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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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106 Responses

  1. MH
    MH June 10, 2013 at 9:26 am |

    Maybe I’m being too generous, but I’d like to see the “advice” given in the column as one of those moments when someone says something that sets you off on a tangent about some issue you’re passionate about. We’ve all been there, right? Or is it just me? Someone says “I drove through a sketchy neighborhood the other day,” and before you know it, you’re giving them a whole lecture about poverty in America and the problems with our education system, our housing system, hiring practices, budget priorities, etc. And that person is like “dude, I was just making small talk about my day.” Am I the only one who does that?

    Sure, the advice-giver is a “journalist’ or columnist or something, and so maybe should have paused/edited to make sure her response really focused on the issues raised in the letter. But the points that 1- don’t forget all the women who don’t have your choices, 2 – feeling or not feeling “broody” may not be the best way to decide whether to parent, and 3- you should talk to your partner about big life decisions that affect you both are all valid. The business about whether the letter-writer’s fun revolves around disposable income was a bit of a mess, I’ll agree – whether one likes going to the movies, decorating fancy cakes for funsies, or eco-tourism, you’re going to need disposable income. Nothing wrong with liking those things or being practical enough to realize that parenting tends to produce less time and fewer dollars to devote to other hobbies.

    1. Lizzie
      Lizzie June 10, 2013 at 9:43 am |

      I’m not sure I see the link between “I don’t think I want kids of my own–how do I talk to my husband about that?” and “don’t forget all the women who don’t have your choices,” though. It’s really difficult for me to read the passage from the first paragraph–

      Imagine how much less you’d be enjoying your pleasingly self-indulgent lifestyle if every time you had sex with your husband (his choice, not yours) meant producing another child. A child whose chances of surviving into adulthood were as slim as yours of surviving each new gestation.

      –as accomplishing anything besides invoking guilt about how easy the letter-writer has it, as opposed to recommending an action (e.g. “why not direct some of that disposable income toward the global fight for reproductive justice?”).

      1. Katie
        Katie June 10, 2013 at 5:55 pm |

        But surely it’s not always inappropriate to object to the framing of a question? I had a pretty similar reaction to the letter as the columnist, which I understood as, “I know I’m not responding to your actual question, but I can’t shake off the feeling that something is wrong with how you’re thinking about this.” In theory I’ve got nothing against someone who decides not to have children, but it seems that whenever I’ve run into someone defending that choice, they’ve been a navel-gazing, shallow POS. It’s not that I have some strong opinion about what profound things you need to do instead of “enjoying your life”, more that I doubt that anyone who thinks that way is ever going to actually enjoy their lives. I happen to think it’s really important for one’s mental health to have perspective about what’s “good enough” and the humility to want your choices limited by other people or just circumstance, so I’m very prickly about any “it’s my choice” or “I want to enjoy my life” defenses.

        1. EG
          EG June 10, 2013 at 6:00 pm |

          What on earth makes you think that the letter-writer’s life-choices aren’t constrained by circumstance or other people? Everybody’s are. And she didn’t ask whether or not she was really enjoying her life–that’s hers to judge, not yours. Just because I wouldn’t enjoy my life if I’d made her choices doesn’t mean that she isn’t enjoying hers. I’m not foolish enough to think that everybody should make my life-choices. People have different values and different personalities.

        2. Katie
          Katie June 10, 2013 at 6:23 pm |

          Eh, people aren’t actually all that different. But that’s not something we’re gonna resolve here. The point is not that she should be more like me (I don’t have children), just that it’s really hard to be sustainably happy and I think it’s virtually impossible to do that without a kind of measured humility, which I didn’t see in that letter. All I did was make a judgment about her temperament based on her tone and the way she chose to frame the question. I think that’s fair. Sure, everyone’s choices are limited in reality, but people can have a range of attitudes toward those limitations and their value. I happen to think it’s a bad sign to blithely proclaim “But I don’t feel like it!” in response to, well, anything. I think it’s evidence of an unsustainable narcissism and a lack of humility about human mutability. If we really do have to talk about me personally, I just assume that my likes and dislikes are largely circumstantial and could change drastically with a few life changes, and that I’m not really so different from most people that I have to reinvent a whole new template for my life than the ones other people have found so far. The OP basing her decisions on “feeling broody” is exactly that kind of (I think unsustainable) excessive sincerity about one’s feelings, like they’re magical and out of the realm of reasonable conversation. The “whim” comment was probably in reference to this all-too-precious expression.

        3. Li
          Li June 10, 2013 at 6:46 pm |

          In theory I’ve got nothing against someone who decides not to have children, but it seems that whenever I’ve run into someone defending that choice, they’ve been a navel-gazing, shallow POS.

          In theory, fuck off. The idea that only people with children or who want to have children have meaningful lives is far more navel-gazing and shallow than someone making a decision about their own life and choosing not to have kids (and speaking as a queer person, for some of us that decision is more loaded than for others).

        4. Aaliyah
          Aaliyah June 10, 2013 at 6:52 pm |

          In theory I’ve got nothing against someone who decides not to have children, but it seems that whenever I’ve run into someone defending that choice, they’ve been a navel-gazing, shallow POS.

          Seriously? Wow.

        5. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune June 10, 2013 at 6:56 pm |

          it seems that whenever I’ve run into someone defending that choice, they’ve been a navel-gazing, shallow POS

          Whereas you’re just a well of deep thought and compassionate enlightenment, right?

          Also, everything Li said.

          I happen to think it’s really important for one’s mental health to have perspective about what’s “good enough” and the humility to want your choices limited by other people or just circumstance

          Oh, I see. Because you seem to think life is about Parenthood Hair Shirt Bondage or whatever, anyone else who doesn’t go with the exact limitations you decide are the Good Ones, and have the exact same perspective on what’s Good Enough is…

          …mentally unhealthy?

          Oh, yeah, totally, these childfreers you talk to are totally the POS in that conversation.

          Not to mention, your attitude of parenthood being some sort of noble martyrdom is pretty fucking grody. If I might indulge in some massive overgeneralisation of my own, in my experience, based on my extended family, it’s always the ones who whine and moan about how parenthood is exactly as awful as dying with Jesus who’re the ones being emotionally abusive POSes to their kids.

        6. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune June 10, 2013 at 7:01 pm |

          I happen to think it’s a bad sign to blithely proclaim “But I don’t feel like it!” in response to, well, anything.

          Attending a dinner party with a Dalek?

          Working 30 extra hours a week for no pay?

          Sex?

          Eagerly awaiting your answer,
          Shallow POS.

        7. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune June 10, 2013 at 7:01 pm |

          (Crap, and because that came out wrong: I’m not propositioning Katie!!! I’m pointing out things that one does in fact get to blithely say Nope Don’t Feel Like It to.)

        8. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve June 10, 2013 at 7:05 pm |

          In theory, fuck off. The idea that only people with children or who want to have children have meaningful lives is far more navel-gazing and shallow than someone making a decision about their own life and choosing not to have kids (and speaking as a queer person, for some of us that decision is more loaded than for others).

          But Li, don’t you understand? We’re supposed to be embarrassed of our childless status, especially if it’s the result of something so sinister as a ‘choice.’

        9. Ledasmom
          Ledasmom June 10, 2013 at 7:43 pm |

          But it’s all in how you say it, macavitykitsune. Are you, in fact, being blithe? Are you proclaiming? If not, I’m pretty sure you can refuse anything you like, Katie-approved.
          Also, you should not be unsustainably narcissistic. I, personally, only purchase locally-sourced narcissus produced by fairly-paid labor and grown in an eco-friendly manner.
          There is also the possibility of ego offsets.

        10. EG
          EG June 10, 2013 at 7:58 pm |

          I happen to think it’s a bad sign to blithely proclaim “But I don’t feel like it!” in response to, well, anything. I think it’s evidence of an unsustainable narcissism and a lack of humility about human mutability.

          What utter bullshit. “I don’t feel like it” is the best fucking reason not to do something, and humility is worst of the so-called “virtues.” People should indeed feel that their happiness and joy are worth nurturing and protecting, and they should indeed demand happiness and joy out of life. The notion that valuing oneself and one’s own happiness is somehow “narcissism” is one of the most poisonous brands of bullshit on the market. Your vision of life as some kind of test of one’s humility, in which one just bows one’s head and accepts whatever fate decides to deal out is dour, self-righteous piety.

