October 23, 2014

Happy Non-Parents Day!

When I was in my early-ish twenties I asked a lot of questions of friends and colleagues that had kids and/or were married. What’s the best part? What’s the worst? Would you change anything? What are you not telling me? No, seriously…

As you would expect, I got a wide range of answers, and some questions in return. A lot of men that were then my current age, 40, cautioned me about marriage. No one with kids told me they regretted it, but several made sure I knew that kids would change my life and my relationship drastically.

Most repeated thoughtless shit they heard somewhere (everywhere) else.

“You have to work at it.”

“It was the best day of my life.”

“Marriage is hard.”

“It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“… a miracle…. a blessing”

And when I asked again, “how?” or “why?”, they said nothing. I was young and dumb, but knew that skepticism is warranted whenever people are saying the same damn meaningless things, repeatedly. And what the hell does “marriage is hard” or “kids are a blessing” mean anyway? Nothing! People just said, and say, what the culture tells them they should say.

Looking back on this non-parents day, I want to thank those that were honest with me. I also want to express some regret that I didn’t really have any committed childfree adults to talk to. So I also want to encourage readers to share (in the comments or on Facebook) their most bare, honest answer to:

“For you, what is the best thing about being child-free?”

Because I know there are young people out there with no one to ask or no one that will respond honestly; and because I think all of us should be able to note, today at the very least, why we are celebrating.

Related articles:
August 1st Happy Non-Parents Day! – (whynokids.com)
Childfree? Really? Common Questions and Comments (Part 3) (whynokids.com)
Childfree? Really? Common Questions and Comments (Part 2) (whynokids.com)
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Comments

  1. My reason for being childfree?  There are so many but the simplest answer would be, I just don’t want the hassles of kids.

  2. Also, for anyone that may be interested, I have started a Facebook page for childfree people and am going to have a website up and running this fall as part of a research project I am doing for a class.  I would be very happy to have anyone who might have some input on the subject join the group!  

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Childfree-Choice/471283932895715

  3. Bravo, Brian. From the heart. Or the gut…  For me, the best thing about being childfree is freedom — real or perceived — from the anxieties and encumbrances and responsibilities that accompany the “blessings” of being a parent. Today I reaffirm my vows to a passionate love affair now in its twelfth year and to serendipity; spontaneity; sensual, sexual marriage; adventure; risk; wide open travel; ample adult friendship; gastronomic indulgence; health and exercise; financial minimalism and efficiency; and the confidence that chasing my dreams has not compromised the future of wellbeing of my progeny. For me, this is childfreedom.

  4. Hi there, On Non-Parents Day I give a nod to one of my favorite “non-parent” friends….http://laviechildfree.com/2012/08/lets-bring-back-august-1st-as-non-parents-day-2/  I say we really do it up next year…nominate across childfree sites, have a selection committee and pick annual “winners” like the NAOP did in the 70s!

  5. For me, being childfree is about being true and authentic to who I am.  I knew at a very young age that I didn’t want to be a parent.  I don’t know why but I just knew.  Similarly, I have friends who absolutely knew at a young age that they absolutely wanted to be and were destined to be parents.  I never made a cost/benefit analysis or thought about how being a parent would impact my life, etc.  I just knew in my heart that it was who I am.  

    • Thanks for your candor, GloriaBow. I suspect your experience is more common than you think. The cost/benefit analysis and other efforts to rationally explain or justify the childfree choice often comes later, especially when aging begins to “close the door” and/or questions and concerns from others seek more explanation than self knowledge. My experience was somewhat similar to yours; an absence of yearning for parenthood despite a fascination with childhood and a love for children. So many dreams and hopes pulled (and still pull) me, but procreating never spent much more than a flickering intant on the list… Seems important to honor that clarity, no?

    • The heart is the place to start. I share your experience and conviction! I suspect that as more people begin to consider the fact that childbearing is a decision and not destiny, a choice and not the default, they too will realize that unless they have a deep, burning desire to parent, they can consider remaining childfree. Shifts in social norms and social acceptance are critical to help this transformation. Thanks for your comment, @e684ce14772f473d5de1dfb8a62600e8:disqus.

  6. I really like what virtualDavis said, that’s a big part of it for me.  But as equally big are my concerns about the future of the planet and the human race.  Call me nihilistic, but I believe that our human population is starting to reach it’s peak and we’re going to be hitting hard times pretty darn soon.  It’s the old exponential growth curve thing – we expand and rape our environment and consume, consume, consume – it’s not sustainable and I don’t see very many people being thoughtful about this.   I think about how much the world has changed since my parents started having kids, and how much it will change again in the next 50 years, I’m not very comfortable with leaving such a legacy to children.  

    I am acutely aware of how much more a first-world child consumes than a third-world child, and how the cult of parenthood also perpetuates mindless consumerism and complacency.  IPads for elementary school kids, every kid having their own computer and TV, the tons of plastic kindercrap that seems to be a requirement, the SUVs and mini-vans, the house in the suburbs…  I like the lifestyle my partner and I have, which means living downtown and renting an apartment, living TV-free and taking public transit, walking and biking as much as possible.  We try to live more minimistically, detached from pop and consumerist culture.  There is a huge pressure on parents to BUY, huge guilt placed upon them, a feeling that they need to compete, and then those kids that don’t have this or that latest doodad get ostracized within their own group.  Being a free-thinking individual often means being on the social fringes of society.  This is hard on children.

    I am also acutely aware of the sheer cost of childrearing, not just monetarily, but it terms of what it means for the female partner.  Say what you want about the male staying home with the kids, but pregnancy and breastfeeding and hormones etc still mean that the female ends up with a larger duty and with a career that is more compromised.  I watch as my female friends increasingly drop out of the workforce, or content themselves with ‘pasture’ jobs that are not intellectually stimulating, but are stable and predictable and hence good for childrearing.  And the cost of childcare, my god… people are really stuck between paying another mortgage in childcare ($1500/month!) or staying home with the kids because they can’t afford it. 

    All of this makes me want to just check out of the culture completely.  It’s my form of personal protest.  I feel I can contribute more to this world and take less from it if I choose not to have kids.

    • A day late and a dollar short? Never too late to weigh in! Jaseki, thanks for sharing your lucid (and articulate) thoughts. Don’t check out of the culture completely. There’s hope. You can help transform the culture. I genuinely feel like there’s greater traction in the childfree space now than ever before, and this sort of dialogue is helping reframe parenting/childfree decisions for the better. Or perhaps I’m being Pollyanna-ish?!?!

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