Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I Am Not Having Kids, But Not For Your Ableist Reasons

I am not planning to have children.

This may not come as much of a surprise.  If you've read many of my posts, you know that I'm living with a severe mental illness and multiple learning disabilities.  People like me don't have kids, right?  People like me don't want kids.  Maybe, you're thinking, people like me shouldn't have kids.

If you're thinking that last one, I hereby call you out on your ableist bullshit.  Ableism is the idea that those of you with a Normal (tm) way of being in the world are superior to those of us who don't conform to the norm.  Our way of being in the world might mean that we can't count change.  It might mean that we hear voices.  It might mean that we get around in a wheelchair.

But listen up, "normal" folks, our way of being in the world is just as valid as yours is, and the extent of our deviation from the norm has absolutely nothing with our value as individual human beings or as members of families and communities.

The idea that those with mental illness, ADHD, and learning disabilities "shouldn't" have kids is all too prevalent, even among those who have these disorders.  A few years ago, when I was hanging out on Dyscalculia Forum, someone asked who on the forum wanted to spawn, was planning to spawn, etc.  I'd say a majority of the younger, currently childless women on the forum were firmly in the "no" camp.  Which would be fine; it's their choice, and I support their right to make it -- except that the reason they didn't want kids was because they "didn't want to pass on their horrible genes".

Yeah.  That's right up there with other terrible things, like littering.  Or being one of those people who has really loud cell phone conversations about last night's episode of Jersey Shore.

What these folks were saying is that it would be somehow doing their progeny, and possibly the whole human race, a disservice by giving birth to a kid who might be ... *gasp* .... bad at math.  The whole thing made me really sad -- all of these intelligent, caring people had internalized society's ableism, and believed that somehow they'd be irresponsible to share that with the world by having children..

The thing is that genes merely provide predisposition, not predestination.  Someone who's inherited a gene for a disability like a mood disorder might never develop one.  If they grew up in a loving, secure environment, their disability might never be triggered.  Or, if you want a different example, someone who's predisposed to alcoholism is at no risk for the disease if they never take a drink in their lives.

Even with all my problems, I think I'd be able to provide a child with the kind of love and support that would help her avoid the family tendency toward depression.  While I clearly I've got a few crappy genes,  I've also got a damn lot of really excellent ones.  And if my children did wind up with my ADHD and LD, well, I'd be in the perfect position to advocate for her and understand what she's going through.  It hardly sounds like a horrible life.

So why am I not having kids?  I love kids.  I enjoy them a lot.  But when it comes right down to it, I like having someone put them away when I'm done playing with them.  Parenting is 24-7, and I just don't want to deal with that.  It's just that simple.

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