          My experience tells me that my desires and preferences are not all that circumstantial, that personality and temperament are in significant part innate, that circumstances don’t change my fundamental desires.

          You know what real narcissism is? It’s assuming that nobody could actually be so different from oneself that one’s own values don’t apply.

        11. Donna L
          Donna L June 10, 2013 at 8:06 pm |

          I happen to think it’s a bad sign to blithely proclaim “But I don’t feel like it!” in response to, well, anything.

          Who are these people? Where do they come from?

        12. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune June 10, 2013 at 8:19 pm |

          Also, you should not be unsustainably narcissistic. I, personally, only purchase locally-sourced narcissus produced by fairly-paid labor and grown in an eco-friendly manner.

          *ugly snorting giggles*

          Who are these people? Where do they come from?

          Probably Katie’s fevered imagination. I’ve known a bunch of childfreers (and more people who are like me – will care, won’t conceive) and none of them had such a stupid reason. Or, alternatively, they had other reasons, but had met too many assholes like Katie to bother giving a different answer anymore.

          Though, personally, when I take into account that Katie’s basically calling me mentally unhealthy because I refuse to endanger my life in pregnancy, fuck over my disabled body in childbirth and infant care, completely ruin my already-wobbly financial life for close on a couple of decades, probably significantly lowering my stepdaughter’s quality of life in the process, and saddle my theoretical sprog with dealing with my disabilities/mental illnesses, not to mention put those same physical/financial stresses on my also disabled wife…

          I think “I don’t feel like it” is pretty much the only response I have that isn’t a long string of obscene words followed by a baseball bat.

        13. Katie
          Katie June 10, 2013 at 10:14 pm |

          Okay, I should have known this would happen. I’m going to try to clarify a couple of things and then (probably) take gentle leave of the topic.

          I have known people who, for one reason or another, never had children. Some of them are intensely unhappy, others have made perfectly satisfying lives for themselves. I didn’t comment to make the case for having children, or to argue that the choice not to have children is inherently narcissistic. I said as much. The fact is that there is a strong norm in favor of having children: people who deviate from a strong norm generally have to justify themselves, and I was commenting on the quality of this particular justification. Maybe in an ideal world this norm wouldn’t exist. I happen to think that it’s mostly a good thing, but we can have that argument separately if you’d like. (Spoiler: I don’t think this because I think making babies is the only valuable thing to do in life, or because only psychopaths would refuse to have children. I hoped I wouldn’t have to point this out, but neither of those things are true.)

          Onto what I was actually saying. When there’s strong societal pressure to go one way, and somebody goes the other way, something is up. Could be a good thing, could be a bad thing, depends on the particular issue. So far I haven’t said anything remotely controversial. In this case, and this is purely an observation, it seems to me that most people deviating from the childbearing norm are doing it for bad reasons, based on the quality of the justifications they offer and the implicit worldview they express. You’ve done this too: based on (what you think is) the worldview I expressed, you’ve all judged me to be an asshole, and that’s all well and good. You can in fact judge people’s character based on the things they say and the way they think, as you infer it.

          My comment was basically an explanation of why I didn’t think this woman’s justification (and others like it) was good enough and why I judged her for it. “Because I don’t feel like it” is a good enough reason to abstain in many practical situations, e.g. sex, eating mint chocolate chip ice cream, whatever. But it’s not a good enough response to the norm in favor of childbearing. We set norms to engineer behavior, regardless of whether the people involved “feel like” conforming or not. I tried, and evidently failed, to make a case for the norm in my second comment. I thought people might be interested, but I was probably wrong, so I won’t try again unless you ask.

          Is all.

        14. Victoria
          Victoria June 10, 2013 at 8:51 pm |

          Maybe I’m just a shallow, navel-gazing POS, but I’ve found that there are two ways of looking at it. If you consider having children to be the highest calling it may seem like every reason people without children give is shallow because they are rejecting what you consider to be the most worthy use of time. But if you consider that some people have different priorities then the choice they are making suddenly makes a lot more sense and seems a lot less superficial. Honestly, if I had children and I had the same priorities I do right now, that would be selfish. Because I acknowledge that given the amount of time I’ve put into my academic career makes it unlikely that my priorities are going to shift anytime soon, recognizing that adding children to the mix would end badly is possibly the least selfish, shallow thing I can do. The reasons for not having children are only selfish if you having children as the only good path a person can take in their life.

        15. Aaliyah
          Aaliyah June 10, 2013 at 10:32 pm |

          People should indeed feel that their happiness and joy are worth nurturing and protecting, and they should indeed demand happiness and joy out of life.

          I completely agree. And speaking of humility, you’ve inspired me to write this entry.

          “Because I don’t feel like it” is a good enough reason to abstain in many practical situations, e.g. sex, eating mint chocolate chip ice cream, whatever. But it’s not a good enough response to the norm in favor of childbearing.

          “I don’t feel like it” is a good enough response. It’s only a bad response in a case that involves someone else’s well-being e.g. “I don’t feel like it” is certainly an unacceptable response to “Please save this little boy; he’s about to drown” if you are capable of saving that boy. But childbearing is a choice that essentially affects no one but the pregnant person hirself.

        16. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune June 10, 2013 at 10:33 pm |

          You’ve done this too: based on (what you think is) the worldview I expressed, you’ve all judged me to be an asshole, and that’s all well and good.

          What you did: take a preference to indicate that someone is a “shallow navel-gazing POS” in the absence of other evidence.

          What we did: point out that your statement of child-free people being “shallow navel-gazing POS” was kind of asshole.

          The difference being, we are responding to what you said, and you are responding to what you think a statement actually indicates about the person making it.

          So, your “both sides in the wrong” argument is bullshit.

          We set norms to engineer behavior, regardless of whether the people involved “feel like” conforming or not.

          Woo forced-birther! How nice, I’ve been wanting one around since never. And before you get in a snit for being called one, think real hard about the fact that you basically dismissed desire as a factor in pregnancy/childbirth/parenting. Think real hard at what that makes you.

        17. Katie
          Katie June 10, 2013 at 11:44 pm |

          Sigh. I never made a “both sides are in the wrong” argument. I made the exact opposite of that argument. I said that it’s common and perfectly acceptable to judge somebody by the worldview implicit in their opinions. You just made inferences about my worldview, i.e. that I am a forced-birther whether or not I think I am, and judged me based on that. That’s fine. The inference is wrong, but it really is well and good that you made it.

          I didn’t judge the person based on her preference. I specifically said that I know childless people who have made satisfying lives for themselves. It is not intrinsically bad not to have children. I was responding to a particular justification for that choice, which I think is lacking. I judged her and others who think that having children is the sort of thing that only affects the pregnant person, or that the choice is entirely up to whether she is “feeling broody”. We set up norms to encourage certain kinds of behavior over others. You can conceive of that as coercion, but that would be silly and awfully limiting. Maybe there are people whose behavior is entirely innate and independent of social pressure, but they’re rare. Norms work, and mostly not through outright coercion, so unless you’re arguing that all norms are oppressive, it’s not unreasonable to talk about what an ideal set of norms would be. This does not mean you want to force every person to conform to that norm at all costs. Some norms are stronger than others. Sometimes someone will want to argue that it’s a good thing to have social pressure in a particular direction. This is not crazy.

          Maybe in your perfect world there would be no societal pressure to have children. My guess is maybe 20-25% of people would just innately “feel broody” and make babies, and everyone else would prefer not to deal with the hassle. And I think that would be a bad thing overall, for the people involved and for society. (Again, we can debate why, but that’s separate.) If I prefer the status quo over that hypothetical world, does that mean that I think 70+% of the population needs to be “forced” to make babies? Do you really think that all of the people just following the script are being “forced” to do it? If you want to claim that all norms, all default scripts are oppressive then please make that argument. But most people don’t think that.

