A little while ago, a Huffington Post article by Ann Brenoff, “Midlife ramblings: What I don’t get about my childless/childfree young friends,” inspired me to write a quick Q&A post answering some of the more frequently asked questions people have about the childfree.
I linked the post to the childfree Reddit forum (I lerve the childfree Reddit forum!), and one of the responses to the link was left by “jkpinaz,” who was disappointed I didn’t answer different questions. These questions:
- Why build an identity around not having kids?
- Why ‘childfree’? ‘Childless’ is neutral, used more often, doesn’t trigger my spell check. [‘Childfree’] is semantic douchebaggery.”
- Do you hate children? and I mean it in the same way as asking if someone hates a certain race or sex of people.
- Why don’t the CFs who want more childfree places/establishments instead want more asshole-free places/establishments?
I actually loved these questions and thought I’d try to answer them (without claiming to be able to speak for all childfree people).
Why build an identity around not having kids?
This question assumes the majority of childfree people are building such an identity. I don’t think they are. What you’re probably seeing is a gathering of a minority group drawn together by their common interest or experience.
Take any minority group – whether gay, a particular ethnicity, a situation (fathers fighting for more equal custody rights, say) – and consider why they’re drawn to each other or why they create a voice in whatever venue they choose, and the reason will probably be similar for the childfree: essentially, support or camaraderie.
If producing offspring is “normal” (which everything and everyone tells us it is from birth to whenever), then not wanting to produce offspring must equal “abnormal.” In some very public conversations, it also must equal selfish or cold or self-centered, as the Huffington Post article I link to above more than implies. To assure yourself you are, in fact, normal, you find others like you.
As for those who make habit of denigrating parents and/or children, I can’t really answer that. I have two guesses, though: a) they’re angry at being called selfish or “sinful” and are responding with their own “screw you” (sometimes preemptively), or b) they’re new to discovering they don’t want kids, understand it’s not the popular choice (your own parents often have issues with it, friends treat you like you’re weird, people patronize you, etc.), and are planting their feet/finding their voice/constructing their shell in preparation for judgment.
It could be, too, that some of those who are most vocal about being childfree are also very passionate about the environment, overpopulation, and/or what their taxes pay for, and being childfree is a component of that larger passion.
But, again, those are just guesses. I suspect everyone’s reason is different.
Why ‘childfree’? ‘Childless’ is neutral, used more often, doesn’t trigger my spell check, [and ‘childfree’ vs. ‘childless’ is] semantic douchebaggery.”
“Douchebaggery” triggers my spell check.
And “childless” isn’t neutral. When the assumption is that everyone wants kids, this is what happens with a word like “childless”:
MARY: (to Jennifer) Your wedding three hours ago was just beautiful! So, when are you two having kids?
JENNIFER: Oh. Well, we’re childless.
MARY (later, whispering to her husband over the shrimp platter): Did you hear? The poor Nelsons. They’re childless! Tsk.
“Childless” is an unfortunate situation.
“Childfree” is not.
Those who desperately do want children but are unable to conceive would probably agree that there’s a vast difference between childless and childfree.
Do you hate children? and I mean it in the same way as asking if someone hates a certain race or sex of people.
Not wanting to be a parent is in no way comparable to being a bigot.
Which is not to say there aren’t child-haters. (I mean, practically everyone hates someone, and everyone is hated by someone – why should kids get a pass?)
What I mean is that there are plenty of childfree who love kids – who even find work that will have them heavily involved in the lives of children – but who don’t want to be parents. There are also many who can’t stand kids, and many who are ambivalent about them. I’m one of the ambivalent ones. I see kids as people, and I don’t like or dislike them until I know them.
Everyone is different. What I’ve seen in the childfree communities I’ve participated in, though, is a lot of “I just don’t want to be a parent.” It’s its own lifestyle, and one many of us have no interest in.
Why don’t the CFs who want more childfree places/establishments instead want more asshole-free places/establishments?
It isn’t only the childfree who want childfree establishments.
To the second part of your question: The thing about assholes is that when they’re adults, you can complain to the management (or tell the asshole to leave, yourself) without the risk of people gasping at you and calling you a monster.
When the asshole in question is a child (yes, young people can be assholes, too) or his or her parents, you’re pretty chained. It’s usually bad form to try to discipline someone else’s child, and equally frowned upon is telling a parent how to discipline their child.
The best defense, they say, is a good offense.
Thanks for the questions, “jkpinaz.”
If anyone reading this wants to share their own responses or experiences, please do!