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Judging childless women

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message 1: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:18PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kate As I read this I found myself thinking about the reasons why it does, in fact, seem odd to me for a woman not want to have children, even though I consider myself a fairly liberated person, and not one to keep women at hearth and home by any means. What is it about not wanting kids that is such a stigma? I really hated Claudia in the beginning of the book, not because she had chosen not to have children, but because her reasons seemed so selfish and immature, focused on her own creature comforts and being unwilling to stop traveling the world and living spontaneously -- to grow up, was how I really read it. But at the same time I didn't like this reaction from myself. After all, having a baby isn't the only marker of being mature and grown up. Did anyone else feel this way? That Claudia was simply unwilling to face the responsibility?

Any thoughts?

message 2: by Kricket (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:22PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kricket I didn't feel that way, but I identify with Claudia, so maybe that's why. Why is living spontaneously considered immature? I think it's completely mature to thoughtfully consider options and pick the best one for yourself. If that means accepting the fact that you might be a lukewarm parent, why not leave kids for mothers who want them with all of their being and accept other responsibilities like a career, or being a great friend? It's not like we have a shortage of humans.

message 3: by Leslie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:23PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Leslie I think Claudia's problem was a fear of being a bad mom and fear of change. I think she thought that because her mother was a selfish mom for the most part, that she would be too deep down. And, I think part of it was immaturity--not wanting to grow up--not wanting to give up her creature comforts, etc. Because, when you have a baby, you can no longer put yourself first. I didn't like how Claudia and Ben just up and got divorced without at least trying to explore Claudia's issues or that Claudia didn't try to figure out herself why exactly she didn't want kids.

message 4: by Linda (last edited Aug 13, 2008 04:14PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Linda I thought there were other important questions: What happens in marriage when one changes and the other doesn't?
Did she really want to have a baby at the end or was she doing that to keep Ben?
Is it morally wrong to have a baby because your partner wants one and you don't?

Amanda Good question Linda:

I don't know if it's morally wrong, I just think it's a bad idea to make that kind of huge decision (bringing a new life into a very troubled - and crowded - world) just to make someone else happy. It may work out okay and Ben may be such a rocking parent it won't make a difference if the mother never fully commits. But I wonder if she (Claudia?) may one day wake up full of rage and fury that she was coerced into doing it? It's okay not to want kids. Having them doesn't make you a better person, as we can see from people who are terrible parents. Non-fiction is full of parents who are worse than most of the fictional parents we read about.

In the middle of my musings about this, I asked a therapist if there were people who regretted not becoming parents and she said yes. I asked her if there were parents who regretted having children, and she said yes, but that those were feelings most people would never express outside of a very safe place. Not wanting children is looked down upon. And if you have them and don't want them, what does that make you? A monster? Selfish? Someone who made a mistake?

All interesting thing to think about. I love it that books get people to ponder these questions.

message 6: by Ilze (new)

Ilze Let me say up front: I haven't read the book, but have issues with all the things that have been discussed.

My husband and I have been married for 11 years and I honestly don't want to have children. But he does. In fact, I think I'll lose him unless I give in (which I did this weekend, in the sense that I told him we can try for children next year). Am I completely stupid??!! I mean, every time I see a mother and child I think they're too attached, but when I look at my husband's depression because of our childless situation I feel guilty because I know it's all my fault.

As to people who felt sorry for not having children: Look at Leonard and Virginia Woolf. Because of her highly-strung condition, they never had a full sexual relationship, but still wondered whether they would be good parents in their old age.

Oh - and what does it make me? My husband insists that I am not a real woman unless I have had a child.

message 7: by Cassie (last edited Jan 08, 2009 07:34PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Cassie I did not enjoy this book. I always wanted to have children so I did not identify with Claudia at all. I did feel for her though. It seemed such a betrayal that Ben would leave her after having agreed not to have children.

I just found it depressing. I guess it didn't help that I read it while I was pregnant with my twins.

