Irish businesswoman Aileen Eglington, director of PR company, AE Consulting… refuses to be defined or diminished by the fact that she has no children…”I never wanted children,… I just didn’t want to do it. So many things can give you fulfillment. For me, not having children has given me time to do other things. There’s a bigger family out there. I see parents who are very active locally, coaching kids and cheering them on, but you don’t have to have children to engage with your community…” she says. (Source: Independent.ie)
Kids have been (and will continue to be) an important part of my life. As a teacher, coach, advisor, uncle, friend, and unabashed man-child, children are central to my life, my love, my hopes, and my satisfactions. I don’t hate children. In fact, I’m pretty certain I’ve never met anyone who actually hates kids.
And yet all too often the childfree choice is equated with hating kids. Bizarre.
I Don’t Want Children; I Don’t Hate Children
Here’s one thing that parents seem to forget. Are you ready for this?
Believe it or not, my identity can include children without breeding on my own! … All of my other siblings are having children of their own and my wife and I can be truly engaged as an aunt and uncle and make sure we are always there for them…
Just because I don’t want to have my own children, doesn’t mean that I hate children. I love the children in my family… My wife and I consider ourselves very lucky to have such great people (and their children) in our lives! (Source: Why I Choose to Be Childfree — Medium)
My wife and I likewise consider ourselves lucky to have two amazing nieces, two amazing nephews, a goddaughter, and lots of cousins and friends’ children to enrich our lives. Our identities celebrate children, and most of the children we know seem to grok this quickly and enthusiastically. Perhaps precisely because we are not parents. Or perhaps because we’ve never grown up very much ourselves?
Less Judgment and More Respect
Jesse Nichols wraps up his childfree meditation with an important reminder. Let’s try to support one another’s decisions whether they be to have children or not. Let’s remember to judge one another less and respect one another more.
Having kids is a choice. No one needs to have kids. The world is not in need of more people. In fact, there is a serious overpopulation problem… But, if you want to have children… I am truly happy for you and I fully support your decision to do so.
I’ve decided that I do not want to have children. I think that’s pretty awesome too! Maybe you can do me the courtesy of supporting my decision as well, rather than giving me a list of reasons why you think I’m wrong. (Source: Why I Choose to Be Childfree — Medium)
Bye-bye, Breeder Bingo. Hello non-judgmental, respectful diversity!
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).
Kate Banister and her husband Ian spent two or three years weighing up whether to have kids. “We both had our ups and downs, but now were equally on the same page about it which is very fortunate,” the 37-year-old business owner said. Getting their two dogs Ruby and Saffy helped the Banisters make up their minds. “We thought this is actually quite nice, you get the interaction and the nurturing with the dogs, and you can still have a life. But new research suggests one in four women who choose not to have children live to regret their decision, as they face growing old without family.” (Source: Will women who choose to go childfree regret it? | Stuff.co.nz)
Let’s finish the week off with a quick look at Dani Alpert’s rant on HuffPo about childless by choice oversaturation. Sure, it’s a few weeks overripe, and there’s something decidedly disingenuous about reposting a post about the fact that there’s too much posting about childless by choice issues, but… I can’t resist.
Why do the Childless by Choice still feel the need to defend their decisions? Why is this still relevant? With all that’s going on in the world; Isis, Ebola, climate change, George Clooney’s wedding, why does anyone give a sh*t about the 10 things not to say to a CBC person? ~ Dani Alpert (huffingtonpost.com)
Right. Why? Sometimes I want to throw around asterisk-ornamented bombs myself, let off a little steam and tell all the bingo brandishing breeders to cut me some slack. To cut us some slack. Why is it any of their business whether or not my wife and I are childless by choice?
The answer is that I don’t know. I don’t know why the debate grows louder and more caustic instead of vanishing quietly into the background. Are childless by choice adults defensive? Maybe. But honestly, it usually feels like it’s the way around. I’ve honestly never heard CBCs question a parent’s choice. Never! But parents frequently question our choice to remain childfree. So you tell me, who’s being defensive?
I will never understand why what I do, and don’t do, with my uterus matters to anyone else but me and my gynecologist. ~ Dani Alpert (huffingtonpost.com)
Okay, so let’s cut to the chase. This is exactly the sort of gem that I couldn’t resist highlighting and echoing back across the interwebs. Seriously! And here’s another.
