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Childfree by Choice: The Movement Redefining Family and Creating a New Age…

di Dr. Amy Blackstone

UtentiRecensioniPopolaritàMedia votiConversazioni
363554,596 (3.71)Nessuno
As a childfree woman, Dr. Amy Blackstone is no stranger to a wide range of negative responses when she informs people she doesn't have-nor does she want-kids- confused looks, patronizing quips, thinly veiled pity, even outright scorn and condemnation. But she is not alone in opting out when it comes to children. More people than ever are choosing to forgo parenthood, and openly discussing a choice that's still often perceived as taboo. Yet this choice, and its effects personally and culturally, are still often misunderstood. Since 2008, Amy Blackstone, a professor of sociology, has been studying the childfree choice, a choice she and her husband had already confidently and happily made. Using her own and others' research as well as her personal experience, Blackstone delves into the childfree movement from its conception to today, exploring gender, race, sexual orientation, politics, environmentalism, and feminism, as she strips away the misconceptions surrounding non-parents and reveals the still radical notion that support of the childfree can lead to better lives and societies for all.… (altro)
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Excellent Premise. Good yet flawed effort. As an introduction to the childfree movement and its history, this book serves as a solid primer for anyone who does not know either or both of these topics. As someone who is childfree and is active in various levels of working within the childfree community, I had *very* high hopes for this book. Unfortunately this book just had too many flaws to rate it any higher than the three stars I decided to give it. For one, it makes scientific claims using only sociological evidence. Which is perhaps allowed in the author's own background in the humanities and specifically sociology, but this reader is a trained scientist with a math and computer background. The book also tries to back up many of its claims with studies that often have only a couple of dozen participants or less - again, perhaps a valid tactic in sociological research circles, but in the statistical analysis world more familiar to this reader would be laughed out of even a bachelor's level statistics class. Also, while the book is titled referring to the entire childfree movement, its arguments and discussions are almost entirely from the female perspective, and even when the male perspective is included it is more often denigrated as too small to study or present. Finally, all of these combine to leave the severe impression of a major case of confirmation bias on the part of the author - even from someone predisposed to trying to see this book in the best possible light and wanting it to succeed in order to help bring light to an aspect of his own life.

Overall a solid yet flawed effort, and highly recommended despite the flaws - the conversation it presents is truly that critical, and the book does a genuinely adequate job of at least opening that conversation. ( )
  BookAnonJeff | Jul 11, 2021 |
As someone who is not getting married and not having kids, I get a lot of pushback. So I usually enjoy reading this kind of book. However, Childfree by Choice just rubbed me the wrong way.

First, I think it had a lot of potential, and at first I was excited to finally read a book where an author writes "heterosexual couples" rather than just "couples" as if gay people don't exist or matter somehow, but then the author basically just talked about straight married or straight coupled people for the entire book. As somebody who identifies with more than one of the letters in LGBTQIA+, I was disappointed that the trans experience was one or two sentences, intersex ignored, asexuals ignored, and bisexual people just passably mentioned. Gay folks and lesbians at least got a couple of mentions here and there.

But seriously, a lot of the issues brought up in this book really lock in to the idea of a gender binary. Maybe if we could stop being so uptight about what "woman" means (or be so bought in to the idea that it matters that there is such a thing as a "woman"), things could start getting better. Like IDGAF if not having kids makes me not "feminine." I reject the very idea. Why spend paragraphs talking about how women without kids really are feminine rather than just admitting that the entire idea is an absurdity?

Second, I joke with people that I'm not getting married so at least people will keep asking me the invasive question of when I'm going to get married rather than the even more invasive question about when I'm going to have kids. But like, this book was all about the coupled peoples experience. Let me tell you, being single and childfree sometimes makes life harder, especially living in a suburb. Again, I guess this just struck me as a shame, because the book could have been so much more interesting and progressive if the focus hadn't been on so many straight couples. Let's join up and smash the status quo together! But no, I'll just live somewhere in the margins instead I guess.

Last, something just I couldn't put my finger on just really rubbed me the wrong way while I was reading this book. I think it took almost to the end of the book when it dawned on me. I don't give a crap what studies say about happiness / life satisfaction / life expectancy / financial status / etc. in parents / non-parents... I've made a decision not to have children, and it's nobody's business but my own. Everybody needs to respect that. It doesn't matter if I've made what could objectively be pointed to as the correct or incorrect decision based on empirical data. I've made the correct decision *for me*, and no number of studies makes that an invalid choice. Same goes for parents. They've made the correct decision *for them*, and it doesn't matter what the studies say. So spending an entire book quoting studies to help people rationalize not having children isn't really the kind of pushback I'd like against a society that stigmatizes my life and my decisions.