I don't think Claudia was selfish at all. I think that it is beyond mature to know how you feel and to make the conscious decision not to have children if you really don't want them. There are too many unwanted children out there. I know a lot of people would love their children to death if they had them and probably wonder what they were thinking. But I don't think it's something to count on though. Kids aren't like puppies, you can't give them away if you decide you don't like taking care of them.

I used to ask people when they were going to have children. I only asked because I couldn't think of anything else to talk about. I have quit doing that because some people can't have kids and others don't want to and I don't want to make them uncomfortable and it's none of my business.

message 8: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Wardhaugh I have to add to this conversation even though I haven't read the book. A man telling a woman what it means to be a "real woman" is a bad way to allow yourself to be defined. What is a "real woman"? Who has the right to define such a thing? What he is telling you is what HE thinks a "real woman" is. There is no objective absolute definition out there. If someone else's opinion is all that matters in how you see yourself or how you wish to see yourself, then feel free to fall for it. Personally I do not like being defined by other people's expectations. I am a woman. How other people define me matters only so far as I need to get a job. Why should I care about the rest? When people are with me, I have no doubts about whether they like me for myself. I make my choices independantly of their opinions, and I respect what they choose as well. It's good to stop asking people "When are you going to . . .?" It is very likely that they will tell you when they know the answer to that themselves. It feels like pressure or a negative opinion even when it isn't meant that way.

Theletter12 I liked this book. It brought up a subject that is rarely talked about in society. I did not feel she was selfish to not want to have children. I liked that she knew herself so well. I admired that she felt so strongly about something. People typcially don't like those that don't fit in the norm. The norm being 2 children, a cat, a dog etc. It is not everyone's formula for success and happiness. People need to be more open to others choices in life and quit trying to make everyone the same.

Britany I enjoyed reading this book. I honestly was more irritated with the fact that Claudia's husband left her when she told him that she didn't want kids. He knew that one her first date, so waiting years into the marriage to change his mind and all of a sudden think of her as selfish is such...mind blowing. He knew what he was getting into.

I didn't find Claudia selfish. Just because she is a woman doesn't necessarily mean that she has to have children. Some woman have no desire to have children, that doesn't make them bad people.

I do believe, however, that Claudia in the end truly didn't want children she just didn't want to lose Ben. I think that's kind of sad.

message 11: by Ilze (new)

Ilze Men like to gamble. My husband knew from the very beginning that i did not want children. He asked me to marry him in spite of that - and he even insisted on going forward with the marriage plans in spite of obligatory pastoral counselling during which he again heard me say: I opt out of motherhood.

Men need a legacy, someone to "inherit their stuff" (can you believe) ... one would think there are other (more important) reasons for having children!

message 12: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Wardhaugh I agree. There are hundreds of more important reasons for having children and for not having children. We are a "stuff" society, and there are not a few women out there who have similar feelings about why they want children. I know people who have had children for sillier reasons, but not much sillier. I also agree with the sentiment that it is sad for someone to give in so as not to "lose" the husband. What are they keeping? That kind of guy sounds like he didn't marry a person but a baby making machine. I am not married, and one of my main reasons is that too many relationships are manipulative that way. One partner or the other is marrying to "get something" like security, a housekeeper, a trophy, sex, or progeny. That completely repells me. Maybe I'm too sensitive about the thought of using or being used by another, but for now I'm much more comfortable in my own skin dealing with relationships on my own terms.

Penny I am a wife and mother. That being said, I still really liked this book. And, I don't think there is anything wrong with a person who doesn't want children. Although, yeah, I can see why people seem to *think* parenthood the end-all, be-all (btw, it isn't *and* it is, depending on the day. Sometimes being a mom really, really, *really* sucks and sometimes being a mom is great).

About Claudia wanting a divorce because her husband changed his mind on the kid thing, I totally understand. I was actually cheering her on (not that I have issues with being a mother or anything. It's just that, four years into my marriage, my husband suddenly changed his mind about something major and I found myself in a similar situation. I gave him an ultimatum and he picked me).

