A Comprehensive List of Reasons We Aren’t Having Kids

Writing

Since getting married, people keep asking me and my husband if we want kids. Since neither of us has ever expressed even the slightest interest in procreation, it seems odd. But the really odd thing is when people argue with us about it after we try to politely demure. You could stop with the question when we say no, and I politely talk about how grateful I am that other people have them, but instead you keep interrogations going. Since we are getting tired of repeating ourselves, here’s the list of reasons.

Prepare to be horribly offended.

  • We don’t want to.
  • Kids will cramp our style? Why? Because our style is called “being irresponsible” and “sleep.”
  • You all frown on people who smoke weed around their children
  • People keep telling me how brilliant our child will be, and that might be true, if we win the genetic lottery. But they’ll also be insane, and we’ll possibly produce a Lex Luther.
  • Don’t you all think I’ve done enough damage to my body?
  • Listening to the cries of children gives me horrible flashbacks to my childhood.
  • I’ve already taken care of lots of kids, so I know better.
  • My husband straight just hates kids, you guys.
  • OR… we can both write.
  • We’re just a pair of selfish assholes.
  • OR… I can continue to play subversive aunt to all of your children
  • I literally can’t do it all without dying and frankly I like writing and activism better than raising kids.
  • Between my husband and I there is only one fully functioning adult and we both agree it’d be best to raise kids with two.
  • I wouldn’t wish my medical conditions and epic-genetic trauma on my worst enemy.
  • Just general laziness.
  • Neither one of us wants deal with the fallout of possibly having a douchebag. Which is to say, we’d have to hate our own child.
  • After 28 years, I’m finally getting good sleep. Fuck you for asking me to give it up.
  • Children aren’t fluffy and they expect to be fed more than twice a day on a regular schedule.
  • Our cat wouldn’t like it.
  • Christmas and Disneyland are usually involved in our descriptions of hell.
  • Do you REALLY think it’s a good idea? I mean, if you know us? DO YOU?!!
  • Because we are too irresponsible but also responsible enough to know we are too irresponsible.
  • It’s all fun and games to tell children to rebel against authority until you are the authority.
  • Children’s birthday parties.
  • Pregnancy, for either of us.
  • We’ll never like our child as much as we like each other and we’ll both also do a poor job hiding it because of aforementioned laziness.
  • “No, honey, Santa isn’t real. He’s just something some white people made up to get people to spend money. Sure, go ahead and share that information with the masses.” Do you really want my child in school with your child?
  • Children are like biological weapons factories and my body is basically virgin soil for the all the good my immune system does me.
  • I don’t actually carry the gene that makes me addicted to baby smell, because I’m a mutant.
  • I secretly hate taking care of kids even though I’m really good at it.
  • I’m also really good at physics but I have yet to see such a mass campaign to get me into scientific fields.

 

 

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NO ONE “Does it all!” Alone

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“We might be mutually co-dependent”

“I believe we call that socialism.”

 

I spent a lot of time this weekend at a wedding mostly hanging out with powerful, smart accomplished women who spend a lot of their time caring for powerful, smart, accomplished dudes. Whether its remembering the sunscreen or ensuring promptness, these dudes, all of whom hold white-collar jobs and are successful members of society relied deeply on the women in their lives to make them functional. In the case of my husband, and I, this dependence runs two ways. Together we make one fully functioning adult. For any of my girlfriends in a healthy relationship, this is true for them as well.

 

I’m told this is supposed to be problematic for a feminist but I sort of think the whole “complete independence” thing is a lie we tell ourselves to justify a system that is exploiting our labor. No one lives in a vacuum. In a million ways we rely on each other, and in working class communities, we know this well. The jerk is the one who doesn’t get to borrow eggs for breakfast to feed their kids. At no point in my life have I ever felt I didn’t owe my position to the hard work of a lot of other people, even though my relationship with my family is horrible. There was still my friend’s mom driving me to the SATs and teachers teaching, and a whole alternative community around me that has supported me over the years. So I’m not really bothered by the idea that we are mutually co-dependent on each other, I think it’s what brings communities together and I think the idea that we can do it all alone is a sham.

