For Childfree Women, the Personal is Political

Author Article

In our book A Womb of Her Own (Routledge, 2017) author Adi Avivi writes as follows:
The fourth and last construct presented in this discussion addresses the political aspects of child freedom. The construct’s title is drawn from the feminist mantra “the personal is political,” a phrase attributed to different writers of the second feminist wave. Although its exact origin might not be clear, its meaning is important. The phrase indicates that people’s personal decisions and private conduct have profound political implications. When a woman makes a decision regarding work, family, dress code, or choice of language, she is choosing to express her acceptance or rejection of social norms. This is, of course, a simplistic view, as the choice to perform similar acts can have different meanings for different people. For example, choosing to get married could be a defiant act if family or society disapprove of the pairing; marriage could also be an act of submission to the most rigid and oppressive social norms.

Intersubjective Theory: Social and Political Implications
Benjamin (1988) discusses the social and political implications of her intersubjective theory. She claims that in U.S. society, the narcissistic fear of surrendering one’s power over other humans is the source of political, social, and personal cruelty and oppression. Our society idealizes the father-image, which includes aspects of individualism, separation, and domination and devalues the mother-image of connectedness, closeness, and dependency. However, both needs exist in every human, regardless of their sex and gender. The masculine image requires men to maintain rigid separation from others, and in doing so, reject their need for connectedness and closeness. If they address these “feminine” needs, they will have to acknowledge their identification with the maternal. They, therefore, can only tolerate rigid definitions that will simplify their relationships with others. Such definitions help maintain hierarchy by engendering a sense of omnipotence among those who believe they are fitting the only permissible role in the absence of choices. Other options can be classified as deviant or in some cases rejected altogether or even declared illegal. Allowing others to be different but similar, close but separate, independent but needed is impossible when one depends on narcissism and a fantasy of omnipotence in order to maintain a coherent sense of self.
However, the other continues to exist. The participants expressed a desire to contribute to the growing knowledge about CF women, adding that they wanted their voices to be heard. They hoped to dispel misconceptions and misunderstanding, helping non-childfree individuals, policymakers, religious leaders, and mental health professionals to see childfreedom for what it really is: a diverse and rich community with culture and values, made up of individuals who cannot be fully understood or explained by their childfreedom alone.

Comments by Participants
They hoped that social acceptance would reduce the resentment and bitterness some childfree individuals felt while inviting people who might benefit from CF life to entertain it as an option:
S8: “On a less realistic note, I’d like to think that research like this is a big step in changing the way people talk to and about the childfree and the choice to reproduce. It would be nice if people asked ‘are you going to have kids?’ instead of ‘when are you going to have kids?’ and say ‘If you have kids’ instead of ‘when you have kids’. If the dreaded ‘bingo’ went away tomorrow, it would make life so much easier.”
S13: “I’m hoping to bring attention to the cruel and dismissive remarks (‘bingos’ and otherwise) we childfree experience on the Web and real life, and to dispel the myths behind the most common bingos. I hope research shows that we are just as human as the next woman, that there is nothing missing or wrong with us, and that parenthood is not for everyone nor should it be.”
S15: “I am eager to see more exposure of the experiences of those living childfree. My hope is that as information about CF living grows, that more young people will take the time to consider the choice to have children rather than just having kids without thought. So many people are brainwashed into thinking it’s a rite of passage…”
Most participants talked about being discriminated against or misunderstood, and those who did not feel this way still mentioned incidents in which they were met with bewilderment and disbelief. All participants reported that other childfree individuals they met online constantly talked about the discrimination, insults, and rejection they felt. This was especially true when the women were in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties, if they had recently married, or if they lived in smaller, more rural locations.

