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. I want to have a child, but I have lots of friends who want to remain child-free, and I can understand the desire to do so. I don’t know why people try to pressure folks into having kids if they don’t want any. It’s their choice, and none of your business! I think people always feel like they need to share their opinions on how you are living your life.

    Weirdly, I’ve only had experience in the other way around. I’ve had lots of people tell me I was selfish for wanting a child and stating that I wanted to have one for various reasons, none of which were correct. I guess they assumed that because I wanted children, I thought everyone else should have them too? I can see that after you’ve had assumptions thrown at you, that maybe it turns into an ‘attack before they do’ situation.

  2. SO i was a true CF, i didn’t want kids and would preach to everyone I WOULD NEVER EVER WANT KIDS, i have an uncle whos CF and an aunt whos CF. They love their lives and have no free time! i wanted to live like them. my aunt had been all over the world and back and my uncle was all over the US every other week.

    When i would tell people that i was CF and planning to stay that way they looked at me like i was crazy. i think my favoirte response that i ever got was “what are you going to do when you get older and there’s no one to take care of you!”

    i went to school for music business and all i wanted to do was be a tour manager so a kid usually doesn’t fit into that very well, me be gone for long periods of time and be a mom?!? then i met someone and he was cool with this would CF thing. he’s a movie producer and well will be gone for weeks at a time too and when we started dating i owned a cafe SO no kids for us was a great plan

    just 15 months later things changed a bit, and aiden was born so my whole CF life kind of changed.

      • not really at first then when i announced i was having my 2nd child…. all i heard was when you were little you said you were never going to have kids BLAH BLAH BLAH, and it still hasn’t stopped

        i went from no kids to 2 awesome kids in less than 2 years (my 2nd son was just born 2 weeks ago and my 1st son is 14 months old) so i guess i get where it comes from a bit but then again i’m a liberal unwed mother with a strict right wing family

        • an older acquaintance of mine summed it up as: maybe we shiouldn’t make grand proclamations in our twenties and thirties about how our entire lives are going to play out. PEOPLE CHANGE. That was hard for me to accept because I was very invested in my childfree life.

          but circumstances changed; I ended up raising someone else’s child, and was surprised how cool it was, and wound up having a baby.

  3. I don’t think it is anyone’s business when, if, or how many kids someone has, except for that person and their partner. I have Child Free friends who love my daughter, but don’t want any of their own. I support their decision, and often feel bad for the questions and badgering they get from others about when they are going to have children.
    Also, people are quite nosy about how many kids you plan to have. I have one, who is about to be three, and all I hear from 95% of people is “Don’t you think it’s time to have another one?” “I think she needs a little brother” Umm, I was unaware that was anyone’s decision to make but mine and my husband’s, and we are perfectly happy with one.

  4. First off, to Rainy, thank you for a simple, clear and non-defensive article about the CF movement. To be honest I had no idea it was a movement (I did know about VHEM though).

    Second, I do find it kind of sad that the CF movement tends to be fairly defensive, and while I understand why, I also see it as fairly closed off and without open communication lines it doesn’t really promote talk between CF’s and “Breeders” thus perpetuating the smart-ass defensiveness on both sides (yes breeders can be smart asses as well…my parents and myself are distinct examples).

    I have lots of friends who have no intention of having children and really who am I to chide them for, or question, their choice? But I also feel a lot of respect from those same friends for my choice to have children, and who would absolutely hesitate to call me a “breeder”.

    As a woman with PCOS I see so so so many women struggle with infertility, and I think the world is just too grey to seperate it so simply into the black and white world of CF’s and Breeders. Find like minded individuals absolutely, but remember to remain open to other’s decisions.

  5. Apparently, the smug snarking continues, even among those who have kids. I was looking at my sister-in-laws facebook, and according to one of her friends you’re “not even in the game until you have two” kids.

    I’m not sure why we all have to think our lives are harder/better than everyone else’s.

  6. I had no idea I was “Child Free” until this article. I just knew it wasn’t for me. I’ve worked with kids and have a large extended family, and I love them, but I know it’s not a goal of mine to be a parent.

    So, why do I read Off Beat Mama? Because I freaking LOVE parents like you guys!! You’re open minded about how to raise your kiddos, you’re about as non-judgmental as they come, and there are great discussions like this on this site. Looking through the CF forums- there’s a lot of bad energy there, but I think that comes from extremists. And possibly a place of defense.

