The Child-Free vs. “Breeder” War: Why Are We Fighting It?

I recently read a blog entry on a child-free website that was followed by a comment from a woman who went on for some time about how physically disgusting she thought pregnant women were. She wrote that only the child’s father should have to be subjected to the sight of the woman’s bulging abdomen. (It’s very possible this woman is tokophobic.)

Other child-free people will refer to parents as “breeders.” Technically accurate, yes, but offensive nonetheless.

Too often (not most of the time, but often enough), the tone used by some of the child-free when talking about parents is one of not-even-remotely-veiled contempt.

Parents’ joy over their children, the issues they face as parents, and even the fact that they chose to become parents is cause for ridicule among a certain child-free population.

What I don’t understand is why.

I’m more than aware of how emotionally exhausting (even just annoying) it can be to have society and the media subtly, but consistently, reminding me that as a (moderately) healthy woman with a functioning uterus, I should probably have a ten-year-old child by now. (*Shudder* Even the thought…) But where is all this anger for anyone and everyone who has kids coming from?

I’ve always liked to think of child-free women as people who relish their freedom and their free time, who are confident and happy about the choice they’ve made, and who will defend that choice when it’s questioned or criticized.

But seeing many of them subjecting parents in general to the same kind of judgment and ridicule they hate to be the targets of confuses me. I might expect it from someone who’s just come into their choice and is feeling tender and defensive (it’s a little bit like being a teenager in love who views all adults as the enemy saying, “You don’t know what love is!”), or from someone who’s being attacked at that moment by someone (whether person, TV show, or blog) specific, but when it comes from those who have been child-free for some time and who seem to be attacking parents just to attack parents, it’s baffling.

Sure, most of us will probably see a parent pushing one child in a stroller and dragging the other by the hand and think, “I can’t tell you how happy I am to not be you,” but who doesn’t think that about anyone they see living a life, or doing a thing, they’re relieved to not be living or doing themselves?

But this is not a logical reason to attack parents just for wanting to be parents.

When we’re attacked by people who think we’re not being the right kind of women for not building babies in our wombs, we make any number of assumptions about the people who are angry with us, because we honestly can’t fathom why our decision, which has nothing to do with anyone but us, is one they feel justified to criticize. Some of the assumptions we make about those people (some may be on target, some may not):

1.They have antiquated notions about what a woman’s role “should” be

2. They’re miserable, and so they want us to be miserable, too

3. They secretly envy us

4. They see their role as parents as self-sacrificing, heroic, and noble, and they honestly think the only reason we don’t want children is because we can’t stand the thought of giving our time to anyone but ourselves.

Whatever the reason for someone’s attack on our choice, it deserves our attention. Our rebuttal. Our fiery ire. But “it” is that specific attacker or group of attackers, not all parents, wannabe parents, and pregnant women. What did they ever do to us? And what did our own parents do to deserve that kind of universal distaste for their choice to produce us?

What assumptions to you suppose parents might make to explain why some of the child-free hate parents? Maybe (again, some may be on target, some may not):

1. We still aren’t sure about our choice, so when we see people with children, we feel insecure and lash out as a way to feel more powerful and in control

2. We still feel guilty about our choice (when you’re raised believing having children is just what you’re “supposed to do,” guilt over not doing it is a side-effect), so when we see people with children or think about parents, we’re reminded of what horrible people others must think we are, and we lash out as a way to feel more powerful and in control

3. We view parents as fitting into a certain kind of mold and living a certain kind of life (in other words, we have a bit of a prejudice), and everything about what we imagine it is is so distasteful to us (minivans, shuttling kids around, dragging kids through supermarkets, having “parental” opinions about everything on the planet – “Ban books! Ban music! Ban sex ed! Think of the CHILDREN!”) that it makes us cringe, and we lash out as a way to very vocally express that distaste

4. We secretly want children, but we don’t want to want them

5. We want them, but we’re incapable of having them

The way I see it, if you’re a happy, confident, child-free woman/person, you have no reason to lash out at parents just for being parents. We chose this life (if I’m not mistaken) in large part because we’re very attracted to the absence of child-related stress, so it seems counter-intuitive to put so much negative energy toward thinking about, fuming over, judging, and criticizing people who have children in general.

So, I’d like to call a truce.

To those who hate the child-free: Seek help. Explore your inner self. Discover what it is about how we live our lives that so offends you, get over it, and find more joy in your own life.

To those who hate people who have or want children: Do the same.

Naturally, the battle will go on among the individuals who have and share their strong opinions in a public forum, but as a child-free woman on the “side” of the attacked child-free (when we’re attacked), I’d like to ask us to take the high road. Defend when, and only when, attacked, and when firing back, fire at the actual attacker, not at the neighboring village they sometimes hold block parties with. They didn’t do anything.




