How “breeders” and the Child-Free can get along

Guest post by Rainy

Despite being a parent, I’m also a big proponent of the Childfree movement, which is all about people making the decision not to have children. Childfree doesn’t mean “I don’t have kids yet.” It means “I have no desire to have children ever.”

While I think the world would be a better place if more people were Childfree, there’s no denying that communications between parents and Childfree folks are often, uh, STRAINED. Especially online, where Childfree folks play “breeder bingo” and parents get defensive, and there’s a LOT of martyrdom and drama swirling around.

That in mind, I invited a Childfree-identified writer to share her perspectives on how offbeat families can better and more respectfully communicate with Childfree folks. (And yes: it would be awesome if Childfree worked at being respectful too, but I don’t run a blog for them, so not much I can do there.)

My hope is that the more we understand each other, the more we can find more common ground and less snarking. -Ariel

Breeder bingo
When someone—usually a parent—gets wind that I don’t want kids, it starts:

  • “Why are you getting married if you’re not having kids?”
  • “That’s selfish!”
  • “It’s different when they’re yours.”
  • “You might change your mind!”

The list goes on, and to many of those statements, I have very smart-ass, snarky remarks. Then it turns into a fight, rather than a constructive, gown-up discussion, then nobody wins and everybody is pissed.

So how are parents and the child-free (often known as “CF”) supposed to get along? Well, the only thing I can do is simply give you my perspective in the most non-inflammatory way possible:

If you meet a CF person, please, do not try to convince them to have kids

We all have our reasons for doing what we do (or don’t do). The one thing that starts to ruffle my feathers is when someone asks me to justify what I feel is the right decision for me. All the statements that I listed above (also referred to as “Breeder Bingo” in some parts of the CF community) are ones that most of us have heard before, and it’s stuff like this that can explain why a lot of CFers are smart-assed and snarky. I mean, think about it: Would you like to have to justify to anybody why you had a child—or more than one? Infuriating, isn’t it?

Why are we selfish if we don’t want kids?

One “Breeder Bingo” phrase that puts me on the defensive in a snap is “Not having kids is selfish.” [Editor’s note from Ariel: this line of argument blows my mind because, considering world population these days, I felt selfish for HAVING a biological child.] Again, we all have our reasons for not wanting kids. Among mine is the fact that because my parents had 6 kids and no education beyond high school, I’ve had to work to afford the things most teenagers my age take for granted: School supplies, prom, my car, car insurance, food, clothes, graduation, college, grad school. As a result, I’ve spent most of my life trying to get the life that I want: Married to my wonderful fiancé, hot sex, spontaneous adventures, some financial security, and teaching (your) kids how to read and write properly. If that’s selfish, so be it, but please, keep it to yourself.

Even if we do change our minds, we’ll do so when we’re good and ready.

If I were to change my mind, I’d want to make sure that I was fully ready in every sense of the word to bring a little one in the world. Even if I don’t change my mind, please don’t assume you know more about my mind than you do.

Remember: Just because we don’t want to have kids doesn’t mean that we don’t like them.

Okay, okay, so there are some CFers who don’t like kids. But also keep in mind that while some may not like kids, that doesn’t mean that they want to hurt them. If I didn’t know any better, I think this could help explain part of the rift between us. As for those of us who like them, we figure we can help by volunteering, or coaching, or starting after school programs, but a funny thing occurs: It becomes known that we don’t have kids, so there must be something wrong with us, and so we come under suspicion—especially if said CFer is a guy. As a woman, I’ll admit that I would feel the same way, but that’s why a lot of places do extensive background checks on anyone working with kids. If you’re not sure, please ask the person in charge about the volunteers. This suspicion could also help to explain the snarky attitudes among CFers.

Please do not assume that because we don’t have kids, that we’re not busy.

Being a parent is a lot of work, and I salute anyone who has the patience and wherewithal to raise them. However, it’s frustrating at times when I get a call from one of my brothers or sisters asking me to watch their kids at the last minute, thinking that I’m not doing anything—or anything important. I have a job, I have my hobbies and interests, a social life, and a loved one of my own. Same thing goes for the workplace: I know weekends are the only time you get to spend non-stop with the kids, but how about a little quid pro quo?

Please talk about something other than your kids.

You are more than just a parent. You are also a person with interests, and hobbies. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to try to have a grown-up conversation with a friend, only to have them talk about their kid(s) and parenthood non-stop. If your kid(s) is all you can talk about, especially to a CFer, then please take it as a sign that you need a hobby and need to get out of the house a little bit more. Please take some time for yourself—your kids, your partner, and everyone else benefits!

Just because we don’t have kids doesn’t mean we don’t know anything about taking care of them.

We were kids once, too, and most likely, we’ve helped to take care of and/or raise some in our lifetimes. So please, if you are dealing with professionals who work with kids, such as doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, etc, who are CF, please don’t tell us that we don’t know what we’re talking about, or that we don’t know what it’s like to be a parent. Even if you’re talking to some stranger, we get how challenging it can be in this world, and you might learn something from us, just as we can learn something from you.

A reminder to commenters: At Offbeat Families, we consider ourselves CF-allies. Please help us keep discussion on this potentially divisive respectful.

Comments on How “breeders” and the Child-Free can get along

  1. Thanks for posting this! I’m one of those who “changed my mind” but I completely, fully and wholly support those who are child-free. I can’t stand it when people say stuff like that. And why on earth would anyone want to encourage someone who doesn’t want children to HAVE children is beyond me!

    Additionally, some folks are child-free because they struggled with infertility, and questions about why they don’t have kids could be really painful.

    • During my 5 years of infertility, I encountered several people who assumed I was Child-Free, while I identified as childless. Certainly some infertile folks become Child-Free by choice, but I see the Child-Free movement as pretty separate from infertility.

      (Someone correct me if I’m wrong!)

      • i think the definitions and self-labeling are changing a lot right now. some people who start out as “infertile” or “wanted kids but not sure it’s going to happen” or “just plain confused” end up, eventually, at “childfree.” they don’t want to see themselves as victims anymore, as people who are waiting for something. they’re moving on, and claiming an identity that sounds positive (childfree) can be important for them (as opposed to childLESS).

      • Yes the Child Free movement is totally different from childless. Childless implies we’re missing out on something and we don’t feel we are. Child Free people chose not to have children not that they can’t.

