make it stop. I thought there was no method of suicide that could possibly be more painful physically or mentally than my daily existence.

    Fortunately a co-worker saw me and came over to find out what was wrong. She listened to me with compassion and told me about her gyn who she said was a wonderful, compassionate woman. I got an appointment and without a shred of hope left went to see her.

    That gyn saved my life. She was indeed warm, compassionate, understanding, and kind. She examined me and together we made the decision that the best option for me was a hysterectomy. I remember her words to this day, she squeezed my hand and said, “You’ve been through enough. I’m not going to put you through any more.” I had to actually spend a month on heavy iron supplements before surgery, I was that anemic, but she did the surgery once my blood counts were up enough.

    She was amazing through the entire thing. She held my hand as I was going under for surgery and she was there when I came out of it. She gave me back my life. In more ways than one – when the pathology came back we discovered I was precancerous.

    The bullshit women have to put up with in our culture just passes idiotic at times and become downright dangerous, doesn’t it? Gah.

  32. I really resent the assumption (implicit in many “you’ll regret it” statements) that children who bear your own DNA are the only ones worth caring for.

    Man, this is so well-put. It’s the same argument that makes adoption out to be a second-choice if-all-else-fails solution instead of a valid primary way of becoming a parent.

  33. Most parents I’ve spoken too, are extremely aggressive when it comes to even suggesting how they could help their child. They take it as if it’s a personal attack on how they parent, instead of someone wanting to offer help…. What frightens me is that parents are so adamant towards receiving any help from non-parents, that their children will be the ones who pay for it. People who don’t have children, may remember more about how things felt for them as a child, and I think many parents could benefit from the perspective of someone who understands that mindset.

    uh… what? I mean, how another person parents is no one else’s business, and unsolicited advice is intrusive. We don’t want other people giving us unsolicited advice on how to treat our bodies or run our lives, and the same goes for how people parent. it IS a personal intrusion and I don’t blame them for taking it as an attack or criticism.

    Now, I’m not suggesting ALL parents are like this, certainly mine aren’t. However, from my experience having Hyperacusis, a sound sensitivity syndrome, even asking a parent of small children to understand to sit elsewhere before they’ve sat down to eat, is a invitation to them for an attack.

    This sounds like it’s difficult for you, but in a public place it’s not the parents’ responsibility to stay away from you, really truly.

    Wow, Joanne, that’s a harrowing story, and I’m so glad you’re okay!

    That’s a really good point about biological relations, you guys. I totally agree that the assumed primacy of biological children is huge. Though FJ, fwiw, there are other reasons why adoption would probably remain a second choice option for having children, even if wanting a blood relation were not an issue (i.e. how difficult the process is).

  34. there are other reasons why adoption would probably remain a second choice option for having children, even if wanting a blood relation were not an issue (i.e. how difficult the process is).

    Oh, absolutely, but I think that’s a bigger deterrent because it’s something that people turn to as a last resort, given that it’s seen as less “normal” and less desirable than having a child biologically. Think of what people go through voluntarily and happily in order to conceive and gestate a kid — how expensive and physically demanding it is just to get pregnant and give birth, not to mention the fact that some folks need fertility treatments or IVF. People don’t let that stop them, but folks who are thinking of adopting are often (though of course not always) doing it after they’ve tried everything else and are feeling burnt out, making the hurdles seem even greater. I’m partly talking out my ass here of course, and I know the difficulties can be massive, but I do think there’s a stigma on adoption that comes from the idea that it’s less natural or normal or desirable (for an example, just look at media coverage of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s adoptions versus the birth of their biological child), and that maintains adoption as a second-choice method of starting a family, or at least stands in the way of people who prefer to use it as a first-choice method (i.e. I’m sure they face a lot of “but why can’t you have kids the normal way” nonsense).

    And Joanne, my god, what a story. Thank goodness there are people like your GYN. It’s so upsetting that a doctor who ACTUALLY HELPS PEOPLE should be such a precious rarity.

  35. I’m responding to the article on the Powells website.

    I still haven’t bought the book yet — when I do, I will go to my favorite independent bookseller and tell her staff “I’d like to order “Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere” please and bingo, it will be there the next day.”

    But actually, maybe I won’t buy it from my favorite bookseller — because I’ve been going into bookstores (well, so far only twice) and asking them if they have it. And if someone actually hands it to me, then of course I’ll buy it from them. (Hey, I give my favorite bookseller lots of business anyway.)

    And I never was expecting the sweaty palms and my voice suddenly turning little and squeaking out the title. And the clerk saying “Stratosphere?” and really looking at me and paying attention to me, my whole person, as I spell out F-A-T-o-sphere! No, they didn’t have it, but more are on the way.

    But at Horizon Books, in Traverse City, Michigan, they looked it up and said “I can’t believe we don’t have this in stock! This book is new! And it’s happenin’! I’m ordering it right now so we have a copy!” (I had told the person that I was just passing through town, so I didn’t want to order it, but I’d buy it if they had it in.)

    So, for my own personal growth and amusement I plan to ask for this book at more bookstores.

  36. Oh geez. Kate you hit the nail on the head with the ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ part. So true.

    As an only child I can totally relate to the unsolicited advice/comments about family size. I’ve had people tell me I don’t come from a ‘real’ family. People ask if I was ‘lonely’ as a kid. I’ve heard ‘you don’t act like an only child’ as if I’m supposed to be complimented by that. Oh, so I don’t match up to your preconceived notions about only children. Thank goodness. not. Then there are the evangelical siblings who appear to want me to admit that their family experience is superior because they had siblings. It never occurs to people that my family structure is normal to me and I wouldn’t change it, just as they wouldn’t change theirs. My life isn’t lacking because I don’t have siblings. In fact I’m so thankful for being an only. If I explain that being an only resulted in a parental relationship that isn’t possible in multi-children families I get defensive declarations of ‘I’m very close to my mom and dad.’ If I explain that I was provided for in a way I couldn’t have been with siblings, my family is materialistic and I’m spoiled. I also wasn’t subject to the the kinds of gender norms that I would have been with siblings. Knowing my family as I do, I’m very thankful I never had a brother.

    At the center of the comments is an implicit criticism of my parents’ (mother’s) choice in family size and their parenting skills.

  37. It never occurs to people that my family structure is normal to me and I wouldn’t change it, just as they wouldn’t change theirs.

    Right!!! That is what kills me in the policing of family structures.

  38. Kate, I had exactly that issue with the Wally Lamb book. . .which I started reading the day after completing your book, so I was extra attuned to all his anti-fat descriptions.

    But since I had been waiting for a while for his new book (and since the library was already closed for the night) I decided to keep reading, know knowing I would just have to allow extra time for cramp-inducing eye-rolls every time he used those descriptors in a disparaging way. It became clear pretty quickly that the narrator who was using those terms negatively had MANY flaws, short-sightedness, judgement and fat-hatred among them.I decided to give Lamb the benefit of the doubt and assume he was being strategic by giving his narrator those qualities and keep reading, and it was ultimately worth hanging in there. (He almost lost me a few times, but I appreciated how the pieces came together in the end.)

  39. If I explain that being an only resulted in a parental relationship that isn’t possible in multi-children families I get defensive declarations of ‘I’m very close to my mom and dad.’

    Well, I mean, I have many only child friends who I love dearly and I would never question that they were from wonderful, loving families, but I’d still be defensive if someone told me I couldn’t have as close a relationship with my parents because I have a little brother. Not criticizing other’s family structures goes both ways.

  40. “In it I talk about the real numbers behind “regret”. hint: there’s not a lot of it.”

    Oh gosh this made me think of my dad’s new schtick about ‘we should have had another child. That wasn’t fair to you…but your mom.’ In some ways this bothers me in ways I won’t go into. And its clearly a criticism of my mom’s one child policy. But what is hysterical is the fact my dad was never home because of his job. My mom was the primary caregiver.

  41. I may have PCOS, I will probably not know for a long time because I can’t afford to see a doctor. (Even a free one, can’t afford to have hubby take the day off of work. Lovely.)

    Anyway, one of the things that freaks me out about PCOS treatments is the hyperfocus some doctors seem to place on “restoring fertility”. (Also, I’m a little worried that a doctor might want to “cure” my butch-ness because it’s a “symptom” of PCOS. But that’s a whole ‘nother bag of chips.)

    I can’t imagine how terrible it is to want your fertility and not have it. I can’t begin to imagine how terrible it is to want children and not be able to have them. But I feel a terror all my own because for my whole life my fertility, or now the apparent lack thereof, has been something of a going concern for medical practitioners.

    When I was fertile, I got railroaded onto hormonal birth control because apparently being fertile is a medical condition that requires drugs? It was like, “oh here, you’re female, there’s drugs to control that”, and when I refused they threatened to drop me as a patient (and at the time, they were the only doctor my insurance would cover). Now that I may not be fertile, am I going to go ten rounds with another obstinate doctor who refuses to treat me unless I try to restore my fertility? Will I have to fight to get cysts removed because it might damage potential fertility?

    I decided at age 15 that I never wanted kids. I’ve been banging my head against the wall for more than half my life. No I don’t want kids, not my own, not to adopt, not even to watch for 5 minutes. I’m sure, I’m really sure, I’m double dog sure!

  42. Lilah its really not meant as a criticism of family structure. The point is that there are benefits to being an only just as there are benefits to being a multi-family. But people look at my benefit as something strange to be disputed rather than a scenario where 3 people are going to bond differently than 4 people etc.

  43. valerie, I’m with Lilah on this one — the benefits of your family are about you and your family, not about how many of you there are and of what genders and what ages. Families with one child don’t have closer parental relationships just because there are 3 instead of 4 or more, any more than families with one parent have less discipline because the average age is lower, or families with two dads are less nurturing because there are more men. These kinds of calculations about other people’s families are exactly what we’re trying to get away from. Families are close if they prioritize and encourage closeness, disciplined if they engage in strong but fair parental responses, loving if they love each other, etc. You can’t actually predict these traits based on the number of players, any more than you can predict health based on weight.

  44. To be fair to Valerie, she only called it “a parental relationship that just isn’t possible” in families with more than one kid — and I think that’s completely valid. It doesn’t mean people with sibs (including me — I’ve got 3 of ‘em) can’t be close to their parents, but the relationship is undoubtedly different. And no, it is not possible to have the same kind of relationship with 2 or 4 or any number of kids other than 1. I don’t think saying that is necessarily a criticism of anyone else’s parental relationships — and I do think only children (and their parents) get a LOT more shit than multiple-kid families do about those relationships, so I think it’s worth giving Valerie the benefit of the doubt when she’s expressing frustration with that.

  45. In the commercial, brightly lipsticked woman at cocktail party warns emphatically:

    Side effects may include waning use of the word “douchehound”.

  46. FJ in my original statement, what I was getting at is the difference – which can be good or bad. In MY case its usually good but it can be very, very bad. If my mom calls to bitch about my dad and vice versa, that’s it. There’s nobody for me to call to vent to. My partner on the other hand, has at least two other people to call. That’s not good or bad. It just is.

    BUT people infer from that comment that I mean closeness and that comes out in their responses.

  47. As a parent of an only child, I can identify with the family structure policing that folks are writing about. Why am I depriving my son of siblings? Don’t I know he’ll never learn to share? (I could go on.) I can only imagine how much worse it would be if I chosen not to have a child at all.

    My working theory on this subject is that parenting is a very difficult job and we (almost all of us anyway) who have a child or children want very much to get it right. Yet it can be difficult to tell if we are doing it right. If my child has a meltdown because I won’t cancel a family activity so he can hang out with his friends– am I bad mother? Too permissive? Too authoritarian?

    So to make myself feel better, I look to have my choices validated by other people. One way to do that is to criticize other choices and ask people to agree. If the person agrees with me, then I feel superior to the person or people I criticized and I think I must be doing the parenting right, or at least better than that other person.

    Note– I am not excusing this behavior– just trying to figure it out.

  48. First and foremost… nice writing, Kate! And thanks for linking to both those pieces so we could read your work elsewhere.

    The childless by choice thing is interesting to me because I do think dealing with someone else’s procreation (or lack thereof) is a tricky business. The idea that others can waltz in and provide commentary is pretty damned arrogant. We (my husband and I) run afoul of it in a different way because we really *want* children who are biologically ours and can’t have them. Instead of minding their own business – because, really, what concern is it of anyone’s whether we have children or not? – we get the “when are you…why haven’t you… you really should…” stuff. To us it’s painful and to others who are childless by choice it would be irritating. No matter how you slice it, it’s offensive… so why do people persist? A hella mystery to me.

    As an aside… adoption is crazy expensive, and I wish something could be done about that. Infertility treatments were more cost doable for us because there were financing options. Not so for adoption, and I think that’s a far bigger factor than the issue of “blood relation,” just based on the folks I’ve dealt with in infertility and adoption support circles.

  49. MY case its usually good but it can be very, very bad.

    Yeah, my original reply was hasty and not so backed up, b/c I thought I was running out the door, but my dentist appt. just got moved to 1:30, so I’ll say a bit more.

    A friend recently told me that she was relieved to have a second child, and couldn’t imagine having an only anymore, not for any of the reasons usually thrown at parents of onlies, but b/c that relationship with her first kid was so fucking intense — in mostly positive ways — she almost couldn’t see how it was sustainable without both of them ending up in heavy-duty therapy. Which is not REMOTELY to say that that’s typical of only children and their parents, just that it’s another angle on the subject I’d never given much thought to. The arguments against having an only child are usually about the ostensible lack of things in the kid’s life, but it can also be too fucking much of a good thing.

    Full disclosure: Although I’m not sure if I want kids at all, I’m thinking that if we do have any, it will quite likely be an an only child. (Both because we might not be able to handle more and b/c we’re still dragging our feet on the question of kids in our mid-thirties, so that might be all we get, like it or not.) So I’m a lot more attuned to the shit that’s thrown at onlies and their parents now than I used to be, as someone who grew up with sibs and always imagined I’d have more than one.

