Childfree, why so mean to parents?

you suckFirst: I know. Parents are also guilty of being mean to the child-free, calling us “selfish” and whatnot. So, I can see responding to a particular person who makes a particularly offensive remark. But why throw unbidden offensive remarks out into the world, ourselves?

Some time ago, I wrote about the “childfree vs. ‘breeder’ war,” unsure why there was so much animosity between parents and people who would prefer not to be parents.

I didn’t think one little post from an unknown like me would have any effect or inspire any change or understanding – what can one person do, after all, especially in a world that seems to thrive on drama and conflict? – but it did seem, at least, like I was seeing less of the warring online over the last few months.

The reason for that, I think, was simply that I was spending less time in online childfree hangouts. When you’re not there, you don’t see it. (Ah, blissful ignorance!)

This morning, I saw that a seemingly well-meaning father of a toddler had stopped in to a childfree forum to say, “Hey! I’m a dad. If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them.”

Cue the “What the f*** is a DAD doing in here?” replies. Except, I made that one up. Here are a few of the real ones:

1.

My only question would be – why are you here? We all know parents and we can ask them questions anytime we want.

Grr. First there was a childless person on here, now an actual parent. Grr.

(don’t worry, I’ll find the ignore/foe button).

2.

It’s time to create a super elite ChildFree forum where you have to be an actual CF person to gain admittance. I’ll help fund it if anyone is interested.

3. (This one actually went on for some time, so I only selected a snippet.)

I don’t think you should explain parenthood. We have enough information. We have been children and we are cousins, aunts and uncles. A few of us have step kids, have tried for childrenin the past and some of us take active roles within the community and we ‘get’ it. We really do. We not personally agree but we’re still people… with families and friends.

The fact that you can’t even respect our views by lurking tells me a lot about you. You’re the same pro-natalist as the rest of the entitled parents… just a far more mild mannered one. You think that at least wanting to understand make you a ‘better’ person but no matter how nice the ignorance… it’s still ignorance.

4.

Oh look a parent who is so gracious to bless us with his time to educate us. I don’t care if your intentions are sincere, please go away.

Why? Why the automatic assumption that the father who joined the board to have a conversation – a board where there’s a lot of parent shaming, by the way – had ulterior motives? What is so unappealing about civility, kindness, and having an open mind?

Here was the father’s opening paragraph:

Greetings. I’m a 30something father of a 2-year old female toddler. A recent FB comment by a childfree friend prompted me to lurk here a bit in an attempt to gain some insight. In the interest of promoting dialogue and understanding, I figured I’d offer myself up for any reasonable, respectful questions you may have.

Well, he could immediately forget about “reasonable” and “respectful.” That much was made clear.

I’ve visited that particular forum a number of times, and there actually are a lot of questions the childfree people ask that the father could probably answer. Such as, “Why do parents think it’s okay to bring their babies to restaurants?” and “How do you maintain a relationship with a friend once s/he has a baby?” and “How do I tell my friend that I don’t want her to bring her kids when she comes over?”

I mean, how is someone who never had kids supposed to answer these questions? How could a parent’s perspective – when asked for – not be useful?

One of the comments above (in the numbered list) included the following:

I come here to read about the awesome lives CF people are leading.

It would be nice if that was how a lot of people treated childfree forums. But there sure is a lot of hatin’.

And it’s funny – while parents in parenting forums are talking about parenting and children, the childfree in childfree forums are talking about…well…parenting and children.

Isn’t that kind of funny?

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15 thoughts on “Childfree, why so mean to parents?

  1. There’s a difference between childfree and anti-parent. Childfree I understand. I even understand wanting a forum where you can complain and/or commiserate about that baby who wouldn’t shut up in the swanky restaurant you were trying to enjoy or your friend whose house suddenly looks like it was barfed on by a Toys R Us. But the animosity from the anti-parent brigade is kind of idiotic. “Breeders”? Seriously, fuck off douchebags. I’ve noticed, though, that any online community out there – be it the childfree, Star Trek nerds, history buffs, or whatever – attracts its share of unreasonables. That’s probably why I stay away from forums and message boards.

