Reporter looking for CF interviewees for a story in Elle magazine

A reporter from Elle magazine has approached us about our research, she’s looking for childfree/voluntarily childless South African women to interview for a story. Get hold of us if you’re interested!  

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You Shouldn’t Need A Reason For Not Having Kids

Here is Jamie’s full post.

Thought Catalog

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I wore a maxi dress to work today. The frequency in which I wear dresses to work is about once per month. I am more of a jeans and blouse kind of girl. So on the spontaneous day that I wear a dress like I did today, people notice and sometimes talk about it in the same way they might if I showed up with a tattoo on my face. Most days I don’t mind this. Today was not one of those days.

It was mid-morning and I was chatting with a coworker about my decision to go to 7/11 last night for a glazed doughnut (or two) at 11:00 p.m. I ate the doughnuts right before bed (I had had a day, okay?) and this morning when I woke up the first thing I saw was my crumpled up 7/11 doughnut wrapper on my nightstand staring at me, shaming me…

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Speaking out about invasive questioning

We’ve had a bit of a hiatus from our regular monthly posts, but the good news is that we’ve been busily analysing data and writing up our findings, which we hope to share on this page as soon as we’re able to.

In the meantime, we’ve been noticing a number of people speaking up about not having children, or being childfree.  Here’s an interesting post written earlier this year by a blogger called Jamie Berube called “You Shouldn’t Need A Reason For Not Having Kids“.  In her post Jamie talks about her experiences of being quizzed about why she doesn’t have kids yet. She points out how uncomfortable it is to be asked such questions and, “depending on whatever my circumstances might be …absolutely devastating”. Regardless of whether someone’s ‘childlessness’ is wanted or not, she argues, this questioning is invasive and inappropriate, even when when it is ‘well-meant’.

This intrusive questioning is explained by Jill Reynolds, a researcher from the UK who does research about single women’s experience.  Jill attributes this kind of questioning to normative  social expectations. When people don’t comply with what is expected of them–getting married and (then) having a baby (or preferably more)–then they are opened up to being questioned by others and having to account for themselves.  These questions are often fueled by people’s own unquestioned assumptions.  On the other hand, it would be an “unusual conversational move” to ask someone about conventional behaviour: “So why did you decide not to stay single?”, “Why do you eat meat?”, “Why did you change your surname when you got married?”, or “Why do you have (so many) children?” etc.

Questioning behaviour that is considered to be normal, self-evident, or socially acceptable comes across as strange.   The answer is supposedly self-evident. Strangely enough, though, research shows that often people often can’t give an answer as to why they went along with the norm, especially when it comes to having children.  Stephanie Meyers argues that “…awkwardness in accounting for oneself and testiness about one’s chosen course bespeak autonomy deficits. If women [and men] were autonomously becoming [parents] or declining to, we would expect to hear a splendid chorus of distinctive, confident voices, but instead we are hearing a shrill cacophony of trite tunes” (Meyers, 2001, p. 752).  In other words, people usually don’t have an answer because they’ve never stopped to think about their ‘choices’ or to examine their assumptions.  This also means that they probably haven’t considered that other people might have different priorities, desires, or values, that take them along a different path.

Sometimes, questioning ‘normal’ behaviour can even seem rude.  The fact is, it can be no less rude than asking someone about their reproductive, relationship, or other choices that don’t comply with the norm.  The difference is that those who have followed the expected path have the power of normality on their side. They’re not the potential weirdos and won’t face possible stigma.

Speaking out about how it feels when questioned about non-compliance, like Jamie did,  is important to promote empathy and raise the visibility of different ways of living in the world–like being voluntarily childless. Of course, there will always be people who can’t try to understand or accept others’ choices, but the least that one can do in that case is to try to respond with respect.

Can you identify with Jamie’s experience?

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ANNOUNCING 1 AUGUST as INTERNATIONAL CHILDFREE DAY – a press release from Laura Carroll

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Happily childfree

We have Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and so many other “Days” from Secretary Day to even National Vanilla Ice Cream Day! Acclaimed childfree author Laura Carroll thinks it’s high time to bring back a “Day” that was celebrated forty years ago – Non-Parents Day.

On August 1, 1973, the non-profit organization, National Organization for Non-Parents (NON), celebrated Non-Parents Day by awarding a Female and Male National Non-Parent of the Year. Later known as the National Alliance for Optional Parenthood (NAOP), it existed from 1972-1982 with a mission to “educate the public on non-parenthood as a valid lifestyle option.”

Now calling it “International Childfree Day,” Carroll says,

It’s time for this ‘Day’ to be celebrated again as a way recognize amazing childfree people and their lives, and to help foster the acceptance of the childfree choice in today’s society.

To celebrate International Childfree Day, Carroll has put together a team of childfree writers and bloggers who have called for nominations and selected the 2013 Childfree Woman and Man of the Year.

The winners will be announced on 1 August 2013!

