Choices

The choice to have children or not has given women unprecedented freedom, yet the friction between women with children and without continues. I don’t understand the hostility on either side; women should be able to support freedom of choice. I lost a few friends after they had children, but there were other issues at play. Dr. Ellen Walker looks at the issue from both sides here, in a thought-provoking essay.

 
The rift between parents and childfree adults — why can’t we just get along? By Ellen L. Walker, Ph.D.
 
Not too long ago a client picked up a copy of my book, Complete Without Kids: An Insider’s Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance, at the local bookstore. When I saw her, a couple of weeks later she shared with dismay that her teenage son had confiscated the book and was enjoying reading it. She added that she hoped he wouldn’t get any “ideas” from the book, because she is so much looking forward to being a grandmother. I didn’t really know how to respond to her comments. Was I supposed to apologize for writing a book that may result in a young person realizing that becoming a parent is a choice, and that his life can be full and rich with or without children? Later, in reflecting on the incident, I realized that there have been other times when I’ve felt a similar awkwardness. It’s always been around women, usually friends and relatives who have teenagers or young adult children. It doesn’t matter if the children are male or female, the key is that they are potential grandchildren-makers, and grandma wannabes don’t want anything to get in the way of this happening.
 
My personal tendency is to feel like I should keep my mouth shut about my book and any discussion of the subject of a potential life without kids, because to do otherwise might damage my relationship with my friend or relative. 
 
There is increasing friction between childfree adults and parents, and this is coming from both sides. On one hand, adults without kids are suddenly starting to speak out, to question why they are being discriminated against in the work place and why they don’t get tax breaks, when they’re the segment of society that utilizes the least number of services supported by our taxes. Some are asking for childfree seating areas on airplanes and for parents to take responsibility for keeping their children quiet so that others on the plane are not disturbed.
 
Parents with screaming children are wondering what’s happened to the tolerant, and usually compassionate passengers in the row behind them. Parents are in turn speaking out in response to childfree adults. Some parents take the proclamation by a childfree adult that he or she is happy with this choice as criticism for their own decision to become a parent. And when those of us who don’t have kids use the term childfree, as opposed to childless, this is further taken as a criticism.
 
The tension between parents and childfree women has extended to the media. English journalist Polly Vernon received hate mail when she wrote, “I don’t want children.” Keep in mind that she never said, “I don’t like children,” so it’s not clear why anyone felt threatened by her remark. My guess is that when a woman says that she does not want to have children, this causes all women to question themselves. Many are probably saying to themselves, “You mean, I had a choice? I thought I had to become a mom.” Others simply feel criticized, as if their role as a mother, said to be the most important and most fulfilling thing a woman does in her life is perhaps not so.
 
What about friction between childfree men and fathers?
The friction that exists between moms and childfree women does not exist on the same level between childfree men and fathers. Men in our society have much more broadly-defined life roles, and being a dad is just one of these. They’re much more focused on their careers and even their hobbies than mothers tend to be, and so they have more in common with men who don’t have children than mothers do with childfree women. Some mothers may feel threatened by their husband’s childfree friends, because of the freedom they have in their schedules, and the extra financial resources. They may worry that their husbands will yearn for this less demanding lifestyle.
 
How can parents and childfree adults better understand and appreciate their differences — and even celebrate each other?
It is possible for parents and childfree adults to better understand and appreciate their differences, and to even celebrate one another. A starting place is to simply allow for a variety of lifestyles without judgment, that one way of living is superior to another. Listen and take time to understand how and why particular life choices were made. The reality is that we’re not all that different after all.
 
It’s also helpful for us to spend time in each others’ worlds, and to recognize that there are positives and negatives with each. Make an effort to resist thinking that the grass is greener on the other side.
 
If you’re childfree, take time to thank your friends who are committed parents for their dedication. And if you’re a parent, take time to thank your friends who are childfree for what they are able to give to society as a result of not having parenting responsibilities.
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Forgiveness Hawaiian-style for the holidays

 Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D  Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D gives DolceDolce readers tips on how to use the ancient Hawaiian wisdom of Huna for more harmonious holiday gatherings. Dr. James is known for his work on forgiveness. He is the President of Kona University and the author of The Foundation of Huna: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times. The book is about forgiveness and meditation techniques used in Hawaii for hundreds of years.

