I am only 23 years old, naive and cheery. I don’t usually spend much time pondering death, other than when I’m hungover and clinging onto the side of the toilet. I have a grandmother who lives near me. When I visit her, she always makes sure I fill up on her delicious home-cooked West Indian food and take home cakes and macaroni pie with me. My grandmother was the woman who raised me since infancy while my mother was out working to support three children by herself. She fondly recalls my first wobbly steps, my love of spaghetti as a six year old and my kind nature. In my eyes, my grandmother has always looked the same throughout the years. Even now, she hasn’t seem to have aged much since I was six. But I know, as it takes her just a little longer to walk down the stairs or get out of the car, that she won’t be alive forever.
My sister and I are both child-free. I boldly asked her on her recent 27th birthday if she is going to have a baby with her partner and she said, incredulously “No, are you insane?!”. While my childfreedom allows me to work and enjoy time with my friends; my sister has a better job that allows her to travel, buy nice toys like her motorcycle and white car and that snazzy loft. She hosts amazing parties with hip DJs and all her Facebook photos have long lines of comments because she’s known for her lavish lifestyle, expensive style and her great parties. She’s pretty much where I want to be in 5 years (or now…).
My grandmother never expected me to have children. She said she spent her whole life taking care of children, well into her retirement, and that she would’ve liked to have seen the world. I know my grandmother loves being surrounding by loved ones. I love my grandmother deeply. She is patient, kind, funny, witty and wise. Sometimes I feel guilty I didn’t endow her with grandchildren for her to dote on in her last dying years. But it wouldn’t make sense to do something so permanent just for the short-term enjoyment of someone else. So now, when I visit my grandmother, instead of her teaching me how to change a diaper or warm infant formula, we sit on the couch and sip whiskey–reminiscing about the “old days”. I hear stories of what it is like growing up on our small island, with no electricity and no airport. I listen to what it is like to come to a cold, foreign country for the first time. I enjoy these moments with my grandmother. There won’t be any more little feet for her to take care of, but she will always have my love.
Right now, as you are reading this, you are probably wearing comfortable sweatpants and sitting in your leather office chair with a nice cup of coffee in your warm home. Like me, you are mainly sheltered from the horrors of daily life in third world countries unless you immigrated there, do missionary work or have family there. We hear some general things on the news–maybe a segment on CNN about the poverty epidemic occasionally. Whenever disaster hits, like the 2010 Haiti earthquake or the 1993 genocide in Rwanda; the public heartstrings are tugged at visual images of poor children and families living in unimaginable conditions and going through unspeakable calamities.
According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death – GLOBALISSUES.ORG
It seems almost shameful to be producing children in our comfortable, first world countries with our large homes, nice cars and abundant food while thousands of children die every day. Of course, we have to reproduce ourselves to keep the planet running and continue civilization but it is very disturbing to have whole countries of wealthy families with well-nourished, well-educated children while third world children are begging on the streets, orphaned, in jail, addicted to drugs or abused by the social system of their respective country. We see World Vision commercials on television asking us in solemn voices to spare some money for these kids who are living in extreme deprivation. But throwing money at the problem won’t make it better. The decaying social system of these countries need a complete overhaul. These people are living in constant fear and with deep insecurities. In many of these third world countries, political instability and extreme inequality needs to end. These children need basic public services such as food, clothing, education and health services as well as drug rehab and psychiatric help for the traumatizing events that likely occurred in their lives: the witnessing or involvement in bombings, shootings, murder, prostitution, drug overdosing and loss of family members.
I’m not a saint. I don’t think many of us are. We just wake up, go to work and try to make a living. But sometimes, we need to do more as first world citizens who have been fortunate to have been born into the family we have. Yes, American and Canadian children are so lucky. We have to let these governments know we are appalled and disgusted with regards to the quality of life for children in their countries. We have to write to our own governments and raise awareness for these issues. If Dancing With The Stars takes precedence over children who feel they have no hope, then really…there is no hope. I think before we have more first world babies, we need to make sure that these thousands of children who are without hope each day have something to look forward to tomorrow. Because then what kind of world are we bringing our next generation into?
