31 August, 2021

World Childless Week related thoughts

I spent the weekend writing a couple of posts for World Childless Week 2021 (13-19 September) and submitted them just before the deadline (and I have scheduled them for posting here too), so writing a decent Microblog Mondays post has been a bit much, and I apologies in advance. 

However, I did (and do) feel inspired by the World Childless Week topics, and may write one or two new pieces here too over the next few weeks. But of course in my last ten years of blogging I have covered all of these topics, sometimes many times. So today I’m just going to link to my library of previous writings, but encourage you to look at the topics (listed below) and think about writing your own pieces.

World Childless Week Topic:

Our Stories -This whole blog is my No Kidding story, but the key message here is that my story is more than my childlessness. Reading this in concert with A Separate Life gives a better picture, but it is still really only what I want to share, of course. I’ll post an update to my story in World Childless Week, but My Story and Who I am feature both the No Kidding aspects of my life, and my life in totality.

Childlessness and Sexual Intimacy – The one topic I’ve written little about, though I touched on it briefly in S*x and Infertility, and in Accepting My Body. I may write a new post on this soon, as it is an issue rarely covered, and I applaud Stephanie for including it in the WCW 21 topics.

Leaving a Legacy – As any regular reader knows, I’ve written about this quite a lot. I have a new post coming on it in WCW, so I will just reference If we are childless, what is our legacy?, and even Recipes as Legacy. And perhaps notably, in one of the Gifts of Infertility I referred to letting go of our legacy as a gift.

Men Matter Too – Of course they do, but they don’t often tell their stories. I’ve talked about this in What About the Men? and Men are from Mars…

Have You Considered Adoption? – I may also touch on this again soon, but in the meantime link back to Why We Didn’t Adopt, written way back in 2015, when a number of bloggers addressed the topic. Other posts mentioning adoption include Infertility’s Waiting Room, and Hear Me, That’s All I Ask.

We are Worthy – It’s always worth giving ourselves (and our friends) a reminder that though we might not have children, we are worthy. So I needed to read Who We See When We Look in the Mirror, and a previous WCW effort from 2018, We Are Worthy, for my own benefit too. I’ll have to think about whether I have anything new to add.

Moving Forwards – This entire topic is, as I wrote for last year’s WCW post, the topic of my No Kidding blog. It’s about how I moved forward, and what I needed to do to be able to do that, and what I keep doing to ensure that I am not stuck where I don’t want to be. It was the focus of the 2020 Healing Project series in which I wrote 20 posts about moving forwards. Ultimately, I think moving forwards is simply living.

23 August, 2021

Pronatalism and those “as a parent” comments

Loribeth mentioned someone who had posted on social media about Afghanistan, commenting that “now I have a daughter, this hits differently.” Some of the comments rejected Loribeth’s categorisation of her friend’s statement as #pronatalismatwork. This conversation made me reflect on such comments, and whether pronatalism (the promotion of childbearing and parenthood as desirable for society, meaning parents are deemed to have more value than non-parents) was behind it or not.

I’ve written elsewhere about “as a mother” comments here and here, and on A Separate Life here about the “I have a daughter” comments that men invariably make to justify their feelings or express a new-found realisation that women deserve decent treatment too. As if women in general didn’t deserve that prior to them having a daughter. I’ll try not to repeat all those arguments here.

Ultimately, I feel as if the differences between “now I have a daughter, this hits differently” and “didn’t daughters always deserve empathy?” come down to the point of focus. The person who commented that Afghanistan was hitting differently was focusing on their daughter. (I don’t know if they were a man or a woman, though I have my suspicions. Edit: It was a woman. I was wrong!) Of course, they were imagining their daughter being in that situation, and were understandably (I assume) distressed at that thought – at the fear, the uncertainty, the lack of freedom, and loss of opportunity, the inability to change things to help their daughter – let alone some of the more horrific outcomes of the situation in Afghanistan. They were thinking as a parent, and their empathy was focused on one or two children, their own children, in an imagined situation, rather than in a more selfless, all-encompassing way.

Yes, I deliberately used the term “selfless.” Because the empathy shown by parents when they say this “hits differently” for them, even if it is a very deep empathy, is focused inwardly, on their feeling as parents, and on their daughters. Because I think they are saying that prior to having a daughter, the situation wouldn’t have hurt them, not just in the same way, but with the same intensity. And, as I’ve written before, that leads me to wonder why they would make such a statement. Even if they’d been appalled at the Taliban’s treatment of women and girls in the past, this was never really personal to them. But “now I have a daughter” is an admission that it IS personal.