        18. PrettyAmiable
          PrettyAmiable June 10, 2013 at 10:47 pm |

          I don’t love Christopher Hitchens, but I do quite like this quote of his:

          “It especially annoys me when racists are accused of ‘discrimination.’ The ability to discriminate is a precious faculty; by judging all members on one ‘race’ to be the same, the racist precisely shows himself incapable of discrimination.”

          I think of it whenever someone says something inanely bigoted.

          I, for one, am enjoying your idiotic mass generalizations, Katie. Please keep the ignorance coming.

        19. Donna L
          Donna L June 10, 2013 at 11:27 pm |

          “Because I don’t feel like it” is . . . not a good enough response to the norm in favor of childbearing.

          To the contrary. It’s an excellent response, and perhaps the best one: nobody is owed an explanation of someone’s decision not to have a child, and a response like that cuts off the conversation (or interrogation, more accurately) before it gets any further. Maybe there are more specific reasons, and the person just thinks those reasons are none of the questioner’s damn business. Or maybe there aren’t, in which case it’s still an excellent response, because nobody who “doesn’t feel like” having children — whatever the reason — should probably be having them.

        20. Alexandra
          Alexandra June 10, 2013 at 11:32 pm |

          There is so much “is/ought” conflation going on in Katie’s comments it’s making my head spin a bit. are we really on a feminist blog right now arguing about why women should have to justify every decision they make in their lives that goes against a norm in society? I mean, what?

          (also, I just love the comment about “and some childfree people I know have made perfectly satisfying lives for themselves” I mean damn that’s condescending).

        21. Katie
          Katie June 10, 2013 at 11:51 pm |

          I’m not making an is->ought argument. People who choose to deviate from norms have to justify themselves not because they ought to, but because this is the mechanism by which we enforce norms. If you want to argue that people shouldn’t have to justify that choice, you either need to say that (a) the norm shouldn’t exist, or (b) norms shouldn’t work like that. But almost nobody wants to argue (b). All I’m doing is appealing to the regular (and mostly acceptable) existing structures for enforcing norms to enforce what I think would be a good norm. I don’t think this is un-feminist. In my ideal world parenting is not gendered, and “family issues” =/= “women’s issues”.

        22. Aaliyah
          Aaliyah June 10, 2013 at 11:55 pm |

          First you said

          “Because I don’t feel like it” is . . . not a good enough response to the norm in favor of childbearing.

          and then you said

          This does not mean you want to force every
          person to conform to that norm at all costs.

          Please pick one. If you think that someone’s desire to avoid childbearing is irrelevant, then you do, in fact, condone forced birth.

          We set up norms to encourage certain kinds of behavior over others. You can conceive of that as coercion, but that would be silly and awfully limiting.

          Setting up the norm of childbirth is not coercive; enforcing it so as to limit freedom is, however.

        23. Katie
          Katie June 11, 2013 at 12:34 am |

          Oh, and Aaliyah, I don’t think the two quotes are inconsistent. I don’t think “But I don’t feel like it!” addresses the core of the norm in favor of childbearing, so it’s irrelevant as an argument. I don’t want outright coercion, as in forcing someone to do something against their clearly-articulated will, but I’m in favor of a strong default script. The way norms work is most people don’t think to deviate from them. So the number of people even thinking about whether or not to have children depends on the strength of the norm/script. So most of the time, by increasing the strength of a norm, you’re not actually increasing overall coercion.

        24. DouglasG
          DouglasG June 11, 2013 at 12:00 am |

          [In theory I’ve got nothing against someone who decides not to have children, but it seems that whenever I’ve run into someone defending that choice, they’ve been a navel-gazing, shallow POS.]

          While this point of view has been dealt with quite adequately on the merits, I’ll just add perspective that it used to be quite the other way around. I can remember hour after hour of cable television talk shows (back when cable was relatively new and Dr Westheimer deemed suitable for late-night viewing only) delving into the phenomenon of couples who’d decided not to reproduce, and the universal refrain after the couple had shown that they’d given the matter careful consideration was almost always along the What-a-Waste line. Host after host expressed the hope that their guests would change their minds, “because you’d make such wonderful parents!”

          Although I’m not comfortable with the idea of people who go against strong social norms being forced to “justify” themselves simply for bucking a strong norm, your viewing, “not feeling like it,” as an inadequate reason not to have children seems a bit the wrong way around. Someone who tosses off a “poor” reason for not wanting to have children isn’t anyone I’d put on the What-a-Waste list, which makes it easy to support the decision. I could go on, but the expectation of having to justify myself every time I turn around is too upsetting.

        25. Alexandra
          Alexandra June 11, 2013 at 12:01 am |

          Well, Katie, I’m going to invoke an old-fashioned norm on you, since you appear to be so fond of them – how about you try minding your own damn business about people’s reproductive choices, rather than assuming that people who decide not to become parents must be doing so because they are – and I quote! “navel-gazing, shallow POS.”

          How about not assuming that your own limited sample size of acquaintance must be representative of the rapidly increasing number of people who are deciding and have decided not to give birth or raise children.

          You can talk all you want about the social usefulness of norms, but in this case I think the burden of proof is on you to justify a norm which you think others must have good excuses to violate. You have alluded, previously, to having such reasons. Well, out with them! If you are going to call a large number of the commentariat here – and I repeat – “shallow, navel-gazing POS” – you owe us an explanation.

        26. Katie
          Katie June 11, 2013 at 12:26 am |

          So I need to go to sleep, but…

          I don’t jump on the opportunity to make extended arguments about my worldview on the internet. It’s hard and it takes a while and people don’t read carefully on the internet anyway. If people are really interested, I can come back in a day or two with an extended post, but I really didn’t jump in to make that argument. I wanted to respond to the idea that it’s always inappropriate or impossible to judge someone for their supposedly personal choices or for the way they are framing a particular question. I made the mistake of using my own views on this issue as an example. I shouldn’t have.

          As to Alexandra’s first point: shocking though it may seem, I don’t actually go around pestering people about their childbearing choices. That would be rude and unproductive. But we already are having this discussion! Jill posted this specifically to defend this woman’s justification. As in, “Yes, it’s totally cool and justifiable to not want to have children because you want to enjoy your life.” That’s a positive statement of principle, and I wanted to respond to it.

        27. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help June 11, 2013 at 12:18 am |

          Wow. You’re posting on a feminist blog and saying there’s something wrong with people (read: women) who don’t bow to the societal pressure to have children?

          Also, what everyone else said.

          Nobody’s thoughts on breeding or not are any of your damn business unless they choose to share them with you. Who the hell are you to go all holier-than-thou and judge anyone? Deny it all you like, that’s exactly what you’re doing.

          Plus, this whole “oh, you shallow, self-centred people for not having children!” blather makes no sense. Do you really want these dreadful navel-gazers taking on the responsibility of raising kids? Do you want people raising children they never wanted to have? That’s heading down the forced-birther path.

          Ya know something? I don’t like children’s company. Babies leave me cold. I sure as hell never wanted to have one, never mind going through the traumas of pregnancy and childbirth. I’m one of those shallow people who doesn’t think tying twenty years of my life raising a human being I didn’t want to parent, and haven’t the skills, desire or income to support, is a good idea. A child deserves better than a reluctant parent.

          To repeat: fuck off.

        28. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve June 11, 2013 at 12:30 am |

          Ya know something? I don’t like children’s company. Babies leave me cold. I sure as hell never wanted to have one, never mind going through the traumas of pregnancy and childbirth. I’m one of those shallow people who doesn’t think tying twenty years of my life raising a human being I didn’t want to parent, and haven’t the skills, desire or income to support, is a good idea. A child deserves better than a reluctant parent.

          I think Mrs. Fat is 99% there with you in accepting that this is her attitude, but it’s the 1% of doubt that makes the blanket criticism of a married woman’s intention to be childless to be hurtful to her. Any advice on how to get over that last 1%?

        29. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help June 11, 2013 at 12:37 am |

          @Fat Steve – wish I could help! I’m lucky in that nobody among my family or friends has that attitude (this family dies out in this generation, heheh). When it comes to strangers, I don’t give a rat’s for their opinions. I might get annoyed but not hurt. Only thing I can think to say to Mrs Fat is “they’re arseholes to you, be an arsehole right back” or say something to totally confuse them. My preferred lines were “I’d rather have kittens” or “The child I bear will be the next king of France or I’m not having it.” That usually shut people up.

