5 Points I Want The Childfree To Consider

childless-peopleI don’t know about you, but to me, it feels like there’s a growing divide in this country between parents and the “childfree.”

The childfree set are tired of hearing they’re selfish and that’s understandable. For centuries, it’s been assumed that all right-thinking women are desperate to have babies and there must be something terribly wrong with those who don’t.

So maybe a backlash was inevitable. Tired of not being taken seriously, many women tried to rebrand their glorified baby-factory image by distancing themselves from motherhood as much as possible.

But frankly, I think some have taken the backlash way too far.

Beyond choosing not to have kids themselves, many now feel entitled to an entirely childfree existence. They scowl at kids on sight, demanding we ban them from airplanes, restaurants, and public life in general.

Don’t parents, they often ask, understand how unbearable it is to have to put up with their snot-nosed brats?

Sometimes they blame the parents themselves, since they’re clearly too narcissistic  and inconsiderate to bring their little monsters to heel. These attitudes were maybe best summed up the viral story about thoughtful parents distributing “I’m sorry” goody bags to their fellow airline passengers (here).

That story was passed around for ages, inevitably followed the kinds of hostile anti-child comments that would easily be considered hate speech if they were spoken against any gender, religion, ethnicity or race.

The crazy thing is, childfree people, I used to more or less think like you do.

After spending my twenties unsure of whether or not I even wanted children, an accidental pregnancy in my thirties catapulted me straight into motherhood.

And since I’ve now been on both sides of this equation, I’d like to share my changed perspective. I’ll start by answering some of the questions I frequently hear bouncing around the childfree set:

 

1–Why must people assume women who don’t want kids are selfish? Isn’t this an outdated idea? I’m tired of people questioning my life choices!

daycareI completely understand. Beyond all the logical reasons you may not want children, it’s infuriating that society still thinks its abnormal while simultaneously thinking it’s natural for men to focus on their careers.

But you know what? The situation doesn’t improve after you have one, because you’ll then be guilt-tripped about what kind of mother you are. Going back to work means you’re materialistic and selfish, whereas staying at home makes you a lazy sell-out.

No one will call the father selfish, by the way, for going back to work.

You, however, will be judged for breastfeeding or using formula (you’re either making people uncomfortable or not trying hard enough), for what you feed your kids (it’s either elitist or unhealthy) and for how quickly you get back into shape (not fast enough).

And by the way, aren’t you going to try for another baby? Don’t you also want a boy/girl?Why not?

Fact is, haters gonna hate. No matter what you do, there will always be judgmental people shaking their heads at all your life choices. It makes them feel better about their own.

2–Why are parents so obsessed with their children, posting so many pictures and acting like bearing offspring is an incredible feat, even though animals have been doing it since the dawn of time?

I-have-a-life.pngConsidering how many people post pictures of their lunch across Facebook, do you really have to ask?

And those folks just made a sandwich. We made PEOPLE.

Let me ask you this: Did you ever grow one of those avocado seeds in elementary school? The kind where you stick toothpicks in the seed, put it in a Dixie cup filled with water, then stash the cup in a window?

I bet that little seed in a Dixie cup was the first thing you looked at every day when you walked into the classroom. You noticed every tiny change and got really excited when it started to split after a couple of weeks. It blew your mind when a little green sprout finally popped up, even though you’d already walked past thousands of fully-grown avocados in your lifetime without giving them a second thought.

But this was different, because this was YOUR seed.

Well, parenting is like that. Except instead of jamming toothpicks into a seed and waiting a couple of weeks to see it sprout, you grow the seed inside your own body for almost a year then nearly kill yourself trying to squeeze it out.

And instead of becoming an avocado, this seed is capable of abstract thought, hilarious responses, and imprinting your identity for life. We probably go overboard, but doesn’t everyone?

Because no matter how many kids you’ve seen before, it’s different when it’s YOUR kid. Kind of like how everyone thinks it’s a big deal when they’re in love, getting a promotion, or receiving a compliment, even though these things happen to millions of other people every day.

 

3–Why don’t parents *do something* about their screaming kids? Don’t they know how grating it is to hear that when you’re trapped in a grocery store/restaurant/on a plane?

crying.jpgYes. Yes we do.

Because we’re standing right next to them, where it’s even louder.

And believe me, if we knew a surefire way to stop it, we would’ve already tried it. On top of listening to painful screaming, we’re also dealing with everyone’s dirty looks and are embarrassed as hell.

If you don’t see us flinching, it’s probably because that screaming kid woke us up 37 times a night for the past 3 months, and we’re currently approaching life with a thousand-yard stare.

But quieting the kid just isn’t that easy.

Very young children aren’t rational beings. They don’t stop yelling whenever we tell them to. Sometimes, they just keep on screaming even after we’ve fed them, changed them, cuddled them, and done everything we could think of to make them shut up.

