Officially tired of the typical childfree conversation.

I keep seeing the same things over and over again in conversations about the childfree. And over and over. And maybe it’s because I’m writing essentially the same articles for work this year that I wrote last year that I have little to no patience for repeats. Or maybe I’m really just tired of the direction these talks are going.

Here are some quick and simple common-sense answers to some of the more popular objections/questions/concerns that have been answered and asked a billionty times already so people can finally stop asking/saying them:

“Will the childfree regret it?”

If you aren’t childfree and you’re asking this about others, don’t worry. We have it under control.

If you think you might be childfree and you’re worried you’ll regret it, take some more time to think about what you really want. Don’t rush into anything. (Especially having children.) There’s also this: if you don’t want something, what’s the regret directed at?

“Can the childfree find fulfillment without children?”

It stands to reason that people who don’t want children will be quite happy not having children they don’t want.

“Are the childfree selfish?”

Please retire this one. No one is being harmed by us not having children. The question also supposes people who do have children aren’t selfish.

“Is not having children admirable?”

Yes. We all deserve medals.

But, seriously, no. I don’t think so.  Childfree people do get judged, but so do parents (every day for every damn thing they do or don’t do with their own kids – breastfeeding or not, napping with them or not, tending to them the second they cry or not, etc.). But is it really that hard to not do something you don’t want to do?

