According to an unscientific poll I posted a while ago, the question the child-free hate being asked the most is, ‘Why don’t you want children?’
They hate it more than, ‘Aren’t you afraid you’ll regret it later?’ and even ‘What will you do with your life without kids in it?’
Outside of the context of books and endless psychoanalytical approaches that try to find some great, dark mystery behind why women don’t want children (as if we’re missing our frontal lobes or a critical brain receptor), I actually love being asked, by everyday people, ‘Why?’
I can be an insatiably curious person, so I usually feel when talking to people like I’m that kid staring up at an adult with my mouth hanging open, nose stuffy with snot, and asking ‘Why?’ after everything.
‘Eat your chicken.’
‘Because it’s good for you.’
‘Because your body needs the protein.’
‘Because… Because there’s… Ribosomes… Look, just eat your fucking chicken.’
Maybe what annoys many child-free about that question is that if we were to learn a friend (or stranger) were pregnant and very excited about the baby, we’d get the death glare if we said, ‘Oh. You’re having a baby? Why?’
I’ve wanted to ask this more often than I can tell you. As someone who’s never wanted children, I’m as curious about why someone would want them as they probably are about women who don’t want them. I react, in my head, to people who have children the same way I react to people who say they don’t like chicken wings. ‘What? But why?’ It doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t understand. I’m not judging – I’m curious. WHY don’t you like wings? Is it the sauce? The size of the wing? Is it that weird gap between the bones? Would you eat the boneless ones?
But I can vocalize my questions about things like chicken wings, or why someone would intentionally buy an El Camino, or what influenced someone’s decision to be a taxidermist.
But ask why someone had children?
Nooooo. If you ask why someone wants or wanted children, it’s assumed that what you really mean is, ‘Oh my god, children are horrible! Why would you ever do that?’ That particular curiosity is greeted immediately with The Moat of Defensiveness.
Much like the automatic ‘Help! Help! I’ve been bingoed!’ reaction the child-free often have when we’re asked why we don’t want children…
The difference is, there’s no etiquette filter stopping anyone from asking us why we don’t want kids. They just blurt out the question like they’re talking about chicken wings.
But it’s only because it’s the ‘norm’ to want kids, and for the most part, they’re simply curious about why we don’t. And I don’t blame them. I’m curious, too, about why other people who aren’t me don’t want kids. Not on some deep, ‘Who hurt you?’ let-me-play-psychoanalyst level, because obviously I don’t think there’s anything weird about not wanting kids, but because I like knowing the ‘why’ about a lot of things.
So ask me why I don’t want kids – ask me all day long – but ask without judgment. I’ll give you my list of 1,047 reasons, the #1 reason being, ‘It’s just not my thing. I’m not interested.’
‘Because I don’t want to be a mom.’
‘Never took an interest in the job.’
‘Hm. I guess… Long hours, full life transformation, complete energy absorption, no money in it, and then there’s the potential for great emotional turmoil unlike any other.’
‘Well, there’s all the cleaning up and running around, and I don’t like being that stressed out. There’s a loss of self and having no time to pursue your own interests for at least a few years, which isn’t for me. There’s other-mommy judgment, which would make me violent. Toward the other mommies, of course. And then, there’s the fact that your kid will eventually be a teenager. Also, what if you don’t like your kid? They – the other parents – will drag you through the town square by the ankles of your mom-jeans. What if your kid ends up being like the Columbine kids? And what if you love your kid like crazy and it dies at age 6, 7, 10, or 30? I’m pretty sure that would mess you up real good.’
And so on.
Ask me why. I’ll tell you. But then, you have to be okay with me asking you why you do want kids, and with me asking ‘Why?’ again when you say, ‘I just always have.’
~ ~ ~
“This book is a revelation, and at last, finally an entry in this genre that doesn’t take sides.”
by Sylvia D. Lucas
“An odd combination of really funny and really insightful.”