          I know replies aren’t really what you were asking about; I can only repeat that I was never hurt so much as irritated by nosey parkers, so it was easier to snark and forget. Maybe that might help Mrs Fat?

        30. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help June 11, 2013 at 12:40 am |

          @Katie:

          As to Alexandra’s first point: shocking though it may seem, I don’t actually go around pestering people about their childbearing choices. That would be rude and unproductive.

          Yet you feel perfectly free to sneer at total strangers in public (yes! the Internet is real life!) for making their own choices about something as important as childrearing.

        31. Donna L
          Donna L June 11, 2013 at 12:48 am |

          people don’t read carefully on the internet anyway.

          I suppose it never crossed your mind that people here read what you said very carefully, and understood it, and found it objectionable not because they failed to understand it, but because it made no sense and they actually presumed to disagree with it?

        32. EG
          EG June 11, 2013 at 12:48 am |

          I don’t think “But I don’t feel like it!” addresses the core of the norm in favor of childbearing, so it’s irrelevant as an argument.

          Only if you choose to accept the way the social norm frames the decision. Why should we?

        33. Aaliyah
          Aaliyah June 11, 2013 at 1:01 am |

          I don’t think “But I don’t feel like it!” addresses the core of the norm in favor of childbearing, so it’s irrelevant as an argument.

          Who gives a shit about whether it address the core of that norm? It doesn’t override the importance of autonomy.

        34. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help June 11, 2013 at 1:58 am |

          Someone who tosses off a “poor” reason for not wanting to have children isn’t anyone I’d put on the What-a-Waste list, which makes it easy to support the decision. I could go on, but the expectation of having to justify myself every time I turn around is too upsetting.

          Too upsetting being judged, says the person who in the preceding sentence judged anyone whose reasons aren’t up to her standards of what’s a good or bad reason to breed or not. (Don’t make flippant remarks to those shoving their noses into your business, folks: it means you’re an even bigger failure!)

          As in, “Yes, it’s totally cool and justifiable to not want to have children because you want to enjoy your life.” That’s a positive statement of principle, and I wanted to respond to it.

          Meaning you disagree? Unless we can come up with a really Big Serious Reason, having children should be the default? The mere notion of someone wanting to have pleasure in life isn’t good enough? Wow. Just wow. Would I be right in guessing this pressure is mostly going to apply to uterus-havers, as usual? And are we going to add the usual “no abortion unless the mother’s life is in danger, perhaps, maybe” crap forced birthers are so fond of? That’s the logical end of all this judging people for not making the “right” decision. Bodily autonomy, can’t be having that.

          (Never been a navel gazer, m’self. Too difficult to see through the cat.)

        35. DouglasG
          DouglasG June 11, 2013 at 7:56 am |

          [Too upsetting being judged, says the person who in the preceding sentence judged anyone whose reasons aren’t up to her standards of what’s a good or bad reason to breed or not. (Don’t make flippant remarks to those shoving their noses into your business, folks: it means you’re an even bigger failure!)]

          I was the one who said people with “poor” reasons don’t go on the What-a-Waste list – as in, people with “good” reasons not to become parents (quotation marks to indicate my distaste with this sort of framing) by having given the question thorough consideration often make their listeners think they’d be excellent parents (if they ever had a change of heart), but someone with a “bad” reason probably ought not to be parenting yesterday (or anytime in the foreseeable future).

          The upsetting part to me came up because not having children is the least of the strong social norms I could be charged with violating. I had a mental vision of Ms Katie applying the same level of scrutiny to people who “don’t feel like” conforming to other social norms. I imagined her grilling those who, for instance, don’t (OS presumed) marry.

          But I cheered myself up by remembering a bad reason turning into a good reason in Cracker when Judith, warned by her daughter (Katie!) that she’s driving much too fast (in a residential area), says that she doesn’t care; she feels like doing 60. A policeman pulls her over. However, by the time he walks up to her window and says that he hopes she has a good excuse, she has the best – she’s gone into labour.

        36. DouglasG
          DouglasG June 11, 2013 at 7:59 am |

          Oops. Sorry about the italics.

        37. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help June 11, 2013 at 8:02 am |

          Whoops! My apologies for that mistake, DouglasG and Katie. I scrolled too fast that time and got it arse about face!

        38. Ledasmom
          Ledasmom June 11, 2013 at 8:48 am |

          All I’m doing is appealing to the regular (and mostly acceptable) existing structures for enforcing norms to enforce what I think would be a good norm. I don’t think this is un-feminist. In my ideal world parenting is not gendered, and “family issues” =/= “women’s issues”

          This is not your ideal world. You may have noticed.
          I’m just going to say that suggesting that existing norms are generally good has unfortunate implications for those who don’t fit within those norms or wouldn’t have fit within the prevailing societal norms of just fifty years back; I’d guess that the percentage of commenters here that falls within this group approaches 100%.

          Also:

          *ugly snorting giggles*

          I have made macavitykitsune gigglesnort. My work here is done.

        39. JBL55
          JBL55 June 11, 2013 at 9:10 am |

          Most of the women I know who have chosen to not have children are the exact opposite of a navel-gazer. They decided to put their energies into more people than just the two or three they migth have brought into the world.

          They also made their choice keenly aware of the human overpopulation of our planet and resulting environmental pressures and food scarcities.

          And many are raising step-children and grandchildren, something that might have been more problematic had they had kids of their own.

          Maybe you need to get out more and get to know more of us.

        40. Victoria
          Victoria June 11, 2013 at 1:36 pm |

          I don’t think “But I don’t feel like it!” addresses the core of the norm in favor of childbearing, so it’s irrelevant as an argument.

          Okay, so I get why you believe that “But I don’t feel like it!” fails to address the norm itself, but that’s not what the letter writer is trying to do. She’s not addressing the norm, or making arguments about why childbearing should be the norm, she’s offering an individual reason why she doesn’t want to have children. For an individual reason, it is valid, though I think that’s a slight misrepresentation of why she doesn’t want children. She says she is happy with her life and having children would alter it in a way that would involve changes she is not prepared to make. That seems a bit more well thought out than “But I don’t feel like it!”

          I’m still having trouble with your assessment of people who choose not to have children. On one hand you say the reasons people offer aren’t valid, which would imply some sort of conclusion. However you also say that you (thankfully) don’t believe anyone should be forced/coerced to have a child they don’t want. The natural conclusion to draw from this is that you are judging people and think that people who don’t want children are going about their lives all wrong.

          I do want to unpack the idea of having children as a societal norm. Does anyone really think that it’s good for a child to have ambivalent parents? I honestly believe that had she come of age when I did, my grandmother would have opted against having children, but because she lived at a time when the only way one could choose not to have children as a woman was to never marry or marry a man who didn’t want children (which was still highly unlikely, and sometimes children still happened) she wound up being the mother of six. Now, she clearly loved her children, but I have heard all of them admit at some point in time that she would have been happier if she never had children. They aren’t being malicious or resentful, they just realize that if she lived in a time and place where she had a choice, she would be happier if she resisted the trend. Now, all of them are saying this as adults who can see things for the way they are, but when they were younger, even though they were unable to articulate or understand what was wrong, this ambivalence toward the children was not without consequences. I know my mother was estranged from her until she was pregnant with me, at which point she reconciled for the sake of me having a relationship with my grandmother. Because my grandmother couldn’t handle raising six children almost always alone (my grandfather traveled for work), her oldest child started taking on a disproportionate amount of responsibilities from an early age, which has taken its toll on her mental health. I’m not blaming my grandmother. I’m not saying we’re the most dysfunctional family out there, because, all things considered, we’re okay, but the fact remains that the norm of people having children because it is expected even if they really don’t want to has consequences for parent and child.

        41. Ledasmom
          Ledasmom June 11, 2013 at 2:23 pm |

          Does anyone really think that it’s good for a child to have ambivalent parents?

          Is there any child anywhere over a day old whose parents aren’t at the very least ambivalent?
          I mean, I don’t particularly disagree with your point here, but I don’t know a single parent who’s not ambivalent. Ninety percent of the time, kittens are more fun than kids.