And using chloroform is frowned upon. We can’t just grab a parachute and jump off the plane. We can’t always exit the grocery store. As much as non-parents like to talk about how leaving would “teach kids a lesson,” most toddlers don’t actually consider the end of a boring errand that big a threat.

Besides, parents need to eat too. If you don’t want our kids screaming in restaurants, then you’ll have to occasionally hear it in the grocery store.

But perhaps you still think it would be more considerate to leave. Well, my kids always started screaming when they got bored, which meant we’d been at the store long enough to really pile up the shopping cart. Leaving would mean abandoning the cart, so store employees would have to put away all of our groceries and we’d still end up going home without any food.

And there’s only so many frozen pizzas a person can eat.

 

4–Why are kids nowadays so entitled? Why can’t parents act like parents instead of being their kids’ friends?

comics-cyanide-and-happiness-kids

Because we’re scared. It’s better to have an obnoxious child than be called “abusive.”

Because back in the golden days of yore, there was more of an it-takes-a-village mentality where children were viewed as a collective good and other adults helped out. Discipline was viewed as a necessary evil, since it was understood that children naturally will test your limits, trying to figure out whether or not to take your authority seriously enough to do things they don’t want to do (which includes anything besides running around naked, screaming, throwing things, eating candy, and grabbing everyone’s stuff).

Now, there’s more of an I-shouldn’t-have-to-deal-with-your-kids mentality, coupled with sky-high expectations and the belief that any parenting tool beyond using a reasonable, quiet voice is damaging.

And while I agree that it’s a good thing we’ve put the days of whipping your kid with a switch behind us, experts now say that raising your voice or putting kids into time-outs is cruel. Because it scares them, or makes your love seem conditional, or triggers abandonment fears, or isn’t nurturing their creativity or, for whatever other reason, is damaging their psyches beyond repair.

So, how would you, as a hypothetical “real” parent, handle your screaming kid on an airplane?

And what do you do when that method doesn’t work?

Because it probably won’t. All your tools for creating consequences have been forbidden until the kid is old enough to have an iPhone to take away.

It doesn’t help that we tend to view parenting in terms of personal sacrifice: you’re supposed to ignore all of your own boundaries and needs to make children happy, or else you’re a horrible person. Kids, on the other hand, should never feel uncomfortable or have to put up with petty annoyances, because that would represent a gross violation of their rights.

Just ask your fellow passengers.

5–If a woman chooses to have a baby, why should I, or my employer, bear the brunt of it? Doesn’t demanding parental benefits only make it harder for women to compete in the workforce?

maternityleaveNo, lagging behind the rest of the civilized world makes it harder for women to compete in the workforce.

You see, 50 years ago, most moms stayed at home. Now, most work. The rest of the world seems to get that.

But not us. Despite all of our wealth, the US is the only country in the world besides Papua New Guinea that doesn’t guarantee any paid maternal leave at all. Beyond not allowing moms proper time for recovery and bonding with newborns, this policy also slaps huge financial penalties on families with new kids and pushes many moms out of work.

And if they weren’t pushed out by our lack of maternity leave, ridiculous work hours, and lack of vacation time, the staggering costs of daycare might do the trick. Daycare now costs more than college tuition and is, by the way, highly subsidized in other countries.

Deciding to stay home is fine, but we shouldn’t be forced into it. Wasn’t feminism supposed to be about giving women more choices?

Because while not everyone needs to have kids, someone does (unless we want our species going extinct). We won’t continue having employees and employers unless we do.

Yet instead of viewing this as a collective good, we tell women they should’ve “kept their legs closed” when they start demanding reasonable work/life policies (yes, I’ve actually heard that argument thousands of times).

Many women are forced to take lower-paying, lower-status jobs because they need flexible hours, which contributes heavily to the gender pay gap. Should women really be disproportionately shouldering the economic burdens of childcare like this?

In short, while everyone thinks our society bends over backwards to accommodate children, we actually don’t. It’s a lot of cutesy lip-service drenched in resentment.

And if you don’t think you have to care about this because you don’t have kids, you’re wrong. You may end up having kids one day. Even if you don’t, you’ll still be recognized as female, and therefore as a potential breeder who might inconvenience employers and taxpayers someday. Why invest in you?

And do we really want only non-breeding women to succeed? Or to always have the next generation grow up in relative poverty? Seems evolutionarily  irresponsible to me.

I hope I’ve given everyone some things to think about. I welcome any other ideas, comments, and am even happy to throw down with you, if that’s your style.

Except I really don’t think we should stay on opposite teams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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33 thoughts on “5 Points I Want The Childfree To Consider”

  1. Parenting is tough, and it’s annoying to be judged by those who don’t have the perspective. I have a coworker (who does not like children and does not want to have them) who overflows with parenting advice when those of us with kids share stories of misadventures. (We also share stories of adventures, but she never has anything to say about that.)

    This was a great post. I enjoy hearing your stories about your daughters, and you sound like you’re doing a great job.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Isn’t it crazy how people who don’t like kids are always the experts? They always know the “obvious” solution. 🙂

      Parenting IS tough and what works for one kid doesn’t work for all of them. I do love being a mom though. Wouldn’t change it for the world, though there’s probably no one who hasn’t had the urge to grab their keys and run off into the sunset blasting rock music on a hard day, lol. Then your kid does something adorable and all you want to do is snuggle them and buy them ponies.

      Thank you though–I do try my best. No parent is perfect but who knows what that would be?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes–all childfree people are definitely not like that.

        I should’ve made that more clear in my article. I was specifically referring to what seems like a growing number of outspoken childfree people who appear very hostile to kids and parenting… the extremists, I suppose.

        I fully support the choice to not have kids and it’s only the hostile attitudes I object to–I thought that came across in my article but several CF people have objected to how they felt characterized, so it clearly wasn’t.

        But no–many CF people are awesome and just don’t want to be parents and many parents are awesome and don’t judge people for making different choices… it’s a shame how its often the biggest extremists who get the most airtime.

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    1. Oh yeah, I’m not saying all childless people are like this. Or that it’s wrong not to want kids.

      I’m just trying to share the parental perspective with those who do. These are all things I’ve heard and/or fellow parents hear. But not everyone without kids thinks this way.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love, love, love this post. It was also refreshing to hear from someone who has both been childfree and a mother. I’m personally childfree by choice but a lot of thought went into that “choice” and I love kids so much I’ve chosen education as my career. There definitely needs to be consideration from both sides. We’re all ladies, we ought to ban together. I actually just launched my blog on a similar topic if you want to check it out- http://www.therinkydinklife.com Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      I wanted to share because I did spend a good length of time without kids, experiencing all the questioning about when I was going to have them and looking at kids with confusion.

      I think they used to scare me, lol. I didn’t know how to talk to them or understand them.

      But now that I’m on the other side, I have a whole new perspective that I was hoping to get across.

      I’ll definitely be checking out your blog! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey… I don’t understand you.
    I feel you’re nonjudgmental and you really get both sides… and I appreciate it very, very much, and thank you for that.
    Yet I don’t know why I, being childfree, should “consider”, as you put it, why parents post so many pictures of their children? Sorry, it’s not any of my business, as well as any screaming child isn’t. Do I feel correctly that you need to explain YOUR (= mothers’) troubles, instead of speaking about real childfree points of view?
    I thought at first this article is going be about reasons for being childfree, which we should maybe reconsider. Yet I’m stuck here with discussing opinions which, in my experience, childfree people share with many, many parents.
    Personally, I wonder how many people you’re talking about, who “have troubles with kids”, did you personally ask whether they have kids or not. All people in the stores wanting you to calm your kid down, all people in restaurants annoyed by kids running around, all annoyed passengers in trains and planes? Somehow I doubt that. I really doubt you know they all are childfree, and I doubt they WERE all childfree.

    Taken from the different point of view. Instead of constant explaining, why it’s inevitable for kids to act like this, how about some understanding from mothers?
    You know how it feels like, when you have your earphones and a volume turned up to maximum level, and yet it can’t howl down the boisterous kid supported by his mother? You know how it feels like to work overtime constantly because of mother, without getting single “thank you”? How do you know that your co-worker has a disabled and mentally ill parent, instead of your kid? You know how it feels when crazy mothers breastfeed or change diapers everywhere, cause their rule is “I have the right!” instead of having one, single one small “I’ll have regards”???

    This is NOT about childfree, and NOT about “monster kids” themselves.
    My advice for you – teach overentitled and inconsiderate mothers. You’ll wonder how quickly the walls will fall down.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jana, thank you for reading and I appreciate hearing your take…

      This post wasn’t intended as a defense of the childfree lifestyle, though I support that lifestyle and definitely believe that not having children is a reasonable choice that everyone else should respect.

      That being said, it’s also true that children are a part of our world. My focus was on how my perspective has changed since dealing with children myself–how the dilemmas that parents face aren’t always obvious to people who have never been in that position personally.

      I don’t mean to demonize everyone without children and am sorry it came across that way. I’m bringing up arguments that many parents commonly hear, including me, from people without children (such as pointing to a tantrum-throwing kid while saying “THAT’S why I don’t want kids”) in hopes of better explaining why parents sometimes respond the way they do.

      For example, it’s interesting that you bring up public breastfeeding, since my rough draft included a section on breastfeeding that I later deleted. We are now strongly encouraged to breastfeed our babies, but many people (including me) don’t realize the ramifications before having kids. Babies breastfeed many times a day (breastmilk digests more quickly than formula and babies are hungry every couple of hours), they feed for roughly half an hour, and most women do not produce enough milk to stockpile several additional feedings. Babies will scream uncontrollably whenever they are hungry. So, mothers must either breastfeed in public, live under virtual house arrest for half a year (bad for mothers and doesn’t socialize children), or give up breastfeeding. It’s great when lactating rooms are available, but they aren’t.