  2. “Why do parents think it’s okay to bring their babies to restaurants?”

    Probably a first time parent. You’re witnessing their Learning The Hard Way Not To Bring A Baby To A Restaurant. Or they’re that desperate to get out of the house and couldn’t find a sitter.

    “How do you maintain a relationship with a friend once s/he has a baby?”

    Compromise. If you want the friendship to continue more than you don’t want to be around a baby, you’ll have to learn to deal with the kid. Once s/he is old enough to stay with a sitter, your friend will have to learn that there are times when you don’t want to be around her kid. Chances are she’ll appreciate the break.

    “How do I tell my friend that I don’t want her to bring her kids when she comes over?”

    Tell her that you need some grown up time. Again, chances are she’ll appreciate that. If not, the friendship is on its way out anyway. Sometimes a friendship doesn’t survive this. It sucks, but there it is.

  3. A. Stein

    Your article fails to mention the opening post was VERY LONG. You bring a tiny snapshot and act as of this wonderful, loving saint just came to talk.

    Why is he on a Childfree forum? He is not childfree. As mentioned we all know parents in real life, we don’t need Super Dad to educate us or set us straight. This is one of the only places we have in the world that is a safe haven for us. Where we don’t get told kids are the answer to all of life’s problems and that we just don’t understand. I don’t spend time on Parenting forums trying to tell parents why I’m different!!

    If you truly spent as much time on the forum as you say you would not claim we spend all our time talking about parenting and children.

    Another key point you failed to mention – Super Dad never came back to engage in the dialogue he wanted to bless us with. Nope, he came in dropped his I’m holier than thou and I’m so not one of those parents you complain about speech and then flounced.

    Nice try.

    1. I should have included that his post was longer. (As I did with the snip I selected from a comment.) You’re right.

      And I don’t think I said that all anyone does at the forum is talk about children and parents, but now that you mention it, I can see how it would come across like that. Not my intention.

      As for why he didn’t return to engage – read the first several posts responding to his initial post. Would you come back?

  4. Slartybartfast

    You’re article has taken the comments of the CF completely out of context and doesn’t quote any the patronising twattery from Super Dad who saw it as his socially responsibility to ‘educate’! You’ve also taken 1 thread from a very active forum, which is openly and very supportive of those people with step kids and those struggling with the decision to ‘have or have not’…Maybe you should stick with your ignorance is bliss strategy, taking one tiny bit of discussion and heralding it as evidence that the CF are mean to parents isn’t helpful in terms of bridging the tolerance gap.

    1. Here is his introductory post in full:

      Greetings. I’m a 30something father of a 2-year old female toddler. A recent FB comment by a childfree friend prompted me to lurk here a bit in an attempt to gain some insight. In the interest of promoting dialogue and understanding, I figured I’d offer myself up for any reasonable, respectful questions you may have.

      Why me? Because I’m a stranger on the Internet you have no social stake in not asking awkward questions of, and I’ll do my level best to give you some insight.

      As to me, religiously I’m skeptical and atheist, though I attend a UU church for fellowship and social engagement. Politically I’m pretty liberal. I work on the production side of things at a local TV station, and enjoy “nerdy” hobbies and activities like tabletop gaming.

      As to ground rules, I ask a reasonable level of respect to me as a person, or I’ll probably ignore the question. Note that I’m probably atypical of what you’d get if you took the mean average of what a parent is like, but that means I’m willing to try and self-examine and try to give you a more considered answer. Note that I might not necessarily agree with or represent something you’ve heard from folks with kids, but I can give you my perspective on it.