Tolerating the “Other”
Allowing others to be different requires a capacity to tolerate pain, because seeing other options puts a spotlight on one’s limitations. This, according to Benjamin (1988), is true on the individual level, the community level, and the state and country level. Throughout history, the inability to tolerate the “other” and the need to make “me” the only option have pushed nations to wipe out other groups, to deny human rights, and to demand conformity explicitly and implicitly. Benjamin states that both patriarchal hegemony and some feminist worldviews demand that women be mothers and color the maternal role as the source of feminine power. If a woman is not a mother, the patriarchal social order is in danger. Also, the unique power of reproduction as a defining symbol of female supremacy is threatened when capable individuals live fulfilling lives without reproducing. However, the participants of this study conveyed that having childfreedom as an equal option will not ruin humanity or take away feminine power. In fact, it will allow for the definition of what is human to be expanded and offer greater choice for women.
For example, some participants expressed moral and political concerns, saying that while the pronatalist culture ostensibly focuses on children, it actually centers on the concept of future children rather than already living children who are in need. When thinking of the consumption of resources created by every Western child in comparison to children in Third World countries, the moral implications of pronatalism in industrial countries is disconcerting. Promoting motherhood as the preferred choice for everyone is actually a failure to recognize the needs of millions of other, less visible children, in communities whose resources are often abused by Western countries.
Indeed, public and political forces are involved in reproduction. That involvement manifests in campaigns around abortion rights and access, controversy over economic entitlements, workplace policies and employment benefits, and religious freedoms. Because the CF choice is not valued or even accepted in many cases, CF women suffer discrimination both socially and legally. For example, sterilization laws in many places do not support women’s desire to cement their childfreedom (Richie, 2013).

If You’re Not Interested In Having Kids Ever, You’ll Notice These 3 Things About Yourself

Author Article
Sarah Ellis

Hello, my name is Sarah and I really don’t want kids. I’m getting to the age where a lot of my friends have baby fever, and even if they aren’t considering children just yet, they’re excited about the prospect of being a parent down the road. But as for me, I’m not interested in having kids ever, and I’ve always felt this way. Does this make me totally unusual or abnormal? Sometimes, I wonder. But I just don’t feel like parenthood is part of my calling in this world.

Thankfully, I’m not alone, according to the therapists I spoke to for this story. It’s completely OK not to want children, despite the pressures society sometimes puts on us to feel otherwise. Listen to your instincts! “If your gut is screaming ‘no’ even when everything around you (your partner, your parents, society) are saying yes, do yourself a favor and listen,” says Rachel Zar, AMFT, relationship and sex therapist. “Being honest with yourself and with your partner … is the best way to make an authentic and intentional decision.” There are several signs to pay attention to that might signal you’re not interested in having kids. Here are three of the major ones.

YOU WANT TO KEEP YOUR LIFE EXACTLY AS IT IS.

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“If having your life turned upside down for another person does not feel worth it, it [parenthood] may not be for you,” says Nicole Richardson, LPC. Having kids is a huge change in so many ways, and if you don’t see that happening, you may not want to take that step. If your career is thriving, your relationships are thriving, and you really don’t want to shift things around, it might not make sense to bring kids into the equation.

YOU FEEL A STRONGER PULL TOWARD OTHER PASSIONS.

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Got other things in your life that feel like a priority? You do you! “If you experience a pull to focus your life energy in other ways, such as career path, social relationships, traveling the world, or life with your partner, and don’t see children as a piece of that picture, you must give yourself permission to want that life and know that it’s OK,” says Liz Higgins, MS, LMFT. Higgins notes that sometimes people feel judgment from others about their decision not to have kids, simply because other people may not understand it. But you have to trust yourself and do what feels right for you.

YOU ONLY WANT KIDS BECAUSE YOU FEEL PRESSURE FROM OTHERS.

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I could say this a million times, but your life is up to you! There’s nothing worse than feeling like you have to do something to live up to other people’s expectations. “If you know in your heart of hearts that you don’t need children in order to feel fulfilled in life, or if you believe that you contribute to the world and gain satisfaction in other ways, then don’t rush or force yourself into parenthood because you think it’s the next step you’re supposed to take,” Higgins advises. “Don’t succumb to pressure from friends or family if you know there’s a voice inside leading you to another path.” No one know you better than yourself, so do what feels best for you and your life.

Whether or not you choose to have kids, there are so many ways to feel fulfilled and contribute positively to the world around you. For me, I know that writing is what I love more than anything, and I want to keep space open to help others through my words. For you, maybe it’s travel, or career, or even prioritizing a relationship with your partner! You don’t have a make a decision right now, and that’s totally okay, but just know that you are whole and complete no matter what you decide. Trust your gut!

