There’s been list after list (after list) compiled about the childfree. What not to tell us, things we hate, untruths about us, silly things people say to us, and truths about us. All great lists, but I think there’s room for one more. This list is called, as you might have gleaned from the post title, “7 things the childfree usually won’t tell you.”
We won’t tell you these things because they’ll either 1) create conflict or 2) ruin our image as STAUNCHLY CHILDFREE FOREVER!!!11!
1. Some of us truly do not like children, some of us truly love them, and some of us don’t have feelings about them one way or the other. What I think can safely be said about at least 86.7% of us is that we’re uncomfortable with the expectation that we’ll preface “I don’t want kids” with “I love kids! But–”
woman human does not mean being required to love, like, want to be around, want to mentor, want to care for, or want to somehow find a way to spend time with, children. Nor does enjoying the company of children automatically mean “parent.” We as people have many loves, but we don’t necessarily want to make those loves the focus of our lives. You can enjoy children without wanting to raise one.
2. Many of us, even if we knew from a young age we didn’t want children, will think off and on – or even just once or twice – about whether we’re sure we don’t want children. Maybe it’s because pronatalism has brainwashed us into thinking we’re supposed to want a child, or maybe it’s because it’s a major life choice that deserves some thought or makes us curious and warrants a periodic checking-in. (I go into this a bit more in my book No Children, No Guilt.) Whatever the reason, we’re loathe to admit it to childed or child-wanting people because there’s too high a risk of the immediate reaction being, “See!? I knew it! You’re not sure! You should totally have kids!”
Thinking about things or questioning long-held positions, beliefs, or desires doesn’t mean there’s been any changing of any minds, but that there’s a certain level of confidence allowing for the honest assessment of choices.
Never mind that no one would respond this way to someone who is giving more thought to their religion (“I KNEW you didn’t really believe in God!”), their career choice (“See? I always knew you didn’t really want to be a doctor!”), their relationship (“I think this off-day with your husband just proves you don’t really love him and that you two should never have gotten married. Everyone knows it’s not real unless you’re 100% in love and giddy and content every second of your marriage.”), or their children (“See? I knew you never really wanted kids! Look at you, wondering what it would be like to have a whole day to yourself.”).
3. There is pressure even within the childfree community to be childfree enough. Which is why, in some childfree circles/online communities, there is a disinclination to say out loud, “You know, I was thinking the other day that there are probably some cool things about having kids.”
(Duck to avoid the “crotch-fruit” “breeder-lover” sling-fest. If you’re able to sympathize with parents or see their point of view on certain issues – if you’re even nice to or about them – you’re a “breeder pleaser” and undoubtedly someone who secretly wants children.)
Granted, this is a small community, and as much as I try to avoid them, I do (and I hope you’ll try to) understand them. When there’s so much pressure to have kids, especially as a woman, there’s a natural instinct to fight back. And fighting can get ugly.
4. Some of us are afraid of maybe someday deciding we want a child, even if we’re sure we won’t. In part, because parents/want-to-be-parents will be a little too ready with “I told you so,” considering the change of heart an irrefutable confirmation that, deep down, everyone wants children (which is about as true as the belief some men hold that deep down every woman has lesbian tendencies).
However, there’s also that very vocal segment of the childfree population that can be a little scary, because – well – they’re very emphatic. Very certain. According to these people, if you’re someone who never wanted your own children but you later marry someone who has children, you may no longer claim to be “childfree,” the word treated like a badge of honor to be earned over a lifetime of dedicated service.
If you’re someone who never wanted children and later decided to have one, to these people you were never appropriately “childfree,” because as far as they’re concerned, childfree people never change their minds.
It can be easy to get a little overwhelmed and unnecessarily influenced by what’s being called the “childfree movement,” to feel like we’d be betraying someone, even ourselves, if we do decide at some point that we want to birth or adopt a child (which, let’s face it, we probably won’t, but dammit, we can if we want to).
5. We’re very happy about missing out on a lot of the things many parents experience. We will never fear the loss of a child. We will never have to suffer the consistent barrage of questions and judgments about our mothering (breastfeeding? [IT'S THE ONLY HEALTHY WAY!] breastfeeding in public? [ATTENTION WHORE! PUT YOUR BREAST AWAY!] not breastfeeding? [WHY DO YOU WANT TO KILL YOUR BABY?] afraid to breastfeed in public? [WHY DO YOU HATE THE BEAUTIFUL THING THAT IS NATURAL MOTHERHOOD?] admit to making a mistake with your child? [WE WHO ARE NOT YOU ARE PERFECT PARENTS WHO WOULD NEVER MAKE A MISTAKE AND YOU WILL BURN IN HELL!] etc.) We will never have child-custody disputes or wonder whether we should stay in a miserable marriage “for the child.” We will never feel the loss of our child leaving the house after 18 years (ideally) to go to college and live his/her own life. We won’t ever have to smile and accept one ounce of unsolicited advice about how to raise a child. We don’t have to experience the guilt that comes with wondering whether it’s being done right/enough/too much, and we’ll never feel torn between work we love and children we love.
And so on.
6. For most of us, there’s no “movement” to speak of in this “childfree movement.” I think of a movement as something that has high stakes. The suffragists fought to get women the right to vote. Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted to secure equal rights for blacks. These are important movements. Childfree people? We already have the right to not have kids. No one is tying us down and impregnating us. This isn’t The Handmaid’s Tale.
If anything, this “movement” is more of an uprising. We (most of us) don’t want to stop people from having children (as nice as it would be to stop some from doing just that, because of abuse and neglect and other mistreatment), and we certainly don’t want to “convert” people. All we want to do (and make no mistake, this is actually very important) is make as many young people as we can aware of the fact that life doesn’t have one path that = 1. Grow up 2. Get married 3. Have kids
In fact, I received this note just this morning:
I never thought of an idea for a child free life until I read your articles and postings. At first, it seemed odd. I know I was brought up learning this method of life: You go to school, get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids and then grow old. As far as I knew from a young age, kids was always part of the whole deal of marriage, and life itself. But thanks to you, I know that getting married and having kids isn’t the only way to grow up and live life. You can be happy and feel whole being child free.
I don’t know if how freeing this can be is something that can be put into words. If you’re raised thinking the only way to find fulfillment is in parenting, you’re kind of screwed if you never find someone to parent with or simply don’t want to parent, aren’t you? And you’re also kind of screwed if you have the child and still don’t feel fulfilled. WHY would people want to do this to each other? Mind boggling.
7. People who don’t want children aren’t really all that ostracized. Although we can often feel marginalized or unfairly judged, we’re just one of many who are marginalized and/or unfairly judged. We aren’t chased out of town, we aren’t (usually) denied work, we aren’t told not to enter restaurants or stores, we aren’t beat up or killed for our choice (as far as I know), and no lunatics are holding picket signs that say “God hates the childfree” (although, one religious person has written a blog post saying we’re evil, but again – everyone is judged or criticized for something).
It’s really not that big of a deal. What IS a big deal – again – is recognizing and understanding that pushing the idea of having children on others is unfair, irresponsible, and tacky, and that educating others about their options will go far in promoting happier, healthier adults and the children who are ultimately born to those who have given it serious thought instead of doing it “just because that’s what people do.”
What would you add to this list of things most childfree people wouldn’t say or haven’t said?