Where EVERYONE is a maker

Episode 15: Yes It’s Normal to Not Want Children

Episode 15 cover art

Why is not wanting to have kids such a big deal to some people? Isn’t it totally normal for some people to not want them?

Yes, it is normal to not want children. And since the first 14 episodes (or season 1) focused on the creative part of the childfree Latine experience, for these next 12 episodes (season 2) we’re going to discuss the childfree part of the creative Latine experience. This is about representation. Childfree Latines are minorities within minorities. It’s not very accepted to be childfree in Latinoamerican cultures, and we’d really like to change that.

Because yes, it is normal to not want children. And not wanting children does not equate to hating children.

Let’s normalize this idea and shift how childfree characters are portrayed in popular media. Do away with the stereotypes perpetuated by the likes of Cruella de Vil, Ursula, and Scar the Lion from Disney movies, which portray childfree characters as jealous, sadistic, and sinister. That’s the idea we’re feeding to actual children! Forget that Disney movies already have problematic themes. This is another level of yikes!

This season will feature the voices of a host of mujeres fuertes, artists and storytellers painting portraits with stories of their own real world experiences. And how being childfree has afforded them the ability to craft their lives on their own terms. They’ve created life in different ways, nurturing and mothering people in diverse but no less impactful relationships than what we commonly refer to as “parents.” After all, “its takes a village,” doesn’t it?

This episode highlights the story of me, Paulette Erato, a childfree Latina woman. And poses the questions: is it actually a choice to be childfree? What if I was just born this way?

Plus, what’s the distinction between childless and childfree?

After this episode, the hope is you will better understand that:

  1. Not wanting kids isn’t weird or abnormal, it’s just different
  2. Childfree people aren’t the bitter, selfish, or even dangerous people the media makes them out to be, and that these stereotypes do more harm than good
  3. That being childfree is a measure of self-awareness, a boundary and limit we’re not willing to cross to please other people—and that is the peak of adulting

DM me on Instagram if you have questions about this week’s episode. And if you would like to apply to be on the podcast, fill out this form.

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[00:00] Buen día y welcome to The Maker Muse Podcast, the place where childfree Spanglish- speaking mujeres fuertes are inspired to find their confidence through creativity. I’m I’m Paulette Erato, the Maker Muse. Welcome to the new season of The Maker Muse Podcast mis amiges!! So last season, we focused on the creative side of the . Latina experience.

[00:22] This season, we’re focusing on the childfree side of the creative Latina experience. This is about representation. Because see we childfree Latines are minorities within minorities. It’s not very accepted to be childfree in our cultures. And we’d really like to change that, normalize it and shift how we’re portrayed in popular media.

[00:41] Cuz right now it’s mostly one dimensional, kind of wrong, and pretty unfair. So hoy, we’re talking about how it’s absolutely normal to not want kids. I know that sounds absolutely bonkers to some people. If you’re a childfree person listening right now, hola. I see you. If you’re not a childfree person, I hope you’re listening with an open heart and mind because some of this might be new to you and it may be a little challenging to get a full grasp on it.

[01:09] Here is what I’m hoping happens at the end of this episode, and by extension, the entire season: one, we all recognize that not wanting kids isn’t weird or abnormal. It’s just different. Two, that childfree people aren’t the bitter, selfish, or even dangerous people the media makes us out to be. And we recognize how much harm those stereotypes and bingos can cause. And finally, that being childfree is a measure of self-awareness; a boundary and a limit we are not willing to cross to please other people.

[01:41] And if you don’t know what I mean by the word bingo that’s okay. Let me explain it. Bingos are the slang term for all those cliched questions, comments, and full on attacks that childfree people get so often, we can fill an entire bingo card with them. And there are bingo cards online. I’ll leave a link in the show notes for some. Bingos are so common. They’re very prevalent and they can be pretty hurtful. Maybe I’ll do a deeper dive into them in a future episode, but for now I will be pointing out a few in this episode.

[02:13] Another thing I wanna touch on is the use of the terms childfree and childless. Sometimes you may even hear the phrase childless by choice. There isn’t necessarily an agreement around which terms are more appropriate. But in my circle, the preferred term for people who don’t want kids is childfree. While childless is for people who do want children, but can’t have them. There’s a big difference between those two camps. So that’s how I will differentiate between them on this show.

[02:44] So back to the completely normal idea that there are some people who just do not want children. Because you’re human and therefore have an inherent negative bias (go back and listen to episode one for more on this particular topic), your first instinct might be to recoil at the thought that everyone doesn’t want kids.