Laura Carroll is the author of the internationally acclaimed Families of Two: Interviews with Happily Married Couples Without Children by Choice, and The Baby Matrix: Why Freeing Our Minds From Outmoded Thinking About Parenthood & Reproduction Will Create a Better World. 

An expert on the childfree choice, for over the last decade she has tracked and researched the childfree choice, has run the top blog, La Vie Childfree, and has been featured on major media, including The Early ShowGood Morning America, national radio, international print and digital media. 

Media contact:  Laura Carroll                  Website: http://internationalchildfreeday.com

Email: laura@lauracarroll.com                Cell: 415- 265 -7768

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Going green / being childfree – what’s the connection really?

The environmental impact of having children is one of the top reasons that people give for not having children. It’s an answer that we’ve heard quite a bit from people participating in our research too. There are online groups that support this ethos, for example the facebook group Green Incilations, No Kids (GINK) and the more ‘extreme’ Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT), which proposes that “Phasing out the human race by voluntarily ceasing to breed will allow Earth’s biosphere to return to good health. Crowded conditions and resource shortages will improve as we become less dense”.

Some people give a kidcentric answer, citing that it’s not fair to bring a child into a messed up world. Others are equally, if not more, worried about the planet, like the folks at  VHEMT. What exactly is the link between child-freedom and the environment? Does it really make a difference? I invite those clever folks who know about demography, climate change and similar to comment on the issue.

Is overpopulation a problem?

Many people cite ‘overpopulation’ in their arguments (as I myself have done). I’ve overpopulation1been told, however, that this common-sense argument is not valid, and chatted to a demographer to try to find out why. According to my demographer colleague, the birthrate in general has been declining for some time now, and overpopulation is not a concern. A lay-person in this area (like me) might ask ‘then why does the total number of people on the planet keep rising?’ *Insert confused face here* The demographer believes that if

there is any concern at all, then it is to do with the use of resources, rather than distribution and consumption. He is conccerned with greedy wealthy countrys who consume resources at the expense of others. Is he right?

Climate change

Many who advocate childfreedom for environmental reasons point out the impact that thermometerhaving a child has on one’s so-called carbon footprint. In a fairly recent article in the academic journal Global Environmental Change, for example, Murtuagh and Shlax (2008) report that having just one child increases a person’s direct life-time emmisions by nearly 6 times. For each child that one produces, one can add about 9,441 metric tons of CO2 to one’s carbon legacy. This worries me, but how many people would have to stop procreating to sort this out? What is the magic number of children that one could have in order to avert disaster?

According to Murtaugh and Shlax (2008) “A person’s reproductive choices must be considered along with his day-today activities when assessing [her or] his ultimate impact on the global environment”.  Without starting any nonsense debates of the ‘reality’ of climate change, could some learned friends to weigh in on this issue for us?

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Children in the baggage hold?

Tracy Morison argues that when it comes to ‘family-friendliness’ we need to think out of the box and come up with fair solutions that don’t marginalise those who don’t have children.

This is a rather extreme solution

I preface this post by declaring that I’m not a Jeremy Clarkson fan. That said, it was fascinating to see reactions to his recent comment on Twitter. “When will British Airways realise that babies belong in the hold?” he tweeted. In response the airline expressed its uncategorical support for all families, including those with infants. Interestingly, BA’s response shows not only a conservative view of families, as only consisting of parents with children, but it also displays a child-centric view (as did an online mothers’ group).

Child-centric culture says that children’s needs are more important than any adults’. We can see this in the preferential treatment that parents are given by extension (like special parking or toilet facilities, early boarding on flights, preferential access to lifts) as well as the status they get by virtue of being parents. I recently saw an elderly women offer up her seat on the bus to a younger person, simply because this younger woman had two children with her.

This is child-centric view is what many childfree people take issue with regarding workplace policies, which I wrote about in an earlier post.  As I said in that post, I personally don’t have an issue with family friendly policies – provided that they aren’t child-centric. I would likewise say that there are times that people with small children need a bit of a break. For example, family bathrooms are OK in my opinion if they encourage equally-shared parenting.  I think the issue really, which the idea of adult-only flights speaks to, is moving away from a child-centric view to a need-centred view. There are times when it seems unfair to give parents advantages. I certainly think children should give way to elderly people or people with disabilities, for example. On flights, the majority of people’s comfort, for which they have also paid, should not be disrupted by the minority. This is perhaps why many people actually seem to support adult-only flights. Some are even willing to pay more.

Perhaps paying more is not the solution (well, not a fair one, in any case). Earlier this year Air Asia initiated a ‘fair choice’ policy in which passengers could book a seat in the Quiet Zone, which is adult-only. Of course, that doesn’t rule out the possibility of being stuck next to an adult who will chew your ear off, but then flying is not the most fun, and at least Quiet Zones would improve the experience. BA should take note.

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Over 400 responses to our survey

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Let’s get to 500!

The team is very please to report that, to date, we have had

434

responses to our survey!

The survey will still be open for a while longer before we take it down to start analysing the data. So, if you still want to take part, then click here and do so now.

You might be the one to take us to 500!

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