Anne Helen Petersen’s latest newsletter is about a childfree woman she grew up with (Harriet) and now being that childfree example for her friends’ kids:
Most of my childhood memories of adults are snapshots and flashes, and my snapshot of Harriet is that she was always happy and rarely doing the things that other women were doing. While other women in my parents’ friend group were rounding up children and making sandwiches and drinking a Coors Light while we were out on the river, she was just drinking a Coors Light out on the river. She never wore dresses, never spent time on make-up. Everyone else I knew went to church. Harriet didn’t. And because she didn’t have children to distract me when we visited her house, I spent time staring at it: it was filled with light, covered in pine, uncluttered by toys.
She makes the point that having that example of something beyond the expected norm is so important, but also this:
Representation matters, but policy that makes other choices viable matters more. That means: policies, programs, and safety nets that make it easier to be a single parent, that don’t pretend that most homes have someone who can stay home full-time, or that schools hours are the same as working hours, and that make it possible to age with dignity and without fear, even if you don’t have children to care for you. It means conceiving of more collaborative ideas of family and community and care, and hanging out with people who aren’t related to you, in the same exact life stage as you, or have made the same exact life choices as you.