Completely Childfree

Cross-posted from Feminist Reflections with permission.

“I don’t know why women need to have children to be seen as complete human beings.” —Marisa Tomei

image from chasingthegerberdragon

Image from chasingthegerberdragon

In sixteen short words, Marisa Tomei sums up pretty much everything I think about having kids. It’s not for me but I understand it’s a choice that has meaning for lots of people. Whatever any woman’s choice, Tomei is right: it has nothing to do to with our completeness as human beings.

Tomei isn’t the only celebrity who’s been asked to account for her status as a non-mom. Last month, Cameron Diaz made headlines by sharing her thoughts about (not) having kids. Diaz explained,

“It’s so much more work to have children. To have lives besides your own that you are responsible for — I didn’t take that on. That did make things easier for me.”

Other celebrities too have been asked to explain their childfree status. As a person with an embarrassingly sizable wine glass collection, I especially appreciate what Ellen DeGeneres has to say about her and Portia de Rossi’s choice.

“We thought about it. We love to be around children after they’ve been fed and bathed. But we ultimately decided that we don’t want children of our own. There is far too much glass in our house.”

I think I understand the sentiments behind Diaz’s and DeGeneres’s remarks. They also make me cringe a little every time I read them.

Both do what many childfree do. They apologize for their choice. I’ve been guilty of the same thing. I know how they feel. They want their choice to be respected but they don’t want people to get the wrong idea; they’re human! In fact they’re complete humans!

Though the choice not to have kids may be “outside the norm,” it is normal in that it is not freakish or strange.

I call the Diaz and DeGeneres versions of apology the Parents are Saints & I Kinda Suck” and the “I Love Kids But” apologies. By explaining their choice in this way, they call into question their own and other childfree women’s completeness as human beings. I’m certain that’s not what they intend but it is a consequence of their remarks.

Kim, a teacher in her early 40s and a participant in my study of childfree women and men, put it well when she declared,

“Am I less of a woman because I don’t have kids? I don’t think so.”

Right on, Kim!

The sad truth is that we do sometimes think of women who don’t want kids as less than, as not complete. We’ve been taught to fear – even hate – women who don’t want kids. As feminist bloggers Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter say, childfree women are looked upon as “dangerous oddities.”

Though it’s still not the most common choice, the fact is that more and more women are choosing not to have kids. In the U.S., the percent of women in their forties who don’t have kids has nearly doubled over the last forty years. Estimates suggest that about half of those who never have kids are childfree, meaning they’ve made the choice not to have them.

One of the (great many) gifts of feminism is that it offers us choice – choice about how we live our lives and with whom we live our lives. Childfree women have simply chosen a life without kids. And they are complete without them.

5 Responses to Completely Childfree

  1. Mary March 17, 2015 at 11:46 am #

    My previous comment is directed at Jane, not Barbara T.

  2. Tarzan August 22, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

    Always makes me laugh when parents come on childfree sites–especially Jane at 3:44 in the morning–to push their pro-child agenda. Kinda makes you wonder who she’s really trying to convince with all that babble. “Stop intellectualizing your most primal instincts,” Ugh! What a crock.

  3. Jane August 22, 2014 at 3:44 am #

    Really? We want to look to celebrity entertainers to justify childlessness? Know what I have in common with Cameron Diaz, Ellen Degeneres, or Oprah Winfrey? Absolutely nothing beyond carrying double X chromosomes. I’m not a millionaire or a billionaire, or even a hundred-thousandaire. I’ve never been on a yacht, or spent Christmas at a ski chalet, or received an invitation to a Red Carpet event. Nobody has ever sought my autograph, or clamored to take my picture. And much as I could pretend the early, childless years of my marriage were carefree, romantic, and fulfilling, I’d be a big, fat liar to do so.

    Every day, I thank God for leading me to a life filled with children. While my husband and I could have been busy, glamorous, childless adventurers, frankly it was not until we became parents that our lives became adventurous. Suddenly, we were no longer weary world travelers, but enthusiastic travelers anxious to share our experiences with these wonderful, curious, joyful children, who soaked up each new dining, travel, and cultural experience like a sponge. Suddenly, we were no longer adult children whose narrative was defined by our childhood families, but anchors to the new family we forged. Our future is one that anticipates not just growing old, but watching subsequent generations grow up and discover the joys of parenthood for themselves.

    In sum, don’t overthink it, stop intellectualizing your most primal instincts, and stop comparing the (allegedly) fulfilling lifestyles of the super-rich and famous to your own. In the end, your legacy will not be fame, glamour, or power. It will be the love left in your wake.

    • Barbara T. March 8, 2015 at 3:37 pm #

      Jane, why are you on this site? Would you like childfree people to start harassing would be mommies on pregnancy advice sites into giving up the idea to conceive? Because you know, I can think of a number of reasons why having children is indeed selfish and damaging to humanity. But in your post you are not even suggesting more noble values than a search for relief from boredom as the reason why every non billionaire celebrity should just “discover the joys of parenthood for themselves”. What you are doing is saying that people who feel differently than you are “intellectualizing [their] most primal instincts” – supposedly out of sheer stupidity and lack of insight – by choosing to do what, I assure you, is exactly what their instincts are telling them to do. Let me put it in simpler terms for you: would you badger a gay man into reproducing? Because it seems to me that your idea of an instinct is a bit reductionist, meaning, you believe that everyone who has ovaries should use them to breed. So what about a gay man’s testicles? Should he be rectified on what his “most primal instincts” are and forced into marriage? I guess my question is: do you just troll childfree sites or are you an all-round rabid bigot?

    • Mary March 17, 2015 at 11:45 am #

      You sound like a real mess.

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