This catchphrase has interested me of late; the conviction a woman must mourn over the decision to balance worklife and domestic duties like childbearing/rearing and all the things inbetween that make us sane and hygienic like bathing, socializing with friends and remembering to call our grandmothers . It seems to me, as a 22 year old beginning to navigate the murky waters of adult life, that people want me to believe I must have a desire to have both a worklife and a sparkling home full of curly haired, cherubic tots–the white gold ring on my finger included, of course. I read about “having it all” but it doesn’t register in my brain as something I need to strive after, something I must aspire to. Instead, it sounds like a recipe for disaster, exhaustion and an eterntity of mess.
It’s so simple already. Why have it all when you can have enough? For so many other Generation Y women, we are connected by technology more than anything else and right now the media is spewing out so much idealistic drivel about domestic bliss and how vital it is for a modern woman to balance her home life and work life–and what are we doing? We are listening. We are believing that this is something all of us have to mull over because if we don’t, we may be making some colossal mistake. The media is not telling us we can be content by following our dreams, becoming leaders, and earn respect in the board room as women. They are telling us “Yes, you should work…but don’t forget changing nappies at home is more important” which is a confusing message. What does this message say about our self-worth and our reliance on men and government assistance favouring mothers?
I urge women, who are thinking that they need to have it all, to ask themselves if they even want it all. Everyone says they’d love to be a famous movie star or singer but heavy is the head that wears the crown. So many famous stars were troubled and many died so young; for instance: Heath Ledger, Whitney Houston, Sid Vicious (Sex Pistols), Jim Morrison…the list goes on, unfortunately and heart-breakingly. If being rich and famous was so amazing then why did world-class boxer Joe Louis die poor–and why is Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise divorcing?
I would equate this with the concept of “having it all”. It’s probably not going to be as great as it sounds. I’m sure a long day at the office, picking up the kids from school, driving them to soccer and making a healthy dinner is the last thing on my To Do list when I get older (or even now)! Having it all to me means having everything I ever dreamt of. The loft, friends who stop by unnannounced, sunrises with good tea and dogs by my side, trips abroad and learning how to paint properly. The idea women only want a well-off husband or same-sex partner so they can stay at home needs to burn! It’s not what we want. It’s just what the media is telling everyone, drowning out the voices of women who veer off the path of domestic bliss mixed with a tiny dose of professional work life. We are strong. We are able. We are more than competent to handle the workforce, to succeed, to lead. When women realize this, they can truly have all they really need.
I’m not the first one to discover that the love of pregnancies and children is near boundless in the workplace. Women can look forward to leisurely pregnancies and early childcare due to generous maternity leave benefits, while men are also allowed time off work during this time period. Having one or two new births in the workplace is normal, as people who work full-time are able to support their family so choose it as a time to add a new addition.
I’m all gung-ho when someone announces a pregnancy or birth. If it makes the person happy, well so be it. A card of congratulations, a pat on the back and I’m back to my regular work. But at work in the last 2 weeks, two colleagues I’m close with announced a birth, and a pregnancy respectively and got me thinking. These are fun-loving, crazily hilarious, freedom-loving guys who are both 30. One is from India (Manny*) and the other from China (Lee). With the arrival of Manny’s son, he cut his awesome long black hair and his goatee and came to work looking completely different. Then, he left work and went to a new second job to support his new family. I have not said more than “Hi” or “Bye” to him in two weeks, though I’m curious to how he’s holding up.
I wonder if the pressure to marry and have kids at age 30 is something Lee and Manny really wanted for themselves or if it was forced upon them by familial and cultural traditions that is deeply rooted in their identities and spans back thousands of years. When asking Lee how he felt about having kids, his anwers lack enthusiasm. It sounds like he doesn’t have much choice. And it got me to thinking about how much culture and family traditions affect a person’s choice to procreate. Manny loved his job as sous chef, and I suspect he’s none too happy about driving across town to a second job until 10:00pm at night.