    But also? A lot of my closest friends are only children, which is one of the things that finally made me realize that duh, just having one was well worth considering. (One of those friends lost both her parents by her late twenties, and has had to cobble together a family of her own choosing, which also made me reconsider a lot of my ideas about the nature of family — going back to what SM was saying above.) And it’s just… these are fabulous people I absolutely adore, and they’ve spent their whole lives hearing (including from me sometimes) that there’s something wrong with them, something missing, something really important they will never understand. And yet, when they say — as Valerie said above — that people with sibs can’t understand something about THEIR lives and their family structures, people with sibs can get incredibly prickly about it. We’re the ones who have REAL families! Don’t even try to say there might be advantages to your half-assed little family! Your version is less than ours, and everyone knows it!

    That is not, of course, what FJ or Lilah were saying. And I can totally see how Valerie’s comment might have come across as implying that parents of more than one kid can’t give them all the same amount of attention and love as parents of just one. But I didn’t read it that way because I do believe that only children have a parental relationship I could never have, just as I have a parental relationship — and, obviously, sibling relationships — they couldn’t. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, and I think the whole point is that there are a zillion different kinds of loving families, all different in some important ways, but all equal in terms of providing kids with what they need. And I think, at the risk of abusing the term, there is a certain amount of “sibling privilege,” if you will, that ought to be checked when we make statements about what only children can and cannot understand about our family structures.

  50. The only thing that does make me sad as far as people being childless goes is that a lot of the people I know who aren’t having kids fall into the liberal pro-choice well educated set of people, who quite honestly would do a damn good job of it. Especially compared to the right wing anti-choice assholes, who are the ones who do tend to have kids and generally more of them.

  51. what I was getting at is the difference – which can be good or bad…BUT people infer from that comment that I mean closeness and that comes out in their responses.

    Ok, gotcha, valerie — thanks for explaining further.

  52. Really, really, really love the article about reproductive choice. I am fortunate that healthcare over here is heavily, enthusiastically pro- pregnancy prevention, especially for young people. Free condoms for the young ‘uns, easy access to the pill, implants etc, much easier (and mostly protest-free) abortion access… I am currently on my 3rd implanon replacement. I am extremely lucky.

    And yet, even here my partner and I cannot get a doctor to agree that I can have my tubes tied, or that he can have a vasectomy.

    Why is it that I can apparently be trusted to create, nurture and educate another fragile human being to full maturity and care for them – in one sense or another – for the rest of my life, but I can’t be trusted to decline such a grave responsibility?

  53. I can’t imagine how terrible it is to want your fertility and not have it. I can’t begin to imagine how terrible it is to want children and not be able to have them.

    It’s not necessarily that terrible.

    My husband and I weren’t able to have natural children, and decided after much research, consideration and discussion that we wouldn’t pursue any of the other options — and the main reason was, that while we’d wanted a child well enough, we didn’t want one so very badly, to the exclusion of all else, that we’d go through all those flaming hoops. Well, not quite all — some of them we just couldn’t afford at all.

    It’s not a decision we’ve regretted, either. It would’ve been nice, right enough, but it wasn’t in the cards, and we’re okay with that.

  54. I’ve never talked to a doctor about sterilization but I did go a few rounds finding a doctor that would insert an IUD In a 23 year old. The oddest part is that it’s A) completely reversible B) my own reading of the medical material is that the possibility for an infection that robs me of fertility only starts to increase as my partners (and therefore risk of disease) increases. I’m not married but I am with my life partner, however that’s another decision that people have a hard time believing… if we can get married why wouldn’t we?

    re: only children. I’m 10 years younger than my half brother and 7 years older than my full brother so my family dynamic is very similar to an only child. It’s not exactly the same but I don’t really have a sibling relationship with my siblings, it’s more of a niece/aunt relationship. Personally I have always grieved not having closer-in-age siblings… but that’s just me.

  55. This is slightly off topic, but Godless Heathen, NOT getting the cysts taken care of may lead to far less fertility than getting them removed. Like the friend I just had who had to have a hysterectomy because of them. Seriously. So you may not have to argue with the doctor so much on that count.

    I totally hear you about the doctors, though. My gyn and my ex-endocrinologist are not refusing to treat me if I don’t want to be immediately fertile (and can I just say that that boggles my mind), but when I say “we’re not sure if we want to have kids and we definitely don’t want to have them in the next couple of years”, they both hear(d) “please please pleasepleaseplease make me impregnable NOW!” How they got this from what I said (which I typed verbatim), I don’t know.

  56. Most parents I’ve spoken too, are extremely aggressive when it comes to even suggesting how they could help their child. They take it as if it’s a personal attack on how they parent, instead of someone wanting to offer help.

    I’m a mother of three kids under three, and the flip side of this is that sometimes people who don’t have kids don’t really understand how small children (especially toddlers) think and act. There’s a big, big difference between remembering how things felt when you were a child, and knowing how to manage children’s misbehavior appropriately. Furthermore, the chances that someone who doesn’t know my children, how old they are or the individual children’s capacity for understanding or how they react to disciplinary tactics or the history of past misbehavior or what the fallout of a given approach might be, will know THE perfect way to deal them? Rather low, IMO.

    Consider if you were being fat at me on an airplane, and I told you that I remember just what it felt like because I used to be fat too, so I have more perspective on the situation — oh, and I know just what you should do to fix yourself and lose weight. But hey, you’re taking it as a personal attack, rather than someone offering to help!

    I thought I had a lot of answers back before I had children. Not only did I learn otherwise, I also found out that there is no one right answer. Every child is different — even my twins are radically different individuals — and different discipline and parenting strategies work differently with every child. Thinking you know how to manage a given child better than his or her mother (when there is no obvious child abuse present, and no, I don’t just mean spanking) is generally presumptuous and unwelcome.

  57. Not to make light of a serious subject, but

    My husband and I weren’t able to have natural children

    reminds me of an old quote from Will Cuppy:

    “All children are natural, but some are more natural than others.”*

    *A “natural” child used to be what they called a kid born to unmarried parents.

  58. Y’know, I LOVE the Salon article and the letters in it.

    My biggest thing as a childfree woman–who finally is getting her Essure scheduled for next week at the age of 41 (after trying to get tubes snipped for 20 years), is the taboo against saying that you just don’t like kids.

    Not only do I not want to bear my own, I don’t want to deal with anyone else’s either. So why do some idiots feel that FORCING me to have them is somehow going to cure this “bad thing?”

    And don’t get me started on the whole “oh, hold the baby, you’ll LOVE him/her/it” thing at family gatherings. All of my younger cousins are starting to pop them out and IMHO it’s just making family holidays even more insufferable, but I digress…

  59. Another only child here, and warning: mini-rant ahead.

    I’m on the fence about having children someday, and being an only complicates that decision. Although one child seems to be the most manageable number, I feel like for me it’s none or two, because I do feel like I’m missing out by not having siblings. Other than my parents, who likely won’t be around for the rest of my days, there’s no one in my life who is in my life by default (with friends, it seems easier to drift apart or have a rift-making argument than with siblings). I also feel like, on some level, my social skills have faltered because I see personal relationships as transitory rather than rooted in… something. Familial obligation, maybe? I don’t know.

    Also, even though I’m someone who never really wanted to settle down in my hometown, I feel a lot of pressure to be around, since I’m the only kid. Right now I’m four hours from home, and I know it kills my mom.

  60. I am an only child, and I have two children. I do agree that there is quite a lot of prejudice against only children, not least from my mother in law, whose immortal words after the birth of my second daughter were, “Now you’re a proper family!”

    When my daughters were younger, I found the intensity and petty squabbles of a sibling relationship really, really alien, because I had never, as a child, had to spend long periods of time getting along with another child who wasn’t a friend. It took me a long time to really understand that a volatile and sparky sib relationship is not necessarily a problem.

    As a child, I never minded being an only, but I clearly remember one lesson at school when I was about 6, and the teacher asked everyone in turn to talk about their brothers and sisters. Only two of us were onlies, and the other only child’s mum was pregnant at the time, so naturally she talked about her excitement at the new baby. The teacher asked me if I wanted a sibling too, and when I said I didn’t, she was absolutely horrified and really told me off. I clearly remember my bemusement, because I was just answering her question truthfully. Now, though, with my parents in their eighties and my dad suffering from dementia, I sorely wish I had a sibling or two to share the emotional load.

    So: I agree – being an only is different. Not better, not worse, but definitely different. You never have to share, because there’s no one to share with, and sometimes that’s good and sometimes it’s not.

  61. Now, though, with my parents in their eighties and my dad suffering from dementia, I sorely wish I had a sibling or two to share the emotional load.

    Hey, I just want to say I’m sorry about your dad. My mom has severe Parkinson’s, and even though I do have siblings it is tremendously overwhelming both emotionally and logistically. Good luck to you.

  62. Actually, I find I admire people who can really own the whole “I just don’t like kids” thing, though knowing how people are, I’m sure you get flak from all sides on that one. Just like we know there are people who just don’t find fat people attractive, why can’t there be people who just don’t like kids?

    I had an ex-boyfriend whose mother really didn’t like kids. She had three. They were so affected by her indifference to them, it was painful to see. While it’s certainly none of my business that she had them, I wish she’d owned the fact that she really didn’t like kids before she’d borne three.

  63. I wanted children, but wasn’t able to have them. So many people have been supportive, but you would not believe how horrid other people have been to me because .

    One person berated me for not trying to get pregnant in my 20s (I was about 32 when I started trying seriously). She told me “feminism does not trump biology – when are you feminists going to learn that!” Another family member was outraged that I chose not to take fertility drugs to boost my chances. And many well-meaning friends and family just drip with pity for me. Pity I do not need or want.

    I was sad, sure, but not destroyed. I think the biggest thing that bothered people was the fact that I refused to have a big breakdown over it. Like my fat, I wish people would understand that this is NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS. I have a good life, and I’m happy. Children are not needed for that. No, really.

  64. because… ??? I don’t know even know what I wanted to say there. Sorry, still recovering from the flu. No fever today though!

  65. (((Mania))) That’s horrible that you (and your partner) were treated that way.

    Kate, I’d be interested to hear your take on The Fat Girl’s Guide to Life. I read it after I’d been into FA for more than a year, and was charmed by some things, but aghast at others…. And I loved the post about childlessness – that one got forwarded to friends!

  66. @Joanne

    Big hugs for having to go through that. It sucks a lot. I’m glad you finally found a decent gyn. I hope you reported the doctor who took a biopsy sample without warning you and then laughed about it.

  67. And what KellyK said to Joanne–I had to go through the fun and joy of a uterine cyst biopsy as part of a D&C (irregular heavy bleeding to the point where I was anemic) and I had enough Demerol in me to knock out an elephant…and I STILL remember the absolute sharp pain of the part when she did that biopsy. I would recommend an un-anesthetized testicular biopsy for that jerk.

    Oh, speaking of which, the D&C was with an ob-gyn whom I switched to AFTER my OLD one said that she wouldn’t do a therapeutic D&C “because it may affect my fertility.” This was the same lady I was bugging to tie my tubes for almost 8 years. Glad I switched.

  68. kate, that post at Salon was right-fucking-on. thank you for writing it.

    the more we say about FA and all that is connected to it, the more sense it makes. it’s not just about fat, it’s about civil rights and honoring one another’s humanity and autonomy.

  69. I rarely post here, but Kate’s a friend of mine, so I do read. Hate to drag this back to earlier issues, but I just checked in and have a couple things to say.

    First of all, I’d like to respond to the person who said that educated liberals or some such would do a better job raising kids than right-wing folks. As an educated liberal, I certainly welcome the idea of more people raising like-minded children.

    But some things to keep in mind here:
    1. Children do not necessarily turn out to follow their parents ideologies.
    2. Being liberal, educated, financially secure, etc. is no guarantee of being a good parent. (And I realize you didn’t say anything about financially secure, but many people do.) My parents were all of the above, and while my sister and I in no way suffered as kids, I can say that my childhood was not entirely happy. There were a variety of factors, not all parental. But my point is, if secure, stable, happy people are the end goal — and I’m not saying they necessarily are — my family did not necessarily accomplish it.

    Also, one of the things that drove me nuts, before I decided I wanted kids, was people who said, “But you’d be such a good mother.” I mean, who can tell that stuff? And if those same people saw me in the throes of post-partum depression, I don’t know if they’d change their assessment — not that PPD makes one a bad mother.

    Also also, I personally see nothing wrong with not liking kids. I don’t see anything wrong with not liking dogs. And I have a kid and a dog. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It might mean that we’re not hanging out at my place much, but so be it.

    Actually, I forgive the disliking of kids more easily than the disliking of dogs.

    There. Done enough commenting for the next year.

  70. Damn. Let me fix that.

    It should say “parents’ ideologies”.

    And I didn’t mean to say we “in no way suffered.” What I meant to say is that we were not physically abused, we wanted for nothing materially, etc. We just weren’t really brought up to think of ourselves as good people.

  71. You know, I’m the youngest of 6 kids. My oldest sibling was 15 when I was born. My closest is 6 years older than me. When she went to college when I was 12, it was just me and my parents for the next 6 years except during the summers.

    It’s odd because I’m accustomed to thinking of myself as from a huge family but I also lived akin to an only child for a number of years. Also I don’t talk to half of my siblings on a regular basis, just on birthdays and Christmas. They’re a lot more like cousins to me than siblings.

    Just sayin, just as there is no universal only child experience, there’s no universal sibling experience either.

    DRST

  72. Thank you everyone for the kind words. At the time I was so emotionally exhausted I was numb and the real impact of how vile this treatment was didn’t really register. I was fortunate to have a very supportive husband who stood by me through all of it. Looking back, I’m outraged because my experiences aren’t unique and aren’t the worst I’ve heard. Nearly every woman I’ve known who has had gyn problems and is larger has similar stories to tell.