Edit: It depends. If someone was brought up in a traditional or strict household that all but forces babies, going against the grain is admirable. But for people like me who don’t have anyone threatening them to have kids, there’s certainly uncomfortable/suffocating pressure – annoying, irritating, angering pressure that can breed resentment – but it’s nothing that’s unmanageable or that I would dare call myself “admirable” for overcoming. As in most areas, whether a person is admirable is situation dependent.

~~~

In the above interview on a local station [air date Aug. 17], I hope I had some success in communicating that the discussion about children vs. no children is (or, I think, should be) about so much more than “Are they SELFISH? Cold? Broom-riding cat hoarders?”

What function does that conversation serve?

The questions below address some of what I think are the more relevant issues surrounding whether to have children,  with the primary focus on making sure as many women as possible are aware from a young age that they are not predestined to be mothers, and that if they want to have a child, it can be a beautiful and enriching experience, but that if they don’t want to, that too can be a beautiful and enriching experience. They should know their options are open. And that one choice is no better or worse than the other.

“What is the impact on people who don’t think before having kids?”

According to the Guttmacher Institute, just under half (49%)of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, and:

unintended pregnancy has a public health impact: Births resulting from unintended or closely spaced pregnancies are associated with adverse maternal and child health outcomes, such as delayed prenatal care, premature birth and negative physical and mental health effects for children.

And according to the National Institutes of Health,

Unwanted pregnancies especially affect adolescent women, single women, and women over 40 years of age. Given their desperate situation with an unwanted pregnancy, some women opt for an unsafe abortion, which can lead to their death. Other women can go so far as to commit suicide, or be murdered by a family member or other person who is unhappy that the pregnancy has occurred. It has been found that women who decide to continue with the pregnancy have higher risks of suffering an illness, and the same is true for the child.

I think it’s safe to assume that a woman (or man) who goes blindly into procreating, or who goes into it to make other people happy (“other people” includes judgmental strangers on the internet with no stake in the lives of the people involved), could easily end up with an unwanted pregnancy. After all, how can you “want” without actively “wanting”?

“How does thoughtlessly (rather than thoughtfully) reproducing impact the health and happiness of the offspring?”

A 2011 Science Daily article reported the following about unplanned pregnancies:

Children born after unplanned pregnancies tend to have a more limited vocabulary and poorer non-verbal and spatial abilities; however this is almost entirely explained by their disadvantaged circumstances, according to a new study published online in the British Medical Journal. The same study reported no adverse effects of infertility treatment on the children.

And The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy says,

Children born from unplanned (and especially unwanted) pregnancies are also at greater risk of child abuse and neglect, poor mother-child attachment, cognitive and physical deficits, and more.

“Where is all of the vitriol surrounding this conversation coming from, and who is it helping?”

My guess is that it’s coming from any combination of the following: insecurity, envy, resentment, defensiveness. And when the anger turns to silly name-calling, it’s helping absolutely no one.

“Why do others really care about whether every single woman reproduces?”

Well?

“How can we help ensure young women in more traditional/strict cultures understand mothering is an option, and not something that women “just do”?”

I think a lot less judgement and a lot more honest conversation about parenting being one of several options, and about whether being a parent is “right” for you, would be a wonderful start.

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I’d love it if everyone could stop being so angry. Parents, our enjoyment of not having children is not a direct assault on you or your choices. Our happiness has nothing to do with you. Just like you’re happy with the kids you chose to have, we’re happy with the life without children we chose.

It’s this simple: some people don’t want kids.

Unfortunately, for many who don’t, the expectations of others (which can often manifest as insults and accusations) become pressure, and that pressure breeds more anger and resentment. And it’s all so unnecessary and unproductive. (For some insight into why all of this parenting pressure exists in the first place, check out Laura Carroll’s The Baby Matrix, a fascinating [and “Oh! So THAT’S what happened…”] read on pronatalist societies.)

But fighting is so, like, “in”? So maybe it’s just what people want to do. Maybe it’s not about having a real conversation at all, but about the thrill of the fight.

What do you think?

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15 thoughts on “Officially tired of the typical childfree conversation.

  1. Bad Puppy!

    LMAO @ “selfish, cold, broom-riding cat hoarders”. That should be on a T-shirt: “No, I don’t have children. Yes, that makes me a selfish, cold, broom-riding cat hoarder. Don’t look directly into my eyes!!” :P

    What I find irritating is people like “Walter” in the comments on the website where that last interview is posted who goes on about how “nobody cares about your choice.” His privilege is definitely showing. Nobody cares about HIS choice because HE has a penis and therefore the option to do “more important things in society”. But women… we LIVE FOR BABIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Eleventy!!!!!!!!!!!!

    So if he was a woman, and he didn’t have kids, he’d see how much pressure there actually is. I’m not saying no men ever get hassled for this choice, but it’s mostly women.

    I’ve found in my personal life that, though it’s rare (all my family and friends know better, and I don’t waste my time with people who can’t support decisions that don’t affect them anyway), when someone starts harassing me about this, I go in loud and hard with my rebuttals. The goal being to make SURE we have this conversation exactly once and maybe that they think twice before they start in on another woman on the subject.

    1. As boring and repetitive as the subject might become for many of us in the front lines, we must keep in mind that there are still millions of others out there for whom it’s a sparkling new topic for thought and discussion. I’ve been a spokesperson for NO KIDDING! and the childfree movement since 1984 — and I’ve done over 3,000 interviews in that time span, and that thought has kept me focused for over 29 years. The notion that I might be able to reach even just one new young person keeps me energized.

      Jerry Steinberg