 

This mythology really doesn’t serve to benefit anyone, except to provide an excuse as to why we don’t provide social services when people are in need. The feminists who promote this ideology are coming from a good place. Working class women know too well what a death trap marriage can literally be if you marry the wrong man, but there isn’t a working class woman alive who hasn’t relied on her other (mostly) female community members. We’ve made it such that women have come to feel guilty about needing help or asking for help, which is contrary to our very nature as a species.

 

The only human lone wolf story that is ever real is the one in which the wolf is dead at the end. The entirety of human civilization, indeed every advancement ever made, has relied on our ability to cooperate. Our entire species relies on the unique labor that women have historically provided to their families and communities and yet we act as though those who continue to provide that labor are somehow intellectually or morally inferior to the women who employ them. That’s not feminism, that’s just classism.

 

And it’s not good for upper class women either! So many of my higher income friends are struggling with issues that would normally be solved by a community of women around them. They are alone. Disconnected. Stressed. Burned out. Some of us do this for a period of time, but all of us end up crashing and burning at the end because it’s not sustainable to act as though we exist without the help of others.

 

So yes, I am dependent on my husband. And my friends. And my family. My husband is also dependent on me, and his friends and his family. We co-operate in a mutually beneficial way that allows us the freedom to be our best selves. We always know we will have help in our goals and are therefore free to take more risks. We take actions to support each other because the success of one partner is good for the others. This is the basis for strong relationships in general, even if marriage isn’t your thing. So it is fine if you work really hard and still need to call your mom for help. And its fine if your friends fill that role. And its fine if it’s your immediate family too. The point is that no one should be alone or feel alone, and that community is essential for our survival.

 

The idea that we have to “do it all” has not been used to liberate us, it has been used to keep us in a trap where we constantly run on a hamster wheel trying to achieve unattainable things. It confines us, restricts us, and divides women into camps that have no reason to exist. There’s always been working mothers and they are great, and stay at home moms are too, and we need childless women too, and shouldn’t we just let people do what fulfills them and makes them happy? They’ve covered up the bare reality for most women that don’t feel like they have much of a choice. Many stay at home moms are mom’s that realized that to work and get childcare, she’d have to give up her whole paycheck AND miss out on raising her kid. Many working moms are supporting their families wholly and don’t have the choice to stay at home. We’ve constrained all of these women and then told them it’s their fault if they fail to measure up. That’s not love, that’s not liberation.

 

Real love is liberation.

My Life is Not a Feminist Statement 

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I know this will come as quite the shock to some but I am an actual human being in normal life. I say this because some people have acted as though me and my life choices are somehow symbolic or worthy of public comment mostly because I’m a woman but also because of my social class and visible presence as an activist. I’m sure these people mean well, but I want us to understand that real life doesn’t fit so neatly into the parameters of “what is appropriately feminist” and that sometimes that is ok. Feminism should liberate and yet we often find ourselves socially circumscribing and regulating behavior based on an ideal that only works for a subset of the population. For millions of working class women, work isn’t liberation from being a boring housewife, it’s just time stolen from their children. Upper class women who do work outside the home rely on the labor of working class women who don’t have a choice.

In my case, this has led to lots of invasive judgment about how I spend my time and in my case it’s actually destructive. You see, I’m such a raging workaholic that I had to actually  be banned from teaching for medical reasons. I ran my body and life into the ground trying to live up to the radical social justice image set for me and that I set for myself. I’m a sick person and for such a sick person I’ve accomplished a lot. But I need time to heal from decades of suffering, which includes very severe abuse and horrifying childhood conditions. I’m taking that time now because my husband has graciously given me the ability to do so. But instead of acknowledging how much he’s liberated me from the martyrdom that would have killed me eventually, people are worried that my marrying him has suddenly confined my life to submissive servitude. It is true that I spend lots of time cooking because I like to and take pride in contributing to my family but my husband doesn’t make me do anything. 

Now, after what I’ve been through, if I wanted to spend my life doing nothing but that, I’d be justified but I don’t. I have about a million other projects going on. I’m working on my third draft for a book, I’m making this blog better, I’m drawing up plans to found my dream school, I’m still a very active mentor to lots of kids and none of my activism has stopped (except for the stuff I can’t physically do anymore). Oh, and I’m working very hard at being healthy so I can do more in the future. This break is temporary, like gap years men take that are financed by their parents that no one seems to feel any guilt about. This doesn’t exactly sound like the agenda of an oppressed housewife and none of it was Ross’ idea. That of course is not counting all the female labor I engage in for him or my community, which is valuable but never gets counted. My husband treats it all like real work because he was raised well. It’s not like I’ve ever been paid for any of these things except before I had to work and ruin my health to survive in addition to doing all of this.