    The thing I think was most frustrating was walking into doctor after doctor’s office and the first thing out of their mouths being “Well I’m not going to give you surgery” before an exam was even done. And my response was “I am not asking for surgery. I am begging for HELP.”

    In my opinion no woman (or man) should walk into a doctor’s office ill, exhausted and in pain and be treated that way.

  73. Also, one of the things that drove me nuts, before I decided I wanted kids, was people who said, “But you’d be such a good mother.” I mean, who can tell that stuff?

    God, yes. Being a likable, decent person and being a good parent are two entirely different things. (Though of course, you are both. I mean, maybe “decent” is stretching it, but…)

  74. Awesome post on Salon! The comments are not even all that bad, surprisingly.

    I live in Canada where all of us heathen harlots can get abortions on demand with nary a protester in sight, but it’s still a serious pain in the ass for a woman to find a doc who will perform an elective tubal or hysterectomy. My stepmother (now 40 years old) is still unable to find a local doc who will do one for her, despite the fact that she has always hated children, has excruciatingly painful bi-weekly periods, and is, y’know, 40 years old. One of my earliest and most painful memories is listening to her describe her one and only babysitting experience when she was a teen, finishing with, “and that’s how I knew for certain that I would never want children. I just hate them.” I was about 4 at the time. Do you have any idea how brutal it is to grow up KNOWING (not just suspecting) that one of your primary caretakers can’t stand the very idea of you? It’s a little traumatic to say the least.

    Anyways. I’m sure that she has no qualms about abortion, so if she’d ever been faced with a pregnancy she would have “taken care of it” quickly with no regrets (her first words to me when she found out I was pregnant were “I’m so sorry to hear that” – she genuinely felt bad for me) but I hate that someone like her who CLEARLY has no desire to be a mom was forced to live with constant uncertainty and hormonal issues caused by birth control for over 20 years.

    Oh and for the record, we get along great now. She’s a really wonderful person, just not with kids. And although I don’t know if it was perhaps the best choice for her to date a guy with a toddler (my dad), we all survived my childhood with minimal scars. :P

    And right on, MeanAsianGirl.

  75. And don’t get me started on the whole “oh, hold the baby, you’ll LOVE him/her/it” thing

    Oh gawd, I hate that. I don’t like children, and I’m terrified of breaking something, but I’m this evil alien if I don’t want to hold the baby. Meanwhile, my husband adores kids and loves babies, but everyone is afraid he’ll eat them or something. He practically raised his nephews, he knows more than I do!

  76. I wonder if it is as difficult for men to get vasectomies at a young age. Do their doctors try to stop them because they might decide they want children someday? Somehow, I doubt it.

  77. I can’t vouch from much experience Sticky, but my OH has been trying unsuccessfully to get a vasectomy since he was around 18, I think. He, like me, has always known children are not an option, and doctors tell him that until he has already had children he doesn’t want they won’t consider it.

  78. But I recently bought Wally Lamb’s latest and stopped reading about 10 pages in, because he’d already described a fat (tertiary) character so hatefully, I couldn’t be bothered to keep going. I was all, “WTF? Aren’t you supposed to be fat girls’ hero?”

    I don’t know if anyone else who read it had told you this, but he really comes around on her, and she actually stops being a tertiary character and becomes very, very important. I found it offputting at first, too, but he totally redeems himself about halfway through.

  79. “I also wrote this morning about how the vitriol aimed at women who choose not to have children is suspiciously similar to anti-abortion rhetoric.”

    You know how pharmacists will often confirm the meds you’re getting when you go pick up a prescription? Once last year I was at my local CVS, the pharmacist found my pills and said to me, “You’re picking up the birth control pills today, right?” I nodded, signed the form, paid, and as I turned to leave, the woman in line behind me tapped me on the shoulder , gestured to my wedding ring, and said, “You’re MARRIED. It’s your DUTY to provide children for your husband.”

    I was so gobsmacked that I couldn’t think of a reply other than, “I don’t see how that’s any of your business,” but I almost wish I’d stayed around to see her reaction and that of everyone else around her.

    My husband and I are both 28. We’re certain we don’t want kids, although of course we have no problem with people who do. We’re both investigating tubal/vasectomy options and haven’t found doctors who’ll perform them yet. Why is it so bloodyhard for some people to trust women with their own reproductive options?

  80. “Now, though, with my parents in their eighties and my dad suffering from dementia, I sorely wish I had a sibling or two to share the emotional load.”

    I really feel for you. I think about this scenario all the time especially now that my dad is caring for his parents- well just his mother now. Both of my parents have siblings but my father’s sister died a few years ago and my mother’s sister is in the early stages of Alzheimers. So even with siblings you could end up caring for parents on your own.

    “I feel a lot of pressure to be around, since I’m the only kid. Right now I’m four hours from home, and I know it kills my mom.”

    Yep. A graduate degree can be a real pain in the butt when I realize I only have three states and a certain mile radius that I can settle in after I finish. Plus my parents insist upon moving even further into Appalachia for their retirement..

    “She told me “feminism does not trump biology – when are you feminists going to learn that!”

    I was actually going to mention this earlier. If you convince women there’s a shelf life on their lady parts, then you can criticize a woman’s career all in the name of science and ‘concern’. That way you don’t look like your living in the Fifties but you still give some covert airplay to your Betsy Draper fantasies. Its not that I don’t believe fertility decreases for some women. I just think that women shouldn’t be scared into having a baby NOW NOW NOW when there are other options after 35 and not all women face the same fertility issues.

  81. If you convince women there’s a shelf life on their lady parts, then you can criticize a woman’s career all in the name of science and ‘concern’.

    Well said. Very much like the fat criticism veiled as “health concerns.”

  82. One of the few truly nice things about getting older is that the intense societal (or maybe it’s just my family) pressure to procreate slacks off. I’m 45, and they’ve pretty much figured out that, no, we’re REALLY not having kids.

    I’m one of those who pretty much knew from an early age that I did not want kids, that I don’t really like kids, for various reasons I’d make a terrible parent, and I had other things I wanted to do with my life that were not compatible with having kids. Some years ago I finally had to tell my mother I was no longer discussing the issue with her because I’d had enough of hearing the same old arguments from her – and no, they were NOT going to make me change my mind about it.

    What I don’t understand and have never understood is how it’s “selfish” not to have kids. It seems a lot more selfish to me to have kids you don’t want just to pass on your genetic material.

  83. What I don’t understand and have never understood is how it’s “selfish” not to have kids. It seems a lot more selfish to me to have kids you don’t want just to pass on your genetic material.

    This. Trust me, it would be selfish and arguably downright cruel to saddle another human being with A) my genes and B) me as a mom, just because I decided I need a baby. Doesn’t mean I’ve ruled it out, but Jesus… I know myself way too well to think that being my kid would be a fucking picnic, and that is a serious consideration. And yet nobody ever assumes I’m waffling about kids precisely because I wouldn’t want to do that to a kid.

  84. I think it’s considered ‘selfish’ because it’s assumed that the childless will spend all their wealth on themselves rather than hoard it for the next generation; and also, because childlessness seems to be often equated with a lack of interest in community.

  85. Heh, Kate, me too.

    I have ADD and I was 26 before anyone figured that out, and so had and have a couple of conditions either as a result of such a delayed diagnosis or because they exist concurrently (one of those fun mysteries of life, I suppose). Depression and anxiety, primarily. I’m hopeful that they may permanently lift once I get myself adjusted to this whole ADD thing, but I’m realistic about my tendency towards melancholia *wrist placed delicately on forehead.* And WOW am I not putting an innocent child through Crazy Mommy. They might not survive that intact, if at all.

    I haven’t yet been challenged on depriving my husband of his balls-given right to a child or two, but I’ll refer future weirdos to his vasectomy (which was way easy to obtain for unmarried white guy in Manhattan, btw).

    When pressed I tell people maybe I’ll adopt…but I don’t mean it. /badly-paraphrased Wanda Sykes

  86. @Eucritta – I actually had a think about that idea a while ago, my sample being a few of the more self-absorbed twits with whom I attended high school, study conducted via facebook lurking. I think the people who trumpet on about people without kids being selfish are those whiny kids who spent their entire lives up to the point of procreation never ever considering the world from anyone else’s perspective. And because their experience was that it took having a baby to open them up, EVERYONE without kids is just as selfish as they once were.

    And frankly, probably still are. But I’m kind of cranky.

  87. I have enough childfree friends that it never even occurred to me that not having children would be considered selfish. Obviously having children, just because you want them when you can’t be sure what their lives will be like and you know you’re contributing to overconsumption and overpopulation, is the selfish track… you just decide whether it’s a kind of selfish you can live with.

  88. You all are making me love my PCP. I briefly decided to try to have another child (with my 2nd husband, the SPC), despite 2 very difficult Clomid pregnancies/deliveries and a hx of infertility and endometriosis. She supported me in getting a workup done while the SPC was deployed.

    But while he was gone, I reconsidered. He was not in any way pushing me to have a child, but just knowing how much he wanted one… it influenced me greatly. But when it was just me, lieing there, getting dye injected through my cervix to see if my fallopian tubes were clear, I realized that I wasn’t at ALL looking forward to another 9 months of bedrest.

    So yesterday I saw my PCP. I let her know about decision (she didn’t look surprised), actually asked about a hysterectomy (I lose 7-9 oz a cycle, with agonizing cramps), but considering that 2 yrs ago we were talking about fertility treatment, I can hardly expect that to be a go. Instead we talked about options (dr “There’s NO reason for a woman to get pregnant who doesn’t want to”), and I’m being sent to an GYN to see if I’m a candidate for an IUD (as the Pill messed me up something fierce when I was on it).

    Now, maybe it’s because I’m 30 now… but why aren’t more drs like this? Out of all the ones I’ve been to, only 2 have been this way. One an older man, the other a former USAF woman.

  89. Its not that I don’t believe fertility decreases for some women. I just think that women shouldn’t be scared into having a baby NOW NOW NOW when there are other options after 35 and not all women face the same fertility issues.

    I have to say that I think people have a false impression of how easy those “other options” are. Speaking as someone who’s been through infertility, sometimes you don’t have as many options as you think you do.

    Contrary to what the media would have you believe, IVF/infertility treatment is a long way from guaranteed — each cycle of IVF has only about a 40% pregnancy rate in women under 35, and that drops to about 5-10% by the age of forty (or when FSH starts to rise). Other treatments like Clomid and injectable gonadotropins have, at best, a 20% success rate in younger women. Of course, the cost of IVF is significant, $10K or more per cycle, much higher if donor eggs or surrogacy enter the picture. Sadly, the odds are that you’ll spend tens of thousands of dollars on the most expensive period of your life.

    Then there’s adoption, and again contrary to popular belief, there’s no such thing as “just adopting”. Domestic infant adoption is generally in the neighborhood of $10-15K, and can go as high as $40K (especially if you are doing a private adoption rather than through an agency). International adoption varies widely from country to country, and from what I hear, is expensive right now, since some countries’ programs have been shut down. China’s $20-30K, and has quite a few other complicated restrictions (including that both parents must have BMI under 40).

    Foster care adoption is a few thousand dollars (mainly in homestudy and legal fees), but you’ve got to be prepared to take on an older child, with potentially complex special needs. Depending on how you go about it, you won’t necessarily even be able to “pick out a child”, but you foster whoever the state sends you, and maybe later decide to adopt one. Also, these adoptions fall through more frequently, as children are returned to their bio parents, even after you’ve been fostering the child for some time. There’s a lot of difficulty and heartache — it’s not like going down to the animal shelter and picking out an abandoned puppy. In terms of the required commitment, it’s more like having a religious vocation, and you don’t get one of those just because your lady bits stop working properly.

    Adoption can be a good alternative for some people, but it’s absolutely not a replacement for having a biological child. It’s not enough just to want to be a parent really badly — you have to want to be an adoptive parent, with all the issues that come along with adoption. Not all infertile people do, or are suited for it. I’m not ashamed to admit that if our infertility treatment had not worked, we’d have remained childless, and it wasn’t because we didn’t want a child badly. Adoption is a separate creature, and I would strongly encourage people to do some research into it (and have some very detailed conversations with your partner) before delaying parenthood with the vague idea of adoption if pregnancy doesn’t work out.

    Sorry for the rant, but I got told one too many times, “Oh, why don’t you just adopt?” Nothing is simple when you can’t have a spontaneous pregnancy, regardless of which path you choose.

  90. Right on, Kate. Count me in the “I don’t want kids” group. I like to look at other people’s babies and coo over how cute they are- as long as they’re clean and behaving. Holding my cousin’s baby… that was okay as long as I was sitting down and somebody who knew what they were doing was nearby in case I rolled a 1 on my Handle Baby skill check. Now that said baby is a little kid, he’s still pretty cute, but I’m glad that things like spitting up spaghetti on his shirt and fatigue-induced wailing are Somebody Else’s Problem. As far as I’m concerned, babies and little kids are cute as long as I can give them back to Mommy or Daddy the minute they start crying or making messes.

    Then there’s the deeper issues of teaching the kid or kids how to be good adults. Caring for them, making sure that they know they’re loved, being ever-vigilant about their physical and mental health and making sure that if they need professional help, they get competent help of the correct variety. What if I screw up? I can’t do all that, not with my own laundry list of problems! Hell, some days I can’t care for myself, how could I possibly care for a child?

    When I express my opinion of babies and cuteness to others, many people chuckle and agree. But when the subject of actually having kids comes up and I say that I don’t want any, the response is almost inevitably one of two answers. “Oh, you’ll change your mind eventually!” Um, I haven’t changed my mind about this since I was a teenager. I didn’t even like playing ‘house’ as a little girl unless I was making mud pies.