23 thoughts on “The Child-Free vs. “Breeder” War: Why Are We Fighting It?

  1. Jenny

    This is an amazing post, thank you. I obviously have a lot to learn from you Sylvia and am glad I found your blog, particularly as I am one of the child-free women who make negative comments about parents I see. I view this as a form of defence: since I have vocalised my decision not to be CF, I have received such annoying comments as ‘don’t worry, you’ll change your mind!’ and told how wonderful parenthood is until the cows come home. I have always been defensive about my choice, not because I’m unsure, but because I guess I wish I fitted in more. Your post made me realise that I need to take things less seriously and really own my decision to be CF.

  2. I loved this and I feel the same way. When I discovered the childfree community in the beginning of 2011, I was a bit turned off by the meanness of many older women. As a 21 year old, I didn’t want to be a surly, bitchy old crazy cat lady. If you’re enjoying your life and enjoying being child-free, who has time to go on public forums and bitch about the childed?

    I know in my blog I complain about mothers and babies, but it’s because I feel almost claustrophobic with all the pregnancy marketing and the child-centric society we live in. If it were a society geared towards the childless–I would have nothing to write about, really. Some people don’t understand why some people are choosing not to have kids.

    What about minority women who have no way to get out of poverty but to work two jobs? Do they really get to “enjoy” motherhood? Is it fair? I think that privileged middle class women enjoy this debate but for some other people, it’s a matter of survival and not really a choice, but the only way to a better life.

  3. Leah

    It’s funny, and maybe it’s because I’m a scientist, but I use the term ‘breeding’ or ‘breeder’ about all animal species (including humans). It’s not offensive because I do not mean it as a slur, just a factual term.

  4. When I get to stop paying the same amount of school taxes as parents, I’ll stop calling them breeders. THAT is my main source of contempt…It’s purely financial. I don’t mind paying SOME school taxes, but to pay the same proportion of my income as someone with six kids in public school? UNFAIR.

    1. EW

      I am quite tired of this particular argument.

      As a member of our society your are contributing to future good by helping educate ALL children. Although you/we have chosen not to have children, those that have made the choice to have children are producing your future doctor, lawyer, accountant, barista, mayor, Senator, etc.

      Although I do not want children of my own, or enjoy being around children for an extended time does not mean I refuse to take responsibility for the protection (CPS, police, fire), education or support of those children who need it.

      Once they are in the world they are members of our society, no matter the reasons or lack thereof for their presence.

    2. Sarascara

      You could argue that way, but what about the people who couldn’t have children or didn’t want children when you went to school? Didn’t they pay taxes for public schooling?

    3. Meow

      Haven’t you heard that the more educated a woman is, the less likely she is to have children? Or at least will put off having children til later? In that case – you should be glad that your helping to educate the young women of the world – they’re less likely to have kids in the future!

  5. stuntcat

    I can never respect people who are making children. There are 7 billion humans raping this beautiful world, and giving new people the rest of this century when they can clearly see what a struggle it will be, even for lucky 1st worlders, is just disgusting. To me it’s about the worst thing in the world anyone can do from now on. I kept this to myself mostly for years until luckily this year I’ve found CF groups where I can discuss my feelings on this. Does the fact that I’m over 40 and own cats mean that I’m just a bitter old lady? Is it unimaginable that I have a happy existence? Aside from avoiding my fecund neighbors and the mother-in-law whose life I’ve ruined by not making a baby, my life’s pretty good, I can go to concerts, take trips, spend half my Saturday sitting outside watching the birds. I will be honest about the disgust I have for people who make babies. I won’t apologize. People born now will know that their parents knew what kind of future they were giving them. I’m sure many reading this will say I sound like the crazy one. This the thing I know for sure, and I wish I was wrong about it. In fact I hope you can contact me in 30 years about how wrong I was.

    1. Jenny

      I don’t think you’re crazy and I can believe that you’re happy, you have a great life. What I have a problem with however, is having ‘disgust’ at other people’s life choices. To an extent, I have difficulty being happy with people I know (and those I don’t) who announce they’re having a baby, like it’s something to be congratulated. I will literally never congratulate anyone on this and I agree that having so many people in the world is a waste of the world’s beauty and resources. Having children is no great achievement. However, my challenge is acceptance that not many people feel the way I do and their lives and opinions and choices are their own, so I respect that whilst having responsibility for only my own beliefs. I think being disgusted at other people having children is helping no one and if anything, is widening the gap between people who choose to have children and those who do not. Hopefully we can all reach a place where we can be happy for one another, regardless whether other people’s choices mirror our own or not.