I found in an article online that read “Marriage in Hinduism is not just a mutual contract between two individuals or a relationship of convenience but a social contract and moral expediency, in which the couple agree to live together and share their lives, doing their respective duties to keep the divine order and the institution of family intact. In traditional Hinduism, some common obligations include 1) participate in the creation of progeny 2) work for the welfare of the family 3)Respect the Hindu dharma and family traditions by performing the obligatory duties, various samskars and rituals.”
While we enjoy the freedom to make the choice of being childfree without family alienation and extreme cultural stigma, people from other cultures do not and it helps to be sensitive to the fact. While we are starting our own traditions different from our foremothers; others are choosing to honour older ones. And as there is countless reasons not to reproduce, there are also many reasons that compel others to do so. Whether for religious or cultural duties, some people may honour this above personal opinion and choice.
Every man in the world knows that Father’s Day is complete bullshit. That’s why none of us bat an eye when it comes around. Men don’t like to waste their time getting bent out of shape because of a bunch of nonsense.
We men also know that if you want to do something nice for a man, you just do it. You don’t make a big fucking deal out of it. You don’t act like you deserve a prize for stopping off at Best Buy on the way home from getting your hair done and spending more of that very same man’s money on a gift certificate.
I may be a cynic when it comes to Fathers’ Day because it seems like such a snobby holiday. It seems like such a dumbass thing to celebrate when one third of children live without their fathers in the United States. How do kids that have suffered from turbulent divorces and child support wars feel about this holiday? Or men who have been duped into fatherhood by women who cheated on their birth control? Lots of shotgun weddings there, I’m sure. I think Father’s Day sucks.
There are proud fathers out there. Good men who enjoy fatherhood and are good to their children. And then there are those douches who beat their wives, come home drunk and still get the meritous medal of being called a father. It seems the title “Father” is a blanket that wrongs all sins. Being a father means you are stable, you take care of your woman and your young; basically you’re an all-around good guy. Well, let’s raise a glass to the dads in the world who deserve the credit. And a Molotov cocktail for those men who don’t.
Childfree Men: Misunderstood and Often Maligned!
Childfree men fly under the radar screen more often than their female counterparts. In our culture, the role of father is not deemed essential in the life of a man. For women, on the other hand, many consider being a mother to be a chief purpose in life. Some people go so far as to propose that this is a woman’s main reason for existing. But men who do not become dads are still viewed with suspicion, and they often get a bad rap! They are often thought to be immature little boys who never grew up and whose primary goal in life is to play.
This stereotype of the little boy in a man’s body is even placed onto Hollywood actors. Take George Clooney, for example; he’s labeled as a playboy and perceived by many as immature and self-focused. The reality about George is that he is extremely hardworking and accomplished in his field, and he has ongoing involvements in philanthropic pursuits around the world. Just one is the ONE Campaign, dedicated to fighting poverty in Africa. Hugh Grant is similarly perceived and is also quite outspoken and involved in activities that help others. Neither of these men have had the distractions of a family to interfere with their career or civic goals.
The other day I took a subway ride down to my sister’s trendy loft in an area that is undergoing gentrification. It was as if I stepped into a totally different universe than the one I was accustomed to, living uptown. Instead of new mothers in Lululemon pushing pricy strollers in momterages; there were sharply dressed gay couples, handsome bachelors getting off work and loads of young, ambitious and talkative men and women coming and going to their various destinations. Wait, people like me. Some had dogs, some had Chinese takeout, others carried guitars. Some wore Toms, a few wore Christian Louboutin. It was as if a different energy had begun to generate and everyone emulated a very sense of freedom and independence with their lives. It was as if you could strike up a conversation with any random individual, and hear something very interesting.