      I’m not pushing any agenda. I take a “YKIOK” stance with regards to the CF lifestyle. I certainly see the appeal, and acknowledge that there are downsides to having children, and parents who are overbearing and annoying. I’m not going to judge the rather irreverent argot CF has developed for parents and their children, as I get that this is supposed to be your place to let your hair down. I’d prefer not to be put on trial for the crimes of all parents everywhere, because as Picard points out in Encounter at Farpoint, that’s a bit uncool. But I’m more than willing to try and puzzle through what motivated your kid-having friend to do that one thing that annoyed you.

      With that, I’ll get the ball rolling by answering some questions posed by LaylaLaRueLeMay in a recent thread in as respectful and thoughtful as I’m able.

      How do children bring joy?
      To a parent? Plenty of reasons. Obviously my answer on this is going to be subjective, so it’s going to vary by parent. I guess chief among them to me is the perspective the provide as a kind of a tabula rasa for the world that pulls away my cynicism and lets me experience a bit of wonder. When my kid sees an ant for the first time, I get to share a bit in the joy of discovery and curiousity instead of saying “pfft. I mean, they’re pretty okay for arthropods, but seen it.” She really wants to know what’s up with that ant.

      Of course there’s the whole affection thing, which I totally acknowledge isn’t irreplaceable by other sources of emotional warmth, but my own subjective experience is that it’s certainly novel enough in character that I enjoy it.

      How is the ability to have children a gift/miracle?

      Beats me. The subjective experience of having a child when one desires one can pleasant on the balance of things, but hardly miraculous. The process of fertilization, gestation, and birth is well-understood by science.

      As an uncomfortable number of people are still stuck with magical thinking with relation to attributing supernatural causes to things that can be empirically explained, I can see where birth is one that’s compelling to put the label to. To someone with strong theistic tendencies, what’s more “Godly” than “creating” life?

      Why is it considered important to pass on a genetic legacy?
      Because that’s been the name of the game since the Proterozoic, mostly? It’s got plenty of cultural justification retrofitted to it, but I think essentially when someone goes on about “passing on the family name” “obeying God’s commandment to be fruitful” or the like, they’re really advocating for a microscopic protein sequence that’s spent hundreds of millions of years perpetuating itself, and it’s not about to “let” them get off adopting some kid who only shares 99.99998 percent of their genetic code.

      What’s the point in having children?
      Speaking for myself, I’m in general a fan of humanity, and so far it’s the only way we know of to keep the lights up and the curtains on for that show. So far it is, anyway. We’ll see how this order I put in with the Kaminoans goes.

      In my most black misanthropic moods I sympathize with the voluntary extinction movement, but on the balance I think we’re not doing much better or worse than any other Eukaryotic organism would be if it’d been the one to develop culture, and I think we’re improving.

      How is having children considered an achievement?
      Is it? I didn’t get any gamer points on my XBL account for it. :)

      I think anyone who called it an “achievement” is being a bit silly. It’s the eventual status quo consequence of a fertile engaging in sexual activity without contraception. It is a milestone of cultural significance and a major life event, so marking it with celebration as we do other such milestones isn’t inherently irrational.

      As to raising them, certainly there are degrees of accomplishment in doing so “well,” but the baseline level of care is obligatory, not commendable, as Chris Rock has pointed out in many a stand-up set.

      Why do people say that the love parents feel for their children is the greatest love of all?

      Anyone who said that is being dismissive of the subjective nature of “love,” and insensitive to the people who have important loving connections with folks other than children that they value.

      I think what they might mean to say if they were being a bit more considerate and rational would be “it is the greatest love I’ve experienced”, which happens to be my subjective personal experience. But it’s foolhardy to try and quantify and rank what other people should value as the greatest expression of “love.”

      Anyway, I’m happy to expand on that or address any other reasonable question if you want the child-having-but-not-hostile-to-child-free perspective. Let me know.

      This is my second time reading it, and I just don’t see the “patronizing twattery.” Where do you see it?

      1. A. Stein

        It’s the fact he’s there in the first place. We all know parents. We all know jerky parents who judge us and we all know great parents who completely accept and understand our lifestyle. We can all read and have access to a wealth of parenting and childfree information. He thought he was riding in on a white horse and sprinkling us with his I’m-so-open-and-accepting-so-I’ll-educate-you-poor-slobs dust. Get out of our safe haven.

