Monday, February 27, 2006

Childfree

"Do you have any kids?"

I despise this question. It isn't the question that I mind. I'd be happy to answer "no", and then do my happy dance. But invariably, when I announce that I don't have children, the other person loses all social skills and behaves badly. A horrified look is followed by a comment indicating pity, shock, sadness, or condescension. On fun days, I get multiple attitudes from the same person. For example:

"You don't have kids?", very long pause, slack-jawed expression

"Well, you'd better get working on that soon!" (I'm almost 37.)

"It's unnatural."

"You don't know what you're missing."

"I think it's great when people recognize that they're selfish so they avoid having kids."


I'm sick of dealing with this. My husband has suggested cutting off all discussion by answering in the following manner:

"Thank the fuck christ, no."

I haven't been able to answer this way yet. Unlike many, it seems, I understand it's rude and inappropriate to say certain things to others. But my temper's on its last nerve, and I may forsake manners soon.

You'll notice that I describe myself as childfree, not childless. I chose not to have children. I am not suffering from the lack of children in my life. As this is my chosen state, I am quite happy about things. Pity is neither needed nor desired.


I can't give a definitive list for why I want to be childfree. I'm not a fan of excessively long posts, so I'll have to give you the top five.

1. I do not like children.

2. I do not want to be a mother.

Now, #s 1 & 2 pretty much make the decision for me, no? I'm sure if I woke up in a parallel universe and I had children, that I would love them more than anything. But for now, childhood is not compulsory in the USA. I don't want children, so I don't have to have them.

3. I have a chronic illness that causes my life to be unbearable when it is active (I'm in remission now). If I passed this illness on to my child, then I would truly be the most hateful, cruel, and thoughtless bag of pus ever.

4. In addition to the illness mentioned above, my parental model is awful. We don't always repeat abuse we experienced in childhood, but I am not willing to risk doing this. I have a variety of behavioral traits that do not fit into a decent parenting environment. These things could be modified, but not eradicated. This is all a long way of saying that I will not subject a child to my childhood.

5. The fate of life (think beyond humans, folks) on our planet it questionable at this point. Between overpopulation and overconsumption, we are poisoning and destroying all areas of the earth. Certain problems, such as global warming, have gone beyond the tipping point. One thing to do is reduce population. Check.

I could go on and on, and I often do. But before I wrap this up, I want to address one final thing that really chaps my ass. There's a common perception that childfree people are selfish, while parents are unselfish. Bullshit. Adopting a child is a truly selfless act, and I tip my hat to anyone who adopts. You are doing a wonderful thing, and you are selfless. But parents? Not by a country mile. People have kids because

THEY WANT TO!

Caring for children requires unselfishness. But deciding to have kids is a fundamentally selfish thing. If you disagree with me, just ask yourself how much selfish reasons play into the desire to have kids. You know, things like:

- I want a child
- having someone to take care of me when I'm old
- having part of me live on when I'm dead
- getting the respect of friends, family, community
- living my dreams through my child
- I want to be in the record books as the oldest father/mother
- etc. etc.


People will still try to tell me that I won't truly be a woman until I've given birth. I haven't worked out the best way to deal with this. My impulse is to throw an uppercut. I'm so glad I've got the hips for it.

8 comments:

existsnomore said...

Yes, uppercut! I'd love to see that.

I don't want children either but I'm not yet at the point where people are nagging me to death. So not looking forward to it.

Suebob said...

Yeah, yeah, I deal with the same thing all the time. When I was in Mexico it was SOOOO much worse though. There it is like a crime to not have kids. My landlady Gloria kept saying "You still have time to have one" - I was 43!!!

I didn't have kids because I never wanted them. Period. To me, that is a dang fine reason. Other people just don't get it. Then they bitch to me about how awful their kids are...I don't understand.

spotted elephant said...

kat-Maybe things will be much better, and you won't have to be nagged to death!

sue-You're so right about people insisting kids are mandatory and then complaining. I remember seeing a show about parents worked excessive hours because they hated being home with their kids. Oh! Don't have them.

sybil said...

I'm also childless by choice, similar reasons to your's. Never felt anything but privileged after i had my tubes tied at 28, and I'm now twice that.

I used to just say "nope" when asked about children. Then I fleshed it out to avoid the 'oh-poor-you' thing, so I'd add, "yeah, neither me nor the kid could have survived." Which is true. Now, I don't think I care any more about presenting myself in ways that make other people more comfortable. "nope" is good enough.

I really like the way you've delineated the reasons have children. I'll bet that there are a lot of people (women especially) who don't think it through even that much, just breeding because that's what sexual beings do.

spotted elephant said...

sybil-It's great to hear that you've had no regrets. I guess it's not surprising, but many people bring up that "Oh, you're gonna regret it" line when I talk about getting my tubes tied. I haven't worked up the nerve yet. I'm not conflicted about the decision, but medical procedures scare me. :-)

I love your perspective of not caring about presenting yourself to make others comfortable.

You're spot-on about breeding because that's what you do. We should get cards that say "Parenthood is not the default."

Madame DeBarge said...

See, I am completely at ease with your decision to not have children.
Myself, I always wanted kids, at least 3. I had so many problems because of my pregnancy, though, that it scares the crap out of me to think about doing it again. I never wanted an only child, at the very least, because of how I grew up, with much younger and older siblings, but I'm a pretty craptastic mom these days, so it's better I not breed again. It's just the two of us, and it's working fine.

I really respect those who, when they make the decision that they do not want to have children, stick with it. I know many many people who simply give in to their partners wishes, and while they love the child, there's always going to be a bit of resentment towards said child, because of the way that they compromised their beliefs.

manxome said...

The way I see a lot of things is that no one has the right to judge what your needs, dreams, priorities, etc. are. The moment they do that, they're looking at you through their own needs, dreams, et.al, not yours.

The default is not parenthood, or heterosexuality, or Christian, or "yes", ad infinitum. I'm my own default, and you are your own default. Wow, that's hokey.

Wouldn't it be nice if people asked more often who you are, instead of what you are.

Rohini said...

All these labels are just plain silly - SAHM, working mom, childfree.... why should anyone have the right to judge someone's else's choices. I have a kid and I know for sure that I could not have endured the exhaustion and frustration that comes with the package if I didn't truly want to be a mother. So why should someone who doesn't feel that way be made to feel bad about their choice?