Time magazine catches on to the childfree movement, misses the green angle

Time cover: The Childfree LifeThe childfree trend is experiencing its biggest mainstream-media moment ever thanks to Time’s new cover story: “The Childfree Life: When having it all means not having children.”

(And the magazine gets kudos for using the word childfree as opposed to childless.)

Writer Lauren Sandler notes that an increasing percentage of Americans are bypassing parenting:

The birthrate in the U.S. is the lowest in recorded American history, which includes the fertility crash of the Great Depression. From 2007 to 2011, the most recent year for which there’s data, the fertility rate declined 9%. A 2010 Pew Research report showed that childlessness has risen across all racial and ethnic groups, adding up to about 1 in 5 American women who end their childbearing years maternity-free, compared with 1 in 10 in the 1970s. Even before the recession hit, in 2008, the proportion of women ages 40 to 44 who had never given birth had grown by 80%, from 10% to 18%, since 1976, when a new vanguard began to question the reproductive imperative. These statistics may not have the heft of childlessness in some European countries — like Italy, where nearly one-quarter of women never give birth — but the rise is both dramatic and, in the scope of our history, quite sudden.

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Thank god I’m childfree so I don’t have to care about Sheryl Sandberg’s new book

"Lean In" book coverI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: One of the many joys of childfree living is getting to sit out the Mommy Wars.

The latest reminder is a front-page article in The New York Times about Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s forthcoming book, Lean In, which calls on women to go-go-go and push to the top of their career fields, having kids along the way but not letting those kids get in the way. This article is just the first shot in what’s sure to be a relentless media barrage about the book, its author, her supporters, and her detractors.

This follows last year’s kerfuffle over Yahoo! CEO Marissa Meyer’s super-short maternity leave, and Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” The year before that we had the Tiger Mother. The roster of skirmishes stretches back decades.

Over the coming weeks, instead of being irritated every time I see yet another volley in the Sandberg conflict, I’ll take the opportunity to remind myself how happy I am that I just don’t have to care.

The mainstream media just can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to have kids

woman with question marks

(Photo: Shutterstock)

After publishing a long article suggesting that childfree people are destroying America as we know it, Newsweek is now asking childfree people to explain themselves. Share your story, they implore. Subtext: What is this bizarre subclass of people thinking? How might they justify this totally unnatural decision?

Slate did this same thing last year, asking childfree women to “explain themselves.” So did Huffington Post.

It’s nice that childfree people are being invited to express their views publicly, but I wish we could stop being seen as some exotic tribe in need of anthropological examination. After all, nearly 20 percent of American women end up not having kids, and a lot of American men too. We’re really not that rare and peculiar.

Newsweek bashes the GINK movement

newsweek cover with babyShould I be perturbed or pleased that this Newsweek article calls me out by name as one of the misguided, selfish people destroying America by not having babies?

“More and more Americans are childless by choice. But what makes sense for the individual may spell disaster for the country as a whole.” So argue Joel Kotkin and Harry Siegel, ignoring all of the obvious environmental (and other) benefits that could come from a population that’s growing less quickly or even stabilizing. Oh, and they also ignore the fact that the U.S. population isn’t stabilizing; au contraire, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that our current population of 315 million will balloon to 400 million by 2051.

Nonetheless, I and fellow greens who cite potential environmental upsides to lower fertility come in for criticism, along with other cultural degenerates:

[T]he childless and even the partnerless life has gained something of a cultural cachet, with some suggesting they represent not just a legitimate choice but a superior one. It’s a burgeoning movement that’s joined cultural tastemakers, academics, neo-Malthusians, greens, feminists, Democratic politicians, urban planners, and big developers. …

[U]rbanists like Peter Calthorpe … link their density agenda with environmentalism; he’s deemed dense urbanism “a climate-change antibiotic.” Decades after dire predictions of mass starvation and rising population growth lost credibility, the environmental mantra against children remains reflexive. Now greens are pushing for fewer high-income children, since they generate more carbon than offspring in poorer countries. Jonathon Porritt, an adviser to Prince Charles, has called for Britain to halve its population, arguing that having even two children is “irresponsible.” The influential Center for Biological Diversity has called for planetary age standards for getting married or having children, while Lisa Hymas, senior editor at Grist, has signed up for what she calls a “fledgling child-free movement” to stand up against the “pro-natal bias that runs deep.” Her self-designation: “GINK, green inclinations, no kids.”

Stay tuned for a rebuttal …

Anonymous confession from a childfree woman: ‘I find your child tedious’

Thumbs up for this short post by “Anonymous” on the Guardian website, expressing something many of us childfree people feel:

I don’t dislike your daughter — like most well-behaved children, she can be charming. But to me she is a stranger whose language I cannot speak.

I care about you and your life, and I’m delighted you’re so happy being a mum, but there’s something I am never allowed to say: I find your child tedious. …

Read the whole thing.

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At this special time of year, so much to be thankful for

Thank god I’m childfree so I don’t have to care about Marissa Mayer

As everyone and their dog weighs in publicly on the personal and professional choices of Marissa Mayer — the new Yahoo CEO who’s planning to go right back to work after having a baby — I’m reminded of one of the lovely bonuses of being childfree: getting to sit out the Mommy Wars.

Many parents, specifically mothers, seem to be so worked up by this topic because they’re so deeply invested in a particular style of parenting. If you’ve organized your whole life around a parenting choice, it seems, then you really want other people to validate that choice. And if a high-profile mom doesn’t, then lots of other moms pounce.

