A response to Sarah B. Weir’s reaction to the childfree TIME issue

The current issue of TIME magazine discusses people who choose not to have children.

Writes Yahoo! Shine writer (and mother) Beth Greenfield,

What does “having it all” mean? Not having kids, according to the latest sure-to-be-controversial issue of Time magazine.

I don’t know why it’s “sure-to-be-controversial,” since it’s not like childfree people want to poke people in the eyes with sharp sticks as part of their childfree lifestyle, but I guess it’s time to accept that one person’s decision to not have children will raise “controversy” hackles in others.

In a Yahoo chat session between Greenfield and Yahoo! Shine Senior Writer Sarah B. Weir (Greenfield recorded the chat), Weir makes no effort to conceal her negative perception of childfree people (well, women, really), beginning with her description of the couple on the front cover as “lazy yuppies” (surely a different reaction than she’d have had if the subject were, “Parents take a vacation”).

Weir’s responses are so passionate that I had to insert myself into the conversation. After all, who knows more about being childfree than someone who’s childfree?

In the following faux transcript, I respond to Weir’s original remarks, copied directly from her commentary in “Is Being Childfree Selfish?” (a question that alone makes me want to giggle, because that conversation is so tired – and decided, the answer a confident “no”).

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Sarah B. Weir, Shine Senior Writer: Alright, they look like lazy yuppies to me.

Sylvia, Childfree Woman (who was able to go to Jamaica a few years ago thanks to the extra cash): Is it the smiles? The sand? Their age?

Do you have that reaction when you see anyone lying happily on the beach, or just people who don’t have children?

SBW: The matching swimsuits reek of self-satisfied, in-your-face DINKS [double income no kids].

Sylvia, a DINK: My husband and I never wear matching clothes. But we do see a lot of parents dressing themselves and their kids in matching clothes for pictures. Should we assume they’re smug, too, and trying to be in-our-faces about their happiness? We hate happy people.

SBW: As a working mom myself, … I wonder why I, feminist that I purport to be, have a knee-jerk reaction when I hear that women (and also men, but less so) don’t want to have kids. The other day, my husband said that one of his colleagues, in her early 30s, definitely doesn’t want to have kids. I immediately went to “selfish, narcissistic.” What is that about?

Sylvia, in her late 30s and definitely doesn’t want kids: Beth asked, “Do you think it could be partially that you are envious of her gall?” I second that. Except, strike the “gall” part, because there’s very little that’s particularly bold about not wanting kids – or even (heaven forbid) admitting it out loud. So, just the first part, about you possibly being envious.

SBW: I wouldn’t ever give up the experience of being a mom. I think it’s that, somewhere back in my primitive brain, I see it as “natural” to have kids, and weird not to have that desire. Of course there are many reasons—economic, environmental—that might make it extremely reasonable not to have kids.

Sylvia, a perfectly natural woman: Thanks for allowing that there are “reasonable” reasons, but we don’t need any reasons. Granted, some have them – financial, environmental, etc. – but others, like me, just. don’t. want. them.

Like you (but on the other end of the spectrum), I would never give up the experience of living a life without children, and I think my life experience of never having wanted children often makes me wonder why anyone would choose to have them. But, even while I wonder, I also understand not everyone is like me, so I never think of people who make different choices as “unnatural.”

SBW: I have two stepkids and one daughter, but sometimes I feel somewhat selfish—and lazy—for only having one biological kid. Like, you aren’t a “real mom” unless you have four! At the same time that birthrates are dropping, I’m seeing a trend in rich parents and celebs (like Heidi Klum or Reese Witherspoon) popping out three or four. In a way, in our culture, being a “real mom” is equated with being a “real woman.”

Sylvia, a biological female: The selfishness angle is one people often use to attack the childfree, and even women who only have one child, but it’s not a logical approach. Our decision to not have children (or yours to have just one biological child) hurts no one, takes nothing from anyone. You wanted to have a kid (yes?), so you had one. We want none, so we have none.

The couple on the TIME cover – why does their happiness vex you? It can’t be just the matching suits. (Although, some people really hate that matchy-matchy cutesy stuff. I get it.) Is it that you are so convinced that your way is the only way that you assume anyone not doing or wanting what you do or want is “wrong”?

SBW: That’s a good point. We sometimes project our decisions onto others as the right or only way to go. There’s so much underlying pressure to have kids though. I’m sure it’s hard to be childless in a society that still promotes the nuclear family as the absolute norm. And European countries are actively promoting higher birthrates. Did you see that British fertility campaign photo of the old-looking pregnant TV presenter saying she wished she’d have kids earlier? Scare tactics.