        42. Victoria
          Victoria June 11, 2013 at 2:53 pm |

          Is there any child anywhere over a day old whose parents aren’t at the very least ambivalent?

          I understand your point, but I’m talking about a far more pervasive ambivalence. Or maybe ambivalence isn’t even the best word. I mean that while I understand that most parents are ambivalent to their children from day to day, some people, usually those who had little choice in the matter, are ambivalent to their child’s very existence. I mean, it’s hard to articulate the distinction, but I think the general ambivalence that parents feel from time to time is different than the situation described above with my grandmother, whose children have all admitted at sometime that she would have been happier/better off had they never existed. I know part of that has a lot to do with the time period in which she was raising children she didn’t have a lot of choice, but I know people who admit that they will probably have children, not because they or their partners want children, but because it’s what couples do, it’s the next step after the steady job, the marriage, buying a house (yes there are classist implications here, but these are people who are pretty set in their upper middle-class ways and can’t understand or imagine that people wouldn’t live in this way. I can’t be too critical, coming from a similar background, though I’ve lived and taught in Appalachia so I’m a little more aware then they are), and I can’t help but wonder if this is really the best approach for all involved (especially when the hypothetical mother loves her career but admits that she’ll have to give it up because they run in circles where exclusive breastfeeding and baby wearing is the trend du jour and she would hate to be thought to be a bad mother for not “giving up everything for her child”(her exact words) I can’t see that not breeding some resentment down the line). I don’t think there is anything wrong with someone having doubts about whether having children would make them happy while still largely wanting children, but I’ve seen people who only want children insofar as they want to conform to how everyone expects them to live their lives. I hope I’m making sense.

          Ninety percent of the time, kittens are more fun than kids.

          Because kittens are awesome! I like to think that’s not a shortcoming on the part of children, just that kittens are awesome.

        43. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help June 11, 2013 at 9:15 pm |

          @Ledasmom –

          Ninety percent of the time, kittens are more fun than kids.

          That little? ;)

          @Victoria – I wonder much the same about my grandmother. Never met her, but she raised 10 kids on a plumber’s income in country Australia. Her first child was born just as WWI started and her last, my mum, in the worst year of the Depression. Granted she was a pretty hidebound Irish Catholic, but if she’d had a way of avoiding childbirth, or at least, so many childbirths, would she have taken it? From what I know of her, our personalities are similar (allowing for the very different cultures) and she doesn’t come across as even remotely maternal. She liked her cats better. ;)

          The thought of having no option except abstinence to avoid children, and no option but to play conception roulette if one wanted to marry, appalls me. The social norms that forced women into marriage and, consequently, childbirth, were sickening, and to hear anyone dismissing “I Do Not Want To” as a reason for going against the continuing pressure on women to reproduce is disgusting.

        44. Ledasmom
          Ledasmom June 12, 2013 at 6:50 am |

          That little? ;)

          Long hair plus hair-combing time plus ten-week-old kitten. I don’t think I have to draw a picture here.

        45. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help June 12, 2013 at 8:25 am |

          Long hair plus hair-combing time plus ten-week-old kitten. I don’t think I have to draw a picture here.

          I’ll see your ten-week old long-hair kitten and raise you one four-week semi long-hair kitten needing hourly feeds and oil for ear mites. ;)

        46. Victoria
          Victoria June 12, 2013 at 2:26 pm |

          The social norms that forced women into marriage and, consequently, childbirth, were sickening, and to hear anyone dismissing “I Do Not Want To” as a reason for going against the continuing pressure on women to reproduce is disgusting.

          Quite honestly “I Do Not Want To” is the only explanation I owe anyone that I’m not in a long-term-discussing-our future-together-and-whether-there-are-kids-in-the-picture type relationship. That includes my parents, best friends, etc., though usually it’s people who don’t know me well who are the most demanding about this (like often they don’t know me well enough for me to have even told them that I don’t want children and have heard it secondhand. Also, what’s with people basically saying “Hey, you have a uterus, what are your plans for it?).

        47. Ledasmom
          Ledasmom June 13, 2013 at 6:12 am |

          I’ll see your ten-week old long-hair kitten and raise you one four-week semi long-hair kitten needing hourly feeds and oil for ear mites. ;)

          Oh, it wasn’t so much that the kitten had long hair, although she did.
          There is a certain part of the human back that it is rather hard to extract a kitten from, provided the kitten and a comb and over three feet of hair are trying to become one back there.

        48. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help June 14, 2013 at 9:54 pm |

          There is a certain part of the human back that it is rather hard to extract a kitten from, provided the kitten and a comb and over three feet of hair are trying to become one back there.

          OW. Ow, ow, ow.

          Okay, that wins a “moments kittens aren’t fun” prize!

  2. AMM
    AMM June 10, 2013 at 9:38 am |

    As someone who is a parent and (sort of) Proud! Of! It!, I really hate it when people put down people who don’t have kids because they don’t want them.

    Please, please, for the sake of the kids and for the sake of everyone else who will have to deal with them, don’t pressure^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H encourage people to have kids who don’t really want them! Better to encourage these folks to help out and support those who have kids because they wanted them.

    We don’t so much need more people becoming parents as we need support networks and services for the people who already are parents — and for their kids.

  3. Kierra
    Kierra June 10, 2013 at 10:10 am |

    Gotta love when people suddenly go from “I want my children to have a better life than I did” to “kids these days are so spoiled and don’t know how good they have it!” Apparently feminists are not immune to this phenomenon either.

    1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help June 11, 2013 at 12:41 am |

      Git off mah lawn! ::shakes walking stick::

      ;)

  4. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie June 10, 2013 at 10:17 am |

    What a freaking jerk that “advice” columnist is. Frankly, I’m of the mind that women/girls SHOULD be able to take equality for granted, and that’s why I fight for equality. (or at least argue on the internet about it)

    Also, since when is deciding to have or not children a trivial decision? “I don’t want to give up my comfortable and hard-earned lifestyle” is perhaps the MOST understandable and logical reason for remaining child-free. Having kids changes the course of your life irrevocably. Wanting continued freedom to live as you wish is a HUGE deal.

    She reminds me of George Will with her “my, these selfish YOUNGSTERS!” b.s.

  5. Victoria
    Victoria June 10, 2013 at 12:20 pm |

    I’m wondering if there is something in the original letter that isn’t being said, like he wants children and she doesn’t and she’s likely to wind up being the primary caregiver? I mean, I’m speculating, but I think that’s something that needs to be said. Is her husband asking her to give up her way of life to raise children when very little will change for him? Again, it’s speculation, but given the way the responsibility of childcare is often gendered, I would be very concerned if a male partner wanted children and I did not. It’s sad that the columnist just gave a rant rather than offering actual advice.

  6. Karak
    Karak June 10, 2013 at 12:25 pm |

    That answer is full of butt. Men don’t have to stop every few minutes and praise to the sky for advances in prostate cancer and the invention of the condom. I don’t think I should have to, either. Reproduction is not a zero-sum game.

    OP does need to talk to her husband about having kids. They need to decide a future plan that’s emotionally honest and good. My SO and I have the baby-talk every few months. I’m ambiguously a “no” and he’s a definite “no” on kids. And we re-iterate that and talk about what we do if one of us changes our minds. And the only people I think of are me, him, and potential-child. I thought that’s what feminists wanted.

    1. PrettyAmiable
      PrettyAmiable June 10, 2013 at 5:23 pm |

      Shrug. It’s what I want for you, and I’m glad you have it!

  7. TomSims
    TomSims June 10, 2013 at 1:29 pm |

    It’s always a good idea to have both the man and woman involved to discuss having children before actually having them. And it does happen that people break up because they do not agree on whether or not to have children. I think only couples who really want children should have them. There should be no guilt directed at couples who marry with the thought of not ever having children.

