Thursday, August 19, 2010

Families, who'd have one?

When I co-wrote our book “Child-Free Zone” I had over 80 participants fill out our survey. Participants were also asked to provide anecdotal feedback...their stories...if they felt so inclined.

Some even helped me with media enquiries as the adventure panned out. After all, the media wanted to hear more than just our story.

I met some wonderful people during this time and have been privileged to keep in touch with some and hear how their stories are progressing.

Recently one of our nicest couples and biggest helpers emailed me. We hadn’t heard from them in a while because the publicity and media attention for the book had waned by now.

The email I received from them was nothing short of heartbreaking.
Despite being eloquent, fair-minded, lovely people who simply chose not to reproduce, their family decided to launch a campaign of intolerance and misunderstanding upon them.

Now we all know the media can be, well let’s say, less than accurate when it comes to the facts. Hell, in our experience an article that is 80% correct is a miracle and quotes quite often aren’t! Still, there was nothing bad or out of the ordinary where this couple were involved.

As time progressed the couple’s family grew and despite wanting to be involved in their extended families lives they were shunned. Articles and videos were thrown in their faces as evidence that they are child-haters and bad people. Family events became very uncomfortable to the point where the email to me expressed deep regret that they’d ever been involved or public mentioned their choice at all.

In my experience, public and honest declaration has done nothing but foster understanding and tolerance among my friends and family. In the minds of reasonable people this choice isn’t even an issue.

It made me very sad, and still does, that the family of these lovely people would treat them this way.

To me the problem isn’t with the couple, it is with the family members who choose to shun them, believe the media and make assumptions rather than trust what they have experienced with them first hand.

I experienced this with people I didn’t even know. It was like they could tell everything about me from a paragraph in a newspaper or a 6 minute spot on TV. I’m sorry, but no matter how you cut it, and with media inaccuracies thrown in, I am far more complex than can be conveyed in any means other than knowing me in person.

Yet people are quick to judge when they have their own agendas and family are often happy to be more vocal and critical than strangers. This can be very hurtful.

The tragedy here is that this lovely couple have been forced to go back into hiding and denial about their choice. They asked me to remove their names from all past and future editions of our book, our web site and never mention their names again.

I have to say I was uncomfortable with this. I wanted to help them not erase them from history. Of course I obliged. I didn’t want to cause them any more pain. After all, they’ve got family being painful enough.

The lesson for me here is that, family or not, you don’t have to put up with this crap. You have to be you and if people don’t like it divorce them!

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