Anyway, I'm glad that Claudia AND Ben realized that their relationship was much too valuable to let slip through the cracks, permanently. I felt like, whatever they end up doing - having kids, or not - they'll be happy because they really love each other enough to compromise. Or rather, they were finally able to see the bigger picture, what really mattered.

message 14: by Kandice (new)

Kandice I think people who know themselves well enough to know they aren't cut out for parenthood, shoud NOT have children. Period. There should be no stigma attached. Like someone mentioned, we are not short on humans, wo do, however, have an abundance of children not being properly cared for!
That being said, There really is no compromise on that issue. If one of you wants children, and one does not... that's it. You can't be married and have a child alone. Even if you go into the relationship knowing your partners preference and agreeing...people change. I have friends who divorced for just this reason. She has now re-married, and her ex-husband is her child's godfather. A bit extraordinary, I know, but they were honest with each other, and loved each other enough not to want to force or deprive.

message 15: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W I have not read this book (but I'm going to have to!), but I'm impressed with this discussion. I remember deciding at a very young age (like preschool) that I wanted to be a mom. As I've grown older, that idea has changed, a little, for a variety of reasons. I agree that there *should not* be a stigma attached to partners who choose not to have children, but in reality, there is stigma. The older I get, the more I feel pressured (by society, peers, friends, family, clients, etc) to have children. The older I get, too, the more I get entrenched in my life, and my lifestyle, and the less I want to give that up. Am I being selfsish? Sure I am, but I see it as far more selfish to try to raise a kid when I work evenings and sleep in and keep a messy house, etc... That's having your cake and eating it too. Someday I do plan on having kids, most likely, and when that day comes I won't be able to do all the things I like to do now, but when I decide to have kids, I'll decide because I'm ready in every sense of the word, including giving up my selfish tendencies.

I recommend the book Larger Than Life (by Adele Parks, I think) or the movie Waitress about women who don't want to have children, but get pregnant and how they deal with it.

message 16: by Judy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Judy Ilze wrote: "Let me say up front: I haven't read the book, but have issues with all the things that have been discussed.

My husband and I have been married for 11 years and I honestly don't want to have chil..."

Ilza, Even though this was written 3 years ago, I felt the need to reply.

I remember being so disappointed at the end of the book because there was no decision made. Were they going to have a kid or were they not? And reading your situation made me realize that maybe the book does not have a clear answer because there is no clear answer.

I guess I would say that it is respectable either decision you make. A marriage is unconditional love and your husband knew this getting in and if he cannot be with you unless there is a child then maybe it's not unconditional. On the other hand, you probably feel (not that I'm putting words in your mouth, it's just my own feelings reflecting...I am not here to offend) like you would do anything to make your husband happy, because it hurts you to see him upset.

I say that, to repeat this, either decision is respectable! No question about it.

Cassie I read this book while I was pregnant with my twins. I very much wanted have kids and I kept wanting her to change her mind because I just knew it would make her happy. That's the problem, we project our feelings onto other people. It wouldn't make HER happy; it would make ME happy. So I was judging her based on my feelings, not hers and that was wrong. I think people who don't want kids shouldn't have them. There is no reason to judge people who don't have kids and don't want to have kids. I don't understand it but then they probably don't understand why I'd want kids. Anyway, I think it's live and let live.

Pamela "When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself." - Wayne Dyer, American Psychologist

My opinion:

No one has the right to judge anyone for whatever their decision is. No one has any clue what goes on behind closed doors. Perhaps they can't financially afford a child. Yes, people say that if there's a will, there's a way. Well, not always. I have more respect for couples who come to a mutual decision to not have children than to have them and not be able to afford them the basic needs in life or know how to raise them.

Perhaps they were abused as a child and feel they might become just like their parent(s) and do not wish to hurt their own child.

Perhaps they don't want to give up their own, comfortable lives. At least they made that decision and I respect them for it.

We don't tolerate people who push their religious or political beliefs on others. This is no different.

What bothers me the most is when insensitive people don't realize that perhaps couples do want to have a child but they're physically not able to.