  8. Rachel Tyrel
    Rachel Tyrel June 10, 2013 at 3:27 pm |

    Here’s the final paragraph of the advice columnist’s post:

    Neither should you predicate having a family on a whimsical emotion like feeling “broody”. Plenty of women don’t find themselves consumed by that urgent desire until so late into their fertility that it’s too late. You may conclude parenting isn’t for you, but what kind of mother you’ll be is a mystery only revealed when you take that miniscule bundle of life you’ve created into your arms. Don’t undervalue the choices you now have, or take for granted the happiness you presently enjoy in your relationship. To that end, communicating your fears is every bit as vital as having fun.

    First off, there are very many women who do base their decision to have children on such whimsical notions as feeling “broody.” Children have been conceived in drunken stupors with much less forethought on the parts of their respective parents, so let’s not pretend that chosing to create another human being is by any means a decision that is always arrived at soberly, with careful study and deliberation. Not all parents are the “very serious people” that they would wish others to perceive them to be.

    As for the notion that nobody knows what sort of parent they will be until they actually have a child of their own, that’s nonsense. There are several predictors of whether or not an adult person has the necessary skills to be successful at parenting. Paying their rent or mortgage on time, as well as keeping all the utilities on, insurance in force on their vehicles, and nutrious foods in their homes, without a single incidence of a vitamin deficiency, are pretty good indicators of whether one has the sense the Gods gave a raindrop, which bar is pretty low. Such as the standard with parenting. This ain’t rocket science, boys and girls. Moving on.

    The admonition not to take for granted the present happiness in the relationship is just general, commonsensical advice. Everyone should do this at all times, which makes the restating of it rather cliche and unoriginal. It is only by reading the very last sentence that one can glean any “advice” at all. Which is to discuss the matter in a detailed fashion with the other party and see if the two of you can’t arrive at some joint decision. This is Consensus-Building 101, so it really shouldn’t have had to have been said either. But, as general advice goes, it’s a self-evident truth that is worth experimenting with in practice.

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune June 10, 2013 at 3:32 pm |

      Paying their rent or mortgage on time, as well as keeping all the utilities on, insurance in force on their vehicles, and nutrious foods in their homes, without a single incidence of a vitamin deficiency, are pretty good indicators of whether one has the sense the Gods gave a raindrop

      …hey, you know, maybe go print that judgy shit out, pulp it, model it into a tiny Wagging Finger of Disapproval and shove it where the sun don’t shine?

      I’d respond more politely, but I don’t have the fucking patience to deal with this classist shit anymore.

      1. EG
        EG June 10, 2013 at 5:19 pm |

        Yep. Also, I honestly fail to see what paying my rent late sometimes has to do with my rather good childcare skills. Does it mean that my future kids will grow up with an absent-minded mother on a tight budget? Yes. Is that some kind of abusive hellscape? I don’t think so.

        I want to highlight the idea that wanting children (feeling “broody”) is “whimsical”? What? I’ve wanted children my entire life. I’ve wanted children for longer than I’ve wanted my current career, and I want that pretty damn badly. What’s “whimsical” here?

        1. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl June 10, 2013 at 6:10 pm |

          Well, silly girls being girls always get caught up in flights of whimsy, right?

          Right?

          Uh, yeah, so much to pick apart in Rachel’s comment, and yet so little time…

    2. Barnacle Strumpet
      Barnacle Strumpet June 10, 2013 at 3:42 pm |

      There are several predictors of whether or not an adult person has the necessary skills to be successful at parenting. Paying their rent or mortgage on time, as well as keeping all the utilities on, insurance in force on their vehicles, and nutrious foods in their homes, without a single incidence of a vitamin deficiency, are pretty good indicators of whether one has the sense the Gods gave a raindrop, which bar is pretty low.

      No, those are just indicators that they have money. That’s it. Done. Nothing about having money shows a person will be a good parent; all it means is that if they *want* to be a good parent and are committed to it, they won’t have to struggle to afford food for their children.

      Money is no good indication of anything. I have seen too many children of financially well-off families who aren’t allowed to eat for ridiculous reasons, or who’s parents reserve the good (nutritious, expensive) food for the husband while the children’s dietary needs are barely a concern to them.

      Keeping the utilities on, the rent paid, the car insured, all serve the parent as well. It is no indication whatsoever that the person will have any compassion, interest, or concern for their child or the child’s best interests.

      1. PrettyAmiable
        PrettyAmiable June 10, 2013 at 5:26 pm |

        True story. I pay my rent on time and manage to keep myself fed, but effed if I tried to do it for another human being.

    3. Jane
      Jane June 10, 2013 at 4:04 pm |

      The folks above me critiqued your comment perfectly, but I did want to agree that there *are* ways to practice parenting and care that cut across income brackets, like helping care for younger siblings or elder relatives, babysitting, teaching, volunteering as a mentor/scout leader/etc, working as a camp counselor or daycare provider, and yes, even caring for a pet. It’s about understanding if you’re able to put another’s needs and priorities above your own while still making and enforcing critical, difficult decisions. These are almost all pretty good ways to support current parents if you’re not into being one, as well.

    4. Aaliyah
      Aaliyah June 10, 2013 at 6:46 pm |

      My father keeps the utilities on, pays the rent on time, has insurance on his vehicle, almost always avoids buying junk food and often buys healthy things. He has also been emotionally, verbally, occasionally physically abusive towards me, my siblings, and my mother.

      Hmmm…nope, he’s perfect. After all, he can take care of all of those other things, so I have no reason to complain. (Interestingly, that’s exactly what he tells me whenever he’s “confused” about why I’m so distant and averse to him.)

      Also, what the other people who replied to you said.

    5. Patu
      Patu June 11, 2013 at 1:54 am |

      I can see where you’re going with this in that reliability, stability, and life skills are definitely bonuses when it comes to stuff like having kids but you managed to phrase it in a really insulting and condescending way.

      1. Ledasmom
        Ledasmom June 11, 2013 at 8:50 am |

        Patu is much more polite than I am. I was going to reply to the referenced comment until I realized that my reply would consist entirely of bad words.

        1. Rachel Tyrel
          Rachel Tyrel June 11, 2013 at 7:57 pm |

          And the point of that post, seeing as how I did manage to illicit every single response concerning classism and economic privation that I was angling for when I wrote it, is that it doesn’t really matter to those in charge, the powers that be, agents of socialization, “The Man,” or whatever other euphemism one would wish to call the Western first-world social establishment, if those standards of reliability and financial (pay attention, I am using this word very deliberately) stability are met, the chances of any sort of civil intervention to take the children away from the parents are astoundingly low. In fact, such parents would have to do something to capture the attention of a third party in order for the authorities to intervene and take the children away. Even if the children are being verbally or emotionally abused, as long as the affluent parent keeps it mostly secret, behind the closed doors of the family home, there is a low chance of intervention.

          Conversely, a parent can be as caring, empathetic, nurturing, kind, tender, and loving as he or she wishes to be, but without the socially-accepted class indicators of a child being cared for in the economic sense, that child’s chances of being put on the school-to-prison pipeline are much higher than for the children of relatively affluent parents who demonstrate all the status markers of middle-class inclusion (like paying the rent on time and not driving whilst uninsured).

          The topic of such interventions is troubling for me personally, as I have just recently gone through an experience with a counseling client who had her four children taken from her by the county. I’ll be damned if I can’t help thinking that while she was a loving mom, she was also physically disabled and poor, and if she’d just had access to certain financial resources, the family could have avoided the separation and had a completely different outcome.

        2. EG
          EG June 11, 2013 at 8:13 pm |

          I’m not seeing the point of your initial comment: you posted something classist and obnoxious in order to get responses pointing out its classism and obnoxiousness, and so you succeeded…why? That’s just garden-variety trolling. Why would you need such an exercise to make the utterly uncontroversial point that the State has no interest in policing the families of the well-off, but is all too happy to tear apart poor families?

        3. Past my expiration date
          Past my expiration date June 11, 2013 at 8:35 pm |

          That’s just garden-variety trolling.

          It’s definitely not garden-variety trolling to say explicitly (or “illicit”-ly) that you were trolling! Is there a classification system for trolls (garden-variety, concern,…?)?

        4. DouglasG
          DouglasG June 12, 2013 at 12:36 am |

          [It’s definitely not garden-variety trolling to say explicitly (or “illicit”-ly) that you were trolling! Is there a classification system for trolls (garden-variety, concern,…?)?]

