Over the years, I’ve read many blogs and articles written by child-free women, and what never fails is that at some point, a child-free woman will express her anger or irritation at having been judged by someone who has had (or wants) children.
There have been articles (written by women) that say child-free women make poor employees, and women without children have been called selfish, freaks, sex-haters, cold, and any number of other flattering terms people use to describe the kind of woman who doesn’t want to procreate (you’ll find the comprehensive list in a Psychology Today article by Ellen Walker, Ph.D).
While I’ll not deny we child-free types do face some judgment and criticism, and although, as women, we’re marginalized when it comes to choosing the best juices (“As a mom, I want to know my juice is all natural,” one commercial advertised – do we non-moms not want natural juice, too?) and receiving special labels (“Coma Mom Defies the Odds” a recent morning show episode headlined – is she somehow special because she is a mom, and not just a woman, who defied the odds?), I think we have it easier than moms do – and not just because we don’t task ourselves with raising children.
Please don’t misunderstand; I know women who are uncertain about whether they want to have children, or who have just realized they’ll never want them, have a tough time, for a while. Deciding not to have children means being something of a social outcast (every woman I know, who is my age or older, has children), it means difficulty finding a life partner (it’s actually surprising how many men feel strongly about having children), and it could even mean periodically wondering whether being child-free was the right choice. (How many decisions – from what to eat for breakfast to the degree that cost too much money – aren’t second-guessed at one time or another?)
Of course, the child-free also have to deal with guilt trips from parents and in-laws who want grandchildren, the constant barrage of “Aren’t you afraid you’ll regret it?” and “What happens when you’re old and alone?” questions, and feeling unnatural, in general (because our society says it’s “natural” to want, and have, children).
Even so. I’d much rather suffer whatever judgment I might receive as a child-free woman than what I suspect I’d have to deal with if I were a mother.
Other questions people ask about mothers (and many of them make the morning show segments):
– Is it okay for mothers to have a glass of wine during playdates with other mothers?
– Should mothers breastfeed?
– Should mothers breastfeed in public?
– Should mothers give their children milk?
– Should older mothers be allowed to have more children?
– Should mothers have more than one child?
And that’s just conversation in the media. Mothers also have to deal with other mothers. Other mothers, who are certain they’re raising their own children the right way, are the first to criticize the way other mothers raise their children.
“Really? You let them eat that?”
“Really? You let them watch that?”
“Really? You let them listen to that?”
“Oh, you don’t make him do his homework as soon as he comes home?”
“You let her boyfriend go into her bedroom?”
“You don’t go to every single soccer practice?”
“You let him have coffee? Really? At fifteen?”
“You bought condoms for her? Really? At fifteen?”
“You let her wear that?”
“You don’t let her wear that?”
“You went OUT?”
We all have our issues where children (or a lack thereof) are concerned, but I would much rather have gone through my years of non-mom guilt, two divorces, and pregnancy fears as a child-free woman than to have to hear one word about how I was raising my child.
And I’m pretty certain mothers have to deal with this for the full eighteen years. There are “right” ways to care for infants, toddlers, pre-teens, teens…