My husband and I obviously had long talks about this before we made these choices, like all happily married people do and this arrangement is what works best for us right now. It’s a privilege that I have the option. What if, instead of assuming that anyone who makes different choices is wrong, we assumed that our female peers are grown adults who made choices that worked for them? Doesn’t that seem more pro-woman?

And besides, when you pressure me about work you are enabling a hardcore workaholic who will then do silly things like type this out one handed on her phone. Support my recovery by joining team “Heather needs a nap” if you sincerely want me more active in the future.

The Feminist Who Took His Name

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Since entering my late twenties, my Facebook feed, and general social life has been inundated with a series of articles and questions shaming me for whatever it is that I am doing as a woman. And there is a difference between close friends asking about my life and random people I don’t know thinking my body and life is somehow public property. People keep asking me to justify my choices while I’m just trying to get some froyo and do my grocery shopping. And if it’s not enough that I have to justify to the people that don’t think my choices/ behavior/demeanor / attitude /intelligence are appropriately femininely, I have to justify them to the people who seem to think a gold star gets handed out every time you make some choice that defies gender stereotypes, authentically or no. So I’m a very bad feminist when I bake cookies, but if I do physics, I’m going to die alone or something. Damned if we do and damned if we don’t. So I was originally going to keep my mouth shut about one of the choices I didn’t want to have to talk about, but then articles telling me that I was letting my husband oppress me because I took his name kept popping up in my feed and being real seems to be the only way to ever to get people to stop asking prying questions.

 

So yes, I did take my husband’s last name when I got married. No it’s not because I don’t care about feminism.

 

The reason I took my husband’s last name is because I grew up in the kind of home where no one knows who your siblings are because you all have different last names, and the first day of school is always torturous because someone inevitably reveals that fact the minute your name is called, which is sort of like wearing a badge that says, “broken home” on it. The person whose name is listed on my birth certificate once held a gun to my head while I was an infant, so I could continue to bear the name of my very real oppressor or I could change it. So I did, at the end of college. But it never felt right, because it didn’t solve the problem of my feeling somehow separate from the people I called family because my last name happened to be different. So when I got a shot at a fresh start and a new name, I took it. I took it even though I read those articles and even though I’ve read a lot of feminist literature. Because for me, my last name has been a marker of oppression my entire life so I don’t have fond associations with it or a strong identity attached to it. It’s changed like six times in my life already because of re-marriages and such, whereas my husband feels extremely attached to his name.

 

The practical reality of the names is this: it actually really does make your life a lot more difficult to have a different name than the rest of your family, and when you marry you are creating a new family (and if you aren’t comfortable with that fact, know that the institution is not mandatory). Marriage itself has patriarchical roots, but most of us will do it anyway because we fall in love and because it has practical implications, like the fact that I can now visit my husband on his deathbed because I’m his wife and legally they can’t tell me no. Or the fact that we can’t be legally compelled to testify against each other when the inevitable purge happens.

 

You could just as easily take the women’s name, or if you are same sex, one side’s name, I don’t really care. Different cultures do it differently. And if hyphenating or making up a new name for your family works for you, that’s awesome, too, though I’ll ask you to consider what happens when two hyphens fall in love. This isn’t about my gender identity. My husband was attached to his name and I wanted to get rid of mine. So from the outside this looked like a very conventional and conservative choice, but it was rooted in several conscious decisions made between two free thinking people. We had long, thought out, adult conversations about it, like we do about all things because we are two smart and highly verbal people. If roles had been reversed, you’d talk about how progressive and cool my husband is (and believe me, he deserves it for a million other reasons).

 

Now some people keep their names for professional reasons and that’s cool, but I’ve already changed my names several times in life and I’ve found that people adjust. Plus that concern didn’t override the deep emotional concerns and practical concerns that have haunted me my whole life.

 

The point here is that institutions are fluid, relative and they mean whatever we decide they mean and in a pluralistic society, they will mean different things to different people at different times. My husband’s last name is not the symbol of oppression that my last name is because that’s how I’ve experienced the world. We should all come together and say, “sister, do you and I will back you to the end of hell and back” about literally every stupid thing we are going to get judged about. That would be true liberation and self actualization or at minimum it would cut down on the number of times people are rude and hurtful in social gatherings about things that are none of their business.

