I am an avid reader of the editorials in my local San Francisco Chronicle, and was delighted to that this Letter to the Editor appeared today. Bill Kamin of the bay area writes:
Not having children is ok
Your story about the young Fairfield woman accused of stabbing her daughters was truly horrific (“Mom allegedly stabbed girls with sword,” Oct.15th).
However, there is a lesson to be learned here.
Society puts pressure on women to have babies as their normal and accepted role in life. Many young women are not emotionally geared to raise children. It is a difficult and challenging role.
Our leaders and thinkers should do more to emphasize that having children is not for everybody, particularly those who are not mature and emotionally sure of themselves. It is especially not an escape for young women who can’t cope with school or who want to get away from home.
I don’t believe that there can be a test for the readiness to be a mother (or father), but society can indicate that its all right not to have children. It’s not selfish; it’s honest.
Just a few thoughts: I don’t know about your local papers, hard copy and online, but I see stories about horrific parents just about every day, young and not. He is right on regarding how our leaders and thinkers need to send the message that children is not for everyone.
Better yet, that parenthood is an option, not a given in life. Where do young people get exposed to this? At best, in sex education, which addresses contraception, but more as a way to control “when” you want to get pregnant, not introduce the idea that it’s ok not to want a baby at all.
Large foundations have funded efforts in this regard but not for some time. From 1972 to 1982 they funded the non-profit National Alliance for Optional Parenthood (NAOP), with a purpose to educate the public on “non-parenthood” as a valid lifestyle option, and support those who choose not to have children.
It encouraged young people to make thoughtful and responsible decisions about parenting by trying to reduce the impact of societal pressures that equates growing and success with parenthood. It did some great work, including media-outreach programs, and a network of people who did workshops on decision-making about parenthood.
It developed tools for school counselors and teachers that remain in publication today, including their most widely-distributed publication titled, “Am I Parent Material?” Are they used? Doubt it.
I know I have harped on this before but will again–we need this kind of thing to return!
I have to disagree with Mr. Kamin that there can’t be a test for readiness to become a parent. It’s been done, also long ago, in the book The Parent Test. The “test” was put together by psychologists, sex educators, leaders of ngo’s like Planned Parenthood, gynecologists, public health experts, doctors and educators. What they did then can be done today.
Last, I like Mr. Kamin ‘s point that it is not selfish to say it’s ok not to have children–it’s honest–plain and simple,it’s just the truth. Next time I am asked to talk about the selfish myth as it relates to the childfree, I am going to refer to him and his to the point and insightful take on it.
More childfree need to do what Mr. Kamin did. When you hear or see something that is an opportunity to send this message….speak out.