ZINE: Ask me about my tubal ligation (part 5 of 6)

(posted by Sarah Lawrance)

[This is the 5th of 6 posts where I share the content of my recent zine, “Ask me about my tubal ligation”, published by EXILE Press in February 2010. To read the 1st post, click here. To order a copy, feel free to visit exilebooks.orgmicrocosmpublishing.com, or akpress.org (coming soon). Thanks for your interest  :) ]

Part 4: Building a Better World

So far I have described many reasons not to have kids. When I get into such conversations, my collocutors sometimes think I must be self-centred, anti-baby, anti-parent, anti-family, or something else along those lines. I’ve thought about this long and hard and realized that the reality is actually quite the opposite! In this section, I describe some of the things people who are committed to building a better world can do if/when their time is not filled with rearing their own biological children. I think a lot of these things play a direct role in making the world a better place for families, and so should not be considered divorced from family-friendly values.

I see my future as more aligned with a solidarity model of caregiving and family. Since I don’t desire biological kids I choose to not have any, thereby freeing up time and energy to adopt or foster someone else’s kids if I want to someday, and/or to generally support my friends and family members who do or will have kids of their own. Energy is finite. Think about it: if every human devotes their time and energy to raising one or more additional humans on a full-time basis, the finite energy that exists gets spread very thinly over a lot of kids (notice that I am not speaking of love as finite, only emotional and attentional energy). If we have fewer people having fewer kids to raise, that frees up more of this adult energy to be devoted to each child. Imagine if there were dozens of people caring together in different and similar ways for only a handful of kids! Think of all the benefits the kids would get from being exposed to so many different people who have time and energy to give to them. And think of how much easier it would be on the parents, since they can then channel their own energy in more diverse ways and also have some time for themselves. I’m not talking about daycare but about a community model of family-raising, or an “intentional care community”. I think this is part of what it means for a village to raise a child. By making myself permanently unable to bring more babies into the world, I’m thereby freeing up a little bit of this attentional and emotional energy for someone else’s babies, or for other adults who need care, however I choose to do so.

I mentioned earlier that for parents today, all the options are bad. Whether it involves, medical care, food choices, schooling options, etc., I firmly believe we need more people devoting themselves to making the world better, not to making it more crowded and more resource-deprived. All the money, time, space, and emotional energy that it takes to raise humans from birth to adulthood could be better spent challenging pharmaceutical companies, industrial agriculture, standardized education, patriarchal and paternalistic medical institutions, and other problems. More importantly, it could be spent building alternative institutions (health, food, education, family) to replace those that have failed us so significantly, to start building the better world we want.

For example, I would much rather devote my energy to a small-scale, inner-city organic farm project that grows food using sustainable practices and makes it available to the local community at affordable prices. Similarly, I would much rather work for a labour union and fight for more holidays, a shorter workday and workweek, better pay and family health benefits, and more and better caregiver-related leaves. Better yet, I’d like to work in a collectively organized workplace that recognizes caregiver responsibilities and whose first priority is to create a supportive environment for workers who are also caregivers. Even more, I’d like to fight for a more inclusive definition of what “family” means so that non-traditional families and care networks receive the support they need. This could create a great workplace model to share with others and hopefully inspire new ones. In other words, I would rather help to make the choices easier for the existing families in my community, rather than start a new family. My priority is not to single out families in particular, but to enthusiastically include them rather than make them the exception. That’s where I want my energy to go, and I think that if the people who became parents by accident or for the wrong reasons were to do so as well (rather than have accidental children), we would have a world much friendlier to those people who truly want to raise children. This is not about criticizing people’s past decisions; this is about prefiguring and preparing for a different future.

Finally, I want to expand how we understand the idea of “the family”. The queer community has been doing this for decades, and I think it’s worth repeating here.

We should not rely on people to care for us purely based on a sense of abstract obligation or debt. The people who give us life, insofar as this was a conscious and intentional decision, should care for us by providing us with the tools needed to eventually get by on our own (or by finding someone else who can), but we should not have to care for our parents simply because they gave birth to us and raised us for many years. Similarly, we should not expect such care from our own kids. If we are going to care for anyone, it should be based on an intentional relationship of caring, because we truly value someone and want the best for them, right into old age.

Some people know early on that they are unable to depend on their family’s care, and need to forge alternative relationships and communities to play this role. Conversely, some people take for granted that their families will feel obligated to care for them, for better or for worse, and see this as a free pass to treat them poorly. Perhaps some people would make a better effort at being kind and respectful to one another if they knew their own well-being depended on it. The solidarity model does require a degree of selfishness: you want the best for other people because you see your own happiness as being bound up with theirs. This is ultimately a constructive form of selfishness, I think.

The nuclear family is a fairly recent historical and social phenomenon and, thankfully, appears to be in decline. Good riddance! I don’t know why people are so attached to it, except out of habit, or why even some queer people are determined to reproduce those models but with slightly different characters. Blood and law are pretty arbitrary factors in determining who people will spend their lives with and devote their energy to! Why can’t “family” be made up of friends who care about one another because they like and love one another based on common values and interests, not because they feel obligated to?

I prefer to think of “intentional care communities” rather than “families” as the primary social unit of a better world. Intentional care communities would be spaces where people come together with a commitment to care for one another, rather than the small isolated households or networks where people are connected by blood or law.

[part 6 coming soon]

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~ by artpoped on October 1, 2010.

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