      Point being, the issue is not always as simple as whether mothers choose to make people uncomfortable by breastfeeding their infants–there are other factors in the equation that aren’t obvious to onlookers, such as how often babies need to eat, which means there aren’t always clear solutions.

      I agree that public tantrums are grating as hell. Part of the issue, in my opinion, is that society has changed its stance on discipline. We reject spanking, for example, which is a quick method of behavior modification that we now see as causing long-term damage. Other methods may work better in the long run, but won’t yield immediate results. This leaves many parents struggling to guide their children without using traditional methods, and it takes time. My daughter is now 4 and doesn’t act up in public, for example, but I struggled for a few years to reach this point. The alternative would be keeping children out of the public sphere for many years, which is also problematic.

      I completely agree with you that having a disabled and/or mentally-ill parent is a worthy issue that society should appreciate. I don’t think it’s an either/or situation, but that we should reexamine our views on work/life balance and our investment in the citizenry in general because we tend to be short-sighted when it comes to the bottom line.

      I do realize that not everyone who doesn’t want kids is hostile to children, but I’m trying to bridge the gap with those who are. My point is that even if you don’t want children, which is more than reasonable, children still deserve a place in our world. They are the next generation and will reflect, in many ways, how we treated them as they developed.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you Peter! I’m a little surprised she didn’t end up responding back. It was such a lively first attempt.

          I was trying to bear in mind how tough it is to imagine dealing with children accurately when you don’t have any, without pretending I shared her perspective. I’m hoping she’ll have a little more empathy for the next struggling parent whose child is out of control… if not, then maybe I was heavy-handed, or maybe the gap is just too wide to bridge.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. The whole “extinct” thing is a fallacy considering the population of this planet is going to cap out at about 10 billion people who won’t have adequate nutrition or environmental stability to thrive. When you have kids you’re contributing more to climate change than anything you ever do in your lifetime. More than likely your children will be average and carry on an average existence polluting an already sick echo system. The kids you have will bear the brunt of the impact when they are adults so yeah having kids is a really dick move on everyone’s part.

    Also, I get that you have to eat but if your kid is having a temper tantrum you take them outside until the calm down because no one wants to have to hear that during a meal put their hard earned money towards. The same goes with people who think it’s a good idea to take a fussy toddler into a movie theater past six pm. You discipline your children in private if that’s what it takes but don’t complain when people give you dirty looks for not removing them from the situation. I get the whole grocery store thing but not a restaurant, movie theater, broadway show, or concert.

    Lastly, grow a pair seriously grow. a . pair. You’re not their friend you’re their parent and if they misbehave deal with it. CPS isn’t the boogey man they don’t hide around every corner the only time you’d get them called is if you were starving them and running a crackhouse. I’m so done hearing excuses from parents whose kids are little monsters. I was never given the opportunity to have a temper tantrum in public as a kid because my mom didn’t put up with that shit.

    Your not special, your kids will be just like you and the universe shouldn’t have to cater to you just because you decided to do the stupid thing and reproduce.

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    1. First, I’d like to commend you for having the guts to attack my post to my face. People are apparently now decimating my article across the childfree echo-chambers of Reddit, so I can’t help but admire your willingness to bring your argument to my blog instead of slinking around anonymously, seeking reassurance from those already inclined to agree with you.

      I’d also like to thank you for proving my point. There are so many kind, reasonable, rational and empathetic non-parents out there that many people would’ve otherwise had trouble believing that parents actually hear, with some frequency, that their children never should’ve been born or that having kids makes you an A-hole by definition.

      And I want to dignify your courage with a response though frankly, I find it tough to argue with someone who’s end goal appears to be the extinction of the entire human race. Unless I misunderstood, and you’re actually arguing that only exceptional children should be allowed to live.

      Are you average, yourself? Are you currently working out the eradication of cancer, finding a way to travel through time, or otherwise justifying your own burden on our planet’s resources? If so, then I’m not sure how your parents could’ve guessed as much when deciding whether to not to have you.

      If not, then by your own logic, you should never have been born in the first place. By your own logic, no one should care about your inconvenience, or even your opinions, since you’re also just an average spoiled brat who contributes more to our planet’s extinction than the human experience.

      That kind of thinking doesn’t even sound reasonable when applied to a unknown hostile internet stranger, let alone my own kids.

      I’m not sure how to address the remainder of your rant, since it mostly consisted of contradicting things I actually didn’t say.

      I never said parents should bring young children to concerts or crowded evening movie theaters or Broadway shows. I never said parents shouldn’t attempt to handle their kids in these situations. For that matter, I never claimed that I, or my children, were special.