    The only time I get defensive about my choice is when I feel I’m PUT there. It doesn’t happen often because I surround myself with other open-minded people (as many of you mammas do with your child-free friends), but the “you’ll change your mind,” comment abounds. It’s very similar feeling to the “You’ll See” sentiment that Ariel has written about before — the idea that someone else knows more about your choices and desires than you do.

    But I also feel defensive, and rebel against, the Baby Industrial Complex. The same reason I am in no rush to be married- because it’s EXPECTED. It’s a path and a pattern and you do it because you’re SUPPOSED to. And I won’t lie- I have a knee-jerk negative reaction when I hear people have decided to have kids. But I used to have that reaction to getting married, and reading OBB has opened my mind. Same reason I’m here on OBM- I want to be open minded.

  7. I totally identify with what Ariel mentioned about feeling somewhat guilty/ selfish for wanting kids (although I plan to limit it to 2) rather than for not wanting them. I’m totally thankful for every person who chooses not to have kids since I think the world population level is a problem, but I know I would not be happy if I had chosen not to have kids. I am also thankful for the support and respect of my child-free friends.

    • “but I know I would not be happy if I had chosen not to have kids.”

      Ain’t nobody saying you’ve got to be unhappy to be unselfish. Just sayin’.

      The way I see it, it’s sort of hypocritical to say that either side is selfish. If we as a species did absolutely nothing for ourselves, the rates for unhappiness and suicide would skyrocket. And well… I kind of like being happy, and I kind of like other people being happy.

      The only time I can see having a child as extremely selfish and wrong is when you have needs completely unrelated to raising children. Biggest example is how a lot of couples I know had children to try to “fix” their cracking relationships. No. Just. No.

      • I personally can’t wait to add to our family. The other bad reasons for someone wanting children so they can have a do over, so they can control someones life, so they’ll have someone who will love them (although your children def. love you that being the sole reason is kinda messed up)I do remember my first friend to get married (a very cool ma herself now) being bugged AT HER WEDDING about when they were going to have kids and she was only 24 can you imagine. I think people try to make themselves feel better by proving they are better than you. I doubt it works otherwise the cycle wouldn’t continue.

        • That’s pretty messed up. No one’s better than everyone else. If you want children, you should get going when YOU’RE ready, whether that take two years or ten.

          And I do agree that it’s pretty fucked up to see a parent try to live vicariously through their child. That kid is never going to be able to live their own life.

          As to my previous post: Back when I was graduating high school, a few of my childhood friends got pregnant to keep their boyfriends with them, or to have an excuse to get married. Yeah, they were stupid teenagers, but having a baby when they were NOT in a good position to care for one was what ultimately tore a lot of these relationships apart.

  8. My husband and I have received pressure from both sides. We had been married for 15 years before we had our daughter…15 years of “don’t you want kids?” “You’re going to be alone when you grow old.” and people constantly telling us that our reasons for waiting were not valid. Then I got pregnant and it all started from the other side. I even had one CF friend get angry at me and not talk to me for several months. We never said we didn’t want children. I just don’t understand why everyone feels the need to force others to do things their way. Many of these people claim to be friends…do they like us as we are or not? Ok, I’ll calm down. Thanks for the post.

  9. Thank you SO MUCH FOR POSTING THIS!

    I’m childfree myself, but I visit this site every once in a while just because of the sheer awesomeness I find every time I come.

    When I decided to identify myself as CF, it wasn’t because I hate them or anything–they’re pretty cool. But I pale at the thought of having to care for a child 24/7. And looking back at my life goals and hopes for the future… well, none of them involved children.

    I think the most curt way to explain it would be “I have things I’m more excited about doing with my life.” I’ve got no maternal instinct to speak of towards other humans (though baby animals will do it), and I don’t think I can derive any emotional fulfillment from parenthood.

    I totally respect parents who wanted their children and are happy with the decision they made, as well as parents who love their children and are doing their best to care for them. But it’s not the path I want my life to take.

    You can say I hold no passion for it, and I’m sure all you offbeat mamas will agree that it’s a bad, bad, BAD idea to go into something you hold no passion for just because society tells you. Parenthood’s an irrevocable state, and if you end up regretting it, the person hurt most is the child.

