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 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.
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.
Elinor 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.
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.
Me, 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?