Childfree articles in the press usually get a lot of below-the-line debate. Lilit Marcus, writing for The Guardian about some of the factors behind her decision to remain childfree, definitely stirred the pot last week.
You just spent the last ten minutes telling me why I should make the same choices as you and that your choices and your lifestyle are better than mine, but I’m the self-obsessed one?
Some didn’t bother disguising their vitriol, but I’ve discovered that there’s a new passive-aggressive approach on the block. This approach isn’t directly insulting, but nonetheless manages to deliver heavy doses of dismissiveness and superiority and be seriously patronizing, all within a neatly wrapped socially acceptable little word package. I’ll follow with five of the best.
I do know that the dark place known as the bottom half of the internet is a hotbed of hyperbole. I’ve picked these, however, because as a childfree woman, especially one in a long term heterosexual relationship that could produce children if we weren’t so darn selfish, I’ve fielded most of these or variants thereof in real life. Just attending a family function is like a nonstop game of “baby question dodgeball”. So get ready to dodge these.
“I respect your decision, but….”
This one wins hands down and it’s up there with starting a sentence with “no offense”. You just know there’s going to be something offensive coming as soon as they’ve said it. Similarly, you know that whoever says this one to you is going to come out with a reason why your decision not to have kids is a bad one and they know better than you.
Here’s a little tip for “I respect your decision, but…”-ers. If you really respect someone’s decision about not having kids then you zip it after “decision”. You don’t add the “but”, because the “but” tells that person that you do not really respect their decision – in fact, quite the opposite.
“It’s a good job you’re not a parent”
This is a common response to declarations of voluntary childlessness. It took me a while to work out that this one was actually meant to be an insult, because I would just think, “Yes, it is a good job I’m not a parent, since I don’t want to be one”. I do now gather that it is meant to be insulting to childfree folks, but I’m still yet to understand how stating the totally flipping obvious is meant to offend me. So if you get this one, just smile sweetly and say, “I know, it is, isn’t it?”
“Self-obsessed people shouldn’t be parents”
My immediate response would be, “No, they probably shouldn’t, but quite a lot of them end up having kids anyway”.
Oh, you meant me? Let me think about this for a minute. You just spent the last ten minutes telling me why I should make the same choices as you and that your choices and your lifestyle are better than mine, but I’m the self-obsessed one?
“Being a parent makes you a better person”
The people that I know who are parents and nice people were nice people before they were parents. They are now nice people who are great parents. They didn’t need to become parents to improve themselves, because they were great pre-parenthood and still are. That’s why I like them.
Do you know another reason why I like them? Because they don’t now feel the need to tell other human beings (even in a sneaky, roundabout sort of way) that they are an inferior species because they don’t have children.
“That’s such a ridiculous reason not to have children”
Marcus got this a lot in the comments on her article, so I felt the need to address this one.
There are no good or bad reasons for deciding not to have children. There are only personal reasons. My reasons for being childfree are not the same as Marcus’s and maybe I don’t relate to some of the reasons she cites, but that doesn’t mean they are ridiculous, because to her, they’re not. It’s her life and therefore her reasons that matter.
I can’t relate to people’s reasons for having kids, but that doesn’t mean I would ever say that they were ridiculous, because well, that would make me quite rude (and probably also quite ridiculous).