Ann Curry (I love you Ann Curry!) guided a segment on the Today Show about the childfree choice, interviewing – among others – Two Is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice author Laura Scott.
Curry opened the segment by explaining that although it “may go against conventional wisdom,” the lives of childfree women are “as fulfilling” as the lives of women who have children.
- All women want children
- A woman without a child is living an unfulfilled life
- A woman without children must find other ways to fill her time/plug the “hole” created by the absence of children
- A woman without children will fill that hole by finding other ways to include children in her life
Conventional wisdom conclusion:
Women who don’t want children still want to be maternal toward children. If they really don’t want to be, they should probably at least pretend they do.
In the second Sex and the City movie, Carrie Bradshaw explains to a couple she and Big meet at a wedding that although she loves kids, she really does, she and Big won’t be having any.
Even real-life women who don’t want children will often preface their “No, thanks,” with, “I love kids, really, I do, but…”
Because Ann Curry prepared me for a segment that would go against conventional wisdom, I – like “Bootsy,” who also wrote about this interview on her blog “Kids is Crap” – hoped to see a new conversation about the childfree life, one that explained the choice as a natural option and explored the wide variety of things women who didn’t have children were doing instead of being parents (skydiving, working, volunteering, walking their dogs and eating French bread, taking pictures, or, sure, caring for children in need or being an auntie).
The segment began promisingly, with freelance writer Lelit Marcus discussing reactions she received to her New York Post column “I Don’t Want Kids, but When Will Society Stop Judging Me for That? and answering Today Show correspondent and My Fortytude author Sarah Brokaw‘s question about whether she’s ever second-guessed her decision.
[Note: While people rarely ask parents if they’ve ever second-guessed their decisions (if they have, it’s too late), it’s perfectly natural to wonder, and ask, whether the childfree have had doubts about their choice because it’s a statistically abnormal choice, and because they still have time to change their minds.]
I admire Marcus for saying quite honestly that she’d always felt that, as the oldest sibling, it was her duty to be the first to have kids. It can be all too tempting, as a defense mechanism, to say, “Never! I’ve never second-guessed myself! Stop trying to bingo me!”
Second-guessing choices is natural. It’s healthy.
But second-guessing doesn’t mean secretly-wanting-children-and-almost-certain-this-choice-will-be-regretted-when-we’re-all-alone-on-our-deathbeds.
As confident as Marcus was while explaining her decision to not have children, she (rather, her part of the segment) quickly set the tone that would be carried throughout the piece, which was less, “Women live full lives without children, and they can still be perfectly loveable, ‘real’ women even if they have absolutely nothing to do with children ever,” and more, “Women and children just go together. Face it.”
At about 30 seconds in to the segment, we learned that Marcus, as a child, “loved playing with dolls,” and that she “was the star babysitter in the neighborhood.”
Translation: Whew – she’s still maternal!
At 36 seconds in, Marcus delivered the stock phrase of the childfree: “I really enjoyed being around children, but…”
Subtle messages suggesting women are missing something by not having children, that not having children is a decision made by women who value “career over children” (as if that’s the choice to be made), or that the decision isn’t necessarily final, continue.
1:35: Narration: “Freedom, independence, and fulfillment in other aspects of life…” Sound: Happy, light music. Video: Women walking quickly on a busy city sidewalk ala J.C. Wyatt in 1987’s “Career or motherhood?” movie Baby Boom.
1:39: Continued narration: “…have led some women today to choose a childfree lifestyle.” Sound: Sad, mournful music. Video: Still, empty playground swings and a playhouse as deserted as our lonely wombs, olde-style camera filter creating a sense that these are memories and joys forever lost in the life that never was.
1:46: Brokaw said to Marcus, “You’re very convincing in the argument that you make about choosing not to have children (adding quickly) at this point in your life.”
Wait. “Argument?” What’s to argue? At “this point” in her life? Subtext: “You still might change your mind.”
Today Show correspondent Dr. Joy Taylor stepped in, saying that although women might question their childfree choice now and then, “they have made a conscious decision that to be a woman and to live a fulfilled life, having a child doesn’t necessarily have to be a factor in that.”
Well, okay. Thank you, Dr. Taylor.
“I think that it’s about women really figuring out where their energy levels raise. What is their authentic voice telling them? And it may not be about mothering, but it could be a calling that’s related to children. That could be being a teacher, social worker, congresswomen, um, nurse practitioner, physician… And I feel like what happens is that society looks at women as child bearers, and that’s how we’re supposed to define our success as women, where, not necessarily. I think there are other ways in which women can relate to children, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to be moms.“
But why? Why must we relate to children at all?
Can we not simply be women who have absolutely no interactions with children, no interest in them whatsoever, and still be completely fulfilled, utterly content, and – this might go against conventional wisdom – “normal”?