Guest Author - Lori Bradley
Motherís Day is upon us again. During this time of year Iím always reminded that the more I get to know parents the more I value my childfree friends. Iíve come to expect meet-ups with parent-friends to get rescheduled because of family emergencies like a bruised knee in soccer practice and thatís fine. Still, these temporary dismissals leave me feeling like lowest person on the friend totem pole, more so during Motherís Day than any other time of the year. Parents look at me and me and sigh, considering me a shallow source of comfort or consultation for family matters, although these issues are often universal to all human beings.
And, I have to admit that parents don't tend to be my closest friends because I'm not really interested in their family affairs. I'm concerned when someone's child is undergoing a crisis. Yet, it always amazes me that parents feel entitled to talk on and on about the minutia of family issues as if these topics are universally fascinating to people without kids.
I listen politely and try to ask pertinent questions now and then, but those questions are rarely ever reciprocated. It seems that to parents of young children particularly, my childfree life is utterly uninteresting and not worthy of inquiry. When I offer up a scrap of conversation about work or studio or pets I'm often met with an exaggeratedly patient smile suggesting that, to parents, my childfree life is somehow childish.
So, conversations with childfree friends are an especially welcome alternative to family-oriented chatter. At least childfree friends seem to be actively thinking about the world and trying to find ways to make it better - and not just for the well-being of their immediate family. These conversations aren't always comfortable or comforting:
A childfree friend confided that lately she stays awake nights thinking about how human beings have destroyed the planet beyond repair and have lost all moral compass - wantonly destroying nature and waging war out of some destructive primal lust. She worries that our legacy of destruction will outlive our race. The other day she said, "We're going to kill each other off, no doubt, but what worries me more is how are we going to contain the mess we've made: shut off the oil wells, bury the nuclear reactors before we disappear. The world will never recover after we're gone."
This is heavy stuff for an afternoon walk on the beach and, sometimes, while listening to her dystopian scenarios I want to laugh. But, this woman is always thinking outside of the family box - sometimes to her emotional detriment. Still, these conversations are refreshing. Sheís truly concerned about the human impact on the world and isn't paralyzed by her fears. She takes positive action in various ways in her own community. Unlike most of my parented friends, she hasnít sunk comfortably into a sea of consumerism, or become obsessed to obscurity with the daily pettiness of the school system. She's out cleaning up our local conservation land trails, or helping to organize a town recycling system.
But, maybe, obscurity and individual oblivion is the ultimate appeal of childbearing. Parents create a small, seemingly safe world that is closed off from the existential terrors of the universe Ė the fears that sometimes lead to activism and positive change. When all available resources - all time and energy - are focused on the daily minutia of caring for kids, the result is a simultaneous feeling of power and safety - a very seductive combination that can ultimately lead to a cloistered life.
Childfree people, on the other hand, face the world with an individualized viewpoint every day. Childfree people donít have the reassuring emotional buffer of sublimation of individual needs to childcare. Childfree people are less caught up in a cycle of dependency, and are more likely to make important decisions based on their own values and needs. Childfree people often seek out and connect with various communities outside of the narrow confines of the nuclear family and benefit the world greatly through these connections.
Still, many childfree individuals and couples live in communities surrounded by cloistered nuclear families, with few or no childfree contacts or friends. These people may feel especially frustrated and alone in the midst of shrill Mother's Day advertising chatter perpetuating mothers as near-deities.
So, arrange an alternate holiday Ė Happy Childfree Women's Day. On Mother's Day, childfree women and their partners can celebrate an atypical, yet important, heroic role model Ė women who do not breed as form of comfort or dependency; women who consciously and lovingly do not perpetuate the human overpopulation of the planet; women who serve society in a myriad of positive ways through community service and activism and commitment to professions; women who have great value to society because they exist as strong individuals.