I mean yes, women basically lose no matter what. They don't have enough kids, they have too many kids, they have the wrong kind of kids. And that needs to stop. But social scientists studying perceived levels of happiness isn't the way to get where we need to go. Unfortunately this book does not bring us any closer to that place either, other than raising awareness on an issue that doesn't really need awareness, but good sound public policy (and invasive humans minding their own business and not asking people when they're going to have kids). ( )
  lemontwist | Mar 9, 2021 |
BINGO:
I Love This

Best for:
I wish everyone would read this. Parents who don’t understand why people would choose to not be parents can learn a lot about society’s misconceptions, but us childfree folks really benefit from writing that treats us as well-adjusted adults, not selfish, juvenile misanthropes.

In a nutshell:
Sociologist Blackstone looks at what it means to choose a life without children of one’s own.

Worth quoting:
I underlined something on nearly every page, and starred something especially poignant probably every three or four pages. But here are some of my favorites.

Regarding trying to get sterilized: “To feel so unheard for so many years, to be treated like a child who doesn’t know her own mind, and to be doubted by the very people who should be your advocates is demoralizing and exhausting.”

On the fact that there isn’t any evidence for such a thing as a ‘maternal instinct’: “It is much more comfortable, and comforting to others, to joke about one’s individual lack of maternal instinct than it is to suggest that it doesn’t exist.”

Discussing the definition of family: “Google the phrase ‘start a family’ and you’ll quickly discover that for many people, even today, families don’t begin until children enter the picture. This is not lost on the childfree.”

“No, we don’t all hate kids but neither should we have to justify our choice not to have them with lengthy proclamations about how much we adore them.”

Why I chose it:
I am childfree (and only met my spouse because we both selected ‘Does not want kids’ in our OK Cupid profiles) and have spent a ton of time thinking through this topic. I’m even working on a book that explores how relationships between parents and non-parents change once kids enter the picture. When I saw this book in the shop I damn near bought all the copies. Thankfully it lived up to and exceeded by expectations.

Review:
I could write a review of this book that is nearly as long as the introduction to it. Let me just say, up front, that Blackstone is both a thorough researcher AND a great writer, which keeps what could have been a dry book entertaining and interesting.

Blackstone starts the book in a place one might not expect — by acknowledging that while parenthood (and especially motherhood) is revered in US culture, there are specific groups of people who have traditionally been discouraged from having children. Basically, white middle- and upper-class women are pushed to reproduce, while people of color are judged for having children (especially more than just one or two) and experienced a history of having their reproductive rights challenged through things like forced sterilization. It’s good to center this discussion there.

She looks at pronatalism’s impact on our views of women and how by promoting the essentialness of motherhood to being a women, society then leads us to internalize the idea that women who aren’t mothers aren’t real women. This then has an effect on nearly everything, from how people are wary of women who don’t have kids to the benefits that are available to parents (such as the flexibility to leave work early to pick up a sick kid) but not non-parents (such as the flexibility to leave work early to take an ill pet to the vet). It extends to how we define family (something that really pisses me off) as only existing when a child and a parent are involved — to many people, my husband and I aren’t a family and I guess never will be since kids are not in our future.

She also focuses a lot of time on why people might make the choice not to have children, and how society views us as selfish. She compares how parents come to their own decision to have children, and points out those reasons are often just as ‘selfish,’ and concludes that we should just take that word out of rotation in this area because it serves no purpose. And of course threaded throughout is evidence of how parents and society as a whole are generally wary of non-parents and a bit judgmental about us.

Really the only area she doesn’t spent a lot of time on is how people without children can lose their friends as they become parents and their time and priorities shift, though her partner address this anecdotally in the afterword, which is written by him.

I loved this book because it made me feel seen and understood. I don’t have a ‘reason’ for not wanting children other than that I don’t want to be a parent. Much like I don’t want to be a surgeon. There’s nothing wrong with being a surgeon, and I agree society needs some, but it’s obviously not right for everyone. I wish people who look at me like I’m deficient or broken would instead realize that just as they CHOSE parenthood, I’ve CHOSEN a life without my own kids. It’s a weird feeling to know that up to three quarters of my life won’t match most of what my friends experience; this book helped me feel less alone in that.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it but also buy copies for people. ( )
  ASKelmore | Aug 28, 2019 |
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As a childfree woman, Dr. Amy Blackstone is no stranger to a wide range of negative responses when she informs people she doesn't have-nor does she want-kids- confused looks, patronizing quips, thinly veiled pity, even outright scorn and condemnation. But she is not alone in opting out when it comes to children. More people than ever are choosing to forgo parenthood, and openly discussing a choice that's still often perceived as taboo. Yet this choice, and its effects personally and culturally, are still often misunderstood. Since 2008, Amy Blackstone, a professor of sociology, has been studying the childfree choice, a choice she and her husband had already confidently and happily made. Using her own and others' research as well as her personal experience, Blackstone delves into the childfree movement from its conception to today, exploring gender, race, sexual orientation, politics, environmentalism, and feminism, as she strips away the misconceptions surrounding non-parents and reveals the still radical notion that support of the childfree can lead to better lives and societies for all.

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