 
Huna for the Holidays by Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D
 
Families dealing with divorce can find the holidays difficult as ex-spouses juggle children and family gatherings. There are many other stresses that can make Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays hard, including job losses, financial worries, and old emotional wounds.
 
The good news is we have control over how we respond to these situations. Forgiving others and ourselves is essential if we are to experience holidays that are filled with gratitude and harmony rather than discontent and turmoil.
 
Huna, the ancient Hawaiian system of my lineage and life experience, emphasizes the need to forgive others and seek forgiveness and provides practical ways to do it. The first step is to recognize that you need to forgive.
 
People often carry around grudges and don’t even realize it until they encounter a person or situation that triggers the negative thoughts. But there is something we can do before we encounter people and situations that can lead to unhappy holidays. That is to think about the people we will spend time with and recognize the emotions we experience. Look for these five signs of needing to forgive:
 
1)     Specific negative feelings;
2)     Lack of balance;
3)     The need for closure;
4)     A feeling you want to say something, but can’t;
5)     Thoughts of getting even.
 
In Huna, the concept of making things right is called pono. Though pono does not have a specific English translation, the closest word is right — not as in “I’m right, you’re wrong,” but right with each other and the situation. Pono is a feeling of congruency and calmness to the extent that nothing needs to be said.
 
What can we learn from the ancient Hawaiians about forgiveness? The process I use and teach comes from ho`oponopono, which literally means to make something doubly pono.
 
In doing research for my dissertation, I found the process works today just as it has for thousands of years. The research showed that those who engaged in ho‘oponopono experienced a statistically-significant reduction in a lack of forgiveness compared to a control group that showed no such change.
 
This was the first time the Huna method has been studied as a process-based approach to forgiveness, and it validated ho‘oponopono as an effective therapeutic approach for improving relationships and mental health.
 
So how do we balance our approach to forgiveness so that we (1) forgive, (2) release the negativity, and (3) still learn from the event?
 
To take the first step in ho`oponopono, we need to rethink the process of forgiveness. In western thinking, our first approach upon wronging another person is often to say "I’m sorry." However, an apology is only one-sided, a statement that asks for no response from the one harmed.
 
Huna understands that it takes two to tango. So the first step is to ask for forgiveness. The second is for the other to give forgiveness.
 
I’ve had heated arguments with people who definitely required an apology afterwards. But it’s like a meal that doesn’t last: Within a short time after all the apologies and making-up, either I or the other person bring it up again “this is just like the last time….” So even though we were sorry, we weren’t done and complete.
 
Getting to pono is different. When you are pono with someone, nothing else needs to be said or done. You are right with one another.
 
To become truly pono with someone, you first ask for and offer forgiveness for anything you may have done. Saying, "I forgive you; please forgive me, too" brings the other person into the picture and gets them actively involved. Rather than merely "being sorry," a two-way street of forgiveness is formed.
 
Next, allow the space for you and the other person to say everything that needs to be said. Express what needs to be expressed without hiding or holding back. When you have both shared your thoughts and feelings, you should experience a sense of "I have said it all, and I am done." Once again, give and ask for forgiveness from one another.
 
Finally, move forward. Huna says that we must learn from all of our experiences in life. Once you are pono, ask yourself: what do I need to learn from this event that will allow me to continue to be pono?
 
Learning is positive, about the self and future based. Take this learning with you to help you change your behavior and thinking, make better decisions, and to create the relationships and situations you desire.
 
Dr. James offers these steps to help let go of resentment during the holidays and year-round:
 
Do…
§        Forgive. Regardless of what the future holds, you don’t want to carry the negativity with you.
§        Take action. Thinking positive is great, and you need to express your needs and boundaries.
§        Communicate from the heart. When enforcing boundaries, do it with love and the intention of healing things up.
§        Break the cycle insteadofrepeating the same patterns over and over.
 
Don’t…
§        Seek revenge. It is not your job to punish. Look to yourself for a solution.
§        Avoid. Avoiding issues and pushing them down only creates more explosive situations in the future.
§        Hold on to "stuff." Saying you will never forget only hurts you. Let it go, and keep the learning from the experience.
§        Blame yourself. It does take two to tango, and the blame game is a waste of time. Do take responsibility for getting to a positive place without blame.
 
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