        Imagine, for one moment, the reverse scenario. A childfree person doing this on a parenting forum. You think we’d be welcomed with open arms? Not even close.

        Also, as stated, you’re attempting to shine a bad light on a very active forum by using ONE example of people defending their space.

  5. I haven’t tried, so I’m not sure how the childfree would be welcomed, but – again, probably my own naivete – I’d like to think the automatic response wouldn’t be, “Childfree infiltrator!” That just seems so silly. How else do people engage in conversations that can foster understanding without actually engaging in conversations?

    I am sorry for making my post read as though I was characterizing the entire forum as one that is predominantly anti-parent/child. There’s so much there that’s valuable, helpful, supportive, and useful that the parent-shaming and child-griping (which is also a little heavy, and which has turned off not just me, but a few others) should not in any way be the only behavior to define the site.

    1. A. Stein

      Childfree people are subjected to criticism from parents nearly every day. Family members, coworkers, friends and even complete strangers think they have a right to question a person’s reproductive choice and then try and convince them why they should change their mind. I’ve been called evil, selfish (about 10000 times), a child hater, someone who had no idea what real love is, that I’ll change my mind, etc etc etc. Parents have no problem saying this stuff to our faces, imagine what they’d say behind a computer screen.

      Childfree people don’t go around questioning parenting decisions and telling parents who have kids they will change their mind. The inability to have a rational conversation about the choice of parenting starts with PARENTS. I’d love to have that type of conversation, but I know 99% of parents would never be open to it.

      It’s nice to think no one ever needs space to vent about the constant attacks they are subjected to everyday but until parents stop harassing us, we won’t be able to.

      Everyone needs a safe haven, right? Not to mention, you are here complaining about the fact that people are…complaining.

      1. No, I’m here saying the reactions to a seemingly nice parent were unreasonably rude.

        The link to “childfree vs. breeder wars” is there because it discusses how both sides are guilty of being assholes. This particular post is about a specific observation.

  6. Pingback: #Childfree Times for December 2012 - Nyxks Musings

  7. Robin

    What I don’t understand is why childfree people like me are considered “elitist”? Yes, I shop at Whole Foods and Patagonia. I also live in a single-bedroom apartment without a dishwasher, garbage disposal, or laundry machines. I drive a used compact diesel car, and don’t have basic cable. Is that elitist too? I thought elitism was having so much money you neither worried about money nor ever came in contact with people who worried about money. Childfree people (not childless) made a conscious choice, and that makes us elite?
    For the record, I would pay extra to move into a “childfree community”. If that’s elitist, then “senior living” communities are elitist, too. Maybe I’d like less noise, less worry of running over a stray kid. And in my own humble opinion, maybe what we’re really trying to escape isn’t the kids, but their PARENTS. Yelling, nagging, ignoring, overstrict, overtired adults who always look like they need a months’ bedrest.

  8. Anonymous

    If people really loved children, they would love themselves enough not to have them if they plan to be divorced anyway. It’s just a sad, sick cycle of selfishness to have children, and then hate each other. People should only have children if they respected the sanctity of marriage, the sanctuary of a true loving family. In the midst of societal dysfunction, psuedo love for the human race, it really does seem to be a blessing to be childfree. I hate to see the unnecessary suffering, abuse, and neglect of children. If people can not be together in harmonious relationships and be able to take care of children, then they should never be allowed to have them. Then again, who the hell am I but another childfree woman. Not sure what to make of this. I am just a waste of God’s good air! Pointless!!!!

  9. Calica

    It’s kind of like if the same guy popped into forum maintained by and for women with the introduction, “Hi! I’m a man, and I’m happy to answer any questions about men you may have!” He’d probably get the same response: Dude, no, we all know men we can talk to; this is OUR space. Shut up or go away.

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