Monday, August 19, 2013

The Parent Trap

Trey Smith

The photo of the child-free couple on the cover of Time Magazine this month showcases "lazy yuppies" whose "matching swimsuits reek of self-satisfied, in-your-face Dinks [double income no kids]." The cover model's smile "is supposed to communicate her disdain for her uterus and her utter satisfaction with her size-4, cellulite-free, vacation-filled life".

As for the actual words of child-free women, "the reasons couples give for avoiding parenthood are deeply, deeply lame"; remaining child-free by choice "is most definitely selfish", not to mention "anti-religion, anti-family, [and] counter-cultural". Few people make a child-free lifestyle sound more appealing than people (presumably parents) who are bitter and resentful at all the alleged freewheeling, responsibility-free fun that child-free people are having.

Of course, that same level of vitriol isn't leveled at single women who decide to remain child-free, or poor women, or women of color. Those women aren't selfish; they're rational, even commendable. Single women who have kids, and women who are poor or of color see their choice to have children criticized as irresponsible or indulgent.

Yet, a married white woman saying "no thanks" to mommy-hood? She's a selfish narcissist, putting her life of fancy vacations and spotless white carpets ahead of her social and biological duty to reproduce.
~ from The Choice To Be Child-Free Is Admirable, Not Selfish by Jill Filipovic ~
Gee, to be honest, I didn't even realize that Time Magazine was still in publication! I thought it died decades ago.

I have always found it interesting how a person's financial standing in the world affects the way society, in general, perceives certain behaviors. For example, a poor person who is lazy is viewed as being a no good freeloader, while a lazy rich person is not denigrated in this way. The wealthy individual is granted a free pass, even when she/he was born into wealth and has never put in an honest day's work. Talk about being a freeloader!

If a person of insubstantial means is found to have been less than honest in a court of law or before a government body, most people view such a person with dripping disdain and believe the proverbial book should be thrown at them. But if you are the Director of National Intelligence and you are caught willfully lying to Congress, you just "misspoke" and you suffer little, if any, repercussions.

On a personal level, though we certainly wouldn't be confused for rich folk, Della has had to endure steady criticism because we are a childless couple. Even though she is now beyond her childbearing years, other women often are mystified when the subject of children comes up and Della informs that she chose not to have any. She has told me before that other women who chose to become parents often look at her as if she was a Martian!

There is nothing wrong with choosing to become a parent, but it's not for everybody. Della happened to fall in love with a strange man who happened not to be good parenting material. Since she herself wasn't that keen on becoming a parent anyway, it all worked out for the best. Had she married her former boyfriend, however, things probably would have turned out differently for her. The pressure to conceive may have been too great. We've often talked about how -- if she had married this guy or that -- she might be presiding over a sizable brood today!

I too have run into this criticism of choosing not to become a parent, though once people get to know me better, this criticism basically evaporates! I suppose I'm lucky in that none of my family members applied any pressure in this area. I can never remember a time in which either my mother or father asked me, "When are you going to make me a grandparent?" (Della was asked this question often by her family during our first years of marriage.)

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