On the Childfree Making the Cover of TIME

So last Thursday was a big day. The latest issue of Time magazine debuted (the Aug. 12 edition) the cover title, “The Childfree Life,” and “None is Enough,” as the issue’s feature article. On the same day, International Childfree Day, the winners of the 2013 Childfree Woman and Man of the Year were also announced.

As someone who has researched and written two books on childfree related topics, written about it online for quite some time now, and talked with thousands of childfree all over the world, it was hard not to have a peeve or two with the article…OK three…

The third led to this nod to some great childfree voices who helped pave the way for this kind of Time cover.

Peeve 1: I was interviewed at length for this piece, and based on the one quote I did get (re the difference between childless and childfree), it seems Time is not ready to talk about pronatalism as the crux of why society continues to find the childfree choice hard to accept. What a missed opportunity to really talk about the social and cultural forces behind why society continues to judge those who don’t make parenthood the central focus of their adult life. Maybe a separate piece? Now there’s an idea…

2: The cover: While the article does inform and educate with good research back up, the cover continues to reinforce a stubborn stereotype – that the childfree Time magazine, childfree, childfree choice have all kinds of free time and disposable cash to go off on exotic high end vacations, lay on the beach, etc. In a word – myth!  The childfree come from all walks of life.

3:  The article and a good deal of subsequent media present the childfree numbers as a “new” trend. Not just recently, but for over the last decade, the numbers for women without children ages 40-44 has hovered at about 1 in 5 or about 20 percent. It is also not new news that the majority of that 1 in 5 have no children by choice – Census researchers have been saying that for years now.

Sending the message that this is some kind of new trend just does not do justice to the many, and I mean many, who have helped the childfree for years get to where we are today on the road to successful social change.

Writers

There are many. Here are just 3 who have made strong contributions from over a decade ago:

Mardy Ireland, the author of Reconceiving Women.  Published in 1993, this pioneering book goes straight to the heart of the matter – that accepting the childfree choice means seeing motherhood as a possible part of a woman’s identity, not as a woman’s identity.

childfree books, laura carroll, childfree choiceElinor Burkett, the author of The Baby Boon. Over 10 years ago, in 2002, Burkett was already on to and bold about how pronatalist policies are inequitable to those with no children.

Patricia Lunneborg, the author of The Chosen Lives of Childfree Men. Published in 1999, it truly was the first time we could read about the lives of childfree men – they were out there then and are now and we need to hear from more of them. This book helped inspire my book, Families of Two, which included hearing from childfree men, up close and personal.

On the E-Waves

In over the last decade the advent of blogs and forums has helped to form a strong online childfree community. One of the longest running excellent blogs is Childfreedom, run by Daisy Duke. As for online childfree discussion forums, founded by Stacey Buckland and a friend over five years ago, The Childfree Life forum is one still of the largest and most active.

Researchers

Here too, there are many. And in the last decade more research has been conducted than ever before on having no children by choice. In the last 10 years, major research areas have included motives for making the childfree decision, perceptions/attitudes of the childfree, gender identity issues, marriage, and international studies.

Another major area of research done in the last decade involves having no children in one’s later years. Pearl Dykstra of the Hague Utrecht University in the Netherlands has been a key contributor to this area of study.

Want to know more about childfree research over the course of the last decade? You will find it in The Baby Matrix!

All Those Who Speak Out

Who else helped pave the way for a Time cover and the creation of an International Childfree Day?

All the people who helped make the books, growing digital community and research possible.

Laura Carroll, childfree, childfree choiceMe, I have to start my nod with those who were willing to speak out and go on the record in my book, Families of Two – back in 1999-2000, they did so in a time when it took bravery to do so.

And if you have ever spoken out about the childfree choice, your voice too, has been part of getting the childfree where they are today.

So when you look at the Time cover and read the article, be reminded that the childfree trend and efforts to make positive social change have been going on for awhile now.

And mark in the record books, that on its road to acceptance in modern society, August 1, 2013 was a good day for the childfree.

Who do you give your nod to?

 

15 thoughts on “On the Childfree Making the Cover of TIME

  1. The Chidfree Life is a wonderful forum! And the childfree sub-reddit has become a pretty active place of support for newly realized childfree people, too (http://www.reddit.com/r/childfree).

    I also try as a regular blogger about childfree topics to lend a certain amount of levity to the conversation while doing my best to encourage understanding and discourage judgment and name-calling. We’re all just people who want to live our lives as happily as we can. Judgment is silly. 🙂

    I wish they’d have used more from you for the article, Laura.

    1. And a nod to you, Sylvia! You are a bright spot in the childfree today’s blog world!

      I sure wish that Time would have taken on pronatalism…the article could have been deeper and bolder – instead it discussed aspects of the childfree choice that have been discussed for some time…in the end, though, as I say at the end, ya can’t complain when the childfree hit the cover of Time. May it tee up the national conversation about pronatalism, and why everyone – with kids or without for whatever reasonm, needs to see its negative societal impacts…~L

  2. I give a nod to you, Laura Carroll, for writing a remarkable book (The Baby Matrix) that has changed my life. And to Leta Hollingworth, who in 1916(!!) created the framework for discussing pronatalism which still stands to this day. She was a woman ahead of her time.