For those of us who live in a very family oriented area, it is wonderful to be in areas where kids’ birthday parties aren’t the most exciting event. So how do we navigate where to go and what to do without finding scores of places designed for families? I kinda put something together!
–Go to events not geared towards kids. For instance, dog lovers can enjoy two days of great fun with Woof Stock ; beer lovers can sip and cruise the street with Toronto Festival of Beer; there is the Green Living Show for environmentalists; various local and alternative bands and music gatherings as well as specific child-free events in major cities.
Additionally , Toronto has a social club for childfree people called “No Kidding”. http://www.nokidding.net/
-Go to areas frequented by young professionals and couples. When looking for a road trip last summer, I by-passed family-friendly Sandbanks Provincial Park beaches for a more adult beach a few hours away. I delighted in smaller doses of children there while luxuriating in some R&R.
Certain neighbourhoods like Liberty Village, King Street and St Lawrence Market are less family oriented than Leslieville, the Danforth and Forest Hill in Toronto. Being aware of what neighbourhood caters to which demographic in your city can help you spend more time in a vibrant, young area.
–Get involved in adult activities. No, I don’t mean THOSE adult activities. Naughty, naughty. Sign up for a summer soccer team, or go to a park that offers adult beach volleyball (Ashbridge’s Bay).
You can try learning the tango on Sundays or volunteering with organizations that need people who are 18+ like at the Cavalcade of Lights event or Nuite Blanche (an all night art festival).
You get to socialize with other adults whose life focuses are on things other than kids, which is always refreshing! It is also a good idea for parents who are trying to get some individual time.
–Participate in at least one hobby at week. This means if you are learning surfing, you will be around people who are passionate about beaches, water and sports. If your hobby is photography, you can talk equipment and travel and all sorts of random stuff with fellow photographers at some cool destinations in and around your city like the CN Tower or the Scarborough Bluffs.
Make it a part of your routine to stop by your favourite bookstore and browse the sale section, or to call up a friend or relative and do something different like the Zombie Walk or even a protest for a pressing issue in your city.
As I peruse my Facebook in my pajamas at home, I notice my cousin “Emma” in England with that cute-as-a-button baby she just had post pictures of herself with friends. My local other cousin, “Lorraine” has ‘liked’ her photos and posted comments regarding motherhood and how it’s nice mothers got out once in a while. I raise a cynical eyebrow and my mind goes to all the pictures I’ve posted…none have garnered so much as one word from Lorraine.
Before she had her second baby and moved to the suburbs from Toronto, she commented often on my FaceBook page and sent frequent text messages–interested in how my family is doing and how life was going. Going over to her place and having wine, I remember conversations about traveling, our grandaunt that passed away and college/university. Her now-husband had been a funny, charming guy and I was so happy for them and their plans to marry. Once Lorraine swapped her BMW for a minivan, her job for full-time SAHM and her stunning townhouse for suburban detached home…she changed. Her life is 100% completely about her children and family-life, and her Facebook dominated with Twitter posts and photos pertaining to motherhood and kids. Even though I occasionally leave comments on her wall, they are never responded too.
I can only assume it would be different if I had a child. The ostracizing that I am receiving, even if she may not even be consciously aware, is because I am a non-mother. Yes, I occasionally post things about being Child-Free on Facebook, but I make sure it is witty and innocent. I leave the very opinionated stuff for private groups. It seems ridiculous to eschew your own cousins just because they haven’t reproduced. I know we share so many things in common–we went to the same school, we love traveling, we love cooking; heck… we’re first cousins, we’re blood. I even actually like her kids. They’re cute as hell. Her son looks like my brother when he was a kid.
I know it’s one of those “you have to be a mom to understand” kinda things but unless you’re begrudging at non-mothered women or want our lifestyle, than there is no reason to avoid people you used to be close to. I could never imagine myself ignoring friends and family who were living their lives without kids, if I was a mother. But I’m not. I could always discuss other things…because there ARE other things to discuss. But if becoming a modern day mama means that I can’t relate to other people…I’m certainly having no regrets.