Inspiration for childless and childfree women

Thoughts and ideas to inspire, uplift and affirm the childless and childfree, by circumstance and by choice

more or less?

There are lots of associations made between non-motherhood and hedonism, perhaps fuelled mainly by representations of childfreedom in Sex and the City, where the chief benefits of not having children seem to be things like the opportunity to buy an awful lot of shoes and bags. I didn’t find those things particularly appealing in my teens or twenties and I certainly don’t find them any more so now.

So I’m wondering if there are others who share in my feeling that one of the nicest things about being a non-mother isn’t the opportunity to accumulate more stuff. It’s actually the opportunity to accumulate less.

For me, this is partly just an aesthetic thing. I like not having too much stuff around. But it’s also that I have ethical issues with materialism. I don’t want to contribute to landfill by having lots of disposable things, by which I don’t just mean unnecessary plastic packaging, but also things like clothes and homewares that are designed to be enjoyed for a month or two and then discarded as unfashionable and passé and replaced with whatever-the-new-thing-is. There also seems to be a strong connection between this kind of consumption and systems of production that I believe are unethical, mainly in terms of the human rights abuses often involved in cheap labour, perhaps most notably the abuse of child workers. I want no part in supporting that.

Given that I have only myself to please, I find it pretty easy to shop minimally and in places upholding ethics I’m happy to support – mainly a combination of locally produced and secondhand goods. But I wonder what it would be like if a child was involved. Would I constrain a child according to my own ethical beliefs about consumption, in ways that might exclude her or him from school-age fads that seem so often to involve cheap, disposable, plastic things, or from fitting in with peers by wearing whatever is in fashion that fortnight and then discarding it?

I hope and suspect that, had my life taken a different path, I’d have found ways of compromising. I know and admire quite a few women who work hard to honour environmental and ethical concerns while being sensitive to the roles that material things play in their children’s social lives and their rights to personal expression through clothing and personal possessions.

But overall, I think it’s funny that non-motherhood has become so strongly associated with having more stuff, when for me one of its perks is the opportunity to have less, without having to inflict your own beliefs, tastes and priorities on anybody else.

If you’re interested in reading more about the kinds of freedom involved in a life of non-motherhood, you might enjoy this post about the pleasures of deep sleep or this post celebrating a lifestyle that allows for spontaneity.

But in the meantime, how about you? In terms of materialism, do you tend to associate non-motherhood with having more or having less?

[The beautiful image above is presented with permission from Yataro.]


25 comments on “more or less?

  1. tiffanylo
    April 2, 2012

    Hmm, this is a very interesting and thought-provoking blog post, as usual!
    I don’t think anyone in my life views my husband and I as materialistic or big into buying/spending. I definitely do not own Manolos, designer clothing, or an impressive array of “bling-y” goods. πŸ˜‰ That said, I DO enjoy having more extra cash to buy what I want, when I want–within reason. However, I also enjoy vintage/second-hand goods, including housewares, clothing, and jewelry (I am fairly obsessed with growing my collection of rings, many of which are either hand-made/eco-friendly or vintage!). Would I feel more constrained regarding my spending habits if I had a child? Of course. Would that stop me from shopping/spending entirely? Definitely not. Again, my mom showed me how to have a happy balance in life between saving and spending, while my dad was more on the “cheapo” end of things when I was a kid. πŸ˜‰ He has since learned the joys of spending, saving, and giving generously to others, after years of “gentle instruction” from my mom.
    I would say that my husband and I also prefer to travel and spend our money that way, rather than renovating our house (aside from installing hardwood floors several years ago) or making drastic changes in other ways to our property… That’s not to say we won’t make improvements in the near future, but at this point, we’d rather spend our money exploring the world while we’re still youthful and energetic enough to do so. (And, of course, we hope to continue to do so when we’re elderly, but you just never know what the future might bring.)

    • olivia
      April 2, 2012

      Thanks for your thoughts on this, Tiffanylo. Your ring collection sounds completely exquisite :). And so do your hardwood floors, actually…

  2. Lilly
    April 2, 2012

    I do know some people who have kids who are ‘minimalists’, so to speak, but that is rare – in their case, it is because they are strict Christians and go to a small church that is similar to Mennonite. But it is true that most parents accumulate junk, they buy their kids way too much and some really go way too far.

    I don’t get how people are dumb enough to think that someone who is childless is automatically career-driven and/or materialistic, when that is just not the case.

    • olivia
      April 2, 2012

      Oh that’s so interesting Lilly – I hadn’t thought of people who are minimalist for religious reasons.

      As for what people think, I guess we’re not really represented much in the media There’s only really Samantha and Carrie from SATC, Patty and Selma from the Simpsons and Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love. So if people don’t know many of us, perhaps that’s all there is to base conclusions on…

  3. rantywoman
    April 2, 2012

    All the stuff that has to be bought to support children does concern me. Whenever I feel bad about accumulating, I remind myself that since I haven’t had children, my lifestyle is generally a lot less wasteful than it could have been.

    There are two areas in which I overspend: eating well and dance/exercise classes. I’m not big on buying “stuff.”

    • olivia
      April 2, 2012

      They sound like very worthy (and healthy) areas for splurging, rantywoman πŸ™‚

  4. Luisafer
    April 2, 2012

    I recently entered a minimalist phase that started with not buying anything at all for the monts of November and December of 2011. Then we entered 2012 and I didn’t even notice that I was still not shopping. I did this because I am seriously concerned about “shopping to fill a void”, plus the landfill factor also horrifies me. I tend to buy a little something when I’m feeling down, or go window shopping to entertain myself. I wanted to be conscious of it. It’s ok to window shop but it can’t be the default behaviour when I’m bored or blue. Non-motherhood for me is definitely buying only when I need it but also splurging if I want to. Oh and my closet contains not more than three pairs of footwear: slippers, flip-flops and my three year old blundstone boots. πŸ™‚

    • olivia
      April 2, 2012

      Luisafer, I’m a blundstones woman too πŸ™‚

      What a brilliant thing to have done over November and December. That must be long enough to break a habit. I think you’re dead right about the importance of doing these things consciously – it’s not only about cutting back, its also about making sure indulgences can really be enjoyed.

      Thanks so much for your comment!

  5. Angie
    April 2, 2012

    I have an obsession with expensive handbags and have amassed quite a collection of them over the years, but that is one of the few material things I splurge on. (One other being books, which I don’t really consider an extravagance, and nice clothes for work, which are a necessity in my situation.) Like tiffanylo, my husband and I have chosen to spend most of our disposable income on travel and other experiences, as opposed to things. I think we also spend a larger percentage of our income on food than most two-person households because we buy all organic, high-quality ingredients to cook with at home. Because of our childfreedom, we are able to do these things, and also save for retirement and other house-related things. Not having to spend money on things for kids, allows us to have more flexibility to prioritize our spending on what is important to us. To me, this is one of the greatest things about being childfree!

    • olivia
      April 2, 2012

      Angie, yes, I have conveniently excluded books and travel from the categories of clutter and hedonism πŸ™‚ Those are my own exact personal ‘weaknesses’ too!

  6. Mali
    April 2, 2012

    Travel is our hedonistic indulgence. A friend commented on it once, implying we were very rich, and I pointed out that our annual travel budget was the same as her kids’ private school fees.

    And of course, we drive an older car, and our house needs work and we haven’t done that, because each time we look at a major expense, we work out where in the world we could go for that price!

    • olivia
      April 2, 2012

      Mali, I find myself thinking of money in terms of the travel it will buy too. I love those boards outside travel agents with all the flights and the prices beside them – they can talk me out of buying just about anything because it would almost certainly be more interesting to see Peru!

  7. Jennifer
    April 2, 2012

    What an interesting topic! Yours is my favorite new blog. I don’t think being childfree has a linear correlation with choosing to have less stuff, but it certainly makes it possible if one already has minimalist leanings. We have childfree friends who use their double income to get more stuff — things for their home, their hobbies, their cats. We also have childfree friends who love white walls and clean spaces. Kevin and I are somewhere in the middle. We don’t totally eschew materialism (I am so with you on the books), but we’re pretty conscious about what we buy and what impact it has on the planet. For me, being childfree simply leaves more options open (should I ever want to turn hardcore minimalist) and the financial freedom to choose my lifestyle.

    • olivia
      April 2, 2012

      Jennifer, thank you!

      Yes, I think you’re absolutely spot on when you point out that this is really just a matter of having more freedom to make choices about your living space, rather than any particular correlation.

      (Such a beautiful cat, btw.)

  8. AE Vorro (@witavorr)
    April 2, 2012

    When I see the piles of stuff at baby showers and then the steady flow of toys and clothes generally required to maintain child (not to mention the hoards of infant/toddler equipment people seem to amass), I associate parenting with a higher level of materialism. Of course, people without children can easily amass stuff, but it seems easier to avoid excess things without kids. I think it’s easier to “make do” without children. You can’t just not buy your child a car seat, for example.

    Of course, this is coming from someone who fantasizes burning her every possession….

    • olivia
      April 2, 2012

      Yes, the freedom to make-do had better be a topic for a future blog post I think!

      Ha! I have that fantasy too πŸ™‚

  9. Kaitlyn
    April 2, 2012

    I like the fact I can do them both. I’m not too materialistic, but I enjoy knowing that if I see something I want, I can get it with little or no consequence. I’m a college student, so sleep is precious to me too πŸ™‚

    • olivia
      April 2, 2012

      Ah, blessed sleep πŸ™‚

  10. Lynn T
    April 3, 2012

    I also dislike the assumption that the childfree are career-driven and materialistic as neither of those words describe me. I believe that the phrase “everything in moderation” is good to apply to all aspects of life. I really don’t like the idea of having lots of stuff and I definitely have more things than I would like to, mainly clothes, not because I buy too many items but because I keep things too long. My gorgeous new purple leather sofa was a tad extravagant but I hope to still be sitting on it in 25 years!! So it should hopefully also be good value for money! When I think of a life with children, I really can’t imagine going out and buying all the many things you need for when a baby comes along, and all the many more things over the years, and it’s definitely a plus of the childfree life that you never need to do this. One of my male work colleagues is married to one of my best friends and they have 2 children. He is very environmentally friendly and I jokingly said to him (even though we both know it’s entirely true) that if i choose not to have children, whatever I do or don’t do, it is pretty likely that my impact on the environment will be far less than his no matter how hard he tries. He said that its for environmental reasons that they are having two children when they would otherwise like 3. But I have a feeling they will have a third one. The majority of people who like to think they are SO green, are not green enough to forgo having children because the bottom line is that they want children therefore if they can have them, they will.

    • olivia
      April 6, 2012

      Oh, I love the sound of that purple leather couch, Lynn. How gorgeous! And I bet it will still be gorgeous in twenty-five years with a lovely absence of food being pressed into it and colouring-in being done upon it :).

  11. sharon
    April 3, 2012

    I believe the best thing we can do for our planet is keep our numbers down.
    Immediately following that statement comes the question. “What am I trying
    to save the planet for? The answer is “future life!” Our children, nephews, nieces,
    friends, puppies, turtles, kittens, annual moon flowers!” Viva life!!
    “Moving stuff around” seems to be gaining popularity or is it just in my world?
    I place my “things” in good homes when I am finished with them.
    I recently gave a family a blender and an electric fry pan and that same week
    was given a keyboard (on permanent loan) from an unrelated source which I wanted and adore.
    I rarely view the “jumping box” and have never seen the show “sex in the city”.
    Good luck to them for having sex and I couldn’t think of a better place than in
    the City! I assume it is in a hotel and not Federal square but the way things are going with reality TV, nothing would surprise me. Aren’t we lucky we get to choose our own input ? Freud would suggest a hand bag/shoe fetish was a sex act substitute. WOW. These women do shoes AND sex. Good luck to them!!

    • olivia
      April 6, 2012

      They seem to have good luck on the whole, Sharon! And it sounds as if, with the ‘moving around’ pattern you’ve described, your luck hasn’t been too badly lately either! What a great system πŸ™‚

  12. Chase
    April 4, 2012

    Dear Olivia, I have just found your blog. Thank you! I often want to expound and share on the joys of being child free, and am so happy to find such a positive place to share. I associate being unchilded with MORE! More time for gardening, more time for reading, browsing second hand bookstores, going for unplanned serendipitous walks and eating in unplanned restaurants then engaging in unplanned conversations for as long as I want with a stranger. More time for caressing tubes of paint in the art store, deliberating which new colour I should buy this week to add to my collection, so I can spend another day off in silence painting by my quiet window. More time for sleeping in on Saturday, then drinking tea in bed with my sweetie well into the later part of the morning. More time and energy for African dancing in the evenings, and long hikes on the weekend. More money for organic food and earrings and books. More empty space in my house for meditation corners. More Buddhas, more CBC.

    I have lots more to say… I think I’ll save it for later.

    Thank you for your courage to have this site.

    • olivia
      April 6, 2012

      Hi Chase,

      It’s lovely to meet you and I’m so glad you’ve found the website! Contributions such as this one could not be more welcome :).

      I LOVE your descriptions of more, especially the pain in the art store and the tea drinking in bed. They’re definitely pleasures close to my own heart too. African dancing, hiking and earrings….what a beautiful life you’ve created!

      I hope we get to read many, many more of your gorgeous thoughts x

  13. Staz
    September 30, 2012

    Thank you so much for writing this post. I am often left speechless by the amount of stuff my parenting friends amass for every child. Then they will often complain their homes are too cluttered from toys, school gear, sports equipment, etc. Whenever I see the amount of clothes necessary for a “new baby” at a shower, only to realize those clothes will be outgrown in months, it makes me cringe. Living with less keeps my mind clear and my focus sharper so I don’t see a problem with that at all.

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