For those who think every couple should have children, you might have to hold your tongue should your own child/children decide not to become parents in the future.

As for the book, I absolutely enjoyed reading it. I've read it several times. It's a topic that is well worth the discussion.

FYI: My husband and I mutually decided we didn't want to have a child. However, we mutually decided we did when we held my sister's son the day he was born.

message 19: by Rio (Lynne) (last edited Dec 11, 2011 07:38PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rio (Lynne) I just came across this thread in my updated discussions. I enjoyed this book because I did relate to the main character. I am surprised in today's world how people who choose not to have kids still get sneared at. Why do people get so upset if someone doesn't want children? I'm 40 and have never wanted kids. I obviously didn't get that gene. Why does this bother people? Why do people have to analyze it? Who cares!

Rio (Lynne) Ilze wrote: "Men like to gamble. My husband knew from the very beginning that i did not want children. He asked me to marry him in spite of that - and he even insisted on going forward with the marriage plans i..."

I love this Ilze! Now I know this doesn't fit everyone, but from my experience when I tell men I don't want kids, they say they do so they can have someone to carry on their name. On the other hand....people with kids ask me "if you don't have kids, who will, take care of you when you are old?" Now that is being selfish. Before people get crazy, I know this does not fit everyone.

Pamela How many do you know today are taking care of their elderly parents? Not many. I'm not saying there are that don't, but that is such a wrong reason to have kids. Wow! What a bad answer. To these people I say good luck. What guarantee do you have that your children will want to take care of you in your old age?

I say "Get a life people!" and "Mind your own business."

message 22: by Mulberry (new)

Mulberry Field I want to write a book called "Why are the people I know who are the most bat$#!+ crazy so intent on creating a really dysfunctional situation even though they have no plan about how to carry it out". "Why doesn't anyone feel bad for all of the kids that are born because their parents were having a 1/3 life crisis so they had a baby with someone they hardly know because they are 30". "What kid wants to grow up in a home where his parents hastily married out of baby craziness, and now they hate each other"."Why are my girl friends who are total divas and have never taken care of a baby trying to have a baby at any cost"."Why did my friends wake up last month and decide they had to get married in the next year to the next poor bastard they meet" or "Why does everyone look at me like I'm a failure because I don't have a kid, even though I come from a huge family and have experience with kids".

I wish people would take having kids more seriously. It takes a lot more than money and I am just a woman who is realistic. I wouldn't want to neglect the kid because I don't have the proper amount of time to devote to a child. Even if I could stay home I don't think I'd be happy changing diapers, cleaning, and cooking. I think I would be depressed if I knew that most of the work would fall on me. That alone should be a huge con of motherhood but conveniently its not. I am presently overwhelmed by my responsibilities with work and my pets! I could never keep up with the housework, honestly.

I also want to say that I am a romantic. To me a baby is all about loving someone so much that I'd have (his) baby. It has nothing to do with babies independently. I think babies are starting to replace romantic love as an ideal. I feel that our culture's matrimania obsession pressures women to marry or else be perceived as not a real woman or not financially successful.

I find it very hard socially when you are the only one without a kid. There is so much pressure to have a kid to make you normal and absolve you of your sins. I feel that one should only consider the interests and happiness of that child. No one deserves a child or is automatically going to be a good parent. What is selfish is to confuse a want of children with a need or expectation. Having a child is a privilege and not a right- you don't deserve a child you should respect the institution enough that you want to earn that right. Lots of people neglect and abuse children across the financial spectrum. I don't think that being a Mommy makes you a saint. it is not uncommon for parents to have selfish motivations when dealing with their child. People should grow up, learn to be compassionate people and THEN think about kids.

Rio (Lynne) Mulberry, It's nice to see more women feel like I do and that we are not alone in our thoughts. Cheers!