      1. stuntcat

        I also wish I could be happy for them, making their own life choice.. Freedom is great! I will watch the news get worse every year of my life, knowing that what they’re doing is part of it. I’ve crossed a line, I can never come back. I’m afraid I’ll never be able to respect educated 1st-worlders who make new babies. .. I do get your meaning!, and I often wish I didn’t feel so strongly about the Earth, or about all the animals we’re wiping out forever- It’s painful seeing what’s happening and knowing it’s going to get worse every year. Sometimes I try, selfishly, to just be happy my years watching it are half over, but I’m afraid it will keep getting worse and worse after I’m gone, so the one thing I can be glad of is not giving the rest of this century to my child. Again, I wish anyone reading this to contact me in a few decades about how wrong I was in 2011, I wish I was wrong.

      2. , How is it a “choice” to have kids? It is actually a more programmed auto response that when asked people give the most juvenile horrific nonsensical responses.

  6. Scott

    I’m new to the childfree community, and the “breeder” label for parents is a new one for me. I had always heard the word “breeder” as a name that gay people sometimes use to refer to straight people. Dan Savage used to use the word all the time to refer to heterosexuals, but now that he’s adopted a child he doesn’t use it so much anymore….

    1. I’ve been child-free for – well – ever, but I’m relatively new to the community as a member, and “breeder” was new to me, too (like you, I thought it was a derogatory word for heterosexuals). It was, it would seem, passionately adopted.

  7. Great article! I’m not sure where I fit in- I may have to start my own movement. I don’t have kids and decided early on that I didn’t want them but I’m in a relationship (not married) to a man who had 2 kids. They don’t live with us and I’m not a stepmom. It’s a very interesting (to say the least) position I now find myself. I’m having to respect his parenthood and find a comfortable place for me. That being said, I agree with all that you brought up. It’s seems pretty basic to me… tolerance. I like to say, keep your eyes on your paper, and clean up your own backyard. Too much time wasted on what others are doing, thinking, or saying. Thank you for your honesty. I look forward to more. I write about being the girlfriend mom to get me through this maze!

  8. mccxxiii

    “I’ve always liked to think of child-free women as people who relish their freedom and their free-time, who are confident and happy about the choice they’ve made, and who will defend that choice when it’s questioned or criticized.”

    You are assuming that it was a *choice* …

  9. E

    For me the anger and lashing out has never been about ‘questioning whether I made the right choice.’ Rather it is more of a culmination of the frustrations that being childfree gets from the ‘breeders.’

    I am content to mind my own, but when I constantly get beaten by the barrage of questions and statements regarding my own mental health when I say I am not having children, one can be given to grow quite angry at the masses. One also can get frustrated at the baby-centric world we live in every day. When you look at all the concessions made for parents, and a childfree couple/individual may be lucky to get a fraction of them, you tend to get a little upset. Case in point, a co-worker will miss an average of one day a week to tend to one of their sick children, with no questions being asked. True they are using up their own personal time for this but, let’s look at the ramifications of this:

    1. Who does the rest of the workload fall on when mom or dad has to be with their sick child? It doesn’t go away. Someone has to pick up the slack.

    2. So, the parent is taking care of the sick kid, exposing themselves to whatever virus, etc that may be causing the problem. This therefore can cause them to be sick and out of work for longer.

    3. Or the scenario that I also have encountered a number of times is, the parent gets sick from their child but can’t stay home because they have used all their personal time to take care of their kid, and comes to work anyway. This then puts the parents co-workers at risk of getting sick.

    This article makes it seem like this animosity just popped up overnight, and in my estimation that is untrue. Like I said before, the animosity has been growing due to biased treatment. From the smug attitude of pregnant women, to the workplace scenarios stated above, to the constant questioning or the ‘you’ll change your mind’ statements, to even the b.s. ‘sidewalk hogger’ double baby strollers that cause you to have to walk in the mud or dirt if you encounter one coming your way. Until their is unbiased treatment across the board, there will always be animosity. I mean how many parents threw fits at the new trend in dining out that do not allow children? Are there articles written like this to their bias to tell them to stop acting up? I highly doubt it.

  10. I do think that 99% of people who have kids or want kids are wrong to do so, and yes that does very firmly include my own parents. I also think their political leanings are wrong, it’s not an indefensible position to think your parents are wrong.

    I do think that anyone who trolls parent boards is out of bounds, but in our own spaces or on neutral ground? I’ll happily use “breeder” all day long and not feel a smidgen of guilt.


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