Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The Last Taboo
In New York City, I have been privy to many conversations on a subject that is quite taboo: childlessness, i.e. the adult or couple who, for one reason or another, chooses not to become a parent. At best, one hopes for at least civil tolerance between parents and nonparents regarding the subject. But discussions can become quite hostile, quickly escalating to character assassinations.
Many are driven to the city to pursue careers and take advantage of an environment where the American Dream looms large. Child rearing is often put on the back burner until later in life. Often, couples leave the city for the suburbs when a decision has been made to raise a family.
Economics also make it difficult to have a family here. It is doable, but the cost of real estate is extraordinary.
And there are those who just never wanted children. For these, the city provides a level of social possibilities and a density of human interaction hard to find elsewhere.
There is such a stimulatory environment in New York City that any children that are here almost become lost in a sensory assault of people, places, things and activities.
And there are those that actually do hate kids. The childless who like children but just have chosen not to have them often must defend themselves against being child haters. In 2005, the New York Times published an article, "Supersize Strollers Ignite Sidewalk Drama." In it, the discussion of childlessness is described as the last taboo:
Not having children "doesn't mean I hate kids," she said. "But I do hate the parents who somehow have decided that they are superior to everyone else because they have kids."
It might help, Ms. Felcher and others said, if parents and nonparents could talk about their feelings toward one another. "It's the last taboo in this culture," Ms. Felcher said. "You just can't talk about it."
Ms. Anderson agreed, "We're a bit afraid of expressing our opinions for fear of being labeled as people who hate children or who do not support women."
I do not champion the life of the childless or dislike children. The negatives of being childless become greater as individuals age. Parents pass away and often, only siblings, if there are any, remain as the only close family. Even a minimal level of care taking or assistance becomes unavailable. Holidays can become times of sadness. Many are terrified at the prospect of aging alone - even with money, a social safety net needs to include people, something money doesn't buy.
It is easy to live a life in New York City with virtually no interaction with children at all. Childless individuals and couples are common and easy to befriend. Some may feel that this is an impoverished life. Others see it as a merely a lifestyle choice and a realization that not everyone is cut out to be a parent. We should be capable of rational, calm dialogue about the subject without character assaults. It should not be the last taboo...
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