I’m not always nice. (Who is?) Oh, I have manners. But I can also be very blunt about what I think. While visiting a friend recently, I described myself as a very polite bitch. I don’t go out of my way to offend people or groups without provocation, but I don’t refrain from saying what I think about things just to avoid possibly offending someone.
Recently, a visitor to my blog who I thought was OK at first, got pissed off at a blog post of mine. I do think that she was acting irrationally, and don’t think that her criticisms have any merit at all, but it did get me to thinking about my writings about being childfree. This visitor, you see, wasn’t the first person to think that what I wrote about my life is offensive to parents in general and mothers specifically.
I certainly don’t mean to offend mothers. Why would I? I have a mother. Some of my friends are mothers. Most women I have ever met are or will be mothers. And I’m pro-choice. What reason have I got to be deliberately offend mothers in general? None. So I don’t.
So I’ve always been baffled by this accusation before, but now I think that I’m starting to get it, just a little bit. Oh, I still don’t think that the criticism that me talking about being childfree is offensive to parents has any validity at all. But I do get where that perception comes from.
When I talk about childfreedom, I’m also necessarily talking about parenthood. Specifically, I explain that I would never want to be a parent. I talk about how being a parent would put me at a disadvantage and how I am better off rejecting the lifestyle. How can I talk about being childfree without talking about my reasons for dismissing the only alternative, especially as it is the alternative that society expects me to live?
Yes, I am blunt. I say that children are a huge financial burden. That having kids can negatively affect education and career opportunities. That having kids can complicate relationships. That children, being children and all, can be very irritating. That children take a lot of time and effort to raise properly. That pregnancy and giving birth have lasting affects on a woman’s body. I don’t think that any parent would be criticized for saying such things – as they’re all true statements. But since I also say that I have no desire to raise kids, that the Kodak moments wouldn’t make it all worth it for me, suddenly this, and all preceding statements, are offensive.
I don’t really see any way around it. At least not any way around it that any honest or confident person could take. I’ve seen other childfree people say things like “I couldn’t be a parent, I’m too selfish,” or “I don’t have what it takes to be a mom.” I’ve also seen CF people feel the need to say things like “I’m childfree, but I like kids,” as if being childfree should really mean that they wouldn’t.
These defensive statements are worded in a way as to be complimenting parents, and self-deprecatory of childfree people. I can see why people do it, to “soften the blow” so to speak. But what good does it do to make childfreedom seem more palatable by making it a “less than” sort of lifestyle? It’s dishonest and counterproductive, for one thing. But also it doesn’t seem to be effective as the only responses I ever see are along the lines of “Nonsense! You’d be a great mom!” As if I was just saying that to fish for encouragement.
You know what? The only reason I wouldn’t make a great mom is because I don’t want kids. If I did, I would “have what it takes.” I also don’t dislike kids in general (although I certainly don’t like all kids either,) and I reject any notion that I’m any more or less selfish than the average person. But you know what? I don’t feel any need to say any of this when I talk about being childfree. I don’t need to make being childfree seem less threatening by sucking up or acting apologetic. And I certainly don’t need to make being childfree seem any better by lying about why I actually choose to live this way.
Again, in order to explain why I’m childfree, I must explain why I don’t want to have children – since being childfree means deciding to never have children. This means addressing the ways that having children would negatively affect my life. Hell, having kids would ruin my life. I certainly wouldn’t be able to continue to live as I do now.
So I will write about my inability to be genuinely happy when someone announces their pregnancy although I will still give the obligatory “congratulations,” and can only manage to be happy that they’re happy. Yes, I will talk about the dream I had in which I was a parent of an infant and was miserable for it, and contrast my feelings about parenthood with those that are more common or more expected. And I will mention the effects that pregnancy would have on my body, and how it’s something I simply want no part of. I’ll even talk about the major overpopulation crisis endangering the whole planet; the bad economy and how children are increasingly becoming unaffordable, not only for their own costs, but how having them can reduce a person’s earning potential; and the sort of non-parenting by people with kids that results in restaurants imposing age restrictions to protect their businesses from the uncontrolled brats who make all kids, even the well-behaved ones, look bad.
I don’t get offended when mommy-bloggers talk about how much they love their kids, or how happy they are as parents, or how magical they think their birth experience was. As long as they aren’t adding in any bingos, shots at childfree people in general as they do so. (Things like, “you can’t know RealLove TM until you’re a mom,” or, “I changed my mind about having kids, and so will you, CF person!”) So don’t get offended when I talk about how much I prefer to live childfree (and on a childfree blog, too,) or when I mention demonstrable truths like the population now being over seven billion.
And if you can’t manage that, as I’ve said before, it’s a big internet.
Don’t hate me because I’m childfree.
Edited to add:
I can’t believe I neglected to add this before, but I think it’s important to say. Some people even manage to be offended by the term “childfree.” In short, these people are not only unable to see our decision to not have kids as a good thing, but don’t seem to think that we should think or speak of our decision not to have children as a good thing for us either. They are offended, even when we make no mention of parenting whatsoever, that not being parents can be talked about in a positive way.
Truthfully, most parents and people who want to be parents that I’ve ever spoken too support the right to be childfree and respect that decision and don’t feel threatened by the mere existence of childfree people. It seems to me that, in mainstream society, such people who can be offended by talking about childfree people are only among an irritating minority. I hope.
Posted on 2011/11/06, in childfree, Diary, Prochoice and tagged birth control, childfree, feminism, feminist, kids, pro-choice, prochoice, sterilization, tubal, tubal ligation, understanding, women. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.