      I also never said parents shouldn’t discipline their children. I actually do discipline my children and have taken them out of restaurants more times than I can remember. My point was never about why kids shouldn’t be disciplined (I even wrote about why it’s crucial for parents to discipline their kids in an earlier post).

      But while I *do* discipline my children, I also understand how difficult it is for many parents to sort through the constant mixed messages we are constantly hearing from experts. Spanking is banned in many countries, time-outs and raising your voice is considered abusive, instilling fear is supposed to be damaging, and small children are too young to understand the removal of privileges. Are we really surprised that many parents can’t “make” children instantly behave?

      Many seem convinced that parents just don’t care, that they’re oblivious to their children’s screaming. And while such parents do exist, most are doing their damnedest to handle it in any way they can.

      Training your children without resorting to constant beating is harder than it sounds– it takes longer and is an unpredictable learning process. My daughter very rarely throws a fit, now that she’s four, and can usually be quickly talked out of it. But that took time. better results, but a longer process… I can’t imagine what the next generation would act like if we kept kids in isolation until they became teenagers.

      Yes, it’s annoying, but civilized people understand that we sometimes have to put up with other people’s annoyances in hopes of receiving the same understanding someday. Just like we keep taking care of seniors, even after they’ve aged out of workplace productivity. Just as we understand that other drivers have the right to use the freeway, even though traffic can be irritating. Just as we have to pull over, sometimes, because an ambulance needs to get through.

      I was simply trying to relate that just because a kid is acting up, it doesn’t mean parents aren’t trying to stop it. Since everything is wrong, we’re left guessing about the right ways to try.

      While I absolutely respect the choice to not have children, I’m continually surprised by those who a denounce all kids as self-centered brats who expect the universe to cater to them while simultaneously demanding that parents live under virtual house arrest for decades to make certain no one could be mildly inconvenienced in any way.

      I’m saying you don’t know whats going on. Maybe a family needs to board a plane to attend a funeral and have a baby that absolutely won’t be consoled, yet you’re feeling violated about hearing a baby cry because you felt the money you spent on a public airplane ticket means you are entitled to hassle-free experience. Screw the family that needs to attend a funeral, right? How selfish of them.

      The irony always seems completely lost on people with this kind of mindset.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks again, Peter! 🙂

          I was hoping to promote more understanding between parents and non-parents with my article and I’m not sure if that happened… but what can you do? 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, and congratulations!!! I’m sure you’ll recognize many of the situations I mentioned over the next couple of years. Parenting can be so draining, yet is unbelievably rewarding at the same time 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I found this really awesome and refreshing, especially since you’ve been both child free and a parent. It’s rare, at least in my experience, to come across someone who actually gets both sides.

    My husband and I are choosing to be child free. I do not have a maternal bone in my body. My instinct when I come across a child is to keep my distance. They make me supremely uncomfortable and always have. I just have no idea how to interact with them. Maybe because I never had any exposure to young children? As the youngest child in my family I was just used to the company of adults and even found it hard to relate to children my own age! What bothers me about this personality trait is that people interpret it to mean that I hate children and am going to be hostile and mean to them. I’m not. I’m capable of interacting with them in a civilized manner if and when the occasion calls for it. I just prefer not to. Everyone has things they like and don’t like. I don’t like being around children, doesn’t mean I’m going to act like a monster to them!

    I also really enjoyed your point about the US being so far behind in terms of maternity leave. I don’t begrudge new mothers their time off (at my job we are fortunate enough to have paid maternity leave) BUT sometimes I do wish those of us who are remaining child free had something similar. As an only child I am going to be responsible for taking pair of my parents in their old age. What if one them gets very ill and needs a lot of care? I sometimes feel that instead of just maternity or paternity leave there should be some sort of blanket “Family Leave” that includes time off needed to take care of an ailing parent, spouse, etc.

    Anyway, really enjoyed the post and I agree that parents and the child free should strive to be less judgemental and more supportive of each other.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Aw, thank you! I couldn’t agree with you more… I don’t think parents and the childfree should be on opposite teams and think some empathy on both sides would go a long way.

      Many parents had kids shortly after leaving their own families, so they may have trouble imaging a different lifestyle. I never had an agenda to become a mom–it’s more something that I fell into and ended up being a good fit.

      I understand your discomfort with kids because I used to feel the same way. I just didn’t know what to do with them… I wasn’t sure how to hold babies without hurting them, or what communication level would make sense to different age groups. I didn’t hate them either, but I didn’t know how to interact. It was different when I had my own kids because I’m with them every day, so I understand them better.

      But that discomfort wasn’t what I was talking about, of course. It’s the people who proudly talk about despising children and their parents. I was trying to get across the idea that yes, kids can be a pain sometimes, but most parents are really trying the best they can.