  2. I have plenty of respect for child free people. I know child free people who have respect for people who choose to be parents. The people I can’t stand are those who act as though every single person who has a child is in the wrong. I try not to pass judgment on people for their lifestyles, and that’s all I expect from others.

    • Agreed, Brandi. I have a friend who is child-free, so I read a link on her Facebook page out of curiosity. She is a great person and I respect her decision, but reading that particular website really put me on the defensive toward the movement as a whole. I dislike being called a “breeder,” and all of my reasons for wanting children someday were “unsound,” according to this website. (We don’t have too many child-free people where I live, so this movement is rather new to me.)

      Thank you, Rainy, for a calm, rational article. I respect my friend’s and your decision and will try not to be defensive in the future.

      • “Breeder” reminds me of the women specifically sent to have kids in the book “The Giver” or a brood animal. So basically, it really bugs me.

          • I have gotten the feeling that it is intentionally derogatory, but I have heard people use it in real life in contexts where it seems they don’t think of it that way. I think the word has taken on a life of its own.

          • I’ve also heard breeder used a lot in gay communities as an insult to heterosexual people.

            I hate it and would not and have not ever used it myself, but that’s where I’m familiar with the term.

        • @rodrigues… THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I THOUGHT ^_^ I love The Giver.

          “Breeder” has always bothered me. When I first heard it, it was used a slang by the LGBT community to describe heterosexual people. Either way I don’t want to be called a breeder…

        • i think “breeder” is right up there with the C word, the N word, the B*tch word. worthy of having a sense of humor about, and reclaiming for our own purposes! i’m pregnant, i’m a breeder now, and if i can laugh about it, then someone else trying to make me feel bad about it has absolutely no leverage over me (technically, it’s TRUE, i am breeeeding).

          • Sorry to be a wee bit divisive, but I don’t think you can compare ‘breeder’ to the ‘N’ word.

            Although it is quite an extreme term, comparing the use of ‘breeder’ – a term used by members of a minority to describe certain members of the overwhelming majority of society – to the ‘N’ word is both insulting and somewhat patronising and underplays the very real discrimination faced by many people for hundreds of years.

            Compare the fact that the CF have been, and continue, to be called ‘unnatural’, child-haters’ and ‘barren’ – often in the mainstream media – and I think you may begin to understand why certain, ahem *extreme* members of the CF community get a wee bit tee’d off and resort to what I would term name-calling. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but there was one wrong to begin with.

            Overall, I think a little perspective is called for, here.

          • rhona – i see your point. my analogy was broader than that: i was comparing “taking back” the word breeder to pretty much any incident of people “taking back” a word. you could say, let’s take back “whitey” instead of the n word.

        • “Breeder” is meant to imply a man or woman who has children simply because they feel like the should, and puts no effort into raising them properly.
          Most parents are not “breeders”, and I’m sorry some of my fellow CFers are so immature as to use the term against all parents. Some of my kind seem to forget that the choice to have children is also valid.

  3. Awesome post!

    I always wanted to be a mother, so while I can’t at all related to the CF movement, I have tons of respect for it — I don’t think anyone in the world should have a child if they don’t want one. Talk about a recipe for unhappiness all around.

    I only find the cruel CF people online; I couldn’t tell you why, but I’ve never been someone who didn’t want children in real life who wasn’t totally respectful about it. My bestest friend/soul mate is totally child-free, but loves my son dearly — and that works for all of us! <3

    (Unrelated note: It seems like, "If all the smart people opt not to have kids, the human race will be stupid!" should be on the bingo card. I saw that in counter to "Smart people don't breed," online a lot.)

    • I agree that there is more animosity about it on the internet, but that is the way it goes with most things (politics, religion, etc). I could drone on about the psychology behind it, but suffice it to say that there are lots of reasons why this argument gets a lot more ugly on the web.

      • That comic is brilliant! I also did see Idiocracy, and found its theory, while entertaining, to be utterly silly. The people that I know who site that movie as a basis for their opinions about having children and/or overpopulation tend to be self-congratulatory pseudo-intellectuals. Although using the phrase “self-congratulatory pseudo-intellectuals” might place me firmly in that category. Ha.

        I identify pretty strongly as a feminist, and I get suuuuuper nervous when people start talking about restricting people’s reproductive freedoms because there’s too many babies. That doesn’t mean that overpopulation isn’t a real concern, obviously, but that controlling people’s bodies is pretty much always a bad thing, in my book at least.

        • Agreed on the love of the comic and the creepy factor of body control. I’d love to go more into the topic, outside of citing it as a scary decline of personal liberty, but all I’ve got is talking about a science fiction series at that point. (It is a series with a lot of interesting takes on reproduction, though.)

    • I feel like the “smart people don’t breed” turned into an unfortunate meme. There is a statistical correlation between intelligence and the number of children – and those with higher IQs tend toward lower numbers of kids. Why this is, I don’t know, and it’s not shown to be causative, just correlated. The smug asinine people who use the meme tend not to be as smart as they like to think.

      I’m trending the other way in my attitude toward having kids, myself. I always thought I wanted to have kids, but as I get older, the more I question that desire. I have a complex medical history and chronic illnesses – do I want to chance passing these problems on? I’m mentally ill and don’t cope well – would I want to put my kid through dealing with depressed, anxious Mommy? I’m extremely introverted – could I handle the stress of having a kid and giving up so much of my me time? Do I really want kids or do I just feel like that I don’t really have a family without them? I refuse to consider traditional schooling – how would I handle trying to homeschool or find a Montessori school?

      There’s so many questions that make me hesitate having my own kids, or even adopting (although it takes away the passing on of my own health issues, and I already know I would be open with my kid about being adopted), and of course, they’re coming up as I’m finding myself in a truly stable, moving-toward-marriage relationship with a man who wants kids but would be fine without if I said I didn’t want them.

      It’s kind of daunting to think that I might have to defend against the “you’ll change your mind” arguments if I end up CF because I DID change my mind.

  4. I think that it is wierd that choosing to have or not have children is a *movement.* It is what it is, isn’t it?
    What the hell does anyone care if someone chooses not to have children? I certainly don’t.

    • I totally get your point about “why is this a big deal?”