25 Thoughtful Anxiety Books For Kids

Author Article
By ALICE NUTTALL

I was always a nervous kid. I spent a lot of time at school worrying about whether my friends actually liked me, and then, when I moved to a new school, about whether I would make any friends at all. When I grew up, I was eventually diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, along with a dollop of social phobia just to spice things up a little. Finding anxious characters in books has helped me process my own feelings. Here’s a list of excellent anxiety books for kids, which deal with all forms of worry and fear, and which can help young readers realise that they’re not alone.

1. HOW BIG ARE YOUR WORRIES, LITTLE BEAR? BY JAYNEEN SANDERS

How Big Are Your Worries, Little Bear? coverIn this gorgeously illustrated picture book, the worrier Little Bear is afraid of lots of different things. With the help of Mama Bear, he learns to work through his fears, and realise that his worries aren’t as big as he initially thought.

2. SAM WU IS NOT AFRAID OF GHOSTS BY KATIE AND KEVIN TSANG

Sam Wu has a long list of fears – ghosts, sharks, the dark, and much more. But he’s determined to prove to his classmates that he’s not a scaredy-cat, and that he can, in fact, be a hero. Written by a husband and wife team, this laugh-out-loud series explores childhood fears that might look a bit silly and funny to outsiders, but are very real to the kids experiencing them.

3. WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE SCARED AND WORRIED BY JAMES J. GIST

This nonfiction guide for kids can help them learn strategies to deal with worries, anxiety, and even panic attacks. Giving them plenty of resources to deal with small fears on their own, it also serves as a useful reminder that kids can always seek help from adults for larger problems.

4. BOY IN THE TOWER BY POLLY HO YEN

Ade has to deal with the disappearance of his best friend, and a species of evil plants that are trying to destroy humanity – but he also has to manage the fact that, following an attack, his mother is so anxious that she can no longer bring herself to leave their flat. This book is ideal for children with family members who suffer from severe anxiety.

5. I CAN DO HARD THINGS BY GABI GARCIA

This book of mindful affirmations is another useful resource for kids who are learning to deal with general anxiety. With accompanying downloads and other activities, Gabi Garcia’s book is a great way for parents or teachers to help kids work through their anxieties, and come up with strategies to deal with their fears.

6. WHEN MY WORRIES GET TOO BIG BY KARI DUNN BURON

Another nonfiction book for young kids, this one focuses on relaxation techniques that children can learn so that episodes of anxiety or nervousness don’t derail their entire day.

7. JONATHAN JAMES AND THE WHATIF MONSTER BY MICHELLE NELSON

By turning worries into a (quite cute and cuddly) creature, Michelle Nelson’s book helps children identify their worries as being just thoughts, rather than a reality. Young readers will learn that “What if?” doesn’t have to be a scary question.

8. TIFFANY SLY LIVES HERE NOW BY DANA L. DAVIS

One for older children, this story deals with grief, loss, and complex family relationships. Tiffany is recovering from the death of her mother, and has to leave the town she’s lived in all her life to move in with her estranged father. To move forwards and thrive, Tiffany has to learn to manage the grief, stress and anxiety that she is experiencing.

9. AM I NORMAL YET? BY HOLLY BOURNE

First in a trilogy about three fantastic, feminist friends, Am I Normal Yet? follows Evie, a teenager attempting to live a “normal” life in the face of her ongoing struggle with OCD. Written by an author who worked with kids who deal with mental illness, this teen novel takes a frank look at the effects of severe anxiety and OCD.

10. OUTSMARTING WORRY BY DAWN HUEBNER

Aimed at ages 9–13, this manual for dealing with anxiety and worry is invaluable to any kid who often finds themself caught in an anxiety spiral. It’s also a useful resource for any adults who want to find ways to support their anxious tween.

11. WILLIAM WOBBLY AND THE VERY BAD DAY BY SARAH NAISH

In this book for parents of very anxious young children, the main character William deals with attachment disorder following traumatic experiences in his early life. This picture book is a great resource for when anxiety affects the whole family.

