Being human; accepting depression

Just this week I discovered an old friend had gone to meet his maker. Now normally when someone tells me this I cluck sympathetically and wonder “was he sick?” It’s nicer to think of someone being released from a sickness or going into the light than ponder why someone would choose to end his life.  Yet my friend made this decision, he reached such a dark place that there was no other way forward for him and he ended it. So instead of the clucks and understanding nods, there are the averted gazes, shuffles and “shit man, that’s crap.” Even after death, it seems we still can’t handle depression.

According to Aware as many as 300,000 people in Ireland currently have depression and over 500 take their own lives each year. We have all heard of depression and sufferers yet what do we really know and why do so many feel they cannot come forward. Why are there still so many suffering in silence? Perhaps it’s the old stigma attached to it or perhaps it’s the fast paced world in which we live that seems to have no time for people suffering depression. “Social media depression” appears to be one of the latest forms of depression: a term for people left feeling depressed and emotional as a result of using social media. Online bullying can be a direct cause, as can jealousy because of pictures or stories shared by friends. On top of this the amount of people replacing real friends with technology is increasing and depression and loneliness and take hold.

It seems most of us have felt the loneliness and helplessness of depression at some stage; sometimes in lesser more manageable waves. Often it is triggered by the loss of a job or a family member. For others, the trigger is less visible and one morning out of the blue the dark cloud just refuses to lift.  So many people walk around under the darkest cloud everyday afraid to show weakness, afraid no one will care. Yet for others it is a constant battle. I have heard depression described as selfish, yet the people I have met are soldiers battling daily. Depression is not a choice; it is not a person’s conscious decision to suffer from depression.

Aware chief executive, Geraldine Clare describes depression in Ireland as ”under-reported and under-diagnosed, and in many ways a hidden illness in this country.” How many people suffer in silence? Until it’s talked about and accepted, it’s not our problem right? Once we don’t have it… The truth is it’s everywhere today and it seems less people can fight it. The truth is ‘different’ is still stigmatized, ‘weakness’ is still stigmatized and society still wants us all to fit in its neat little boxes. So we swallow down the pain and pretend it’s not real; whether it’s ours or someone else’s. In the wild, an animal will cry or strike out when in pain. We are told to take pills, suck it up and it will all go away.

Ronald Reagan once said “Recession is when a neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours.” In a time when it seems that many of our leaders have forgotten us: their people and more and more people are losing jobs and homes we need to unite even more. Recession breeds depression and mental health is our wealth. Depression is a lonely place full of stigma and judgement. Sufferers of depression are often fighting a constant and lonely battle to just seem normal; to simply live. Until depression stops being taboo; we embrace and try to understand it, too many people will be left alone in the dark and too many families will be left broken.

 

Interesting sites:

http://www.irishhealth.com/article.html?id=10867

http://health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/depression/questions/social-media-depression.htm

http://www.geeksugar.com/Social-Media-Bad-You-31165748

http://www.medicaldaily.com/heavy-facebook-usage-linked-declines-happiness-social-media-platform-making-you-depressed-251415

http://www.aware.ie/

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Should children be allowed to pee in public?

A woman lifted her child over a trash can in Richmond, Canada and allowed him to pee in the can. The picture has caused uproar and even opened a whole can of racist worms. The most shocking thing here is that a picture was taken without the parents’ consent of a child with his pants down and this picture went viral. Last week we were all still talking about ‘Slane girl’ and how young she was. The fear of allegations of child porn caused many sites to block the pictures and even suspend accounts. Now a toddler with his pants down is all over the internet. For all the steps we as parents take to protect our children, the privacy settings we adopt on Facebook and other social media sites to protect photographs of our families; this picture made it through and kept going.

Of course the picture received a mixture of responses. Many unfortunately quite racist as it was believed the woman was from mainland China. However if you read the comments and tweets from online users, it becomes abundantly clear that no matter what country or ethnic group we come from, everyone is different and everyone’s beliefs are different. Although many appeared shocked by the photograph, it was the other responses which really took me by surprise. Anything from “when he’s gotta go, he’s gotta go” to “she was probably far away from the toilets.” It appears that to many that there is no issue here as he is only a toddler taking a pee albeit in a very open and public place.

So I bit my tongue for the last few days, questioning my values; looking inward to my modern mum vs. earth mother personal apps and wondered what on earth was wrong with me? My friends practice attachment parenting; I am an advocate of parents, no matter what their style; once their children are loved and taken care of. I have always seen myself as quite liberal. So what bigger picture was I missing? Then I realized I had fallen into the ‘pc world’ where everything can be explained away and is acceptable. My kids have peed behind trees in parks and squatted behind doors on long car trips. It is part of life; you gotta pee, you gotta pee. Yet I never held them over a trash can in the middle of a busy shopping center. There is a limit to what is acceptable and what is fair. The truth is I don’t believe peeing in a trash can is acceptable and no I didn’t find it amusing when Justin Bieber peed in a mop backstage. Am I the only one who worries what we are teaching future generations when we not only teach them to pee in trash cans but assist them? Where has discretion, tact and public etiquette disappeared to?

The picture was taken inside Richmond Centre Mall, where I am sure there are plenty of bathrooms. An e-mail from Richmond Centre Mall later stated “we have these facilities throughout the common areas of the mall.” Having potty trained two girls I’ve had to do the shot putt run on many occasions and carried around spare clothes in my magic Mary Poppins bag; with everything from arnica to liga, pull ups, knickers and trousers. I have been the mother who had to red faced go ask for a mop as my child couldn’t hold it. However my children were thought to go in the toilet or behind a tree if in a park. This was a shopping center trash can; he was standing on it in full view of everyone. A trash can that other members of the public were going to use and I really do dread to think of the refuse man. What if there was a rip in the bag? I mean what next? Shovel dog poo into bins instead of neatly wrapped poo bags. It’s just not civilized. And I know what you’re thinking he is a child. I have used that excuse so many times with my own. “She’s only little…. She’ll learn.” But how; if we don’t show them?

Surely it was unfair to put that child in such a vulnerable position and to teach him that peeing in a trash can is acceptable. As care givers and parents, we have a responsibility to protect and to guide young children. His actions not only set a bad example for him but also for any children around him watching. Have we let the extra money, hours and nonstop parenting market go to our heads? Do we believe that we can completely ignore the code of social etiquette because we know best? Or is it, as Paula Abernstein (babble.com) states “a case of parental entitlement. It’s this sort of behavior that gives today’s parents a bad name.” Perhaps in some matters, our parents had it right? They say this generation of children will be called ‘the rainbow children’ as they have more than any generation before. The question is; are we allowing them too much and not teaching them enough? To instill confidence and self-respect you must feed it and remember what we do today will form our children for the future.

Sites of interest:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2013/08/30/bc-boy-urinating-richmond.html?cmp=rss

http://o.canada.com/2013/09/01/richmond-mall-peeing/

http://www.babble.com/mom/dont-let-your-kids-pee-in-public-please/

http://blogs.babycenter.com/mom_stories/should-kids-pee-in-public/

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When the hoarding becomes too much…

1335363985385 My sister reckons I’m raising pack rats, who will be unable to function without the first hat they ever wore, that treasured ‘first Christmas’ bauble or the clamp from their umbilical cord.

Having forcing closed THAT cupboard once more; I fear she may be right. It all started quite innocently enough. The first baby and only grandchild meant baby books, photo albums, record books… and everything was kept meticulously well to begin with. Short notes on baby’s weight, time of birth, first day at home, baby’s routine and visitors are adorned with lovely pictures. A few pages in later and photographs are half glued, notes are half scribbled and have given way to complete ramblings about poo colour, food reactions and ‘first time you peed on Daddy,’ ‘the time you puked on uncle John’ segments that read more like a book written by a demented mother who follows her child around with pen and paper. When in reality, said demented mum was scribbling her illegible notes whilst half dozing in a chair during those precious moments when baby was actually asleep. First tooth, first grin (probably wind but who cares) first step, first fall, first crawl, first toy… the list is endless and now almost 7 yrs. later the rag eared book is brimming with scribbled notes at the back. Who ever said stop recording? No.2’s baby book is a little sparser on the photographs, typical; there never seems to be as much time or free hands to record each consecutive baby as there was with the first! However I am proud to say that no.2’s baby book is almost as crammed with post its and chicken scratch writing as No.1’s.

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The baby books still sit proudly on the book shelf; a proclamation of devotion to our kids and to our own organizational skills. The baby boxes are hidden away in cupboard and occasionally dusted off and analysed with gusto by the girls as they ooh, aah and laugh whilst trying to make their baby hat fit their head now. Each of the girls has a special box (a gift ironically from my sister.) And in each box there are the usual congratulations on your beautiful daughter cards, clamps from the umbilical cords, first baby hats and bootees, hospital bracelets, baptism candles, first tickets to the zoo etc… and a precious rattle or favourite soft toy… perfectly normal, right? After all they only take up a tiny portion of the cupboard or dumping ground as hubby has fondly christened it. You see the rest of the cupboard is brimming with folders of firsts: the first time no.1 drew a sun, the first time no.2 drew a sun, the first time no.1 painted by herself, the first time no.2 drew our family… not to mention the first hand prints, the first foot prints, the ABC’s I thought them, the first time they signed their names… talk about a paper trail. Still I can’t seem to bear to part with them. I did begrudgingly commit some doubles of our early stick figure family to the recycling, but there are still so many more dog eared pages floating around and “they look so cute” plus “she spent so long on it” and “she managed to colour inside the lines.”  Then there is the seasonal art projects: every Christmas we make paper chains and little bells covered in glitter, Halloween sees paper witches flying cross our window, St. Patrick’s day means toilet roll inserts of St. Patrick… the list is endless… of course seven years later we could decorate the house from top to bottom.

Occasionally I think of my big cupboard and all the things we could do with it, the toys we could keep in it, the messy arts box that could be hidden in it, the linen that could sit in it… Still it’s full to the brim with memories and every year, they grow. So during the summer, when my 7yr old proudly took home all her work from school; my heart swelled with pride but at the back of my head, all I saw was my cupboard bulging at the seams. As she laid out all the work her little hands had done and we cuddled on the couch, I realized that it was her that I was proud of, not the dust gathering cupboard or its contents. So together we picked one or two nice pictures and stuck them on the fridge. Bob Dylan wrote “Take care of all your memories. For you cannot relive them.” Sure it’s nice to keep some memories for when they are older but I’ve realized that the more I keep the less they become special. So in honour of her new school work and her sisters developing handwriting, I have called a cull on the cupboard and already the recycling bag is filling. The baby boxes will stay; although emptied of zoo tickets, birthday cards and cinema stubs they seem a lot more manageable. After all I have to make room for all the memories still to come and no amount of cupboards or scrap books could hold the magic of my girl’s laughter, their cuddles or each day with them which brings another memory.

Interesting reading:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carolyn-mckibbin/hoarding-symptoms_b_3567535.html

http://www.tinystepsmommy.com/2013/03/25/hoardingbabymemories/

http://spoonful.com/crafts

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Someone else’s daughter; {sentencing by social media}

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Social media has definitely opened our eyes, allowed for easier and instant communication; undoubtedly making the world ‘a smaller place’ but at what price? It seems that  social media has provided a dangerous arena where those unfortunate enough are trapped, beaten and spat on by an audience who waits impatiently for the next victim.

In the past week, social media has been buzzing with stories of cyber bullying and online ‘slut attacks.’ In the same week that Ask.fm agreed to tighten regulations on their site due to the recent suicides linked to cyber bullying on their website; a 17 yr. old had to be sedated when pictures appeared on a social media site of her pleasuring two boys at Slane. The public out roar and the onslaught of abuse she received from social media sites was nothing short of a witch hunt. It was only when a question arose over her age those online sites all but shut down in a frantic effort to rid themselves of incriminating images that could possibly be seen as child porn. A bit like the machine turning against its master, users ignored site warnings not to post or distribute the offending images and several accounts were suspended. This young girl was initially daubed ‘Slane girl’ amidst demands to ‘name and shame and condemnation as a slut.’ A bright girl with a future of endless possibilities now stares down a bleak tunnel where one mistake may never go away and anonymous bloggers have emotionally scarred her for life.