Many of us childfree people, in contrast, are deeply invested in the notion that there is no one right way to live a life and build a family or tribe. You don’t have to do it the way other people do it. Want to have no kids? Great. One kid? Great. Two kids? Great. More kids? If that’s your thing, go for it. Wanna do it with a partner, or on your own, or something in between? Totally your call. Wanna quit work for a while? Work part-time? Work full-time? Work round-the-clock CEO hours? Whatever floats your boat.

Certainly some parents share this live-and-let-live view, secure enough in their own choices that they don’t have to judge other people’s choices, and some of them are speaking out in Mayer’s defense.

But for the scolds and armchair critics out there, take a lesson from the childfree community and just chill out.

In case you needed a reminder not to vote Republican …

The Republican Party isn’t going to let a little fracas over “legitimate rape” and sperm-killing juices get in the way of its radical anti-abortion platform. From NPR:

GOP Platform Anti-Abortion Language Includes No Exceptions For Rape, Incest

In Tampa, Fla., a week ahead of their national convention, Republicans are drawing up their party platform. …

With little discussion, the committee on Tuesday adopted the same anti-abortion language it’s included in GOP platforms in 2004 and 2008. It seeks passage of a constitutional amendment that would extend legal rights to the unborn, essentially banning abortion.

The language in the platform includes no exceptions for rape or incest.

Oh, and by the way, Todd Akin is not only fundamentally deluded about the basic facts of women’s reproductive systems. He’s also fundamentally deluded about the basic facts of climate change.

You can get your birth control free now — yes, you, really

"You get free birth control & you get free birth control," says Oprah

Hallelujah! As of Aug. 1, 2012, most private health insurance companies will have to start covering the full cost of FDA-approved contraceptives (the Pill, IUDs, implants, Plan B, etc.) and sterilizations. No co-pays, no deductibles. Insurers now really, truly, actually have to cover the full cost. This is a big deal for those of us who’ve been paying these costs out of pocket. Co-pays on the Pill have been costing many of us $10, $20, even $40 a month, year after year, decade after decade. And the up-front costs of long-term methods were costing $1000 or more, even under allegedly decent insurance plans. Tubal ligations could cost more still. But no longer. Thanks, Obamacare!

My big hope is not just that this will save a lot of women money, but that it will save a lot of women from poverty and heartache and lives they don’t want to be leading. Right now nearly 50 percent of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. Half! And, as AP reports, “Rates of unplanned pregnancies are far higher among low-income women than their wealthier counterparts.”

I wrote a post at Grist last month about how we need better family planning to fight poverty in the U.S., because early and unplanned motherhood leads lots of women into tough financial situations: “Imagine if it became normal for young women in America, when they become sexually active, to start using a long-acting form a contraception — an IUD (they’re making a comeback!) or a patch or a ring or a shot, something you don’t have to think about every day — until/unless they decide they want to have kids. (Yes, they should still use condoms too.)”

The most recent New York Times Magazine included a photograph that’s been haunting me, a perfect crystallization of how unintended pregnancy can trap women in a cycle of poverty:

Young woman with two babies

“Maranda Corley, 19, with her children in their bedroom in Ellisville, Miss. Corley, who got pregnant for the first time when she was 16, had twins that were born prematurely and with serious disabilities. Four months ago, she had a third child. Corley lives with her husband, her mother, her maternal grandparents, her brother and her aunt and her aunt’s three children.”

The new Obamacare requirements for private insurers won’t help women like Maranda. But if we can start changing the whole culture around contraception in this country, it could be a start.

In the meantime, I’ve made an appointment to get myself an IUD. As my hilarious colleague Jess put it, “I’m going to request that mine come straight out of Rick Santorum’s taxes. I’d ask for Mitt Romney’s, but, well, you know.”

Caitlin Moran is my new childfree hero

Caitlin Moran… even though she’s not childfree. Leave it to a wiseass mother of two to make the best case I’ve ever read for not having kids.

Caitlin Moran is currently having an American media moment as she marks U.S. publication of her book How to Be a Woman, a memoir-slash-manifesto that’s been a massive best-seller in the U.K. She’s been described as the British Tina Fey, the next Nora Ephron, and an occasional Lady Gaga bathroom companion. Everyone’s talking about her fervid defense of feminism. (“Do you have a vagina? and Do you want to be in charge of it? If you said ‘yes’ to both, then congratulations! You’re a feminist.”) But not enough people are talking about her fervid defense of the childfree life — so I’m going to.

Thing is, Moran loves being a mum (in addition to being many other things, like a columnist for The Times of London). She has a sweet and honkingly funny chapter called “Why You Should Have Children.” But she follows that with a whip-smart chapter entitled “Why You Shouldn’t Have Children.” The latter case so rarely gets vocalized, and Moran vocalizes it so damn well, that I want to block-quote the entire chapter. But that would mean a lot of typing for me. So instead I’ll just block-quote a big chunk, and then you’ll have to go buy the book to read the rest. Which you should do anyway.

[I]f a woman should say she’s doesn’t want to have children at all, the world is apt to go decidedly peculiar: “Ooooh, don’t speak too soon,” it will say — as if knowing whether or not you’re the kind of person who desires to make a whole other human being in your guts, out of sex and food, then base the rest of your life around its welfare, is a breezy, “Hey — whatever” decision. …

[T]his injunction for all women to have children isn’t in any way logical. If you take a moment to consider the state of the world, the thing you notice is that there are plenty of babies being born; the planet really doesn’t need all of us to produce more babies.

Particularly First World babies, with their ferocious consumption of oil and forest and water, and endless burping-out of carbon emissions and landfill. First World babies are eating this planet like termites. If we had any real perspective on fertile Western women, we’d be jumping on them in the streets, screaming, “JESUS! CORK UP YOUR NETHERS! IMMUNIZE YOURSELF AGAINST SPERM!” …

Read the rest of the post at Grist.org.