    Then there’s all the variants on “That’s very mature of you, what with your disability and all.” Um, WHAT?! Just because I happen to have epilepsy and not want children, it does not follow that disabled women should not want children and cannot be good mothers! Yes, parenthood would be an even greater challenge if you are not able-bodied. That doesn’t mean that people cannot meet the challenge.

  91. I have enough childfree friends that it never even occurred to me that not having children would be considered selfish.

    Oh yeah, it’s a standard mode of argument in the We Must Control All Wombs camp. Don’t you know your childfree friends (ahem) are depriving their parents of grandchildren and just want to selfishly spend all their time and money on themselves like they’re actually worthwhile individuals or something?

  92. Adoption can be a good alternative for some people, but it’s absolutely not a replacement for having a biological child…. Adoption is a separate creature, and I would strongly encourage people to do some research into it (and have some very detailed conversations with your partner) before delaying parenthood with the vague idea of adoption if pregnancy doesn’t work out.

    Emma, I see what you’re saying here, and I absolutely agree that none of the other paths to parenthood are simple. But something about this… I don’t know. I think you’re just saying that it’s a different experience, but I want to reiterate that the bonds that adoptive families have with their children can be just as strong as those in biologically-related families. And I’m not clear on what the last sentence is saying – there are lots of reasons why people who want children might delay pregnancy and hope it would work out later. That’s their choice. There’s nothing wrong with considering adopting a child later in life.

  93. Volcanista, sure, I didn’t mean to imply that adoptive parents don’t love their children just as much, or that the children are somehow less theirs. (Matter of fact, it bugs the crap out of me how the tabloids talk about Angelina and Madonna’s “adopted children”.)

    What I’m trying to get at is that adoption isn’t issue-free, either before or after the child joins your family. There are a lot of challenges for both adoptive parents and children — questions of first-family contact, of cultural and racial heritage, of emotional or physical special needs, and yes, of the way people perceive your children as being less yours. You have to really want to be a parent AND to tackle all of these issues head-on, over and over and over for a lifetime. I think it’s wrong to say that if just you really really really want to be a parent badly enough, of course you’ll be willing to deal with the complexities of adoption, because they’re really separate problems.

    What I mean by the last sentence is that people sometimes put off pregnancy only because they think that they’ve got plenty of time, or that they can easily avail themselves of the “other options” Valerie mentioned. Of course there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing so, but if you’re going to make a choice to delay pregnancy, I think you should have a realistic picture of the risks of doing so. Sometimes people handwave in the direction of adoption or IVF, when if they really understood what those involved and the likelihood of IVF success, they might choose to have a spontaneous pregnancy sooner. Granted, my perspective is from the infertility community — but I know a lot of women who would have made different choices years ago if they’d known what their other options really entailed. If you’re making a pregnancy decision based partly on the assumptions that IVF is usually successful and that adoption is as simple as finding one of the “lots of kids who need good homes!”, you’re working with false premises.

    Fair enough?

  94. I do think that’s fair enough, Emma B. About… dang, 7 years ago now, I broke up with a guy I had thought I was going to marry and have kids with. And at the time, I had never remotely considered not having kids. And that was when Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s book that said your fertility starts declining at 27 came out — so, being 27, I was somewhat flipped.

    I eventually came to terms with being single by telling myself that, if worse came to worst, I could eventually adopt. Which was (and still is) technically true. But I didn’t know shit about adoption, and you’re absolutely right that it’s nowhere near as simple as it’s made out to be. It was just a vague “Oh, I can get a baby from somewhere” kind of thought.

    So that’s where I totally get what Emma B. is saying. If kids had really been my top priority, it would have behooved me to do a lot more thinking and research about what I needed to do to become a mom back then, instead of just hoping it would work out somehow.

    Now, as it happens, in the intervening years, I changed my mind about having kids somewhat. As I’ve said, I haven’t ruled it out, but I haven’t ruled it in, either, and at 34, my window for deciding is shrinking every day. (Hell, it could already be closed. I could be infertile and not know it.) But how I feel now is, if it doesn’t happen, I could definitely be happy childfree, and I actually don’t think I’d pursue adoption. If I decide I do want a kid and can’t have one, I’m sure it will be a huge disappointment, but I just don’t have an overwhelming desire to be a mom, so I can’t see myself jumping through a billion hoops to become one. (Al is similarly ambivalent, so I can’t see him pushing for that, either.)

    And that’s where I get what Volcanista is saying — or a variation on it, anyway. First, if at 34 I still really wanted a kid but not yet, I’d already be researching the hell out of adoption, just in case — and it would be a viable option, despite the difficulties. But a point that I think often gets overlooked in these discussions is that there are different shades of regret and disappointment. If Al and I say, “What the hell, let’s do it!” only to find out we’re infertile, it’s going to fucking suck. But it definitely won’t make me think, “Gee, I wish I hadn’t put it off.” Because A) if I’d had a kid at any point before now, that kid would have suffered. I definitely wasn’t ready to be a mom — I’m not sure I am yet. And B) I only really started figuring out what I wanted to do with my life when I was past 30.

    In my 20s, I was still agonizing about who and what I wanted to be. If I’d had a baby, everything would have turned out so fucking differently. This blog and the book would almost certainly not exist. I would either be divorced or in a loveless relationship with the wrong guy, just because he was the father. I’d most likely still be living in Canada, because the kid would be Canadian and the father would be there and the health insurance would be a much bigger deal, even though I am (as I knew I would be) so much happier living in the States. (Nothing at all against Canada — it’s just that for better or worse, this is Home.) I probably wouldn’t have gone to grad school, which means that several of the most amazing friends I’ve ever had would not be in my life, and neither would Al (whom I met through one of those friends). And you know, maybe the kid would have made it all worthwhile, and I would have had different experiences and met different people that brought me just as much joy. But as it is, I wouldn’t change a thing — so even if one day I regret not having a child, as a theoretical concept, I will never regret the decision to let the fertility chips fall where they may and get on with my life.

    I know there are women who really do wish they’d rearranged their lives in order to have a baby earlier, and might never get over the devastation of not being able to have one. But I also suspect that a lot of women who show up as “regretful” on polls are like me — they think sure, it would have been nice to have a kid before time ran out, and it sucks that time DOES run out, but at the end of the day, they’re still pretty happy with their lives.

    I just can’t buy into the idea that the joy children bring is so exquisite, it trumps every good reason for not having kids, for every individual, ever. Even if that unique parental joy really is 10x or 100x better than anything I’ve ever known, I have still experienced a ton of joy in my life, and if I don’t have kids, I won’t die wondering if there could have been a cherry on top, you know? I think it’s so fucking insulting when people act like your life is empty and you don’t even get it if you don’t have kids. It’s like the selfishness thing. Maybe YOU really were that selfish before. Maybe YOUR life really was empty. But I’m a pretty good person with a pretty great life. I do not feel a lack of love or joy or purpose. A child might bring more of all of those things to my life (or might not, or might bring them along with more pain and sorrow than I’ve ever known), but I definitely don’t need a child to feel fulfilled. I can’t regret not having one earlier, because not having one earlier is a big part of what got me to where I am right now.

    So, yeah. Boy, this got rambly, and I don’t even know what my real point was, except that putting off having kids or getting your tubes tied, etc., might very well lead to some measure of regret or disappointment or wistfulness for a lot of people, but that does not necessarily mean the kind of regret everybody warns you about — where you spend the rest of your days miserably depressed because you missed your shot at THE ONLY REAL JOY AND MEANING AVAILABLE TO HUMAN BEINGS. So you can certainly put it off with a vague idea of adoption, as I did, and not end up desperately scrambling to have or adopt a child, terrified that you will never have the experience of parenthood.

    I regret a shitload of choices I made when I was younger, even some pretty major ones — but I’m still happy overall with where I ended up. Regret can exist without weighing on you constantly, or marking you with a scarlet R. So I fucking hate how much the specter of “you’ll regret it” is used to terrify women into questioning their decisions about their own fertility. (Which is totally not what Emma B. was doing, I might add, but… fuck, it’s really late, and I just needed to ramble, OK?)

  95. This is kinda on topic with the people who are talking about ‘natural children’ and being pressured into having kids.

    I come from a very very large family. I only have one sibling but I have 26 cousins (and counting now that the older ones are having kids), 10 uncles, 8 aunts, and 3 grandparents. I grew up very close to all of them. (Not so much emotionally.)

    I’m only 21 but I’m already being pressured into getting married to my boyfriend by my family! Sure we’ve been together a few years but jeeze, can’t I wait until I’m at least 25?

    I have a very large fear though, my dream is to one day adopt twin girls. I don’t want any other kids than these two girls. I know my parents will accept them but my family is so ‘old-fashioned’ that I often worry about my children (who I will love as my children) will not be accepted by my extended family.

    On top of that fear is my boyfriend’s family. I mentioned we’re not married yet, right? Well, his family is already pressuring me into having kids. We’re 21!

    I wish people would realize that the world is already populated enough and that who has kids (and what kind of kids) is none of their business.

  96. I don’t know, I have mixed feelings. People put off having children for lots of reasons, all of them perfectly valid, and how is regretting that later all that different from having a tubal ligation and regretting it later? Just because you didn’t fully emotionally prepare yourself for all the possibilities (e.g. not knowing how difficult a process adoption can be) doesn’t mean you went about it wrong. I think it IS good for people to know how much of a roller coaster both fertility treatments and the adoption process are, but then, well, I leave it up to them to make their own adult decisions and live with any and all of the consequences – including regret. I can see how it might sound annoying when people speak so flippantly about adoption (and they do, and it is!!), but that doesn’t mean everyone is deceiving themselves, you know?

    On the other hand, Heather, that’s an awfully specific adoption goal!

  97. still thinking on ‘other options’

    It seems so ridiculous that men can produce viable sperm all the way until Lord Jesus calls him yonder to Beulahland (feel free to insert whomever your god figure is and from whereever she/he hails) but women have about twenty or less years of baby making time. What’s worse is that those twenty years are smack dab in the middle of the time in which a person would normally be starting a career.

    Argh. I don’t want children right now. I don’t know if I ever will. I don’t understand why my friends are having babies now-although a lot did so in their early twenties. Its baby making time among the ABDs in my department currently. You’ve got to get those puppies out before the six years of groveling for tenure or you’ll be a forty year old mom. I think forty is the perfect age for being a mom but apparently some women think that’s a deal breaker. But science tells me I’m washed up at forty. Plus I’m only 3 years from the statistical sell by date of 35.

    I can”t even fit my head around being a mother right now. When my friends tell me they’re pregnant I’m happy for them. But I’m also thinking ‘why would you do that?’ There’s the rub I guess; I can’t think of one good reason for having a baby. And when I hold a baby I don’t feel cuddly and motherly. I think ‘you know if you had a pink nose, fur, and paws you’d be pretty cute and I’d want to mother you. I’m sure you’re a nice person and all but I’m not feeling anything here.’ When I hear a kitten cry it pierces my soul. When I hear a baby cry, I’m personally offended and want it to stop. now. Ugh and I know the forced birthers would have a heyday with my misthanthropy. Why do I feel so alienated from the experiences of my own species. There”s no mother cat out there wishing she could have my baby. WTF is wrong with me!????

    So how does one know they want to be a mother, they should be a mother, and when the time is right? I actually have a pantload of child free friends. One woman tells me that not having kids is the best thing she never did. But then I have my other friends who are SUPERMOMs ™. I”m not even saying that with snark. I wish they’d been my mom. But they totally mystify me.

  98. A quick caveat to the fertility/’other options’ point – I agree that people should realize how challenging fertility treatment and adoption can be and take this into consideration when looking at their options and choices. But I think there’s also the opposite thing going on, with people reading scare media and mistakenly assuming that all women over 30 will have fertility problems. I’ve had so many friends get pregnant fairly easily in their mid to late 30s and have easy pregnancies. (And I’ve known people who had problems who were younger – age is a factor, but not the only one). And there’s nothing magic about 35 – it’s true that fertility declines throughout the 30s, but nothing magical happens to you on your birthday.

    Even though there are pieces of it based on some realities, the ‘every pregnancy past (fill in the blank age) is impossible and dangerous’ reminds me obesity and other moralistic stories disguised as helpful advice.

    I also wonder how many people would have had kids earlier because of thinking more of these risks – most people I know decide to have kids when they’re ready. If you’re not ready, knowing that you might have a harder time down the line doesn’t make you ready. I deeply, deeply feel for people who experience infertility and feel like they wish they’d had different information, but I think for many, many people, recognize the greater challenges they may face down the line but take that chance in exchange for the greater emotional and financial stability they’ll gain. And it’s our right to weight these factors for ourselves – which I think is maybe part of what Kate was saying in her long post.

  99. (Changed my name cause I realized there’s already a Heather and I don’t want people to confuse us.)

    Volcanista: I know! I know it’s really weird but I’ve thought about it a long time. I’ve always wanted twins, I don’t think I could handle boys at all, and I absolutely do not want to give birth.

    I know that I’ll have to be really lucky to fulfill that goal though.

  100. Why do I feel so alienated from the experiences of my own species. There”s no mother cat out there wishing she could have my baby. WTF is wrong with me!????

    Valerie, if I may chime in to the conversation late, but I think this sentence illustrates the whole conflict quite well. It is a part of our cultural narrative, at least in the US, that we are all supposed to be drawn to motherhood, that it is supposed to be our greatest joy and/or the purpose of our lives. And if it isn’t, well, there must be something wrong with us!

    But we aren’t cats. While I wouldn’t say we don’t care about keeping the species going or what have you, we are capable of more complex thoughts and feelings. A cat doesn’t have a career and it wouldn’t think to want one. It doesn’t desire to paint pictures, write stories, play a sport, etc. Maybe if they could, we would have more childfree cats!