Whereas when I – a childless woman who has neither given birth nor been primary care-giver of a child – consider Afghanistan, I shudder, because I imagine being all those little girls, all those women, I imagine myself and all the little girls and women I know in that situation, not to make it about myself (because how could it be?), but to try to understand. I feel their hurt, and I want to protect them. Now, I know that this isn’t always helpful (intense pain with little to no ability to help) and I often have to step aside. But when I’m watching news and reading about events and situations that are different to mine, I find that it is a) unavoidable to imagine what it is like to be in that position, to be those people, and b) extremely useful to put it all into context and think about the reality of what it means. I’m trying to understand an event from the perspective of the people in that position, rather than from how I would feel if one person I loved was in that position. I do think there’s a difference.

What is pronatalist about all that? Is it pronatalist, or is it patriarchal and sexist? I know many women (parents and non-parents) would be more aghast at the situation in Afghanistan than men, who probably just don’t give it much thought. Women would feel it more personally, just as I felt elements of the US election in 2016 very personally, and yet my BIL – who lived in the US and had daughters – did not feel it. So maybe it’s more an issue of how men and women view the world? Perhaps. But not entirely.

I think that making comments like “now I have a daughter, it hits differently,” is an example of the pronatalist world at work simply because it calls attention, before anything else, to their parenthood and states it as a virtue. Throughout pronatalist societies, comments like this are not only permitted, but accepted, and encouraged in our societies. In fact, the pronatalist world applauds them loudly for their empathy, empathy they admit they might not have had before. (Though I’m all for empathy, and for increasing empathy, especially internationally.) People making statements like these are congratulated for their supposed elevated level of compassion that parents are assumed to have (even if the evidence isn’t there) over the rest of us. This support and encouragement then spurs others to make similar comments, so often without thinking, using their parenting status as a mark of superiority. (Ironically, showing no empathy to those who do not have children.) It is accepted as an established fact. There is no examination of motives, as I’ve done above, further reinforcing the whole “parents are selfless, childless are selfish” stereotype. And anyone criticising is told that “we don’t understand.” That is why I think these comments, the support for them, and the culture around them, are indeed part of the pronatalism at work.

16 August, 2021

Technology and childlessness

On a social media group of people ageing without children, someone wrote abouthaving technical difficulties during an online event, her embarrassment about having these issues and needing to address them publicly, and her regret that, if she had had children, they would have helped her, and she wouldn’t have felt so exposed.

I understand her feelings, but wanted to put another point of view on this:

  • Yes, children may have been able to help, but often their knowledge is very specialised – they know how to do the things they do. Some are intuitive, but others aren’t, so they may appear computer whizzes but perhaps just know how to do what they do very efficiently, and can’t actually apply that knowledge to other areas of technology.
  • Also, many kids do these things automatically, and don’t really know what or why they are doing it. So they can’t teach. But they may do it quickly, and solve the problem there and then.
  • They’re also only around for (relatively) a short period of time – maybe eight years at home when they could actively help. And after they leave home, there’s not much difference between parents and non-parents when it comes to having in-house assistance to solve technological problems.
  • In my experience, the absence of a child-staffed IT Help Desk at home has made me more self-sufficient than most of my parent friends and family.

In fact, I’ve made sure that I figure out as much as possible around technology being used today, simply because I know that if I can’t (or my husband can’t) there is no-one to help us. We have seen our parents struggle, and know that it will not be easy. My FIL was a relatively early adopter, and had a computer in the 1980s, and was using it in the 90s and 2000s. But by the 20-teens, he was struggling. He’d never really understood the basics of file systems, of how to find your way around a site or app, and tended to do things out of habit and muscle memory. His use of technology was always learned, by rote, and never intuitive. So when things became more complicated, he was lost. And of course, as he got older, as well as finding it was hard to learn anything new, he actually lost knowledge of what he used to do. Part of that might have been age, part was inability to concentrate (age or health), and part was loss of eyesight. This combination of factors has me well aware that I will need to prepare for the time when I cannot use technology as easily as I can now.