          I’m tempted to call it Roaming Like a Gnome.

        5. Rachel Tyrel
          Rachel Tyrel June 12, 2013 at 12:28 pm |

          And yet, EG, you characterize the state’s willingness to tear apart poor families for doing behaviors that affluent families do as “utterly uncontroversial.”

          I find that position deeply troubling, indeed.

          If that makes me a “concern troll,” then so be it. I’d rather be a troll than one of those politically apathetic feminists who sits on her hands and shrugs when faced with injustices of this nature, whilst muttering, “Ah well, that’s the way things are and there’s nothing that I can personally do about it.”

        6. Donna L
          Donna L June 12, 2013 at 12:47 pm |

          And yet, EG, you characterize the state’s willingness to tear apart poor families for doing behaviors that affluent families do as “utterly uncontroversial.”

          Fuck you, Rachel, for deliberately misconstruing what EG said. You know damn well that what she was saying was that the fact that this happens is “uncontroversial” in the sense of being indisputable. Not that nobody cares about it or that she thinks nothing can be done about it. (And if you don’t know what she was saying, it puts your literacy in serious question.) You really are a troll, as well as an admitted liar who wasted people’s time by pretending to advocate positions you didn’t actually believe in, in order to make your point. Next time, I suggest you say what you mean instead of playing your little games. I would also suggest that you not accuse people of being “politically apathetic” when you know nothing whatsoever about them.

        7. Rachel Tyrel
          Rachel Tyrel June 12, 2013 at 1:31 pm |

          And fuck you, Donna, for being a sore loser after having been defeated in an argument by nothing more than quoting the poster’s own words right back at them.

          You can fuss about “misconstruing” all you like, but EG wrote that a particular injustice was “utterly uncontroversial.” You can’t take back the words that were posted. Sorry, but you get an argumentation fail on that score.

          If the poster meant “indisputable,” then one would reckon that the poster would have written “indisputable.” The poster didn’t, and your position looks like backpedalling to try to find a meaning that simply didn’t occur in the writing.

          As for your namecalling, well, sticks and stones. As for accusing me of namecalling, I said I wouldn’t wish to be an apathetic feminist. Now look who’s misconstruing.

          Hello Pot, meet the Kettle.

        8. Donna L
          Donna L June 12, 2013 at 2:12 pm |

          Unfortunately for you, Rachel, your interpretation of EG’s words makes no sense whatsoever unless one assumes bad faith on her part, and assume a political position on her part that’s directly belied by both the text and subtext of her actual words — which make very clear that she does NOT approve of the state of affairs she describes. Your insistence that “uncontroversial” refers to the merits of the policy itself rather than the fact of its existence is laughable. Nobody advocating the former proposition would describe that policy, as EG did, as “the State has no interest in policing the families of the well-off, but is all too happy to tear apart poor families.”

          What she said is not even ambiguous, because ambiguity requires there to be more than one reasonable interpretation. Your interpretation is entirely unreasonable.

          So, as I said before, your insistence that her words conveyed neutrality on her part concerning the State’s actions (or inactions) demonstrates questionable literacy on your part. And I think any rational person would agree even if they didn’t know that EG just happens to be a professor of English at a well-known university, whereas you are . . . ? And even if they didn’t know that you’ve already confessed to being a troll who deliberately misrepresented her own views in
          order to bait people into having a particular reaction.

        9. PrettyAmiable
          PrettyAmiable June 12, 2013 at 7:33 pm |

          You can fuss about “misconstruing” all you like, but EG wrote that a particular injustice was “utterly uncontroversial.”

          She’s got a point, Donna. I don’t think she misconstrued the statement so much as committed to willfully misunderstanding it.

        10. EG
          EG June 12, 2013 at 8:15 pm |

          This is all very well, Rachel, but I note that you have completely avoided the question of what on earth the point of your exercise in Troll Theater was. Fuss all you like, but don’t think we won’t notice that you’re doing so to distract us from the question of what you think you’re doing. Do you seriously think that trolling Feministe is at all helpful in overturning the deplorable State policies you mention?

          Now, to your piss-poor reading comprehension. Here is the exact quotation from my comment:

          “Why would you need such an exercise to make the utterly uncontroversial point that the State has no interest in policing the families of the well-off, but is all too happy to tear apart poor families?”

          Note that the adjective “uncontroversial” applies to the noun “point.” It therefore does not describe the policy in question, but the point that you made, which is that the policy exists (indicated by “that,” the object of the relative clause that follows). Unless you are under the impression that stating the existence of these policies would cause controversy, the term “uncontroversial” is indeed apt.

          So go fuck yourself with a grammar book, you silly little troll.

          And thanks, Donna, for stating the obvious, though you shouldn’t have had to.

      2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help June 12, 2013 at 5:00 am |

        @DouglasG – Wasn’t that a famous Dylan song? Like a Roaming Gnome

        1. Ledasmom
          Ledasmom June 12, 2013 at 6:47 am |

          Or The Temptations’ hit, “Papa Was a Roaming Gnome”.

        2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help June 12, 2013 at 8:22 am |

          ::snorfle::

          ::splutter::

          :D

        3. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve June 12, 2013 at 8:07 pm |

          I prefer ‘To Gnome Him is to Love Him’ by the Teddy Bears.

        4. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help June 12, 2013 at 8:27 pm |

          What about that old favourite, “Gnome, gnome on the range”?

        5. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl June 12, 2013 at 10:32 pm |

          This exchange really, really needs a like button…

        6. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve June 12, 2013 at 11:51 pm |

          What about that old favourite, “Gnome, gnome on the range”?

          Don’t forget Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Gnome) by Marvin Gaye.

        7. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help June 13, 2013 at 4:01 am |

          “Sweet Gnome Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, too.

  9. Irrelevant feminist from the East
    Irrelevant feminist from the East June 11, 2013 at 8:08 am |

    I am stupefied at the columnist’s idea that child-having is a thing that one should go ahead with, even if they’re not convinced that they want it, just to see “what kind of parent they’d be”. Once you have a child, you can’t un-have it. It’s there to stay, and you have to take care of it, even if you realize at that very moment that you made a big mistake.

    I also fail to see her point about feminism and reproductive rights. So modern privileged women have the choice to not have children…therefore…they should not make use of that choice? It doesn’t even make sense.

    My home country went through a 20-year period of forced-birth policy (not only were abortions illegal, but all contraception was illegal as well, miscarriages were investigated by the police, working class women were forced to undergo gyn exams at their workplace to put any early pregnancy under state supervision immediately, childfree people over 25 were taxed extra, etc.) The obvious consequences were those you can imagine: thousands of deaths caused by back-alley abortions, thousands of children abandoned in orphanages. But there was also a less obvious side to it: suddenly we had about 2 generations of people whose parents resented their existence. It’s not that we were all unloved, or not taken cared of- it’s just that we knew that we were imposed on our parents by the state. I know a lot of people for whom this fact has poisoned their relationship with their mother irreversibly. Not until I grew up, travelled, made more diverse acquaintances etc, did I become familiar with the novelty concept of wanted children. Throughout my childhood and teens I thought that a child is always an accident that shows up to ruin your life and make you unhappy, and you just put up with it because you have no other choice. It was certainly what my mom, and my friends’ moms, said all the time. Suggesting that people who don’t want children, regardless of reason, should try and have some anyway is frankly evil.

    1. Bagelsan
      Bagelsan June 13, 2013 at 6:40 pm |

      I am stupefied at the columnist’s idea that child-having is a thing that one should go ahead with, even if they’re not convinced that they want it, just to see “what kind of parent they’d be”. Once you have a child, you can’t un-have it. It’s there to stay, and you have to take care of it, even if you realize at that very moment that you made a big mistake.

      Yeah, that’s freaking ridiculous. I literally put more thought into getting a pet fish than the columnist thinks should go into parenting; at the very least I fish-sat for my sister before getting my own! (And, obviously, fish responsibility << human child responsibility.)

