I’m really productive lately. It’s partly because of the whims of nature and an upturn in my creative cycle. The creative cycle involves long periods of research, dormancy and tons of regular work, most of which is very bad. But my recent productivity also involves having the time to do all of this.
I’ve gone on about my relative good fortune before, so I’ll skip that for now. Recently I’ve been thinking about other, similarly profound and overarching things that affect my productivity. (I’d like to use another word, because productivity sounds too much like factory work. Maybe I’ll come back to that.)
Recently I met with a group of women artists around my same age, and we discussed doing a group show. I realized that I am the only one of us who doesn’t have children. It’s not something I think about a lot, or at all, really; but occasionally I acknowledge to myself that there is an enormous life experience called parenthood that I have no part in.
It’s tricky to write about this. I’m a woman who has always known, with great certainty, that I don’t want children. I also affirm that good education, affordable, accessible childcare and generous maternal AND paternal leave are bedrocks of a civil society, and I would be delighted if a good chunk of my tax money would go toward all that. I mean, DUH. But I also know that not everyone needs to be a parent, directly. I think it’s probably best that not everyone is.
I’ve read many articles (though not much feminist theory, so maybe I need to do that?) over the years by women who choose not to have children, and I have yet to read something that doesn’t have have a tinge of apology, regret or sometimes even hostility. It’s weird. Several years ago, I was hired to do some animation work by a woman who made a documentary about herself and other women who chose to be childless. Much of the footage I saw had that same sort of weird awkwardness – apology, defiance, I don’t know what all. And then shortly after the film was finished, the director announced she was pregnant. Well okay then.
I don’t tell that story to be judgemental. It’s just part of this mystery to me. I know there are many other women out there like me – I am friends with a lot of them – but I have yet to read a well articulated piece about it. Maybe it’s because the women who choose to write about it are trying to justify their choice to themselves? Who knows.
I have always needed a great deal of time to myself, and I have been profoundly fortunate to be able to indulge that need for most of my life. I’m the youngest; I never had childcare duty. As I got older, I admired some of my friends who were the oldest in their families, because they seemed to have their act together. They could plan things well. They spoke with authority. Eventually I connected those traits with their family responsibility, and I wanted to find out more about it.
Partly because of this, I babysat a handful of times for friends of our family. That did not last long. I saw that childcare involved putting someone else’s immediate needs before my own, and I was not interested in that at all.
So now I sound like an asshole. Could be true, I guess; but then it’s a good thing I’m not a parent.
People may see a dissonance between that early realization, and my current dedication to various just causes and the creation of a more equitable society. I don’t see a dissonance. Maybe this is just how I, personally, express my concern for future generations. And anyway, making videos for this or that campaign is not the same thing as parenting. In case I needed to say that. We’ve all got different energy for different things.
I just realized it’s Labor Day. So I’d like to salute all the unacknowledged labor that parents put in on a daily basis. It’s not that I don’t respect it; I just know it’s not for me. My part in the future lies in other areas.