    And just because you don’t desire to have a child, doesn’t mean that you have no need to give love or affection. You just know that children are about a lot more than love and affection. Every time my dog wakes me up in the middle of the night because she wants to pee/is afraid of the rain/is sick/is bored/whatever, I thank God she isn’t a child. Because I can lift the dog up into my bed, pat her on the head, or let her outside, and turn over and go back to sleep; if she were a baby, I would be responsible for a whole lot more. And while I love my dog a lot, I am just not ready for that kind of responsibility and I may never be. Other kinds of responsibility interest me far too much right now. And there is nothing wrong with that, no matter how many people swear that there is.

  101. I’m lucky in that my family never pressured me to get married and have children. My mom, goofy but lovable woman she is, told me while I was in my 20s not to have them, because she was too young to be a grandmother. I know if she does have grandchildren (my brother will have to be the one to give them to her) she will spoil them to death, but this woman is on the go when she’s not feeling lousy. She’d have to trek around with the stroller every weekend if she was babysitting.

    However, she jokingly told me last year that I should find a nice, rich man to marry so we can take care of her.

    I’ve had people ask why I don’t want kids. My blanket response was always, if I can’t afford them, why have them? There’s still truth to that. But in reality, I enjoy being independent, and the maternal instinct isn’t there anymore like it was in my early 20s. Not to mention, if I know I’m not the mothering kind, why deliberately have a child just to be part of the status quo? A lot of children end up suffering because their parents just weren’t meant to be parents.

  102. A cat doesn’t have a career and it wouldn’t think to want one. It doesn’t desire to paint pictures, write stories, play a sport, etc.

    I am pretty sure my cat strongly desires to write stories about ho ridiculous we hairless monkeys are. Just sayin’.

    I think it’s so fucking insulting when people act like your life is empty and you don’t even get it if you don’t have kids.

    I want to second this a thousand times. (2000 times?)

  103. First and foremost, I don’t want to have children, nor do I wish to get married.

    I get nothing but crap about it from my siblings, but I understand why. I’m the youngest(28), and the other three are all in their mid-to-late 40s(44, 47, 48). My oldest sister(48) is the only one who had kids, and they’re 15 and 17. The other two can’t have children of their own due to fertility issues(fibroids from hell), so the three of them are trying to put the burden on me. It also doesn’t help that I’m the only unmarried one.

    They’re not mean about it. They don’t call me selfish, but they are pretty damn good at nagging me about it. I defend my position as best I can without getting overly bitchy, and they leave me alone until the next holiday or my next birthday.

    Meanwhile, my dad outwardly projects the impression that he’s not terribly concerned about it. I never asked him because I enjoy the apathy.

    My mom gave me her blessing last year before she died. She even went as far as telling me that if she’d had her way, she probably would never had children. (Keep in mind that it was the early 60s and she was an unmarried Black woman in the South. They’d rather give her a hysterectomy than birth control.) Or at the very least, she would never have had them as soon as she did. (My oldest sister was born 2 months before my mom was supposed to graduate from high school, and she didn’t.) It doesn’t mean she didn’t love us or want us, it just means that she would rather have had time to plan things out and think things through.

    The thing is, though, I’m the only one she ever told.

  104. I haven’t noticed that my cats seem unhappy, even though they were spayed. Actually, they seem to have achieved a state of self-actualization I can only dream of.

  105. Don’t you know your childfree friends (ahem) are depriving their parents of grandchildren and just want to selfishly spend all their time and money on themselves like they’re actually worthwhile individuals or something?

    Oh, I see, they’re selfish because they don’t want to actively create new people to share with. Okay, I mean that is asinine but I am slightly less boggled by the argument now.

  106. Now, though, with my parents in their eighties and my dad suffering from dementia, I sorely wish I had a sibling or two to share the emotional load.

    This is a lot to deal with, and I wish you luck. You should know, however that having siblings doesn’t guarantee a thing. I have two brothers, and both are about as useful as a bucket of warm spit unless you have some money that needs borrowing or a new car you want to distress. I do know lots of people who are good friends with their siblings but for many of us “blood is thicker than water” is just nonsense.

  107. Emma B., thank you so much for what you wrote about adoption.

    As a first mom myself, I had been struggling with how to reply to the adoption-related thoughts being posited here, without coming across as strident, because I know no one meant to say something upsetting by their remarks. Yet the adoption talk still gobsmacked me, because adoption is kind of sitting raw in my heart right now for various reasons.

    We’re sixteen years into an open adoption, under very good circumstances, so I know adoption can work and work well. Still, adoption is not something to be taken lightly. It isn’t the same as becoming a parent by biology. I mean, it is, but it isn’t. There is so much else that comes in to play, and it has nothing to do with the adopted child being loved, and everything to do with the inherent complexities of adoption itself.

    Your remarks spoke to me in just the right way. Thank you again.

  108. I just wanted to tell you how much I loved your article on Salon.com re: voluntarily childless women. I’m 29 and have never wanted kids – despite constant assurances that I’ll “change my mind” – and I don’t understand why this is anyone’s business other than mine (and that of any men I get involved with). Society (North American, anyways) still seems to think that there’s something wrong with women who don’t want to be mothers;as if that’s still our true purpose in life, no matter what else we accomplish or what other goals we have. And if we do decide to have children, we’re pretty much expected to give up our entire lives and identities for them or else risk being a “bad mother” – a label that is never, never put on fathers who decide to still pursue fulfilling careers and other interests. THANK YOU for your insightful article and for exploring some of the underlying reasons that people impose this kind of judgment on women.

  109. So I already typed this up once, and then the internetz ate it, so here’s the shorter version:

    I have always, always, always known that if I do nothing else in life, I want to have children. Sure, there are things I want to do, and look forward to doing, but I know I would be happy doing many different things if any one didn’t work out. The only thing I know my life would be empty without is kids.

    That all said, it is BAFFLING to me how people can’t understand that some women don’t want children just as strongly as I do. Sure, there are some women who just aren’t sure, but I hear a lot of childfree women discuss it in the same way I just did: This is something I KNOW, I have always known it, and it is part of who I am.

    Isn’t it, essentially, the same thing? I have a strong, unchanging desire regarding my reproduction, another woman has a strong, unchaging desire regarding her reproduction. What about the details of that desire makes it so different?

    It’s so obvious to me – no matter (or perhaps because of) how important children are to me, I can gather that they (or, specifically, their lack) are just as important to someone else.

    It seems kind of like how some naturally very thin women just really GET that people can be naturally fat.

    Hm. Apparently the shorter version is still… long.

  110. I just want to take a second to reinforce what EmmaB was saying earlier… but also to reinforce what some other folks are saying, too.

    It seems like these days we’re getting more and more of an idea that we (as women) are easily able to have children later. The truth is, I think women have always been having kids later – my grandmother had her last child at 39, and for families with lots of kids, that was bound to be happening. But, with people like Joan Lunden and Marcia Cross and Nancy Grace having them well into their forties, it (I think) gives women who aren’t really taking the time to investigate all the facts, the wrong idea about how “easy” it is to have kids late in life. To riff on what EmmaB was saying – I completely advocate women choosing to reproduce if and when they want. BUT. If you’re choosing to delay, for whatever reason, I think you owe it to yourself to fully understand what may happen, because otherwise you’re making a decision in a vacuum.

    Despite what anyone says, the graph of fertility drops pretty sharply after 35, and it plummets like you walked off a cliff at age 40. (Says the woman who waited until 40 to try.) My husband and I have been paying off loans related to the expense of fertility treatments for the last 18 or so months… which sucks worse when you know that we finally had to give up on those treatments a year ago. And those same expenses keep us from passing thresholds which would qualify us to adopt.

    Sorry… it’s a soapbox that’s hard to get off. :) I don’t think anyone is saying women shouldn’t choose; it’s just that some of us who’ve had a rough time with one of the possible choices are trying to give you a heads-up on what may lie ahead.

  111. People put off having children for lots of reasons, all of them perfectly valid, and how is regretting that later all that different from having a tubal ligation and regretting it later? Just because you didn’t fully emotionally prepare yourself for all the possibilities (e.g. not knowing how difficult a process adoption can be) doesn’t mean you went about it wrong.

    Again, I’m certainly not saying that their reasons aren’t perfectly valid. My real gripe is that the popular portrayal of adoption and IVF has *nothing whatsoever* to do with reality. When you decide to have a tubal, which I absolutely agree a young woman ought to be able to do, you know that it means you won’t have a spontaneous pregnancy. Using adoption/IVF as your backup plan would be like getting a tubal and thinking you can have it undone as easily as an IUD. It’s not emotional preparedness so much as awareness of the facts.

    I do agree with what Kate says, that many women who delay pregnancy with vague backup plans won’t necessarily be devastated if it doesn’t work out. I love my children dearly, but I absolutely believe there are other paths to happiness than parenthood, and that life experiences and maturity are valuable too. (I am, however, irritated by the implication that a woman’s professional and personal life is totally O-V-E-R once she gives birth. When a woman talks on and on she has oh so much to do with her life before she gives it all up for children, it makes me wonder what kind of faceless mombot she must think me.)

    Ultimately, my point is that popular perception of IVF and adoption is, like, ten thousand times more unrealistic than that of the OBESITY EPIDEMIC BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA. I talk about fertility issues a lot, both IRL and online, and I have met very, very few people who have even the tiniest of clues unless they’ve seen a close friend or family member experience them. Heck, we’ve seen it in this thread — Heather, I’m not trying to be mean, but adopting twin girls (especially infant or toddler twins) is significantly more unlikely than the fantasy of being thin. I’ve lurked around here for a long time, and over and over again, we talk about knowing the real facts about obesity issues. Would it give you pause if someone said, oh, I can always just get bariatric surgery, and it’ll be awesome and I’ll be a size 4 in six months? That’s exactly how I feel about this issue. Gastric bypass is definitely the right choice for some people, but there’s a whole lot more involved than the before-and-afters in newspaper ads. Likewise, if you have an adoption or IVF backup plan without actually knowing much about either one, you may find yourself faced with a very unpleasant reality check down the road. People certainly have the right to make minimally informed decisions, and often it will ultimately work out OK, but I’d like to see more people know the facts so that they can make the best choices possible, whatever that choice might be.

  112. I agree with Emma. I’m adopted – the only adopted child in a family of 6 children (I’m #2). I love my family so much and we are very close. They never made my adoption anything but positive. But it is different. I was different. I felt out of place a lot. I’ve struggled with identity issues my whole life. I struggled with knowing I wasn’t “wanted” (even though my parents always stressed how much they wanted me.)

    Many people think they can adopt a child and it’s just like they gave birth and it all moves forward from there, but it isn’t like that. Adopted children have special needs and concerns that an adopted parent has to be ready to face and deal with.

    On an interesting note, when I finally met my birth mother, we were exactly the same body types and roughly the same size. We also wore our hair the same, worked in the same area and even talked alike.

  113. Valerie – I recall reading somewhere that the sound a human infant makes when it cries is one of the most distressing noises for any human to hear, and this is probably a defense mechanism. If you think about it, infants of most species are particularly vulnerable but human infants have no mobility at birth and for several months after, and also cannot see very well for some time (they can however hear well, which is why a parent calling to a baby will cause the baby to turn its head in that direction – they recognize voices from a very early age). This is an offspring particularly dependent on caregivers for everything, so the wailing would cause a reaction in any adult who heard it to increase the probability of a response.

    I can’t remember where I read this so it may be pseudoscience gobbledigook of course, though it makes a certain sort of sense. I get tense whenever I hear a baby crying no matter the circumstances, because it just hits my nerves badly. And with 11 nieces and nephews I’ve heard a lot of crying (and I also have always felt “Kids are great, when you can send them back to Mommy and Daddy at the end of an hour.”

    I *do* get mushy at cute babies and holding them is fun when they are happy or asleep. I find it fascinating to watch the way they mimic facial expressions and sounds, and generally I find them adorable. But I also find cute puppies adorable. This does not make me want to have a litter of them myself.

    DRST

  114. I’ve heard the “increased probability of response” thing, too, but it’s always sounded like evolutionary psych to me.
    Because I’m far more likely to want to help a kitten in distress (so cute! so pitiful! so sweet and clean-smelling usually!) than a baby (so loud! so irritating! so much screaming all the time and who knows what will make it stop! so many bad smells!).

    I confess that I lack maternal desires, so maybe that has something to do with it. The sound not only makes me tense, but angry. It’s not like the kid can help it, but seriously, the most aggravating noise in the world. And my gut reaction is not “awww, let’s make you happy” but “is there any way to get rid of that thing?” Which is the number one reason that I am not, and will never be, a mother.

  115. Why does “I don’t want children of my own, but it’s not as if I hate them! Really, I love kids!” sound so much like “I’m fat, but it’s not as if I just sit around eating junk food all day. Really, I eat healthy and exercise!”

    Oh yeah, because they are the same thing. Feeling continually forced to justify your right simply to be who you are. As opposed to all those others like you. Who are, of course, monsters.

  116. Great Salon article, Kate. I read the Guardian article too, and I’m glad women are actually talking about this.

    I was incredibly lucky – as I now think of it – in that while, in my early twenties, I wanted children with my ex-husband just because I’d been raised to believe having babies was what everyone did, he’d persuaded me that it was better if we waited. Then we had a pregnancy scare, and I discovered several things. One was that actually, the idea of having a baby totally freaked me out. Another was that my then husband was in fact unwilling for me to have an abortion under any circumstances. (Yes, I know we should have discussed that kind of thing, and I thought we had, but I was painfully naive back then and I’d assumed his ‘We’ll deal with that if it happens’ meant totally the opposite to what I thought it meant.) In the event, I wasn’t pregnant, but it got me thinking very, very hard about whether I wanted a baby, at least with that particular man. (We split up for many other reasons, but you can tell from that – and the fact that he couldn’t see why it was a problem – that there were some fairly deep-seated differences.)