    • Exactly. I figure I should never even consider kids if I don’t feel some kind of pang for them. I keep hitting these milestones where people said “And then I changed my mind and wanted kids”. Got older than 18? Check, nothing. Met a boy? Check, no drive. Got engaged to boy; yeah, still nothing. Took care of a baby animal: many times over, just made me realize that temporary foster care is cool. Close family member got pregnant? Yep, love her, but don’t want to be her.
      And I hear the “But it’s different when it’s yours”. I just don’t think a CHILD is something I should take that risk on; I don’t want to get pregnant just to see if there is a maternal bone in my body.

  10. I think it’s incredibly annoying when anyone talks about anything relentlessly. But this post is about parents’ behavior, so it singles out the topic of kids.

    I’m CF and I don’t even like most kids. I have friends who are parents simply because I was their friend before they had kids and, honestly, there are a lot more parents than CF. If you want to have friends, some will probably be parents.

    I don’t mind hearing about how the kid is doing in school or if it learned to walk or something. But all too often, I have to hear about its bowel movements, how many times it woke up in the night, what it shoved up its nose, or the ten million things it did that the parent thinks is cute but I couldn’t care less about. The fact is, NO ONE cares about your kid’s day-to-day life as much as you do. And it’s really, really annoying to hear about nothing else. I lost one friend because she wouldn’t even respond to me if I wasn’t talking about her baby. Another will MAKE every topic somehow related to her baby! And it doesn’t matter how many times you ask them politely to stop, that’s all you get.

    So it’s not that you should NEVER tell us about your kids. Just keep in mind that many (though certainly not all) CF aren’t all that interested, and it’s dull and annoying to hear about things we aren’t interested in. And that goes for every topic. It’s important to you so, as your friend, it’s somewhat important to us, but keep in mind that there are OTHER topics. It’s just that, because they are such a huge part of your life and you’re so invested in them in every way, I think it’s hard for many parents to realize they’re droning on about it or that, to be frank, their kid just isn’t all that interesting to the rest of us.

    I don’t mean this offensively, and neither did the poster. We’re just suggesting you really consider how much of your conversation relates to your kid and maybe pull back a little.

  11. I DID change my mind, never wanting kids and then suddenly having to have one. But I definitely feel guilty having a bio child and WISH I had the means to adopt! It’s total biology versus logic because not having kids is the smart decision in my mind.

    Great article! I totally respect both sides but I can’t say that I always felt that way.

  12. janine – same here. i did change my mind and go from CF to breeder, and a few people have expressed that they really can’t get on board with the my illogical reason(s) for doing so. to me, it was hugely humbling and really, really hard to let go of the smartypants, intellectual, logical side of me, which really doesn’t think procreating was such a good idea.

    the other parts of me — deep, mushy, emotional, bound to nature and biology — eventually won out. people who live primarily on logic or have never had the other parts bowl them over seem to almost resent that i left logic aside for this decision.

    ‘but the “you’ll change your mind,” comment abounds. It’s very similar feeling to the “You’ll See” sentiment that Ariel has written about before — the idea that someone else knows more about your choices and desires than you do.’

    i wish we had some way to have this be part of the cultural conversation! now that i have changed my mind — after 4-5 HARROWING and HORRIBLE and HELLISH years of totally unexpected biological clock misery — i really wish that other people wouldn’t have to go through what i went through. i was soooooo convinced of my childfreeness, so lazily assured that i wouldn’t change something that fundamental to myself, that i built my whole life into something that had no way to accommodate changing my mind.

    then the bioclock came, and there i was, unprepared and unable to deal with it.

    so now i think “You’ll change your mind” is just as annoying, repetitive, smug, and presumptuous as ever. but is there a way we can talk about these possibilities without getting *too* defensive? like, if a CF person tells me, “I never want to have kids,” and i say, “Yeah, i felt that way for twenty years,” that is enough to make some people defensive. while i do worry that other people might go through what i went through, i know that many, many folks (including moms) don’t ever go through it, so i’m not trying to suggest that my experience will hit *everyone.* …?

  13. There are so many reasons NOT to become a parent. I gasp when I hear some of the reasons people actually want kids. I was CF, hard core, till I was 28 or so. I part of the CF communities on LifeJournal, and wholeheartedly believed I would never have kids. It was infuriating when people would tell me that I would change my mind someday.