      Founding Non-Father Emeritus of NO KIDDING!
      The international social club for childfree and childless couples and singles
      http://www.nokidding.net; jerry@nokidding.net

      1. I agree about keeping the conversation going, Jerry. I’m not tired of talking about it – I’m tired of the surface BS that seems to be about little else than namecalling and stone-throwing just for the sake of fighting. I’m just not seeing the value of consistently saying, “No, we aren’t selfish,” and “No, we aren’t narcissistic.” At least, not as anything but a preface to the more useful stuff, like questioning people who think that way of the childfree and educating them about the impact of pressuring people to have kids.

  2. Dorothy

    For years, I had all but stopped mentioning being Childfree, because I have a good circle of Childfree pals and we had “talked it all out” long ago. Then, I met a 23 yr. old gal, who boldly asked me why I did not have kids. It started a conversation, where it soon became clear that she had been married for 1 yr and was feeling pressure from her family to get pregnant. She did not want to and was only “trying” because she felt it was what she was supposed to do. She had never heard the word “Childfree.” She had never before met, that she knew of, any “Childfree” people. She had not realized it was a choice. My advice to her was to talk it over with her husband and to only “try” for a baby if that was something they BOTH wanted. She actually got teary eyed with relief. That’s when I started being more vocal about the choice on social media. I became more open, not because I am whining or bragging or judging, but because there are girls getting pregnant before they are ready or when they have no desire at all to be a parent. They don’t know it’s OK if they don’t. Until a person can say in public, “I am childfree,” without raising the blood-pressure or eyebrows of others, then someone advocating it as a viable life option will be necessary. Thank you for hanging in there, even though it’s tiring and should have been settled decades ago. I appreciate all those who have written books on the topic; it isn’t easy sharing a very personal decision with the world.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Dorothy. There couldn’t be a more perfect illustration of why more women should be informed that it’s just an option, and also of why the pressure and assumptions that women WILL/MUST/DO have babies does little good, and a lot of harm. It’s exactly why I wrote “No Children, No Guilt” (and why, to alleviate some of the “Grrrr!” or sadness women might be experiencing, I used humor instead of injecting a lot of unnecessary drama).

  3. J kane

    I wholeheartedly agree with you, but you didn’t talk about how people with children usually assume that people who’ve chosen not to have kids hate children. My mother taught me that she didn’t want kids and that I ruined her life, so I grew up thinking, believing and saying the same things. “Children are a burden for 18 years,” I used to say. When I got to college and discovered that my friend loved her family and wanted to have children, I realized what I was taught wasn’t true. I still chose not to have children, but I don’t hate them at all. I love to play with them like friends.

    1. Thanks for that perspective, J Kane. I actually didn’t know people with children (or many of them, anyway) made that assumption. I’ve actually tried to get in touch with someone (anyone) who has strong feelings about the childfree for an interview (so everyone can try to understand each other better), but nothing has panned out.

  4. Steven Lopez

    Hello Sylvia,

    I’m a guy and stuck in a difficult situation. I know your blog is targeted to women, Its next to impossible to find anything on a guys perspective but like you I don’t want kids and you may have already guessed my GF of three years wants them. I didn’t discover I didn’t want kids until midway of our relationship. I do love her to bits for sure but I find it a struggle everyday. I have talked to her about this alot. I told her I even plan to get vasectomy but I feel she still doesn’t believe me or believes I will change my mind. I still plan get a vasectomy which she even believes I will get it reversed. She is pro-family/pro-kids but also has a condition which greatly decreases her chances of having kids. So besides her love for me, I feel her medical condition has also played a role in things. She is going through testing soon to find out if she can bear kids and she will make a decision to stay with me. She says the test result will not play an ultimate role in her decision but will make a part in it. She says she has never been happier and loves the what we have. So I don’t understand why she would be willing to give it up? She was even telling me if she was single she would have gone through treatment and raised a child as a single mother which I find absurd but who am I to judge a women thats within her right to have a child. Any advice or advice from CF guys you know of?

    1. Hi, Steven.

      It sounds like she would give up a perfectly lovely relationship with you because she really, really wants a child. If staying with you means not having one, it means she’d be giving up a life – a role, a duty, a purpose, a passion, a track – she’s probably always envisioned for herself. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you, but it does mean she isn’t willing to give up the life she wants for you.

      The same way you (probably) wouldn’t agree to have children – to give up the kind of life you imagine having or want to have – just to stay with her. She wants to be a mother. You don’t want to be a father.

      I don’t know how to convince her you don’t want children or won’t change your mind later. What if you say to her, “Let’s say you stay with me because you’re convinced I’m going to change my mind in the future and get a vasectomy reversal (and they don’t always work, by the way). What happens when five, ten, fifteen years down the road I haven’t changed my mind? What will you do then? Will you feel like you’ve wasted your time? Will you resent me? Will you hate yourself for having wanted to believe something so strongly that it ultimately prevented you from getting something that was very important to you?”

      If you know you’ll never want children, it’s important that she believe it. And it’s equally important that you not fault her for leaving you, if she does, because you don’t want children. It isn’t about you; it’s just that you two have vastly different life goals.

    2. Hi Steven,

      Your situation is really unfortunate. I was lucky enough to (accidentally) end up with a partner that was even more against having children than I am, You’re not so lucky…

      I thought it might be useful to share a post I wrote on my decision to be childfree. If nothing else, it’s an example of a man that has become only more convinced over time that having children was not what I wanted. I have zero regrets.

      http://wp.me/p2Ud82-uW

      Best wishes,
      Lance

  5. Pingback: 7 things the childfree won’t usually tell you: a list | "Anonymous" Was a Woman

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