 

My name has changed. If for some reason, you don’t like using Mrs. Raffin, you may still call me Heather. Or the artist formally known as Ms. Charles. Oh Captain my captain is one I’ve always been fond of. Or Helessi which is obviously a combination of Khalessi and Heather. Whatever you are comfortable with.

 

I got married. I didn’t have a lobotomy.

 

 

Women’s Work is Real Work

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I’ve been in activist circles my whole life in some capacity or another, so it continuously frustrates me when we don’t acknowledge the unpaid and often female dominated labor involved in the struggle. We hold up and praise those who have participated in more public ways but not only do we not acknowledge the other contributions behind the scenes, we also shame women who participate in traditionally feminine ways.

 

I was a pretty fragile and sickly kid. There are four of us total. I’m not saying we didn’t get some problematic messaging but my mom makes more than my stepdad and chores were assigned based on interest and ability and not gender (my older sister is like so much stronger than I could ever hope to be). Given that I was so unhealthy all the time, I ended up with what you might call the more traditional tasks like cooking, light housework and childcare. My older sister however, being much healthier than I, often had to do the heavier chores. The end result of this is that I’m a pretty femme looking girl with a pretty femme set of skills that I’m supposed to think is worth less than my masculine skill-set. I like to cook, so does my brother in law, guess which one of us gets feminist lectures about cooking?

 

There is so much work that has to be done in the struggle. So much work that goes unacknowledged. As an actvist and member of my community I have done all of the following without payment or acknowledgement

 

  • provided childcare
  • fed people
  • emotional support
  • networking
  • editing writing or otherwise supporting other people’s projects
  • teaching
  • mentoring
  • crisis intervention
  • caretaking of the ill
  • organizing

 

I really hate that I had to put together this list, because in my worldview, it is wrong to take on these tasks and then expect acknowledgement. You don’t get gold stars in my universe for doing the right thing, you just do it. So I’m listing this for a very specific reason, which is to remind all of you that the movements aren’t just built by powerful speakers. The Montgomery Bus Boycott took a year to plan, a year in which the women of the community got together and organized and made sure everyone’s needs were taken care of. The fact that we value MLK more than those women is a byproduct of sexism and the patriarchy.

 

If you’ve bought into the idea that the only way to be a feminist is to behave like men, you are discounting the importance of female labor. That labor has been absolutely necessary for our species to survive. I personally don’t care who does those jobs, but I will say that if men were doing them we’d treat them with a lot more respect instead of condemning the women who have taken them up. We forget that the women, like say Sheryl Sandberg, who have been successful in traditionally masculine ways got there the same way the men do, which is that they had a underpaid or unpaid feminine workforce behind them that allows them to pursue their goals in the public sphere. So if you call yourself a feminist while looking down on the women that it make possible for you to have a career, then you then you are the one who needs to be educated.

 

I learned the hard way from previous generations and my own burnout, that because my disability, I can’t have it all. I have very limited energy reserves and I participate where I can. I haven’t exactly gotten past the burnout stage and into the
“thinking about my next move” stage of this process, but I know when I do, I will have to make some hard choices. I know this because I’ve watched all my other girlfriends have to do it and they ultimately made the choice that was right for their family, whatever that choice may have been. There are ways though that you could work to free up more women.

 

 

  • Acknowledge that feminine labor is real, difficult work and then pay them like you mean it
  • Provide a universal basic income that acknowledges that the work stay at home mom’s and dad’s do is valuable and real. This also allows poor men and women to pursue artistic and intellectual interests that they might not otherwise be able to do
  • Stop being judge-y about how other women manage these competing interests, if you would praise a stay-at-home dad while calling a mom who doesn’t work lazy, you are the one with the feminism problem
  • Find ways in your communities and organizations to acknowledge behind-the-scenes work that has been traditionally done by women
  • PARENTAL LEAVE. Like seriously, we are one of two countries that doesn’t have this. It’s almost more embarrassing than Trump.

 

My feminine labor has been absolutely essential to the movements I’ve been part of, and I don’t need thanks for it. What I do need, though, is for us to come together as a community and fight for policies that will support and reward the work women have been doing to keep our species alive.