    My second husband and I had, by the time we met, gotten to a place where we were neither of us sure if we ever wanted children. Over the last five or six years together, that view has, for various reasons, gelled into ‘No, we don’t, not ever’, and we’ve started discussing sterilization.

    I haven’t really encountered the ‘unnatural’ thing, though I do get the sense from my family (all of whom, in my generation, are conspicuously breeding) that hubby and I are still regarded as not quite grown up or responsible because we’re child-free, which is annoying. Also, I’m not sure how to react to the girlfriend who, when discussing ‘the snip’, said it should be me that gets my tubes tied ‘in case anything happened to you and he wanted children with somebody else’ – is that some kind of dig that he must really want babies and I’m selfishly depriving him of them?

    Not that I should have to give reasons, but there are many I would share and a few I wouldn’t – one major one being the baggage I ended up with from the way I was raised. Not exactly by someone who didn’t like children per se, but certainly by someone who was incapable of liking me as a person insofar as I wasn’t a matching extension of herself. I do like children, but I have this fear that if I gave birth to one, I’d switch into maternal autopilot and end up raising a child as desperately unhappy as I was. I think, in my case, the distance of being an aunt allows me to like kids as people in a way some parents can’t.

    And, DRST, you may be right. Hearing a baby crying in a public place causes me genuine distress. But I guess that’s instinct, and there’s ample proof that instinct alone doesn’t necessarily make a great parent.

  117. Yeah, education is really important, I agree. And maybe people really are that clueless, and I’m being too generous by figuring many people know what it’s like to adopt, because they are in or have interacted with adoptive families.

  118. “I confess that I lack maternal desires, so maybe that has something to do with it. The sound not only makes me tense, but angry.”

    This!

    Seriously, I would be an awful, terrible mother. A crying animal makes me instantly gushy and instantly want to make it all better (this video was torture for me!) >

    http://cuteoverload.com/2007/12/04/the-most-pitifu/

    but a crying baby is really just annoying, frustrating, angry-making.

    And again, not the kid’s fault; they need something and they need to communicate that. Just a pretty clear indicator to me that I am not meant ot be a mummy to human people.

  119. B.S.A.G., on June 17th, 2009 at 6:14 pm Said:

    Why does “I don’t want children of my own, but it’s not as if I hate them! Really, I love kids!” sound so much like “I’m fat, but it’s not as if I just sit around eating junk food all day. Really, I eat healthy and exercise!”

    Oh yeah, because they are the same thing.

    I’m not sure what you’re suggesting here, BSAG.

    Both are certainly possible. You can eat health and exercise and still be fat, just as you can like kids but not have the desire to birth them, and both of those are legitimate ways of being.

    Or you can in fact sit on your couch eating baby donuts, or just really despise kids. Those are okay too, and I don’t really see anyone here saying otherwise. (They may elsewhere, but I don’t see it here.)

    Am I to stop enjoying time spent with my nephews, stop running, and have something other than the salad I planned for lunch to be more ideologically pure? Or are you going to allow me to continue feeding my body the vegetables it tells me it wants, running for the pleasure of it, and teaching these boys how to bake cookies, climb trees, and build fires?

  120. When I imagined what I would say here, de-lurking, for the first time, I didn’t imagine it would be this, or this post, but what the Hey.

    1. I hated kids before I had any. I also said I had “no maternal instincts” and am “not a nurturer.” Although I strongly agree that the “but kids fill up your life, you’re really missing out!” argument is obnoxious, I suspect that it comes from people who were really, really — as most of us parents are — knocked out of our socks by the tremendous love and devotion we have towards our children. (It’s not something you know until it happens to you.) I personally don’t think that an experience that knocks my socks off needs to be something I encourage others to do (and I don’t), but some people can’t resist that. It’s kind of like a religious experience, I guess. Good for you, but I’m not interested. Some people get that that’s annoying, and some don’t.

    I’m also still “not a nurturer,” but I do have a strong maternal instinct. (Kids will bring that out in you.) That doesn’t mean that I croon in a high-pitched voice or get all glassy-eyed or that I’m “soft” or whatever all other qualities are popularly ascribed to that term. (Actually, I wonder whether some women protest against “maternal instinct” because it sounds “weak” or “soft” or not appropriately “valued” enough. Personally, I denounced it in my youth because the popular qualities associated with that term didn’t fit me at all — and in many ways, still don’t.) It’s funny to hear myself say that I have “maternal instinct” now, because it doesn’t mean at all what I thought it meant in my early twenties. “Maternal instinct” isn’t like what our culture would have you think, necessarily, I suppose much like, as Kate says, “fat” isn’t all the things popular culture associates with it, either. For instance, there is a lot of aggressiveness in “maternal instinct” that is anything but quintessentially feminine or anything but soft or anything but silly (but actually shrewd, sharp, and fast). The difference between “maternal instinct” and “fat,” I guess, might be (to also go with Kate’s argument in her Powell review) that we give “fat” more power than it actually has, but we don’t anywhere near paint the true picture of complexity that “maternal instinct” has . (And that’s what I so like about this blog, that many women can relate to it — including we moms!)

    2. I just want to second Emma B.’s comment that the reason parents are so testy when someone offers them unsolicited advice, besides the fact that it brings out that angry maternal instinct (ha), is quite similar to what might piss off fat people when someone insinuates to them: a) like we haven’t heard that one before, tried that before; b) you’re only seeing us in one snapshot of time, you’ve no idea of the history (the history of that day with the child, the history of the child; or, your personal history); usually the advice carries with it tremendously insulting undertones and insinuations, such as: you’re doing it wrong, you must not be trying hard enough, get off your butt and [exercise / drag your kid out of the store / etc.], you must not know that there’s a “better” way (’cause you ignorant). Tremendously insulting when you know damn well all the different ways to do it, and there’s a damned good reason you’re not doing it that way right now (ranging from “doesn’t work” to “not my personal choice”). (This is not to yell at the person above who noticed how “testy” parents are when given suggestions, but simply to speak more to that.)

    3. On the “She’s Come Undone” reference, I think it’s fascinating that weights are almost never associated with heights in the popular media: before/after photos, weight loss “success” stories, etc. As a tall person, I can tell you that how tall you are has a HUGE (ha ha) influence on whether your weight is “fat” or not. When I was thin (pre-pregnancy), I had a weight that most “normal” weight 5’2″ women wouldn’t even have attained in pregnancy. But, we’re merely meant to see (and be assigned) these one-dimensional numbers and be suitably horrified. Height is withheld to contribute to the general anxiety.

  121. I’m not telling anyone to like or not like babies, or donuts, or baby donuts. I’m just so tired of the (real or perceived, to varying degrees depending on context) expectation of the Good Childfree, exactly like the Good Fatty.

    If someone has or wants children, that’s it, end of discussion, no questions, no judgment. No one demands an explanation of why, because they’re the default, the norm. Those of us without children, however, have to be constantly ready to justify ourselves. Clearly either we’re physically defective (which must be made known so that others can properly pity us), or we’ve made a conscious choice to be deviant, and so the reasons for our aberration are fair game for discussion.

    We’ve already established – here in the FA community, anyway – that a person’s eating/exercise habits, no matter what their size, are no one else’s business. Likewise, I doubt anyone here would tolerate someone being described as “talking white”, “acting straight” or any other normative qualifier implying that they’re a Good Other.

    So why are we childfree people still expected to insist “but I like children!”? Maybe you do. Maybe you don’t. It’s not an ideology or a statement or a manifesto. It’s not some monolithic Cause that we all have to unite and agree upon. It’s just the way I am, or the way you are – and it’s still no one else’s business.

  122. *delurking*

    This touched on a subject I’ve been really scared to ask anyone. As a 25 year old who has all sorts of health problems but no fertility problems, was raised really catholic, how do I go about getting the right information to have safe-sex?

    I have so many thyroidal issues that birth control in hormone form is not a option at all despite many doctors pushing it on me until I got so sick I had to quit school for this past year to flush it out and as a result of my English heritage, I’m one of the few women who has hemophilia, which would mean a 50/70 chance of any child I had coming down with it as well. And if my child was a boy, he’d have it even more severely than I do, which is very scary. And as a result of all the hormones messing up, I’ve gained over 100 lbs in the last year, so who knows what other risks I have – I tried to talk to my ex-doctor, but he told me to go to weight watchers and that women don’t know how to eat properly – and he was the one who finally diagnosed my thyroid problems.

    Which is strange – he knew all the problems I was going through were not of my making, considering I was having problems not having a glass of water make me feel completely full at dinner, but still when I said weight problems he brought out that whole shtick about carefully monitoring calories and eating dinner at 4 and nothing after that and no snacking – none of which I was doing since I hadn’t managed two bites of anything in years.

    But he and everyone around me except the fiancee who hates children won’t give us advice on how to have sex.

    A boy with my genetic diseases would be lucky to live and his life would be miserable – plus if either a girl or boy lived they’d be pill-poppers. But 5 years together plus our marriage next year (i guess it’s because we live in MS) and no one will tell us what to do besides condoms.

    Websites and tips and commiseration would be nice – we’ve both been really wary of doing anything and you guys are talking about things I’ve never heard of as options for childlessness. And even if I don’t want to do that, I’d still like to find out from someone other than wikipedia what you are talking about.

    Thank you so very very very much!

  123. Thank you to the people who offered sympathy about my father’s dementia – I really appreciated it.

    I’m 44. That means that my early twenties are half a lifetime ago. When I discuss things with my 14 year old daughter, I try hard to respect her viewpoint as a human being of equal worth to myself, which I truly believe she is, but sometimes when her views are clearly very immature (eg “I’m going to marry a billionaire, preferably Mediterranean, and have lots of kids and stay at home because working is for losers!”) it can be hard to do this. Similarly, when I compare my views on important issues now to my views when I was 22, there are some things on which my views are unaltered and some on which my thinking has altered totally, and if I were able to go back in time and tell my 22 year old self what my 44 year old self thinks, I am sure that the 22 year old would be very surprised by which things have changed. On the whole, my views were well formed then, but there are lots of things I just hadn’t thought about much and have considered far more deeply since.
    So I can see that it is very hard for medical providers when a young person is sure they don’t want children, because some of them really, truly will be sure, and some really will change their views later: and surgical sterilisation is permanent enough to be a real problem if the subject does change their mind. Not that this makes life easier for those whose permanent life choices are not respected, but I do have some sympathy for doctors on this issue, because I think they are in a difficult position, particularly with a very young person.
    For me, I wanted children an awful lot more after I had them than I ever did before: I was the sort of person who only had to look at a baby to make it cry before I had my own, but when I’d had my own I discovered this whole part of me I’d never known before. And I know one person does not make a statistic, but personally I had two children at 29 and 33 with not the slightest difficulty, decided at 40 that I really wished I’d had a third, and had at least 3 miscarriages in my early forties and no third child, so for me, yes, fertility absolutely did taper with age, and am I ever glad I didn’t wait. I really agree with those who wrote that people should be aware of this – not to dictate other’s lives for them, but so women can prioritise their life choices from an informed position and while still young enough to have their options open, rather than looking regretfully back through the wrong side of a closed door.

    But I can absolutely see myself having been happy and child free in a different universe; I would have spent so much less time sitting in the car and ironing clothes ; )

  124. I’m so damn childfree that even kittens annoy me! Well, kittens are cuter than babies by far, but all species’ infant crying drives me up the wall and out of the room.

    @cggirl, I was actually in a short documentary by a Chicago-based filmmaker about women choosing to be childfree (or not). I hope I’ll have an opportunity to see your film as well since I’m Jewish too!

  125. I *do* get mushy at cute babies and holding them is fun when they are happy or asleep. I find it fascinating to watch the way they mimic facial expressions and sounds, and generally I find them adorable. But I also find cute puppies adorable. This does not make me want to have a litter of them myself.

    Hey, I’ve been known to say, “I would have a baby if it could be a fur-baby.” So, a litter of kittens? Sure, why not? ;-) I’m not a baby lover in the least, though I adore small children.

    Kate, about possibly being infertile and not even knowing it. Interesting observation. A friend of mine, who loves children but didn’t ever want any, married a man who had chicken pox as an adult (which I think is likely to make a man infertile?). I think they talked about having kids, like on the off-chance it was possible, but it was never a priority for them. Last year (10+ years of marriage later), she found out that all her post-puberty life she’s had a shocking case of endometriosis—apparently the worse it is, the more it hurts, but not when it’s really bad; then, you may not even know it. The surgeon said to her that, as it turned out, the chances of her ever having a baby would have been extremely slim if not nonexistent. Good thing she didn’t really give a hoot about it. But there’s a case where both members of the couple were all but infertile and never really knew it.

  126. Ah, gotcha now, B.S.A.G. Sorry I went on the defensive there. I actually agree with you, but having been lurking on some CF sites where there really is a sentiment that somehow those of us who like kids, work with kids, but don’t have a desire to birth any are somehow traitors to the cause, well, I’m getting awfully tired of that sentiment, and I think I saw it in your post when it wasn’t really there.

    Apologies for misunderstanding you.

  127. Addendum: Plus even when/if I ever want kids – they cannot come from me. I would be lucky if they didn’t die in me. Like not even the doctors will understand that I don’t want kids because I don’t want to bring a person into the world who will look one day at their high school A&P textbook and know that I brought them into this world to suffer.

    Even if I wanted to raise them (and the idea doesn’t really bother me; my parents were crap and I raised my siblings), they cannot be mine. Why doesn’t anyone understand this?

    I am fertile, but why would I want to have a child just so she could risk a massive hemorrhage if she fell crawling? And a boy would be even worse off. (I cannot image that, oh goodness)

    Why is this a hard concept?

