Friday, January 17, 2014

Why we should support the childfree by choice

(I’ve had the following post drafted for months.  After my previous post, it seems the perfect time to finally put this one up for scrutiny.)

I’ve often been drawn to childfree* writers. After all, for about half of my adult life I wasn’t ready for children (despite having married young), and knew for certain I didn’t want them “yet.” I can therefore relate to the pressures and frustrations that childfree women have had to endure, the pressures and unsubtle hints and comments and judgements that many women have to endure at some stage, the pressures and unsubtle hints and comments that those of us who don’t go on to parent may never be free of.

But I also have spent about half of my adult life trying to have children, or mourning the fact I can’t, or coming to terms with my life without children. And so during that time my interest in childfree writers and their thoughts has felt traitorous, both to myself, and in ways to them.

But I shouldn’t feel like that. After all, we both share a distaste at society’s pressures to to be a parent, and its assumptions about parents, and about adults who are not parents; assumptions about our motivations and our values, our lifestyle, our maturity, our happiness, and much much more.  We – those who voluntarily and involuntarily find ourselves without children - both now share a lifestyle that might be either pitied, or envied, or both, by those who are parents. We, the people who are living life with no kids, have more in common now than what separates us.

Their struggles to legitimise their lifestyles without children are the same as our struggles to legitimise our lifestyles without children. To be seen as adults with a legitimate, worthwhile, valuable, if different, lifestyle. No better, no worse, just different. Yes, at times the childfree can seem scornful of our (once) desires to have children. But I’m sure that equally there are those in the “involuntarily not parents” group who are scornful and judgemental of the voluntarily childfree too. That doesn’t make it right.

The truth is that we have both been through very different battles, but have arrived at the same place. We both get lumped together in the same stereotypes, and we are both in a group that often feels marginalised by society. We should support each other. We are more the same than we are different.

No kidding.


*  Here I'm using childfree as shorthand for childfree-by-choice.

5 comments:

  1. LOVE this post. I had an unmarried uncle and he's probably the only childfree person that I've ever known firsthand in my life, though we were never that close, but he was a very independent person and I'd grown to appreciate him more during the last decade of his life.

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  2. I confess that my main feeling towards childfree-by-choice people is one of envy. I fully support their choice and I hate that they get a lot of flack for it (the "childree = selfish" thing always angers and confuses me). But I really envy them that they don't desire children and will never feel the lack of children as a loss.

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  3. I am also drawn to the child free: not to those who come across as really harsh to those who don't share their path, i.e., those who refer to parents as "breeders", but to those who are really so comfortable in their life choice that they are relaxed with parents and around kids, without judgment or envy. In a way, I see them as my sort of "mentors". I want to be where they are, without a feeling of sadness about never having procreated nor fear of what the future holds.

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