Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sex and the single girl (#BeingChildfree)

Excited to bring you a new monthly column called "Sex and the single girl" starring funny woman, fellow blogger and partner-in-crime Erika Abdelatif.

Let's take a journey with Erika as she muses on all things modern single ladies are dealing with from online dating disasters and choosing to be childfree to changing ideas of feminism and fighting for gender equality.

To the deep end of the pool we go!


My womb has no vacancy
By Erika Abdelatif for love, -j.

When I was a little girl I was never big on playing house.

Instead, I occupied myself with novels, holding my family hostage while improvising monologues and tearing the heads off Ken dolls. (Is it just me or was Ken with Barbie for all the wrong reasons?) Fast forward a few decades and not much has changed. I no longer disembody men, but I’m still more interested in writing and career-ing than homemaking and parenting.

To many people (namely, the men I date) this quality is a flaw. Actually, my desire to stay child free came up on a recent date. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a man so stone-faced before. I had to look over my shoulder because, momentarily, I thought he may have seen a ghost.

In case you were wondering, we never had a second date.

My sweet mother, who would make the World’s Greatest Grandmother, is convinced I’ll change my mind when I fall in love. (For the record, I don’t find this offensive. I’m open to changing my mind in the future. Open-mindedness is a sign of strength.)

I’m a part of a growing number of women who are choosing to opt out of parenting. A 2014 US Census Bureau population survey reported the highest percentage of childfree women since the bureau started tracking data in 1976. There are more of us speaking out about it too, in an effort to make the topic less taboo. There are blogs, discussion groups, chat rooms and books devoted to childfree living. The Huffington Post even has a “Childfree by Choice” section on  its site.

It’s not that I don’t like kids. In fact, I spent most of my early career in childcare. Kids are great. They’re hilarious, free-spirited and they provide a built-in excuse to eat mac and cheese -- guilt free. What’s not to love? In life, however, each of us is tasked with the responsibility to determine how to best invest our limited resources. How will we direct our energy, time, money and brain capacity to yield the greatest return? The answer, for many, is in raising the next generation and that is a noble calling. But parenting is not for the faint of heart. It’s tough work that involves sacrifice, humility and unimaginable courage. It isn’t necessarily the best investment for everyone. It isn’t the best investment for me.

I may be missing out on raising the next generation, but my choice to be childfree has allowed me many other incredible experiences. I’ve been on six humanitarian aid trips. Worked for four non-profits and served on the board of one. I’ve eaten falafel in Jerusalem. I’ve studied human trafficking and peacemaking. I’ve followed whims and passion. I’ve held hands with hurting friends on the brink of divorce. I’ve built relationships with the chronically homeless in my city. I made a drastic career change to focus on writing and comedy. I swam in the Nile. Most importantly, I’ve been an additional voice of love and support in the lives of my friends’ kids.

Of course, a parent could do these things as well—but different. Limited. We’re limited in energy and resources. That’s just reality. When we spread our resources too thin, we compromise on quality. I want to give my absolute best to my commitments.

People often assume a childfree life is either heartless or lonely. It doesn’t have to be. For me, this lifestyle affirms the creative and wild way I’ve been wired. Life without kids has given me the ability play a supporting role in the lives of many, instead of the primary role in a few. Both are beautiful. Both are meaningful. Both should be celebrated.

It’s tempting to critique life choices, especially when they’re different from our own. Trust me, I know this from personal experience. I can be the Queen of Judgment and, frankly, having strong opinions about other people’s lives is fun (am I right, or am I right?). It’s a distraction from our own fears. It removes us from the depths of our insecurities. After all, scrutinizing someone else temporarily enables me to ignore the ways I feel inferior. It’s relief from the nagging voice in our heads saying, “Am I doing this right?”

But that is profoundly dangerous.

We have to fight that inclination. This isn’t a competition. I need your example. I need to learn from your family’s experiences. You need me, too—and so do your kids. We have a lot to offer one another. Let’s learn to ruthlessly practice the art of supporting one another, as each of our hearts lead us to unique places.

Our communities will be stronger for it.

(*This post originally appeared on Erika's blog and was expanded for love, -j.)

Illustration by Valentina Rossi via Hyro.