  128. Oh, and by the way, over at the Powell’s blog, what is with some people being so angry about trying to keep horribly mean comments down? Kate, please stop instructing your Robot Army to suppress dissent!

  129. So I can see that it is very hard for medical providers when a young person is sure they don’t want children, because some of them really, truly will be sure, and some really will change their views later: and surgical sterilisation is permanent enough to be a real problem if the subject does change their mind. Not that this makes life easier for those whose permanent life choices are not respected, but I do have some sympathy for doctors on this issue, because I think they are in a difficult position, particularly with a very young person.

    alisonsideways, a young person can decide to have children and regret that decision later. Should medical providers refuse to allow young people to have kids? If not, then why should they refuse sterilizations? And isn’t it worse to regret having children than not having them? (Note that the few studies that have been done of people requesting sterilization reversals have shown that it’s mainly parents requesting them, not the childfree.)

  130. Margaret, I suggest you look into a copper IUD (brand name Paragard) — it’s long-term reversible birth control with no hormones. Another option is a procedure called Essure (try http://www.essure.com), which is permanent non-surgical sterilization (they stick little implants into your tubes to block them). I don’t know if the hemophilia would be a contraindication to either one, though.

    As for books, you might also try Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Wechsler. It’s focused on understanding your menstrual cycle and learning how to tell when your fertile period is, both for getting pregnant and for pregnancy avoidance. There’s also discussion of various barrier birth control methods to be used with during your fertile periods. Fertility awareness isn’t foolproof, but it’s better than condoms, which have a pretty high failure rate as these things go.

    Honestly, I think you need a new doctor. Even in MS, they’re not all like that, and it’s really criminal not to give you good information about birth control. I don’t know what part of the state you’re in, but I know of three good practices in the Jackson area.

  131. For all you literary types, I by chance reread Gwendolyn Brooks’ Annie Allen today, and the first part of “The Children of the Poor” is a really amazing bittersweet expression of the “childfree = selfish” idea. It starts:

    People who have no children can be hard:
    Attain a mail of ice and insolence:
    Need not pause in the fire, and in no sense
    Hesitate in the hurricane to guard.
    And when wide world is bitten and bewarred
    They perish purely, waving their spirits hence
    Without a trace of grace or of offense
    To laugh or fail, diffident, wonder-starred.

    I highly recommend the whole thing.

  132. RP, do tell me more! I would love to see the documentary featuring you :)

    P.S. we do have kittens and they’re actually very quiet, certainly compared to children. you do have to change their litter but that’s easier than changing diapers.

  133. I have two kids. I’ve always wanted children – lots of children. And I’ve always felt that wanting children, especially wanting them as much as I did, was *clearly insane*. Children reduce a woman’s life expectancy, knock her career for six, spoil her knickers, cut her sleep right out for years at a time, and as well as all that, they are independently mobile and spend the rest of their lives going away and taking more and more risks and instead of saying “Fuck you, ungrateful wretch,” mothers FRET and WORRY and are grateful for phonecalls.

    Totally, totally, utterly, without limits, crazy.

    Apparently the world I live in has failed thus far to succumb to the logic of my view. Which is an arse, because the fewer children people around me have, the more I can justify having.

  134. Lu, on June 17th, 2009 at 9:33 pm Said:
    Oh, and by the way, over at the Powell’s blog, what is with some people being so angry about trying to keep horribly mean comments down?

    Every one of the bad reviews ranges from merely rude to downright abusive. It’s clear that most of them didn’t read the book, but they can repeat whatever pap they get from morning teevee and spice it up with insults because THE AUTHORS ARE FAT!!!

    Also, did you know that fat people who accept themselves have given up? And are going to die RIGHT NOW???

  135. Margaret, have you tried asking a doctor at a Planned Parenthood? I think that with your health issues you should definitely try to find a really good doctor to talk to.

  136. Alison S, I also suggest you go back to my 1st comment on this post and follow the link to my guest post at Shakesville (not just shilling for myself this time, there really is a ton of useful info there!) I talk about how small the regret of sterilization really is, what is “regret” exactly, and how there’s really no other common surgery/procedure denied to people because of “regret”.

    Margaret, good luck to you in finding a method that works for you.

  137. cggirl, the filmmaker was Jenifer Evans Carnow, and her doc was called “The Wandering Wombs”. There’s unfortunately not a lot online about it. If you’d like, I could email her a link to your webpage and tell her that you’re interested in screenings/DVDs. Alas, I don’t have a DVD myself!

    When I had more free time, I volunteered at the local animal shelter, but I really avoided the kitten room. Older cats are much quieter and show more discretion in their claw placement.

  138. So why are we childfree people still expected to insist “but I like children!”? Maybe you do. Maybe you don’t. It’s not an ideology or a statement or a manifesto. It’s not some monolithic Cause that we all have to unite and agree upon. It’s just the way I am, or the way you are – and it’s still no one else’s business.

    I think this was discussed in a recent thread, but let me address it anyway. First, my gut response is to agree with you — but I do understand the argument against saying “I don’t like children.” You’re saying you don’t like an entire class of human beings — and on a progressive blog, especially one devoted to advocating for the rights and dignity of a group that even a lot of progressives unapologetically hate, we don’t usually do that. Compare it to “I don’t like old people,” and think about how that sounds.

    However. As people were saying on that other thread, kids are a unique group in that hanging out with them as an adult involves assuming some measure of responsibility for their well-being. Even if you’re hanging with kids and their parents, so you know the parents have pretty much got it covered, just being there makes you partly responsible (e.g., if you’re the closest to the street when the kid bolts for it? You’d better get up and run).

    It’s sort of like how I hated going to public pools or beaches when I was certified as a lifeguard, because I had a legal and ethical obligation to try to save anyone who was in trouble. Yeah, there was usually a lifeguard on staff, and kids’ own parents were looking out for them, on top of the fact that 9 times out of 10, nothing bad happens — so the chances of my ever having to step in were incredibly slim. But I was still so aware that when I got my certification, I’d agreed to step in wherever necessary, I couldn’t stop behaving like I WAS the lifeguard on staff — constantly scanning and worrying, instead of just having fun swimming and hanging out. And that’s exhausting. (Now that my cert’s long expired, I no longer have the obligation, though obviously if I saw someone in trouble and no one else was doing anything, I’d be on it.) So that’s part of it.

    Personally, I usually don’t say “I don’t like kids,” but “I’m not good with kids” — which has the advantage of being more truthful as well as less inflammatory. Some people have a seemingly innate gift for relating to children — my sister M., who doesn’t have kids, is one of them. She can meet almost any kid, strike up a rapport, and be having a blast within 5 minutes. My experience is that kids tend to be suspicious of me, and that makes me stress out about how to make them like me, and that makes them even more suspicious… and on top of that, even if they do come around to thinking I’m OK, that just means I have to play kid games. M. loves playing kid games; I got bored playing kid games even when I was a kid.

    In fact, I’ve written before* about how my hatred of childhood surely factors into my ambivalence about having children. It’s not that I hate kids — there are several I love, in fact — it’s that I hated being a kid, and hanging out with kids doing kid stuff takes me right back to being one, and wishing desperately that I could grow up and do grown-up stuff. I was the youngest of four kids (two of whom were much, much older), so I always felt like everyone else in the family got to do cool shit all the time, and I was always left out because I wasn’t old enough yet. And as I said in that post, once I got old enough, I did not suddenly become wistful for childhood or realize I didn’t appreciate it while I had it. I am enjoying the shit out of being a grown-up — so having to put childhood front and center in my life again is a really daunting thought.

    *Please note that that post is over 3 years old — “New Boy” was the guy I dated before Al — and written when I had about 10 readers, all of whom knew me IRL. If I were writing the same thing for the current SP audience, I would not go with the totally flippant line about kids expressing themselves once they get to college, for fear of misinterpretation. I do not want to stifle children’s self-expression. I do, however, think my parents did a pretty great job with discipline — it’s arguably the model for my comments policy now — and yet, the way they did it is pretty unfashionable parenting these days. (Which is only to say they did not negotiate decisions large or small, and they operated on the [probably accurate] principle that if they gave me an inch, I’d take a mile. Could that be part of why I hated childhood and grew up to have some issues with people telling me what to do? Yep, absolutely. But it also meant I knew exactly where the boundaries were and exactly what they expected of me, both of which were really good things. And it meant they didn’t spend their lives arguing with me, because once the “Because I said so” card was played, there was nowhere for me to go — as a potential parent, I can really appreciate the value of that approach for my own sanity. So I honestly can’t see myself being much more permissive — but that makes me afraid that everyone will think I’m a horrible mother if I refuse to spend 15 minutes dithering about whether the kid wants to wear a pink shirt or a purple one, or if I tell her to sit down and suck it up until we can pay the bill, rather than escorting her on a tour of a restaurant to ameliorate her boredom.)

  139. “In fact, I’ve written before* about how my hatred of childhood surely factors into my ambivalence about having children. It’s not that I hate kids — there are several I love, in fact — it’s that I hated being a kid, and hanging out with kids doing kid stuff takes me right back to being one, and wishing desperately that I could grow up and do grown-up stuff.”

    Wow… I never thought about it this way before! Maybe this is part of the reason why I don’t want kids. Other children confused the hell out of me when I was a child, and the feeling was mutual. Might have something to do with being a (probable) aspie. My sister was the only kid I really felt comfortable with, because she knew how to deal with me. I knew deep down that nothing I did, no social faux pas on my part, would drive her away. We would always be there for each other. Sounds sappy now that I write it, but it’s true.

    These days, I try to treat the kids I encounter like miniature people who don’t know all of the social rules and may need them explained or demonstrated. Kinda like me, actually. Heh.

  140. Nineveh, thank you so much for the link to the Shakesville post about adoption/abortion – it ate my brain; I went straight over there, leaving most of this comment thread unread, and haven’t made it back here until now.

    Margaret, I hope you’re still reading; here are some links for you. I’ll start with Scarleteen because, although you’re well out of your teens, it sounds like you got very little sex ed and are starting pretty much from scratch in getting a handle on this stuff. Next, Planned Parenthood – it looks like they only have one centre in MS, in Hattiesburg; I’ve no idea if you’re anywhere near there, but if it’s at all possible for you to get there, it’d probably be helpful for you. Other sites from my bookmark file: Pregnancy Options, Managing Contraception, OBGYN (this one looks like it’ll help you find women’s health services near you), and Our Bodies Ourselves. I’ll also add Fat Friendly Health Professionals, but they show no entries for MS – I include it so that you can check neighboring states if you’re able to get to them.

    Sunflower

  141. Kate & Co: I just made a comment with a pile of links in it for Margaret, and I think your spam filters ate it. Let me know if I need to reconstruct it.

    Sunflower

  142. Kate–loving this thread btw.

    Let me say, outright and unambivalently, that I DO NOT LIKE CHILDREN. There, I said it. Yes, it’s also true that I’m not good with them (largely because I’d rather hold a live hand grenade than a baby, and would throw the baby away from me faster and harder). I don’t like clingy little shit-and-noise machines that demand my attention 24/7, and that society expects me to immediatley focus on when one is in the room, even if the brat isn’t mine.

    I don’t feel the need to sugarcoat. In fact, not doing so helps folks who have real problems with childfree women get a fast reality check, usually in the context of their own ill-behaved progeny. Usage example:

    Me (trying to enjoy a Maker’s Mark on the rocks in the small weed-strewn back garden of one of my favorite dive bars), jumping, suddenly interrupted by an infant either grabbing my leg or climbing under my chair.

    Hipster asshole parents: Oh, don’t look disgusted, you’ll have your own some day.

    Me: Did anyone proof your baby on the way in? And no, in fact, I do not like children, especially ones that are unsupervised, and am trying to get sterilized. So there. By the way, can I drop in at your kid’s daycare and have free juice and cookies and a nap?

    By the way, just got done with a fax machine volley with my ob-gyn. Was scheduled to have Essure done next week, but NOOOO…she fucked up the consent papers so now I have to re-sign them and reschedule for a month from now. This is complicated by the fact that I may have jury duty overlapping the new appointment, but fuck it, I will tell the judge up front that I have a necessary medical procedure scheduled.

    Hating the shit that I have to go through in order to control my own uterus. I had much more serious risks and complications from getting my wisdom teeth out (had pretty much every complication you can think of–bad x-ray leading to a messy ripout, a bleeder, and a reaction to the painkiller-also came close to cracking my mandible, which would have been very serious indeed and possibly cause facial nerve damage for life) but nobody was bombarding me with fucking protests, bloody tooth pictures, waiting periods, or 8 thousand fucking pages of fucking paperwork for THAT medical procedure.

  143. I don’t like clingy little shit-and-noise machines that demand my attention 24/7, and that society expects me to immediatley focus on when one is in the room, even if the brat isn’t mine.

    This is EXACTLY what Kate was talking about above, and it’s the reason so many people have trouble with the vociferously childfree (especially the Internet forum subspecies).

    Babies are people. Being people, they poop. Not having the communication skills to express their needs more pleasantly, they cry. Sometimes they even misbehave, even when adequately parented, because surprise! they are still learning how to behave properly. They really don’t do specifically it to offend you. No, they don’t belong in adult situations, and you certainly shouldn’t feel obligated to pay attention to other people’s children, but that also doesn’t mean you get to call other people ugly names. Sure, you technically have the right, but please don’t be shocked when other people think you’re a rotten person for exercising it.

    I imagine you’d get upset if I called you a disgusting fat unhealthy whale, too. You might actually be fat and unhealthy, but y’know, it’s not about your health or weight status — it’s about treating other human beings with a very basic level of respect. Your dislike of children and your decision not to have them doesn’t mean you get a pass on basic decency.

    But then, what do I know? I’m just another moo (Shamu with a litter, no less)!