Do us all a favor and read a book, go to the movies or join the army. Whatever you do… stay out of my bed and womb. ~ Dani Alpert (huffingtonpost.com)
Wow! Dani’s pulling no punches. Sure, it’s effective venting language, and she’s certainly grabbed the “Hey, look at me!” spotlight, but there’s more to it than that. She’s right. She isn’t refocusing the debate. She is annulling the debate. Parents who question and/or judge their childless by choice friends are WAY out of bounds. Period.
Dani touches briefly on feminism and explains that she’s metaphorically “mothered” people, things, even a short film. She totally groks the mothering/parenting instinct, a point that she underlines in her stream of conscious list of CBC related thoughts. But that’s not the point. The point, is she wants everyone to shut the $&@%! up and start talking about something more important.
Fair enough. Let’s distance ourselves from the judgment. Let’s remember that how a woman chooses to uses her uterus is her business. Let’s recognize that questioning/judging a woman’s childfree choice is no less inappropriate and offensive than a CBC woman questioning/judging a mother’s decision to get pregnant, carry the baby to term, and keep it after birth.
But healthy conversation about the childless by choice option is just as important, especially for young women, as information about pregnancy, birthing, parenting. There is an awful lot of social programming to balance out, and women should be empowered to make the choice whether or not to become mothers with knowledge, intention, and confidence. That will not happen in a vacuum. Nor will it happen in a bellicose atmosphere of judgment. Let’s create a friendlier, more informative, more nurturing process for women and men to determine the the best choices. Sounds reasonable, right?
It’s Friday night CFers! What’s on your sybaritic to-do list? Ain’t childfreedom a $#@%?!?!
Okay, snark aside, I’m confident that you’ll have a wonderful evening (and weekend), especially once you check out Kevin B. Morrow’s (@kbmrg) lighthearted but sincere reflection on his childfree marriage. His HuffPo post is called “Childless by Choice – Gas Station Condoms and Rumors of Infertility“, but the subtitle should be, “We forgot to have kids!” I’ve used this awe-shucks explanation often enough myself, so his words resonated for me. Might for you too. Anyway, it’s a quick read. You can squeeze in this quick read between your après-work massage and happy hour! You know, when your friends are picking up the babysitter…
But if you’re feeling too mellow after your massage (or you’ve already jumpstarted happy hour), I’ll pull a couple of my favorite quotes.
It’s very strange that I had no problem buying liquor or illegal drugs when I was in my late teens but I was too embarrassed to buy condoms in a drug store… My solution to this dilemma was to buy condoms from a vending machine in the bathroom of a gas station that was at the end of the airport runway.
It honestly is odd how uncomfortable males are about buying condoms, many even once they’re all grown up. Why is that? Maybe we need to make it cool so that teens will make smarter choices…
Anyway, Kevin grew up and now he’s buying his wife’s feminine hygiene products and condoms without even flinching. I’ve got to admit that I’m still working on the cool-as-a-cucumber tampon purchase. Maybe I’ll update you once I master it. Kevin tacks from here to the first subtle look at why he and his bride opted for a childfree marriage.
Children can’t be let out in the yard to play until you get up at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday because you were out late the night before. Dogs can.
Obvious humor here, and I have a weakness for folks who can shine light on serious stuff by making me laugh. But there’s another aspect of this droll throwaway that’s less droll and not really a throwaway. When I grew up we were out in the yard, the woods, and everywhere else all day on weekends. And summers. And snow days. But somehow this basic and wonderful aspect of childhood vanished over the last decade or so. Poof! Gone. It’s uncanny how few children wander neighborhoods nowadays, how few sleds and snowballs fights criss-cross postcard perfect snowy lawns. I know this isn’t what Kevin’s talking about, but it’s on my database of reasons why I’m child free. Somewhere we lost something. How? When? Why?
The reality for me and for Kevin and many others, we just sort of forgot to have kids.
The reality was that neither of us ever had a strong desire to be parents. The wonderful mental images had crossed our minds; coloring with a cute three year old, taking them trick or treating on Halloween, or seeing their faces on Christmas morning as they opened presents. We recognized however that this was a romanticized view and not everything that was involved in parenting.