The ease and speed of transmission, the instant photos and instant messaging seem so wonderful and advanced, yet should come with a warning. Hasty comments once seen cannot be undone and already many people have lost jobs and friends over internet blunders. Hannah Smith and many more were at the receiving end of many anonymous cowards who hid behind a computer, so wrapped up in their own little bubble that they forgot or just didn’t care about who was on the other end. More and more people are refusing to use social media and demanding that pictures of them be taken down from sites. It seems our privacy has never been more in question or in danger. Life and growing up has never been more difficult as every moment good or bad is captured often not just on camera but on public social  media platforms. Even more people are slowly pulling back from the likes of Twitter to avoid the wrath of online bullies. As any celebrity will tell you it’s not big brother we should be wary of, rather social media and it’s all too ready firing squads. As Pete Cashmere (Mashable CEO) noted “Privacy is dead, and social media hold the smoking gun.”

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From the moment Michaela McCollum and Melissa Reid were caught couriering drugs, the whispers and comments of “stupid girls, they deserved it and ‘drugs mugs” started even before the details were known. When news emerged that they claim to have been threatened with their lives; a more compassionate society would have voiced concern but the sniggers could be felt in almost every mainstream article and online tweet. They were slated and as though the horrendous attack from media and online commentators wasn’t enough, newspapers began producing pictures of nightclub hostess Michaela McCollum Connolly wearing skimpy stage dance wear as if to say this is no innocent woman. Even the reports of Peruvian drug lords grooming such young girls cannot save these girls from the wrath of the internet. It is too easy for people to sit on the other side of a computer; cast judgement and type nasty comments. Regardless of whether they were forced to carry drugs or not, it seems the media and its masses have largely made up their minds. According to Jiddu Krishnamurti, “The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.”

“Are these girls really victims or did they see a way of making a fast buck believing they’re smarter than the authorities who have been chasing silly girls like them for years?” (Carole Malone, Daily Mirror.) “They should be locked up and raped….” “They deserved it….” “Stupid smug faces…” (You Tube) the public trial it seems is already in session. Undoubtedly they did a terrible thing and made the biggest mistake; of which details are still emerging and which they will probably pay for with a huge portion of their lives. Do we really need to feed them to the lions? At 20 years old most young women are partying; living life to the full; doing crazy things and the dread of adult responsibility and mortality seem so far away. Michaela and Melissa are suddenly looking at possibly three years imprisonment even before they are sentenced but already they have been hung, drawn and quartered by the media and the anonymous voices of the internet. Some internet commentators have already started to point fingers at the parents. The truth is no matter how well we raise our children; we must hope and pray that as adults they make the right decisions. It is easy to watch smugly from the side-lines and boast about our wonderful children who would surely never do that, but the truth is you never know. What if it was your daughter?

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Mark Terebin) in the defence of Ask.fm argued “it is necessary to go deeper and to find a root of a problem.” I agree; social media is merely a tool; a vehicle for our voices. There is something fundamentally wrong with a society who engages in witch hunts and bullying online especially of vulnerable young people. It is also worrying that many of the same social media voices who displayed outrage and disgust at the way victims of cyber bullies on Ask.fm were treated are now happy to join in the lynch mob against Michaela McCollum and Melissa Reid. Perhaps the most frightening thing about social media is how instant it is and how unapologetic. We see something and judge without thinking. People cease to be moving, feeling, breathing organisms. Instead they are mere pictures or videos on a screen and any grimace or look can be misinterpreted and spread across the world within seconds. After all who is the person in the picture, or on the other side? The truth is it is a person, some one’s brother/ sister, mother/father, friend….Social media is a gift and it is being wasted. If you have nothing good to post, then don’t post anything at all. Perhaps if society could practice more compassion, more understanding instead of intimidation and derision; we could teach our children to be better people. So let’s stop the trolls, the nasty comments, the endless judgements and aspersions cast. Some part of our social media experiment is failing; in between the keyboard and screen our compassion as humans is being lost and we are losing society as we know it.

 

Resources and some sites of interest:

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/08/23/latvia-askfm-to-mature-after-teen-suicide-uproar/#ixzz2cvI9e2gs

http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/judgement

http://www.irishcentral.com/news/Michaella-McCollum-Connolly-moved-to-Lima-prison-to-await-trial-for-drug-smuggling-220931811.html

http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/michaellas-pain-irish-models-distress-after-she-is-formally-charged-29516820.html

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/social-media-firms-try-to-block-images-of-slane-sex-act-1.1499695

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/gardai-to-question-slane-teenager-in-the-next-day-or-so-240608.html

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/gardai-given-user-details-from-askfm-240539.html

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“Sore bottoms & hoarse throats” – Disciplining with love

Unless…..

“Unless we go park….” “unless we get ice-cream…” My 4 yr old has discovered the power of the ultimatum. Where before a trip to the shops, the bank or worse…. the post office heralded a sigh and the occasional gripping hold of the couch in defiance. Now she stomps her foot and demands “unless we go park too.” Of course I am not giving in…. well okay on occasion when it means actually getting out the door. I know Supernanny Jo Frost would not be impressed! The truth is we normally run by the park on the way home, so I know she is only testing me and, but how as parents do we deal with this rebellion, this testing the limits? How effective are our discipline methods? Like a lot of parents, my husband and I use the gentle on-their-level tactics encouraged by parenting magazines and TV shows. My Mother can’t keep track and laments the good old days in a “your mother would never have gotten away with that” manner. Which makes me wonder about the good old days… where a look from my mother would make me turn the other way; tail between my legs. Now I’m not saying bring back the olden days of counting pennies (which appear to be upon us again anyway) or smacking bottoms, however are we raising our children to be adults or to remain children?

The pressure to follow the most current parenting trends and the bombardment of advice on how to discipline your children… has parenting ever been this difficult? I know a mother who refuses to talk to a fellow mom since she saw her tap her child on his hand for attempting to open a hot oven. I was there, it was tap; a little warning and acknowledgement of danger. Apparently mom one does not agree with this and so has cut all ties with mom 2. A similar story came to light recently when an old friend firstly laughed when I put my youngest on the naughty step (thinking step as we call it – more PC!) “You’re not seriously going to make her sit there, are you?” To which my daughter immediately got up to move. “Of course I am, this is the way we do it,” I informed her. It reminded me of the time when my Mother in law first witnessed the thinking step and thought it was almost barbaric to make a child sit there for three minutes and think about what she had done.

In the past parents have resorted to shoes and belts; which merely terrified their children into subversion. As a child I distinctly remember watching with disgust as my ten year old neighbor was publicly tanned with a shoe on his bare backside at the front of his house. The image still torments me; it was pure pain and embarrassment for him. I remember in that instant feeling fortunate for the parents I had, who disciplined me with a strict voice rarely used but that always worked, a few bottom slaps, some idle threats and loads of love, cuddles and positive reassurance. They always made me want to be better.

So how do you discipline your children? And do children need to be punished or disciplined? As Valya Telep (Virginia State University) so wonderfully puts it “Whereas punishment focuses on the child, discipline targets the act.”  As parents what are we aiming for in disciplining our children? Do we hope they will learn from their mistake? Or are we hoping to frighten them enough that they will not do it again?

A firm voice is always half the battle in my opinion. Those moments in the supermarket where your child is dumping everything in the trolley or decides to do an impromptu cartwheel in the middle of the aisle; the strict voice and a steely glare does wonders. Yet is the strict voice enough; is it merely a deterrent or a guide? I have one friend who terrifies me when she raises her voice. Although being honest I don’t think there is a mum out there who hasn’t blown her lid a couple of times. Yet is this teaching children that they need to shout to state a point? And as children grow does it have the same effect?

Do you believe in the hand tap or is that a precursor to physical discipline? Will it leave children with a predisposition to hit? As a child, I got the odd smack and as many will confess “it did me no harm.” Mind, I am definitely not a proponent of smacking; I have never hit my girls. Yet for the very young is a tap on the hand really that bad? Many will argue that it teaches to every action, there is a consequence or reaction. Then of course there is the question of where do you draw the line?

Many now prefer the gentle version of a thinking step, which for ours appeared to work for a long time. I liked the idea of them realizing what they had done wrong and hopefully learning from it, but truthfully I’m not sure if they really did. After three minutes it would be “so why did mommy put you here?” followed by a confused “because I was bold.” As they got older it really did help, it wasn’t so much a punishment as realization time. Yet now as they grow even bigger and giggling put themselves on it; it’s time to rethink.

Reward charts seem to be favoured by schools and appear to work. I know they did for mine when they were being potty trained. Watching the collection of stickers grow really did build their self esteem and pride. However the prize or treat at the end has some mothers questioning its lesson. Many will argue that the reward should be in the encouragement not the prize. Can we expect children as adults to continue to do good even if there is no prize at the end of it?

Another form of discipline is the removal of favourite toys, again presenting questions such as “which toy is special enough to make a difference yet not reduce the child to panic attack until it is handed back?  Of course this method can work well if followed through consistently, but when the dinner is burning and the house is in chaos perpetuated by a child’s scream for their favourite toys; it’s hard to stay strong.

Our latest is the stones in the jar approach. Each of the girls has a stone and every time they do something good, they get a stone. If they misbehave, a stone is removed. If they get enough stones, they can get a treat. Now my idea of a treat is something small like stickers. However having spoken to other moms I have realized treats vary and also depend on parents and parental communication. One child I know got her necessary stones and Daddy brought her to pick out a treat; a gigantic doll (which would have been better saved for Christmas or a birthday according to her mom.) So far the stones appear to be working in our house and there has been some healthy competition for them. Which, yesterday resulted in a flood in the sitting room as the kids tried to outdo each other in washing the floor: the mantelpiece: the table: chairs etc… all for a precious stone. Of course at other times they have to be reminded of their empty jars.

The truth is that there are many methods of discipline but one of the most important things is communication. A child is never a bold child, they must always be reminded that they are not bold but just did a bold thing. Similarly encouragement and positive feedback can be the greatest deterrents to bad behavior. Even as a child I remember my mother’s face glowing after I’d tidied my room or vacuumed the hall. Praise and a hug are better remembered than cruel words or a smack. In fact the latter are what convince many children they are bad and sometimes prevents them from fulfilling their potential. A very old friend once told me that he was always introduced as ‘the bold one” or “the bad one,” in comparison to the “the good son” (his brother.) He believed it and grew into that description; it took him a long time and a lot of love to realize he could be good.

I believe discipline is vital to growth and everyone knows that children need some guidance and some boundaries. According to Valya Telep effective discipline should help, teach, and assist the child in learning from their mistakes. Someone to talk to and unconditional love go a long way in offering guidance and in creating boundaries. So whatever method you believe in, whatever tricks you use; remember your ultimate goal is to raise an confident, aware and loving human being, who knows he can make mistakes and recover from them. Discipline should guide children, not scare them and the love and hugs they receive afterwards will help build that unconditional love that a child can return to whenever they need it as an adult. As Bill Ayers writes so beautifully,

“Your kids require you most of all to love them for who they are, not to spend your whole time trying to correct them.”

 

 

Some sites you may enjoy:

http://dadgitated.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/disciplining-children-and-how-you-will-never-do-it-right/

Valya Telep, Virginia State University:  http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/350/350-110/350-110.html

http://www.supernanny.co.uk/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1251426/Modern-parents-avoid-discipline-fear-upsetting-children.html

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The freedom to not have children; “the childfree choice”

I followed the debate generated by the recent Time piece on the childfree life with interest. Between population, taxes, childcare, sleep or lack of… all got dragged into the argument, yet somewhere along the line, it seems the individual’s right to choice was lost.

