Last night I had the pleasure of joining members of the East Bay Childfree-by-Choice Meetup to talk about my book, The Baby Matrix. It was a stimulating discussion, and sparked a great idea to pursue that supports action towards a post-pronatal society. First, a few highlights of the discussion.
We started of with each person in the group introducing themselves, and saying a few words about why they decided to have no children. Over the years, I’ve talked with thousands of childfree about their reasons for making this choice, and have loved listening to people’s own way of expressing and articulating their thoughts on this. Last night was no different; I so enjoyed listening to everyone’s thoughts and understanding of how they came to make this choice.
We covered a lot of ground – here are just a few highlights of our discussion:
How pronatalism is all around us
One woman brought up the point that as a result of reading the book, she sees pronatalism in action All Over the place. She gave the example of seeing a sign in her neighborhood saying, “Drive Like Your Kids Live Here.” What is the assumption in this statement? That everyone must have kids!
The environmental impact of having children
We discussed some key points I discuss related to what I call the pronatalist “Offspring Assumption,” which includes how increased consumption goes with raising children in our capitalist society, and how each biological child that comes into the world contributes to the carbon footprint in our country and the world.
Mandated parenthood education
There was talk related to what I call the pronatalist “Right to Reproduce Assumption,” including the idea I broach in the book about having mandated teen education on parenthood (including teaching that parenthood is optional in life), and mandated adult parent education. By “mandated” for adults, I mean implementing a type of “parent qualification certification” program developed by experts from a range of relevant fields such as education, counseling, family relations, child psychology, obstetrics, gynecology, reproductive health and public health to help people assess their parental readiness before they have or are even expecting a child.
It would also include making people very aware of the impact of bringing another child into our world today from an overpopulation and resource perspective. It would be available to all, and set up with strong policy incentives to complete it, such as fewer tax credits for those who do not complete it before having their child.
How a childfree meetup group can be perceived (by parents)
One woman expressed how a good friend of hers referred to this group as a “support group.” What does the word “support” imply? That something is “wrong” and there is a need for help, etc. Does the group feel this way? Absolutely not. The group describes themselves as more of a social group, and a gathering of women with shared interests.
What does the perception of it being a support group also point toward? To what I call the pronatalist Normality Assumption – the embedded belief yet myth that “There is something wrong with you if you don’t want children.”
There was a good deal of discussion about workplace inequities when it comes to time off policies, and some true stories told that really exemplify it. This led to talk of a meetup sometime soon to discuss forming a nonprofit entity to take on these types of policy inequities.
I was thrilled that this kind of idea came up! I stress in the book ways we can help move to a post-pronatal society (and why this is so important to us all – parents and not), and this includes having the courage to take action that challenges discrimination based on reproductive choice.
Thanks to the awesome women for a great discussion, and their boldness in deciding to take steps to challenge pronatalism, which is essential for us to progress as a society. To that I say – I am All In!