  144. In fact, I’ve written before* about how my hatred of childhood surely factors into my ambivalence about having children. It’s not that I hate kids — there are several I love, in fact — it’s that I hated being a kid, and hanging out with kids doing kid stuff takes me right back to being one, and wishing desperately that I could grow up and do grown-up stuff.

    You know, I’d never really thought of it this way, but I think this may be a very large part of why I never wanted to have kids. I already DID the child thing when I was one, and I didn’t like it a whole lot. Sure, it had some good things about it, but I was really ready to leave it behind as soon as possible and I really had no desire to put all those kid-things front and center in my life again.

    In fact, that’s one of the things that’s annoyed me about becoming an adult – I couldn’t wait to get here so I could do all those adult activities that were strictly prohibited for kids when I was growing up, only to find out that the rules had changed and now they were open to kids, too. (Sorry, but bars at 9:30 on a Saturday night are not designed to be child-friendly.) I felt cheated twice.

  145. Jenonymous, I repeat what Kate just said in case you missed it: You’re saying you don’t like an entire class of human beings — and on a progressive blog, especially one devoted to advocating for the rights and dignity of a group that even a lot of progressives unapologetically hate, we don’t usually do that. Compare it to “I don’t like old people,” and think about how that sounds.

    Seriously, you can dislike kids all you want, but they’re people. I’m just as much a shit-and-noise machine as they are. Sometimes more, probably.

  146. It’s interesting, because that very argument for not wanting to have kids- hating being a kid- actually makes me want to have kids that much more. There were quite a few things I absolutely detested about being a kid. But I’ve come to really, really appreciate that one thing I loved about being a kid was having an amazingly sensitive mom who really took my feelings seriously. If something wasn’t right with me, she would do everything she possibly could (within reason) to make me feel better or more comfortable or whatever. If an adult had wronged or embarrassed me, she would always, always confront the adult and put them in their place. If I had made some discovery or was confused by something, she was always willing to listen to my opinion and then seriously discuss it with me, not just shush me or tell me it was inappropriate or she’d tell me when I was older. The way my mom raised me actually made me look forward to adulthood, incredibly enough.

    Not to mention that in my line of work, I’ve witnessed a lot of different families and I can see how truly lucky I was to be the child I was in the home I had. If I had been the way I was with different parents, I’m sure I would definitely not want kids.

    Seriously, I can’t wait to have kids. I actually do feel insane uterus-pains and mostly everyone I know looks at me like I’m a lunatic. (Even my mom, who desperately wants grandchildren but kind of can’t believe I would want to have kids NOW. I’m 25. She didn’t have me until she was 35, and she had my sister when she was almost 40.) For that matter, I kind of look at MYSELF like I’m a lunatic, because everything else about me does not suggest breeder at all.

  147. Margaret looking for birth control options:

    I will give a second to the Paragard IUD which I love dearly.

    Also as far as researching options yourself, try planned parenthood’s website (plannedparenthood.org) go to health topics — birth control and they have a pretty good rundown of the different options.

    If you continue to have problems with finding a provider who will speak to you honestly about birth control, see if you can make it to a Planned Parenthood office, I see that there’s one in Hattiesburg, MS (you did say MS right?) but I don’t know what part of the state you live in.

    That makes me really sad that there’s ONE Planned Parenthood in the entire state of Mississippi by the way… there’s at least three in the Portland metro area alone.

  148. Just a couple of rambly comments inspired by the giant thread:

    – My parents are both only children. They had three of us kids. And they still look at us like we’re some alien species sometimes, because they have very little frame of reference for sibling relationships.

    – Also, my parents got together when they were 21, got married at 25… and didn’t have their first kid (me) until they were 33. I am pretty sure they got a lot of hell about it, but it’s made me remarkably lax about thinking I need to have babies NOW. I’m lucky about that, though, and that nobody has hassled me about my total ambivalence over future progeny. Right now I mostly wish I could put my uterus in storage until I decide whether or not I want to use it.

  149. Sorry if I offended anyone, but I’m pretty comfortable saying that I truly don’t like kids.

    If my point seems extreme, it’s because I’m fed up with people who think that I owe them an EXPLANATION as to why I am not desperately trying to mate with something, ANYTHING, to have puppies, because my life just won’t be complete without them.

    Ditto for the constant invasion of infants into adult spaces, which in many parts of NYC is absolutely endemic. Damn straight that makes me “hostile.”

    Add to that the amazing amount of trouble and BS that women have to go through in order to get sterilized and you see how I got where I am additude-wise.

  150. I’m torn on the “I don’t like kids” thing. As a group, I don’t, though there’s individual ones that I enjoy.

    I actually can handle certain age groups fine – pretty much everything except middle school boys and children under 7 is fine, but I don’t usually enjoy it.

    Perhaps “I don’t like how I feel around children” would be less antagonistic (this is actually usually what people mean when they say “I don’t like old people”, too.) Or “I don’t enjoy time with children.”

  151. But Jenonymous, the problem here isn’t that you don’t want and don’t want to be around children. It’s that you’re calling them names — for instance, dehumanizing them by calling them “puppies.” I’m also not terribly sympathetic to feeling hostile because children are in spaces where you go, I guess, because that’s really not terribly different from being angry that people who are different from you in all kinds of other ways are in spaces you consider yours. That said, I totally understand the frustration you and lots of other people here are expressing about being questioned, doubted, ignored, second-guessed, and ridiculed for not wanting children of your own, and for wanting to take measures to be sure you don’t. That’s your decision and no one should give you a hard time about it.

    cggirl, the filmmaker was Jenifer Evans Carnow, and her doc was called “The Wandering Wombs”.

    RP, this reminded me of Kapo from Hawaiian mythology, with her wandering vagina!

  152. I’m with volcanista—it’s not about whether or not you’re willing to admit you don’t like kids (I’m not a kid person either, as a whole); it’s about not dehumanizing them just because you don’t like them.

  153. I can understand where folks are coming from when they say they’re uncomfortable with someone saying, “I hate kids,” because it does seem unnecessarily divisive. I do think there are people, as I mentioned in my earlier post, who can’t relate to kids well, and I wish those people would own up to it – to themselves if no one else – so they don’t have kids and then neglect them.

    All that aside, as an adult without children, I will admit that I sometimes find it frustrating that there are so few places one can go without encountering children. And I adore them! But since I was raised in a way that sounds similar to Kate (my parents said it wasn’t a democracy in our house, but a benevolent oligarchy), AND an only child, I was held to some really, really high standards of behavior, especially in public, and now that I’m older, I find I expect the same things of children in public… and it just doesn’t happen. I know kids have a limited attention span. So don’t take them to a restaurant where the lead time on the entrees is 40 minutes. It does nothing but frustrate them, you, and every other diner in the restaurant. But if you want to wave a red flag in front of a bull, say that to some parents. ::chuckle::

  154. Volcanista,

    So it’s perfectly OK to take kids into bars? Or late-night movies? It’s cute when kids run shopping carts into my Achilles’s tendon at the supermarket?

    Note that about 85% of my problem with kids is that there seems to be a rash of parents who assume that their Precious Snowflake is not just their #1 priority, but the rest of the world’s obsession also.

    I don’t think I’m “dehumanizing” kids, but if you feel that way, well, everyone is entitled to an opinion. Frankly, as someone else said above, I like dogs and cats MORE than kids (but still wouldn’t actually have either in the house)

    Also, I don’t see what’s wrong with admitting that kids ARE a pain in the ass a lot of the time. I think that WAY too many people have kids who later regret it than the other way around. I think that’s part of the pathology of the whole “hold the baby, you’ll change your mind” thing–they need absolutely everyone they can find to confirm their choice because they have deep doubts about it.

    Which brings me to another point that someone else mentioned above: I think a lot of the BS aimed at childfree people is a form of jealousy, outright. You know what? Sleeping late on the weekends, staying out late when I want, and having disposable income ROCKS.

    FWIW, I’ve never been hassled about my childfree status by anyone who struck me as truly comfortable as a parent, and oddly enough, the MORE kids said nonhassler has the more understanding they are. Interesting example: For a long time I went to a synagogue that was Egalitarian Orthodox, which meant it was pretty much a cross-denominational shul. Most of the women there had at least 3 or 4 kids each and were seemingly perpetually pregnant. I was never questioned twice when asked if I was married, or if I had kids. A few asked if I ever wanted any, and when I offered a polite “no” (as in no, I really don’t like kids and I think I’d be a horrible parent) they LET IT GO, but were still cordial and whatnot. Interestingly enough, they also seemed to be some of most attentive parents that I ever met, and seemed to have a grip on their kid’s behavior and whereabouts.

  155. Uh, who said anything about cute? And taking your family places with you is not making them the world’s obsession. It’s… taking your family places with you. No, I don’t care if kids are in bars that allow it, and if there are noisy people in a movie (kids or adults) and it’s bothering me, I’ll either 1) suffer, or 2) complain to the theater so either the noisy people are asked to leave or I can come back to another show free of charge. Because I live in a community of human beings, and that’s how that works.

    I think all people are a pain in the ass a lot of the time. But I generally don’t call them insulting and dehumanizing names, say they have no business being in public places because I find them annoying or frustrating, or generally equate the existence of children in public society with being treated badly by parents and doctors, because I recognize that those are completely different things.

  156. I know kids have a limited attention span. So don’t take them to a restaurant where the lead time on the entrees is 40 minutes. It does nothing but frustrate them, you, and every other diner in the restaurant. But if you want to wave a red flag in front of a bull, say that to some parents. ::chuckle::

    I think they have every right to be bothered by unsolicited criticism, actually. Other people’s parenting isn’t anyone else’s business, unless you witness abuse or something that really needs to be called out. What if that family was in town visiting family, or are on vacation, and they didn’t know there was a long wait for food at that restaurant? What if usually their kids can handle that, and you caught them on a bad day? I just don’t think you can know the circumstances.

  157. Jen, in case you didn’t notice, this is a thread DEFENDING the childfree, clearly SUPPORTIVE of the childfree, and basically just in favor of EVERYONE FUCKING OFF OUT OF EVERYONE ELSE’S FAMILY DECISIONS. That cuts both ways and you have already been told so by half of the SP bloggers, meaning that you are on some very thin ice. (This makes three quarters, meaning that we have given you an unprecedented amount of warning.) This is not the place to shit on parents or children, make ugly sweeping statements, or compare either to animals.

    Don’t be the Christopher Hitchens of childfree, please.

  158. Hey, Jenonymous, let me take your cue and be as daringly cutting as you: I DO NOT LIKE GLEEFUL MOTHER-BLAMERS.

    You, like the rest of us, have to live in a world with people whose company you do not enjoy, and whose bodies make your sensory stimuli less pleasant. This blog, however, does not have to give you the space to insult parents or perpetuate the oppressive notion that the only people who are entitled to be in a public space are people whose bodies behave according to a very narrow set of parameters, most of which are beholden to a really really fucked-up notion of “control” that hurts far more than just the childfree. let’s hope that you are never old, disabled, incontinent, or otherwise prone to ruffling the feathers of people who think it’s their God-given right never to have an unpleasant sensory experience any time they’re a paying customer. And let’s hope you never want to claim any kind of shared-common-good argument when you are the one who is more vulnerable, more needy, or more requiring of accommodation than *you* happen to be at this precise moment, which you seem to think is the requirement of all people at all times.

    Seems to me you’ve been warned. Next comment where you denigrate children, children’s bodies, or all parents everywhere for not meeting your standards or having children for reasons you find personally persuasive enough to warrant your having to share a world with people you don’t one hundred percent enjoy, you’re banned.

  159. Hey there, FJ. :) Crossposting, obvs, but I love the “Christopher Hitchens of the childfree.”

  160. Well, at the risk of leaping from the frying pan to the fire, yet again, I’m the one who said that I think it’s sometimes frustrating not to find places where children don’t go, not Jenonymous.

    And I realized that my comment about telling parents that I don’t think children belong everywhere might sound like I’d mosey on over in a restaurant and say that. I wouldn’t. I don’t. I frankly have never had an experience in a restaurant so bad that I’d say something to a parent there and then, or leave, or whatever. I really want to make that clear – because I think saying something to a parent in that place at that time is insulting and designed to embarass, and I think that’s wrong at all costs.

    I have, as I did here, generally commented both on message boards and amongst friends in casual environments (like the 4th of July picnic) that it mystifies me that we have a culture that is so child-oriented anymore that there are so few places (it seems) that adults go where children don’t. Obviously excepting bars – but not universally so, since, in some states, children may accompany parents where liquor is served if they don’t drink. I honestly don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying it’d be nice, sometimes, to have strictly adult discourse… even though I adore kids, and am one of those people who generally *volunteers* to sit at the kids’ table.

  161. And I’d say I worked hard at not calling people names except that I had no desire to call anyone names!

  162. I really want to make that clear – because I think saying something to a parent in that place at that time is insulting and designed to embarass, and I think that’s wrong at all costs.

    As a parent: thank you! :) No, seriously. Thanks. Sometimes we just didn’t know how fancy the restaurant was… just like, well, everybody else who sometimes finds out that a restaurant is fancier than they expected. And sometimes the service is slow to boot, and that’s when all hell breaks loose, and you can’t leave without paying, so you’re kind of stuck.

  163. Admins: Thanks for the leeway and the warning; I didn’t think that I was being that abrasive against this site’s standards.

    I still think it’s a valid point–and this thread may not be the correct forum to make it in–that adult-only space is rapidly shrinking, and that of all places for a kid to be, a bar is not one of them.

    Having said that, I’ve said my peace on this and I don’t want to annoy anyone else by making a proverbial dead horse milkshake out of it. I’ll shut up now.

  164. I realize this thread has died but thank you everyone for your wonderful help and Oh My – I didn’t realize there was a Planned Parenthood here and it’s in Hattiesburg! *facepalm*

    And it’s close to USM so wow – I completely didn’t see that.

    Anyway, thank you for the wonderful books and websites!

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