      I really think that not parenting should be the default state — certainly it’s the state we are in for the first 15-40ish years of our lives! Much better to leave raising a child as a totally voluntary “opt-in” activity; it would vastly reduce the number of unwanted children, and probably improve the lives of the existing children as well. Ideally this would be accomplished through totally free totally accessible birth control for everyone… (and I’d like a pony, too. :p)

      1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help June 13, 2013 at 7:41 pm |

        That’s how I see it too, Bagelsan, exactly – non-reproduction as the default.

  10. Angie unduplicated
    Angie unduplicated June 11, 2013 at 9:12 am |

    Instructing childish and shallow adults who behave like POS, in schools or in offices, means that many who do it for a living are childfree because we have no desire to face more of the same sorts of behavior after hours and at home. Keep ol’ Norm at home, Katie, because I don’t want his tyrannical ass in my bedroom. He’s ill-educated, bigoted, and, imho, he has no business being around children.

  11. JBL55
    JBL55 June 11, 2013 at 9:22 am |

    I just spent the last few days with someone who has two children, clearly does not enjoy all aspects of being a mother, and is full of guilt for not living up to what she believes is the ideal image of a woman fulfilled by motherhood.

    I asked her what she would do if she could do anything she wanted, and her immediate response was “to be home with the boys.” I said, “Really? Why? They drive you crazy and you’re always looking for reasons to get away from them!” She hung her head and said, “I know. You’re right.”

    I tried to assure her that it’s okay: her husband is much better with the boys than she is and is able to be home with them more than her travel-heavy (and much higher-paying) job allows her to be.

    But it doesn’t match the ideal picture she grew up thinking she should emulate. I can remind her until I’m blue in the face of all the studies showing that kids are better off w/a mother who is doing what makes her happy, be it staying home with them or working a challenging job, but that’s all in one side of the brain, and her guilt is in the other side.

    I wish I knew what I could do to help. :-(

    1. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl June 11, 2013 at 2:23 pm |

      Honestly, it sounds like there is whole lot to unpack in this scenario you are describing. But the bottom line is that it’s not at all uncommon to feel conflicted or ambivalent about various aspects of one’s life. And getting to a place where one can be 100% happy and at peace with every single aspect of it is next to impossible. Not to mention a rather unrealistic goalpost to set in the first place.

      Parenting is no different from anything else, such as where one lives, or what job one has, or how does or not pursue hobbies. I don’t think it is the least bit reasonable to expect parents or oneself as a parent to be 100% happy with every little thing associated with parenthood. There’s grunt work involved that can stink sometimes and it can be a thankless task at other times. But so can a whole lot of other things. Expecting parenthood to be this perfect, wonderful, always enjoyable thing is how you end up miserable, and just like other aspects of life, sometimes one needs to simply hold one’s nose and get on with things, without thinking you are a bad parent or not cut out for parenting. Or your job, or your hobby as a marathon runner, or whatever else it is.

      1. JBL55
        JBL55 June 12, 2013 at 8:45 am |

        “Expecting parenthood to be this perfect, wonderful, always enjoyable thing is how you end up miserable, and just like other aspects of life, sometimes one needs to simply hold one’s nose and get on with things, without thinking you are a bad parent or not cut out for parenting.”

        Of course you’re right, and your perspective is spot on.

        Thank you for this reminder. I’ll try to remember it when she and her husband and kids come up next month. :-)

  12. a lawyer
    a lawyer June 12, 2013 at 9:14 am |

    Kids are great. Sometimes.

    If you have kids, you will occasionally experience feelings of love, wonder, humor, coziness, and happiness which exceed anything you’ve felt before.

    Of course, the opposite is also true. Kids are needy, loud, inconsiderate, messy, defiant, dirty, hungry, tired (in the day,) awake (in the night,) and generally demanding. Eventually they grow out of the screaming-baby phase, but then they just go into a new phase. (I still remember the new-parent question I asked a friend, “so, is it way easier when they’re older because you’re experienced and so much better at it?” Her response, which has proven to be true, was “No–you get better, and they get harder.”)

    If you have kids you will occasionally experience feelings of anger, helplessness, incompetence, despair, loneliness, guilt, and depression which exceed anything you’ve felt before. The ninth time that your baby wakes up screaming at 3:00 AM just as you put them down (again) after having stayed up walking them for the last three hours, and vomits on you because they’re crying so hard, and WILL NOT SLEEP, and it’s a Tuesday night, and you’re so tired you can’t think and your head hurts from the crying, and you realize that you actually hate, really hate, your baby at that moment in time, and you feel like the WORST PERSON ON THE PLANET, well that really sucks. And that’s just one of 1000 times, trust me. As my wife and I used to say to each other (whoever happened to be in tears at the moment) “it’s a good thing they’re so cute when they’re happy.”

    Too many people focus only on the first list, and ignore the second one. That makes no sense.

    It’s worth it for me, and I’m glad I did it. But my childless-by-choice friends have all sorts of wonderful shit going on in their lives which I have given up and which I really miss, from “ability to take vacations” to “flexibility” to “being able to give your undivided emotional attention to your spouse” to “having a shit-ton of money compared to me, both because they don’t need to save for kids and because they don’t need to feed, clothe house transport educate and teach music to their kids.”

    It takes some SERIOUS rosy-sunglasses hindsight to believe that everyone should have kids. It is not for everyone. At all.

    1. TomSims
      TomSims June 12, 2013 at 4:26 pm |

      @a lawyer

      I absolutely agree not all people should have kids. And yes it’s hard, very hard at times, being a parent. But hang in there and if you’re really lucky like I am, you’ll have grandkids one day. Yesterday I saw my 2nd oldest granddaughter graduate from high school. I wouldn’t trade all the expensive vacations in the world for the real satisfaction I’ve had as both a father and grandfather. Trust me, there is no better feeling.

      1. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve June 12, 2013 at 8:08 pm |

        Trust me, there is no better feeling.

        Have you ever had oral sex while on MDMA?

        1. TomSims
          TomSims June 13, 2013 at 12:03 pm |

          “Have you ever had oral sex while on MDMA?”

          No I haven’t, have you?

        2. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve June 13, 2013 at 4:09 pm |

          No I haven’t, have you?

          Yes.

      2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help June 12, 2013 at 8:25 pm |

        Tom, that’s great for those who love being grandparents. Not everyone feels that way. My mum’s very pleased not to be a grandmother. No way would she want to trade having gone twice to England, something she’d wanted to do all her life and never thought she would, for grandchildren.

      3. shfree
        shfree June 12, 2013 at 11:39 pm |

        I have a daughter that I love dearly, and over my dead body is she going to be a parent if she doesn’t want to.

        1. AnthroBabe
          AnthroBabe June 13, 2013 at 5:21 pm |

          TomSims, shfree’s right: you don’t get to make that decision (to have children) for your children. If we all “hang in there” there is *no* guarantee of being a grandparent. And there shouldn’t be. My parents have said not one word about having grandchildren because they respect my right to live my life as I see fit. They do have 2 cat grandkids, though!

          This thread feels like we get to a point of respecting autonomy and choices and then we go round the ferris wheel again with this anti-autonomy shit.

        2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
          The Kittehs' Unpaid Help June 13, 2013 at 7:43 pm |

          They do have 2 cat grandkids, though!

          Love this description! :)

        3. TomSims
          TomSims June 14, 2013 at 11:18 am |

          @shfree & AnthroBabe

          Where in my reply to a lawyer did I say one’s son or daughter is obligated to provide them grandkids? I simply said if he were lucky like me, he would some day have grandkids. I consider myself to be the luckiest guy on the planet to be not just a dad and grand dad but to have kids and grandkids I have.

          I’m happy you can take trips to England or whatever and have cats, grand cats and whatever else. Autonomy rocks! Do your own thing! Let it all hang out! Party on! Etc etc.

        4. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve June 14, 2013 at 11:38 am |

          I consider myself to be the luckiest guy on the planet to be not just a dad and grand dad but to have kids and grandkids I have.

          Yes, and I consider myself lucky that my dad is way less douchey than you are. We all have different wants and needs.

        5. Ledasmom
          Ledasmom June 14, 2013 at 6:25 pm |

          Let it all hang out!

          Can’t do that. The cats would attack it.
          Ever notice how frequently it’s said that the great thing about grandkids is that you can give them back?

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