Sylvia, a woman who’s been pressured to have kids: Well, you’re doing your part. It’s reactions like yours to the TIME cover that add to the pressure society heaps on women to procreate. Could that maybe (I’m being sincere) be why you feel like you’re not a “real” mother unless you continue to have more kids? This brings me back to the envy Beth mentioned earlier. Could it be you sneer at us because we had the “gall” to not cave to the pressure and live the life we’re told we’re “supposed” to? (And that, worse, we’re really, really enjoying it?)

SBW: I do wonder if some women who are adamant about not having kids will have a late change of heart, which can be so traumatic. Another thought about this whole topic is that the dialogue for women in our age bracket has been so motherhood-focused—the mommy wars, working moms, stay at home moms, etc. Maybe now the dialogue is going to shift from that to “Why have kids at all?”

Sylvia, who has always wondered “Why have kids at all?”: Oh, don’t worry about women changing their minds later. There’s always adoption. And it beats changing your mind after having them, you know what I’m sayin’?

Seriously, though – we’re just as competent at decision making as you are. We don’t need other women worrying that we’re making the wrong choice. Just like you don’t need us questioning whether you’re going to be truly happy with kids.

SBW: I’d like to hear more from those who chose not to have kids.

Sylvia, happy to talk: What do you want to know? Maybe these 60 seconds will help answer a question or two.

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7 thoughts on “A response to Sarah B. Weir’s reaction to the childfree TIME issue

  1. Steven D. Timm

    Good article!! I am the poster child of the childfree life!! I am 35 years old and have no girlfriend, wife or kids, have no wish for them and I could not be happier!! I feel that marriage and kids is a call and an office that God calls you to. I have never felt nor received that call. I feel one of the biggest travesties of this current culture are people who have kids and then don’t want them and don’t take the time, energy and patience that it takes to raise kids. There are plenty of people out there that have been called to the family life and are trying to have kids but cannot. Those are the people whom the family thing is for!! People who actually want to have a spouse and children!! They will take the time and energy that it takes to raise a family. And they will be good at it!! I have a good friend that could not wait to get his family started right out of High School. He is now married with two kids and he could not be happier and he is excellent at it!!

    I don’t feel either lifestyle is worthy of critique. If it works for you and fits into what God is calling you to do and works with your hearts desires, then that is the path you should travel.

    Anyway, just my two cents on the issue!! (Actually, with the long post, it was more like my four cents!!) :)

    Take Care guys and catch you on the web!!

    Steve Timm

  2. Bravo! Humor is the only way to respond to that ridiculous “article.” Here’s another thought: Surely, there are reporters in the world, who could have approached the subject matter without bias (childfree, or not).

    My husband and I are in our mid-40, married almost 15 years, together almost 16 years. We did not “forget” to have children, like a set of lost keys. Our lives, and our family, is complete, as it is. But, I find it funny when folks ask us if we “still plan to have children.” Uh, no. Pregnant at 45? Are you kidding? LOL

    GREAT RESPONSE to an “article” that should never have been written. Childfree families are not “news,” nor are we the latest “fad.”

  3. Funny post. When it comes to the knee-jerk reaction – “they look like lazy yuppies ” – I think its simply that many people with kids never for one second considered that there was an alternative.

    It’s the same feeling you have when you pick the wrong line at the grocery store. You know, the one that looks shortest but turns out to have the checker that can’t stop texting and the old man who questions the price of every item (“Price checks on aisles 1 through 20!”), and the lady that pays with a checkbook …which she doesn’t start looking for until she gets her total ten minutes in and then she can’t find it in her over-sized purse.

    “Now where’d I put that pen…?”

    Meanwhile, you just stand there fuming as you watch all the other lines move past you. You could have picked another line – the signs were there if you had looked – but you didn’t. Its too late now though. Got to ride it out.

    But that doesn’t mean you don’t hate all those other carefree people just zooming through their lines. :)

  4. Bad Puppy!

    Dude, what is UP with her concern trolling? I don’t buy that she’s “concerned” or “worried” for women being “traumatized” by not popping out babies at all. I believe she is jealous and is actually HOPING we all desperately regret it so she can feel smug about all her pointless suffering.

    1. I have the same reaction to the expressed “concern” and addressed it in an editorial I wrote to the Washington Post (waiting to hear back – they take 2 to 6 business days, so I’m sitting on it until Thursday, and if they don’t take it I’ll be posting it here).

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