    Ok, so I did change my mind, but not because society told me that I was selfish or just too immature to understand. I change my mind, well.. because I did.

    But, like my blog title would suggest, it came as a huge surprise even to me 🙂

    Thank you for posting this. While I never attacked anyone for deciding to have kids (and would never push someone towards parenthood), I still hear my inner-voice muttering “Entitlemoo” out in public sometimes 😛
    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Entitlemoo

    • I think it’s the idea that becoming a parent is a mature and somehow selfless thing to do that bothers me most.

      I’m on the fence about becoming a mama and I’m young enough that I think I have time to let the decision go for now. I know I don’t want children right now.

      I also know that if my husband and I decide to do it, it will be because we want to not because we’re late bloomers who only at that point become mature adults, and not because we’ve realized that we’re somehow selfish without children (I still can’t figure out what is inherently selfless about ensuring the continuation of your genetic line).

      Society seems to assume that people become instantly mature simply by becoming a parent. I know a woman who only allows other mothers to address her by her first name, if you don’t have kids you have to call her Mrs________ . She sees becoming a parent as the only way to become her equal.

      Just over the weekend I had one of my in laws tell me that people without children are selfish, and this was after I’d spent the whole weekend helping her with her young children, which she would not have done had the tables been turned (spit up on the shoulder would not have gone over well).

      So, while I like children and I think it’s great that some people do want to be parents (someday I might too), I don’t think it makes you more mature or saintlier than anyone else; and I will be annoyed with the idea that it does even if I conceive quintuplets next week (unlikely).

  14. I’m 28, married for 6 weeks and at least twice a week I have to discuss (sometimes with strangers) when I’m having children. I gently explain to people that it’s not for me and with self-satisfied looks on their faces they tell me “Oh, you just wait. You’ll change you’re mind.” It. Is. INFURIATING. I don’t want children. Period. I don’t need to rationalize it. I don’t need to explain it. I know how I feel and it’s enough. I was starting to feel so bullied that I began telling people I’d “never say never” and that maybe I’d eventually want to, but I can tell you honestly, the answer is absolutely unequivocally no. And it’s for lots of “selfish” reasons – like money, and traveling, and free time, and doing it on the kitchen floor at any hour of the day. And that’s ok.

  15. I always find this interaction between child-free and child-wanting/having fascinating. Both sides can be nasty and prejudiced.

    I’ve always wanted to have children, and since I was 15, I’ve always had hell dumped on me whenever I admitted it. As a very strongly feminist woman, I found this absolutely infuriating: I had absolutely no problem with people choosing not to have children, why on earth should I be made to feel embarrassed, selfish or boring for wanting them?

    On the other hand, I am also having to defend my brother’s lovely child-free girlfriend from the baby-pushing predations of my newly-made-mother sister-in-law, which I also find very frustrating.

    If only people weren’t so judgy, and mean, and there was more chocolate in the world, we’d all be happier!

    p.s. My own mum, in response to being hassled as a “bad wife” for not having kids (yet), brought up some tears and choked out that they desperately wanted to but she couldn’t physically bear children….the hasslers backed off waaaay quick!

  16. I am from the general camp that if you don’t want kids you probably shouldn’t have them. Childfree is the way to be for some people and that’s a okay with me. :}

  17. There’s a huge misunderstanding of what “childfree” means in most of these posts. The state of your life before having children is not childfree. That is, if you thought you were childfree and then change your mind later and end up having children, you were never childfree – you were childless or on the fence. Childfree refers only to those who do not and never end up having children.

    • sharon, that is a matter of opinion. I staryed identifying as childfree in 1993 and no one made me sign in blood that I would never, under pain of death and torture by snark, become a parent.

      if that definition were entirely true, no one pre-menopause would be allowed to consider themselves childfree… If there’s anything a 55 year old woman understands better than the average 25 year old,it’s that things change over time. It is limiting and presumptuous to assume we can retain full control over how everything in our lives will turn out. That’s why there are indeed formerly chidfree women here.

      • If that’s how we’re going to use the term “childfree,” then it’s completely meaningless. When I’ve told acquaintances that I’m childfree, their reaction is “haha, yeah, I was childfree too…until I had my kids.” After reading all the comments on here, I can see now that I need to stop using “childfree” since it apparently means the exact same thing as childless.