      And since there are days we feel overwhelmed, I’m sure part of some parents’ hostility against the childfree is defensive…. you know, the kid has just broken into the cabinets and dumped cereal all over the house and for a brief second, we think “life used to be so much easier” and then feel guilty… and then the kid does something cute and we feel even more guilty, lol. Because we feel like we’re supposed to 100 % thrilled to be parents *every second* and that’s not realistic.

      I do actually agree with you about Family leave too. It’s not an either/or… it’s so much better when families get time to care for newborns, but the same could be said about many other situations. I’d definitely support better benefits and leave options for employees in general.

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  6. Nice piece! I totally agree that ‘haters gonna hate’ – you cannot win, whatever choice you take in life, it seems that some other cohort will attack you for it! I am childfree but I have no illusions about parenthood being easy, it looks bloody hard to me and I sometimes feel like I dodged a bullet by being medically unable to have kids. I’m not someone who feels ‘entitled to an entirely childfree existence’ – I’d hate to have no contact with kids, I often worry about that in my own life because I think we all need to keep in touch with younger people for loads of reasons. The thing that’s been bugging me lately as a person over 40 without kids is that parents who had children relatively later (i.e. mid-to-late thirties) think they’ve been ‘on both sides of the equation’. Being childfree or childless for life is a lot different to being childfree before your reproductive window, and that of all your peers, has closed definitively. Lots of my peers before they had kids were squeamish about motherhood, or got annoyed by screaming kids, or felt very ambivalent about ever becoming parents – these are common feelings, in your 20s or 30s. Nearly everyone around me was “childfree”, then. I myself swore never to have kids and then reneged and tried to have them at 36 (I am NOT belittling the committedly childfree here – my best friend knew she’s never have kids throughout her adulthood, and she has never had them). I suppose what I’m trying to say is that while I totally commend your post – I’m all for different groups getting on, and I do not identify at all with the virulently childfree set that call parents “breeders” – it can be a bit hurtful when those who have resolved to be childfree for life following infertility (or for other reasons) hear parents saying they have experienced both sides of the coin. By that logic, all parents could say they’ve been in my shoes. If I went to them in their mid-forties, asked them to imagine that they’d never had kids, and said: “OK, now find something else to do for the rest of your life” – THEN they could say they’ve at least imagined being in my shoes. But my life now is certainly not like when I was in my 20s and 30s (when me & most of my friends were theoretically “pre-children”) and the comparison can sometimes feel a bit offensive. Not trying to be antagonistic here, it’s just something that maybe doesn’t occur to parents when they say that they’ve lived a childfree life too. Sorry to labour the point: I know it was only a small point in your piece but I just wanted to get it out there for people to consider! Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for your thoughtful response! Most of the feedback I received was either completely supportive or extremely hostile, lol, so it’s great to hear another perspective that remains civil, yet makes me think.

      In saying I spent many years childfree before having kids, I meant to contrast myself to people who have kids in their early to mid twenties. Having gone straight from the families they grew up in to starting their own, they may have a harder time imagining anything beyond “family life.” I was guessing they would find the choice not to have children a stranger decision and may be more judgmental (on average) toward people who make that choice.

      But you’re right… I made no distinction between people without children who are still within their fertility window and those who are past it, which sounds like a very different experience. For one thing, people could assume someone in their twenties will eventually change their mind about having kids, and badger them less.

      I also didn’t clearly distinguish between the childfree people who encountered fertility problems and those who express disgust for kids and the burdensome “breeders” who spawn them. My article was aimed at the latter group, who seem increasingly vocal these days. I assumed that people who weren’t hostile to children would know I wasn’t speaking to them, but referring to the childfree (in general) made that unclear.

      I think I also assumed that most people who make a strong point of identifying as “childfree” were hostile to parents by definition (maybe because the “free” part of childfree suggests freedom from a burden). Many advocates are openly antagonistic and are currently arguing for the right to keep children out of most public places. The trend frightens me, along with the pushback against family-friendly work policies. I suppose I think of our society as a connected village where we all have a stake in the next generation, whether or not we personally raise them. I worry about how they’ll develop if society is increasingly hostile to them, and hoped to share some parenting dilemmas to make parents seem more relatable… and also reassure the childfree that parents are heavily criticized as well, because it seems that everyone is criticized for whatever life decisions they make.

      But casually throwing all the childfree under the same umbrella was clearly unfair and I’m sorry that it hurt you. Of course, there are also many crazy parents around: sanctimonious toward the childfree, making no effort whatsoever to control or guide their children, or even abusive to their kids and leaving society to deal with the aftermath.

      I suspect that most people are moderate and tolerant, on both sides, yet internet culture gives extremists far too much air time. We end up feeling on opposite teams, which is a shame.

      Again, thank you for your feedback and for giving me another perspective to chew over. I think these kinds of open discussions are so valuable and wish people would engage in them more often.

      Like

  7. I don’t think the majority of child free people are like this but I could be wrong. I just think that the ones that don’t complain aren’t making noise and go unnoticed.

