A colleague passed me this piece by Jessica Handler the My Turn section of Newsweek earlier this year, “I Won’t Roll the Biological Dice.” Ms. Handler decided not to have children because she knew she had a 67% chance of passing on an illness that was responsible for her sister’s death. Most of the comments from the piece… …applauded her decision (that’s her on the right) as a responsible one and I agree. She is like so many of the childfree people I have interviewed–they take the decision about parenthood very seriously and make the best decision for them.
A few comments criticized her for being fearful, which I find seriously off the mark.
To be concerned for the child and the life it will likely have before it is born is far from operating from a place of fear. Neither is trying to be realistic about what having a child that may very well end up with an illness s/he will die from could mean for her and her family. In making her decision she had to look at the realities of what motherhood would likely mean for her and her life, and look beyond herself to the potential consequences of her actions.
There are many reasons why people decide not to have children. Articles like this get me going about the issue of having to justify our choice. I want to see a time when we don’t feel we need to justify our choice not to become parents–essentially a time when an article like Handler’s isn’t even necessary.
Do we ask parents why they decided to have children? Do we criticize people for having children? I look forward to the day when we’re not asked why we don’t want them and feel we have to explain ourselves, no matter what our reason is for not wanting kids. How do we get there? For Posts to come and please write with your thoughts!
Laura, your blog post showed up on my “Google Alerts” this morning, and I wanted to thank you for “getting it” about being childless by choice. I was honored to write the piece for Newsweek, and I appreciate insight like yours. Happy holidays and New Year.
I just read the original article and the comments. I can't believe she got anything BUT support. I wish more people were as self-aware, because risking a genetic disorder on an innocent child is extremely reckless and selfish. Ironically, women like Jessica are the most qualified to be mothers, as they're willing to sacrifice their desires for the well-being of children that they don't even have. There's something more beautiful about that, to me, than just popping out a new baby every year because you have “so much love to give”.