It’s interesting to me how often I hear this explanation. This is the main reason that my bride and I skipped breeding. We love children, but we felt no burning desire to make one of our own. We borrow them. We spoil them. We return them. And so far that’s worked out just fine for us. We weren’t – and we still aren’t – anti parenting/kids/etc. We just had a lot stronger interest in other parts of life. And the prime breeding years shuffled past without provoking much interest from us. We forgot to have kids!
I’ll wrap up with Kevin’s final funny anecdote.
My father-in-law had some sort of surgery and my wife had gone to Florida to be his “nurse” during this time. As he woke up from the anesthesia, she was standing there and he asked her “Have you had Kevin tested?” her response was “for what?” Thoughts of STDs and AIDS ran through her mind. He then said “well you’ve never had kids.” Her response:
“I guess it might help if we stopped using birth control.”
If only that were enough for most people…
- Otherhood (adventuresinneverneverland.com)
- Hollywood’s Childless by Choice club (childfreenews.com)
- Childless by choice: Statistics show more are opting out of parenthood (childfreenews.blogspot.com)
- Advancing the Research on the Childfree & Online Childfree Communities (lauracarroll.com)
- Photo Essay?: Childfree Celebrities (whynokids.com)
- The Fruitful Callings of the Childless By Choice (childfreenews.com)
Seems that our friends down under manage to tackle the whole childfree question a bit more lightheartedly than we do in the United States. At least Ben Mahoney does. He landed in the limelight when he launched an Adelaide-based childfree social group called No Kids No Worries.
The thirty something is gainfully employed, recently single and drawn to childfreedom over diaper talk. Go figure! He’s gambling that there just might be others on the same wavelength, and No Kids No Worries just might offer the sort of interaction that they’re looking for.
No Kids, No Worries is a social meet-up for people to share and enjoy nights out at the pub, conversation, travel and spontaneous new experiences without worrying about the babysitter. (adelaidenow.com.au)
We’re seeing more and more of these initiatives all around the world. Childfree singles and couples are “coming out of the closet”, realizing that the backlash from peer-parents isn’t worth stifling their own life choices. It’s refreshing! And it inevitably flames the fiery tempers of those who believe that true happiness is only possible through procreation.
Evidence? Check out the comments below the article about Ben Mahoney. There are friendly, understanding cheers from other childfree Australians as well as constructive feedback about venues, etc.
But there are also the nasties. Why does parenting seem to make some people so darned angry? So vindictive? So defensive?
But that’s not new. Nor is it interesting… Back to Ben Mahoney.
“Obviously having children is a totally valid life choice, it’s just not for everybody… My career is a bit of a focus at the moment, and I want to keep travelling. I don’t want to be tied down. It’s nice to go out with friends and not have to hear about nappies or sleep or worrying about the babysitter.” (adelaidenow.com.au)
Ha! Procreating is a “valid” life choice. Indeed. If only adamant parents could recollect that choosing not to have children is likewise a valid choice we might all be in a friendlier, more understanding soup. Mahoney is sympathetic to those who endure derision by others unable (or unwilling) to tolerate and accept their childfree choice.
“I think there are a lot of people out there that don’t want kids but are too scared to voice their opinions, because of the condemnation they receive. People say to me ‘when are you going to start being responsible and settle down, when are you going to grow up and have kids.’ There’s a prevalent attitude that you just have children – you don’t think about it – it’s just something you do. But it’s just not in my life plan at all.” (adelaidenow.com.au)
What to do if you’re not in Adelaide? You could always book a flight. After all, who needs an excuse to visit Australia?
But that’s not the only option lonely childfree singles and couples can choose. Search for similar childfree social groups in your own area. And if you can’t find one, perhaps Mahoney’s decision will inspire you to launch your own group. Go skiing. Or swimming. Naked. After all, there won’t be any innocent children around!
WNK readers will appreciate this candid look at childfree guilt (or the absence thereof) and the persistent pressure on women (rather than men) to become parents.
Sylvia D. Lucas (@SylDLucas) wants to redirect the conversation away from why women are choosing not to have kids and toward the far more important message that women need to understand that they have the choice. In short, debating whether or not childfree women are selfish, etc. is the wrong focus and is overlooking an important demographic shift. Lucas (aka Kristen J. Tsetsi, @ktsetsi) and NBC Connecticut’s Shirley Chan. effectively dilate the conversation without succumbing to bingo volleying and book promo. Well done!