    I definitely agree with your first point. I’ve been doing a lot of research on the topic and I’ve come across so many articles calling women and some women and men selfish for not wanting kids. I personally do not want kids but I do have several charitable ideas that would help and save a large amount of people that I want to eventually make enough money to put into action. I don’t understand how I could even have the desire to do that if I was selfish and being called selfish because I don’t want to go through major body and life changes to bring an unwanted child into this world infuriates me. Having a child would probably prevent me from doing the charitable things I want to do. Personally, I believe it would be more selfish for me to have a child because I don’t have that motherly instinct that a lot of women talk about having, I’d be a horrible mom and I would be unable to help other people but that’s just my personal situation.

    Your second point, I’m actually surprised that that is an issue at all. People should be able to post whatever they want (within reason, I understand someone getting upset about something gory or overly sexual) on their social media page. If a person doesn’t like seeing pictures of kids, unfriend the people posting them.

    Your third point is more complex. While I agree it is a hassle to leave every time a kid acts up, it was still the persons choice to have the kid. My personal opinion is if it’s a grocery store or restaurant, don’t abandon your cart or food, just take them outside long enough to calm down. Most parents reaction to that would be, “well you don’t have kids so you don’t understand.” No, I don’t have kids but my dad does and when I acted up as a kid he would take me outside. If an adult is loud and obnoxious in a public place, they are generally asked to leave. You can argue that adults know better but kids parents know better too. Usually it would take me about 15 minutes to calm down at the most and then my dad would take me back in and finish eating or shopping. Also, there are some parents that literally let their kids go wild when they are out and that is definitely not acceptable. One time I was out eating pizza with my mom and this kid kept running up to our table and eventually tried to grab the slice of pizza off my moms plate. My mom just pulled the plate away from him but I think back to that and wonder what if a kid grabbed an alcoholic drink or a persons purse or phone. What is the person supposed to do? If it’s an alcoholic drink and the kid grabs it, most parents would be mad at the person for letting the kid get to it but if the person pushed the kid away, the person just got physical with another persons kid which could end horribly and possibly in a lawsuit.

    I want to address the airplane situation separately because there is no physical way for a parent to take their kids outside. What I don’t understand is why they can’t just have child free planes similar to how they have different classes. I would pay extra to have child free ride just because I’m not comfortable around children and I’m afraid of offending parents. They serve drinks on planes and I like to drink and I also like to say words parents don’t usually want their kids to hear. Parents wouldn’t want their kids around me as much as I don’t want to be around their kids. An adult airline would solve both of those problems. I even think it would be cool to have a “party” airline, like a party bus but on a plane.

    I honestly don’t feel like I can say much on your fourth point because I don’t have much knowledge on the subject. However, I will say that I don’t agree with physical violence as a way of discipline because I believe that it is still assault. We don’t punish criminals physically, we shouldn’t punish children.

    Your last point, I don’t know if I agree or disagree because every situation is unique. I agree that women should have time to heel after giving birth. However, my dad recently had knee surgery and not long after needed back surgery and had an issue with taking off work. While I don’t agree with this, I do believe pregnancy should be treated like every other form of medical leave. It wouldn’t be fair for someone to be able to take off to have a child while someone needing another form of medical care is forced to use vacation days. There is another issue I have as far as parents in the work place. While I do believe that women with children should be able to have a full time job, I don’t believe they should get special treatment. My mom had an employee that took off because her kids were sick at least once a month, usually more. An employee is hired to do a job and if they can’t complete that job for any reason, they shouldn’t have that job. If an employer has to have tasks A, B and C done by 5 pm on Monday, they aren’t going to magically not need those things done because someones kid is sick. I’ve also heard (not experienced so I’m not sure how true it is) that it’s a lot harder for childless people to get a day off than parents. Honestly I believe that time off shouldn’t need an explanation and should be treated fairly between every employee whether they are a parent or not.

    One other thing I’d like to mention about parents in the work force is that there are a lot of people who look down on women for having nanny’s or putting their kids in day care. A woman can’t have a full time career and raise a child without outside help. Parents say, “raising a child is a full time job” all the time and nobody can successfully hold down two full time jobs. In order to get more parents in the work force, the negative stigma around nanny’s and day care needs to change.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi! Sorry, I realize I’m responding to your comment quite late, but I’ve actually been off of my site for a while… been experiencing some writer’s block and been quite busy… but I wanted to get to it now that I’m back on.