    1. Thanks so much, JB!! I want the BMx to help people see past powerful social and cultural conditioning that has convinced us of things that either are no longer true, or never were to begin with, so they can make their best decisions about parenthood for themselves and the world….Dedicated to it sparking understanding and movement towards a post pro-natal society…Hollingsworth sure was ahead of her time, indeed! Read about her in BMx free excerpt http://thebabymatrix.com/pdf/Baby_Matrix_web_throughCh2.pdf

  3. Great post! Thanks for all the links. I’ve got lots of reading to do.

    I wish I had a childfree mentor or scholar to nod to, but for me I just came to this vibrant community on my own. When I speak to other childfree folks in my life most of them have never even heard the term “childfree” before. They have no idea that there is a childfree movement or online communities.

    This article could change that. It will be interesting to see how having a label will effect both the childfree and parenting communities.

  4. Maybe next, the CF will be Time’s people of the year! (Yeah right…)

    I actually did not know that there were stats showing that the majority of 40-44yo women without kids are CF by choice. The number I’ve always heard was 6% of women were CF by choice. If I’m reading it correctly (and I may not be–suck at math) then over 10% of 40-44yo women are CF by choice, so that was news to me (albeit unsurprising news).

    While I do slavishly read every major newspaper article on childfreedom that pops up, just to see what people are saying, I gotta admit, I find most of them underwhelming, for exactly the reasons you mentioned. I wish they would delve more into pronatalism, the politics of having/not having children, how a growing population is unsustainable (though Grist magazine has an excellent series going on the green-ness of being childless), etc. All this “wow! Some people choose not to have kids! And they’re happy! Who’dve thunk it??” gets old after a while. I mean, our cultural conversation on this topic should really be more advanced at this point. It’s not like the childfree only burst into existence yesterday.

  5. All of your points are well articulated. I hope that Time or another main stream magazine will have the pronatalism discussion with some boldness. I wonder if the author of the article read your book. There is plenty in The Baby Matrix for a series of articles and discussions. But that would take some initiative and willingness to stand up to some challenge.

    1. The author has read my book…and she may have had made some point (s) re pronatalism – if so, clearly got cut..

      1. There was a great quote in the article about how some women use their motherhood status for a kind of “glamorized martyrdom.” That’s pretty close to touching the taboo third rail right there.

    1. Yes, read Hymas’ article. She’s great. You are right about people who comment on grist more likely to “get it”! Thanks~L

  6. I agree with your peeves about the Time article, but I’ve decided not to focus on the negative. I was just surprised that it was basically sensitive and non-judgmental. That’s a different and refreshing take coming from a mainstream magazine, even if the author missed a few important points.

    Has anyone mentioned Karen Foster, author of No Way Baby? I enjoyed her book – it was the one that helped me realize I’m not strange for not wanting children, that other people are like me.

    (Not overlooking The Baby Matrix, of course! It’s just that we already know about that one.)

    1. Thanks for the thoughts, Amber. I tried to balance the peeves with – in Any case – the childfree on the cover of Time is a good thing…I guess I expected Time to be just a bit advancing on the topic, though, given what I knew of the article Sandler originally gave to editors..and before the last editorial slash. I know of and have communicated with No Way Baby’s Karen Foster…I think she is in the Northwest? I could have mentioned So many childfree authors, but figured I go way back, as part of making point that writers and researchers have been at the childfree topic for some time now.

  7. I generally liked the TIME article, certainly compared to a lot of the other rants against childfreedom out there.

    It does put me on my hobby horse, though:

    What I’ve noticed is that the major media outlets are now totally associating a decline in the birthrate with the rise in the percentage of childfree/childless people. Some articles have gone so far as to place all “blame” for the “birthrate crisis” on people without kids.

    Instead, the much bigger factor is the fact that people who have children are having FEWER of them than their parents did. People who have kids now stop at fewer kids than ever before. If there’s some sort of crisis out there over the replacement rate, then we should be calling all those “selfish” parents to task for not having MORE children. Shame on all those people for having only one child — selfish narcissists!

    Not to mention the historical reality that the American birthrate has been declining since 1800, the only exception being the 1950’s. It’s an American tradition to have fewer kids than your mother’s generation. We’ve just been continuing that long tradition.

    1. Indeed right again. The birthrate citing mostly does Not relate to those with no kids. For at least the last decade, 4 out of 5 women have had kids. People are having fewer of them and more stopping at one – which brings up another facet of pronatalist dogma that still can’t seem to accept that it really is OK to have one – the kid will be fine – better than fine in fact. In any case, birthrate decline is sure not the same as 1 out of 5 women not having kids holding steady for some time now. But the article makes it sound like it has hit that number just recently. That is just one area that made me shake my head…and of course double shake of head with what the media has done with it since the article ran….

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