12. THE LION INSIDE BY RACHAEL BRIGHT

A great read for kids who feel a bit too small, this story about a brave mouse finding his voice is a fantastic way to approach the idea of courage taking different forms. The Lion Inside is the ideal book for children who are anxious about speaking up.

13. THE TRUTH PIXIE BY MATT HAIG

Matt Haig has written about depression, anxiety and other mental illness in his adult books, but The Truth Pixie translates these concepts into a fun, rhyming story that young readers can understand. Following the story of a pixie that can only say true things (unsurprisingly), this story looks at how anxiety-inducing, but ultimately necessary, it can be to face up to the truth.

14. THE 10PM QUESTION BY KATE DE GOLDI

Frankie Parsons has a head full of questions, many of which worry him. His mother is the only person he can talk to about them, but she’s also the source of his greatest worry. The 10pm Question is an excellent, heartfelt examination of ways that two anxious people can love and support each other while taking care of their own mental health.

15. BOYS DON’T CRY BY MALORIE BLACKMAN

Another great resource for kids with an anxious family member, this teen novel focuses mainly on the trials and tribulations of being a very young father. However, there’s also a strong element of dealing with anxiety in a subplot featuring Adam, the younger brother of main character Dante, who has to grapple with anxiety following a homophobic attack.

16. ANXIETY RELIEF FOR KIDS BY BRIDGET FLYNN WALKER

A great resource for anxious kids and their families, this CBT-based workbook offers a great deal of advice, and helps families come up with strategies to help children manage anxiety. The author is a mental health professional who has worked extensively with children.

17. A QUIET KIND OF THUNDER BY SARA BARNARD

Aimed at teen readers, this novel features two protagonists with disabilities, and doesn’t shy away from exploring the anxiety they face living in an ableist world. With a strong central romance, A Quiet Kind of Thunder is a fantastic read for teens.

18. THE SCIENCE OF BREAKABLE THINGS BY TAE KELLER

This middle grade novel, with a sparky, science-loving heroine, is another great read for kids who have family members who live with mental illness. Protagonist Natalie tries to “save” her mother from depression and anxiety, and discovers that supporting someone isn’t always an exact science.

19. FACE BY BENJAMIN ZEPHANIAH

In this book for teens, protagonist Martin has to deal with the emotional fallout after his face is badly scarred in a car accident. Martin goes from popular and confident to reclusive and anxious, and has to try to regain his confidence in a hostile world.

20. COPING SKILLS FOR KIDS WORKBOOK BY JANINE HALLORAN

With over 75 anxiety-busting strategies, and plenty of worksheets and resources, this workbook is a useful primer on CBT, and a fantastic resource for children and their families.

21. FREE VERSE BY SARAH DOOLEY

Sasha Harless is dealing with the loss of her brother, and finds refuge in writing poetry. This highly acclaimed teen novel shows readers creative ways of processing their anxiety, grief, and other emotions.

22. KITE SPIRIT BY SITA BRAHMACHARI

Kite is dealing with the aftermath of her best friend’s death by suicide, and has gone from a happy, confident teen to living with guilt, anxiety, anger and frustration. After a move to the countryside, Kite processes her feelings, finding the time and space to grieve.

23. THE ANXIETY SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR TEENS BY JENNIFER SHANNON

Aimed at older readers than the previously mentioned nonfiction guides, The Anxiety Survival Guide for Teens is another useful, CBT-based resource for youngsters dealing with anxiety, panic, and social phobia. The book teaches strategies for ending anxiety loops and dealing with worry.

24. FINDING PERFECT BY ELLY SWARTZ

One of a startlingly small number of books about OCD for middle graders, Finding Perfect tells the story of 12-year-old Molly, who tries to keep control of her world through tidying, organising and routine. Molly is a relatable protagonist not just for kids with OCD, but any child struggling with anxiety and worry.

25. GHOST BY JASON REYNOLDS

Castle Cranshaw, also known as Ghost, is a speedy sprinter on his middle school track team, but he feels like he’s been running his entire life – particularly from the memory of his violent, abusive father. Dealing with PTSD and the aftermath of violence, this book is an important read for teens dealing with anxiety following trauma.