Tabby I read this book a couple of years ago. I have to say that the subject of not having children hit home for me. I have never wanted to have children of my own and people have always told me that "you will change your mind". Well so far that has not happened. I have been married for six years and have a stepson I adore, but the feelings still have not arrived for me. I loved this book at the start, but ended up throwing it against the wall at the end. A week before my wedding my husband and I had a talk. I said I do not want children and I do not see this decision changing for me. You have a son, so if you are all right with this decision let's proceed with the wedding. I threw in the fact that I could possibly "change my mind" like so many people have told me and that would have to be ok too. He said that either way was fine with him, he just wanted to marry me, but in the end it was MY choice. I believe that we change with experiences and age, but it takes work to do it with another person. I do not feel that I would change my decision even if the person I loved more than anything else put a "my way or the highway" rule for our life decisions we have made together. I'd also like to add that for many years I have seen the reactions of the "we aren't having children" comment. I would like to believe that the responses have become nicer and more understanding as time moves on and that I no longer am treated like a leper.

Telly Ree I didn't feel Claudia's reasons for having a child selfish, immature, or scared to face responsibility. My reason for not wanting to have children is the same as hers'. I don't want to give up traveling, once I get married I only want to give my attention to my husband, and I don't want to dish out the money to pay for the very expensive needs of a child. Other than my future husband, I don't want to be responsible for anyone else, well, probably my mom. I like the freedom of not having a child. The freedom to come home and do what I want when I want. I like having means to afford the things I want without having to think about supporting a child. If those reasons are selfish or immature, then on well. Where does it say you have to have a child when you become an adult and get married? I think it's selfish to bring child in this world if you don't want one. Only thing you're going to probably do is end up resenting that child thinking about all the things you wanted to do that you couldn't.

Monica Shoshanna agreed!

Monica Shoshanna I think that women are still definitely judged for not wanting children. I'm only 22 but I know I don't want kids, yet so many people go, ooh but you'll change your mind. It annoys me; it's like having kids is still a must and that your life is meaningless if you don't procreate. I think Claudia was being very mature. Some people just have a child despite not being ready and knowing what it fully entails. I'm glad she didn't have a baby to keep Ben. There's no point having a baby if you truly don't want one and aren't sure that you'll be a good parent. Some people go oh but you see your baby it will all change. Maybe it does for some people, but it's wishful thinking and many women's feelings don't change and they resent their child and are bad parents. I was definitely on Claudia's side; I found Ben really immature and it didn't really explain why he changed his mind. I don't want kids and I wish people would accept that. I know I am only 22, but I am type of person who likes their peace and quiet and freedom and I don't see myself wanting to give that up in the future. I don't want to have to devote my life to another human being and have to give up everything and have my life change. I would be extremely resentful; I have many hobbies, interests and goals and a child would get in the way. I'd rather do good in the world and make a change, rather than procreate and see that as my calling. A child is too much responsibility and sacrifice and its not for me. I still think it's stupid that in this day and age women are still bullied into having children. The world is overpopulated as it is and there are many terrible parents out there.

Nichole Many women are coming out these days saying how they don't want to have children. To me, they're finally being able to step back, reflect on themselves and life, and have the right to say "maybe having kids isn't all I'm suppose to live for." Just like how homosexuals have been able to emerge into society. People are just realizing it's OK to not conform to the norm anymore.

With that said, I don't see how choosing to not want kids makes one immature. I semi-don't want them; it's for a combination of mature and selfish reasons. I see a lot of parentless children everywhere and think "why should I have to bring my own flesh into this world when that child doesn't even have a parent/family?" I'd much rather give a life to someone who is already here and has no family, than to bring in another life just because it's easier.

My husband is one of those people that believes having children is all we're meant to really do as humans. To procreate and continue the cycle. That's put me in the bind of attempting to mellow into the idea of having a child for him. Being married is about compromise, not manipulation. Now, while I'd rather adopt, maybe in the end, we'll attempt both.

I read this book years ago and vaguely remember it, but if I recall, my feeling was that she gave into having a child, not for her husband, but because she finally became OK with the idea of having one. Sometimes all it really takes is time, self-reflection, and a mental prep to reach the point of having a child.

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