But in the meantime, I know that I have a better knowledge of technology than a number of my friends and relatives who rely on their kids to sort things out for them. The people I know who have said, “I can’t really figure out (for eg.) Zoom " have largely been those with kids. Whereas those of us without native-born IT support in our families have had to figure these out ourselves, or not use Zoom (or other apps) at all. In a variation of the “necessity is the mother of invention” quote, in our case we could change it to “childlessness creates technological competence.”

It is also a variation on the old “teach a man to fish … “ proverb.

“Help an adult with a computer/internet issue (or do it for them),
and solve their problem for a day.
Teach them to do it, and solve that problem till another one arises.
Let them (or help them) teach themselves,
and solve that problem and many others for a lifetime*!”

I’m not saying it is easy. It isn’t always easy. It doesn’t come naturally to me, and I struggle with some aspects of technology. But I feel proud when I've figured it out. And I like understand new technological innovations. Ultimately, I’ve forced myself to do it, because the option is feeling cut off, left behind, and isolated. And I don’t need anymore of that, do I?


* Or close to it.

09 August, 2021

As a childless woman ...

Loribeth highlighted an article from last year (one which I also missed) that featured an interview with Jody Day. There’s a lot in there that is thought-provoking, but I was struck by this comment:

Anytime you read the phrase, “As a mother…” you are likely to be seeing pronatalism in action - it’s a way of valorizing one woman’s experience over another… because when do you ever see, “As a childless woman…?”

“She’s so right!” I thought. The few times I’ve tried to say, “as a childless woman,” I have purely been explaining myself (instead of being judgemental or self-congratulatory). But it hasn’t always gone down well with those hearing it. Sigh.

 As a childless woman …

  • writing a Will isn’t as straightforward as “I’ll leave it all to my kids.”
  • I have to plan for my old age because nobody else will do it or be there with me.
  • I have to bite my tongue around my friends.
  • I am isolated.
  • my experiences are devalued.
  • mothers have been condescending to me.
  • few people really want to understand my life.
  • the government and policy makers forget about me.

On the other hand, I could also say the following:

As a childless woman …

  • I have the interests of all children at heart, not just selfishly* those I love.
  • my environmental footprint is so much lower than a parent’s.
  • I have had time to work on myself, to grow, and develop.
  • I have compassion for outsiders.
  • I am realistic about what is possible and what isn’t. 
What would you say in a sentence beginning with "As a childless woman ...?"

* Yes, a deliberate use of the "S" word! lol

02 August, 2021

Microblog Monday Miscellany

I read some comments on Fbk this morning, and thought, "that's what I'm going to post about." Now I either cannot find the post or when I read it, completely failed to get the inspiration that came to me about 12 hours ago! Sorry. 

I've seen that in the last week it has been International Auntie's Day, International Childfree Day, and International Friendship Day. Pick one or all of those, and celebrate yourself, and everyone here. Yay, you!  Aunties are awesome, coming to acceptance of a No Kidding or childfree life is awesome, and friendship is what keeps us all going. I thank you for that.

Yesterday, one of NZ's athletes won her fourth consecutive Olympic medal in her event in her fourth or maybe fifth Olympics. I was thrilled for her. But between the Rio Olympics and now Tokyo, she has had two children. And she's been away from them training. So of course, everything she spoke about was about her kids. She then mentioned though that her bronze medal was so much more special than either of her two golds or her silver from previous Olympics. Personally, I doubt she'd have preferred a bronze if she hadn't already had two golds (and a silver!). I understand that the effort required to get back to international standards, whilst raising two children, would have been huge. Enormous. I know that. And even when she said that before she had children, she was 100% selfish, I knew that she probably meant that she had been single-minded on her sport. That's how she won her golds. But I really wish she'd used the phrase "single-minded" rather than "totally selfish." Because her use of "selfish" just criticises or demeans all those athletes who aren't parents. More than half her Olympic team-mates. And really, aren't all high-achieving athletes single-minded? They have to be to reach their very high standards. It is what the rest of us expect of them. So it's not a negative thing. It is something we praise - at least during the Olympics. I just really wish people wouldn't fall back on the old trope that not having children means you must be selfish. It's lazy, it's unkind, and it doesn't tell the full story. Grrrr.

On the bright side, another team of NZ women won a gold medal, and delighted everyone by not only their skill and hard work, but their sincerity, their humour, and their camaraderie. They showed the very best of a group of women working together, they loved each other and each other's families (with children and without), they and reminded everyone that women don't have to be on one side or the other of the "mother divide." That made me smile.