[03:06] Why? Because it goes against some deeply ingrained societal norms that feel comfortable and that’s not your fault. So if you find yourself having trouble reconciling the idea that not everyone wants kids, that’s okay. But here’s the thing it’s not okay to then believe that everyone has to have kids because this is about choices… maybe. And partially biology, because not everyone who wants kids can have them.

[03:33] So back to my first point, while it’s not your fault, that this might be a challenging idea to you, it is your responsibility to unlearn some of these negativities that might be floating around in your head around the idea that everyone has to have kids. Growing up in a family- centric culture made you believe that because society thrives on population growth.

[03:51] You’ll hear a lot of news stories, especially recently, about how the population is shrinking. Population growth depends on three factors: births, deaths, and migration. Let’s look at those last two. We know baby boomers are dying off and now our immigration policy is to have Kamala Harris tell refugees not to come.

[04:10] So we’re left to focus on making babies. There’s too many people exiting the workforce as the entire baby boomer generation starts retiring and then dying off. So they’re leaving a lot of empty space behind them that needs to be backfilled. Why? Because technology hasn’t yet replaced all of us. So we need a lot of people of working age to fill the gap. And a surplus of workers helps keep wages low. Society needs these little worker drones. And in order to do that, we need to keep making babies.

[04:42] But as the us, especially continues to cut back on women’s rights, on education, on actual social safety nets, like paid maternity leave childcare, healthcare, etcetera, etcetera… is it any wonder that people are thinking, ah, maybe not? So we’re enticed to believe that society needs people to make more people. All of that is perfect for positioning people who don’t have kids, as the enemy. So if you don’t want children, where do you fit into society? That mis amiges, I hate to tell you is kind of a bummer situation. Because in a society that wants everyone to have kids again, so they can work until they die, it’s really frowned upon to not have kids.

[05:27] It’s especially doubly hard. When you come from a family- centered culture, like many Latine Americans. So everybody plans on having kids. And when you are the odd one out who maybe doesn’t, you are the weirdo. And no one wants to be the weirdo. While we may not all want to conform, we all do want to belong.

[05:48] We wanna be in the in- crowd and not necessarily stick out for the bad reasons. I mean, we all just want to be accepted. That’s an inherent human need. We all want to be accepted. So what do you do when you’re the one who’s different? How do you cope? Because all you did was make a choice, right? Well, maybe it’s not that simple.

[06:09] I’m gonna tell you my story and let’s see if you can relate. And I don’t want you to think that my story is all that typical or that it’s even common. It’s probably not. I mean, it’s probably not uncommon, but it’s probably also not the same for other childfree people. And it’s definitely not the rule.

[06:24] And that is why I invited so many other mujeres fuertes to share their stories this season. So you get different perspectives. I’m telling you my story, because that’s the one I know.

[06:36] So in case you’ve never seen what I look like, I am a short, curly haired, Latina woman with brown eyes and I’m right-handed. Also, I do not want children. But I never realized I actively made the choice to not have children.

[06:48] To me, it’s just who I am. It’s not even the most interesting thing about me. I think my curly hair is a hell of a lot more interesting! But just like having brown eyes and being right-handed, I think being childfree is also biological for me. I came out of the box this way. Let me back up.

[07:07] I grew up in Southern California with my parents and two brothers. I played with dolls as a kid, and that’s kind of how everyone’s persuaded into believing they should have kids, because these are the toys that they’re given. At least that was the case in the eighties. I also played with my brother’s GI Joes. But I remember the cues early in life that girls are the mommy.

[07:26] I’m the oldest of the cousins on my mom’s side. And I was meant to be their role model. And I know this is true for a lot of Latine families, amiright? My childhood was pretty uneventful, typical family stuff, nothing too remarkable. But then I got to college. I started questioning a lot in my life around then, like religion and whether or not kids were really in my future.

[07:48] And hey, I even wrote one of my college entrance essays around the idea of having it all. You know, the career, the husband, the kids. Which is another one of those societal norms we swallow without a second thought. So when I started thinking that that wasn’t really what I wanted, it got a little confusing. Because you get a lot of mixed messages around not wanting kids. Like you’re selfish if you don’t have them. This is a type of bingo by the way. But why is it selfish, especially after a lifetime of being the role model, to just wanna live life on your own terms?