My daughters are perhaps the best decisions I ever made and I am grateful for them every day. However I have always wanted children and dreamed of being a mommy since I held my first dolly. I know I am lucky, it does not happen for all people. And some people just do not want it. Parenthood is tough, rewarding but tough; between feeding, nappy changing, refereeing, cleaning, taxi driving and worrying about them 24/7 for the rest of your life. Parenthood is a commitment that some people do not want. Is this selfishness? An attempt at retaining freedom and career…? Or is it simply that equality has finally given us the power and right to make our own decisions? Few think of parenthood as selfish. Since time began it has been seen as the natural progression. In fact the recent consternation seems to have erupted from the fact that the American birth rate  is at an all-time low. After all if we have no new generation, then what are we working towards? How about the 7.103 billion people who already inhabit the earth? Some Americans will argue that a higher birth rate is necessary to protect heritage and lineage. Kind of ironic if you consider how America was built on immigrants from all over the world.

I have honestly lost count of the times I have heard people say “you need a license for a dog but nothing for a child.” Stories abound of children being left in nappies for days, parents neglecting and not feeding children… selfish parents caught up in their own needs. There are already so many abused and neglected children in the world. Are we really going to judge women into having children they do not want? Since the dawn of day men have “sown their wild seeds” or “enjoyed the celibate life.” Are they selfish for choosing the childfree life? Surely they should be tarnished with the same brush. Why can we not simply welcome the fact that finally women can think and act for themselves. Of course many will argue that women are born with a maternal desire, a biological clock to produce. Some have attempted to argue that parenthood is an essential part of being a woman. Since when did a childfree woman’s breasts fall off, voice grow deep or female disposition turn to a gruff males? A person born with the ability to paint need not become an artist; similarly a person with a gentle disposition does not need or have to become a nurse. So just because a woman is born with a womb, it does not mean she must follow the parent path. When will society realize that everyone is different: gay, straight, Catholic, Jew, parent, non-parent…?

Sometimes I dream of lying on a golden beach in quietness and solitude (a bit like the cover picture of Time magazine.) Yet I know I would worry about and miss my children too much. I am selfish; I seek their hugs and kisses, relish their hand drawn pictures and hope that in old age they will visit and keep an eye on me as I do my parents. I look forward to all the firsts still to come, possible weddings and grandchildren. However I exist at times on half an hour sleep, constantly trip over toys and listen to the constant squabbling on long car journeys. My childfree friends enjoy lie-ins, late nights and exotic holidays; yet I am not jealous of them and they are not jealous of me. As Ellen Walker argues, “This kind of life may sound selfish, but if we believe that parenting is a choice, so is deciding to not parent.” My children have three aunts, who at present remain childfree and between them excel at work, music, diving, socializing and yes… shopping.  These women are the most unselfish people I know and provide love, guidance and nurture to their nieces and me. These women are the first people there in a crisis and the last to leave. Those who make the brave decision not to have children and who face the continuous interrogation by a society obsessed with reproducing are no different. They still love and still care; they just do not have children. Just because a person does not have children, it makes them no less of a woman or human being.

To say that a decision not to have children is selfish is to be selfish and to want everyone to want the same and feel the same as you. The truth is nobody does; we are all too different, with different experiences, situations and desires.  To expect a person to conform just because it would be easier; we can all be filed together under the same heading of mother is ridiculous and makes for a very boring world. For some a child would be to have it all; for others a child would be a bonus and for yet others having a child is just not a desire. One man’s food is another man’s poison. So who is selfish? Who has the right to judge those brave enough to follow their own hearts? As Oscar Wilde so eloquently put it,

“Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live; it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.”

Sites that may be of interest:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2148636,00.html

http://www.details.com/culture-trends/critical-eye/201104/no-baby-boom-non-breeders

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/complete-without-kids/201108/peek-childfree-living

http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/mercedes-schlapp/2013/08/16/time-magazine-and-the-benefits-of-having-children

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