      But I think a lot of the reason the childfree movement has manifested itself as such is because it isn’t the social norm. Similar to offbeatbride and offbeatmama, people who want to find community among like-minded people who share some of their values will always find each other and kind of bind together, especially when said values are not always respected or acknowledged or even just seen in general society.

      Historically, it’s been marriage then children. So if you do it differently (marriage, no children; children, no marriage; children first, then marriage; no children and no marriage; etc.) then you can feel kind of out of step with everyone else, and its nice to find others who share your experiences and values, which are outside the norm.

      I think that’s the only reason it’s really become a movement – wanting to find community and also wanting your choices to be respected and to be seen as just as valid as the “normal” choices.

      • I guess what I really mean is that I can’t believe there are people out there rude or tactless enough to feel the need to give a child-free person a whatfor. Call me naive! I feel very fortunate to not have run into these people personally and it annoys me that these people exist.

        • Australia’s new prime minister Julia Gillard has been attacked for not having children (and not being married). The press and commentators have been relentless in complaining about the fact that she doesn’t have kids and she has been called “deliberately barren” by a parliamentry colleague. And she was once posed next to an empty fruitbowl. She’s had to defend the fact that she doesn’t have children in the press and in Parliament. That’s what women today go through in terms of judgement over being childfree/childless.

          • I’d like to ask one thing: You think the press would have cared as much if she were male?

      • Forgive me if i have my facts a little muddled, but this seems relevant. There was a French female author who had three children and then wrote a book several years ago about how if she had to do it all over again she wouldn’t, and that she had wished she had stayed child free, even though she loves her kids dearly. The point of her book was that French society (to her and other people who stayed cf) and society in general were geared towards an almost discriminatory attitude towards those who did not have children. I think her point is that industrialized societies place the baby as the pinnacle of all one can achieve, and she argues otherwise. Context for this book was placed on the low birth rates in Europe at the time and governments actively campaigning to encourage population growth…
        All of this was from a NYTimes article i read awhile ago so forgive me if it seems a little hazy…

        • This reminds me of what Adrienne Rich writes in her book, Of Woman Born. If you haven’t read it, the book is an examination of motherhood and the assumptions that are attached to the lives of women and mothers.

          I personally often find myself wistfully thinking of my pre-child days, and my pre-married days, for that matter! (And I’ve only been married for barely 3 years, and been a mother for 2!)

          • Another great book about deciding whether to have children or not is “Paradise Piece by Piece” by Molly Peacock. It changed the way I think.

        • mistie – yes! Paradise Piece by Piece is an excellent memoir, a great piece of writing, the sort of thing any good reader could enjoy, even if they didn’t care at all about childless/childfree issues.

          i read it when i was in the throes of the biological clock but still trying to stay childfree (a singularly painful and horrible experience i do not recommend). Peacock wrote something like: if you decide to have children, you’re a mom. if you decide *not* to have children, and yet are beset by the urge to do so, you have to make that decision *every single day.* it wore me out on so many levels. she coped with it by having a hysterectomy, i think.

    • I realize that I’m way late to the party, but one reason that this might be considered a “movement” is that access to long-term and permanent birth control is still surprisingly restricted. I’ve been looking for a doctor to tie my tubes for a full decade now. No one will do it because supposedly I will change my mind later. I’ve told doctors that even if I did change my mind about raising a kid, with my health problems I am NEVER going to change my mind about making a kid. I have chronic migraines that are only controlled with meds that pregnant people can’t take. I’m already down to one kidney and don’t want to share it. With my hip deformities, the weight of a pregnancy belly could cause me to dislocate my legs just by standing up. Raising a child is 99% out, but being pregnant is 100% out. One doctor asked me what I’d do if I became pregnant accidentally, and I told him the truth: I’d have the abortion scheduled before the pee stick had a chance to dry. Still no luck getting my tubes tied.

      I had almost as much difficulty obtaining an IUD. The only reason my doctor finally relented was because it’s been discovered that mixed hormone birth control can cause stroke in women with my type of migraines. On the day I got my IUD, the NP who installed it tried to talk me out of it. If I hadn’t already paid in full, I think she might have refused to do it.

  5. Elizabeth Gilbert has a great bit about being childfree. She points out that means she’s part of the ‘world wide federation of aunties’ which we all need.

    And on the ‘assuming we don’t know how to take care of kids’ line of logic: my dad has, for years and years now, been treated very distrustingly by new moms. Whenever he holds a baby they try to give him all kinds of instruction. He get annoyed, because as he points out, “I actually had two babies, and I raised them to grown ups. You’ve had a baby for three months. Maybe you should trust that I know what I’m doing.” But, apparently, in the eyes of mothers, older men couldn’t possibly know what to do with a baby. So, I think maybe we need to do some self examination, if we collectively think that only parents are good with kids.

    • I’m SO with you on this, Meg. It’s part of why I support people being Childfree. The world needs more aunties! As a child, some of my favorite family friends were those who didn’t have children, but still took an interest in my life. Kids need Child-Free aunties (and uncles), and many of the Child-Free aunties I know ADORE the children in their lives. And you know what? As parents, we need more aunties, too! It’s a win for everyone.

      • My daughter has some great CF “aunties” who spoil her rotten! I totally agree that just because someone doesn’t want children for her/himself does not mean they don’t like them or know how to take care of them. Great article!

      • And being an auntie is one of the most rewarding roles ever. Though I pray I am not childless forever, I am so grateful to my friends for not treating me like I know nothing just because I’m 1) not a parent right now and 2) a lesbian. I think so many times people assume lesbians are going to be CF or are gay because they hate kids. Ughh.

    • I love the “world wide federation of aunties”! I had two CF aunts, and I loved them both. As a child they’d take me out, spoil me rotten, let me eat the junk food my parents didn’t keep around the house and basically do the things my parents didn’t/couldn’t do with me.

  6. I LOVED this post. I was child free for many years when all of my friends had kids and they were dull-dull-dull to be around. Now I have two small boys and find many people with kids still to be dull. I may have kids, but I still have a personality and many other interests, but people see me only as a mother. It is very disheartening. All they want to talk about are kids and all I want to talk about is the latest issue of ‘The New Yorker’.

  7. good post. as a mom of two (who doesn’t want anymore) i even get questioned…”why not three…?”. i can only imagine how irritating it must be for CF to get questioned. i have to admit i was a little offended about the “talk about something other then just your kids”…but after reading through it, it makes total sense. it is hard to not talk about your kids all the time but i would consider it a nice break having a CF friend who i could be my non-mom self with 🙂

    • I agree about it being hard not to talk about your kids all of the time. As my husband puts it, my son has become my “hobby”. Mommy blogs, green parenting classes, baby-wearing groups…

    • I (for years and years) did not want children but my reason was I thought I would be terrible at it, first thing that changed my mind was my nephew being born (my sister and I were both living with my parents at the time) second was my love and I getting married and biological clock started ringing so loud I had to really reconsider the plan to wait till I finished grad school to try. Now I was never a militant CFer BUT I find that when people recently make big decisions or are a bit defensive they get angry and say nasty things, they are all choices. I am vegan and can’t wait to have a child and it seems like those worlds often clash. The first time I read about “breeders” was in Vegnews and I understood why the author felt the way he did on the other hand judging others for their decisions will always cause a knee jerk reaction. I used to moo at people eating steak (hey I was 15) now I bake the cakes for birthdays make fantastic appetizers to bring to parties and hold dinner parties, all vegan and no one ever complains and are always pleasantly surprised. Prove someone wrong politely and they are less likely to be an A$$ to you about your decisions. I know many Mom’s bride’s CFer’s and vegans and all they talk about is their kids weddings decision to not have children and why meat is murder, makes for boring conversation and a boring life

    • I have this problem — I used to go to work and all I had to talk about was my son. Thankfully, my boss adored my son and took an interest in my parenting woes, so I didn’t get too much flack for it.

      But it even bothers me! Being a mother has broadened my day-to-day interests by so much — I care more about the world around me, and want to talk about it, but because it all started because of parenting… Well, you get the idea.

      I may be the only mother with the problem, but there are days where I feel like I don’t know anything about anything, except my son. And I hate talking about something if I know nothing about it.

  8. This is a great post – and a great way for this forum of openminded and non-traditional mamas to hear about the experience of those who are also openminded and non-traditional, just not in the “mama” sphere.

    I feel that the best possible choice for someone who does not want to parent to make is not to parent. And for those with the access to the education and birth control necessary to live full lives without risking pregnancy – I say go for it, more power to you, and please do come by for coffee and tell me all about your latest trip/hobby/exciting social life! I will tell you about mine too, although there may be mention of my child the way there would be mention of anyone with whom I have a significant relationship and see daily!

    I have to say, though, that I am not a fan of the term “breeder.” Fully apart from its use as a derisive term for parents, it isn’t descriptive of all people who parent. I’m a mom, and have never once “bred” a child. 🙂

    • I noted up-thread that the CF use of the term “breeder” is intended to be derogatory — but I hadn’t thought about it from the adoptive parent standpoint. Thanks for bringing that to light!

      • Out of curiosity, how are adoptive parents seen by the CF community?

        One the one hand, they have kids so they’ll probably do stuff like talk about their kids and all that; on the other hand, they’re taking care of and raising possibly otherwise unwanted children, which can’t be anything other than a good thing.

        • I was brought over to this post from MarriedMe and my best friend, who is currently in-progress with her first kiddo (that’s my favorite way to say pregnant). As a CF woman, I think I can shed a little light on this. (Maybe)

          Now, caveat time: every CF person is different in their view of the world so this is coming from my experience and what I know.

          In the CF community there are two terms:

          BNP vs PNB

          Without delving into the whys, they stand for:

          Breeder Non Parent
          Parent Non Breeder

          It can get dramalicious explaining the differences, so I’ll stay out of that. But rest assured, that MOST (I’m going to say 95-99%) of the people with kiddos that I run across in my life are PNBs. I have only had 1 encounter with someone that I would classify as BNP, ever.

          It was pretty awful and I hope to never have another encounter like that ever. Moving on.

          Most of the CF people I know look to people who have opened their hearts and homes to a child regardless of where it came from, as PNBs. The CF community totally recognizes and supports unconditional love for a child.

          So, the ‘default’ status usually given to parents is PNB until otherwise proven/revealed.

          Long comment is long, but I would say you are definitely not a ‘breeder’ because you obviously are a PNB.

          Edited to add: and how amused am I that the default icon on here is a lady with a baby? LOL. I shoulda seen that coming 😛

        • I can’t speak for the CF community, obvs, as I am a parent, but as an adoptive parent with several proudly CF friends I can tell you my experience. CF people come in all stripes of awesome and crappy – just like anyone – but of course I feel that most of mine are pretty awesome.

          That being said, my experience as an adoptive parent is that my CF friends sometimes use me to be derisive towards biological parents (you’re not like _____ at least you adopted..) and both CF friends and bio parent friends tend to make somewhat uneducated comments about adoption that are both complimentary and othering. For example “what you did was so unselfish, to save that child” or something with the term “one of your own” that could imply my daughter is not my own child. That stuff doesn’t bother me – I guess I feel like if I am going to make a choice that is not mainstream I can’t expect everyone in my life to a. understand or b. have done all the research and self-educating that I have done about that choice.

          In my experience the CF folks I have met who are the most grounded about it sort of approach their lifestyle choice the same way.

  9. I was once a hard-core childfree. I’m on the fence now. While I don`t really ever see myself yearning and hoping for a child, I find I can keep an open mind now.

    One of the reasons I felt so strongly about the childfree movement (and still do) is that I find the cultural expectation that motherhood should be the primary goal of a woman offensive. I think there is a lot of good one can achieve as a mother, but it’s not the only contribution we can make to world. Same for when women in the media are constantly referred to by thier children, for example: when a woman does something that lands her on the evevning news, she’s not a woman, she’s a mother of x(number of offspring).

    That said, I find the term “breeder” equally offensive. It’s just a choice and no one should be put down regardless of which path they chose.

    • I used to think I never wanted to have children, I slowly came around when I became an Aunt and changed my mind when I met the love of my life.

      Even though I plan to have kids I also find society’s expectation that motherhood should be the primary goal of a woman very offensive.

      I agree with most points raised by CF’rs, but I respect every person’s right to choose one way or the other. It is sad that there are people on both sides of the fence that cant do that.

  10. The reasons people don’t have kids are as many and varied as the reasons people DO have kids, and the assumptions that all child-free people always knew they would end up that way, or hate kids, or don’t like responsibility are just unfair assumptions to make when you may know nothing about that individual situation.

    I agree with what someone else said before, that just because someone doesn’t have children doesn’t mean they didn’t at some point want them, and it might be a sensitive issue.

    As someone who is currently undecided, but currently childfree, I do get mad at what can seem like the whole world’s assumption that just because I’m married I will be having children someday and it’s somehow everyone’s business to ask when that’s gonna happen.

    I think it’s probably comparable to when people tell parents that they’re in some way raising their child wrong – it’s a judgment on you and your decisions, on the way you’ve chosen to live your life, and it can be infuriating.

    I think that rift between the childfree and those with children is less of an issue on such an open and inclusive site like this. From what I’ve observed, regardless of where we are in the process of deciding or having or already having had children, we’re all here because we do things a little differently, and I think most of us have a live and let live attitude, which is something I really appreciate about the offbeat universe.

    But I’m still glad this article went up because it never hurts for all of us to understand each other a little better.

  11. The only situation of concern to me regarding the choice to have children, is an unwanted child.

    I’ve often wondered that my 3 closest friends are childless and I have 3 kids. I’d like to think that it’s due to my incredible sensitivity! But it may also be that I teach parent ed. and my mom friends are afraid of me! (I hope not, and I’m certainly not judgmental of other moms..far from it). But the real reason, I think, is what Amber said…when I’m away from my kids, I crave friends that bring out my not-just-a-mom self.

  12. I love this post!!!

    Although I’m not that old [19] all my life I’ve told my mom that I would never have children. I wanted to go to school, go backpacking, travel, be able to come and go as I wish. When I met my fiance one of our first conversations was about how I didn’t want kids and he told me that we might not have a choice; the doctor had told him that he had a really low sperm count.

    Fast forward to a year and a half later and we are 4 months pregnant with our first child. Its a great surprise! And much to my surprise, I still feel as though I can do all of that… except with some minor adjustments. I can still go back packing but maybe not as much as I wanted to and with a little one tagging along, I’ve already finished my first year of college and plan to go back in a couple of years and I still travel… with or without my child, I have TONS of baby sitters!!!

    I have a lot of Child Free friends and family, some by choice and some by health issues. I think rather we choice to have children, or it just sort of happeneds or we choose to NEVER EVER EVER!!! have children thats our decision and no one should try to change your mind and I don’t feel as though you should ever have to explain yourself. Adults should just be able to accept that not everyone is going to think the exact same way they do.

    • I should also add that some of the breeder bingo questions annoy and offend me. “A child is a woman’s greatest achievement!” I’m sorry but I might give life and look after the child for the rest of its life but I hope that I have greater achievements then that… being able to open my own business or becoming a professional film maker.

      • This is my personal experience and only my personal experience. Anyone’s mileage may vary.

        Okay, disclaimer done. 🙂 I’m a mom. I’m also a pilot and a USAF officer. I’ve done some pretty kickass things in my life. Most recently, I deployed to Iraq in a capacity that allowed me to assist the Iraqi Air Force/Army to build its capabilities and better protect the sovereignty of the nation of Iraq. Not to toot my own horn, but I feel like that’s a pretty huge accomplishment.

        That said, raising my daughter is still a greater achievement. I say that because I’m so much more emotionally invested in her. I cared deeply about my Iraqi friends. In a really bad situation, I would even have given my life for some of them. But I will never love any of them the way I love my daughter. Therefore, having her grow up to be a functional, happy, healthy human being will be my greatest accomplishment…simply because I care about it more than anything else I’ve done/am doing.

        I hope that makes sense. And, again, it’s one woman’s opinion/experience. Certainly, I don’t mean to suggest that raising a child is the ONLY pinnacle of achievement available to a woman. Just that for some women, maybe most women who have a child…it has become so. Because of our emotional investment.

        I’d venture a guess to say that it’s about the same for dads, too.

        • In addition, I just realized that I’ve told everyone that I’m a pilot in every comment I’ve ever put on this page. I apologize! I don’t mean to sound so…attention seeking. That’s not my goal at all. I guess I’m just trying to identify my frame of reference. But if I’m just being obnoxious, then I apologize, and appreciate everyone’s patience. 🙂

        • Wow. That is pretty incredible. I congratulate and thank you for being able to serve and be able to achieve something that amazing!

          I should of explained myself more or at least better. I realize that having a child is a great achievement. You take care of a child and help it grow for nine months before you can even meet it, before you can even begin to really love it and be able to take care of it. Then you go through labor and pain to bring that child in to the world and then for the rest of your life you take of that child. It’s great achievement to say it’s your greatest… for some reason it just doesn’t sit right with me. Perhaps it’s because I want to be more than just a mother, I want to be a business owner, a film maker, I want to go travelling, there is so much I want to accomplish and being a mother is just a part of that.

          I agree with Kristen that to some point it erases the role of a father or men… or the other partner. What if a couple adopted? Does that mean that they haven’t achieve that level of greatest because they didn’t make the child?

          For some woman having a child could be there greatest achievement and I respect that but for me personally it just doesn’t make sense. I can’t wait for my child to be born, I can’t wait to be able to see and help it grow but I don’t think I could ever see it as my greatest achievement, even though I know that I will never love anyone like him or her.

      • I agree that part of question is extremely offensive. I want children, but the implication that that would be my greatest achievement is so presumptuous and problematic.

        I wanted to note that I don’t find it problematic for a person to find raising a child to be their greatest achievement, but rather, that a WOMAN’S greatest achievement would be raising a child. For one thing, it has long been the systematic practice of deeply patriarchal and sexist communities and societies to define women by their role as brood mares for the state, relegating them to the function of mother and wet nurse only. This is infuriating in and of itself. And two, it completely erases the role of men and fathers in raising children, creating children, nurturing and parenting children, etc. Historically speaking, it may have been mothers who have done the vast majority of the parenting, but the whole point (to me) of being involved with a feminist philosophy is to change those notions – if a person, that being a father or mother, aunt, uncle, or other caretaker, finds the raising of a child into a fulfilled, confident, ethical, person to be their greatest achievement? That’s a marvelous thing to have on your resume, in my opinion.

        • i think this is slowly and slightly improving because more fathers are taking more active roles in parenting. sad but true, in this culture once dudes start doing any activity, suddenly it’s given more attention and considered interesting/fulfilling/worthy.

          the current situation is also very prejudiced against fathers, many of whom raise their children solo or sharing responsibility, and who consider their children important, maybe their highest achievement. the custody courts routinely rule in favor of moms just because they are female.

  13. wow, like the “Is there a right time to have a child?” post, this post has come along at the exact moment that all these issues are about to be discussed by my hubbie and I. This weekend is our “Baby summit” where we hope to decide yay or nay to the issue once and for all. This has given me so much to think about. Thank you!

  14. Great post. I’m 26 and recently became an auntie 5 months ago. When I first found out he was coming I was elated. When I shared the news with one of my coworkers the first thing that popped out of her mouth was “Are you jealous you didn’t get to have the first grandchild?” It floors me that people think having children is a race or competition for recognition, especially after age 26.

  15. All I see here are people saying, “Who cares if you have kids or don’t? Personal lifestyle choices are none of anyone’s business” so I’m having trouble imagining random people at cocktail parties giving the child free a hard time, though I guess it must happen.

    But at the same time I thought some of this article was judge-y. “Stop talking to me about your kids, get a hobby!” Umm, who thinks about their friends like this?

    • No lies, I had an acquaintance who I actually got really sick of — because her parenting ideas were so completely to what I imagined mine would be. (She had her son about 9 months before I ever got pregnant.) To be fair, it may have been more because I really didn’t like her at all — I don’t recall ever being bored with my friend whose daughter was born at the same time.

      (I also had crazy baby rabies at the time, though.)

      Interestingly, the acquaintance and I turned out to have about 1/3 of our parenting philosophies in common after all.

    • Samantha – trust me, it happens. Constantly. I’m 32, CF, married 7 years. I am AMAZED by the people -business associates, people I run into in the grocery store, etc. who will ask if I have kids “yet” and then WHY NOT??? With so much publicity about infertility, it shocks me that, (nevermind my own feelings on the subject,) people don’t think it could be a sensitive subject for those who do desparately want children!!!

    • Two points, nothing against you. The first utterly happens. I get “bingoed” at work a lot. I had a boss tell me it was my patriotic duty to have babies, and that the economy went bad because of people like me. I had another say that if it were up to her, no woman in the world would EVER be sterilized unless her uterus was killing her, because they don’t know. I had a friend tell me my decision was “immature” and that you never become an adult until you have kids (so my 65 year-old great aunt is still a child).
      The worst, though? Doctors. There’s nothing quite so bad as having your GYN tell you that “there’s no point in being a woman unless you have kids” WHILE performing your pelvic exam. It doesn’t happen at cocktail parties because it seems like everyone is being nice and happy, but for some reason, it happens a lot at professional settings like school, work, and appointments.
      Secondly, I doubt she was trying to be so callous, but remember that as CFers, we can’t relate as fully to your talk about your kids. It would be like if your friend went on and on and on and on about , I don’t know, professional fly fishing. You can be really happy for them, but there’s a finite amount of that conversation you can relate to, listen to, and not start getting the feeling “Can we talk about something other than you and your life?” Any good friend wants to hear how happy you are about being a mom, or support you when being a mom is hard, but do try to remember what made you both friends in the first place (like a common interest). My friends and I keep close by discussing our favorite books or tv shows, for example.

    • But some people talk about their kids, nonstop. It’s incredibly irritating. One of my friends from high school had a kid in January and every single post on facebook in that time frame has been about him. You need to be able to have a hobby and talk about stuff that is not your kid. I mean, people would be pretty sick of hearing about my dissertation were it all I talked about.

      • at certain times in life, many people don’t have time for “a hobby.” when i was doing my thesis, it was either talk about that or post a status that said something completely generic like “ooh look at my cute cat.” i have friends who work in a seasonal industry, and from March to October you either talk with them about plants or nothing at all. writers on a big project often hole up, even for a year if it’s a book, and can’t talk about the latest films or whatever.

        i underestimated in some ways how consuming having a baby would be. what little time i have is extremely fragmented – 5 minutes here or there to do a facebook post or eat half a bagel – which doesn’t lend itself to pursuing normal-grownup things that one could entertain people with at a cocktail party. but Facebook is not a cocktail party. if you wanna talk about yr kids on FB, do it. if you wanna obsess about German experimental music on FB, do it. that’s just life, i think…

    • I suspect I am quite a bit older than most of the ladies here. I am 56 and knew I was CF since I was 4-5yo. Why? Who knows. Unlike some CF folks, I didn’t/don’t care about overpopulation, war, the environment, crime, my figure, cost of parenting, etc. I was just no more interested in being a parent than I was interested in being an astronaut. I’m sure both can be fun and fulfilling. I’m just not interested in either.
      I can tell you that, yes, quite a few people are crude enough to “challenge” CF folks choice, call us immature, selfish, unfulfilled, unnurturing, incapable of loving anyone but ourselves, tell my husband will leave me for a woman who will give him babies and I will die alone and lonely. Cussword annoying. Kind of like the people wanting to know your babymaking plans the minute you say engaged or at the wedding, or the day after you have kid #1 folks start asking you about #2. But after kid #3 asks don’t you know what causes that. I have been asked everything from am I gay to do I hate kids by friends, colleagues, strangers, extended family, doctors. I’m not gay, I like kids, I’m just not interested in raising one.
      I was one of the rare lucky ones and got my tubes tied at age 25, before Oops happened. And yes, I was married when I had it done. I had to wait 6 months and get approved by a shrink before I got tied. Many doctors will not tie an unchilded woman under 30. Never mind we think 16yos are “mature” enough to have a kid. If you’re under 30, many people and doctors think, and will tell you, you’re not mature enough to decide you don’t want kids. And so you risk Oops. Some women appreciate that Oops and some don’t. Unplanned does not equal unwanted, but as a parent you can’t exactly publically admit you wish you didn’t have your kid.
      Now that I am silver-haired and obviously past my childbearing years, people ask me if I’m lonely? No I have a husband, family, and friends, with and without kids. Or if I have regrets? No, I’m living as I choose. And who is going to take care of me when I’m old? Ummm, there’s insurance for that and I suspect I will still have friends and family. My hubby being 10years younger might be an added bonus! Working on the fringe’s of healthcare/hospice I can tell you there are scores of people, with kids, who die alone. Sometimes the kids are uncaring, sometimes the parent created that mess.

      • for some reason the “like this” button isn’t working. wanted to say: i like this! and thanks for telling your story without making it somehow about how bad parents are for being parents. good on you for getting them to let you have your tubes tied, too!

  16. I think she should have added “non-stop” to the “please don’t talk about your kids” part. She did in the text after the bullet point.

    I also think it’s unreasonable to expect that a parent will just NEVER bring up their kids when talking to friends who don’t have kids. My single friends wouldn’t expect me to never mention my husband just because they’re not married, or my friends without pets wouldn’t demand that I never mention my cats and so on. Children are not a hobby – my daughter is one of the most important people in my life and I put a lot of energy into my relationship with her, as I do with my husband, closest friends and adult family. If we’re good friends, she will at least come up!

    I think that it is really more about being aware of the person you are interacting with and how they may or may not relate to what you’re saying. I have different boundaries when talking to my friends who don’t have kids (no poop talk!) and try to stay focused on what we have in common. I try to be appropriately interested in the important things in my friends’ lives, whether they interest me or not, and expect that if they love me they’ll do the same.

    • I’ve got 2 kids and a number of our CF friends are important people in their lives (including their CF godparents). I’ve never felt any tension with my CF friends and their choices. We adults have maintained our friendships even after my husband and I had kids, because we and our CF friends have common interests in and conversations about many topics. My husband and I don’t talk incessantly about childrearing (and tend to get bored by parents who do), but at the same time, our CF friends are interested in this part of our lives, ask us how things are going, and have a friendly relationship with our kids also.

      I have, however, been in situations occasionally where some CFs –usually young-ish (well 30-something) educated professionals — have studiously ignored my kids to the point of being impolite. Perhaps because they were out of practice with dealing with kids? I’m not asking for gushing and constant attention, but simply an acknowledgment of their presence when we’ve all been invited to a function and we arrive. The simple courtesy of a greeting was extended to all adult guests — and even the *dogs* they brought along with them! (“Oh, what a cute labradoodle! Oh you are so cute! Yes you are!” And on, and on. They talked about the care and feeding of dogs ad nauseum in a manner that I would never do if the topic were childraising.) My *human* kids were better behaved than the dogs these CFers brought to the dinner: my kids did not scratch the furniture, bark, jump up on people and hump their legs! But my kids didn’t even receive a simple hello when we entered the house. It was as if these particular CFers had no idea how to relate to humans under the age of 18. Is it too much to maybe ask the kids their name and age, maybe their favorite pastime to feign a welcome?

      These less positive experiences with some certain CFs occur only occasionally (and perhaps should just be categorized as just plain rudeness, rather than attributed to a subset of CFs). Fortunately, the relationships we have cultivated with CFs that I described in the first paragraph are more representative of the CFs in our life.

  17. Don’t feel bad for saying it, as I agree. We talk about the things that are important in our lives. For someone whose really into their career, they’ll talk about on end. For others, its their hobbies. And for a lot of parents, its their kids. I have a childfree friend who will go on at length about all the concerts she goes to around the country. I’m not into her music scene at all but I appreciate that’s what she’s passionate about.

    • It’s interesting — when I’m hanging out with my Child-Free friends, I’m always like GAWD PLEASE CAN WE NOT TALK ABOUT MY KID! I think about him *constantly* … it’s a welcome relief to go out for a drink with a girlfriend and gossip about the publishing industry for a change.

      Moral of the story: different strokes. 🙂

  18. Thanks, Ariel, for choosing my article!

    To the ladies who commented, thank you as well. This is my first web publication. To address a couple of things (because the article itself could only be so many words):

    In the CF community, “breeder” is not meant to describe every parent. Certainly, the mamas in this community don’t fit under that definition. I can’t/won’t define the term, because it gets judge-y and ugly real quick. Besides that, there are hopefully more than enough online resources to do that.

    “Breeder Bingo” is simply what it’s called in the CF community–I didn’t make it up to offend.

    I agree with what Danielle LeBrun said, we all talk about things that are important to us, but what I was trying to get across (and by the sounds of it, I might not have done so very well) is that I’m more than a teacher, an auntie, etc, just like mamas are more than mamas. And I never said “don’t talk about them. period.” I said, “talk about something other than your kids”–which in hindsight, I probably should’ve written, “Don’t be afraid to talk about the kids, but please don’t let that be all you talk about”–which is more of what I was going for. Again, hindsight is always 20/20

    Thank you, SaraL for the advice, I’ll be sure to use it when I’m in my own classroom 🙂

    Thanks again, Ariel and Ladies!

    • Personally, I found the Breeder Bingo thing sort of funny…. even though I am not 100% sure I will remain child free, I have certainly heard a lot of those comments lol… I think I have even said a couple of them to other people… oops!

  19. I have always been of the opinion that if you don’t want children, do not have them. I do take some offense at some of the extremism that I have seen in the CF movement, but I think some of that comes from having been on the defensive about their choice for so very long.

    • Yeah, I think being defensive can slowly corrode a person’s patience. I do wish that the online Child-Free community was a little less full of GRRRR!!!, but I can hardly fault folks for getting frustrated. Ultimately, my goal with this post was to help us gain a little insight into the GRRR so that, as parents, we could do our best not to both respect it AND not add fuel to it.

    • You’re right, the anger is at least partially from having to continuously defend ourselves in what (to many of us) seems like the only natural choice to make. Personally, I could never, ever imagine having a child, so it bothers me that I so often get ridiculed (and I do!) for what I see as the only logical option (for me).

      I don’t know what sites you’ve been exposed to that represent the CF community (perhaps some extremist ones like “bratfree”?) but I think a lot of the anger on many sites is simply venting. If we get annoyed by a bingo or by a certain parent that has particularly annoyed us (usually with really bad parenting), then we release that annoyance in a “safe place” like a CF forum. Do we really speak so harshly to and about parents in real life? Mostly, no. But that’s one of the beauties of the Internet – freedom to rant and rave to people who understand you.

      And then there are just the obnoxious extremists you find in every community who go out of their way to be hostile and use the anonymity of the Internet to hurt other people. But, as always, that’s not a reflection on the group as a whole.

  20. When I first started reading this article, and reading the statements that CF people would get in repsonse to their decision, I thought “Well, that’s just like the debates of breast/bottlefeeding, circ/no circ, etc.” I think that people just don’t THINK about what they are saying, because it’s just on autopilot to ask those things. Do I wish people would think before speaking? Yes, of course.

    As I continued reading, however, there were a few points that caught my attention. One has already been clarified (the talking about kids section), so I won’t rehash that. The other point that gets me is “Married to my wonderful fiancé, hot sex, spontaneous adventures….”. Now, I’m not married (yet, but hoping, although the relationship we have now is incredible, and anything after is just a bonus), but with 3 children between us (I have a 3.5 year old, he has a 7 year old, and together we have a 4 month old), our sex life has only gotten more amazing with time. 😉 The adventures are just as spontaneous, only now we have kids afoot, which forces us to be even more creative with our adventures. So, even people who choose not to be CF, can still have those great things.

    If you’ll note, I didn’t include the rest of your quote, because I’m not a teacher (yet, currently in school to get my degree to teach), and the financial security……we consider that one of our adventures. 🙂

  21. I think I may be in the minority that I’ve had practically no issues with my Child Free friends since having my daughter. I think it helps that she’s extremely bright and articulate for her age and extremely well behaved for a 6 year old, but I also have interests that extend beyond motherhood and a desire to share them, and I understand the desire to not have children. I feel firmly that people who don’t want kids shouldn’t have them and no one can take that choice from them.

    The only issue I’ve ever had was with someone who was Child Free and later changed their mind after he got married. He apologized for not following my blog (at the time he thought all I talked about was my kid, which was true. She was an infant, I had no idea what to do with her, I wasn’t expecting to be a mother in the first place) because now that he was a father, that was all he talked about as well and he finally understood why. The whole thing was pretty hilarious.

  22. We have one baby, so linking Ariel’s recent post about single child families with this one… we get almost all those same ‘breeder bingo’ comments about not having anymore children. We are happy with our one. we might have more, but this is a distant maybe maybe whispering option that is for my partner and I to decide not broader societies ‘expert’ opinions on what we should do.

    So I guess my point is: yes – children/no children/one child/or five – is a personal decision that has nothing to do with anyone else. Why ask about people’s children plans? why judge them for their answer? Life and bodies and living are complicated and there are much more interesting things to talk about. (although I could talk about my son for ever!)

    • Same here. I’ve always had it the other way around.

      But, to be fair, I’m less “Childfree” and more “Maybe later, but definitely not right now” so I haven’t had to justify myself to anyone.

      Random: As a kid, I used to think my parents’ friends without kids (or without kids my age) were selfish for not providing me with playmates when we’d go over for dinner.

    • From what I’ve understood, the argument for people who don’t want children being selfish is that they don’t want to focus on someone other than themselves. I imagine that people who use this excuse somehow think that having no children just means you’re a hedonistic jerk who spends all your time… I don’t know, going to happy hour, spending all one’s money on oneself, and not contributing to the betterment of the world by producing cute babies to improve our collective future (insert heavy tone of sarcasm here). But then, that’s just speculation on my part. 🙂

      • Circular logic would say that folks who spend all their time being hedonistic would be selfish to HAVE children… 😉 And as a CF-er, yes, I’ve gotten this. It floored me the first few times.

        • It is a completely ridiculous bit of logic, yes, and I agree with you! When I think of the kind of person who would use the “you’re selfish ifyou don’t have kids” thought as argument for why someone should have children, I imagine that they would have to be pretty self-involved , which is the super fun irony. If you are someone who thinks that the way that you spend your time as a parent is the only valuable way to not be selfish, you’ve got some problems.

    • Oh you’d be astonished at what they say. “Selfish, not a real woman, sexually stunted, too ugly for anyone to want to have a baby with”

    • I have heard SELFISH most of my CF life. Some people assume that if you’re CF you’re a ungrateful, money-grubbing, career focused, world traveler who buys designer toilet paper and goes out partying and getting drunk every night.
      Your selfish for/because:
      For not thanking God for our time on earth by “replacing” ourselves.
      For not thanking your parents for your life by giving them grandchildren.
      Assume that we are too concerned with losing our figure to give our men a child.
      That we expect THEIR children to support our CF old age through SS, which to a degree is true but on the flip side we pay school, amongst other taxes, for decades. Personally I have been paying school taxes for 20 years and have 9 more years of school taxes to pay. Oh, and we are paying previous generations SS.
      We are not contributing, cops, firemen, teachers, nurses to the next generation.
      Many people assume we take care of no one but ourselves, which may be true in our youth, with the exception of those with sickly parents, but as we age our childed siblings claim they have neither the time or finances to care for elderly parents physically or financially.
      They forget CF people use their free time to volunteer, mentor, coach, babysit, befriend.

  23. I love this post! I have a few friends who are CF, my best guy friend and his fiance are happily CF, and this makes me realize how hard they must have it. I have to admit though, I did ask them what made them choose to not have kids-not the (rude) comments about how they “should” but I did want to know how they came to their choice to remain CF. There were many different answers! And they were all interesting. So, if a parent or wants to be a parent asks “why are you choosing to remain child free?” a non-snarky answer is the way to go.

    • Like you said, you didn’t ask them rudely or condescendingly. I have no problem explaining my decision to people who are just genuinely curious and except my answer without being judgmental or trying to change my mind. And I think that goes for most of us. Polite question begets polite answer. Snarky question, snarky answer. Most of the time, the snarky people are the ones who refuse to accept that it’s a normal decision and keep trying to convince us to have children.

      I’ve actually done the reverse. I’ve asked by parent and currently-childless friends why they want kids, but (like you) I just really want to know, I’m not trying to judge.

    • I don’t care if a close friend or family member asks me ‘why’, it’s the complete strangers who ask you ‘why’ that annoy me – I guess it’s just a very personal question and I find it to be rude. Only someone who was already aware of my history and personality would be able to make sense of my reasons anyway. Typically, I’ll just say ‘it’s a choice that my husband and I made together’ if it’s pushed further, then perhaps I’ll get snarky 🙂

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