[08:23] So here I was in college and I had a photo teacher who was about as old as I am now, which is 44. And we got around to talking one day about how she didn’t have kids. And I told her that I didn’t think I wanted them either, but I knew I was kind of young. I was only 22 and doctors had already told me I was too young to really know. Yet again, another bingo. But what she said gave me a lot of hope. She said, here’s what I’ll tell you: if you can get past the age when all of your friends are having kids and you kind of feel that biological clock ticking… it’ll happen around the age of 27. If you can get past that and still feel like no, then that’s how you’ll know for sure.

[09:02] Well, 27 came and went and I have yet to ever hear that biological clock ticking. I don’t even know what that means. And I certainly don’t know what it would sound like. Fast forward to my mid thirties. I’m living my life as one does, when I meet the guy that would become my husband. And, uh, one thing I should tell you is I’m a little older than him.

[09:22] So when I met him, he was still in his twenties, but I was at a point where I knew what I wanted in my life. I wasn’t about to fuck around and waste time with someone who thought they were gonna be having kids. So we had that conversation early on and it turned out he was on the same page. Yay. And at first I didn’t believe him.

[09:39] What I mean is I really didn’t think he thought it through. I’m talking about never having kids. Ever. Our life was just going to be me and him. That’s it. Was that going to be enough for him? Coming from his own family -focused Midwestern culture, I wanted him to really think about it and it turns out yeah, we are on the same page.

[09:59] Here’s the thing though. I’ve had a lot of support in being childfree. My family doesn’t think I’m weird. I am not an outsider to them. I mentioned my mother’s side of the family, but I haven’t talked about my dad’s. And I’ve at least three older cousins on my dad’s side, none of whom have kids.

[10:16] So I wasn’t breaking any new ground in my family by being childfree. I was just being me. Did they make that easier for me? Yeah, I think so. I’ve never actually talked to them explicitly about why they don’t have children. They just don’t. But I do appreciate that they created an example for the rest of the family, so they wouldn’t badger me about having kids.

[10:37] There’s also my friend group. While most of my friends don’t have kids, some do. But they’re cool parents, you know? Here’s what I mean: when my future mother-in-law tried talking about us having babies at my engagement party, knowing full well, we didn’t want them, both of my bridesmaid jumped in and fought that battle for me.

[10:53] Saying things like, not everyone has to have kids. And that was super gratifying for my friends to do that, especially because both of them are moms. Also, my older brother was having kids around the same time as a lot of my coworkers. So when it came time to swap stories around the water cooler about kids, I didn’t feel frozen out. I just talked about my niece and nephew. And because I never had kids, I kept talking about my niece and now nephews.

[11:20] I still do it all the time. Watch my stories. But when I read through threads for online childfree forums, it’s very clear, that’s not everyone’s experience. Not everyone is as accepting, not everyone’s families have their backs like that. And that’s sad. Don’t you think?

[11:40] So back to my biological clock that never ticktocked. If my body wasn’t wanting to make babies, then did I really make a choice about that? Is my body broken? No, I don’t think so. I just think that my biology went in a different direction. Like I got my dad’s curly hair and not my mom’s straight hair. I didn’t get the gene that makes you want to have kids. And that’s okay.

[12:06] I asked each of my guests in this season to talk about legacy, because one of the big bingos is: who’s gonna carry on your name? What kind of legacy can you have without children? And all of them had similar, but very different answers. So let me tell you mine.

[12:23] My legacy is in two parts, one bringing awareness to the fact that everyone is creative and art is everywhere. Go back to the entirety of season one for more on this. All of my episodes use this as a jumping off point. And two, that the narrative around childfree people being weirdos is eradicated.

[12:42] But especially for Latina Americans. We are not fucking weirdos. We’re just people. I talked at length in season one about how society and media makes us believe certain things about art. Check out episode two, especially for that. See, I’m all about contradicting societal norms here on The Maker Muse Podcast. It brings me joy.

[13:03] So anyway, that was season one. Now let’s talk about how the media portrays childfree people. I found a really great article on how we’re generally portrayed as quote, a smug asshole, unfit for motherhood, or obsessive workaholic. Ouch. I’ll link that in the show notes because she has some great examples in popular media to fit all of those from Sex and the City to Seinfeld and beyond. She also points out that childfree women of color are sorely lacking on TV. So it’s not just me.

[13:34] A common trope is that we are excessively rich, like the rich auntie stereotype. Or we’re collectors of animals. Or we’re bitter and cruel. You can look to Cruella de Vil for a caricature that encompasses all of those.

