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
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.