No Childfree Guilt
That’s right, Lucas recently published No Children, No Guilt, a nonfiction book about the choice to opt out of parenthood. Drawing upon her own experience (including two failed marriages) Lucas offers a welcome antidote to the those concerned with the risks of childfree guilt. I just purchased a copy from Amazon, and I’ll pass along my verdict shortly. For now, I’ll defer to the ever wise Laura Carroll.
You will turn the pages grinning, definitely be prone to giggling or even laughing out loud, as I did. Ideally for those who have not 100% accepted they are childfree or are not quite completely ok with it yet, this slim Ebook is also for those who have made peace with it. Like any fun ride, it ended too soon. ~ Laura Carroll (“Anonymous” Was a Woman)
Or, in the words and interpretive dance of the author, “Guilty? Hahahaha…” Take that, childfree guilt!
The TIME magazine article, “The Childfree Life: When having it all means not having children,” has sparked an electric storm of media attention. It’s a shame the writers at WNK are too busy enjoying a childfree summer on the lake to respond. We kid! No…wait! We DON’T kid! We have a lot to say but we are busy boating AND reading all the articles about the TIME hoopla. We promise to comment soon! For now we offer you a “Friday Funny” and hope that you all remember to laugh a little more today since everyday is Friday when you are childfree!
For some reason we find this cartoon hilarious.
Do you agree? Funny or not here we come!
If you have a “Friday Funny” for WNK please share!
- The pros and cons of a childfree life (kvue.com)
- Singles in the News: A childfree roundup, black love in a time of poverty, Google me! and visual reinforcement for staying single (partyofones.com)
- Time magazine catches on to the childfree movement, misses the green angle (grist.org)
- No kid-ding: Your view of the childfree life? (boston.com)
does not mention children specifically, but… should it?
Is the modern desire for children, like our want for other new, shiny things, a result of relentless marketing?
The most defensible, obvious answer to both of the questions above is “No”. Biology, instinct, and the innate need to survive and thrive fuel our animalistic drive to procreate. Hormones propel us to copulate and populate, so chow can one lay the blame for overpopulation at the feet of media and advertising?
For starters, in developed countries at least, children no longer have utility beyond fulfilling the (selfish) desires of parents. As many others have reminded us (as in the first story on the following link) children are no longer needed to work the farm or otherwise help support modern families. While children were once a valuable asset, they now appear exclusively on the debit side of a family balance sheet. They are expensive, and the return on capital is not something that can be measured with a calculator. (Nor should it, I promise all the detached, cold calculus leads to something resembling a point.)
So how do we modern, western humans place a value on having babies and raising families? Well, this is where one might reflect on what we see in commercials or hear from celebrities. What about the endless celebration of babies on movie and TV, starting with Disney movies? Which life events are repeatedly, FOREVER, packed with the most drama, joy and possibility? How many babies do you think are born to TV characters every year during sweeps week? More importantly, WHY?
Babies are big, big business. Since the value of children can no longer be calculated, corporations are compelled to fill us with fantasies of a perfect life dependent upon, or punctuated by, a perfect child. The messages we constantly hear and see tell us that babies are priceless, and they make us happy. So, am I imagining things, or is this possibly the western worlds most effective marketing scheme?
Since babies are priceless, there is no ceiling on the amount of money that can/should be spent on them. If you do not spend every earned and borrowed penny on them, you are depriving them, and probably guilty of bad parenting. Your kids probably won’t succeed because you didn’t buy them every possible toy, tool and opportunity. No one is allowed to openly disagree. Parents, especially celebrities, must constantly and publicly repeat the same vague platitudes like “It’s amazing!” or “It’s all about the baby.” or “It gives my life meaning.” If you have 1 child, their birthday better be the best day of your life. (Meaning that it was all down hill from there?) If you have 2, it better be a tie!
Biology does not account for these things, does it? So what does? Marketing? Brilliant marketing?
This item is priceless + it is virtually guaranteed by your neighbors and celebrities to make you happy + fear + guilt + insecurity = ?
What do you think?
The links in the text above provide more links to related stories. And here is one about an actor swimming upstream: