A society with a place for the Childfree/Childless

One of the books I read this summer was Collapse, by Jared Diamond.  It was a fascinating look at many different societies throughout history, and the choices they made that allowed the society to survive – or to collapse, sometimes with no survivors.  (population being too big for food production to support is a very common theme in the collapses).  It is a BIG book but I had a hard time putting it down.  Examples range from modern-day Montana, to ancient Easter Island, Greenland, Iceland, the Maya civilization, Japan, Rwanda, Australia, China … so many different stories.

One part that really caught my attention was control of population growth.  Diamond gave 2 examples (and others) of this occurring in an obvious way.  China is an example of the legislated, top-down “one child per family” law. The other was a small island, I believe in the South Pacific.  (the book has been returned to the library, overdue, and I didn’t make notes at the time).  This island is small enough that you can walk the entire perimeter in about a day, maybe less.  The consequences of too many mouths to feed are obvious to everyone on the island.  There are a few strategies in place to make sure the population does not get beyond the food support:  late stage abortions for families that have the accepted norm of children; groups of adolescents occasionally setting out into the ocean in canoes to go adventuring (sometimes to their deaths in this perilous venture, other times to emigrate or bring back new spouses to mix in with the gene pool); but also choosing to be childfree or “celibate.”  In this context celibate does not mean refraining from marriage or sex, but it does mean being committed to not having children.  

It just really made me think.  In this society, those who choose to live childfree probably have a well accepted and celebrated place.  They are making a sacrifice for the good of the entire society.  That choice may be attractive because it possibly brings a more carefree life.   I would imagine that those who do have children see them more as everyone’s children, to be loved and shared and adored by all.  It makes me think of the whole “it takes a village to raise a child” idea, where the children in a sense are cared for by everyone – and the elders of the population are cared for by all as well, having had an important role evident to everyone, whether or not they have children.  (please note these are my own thoughts – I’m extrapolating here.)  

I can’t imagine what the freedom of choice or pressures to choose one way or another might be.   It makes me wonder – if our society was different and truly embraced childfree as a choice – if it were a celebrated and honoured choice – how that would change the experience of living without children for those who arrive there by choice and also by infertility.  The dynamics of our societies being so big in comparison to this island, and with such great land masses – it means we are disconnected from each other, from our food supply and how much growth we can support – and from how much we could need and love each other.  (Mind you, there are distinct disadvantages of small societies where everyone knows your business too!  I could be thinking of this in a light that is too romantic).

Once I get to the library and pay my (bleeping) fines, I will probably take this book out again to re-read it more slowly.  It does make me wonder where our world is headed – if we can make the choices to improve our planet and our lives, instead of the choices that would lead to collapse.  I hope we can!

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Checking back in (I hope)

(NOTE: children mentioned)

It feels like ages since I’ve posted.  Many virtual posts have been written in my mind, but this is the first time in weeks I’ve actually sat down to write!

As a quick update on us – still no job for DH.  There is an interesting lead for a job he’d like – it would involve a cut in pay and in position, but if he’s interested I think it could be a good move.  I don’t know yet if it would be lower stress, more flexible time, etc.  I am looking at a shift in career, which involves upgrading of language skills (French) and possibly a couple of courses.  I am not 100% sure this is the way we’ll go, but it is an exciting possibility.

DS (4 yo) started junior kindergarten – full day, every day.  It has been exhausting working through his food allergy & asthma issues with the school, but I am so VERY happy with how they approach all of this.  I don’t mind doing the extra work they ask me to do, if it will keep him safe.  So far he adores his teacher and is absolutely loving his class.  On the difficult side, there has been a surge in independence & testing the boundaries.  This is entirely normal, and in fact healthy, but can still be very frustrating to deal with!  Also we need to find a new rhythm or set of routines to help us cope, and we haven’t quite settled yet.  On the medical front there seems to be something going on with DS’s stomach – it is hurting him at odd times, and started a month before school began, so I don’t think it’s stress.  The doc isn’t quite sure either.  It seems to have begun after a course of antibiotics so we are trying probiotics to see if that will help.

DD (2 yo) misses her brother very much – which is very sweet on the one hand.  But then, she also is going through a stage of stubborn independence that is a challenge.  (repeat the earlier sentence about this all being normal & healthy).

It’s been 8 months of unemployment (thankfully with a severence, but that was for 7 months) and the stress is getting to us a bit.  I am so hoping & praying for something to come our way.  Also DH’s doctor is insisting he come in since his blood lipids are “very elevated.”  I googled it and of course – stress can raise the lipid levels in the blood.  Thank goodness we have a vigilant & caring doctor.  But I hope we/he can manage this without having to take medications.  If he needs them, he needs them.  I am nervous of statin drugs (bad side effects for my grandpa & dad) and dh is only 38.  There’s no research that I know of the effects of taking these meds for 50+ years!  Still, if he’s in high risk for stroke territory, better to take the drugs than not (I guess)?

So we are still living in the hotel room at Stress Central – though at least we have interesting diversions like the Canadian election (ok, not so interesting) and the election of our neighbour to the south, the USA (much more interesting election!)