[13:49] She’s rich. She has 101 puppies that she’s gotta make furs out of. And she’s mean. It’s in her name. Cruella. She’s cruel. What about another children’s movie, The Lion King? The character of Scar is dangerous. He’s jealous and petty. And these themes run rampant in Disney movies. Like the jealous queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Which in the Disney Wiki itself describes her as an extremely sadistic, hateful, cold and sinister person. Or the sea witch Ursula from The Little Mermaid again, described by Disney as a sadistic schemer.

[14:27] These are the ways that childfree people are portrayed to children. Is it any wonder that we’re viewed with suspicion or malice? And that’s not fair. There are plenty of normal everyday folks just walking around, not thinking about kids, it’s just not super visible.

[14:48] But according to this one study conducted on bingos 45% of women, 15 to 44 don’t have kids. So that age range is a little strange. Why are we surveying 15 year old children? I’m sure the scientists behind the study had their reasons and I’ll leave a link to it in the show notes. Interestingly, only 6% of the survey sample considered themselves childfree. And the paper suggests that “childfree families represent a growing share of the population whose needs and challenges must be considered.” Yes, please.

[15:23] So I went looking for a list of childfree Latine celebrities, and the list was woefully short. In fact, most of the people in the article from 2015 all had children in the seven years since, and that’s fine. I’m not trying to recruit people onto my side. This isn’t a propaganda campaign to make more childfree people. I’m just trying to shine a light on the fact that we exist. And we’re all right people.

[15:50] We’re simply self aware individuals. We’ve discovered that this is a boundary, a hard limit for us. This is one of those boundaries that you cannot compromise on. It’s not like you can just have one for funsies and try it out.

[16:02] That’s what being an or uncle is for. And I’m really good at that., I think. You don’t get to give your kids back to Walmart like you changed your mind about some dish towels. Children are permanent. Like a tattoo on your face. So if we take measures to ensure that we’re not gonna go down that route, it’s because we have self awareness. We are consciously drawing a boundary and we’re enforcing it and standing by it.

[16:27] And you know how much I love boundaries on this show. How setting and enforcing boundaries is a way to show up for yourself, to battle back against imposter syndrome. Yes. Setting and enforcing boundaries is something that all people should strive to do, especially when it comes to children. But in all situations, you should know your boundaries.

[16:46] You should be aware of what you will and will not do in this life for yourself, and for others. You know that saying don’t set yourself on fire to keep other people warm? By extension don’t have children just because society made you believe that you have to. That is not true.

[17:05] So back to these childfree Latine celebrities. Of the few that did remain childfree on that list. There’s Boricua Rosie Perez and Cubana Daisy Fuentes. Let’s also not forget that La Reina de la Salsa Celia Cruz no tuvo hijos tampoco.

[17:21] Yes, she was a stepmom, which then brings us to a weird gray area that I don’t even wanna debate. The point stands that las mujeres can contribute much more than only birthing children. And that is what subsequent episodes in season two will illuminate. Each mujer fuerte that I interviewed had her own unique story of being childfree, the impact it’s had on their lives and careers, and what their version of a legacy will be. So stay tuned.

[17:47] So to recap: one, yes, it’s normal to not want kids. Two, we aren’t the bitter, selfish, or terribly vengeful people we’ve been portrayed as, so please stop perpetuating the stereotype because these repeated tropes around these ideas actually harm childfree people. And finally, this is a boundary set and enforced by our own self-awareness. And that is peak adulting.

[18:15] Which one of these was the most surprising to you? Are you a childfree person that wants to connect? Or a parent looking to better support your childfree friends? Feel free to DM me on Instagram. My info is always in the show notes. And if you’re looking to be a guest on the next season of The Maker Muse Podcast, check out the guest form on my website, themakermuse.co. 

[18:36] Yes, themakermuse.co. It’s also linked in the show notes. All right, mis amigues stay hydrated and that’s a burrito!

[18:46] Hey muchisimas gracias for listening to another episode of The Maker Muse Podcast. Are you subscribed? If not now would be a great time to do that. New episodes come out every Tuesday. I’m on Apple, on Spotify, wherever you listen. And then can I ask you a favor? Could you please tell all of your friends and family about it, tus amigues, su familia? Because if you love it, they probably will too. And I’d really appreciate it if you could rate and review it wherever you’re listening right now. ¡Gracias! ¡Hasta la proxima!

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