      You bring up a lot of points in your response and I hope I will do them justice. There are many childfree advocates who are VERY hostile to children who I was intending to address them in particular… I realize not all childfree people are hostile (in fact, my cousin is childfree but sweet with children–she just doesn’t believe it’s right for her, which I completely understand and respect) and I though it was clear that I was addressing the hostile set, but if I touch on the topic again, I will make a point of being much more clear about that. Fact is, my article ended up being picked up on childfree reddit threads (where it was torn apart and children were insulted with vigor) and discussed in a podcast… it can be quite difficult to remain neutral in situations like this because our children are *real* people for us, those we would jump on a grenade for, so such discussions aren’t very abstract when we hear them. They feel hostile to our families, personally, and we become quite defensive. I had thought I’d made a point of saying choosing not to have kids was a reasonable choice that should be respected, but some CF still felt slighted as a group and I will make a clearer point of saying “not all childfree,” should it come up again…

      At any rate, I’m glad it generated so much discussion since parents and CF tend to live in separate camps without much crosstalk, it seems. I was attempting to shed some light on what it’s like to be parent since it’s difficult to understand when one hasn’t experienced it firsthand (like anything). For example, while CF people her that they are selfish quite a lot (unfairly), parents also hear the same. I was hoping to express how people are seemingly criticized no matter what they do, no matter what choices they make…

      As far as out-of-control children are concerned, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I ALSO see children who are being insane while their parents do nothing and it frustrates me too. For example, last week i took my children to the library where two boys were THROWING things and running wound so fast that they slammed into me and bookshelves and whatever else was in their way. It was infuriating. i supposed their parents hadn’t seen it until my daughter threw something herself and i told her how unacceptable it was and i was then shocked to see the boys’ mother glaring at me because she was watching it all play out while doing nothing.

      On the other hand, before I had children, making kids behave seemed far easier that it turned out to be. We assume, since its logical, that a kid throwing a fit is probably doing it because he is hungry, tired, needing attention, or needing a firm reprimand. if the parent would only work down this checklist, it would probably stop.

      However, it is so much more difficult than this.

      While my kids, now 4 and 6, are well-behaved 95% of the time (Ive even received comments and letters praising the good behavior of my kids), there was a good 2-3 year period when they were absolutely insane.

      I dealt with countless fits in the middle of shopping, eating, being in public, what-have-you… in line at Costco with a shopping cart full of stuff, or whatever other horrible awkward situation. We tried EVERYTHING. We fed them, scolded them… my husband and I told them outside in turns trying to calm them down, and the kid would rage for hours. I remember being well-behaved and intimidated by my parents myself, but I think we remember more clearly the ages when our brains were more developed. When the kids are 2 or 3, they don’t grasp implications well. They don’t care if you leave the store. They don’t understand that you won’t have food to cook if you do, and then will be hungry and its because you had to leave the store.

      What’s more, kids react poorly to new situations, but won’t learn how to behave unless they are in them. MOST parents are absolutely mortified when their kids are acting up. Most are trying to do the best they can under the circumstances and feel wrong, no matter what they do. I think a generation or two ago, people expected parents to be firm with their children but experts now tell parents they are permanently screwing up their kids if they make them uncomfortable in any way. Raising your voce, using time-outs, or practically any other method of discipline are criticized as damaging, yet calmly asking your kids to do the right thing can be completely ineffective… leaving parents to scramble for methods of making it work.

      Its awesome that you managed to calm down within 15 minutes as a child, but that is not universal. Even my own two kids, who come from the same genetic stock and were raised in the same household, respond to different methods and it requires a lot of trial-and-error. Both of them, however, raged through 4-hour fits on the regular for a few years… and honestly, avoiding any restaurants or grocery stores would’ve not only been impractical (you can’t eat Mcdonalds for seven years straight) but probably counterproductive… if the child controls you by throwing a fit, they have zero incentive to stop doing it. If a family were to avoid the public for a decade because they have three different kids at various maturity levels, it would not only be inhumane, but would probably result in some badly-adjusted kids for the next generation.

      As far as work leeway goes, I’m in favor of a better work-life balance for everyone, not just parents. We have terrible work benefits compared to Western Europe in general, whether its for illness or parenting or what-have-you, so I don’t view this as an either/or dynamic. That said, having children IS a legitimate reason for some leeway. Pregnancy is a physical hardship that demands recovery time (like any illness) and I view the perspective of if-you-can’t-do-the-job-you-shouldn’t-have-it as a potentially dangerous precedent. If someone needs an operation, they should be given reasonable time off… not told they are no longer qualified for a job. Likewise, if your kid is sick, you you aren’t allowed to drop them off at daycare and you can’t leave them at home alone. The dilemma doesn’t vanish because it’s inconvenient, nor does it mean you’re having a fun holiday cleaning up kid puke every 15 minutes (I’ve been there). If a parent loses their job, they then become the shitty parent that’s living off the system, yet when they take necessary time off, they become a malingerer.

      I suppose, in the end, I was hoping for some mutual understanding. Its wrong to tell people they are selfish jerks for choosing to not have children, which is a completely reasonable choice. On the other hand, those of us with children are sometimes doing the best we can in a rough situation and are hoping for more empathy than scorn.

      Like

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