        • sharon, maybe it’s more realistic to define as childless = wants or wanted to have children, and childfree = does not want to have kids and believes they willcarry on in that belief… But realistically? They might change their mind or have changed for them, like if somehow a child comes into their life.

          not sure what one would call the fencesitters or even the wanna-have-em-someday folks…

          • I never made any claims that women never change their minds about wanting children. Of course people change their minds…obviously. It happens all the time. All I’m saying is that women who DO end up changing their minds probably shouldn’t be calling themselves “formerly childfree” if we want the term “childfree” to retain any meaning as a state of mind/movement/whatever you want to refer to it as. Already as it stands most people don’t take so-called “childfree” women seriously – if lots of women who have changed their minds and now have children go around calling themselves “formerly childfree,” the result will be even less people taking those who claim to be “childfree” seriously.

  18. I am Childfree (and was looking for that bingo board!). I get a laugh from some of the extreme expressions from the community, but they often are a bit, well, extreme at times. Even for me, one who doesn’t care for kids almost at all (but some of us love kids, just choose to live without!). I think some of the shocking or “mean” comments are said on those “bad” days. The internet is so full of comments people won’t say in public and opinions people don’t even feel so intensely about on most days. So I hope people who have kids don’t take things to heart too much. But do try to be a good parent–bad parents sometimes bother us more than kids.

  19. Sharon, I don’t understand how that could really work in everyday conversation, because we’re not used to using words in that way. We’re used to saying that we are or do one thing, then become or do something else later, without obliterating the past.

    “I was a Christian, now I’m a rational humanist.” This statement might make Christians nervous, because they might not want to hear their kind describing why they left Christianity, but its the kind of thing you hear all the time. It doesn’t undermine the Christian-ness of the still-Christians; it just lets you know that someone’s beliefs changed.

    I guess a Christian could say, “How dare you call yourself a Christian, a true Christian would never leave the flock.” But the person who authentically believed in Christianity for 50 years and then changed their philosophy later in life—were those first 50 years untrue and irrelevant? I don’t think so. I think it’s fine for them to claim their Christianity and then say they stopped being Christian. And that’s how people normally use the language.

    “I was a woman,” my transgendered, now-male friend A says. One might say, oh you weren’t ever really female, but he *was* female. It took many years for him to realize that femaleness was not a true expression of his real self, and years of dressing butch, and then years of drugs and surgery. He was a woman. Now he’s not. That doesn’t mean that I need to feel denigrated as a woman somehow.

    “I was childfree. Now I’m not.” Similarly, this statement in no way impugns the integrity of people who are childfree and remain childfree for life. Yes, people’s choices about procreation should be taken seriously, and mindchangers are common enough that it might encourage folks to lightly blow off statements about being childfree. I don’t think the solution is to attempt to recast language in a way that doesn’t conform to how language is generally used. Maybe some other way to encourage that people respect each other’s stated reproductive choices…?

    • I don’t think we can start dictating what childfree means or who can use it in what context and phrasing; words get overused and lose their meaning every day, and a new lexicon will be built and destroyed around that lost meaning, and then another and another. I’m happy that labels are not all-encompassing and can be personally modified to fit an individual’s experience!

  20. This was a really interesting article and exchange. I’ve never read Offbeat Mama before, since I am child-free and, well, not a Mama! I totally stumbled upon this by accident! Awesome!

    While I personally am deeply concerned about overpopulation and how the emphasis on having children undermines womens’ rights all over the world, I’ve never considered it my business if someone decides to have children. It’s my business, and all of our business, when women are forced to have children they don’t want or can’t take care of, but when someone makes a decision to have kids, that is no one’s business but the person making that decision.

    What I have been less tolerant of are the huge numbers of people, all my life, who have gotten on my case about NOT having children. Now that I’m over forty years old and the risk of pregnancy is slowly starting to fade off into the sunset (though I am ever vigilant, given my grandmother had her last child in her late fifties and HER mother had her last child in her sixties!), I’m hearing a different kind of comment: Aren’t you sorry you never had kids?

    And they never believe you when you say No. It’s like they try to talk you out of it and to make you regret the decision you made.

    It’s not like women who choose to be child free don’t have biological clocks that they can hear and feel, ya know, I want to say. It’s not like women who choose to be child free don’t watch the news about elderly people with no one to look after them and have to face the fact that in some instances, for some of us, that future might be ours. It’s not like being child free is an easy choice to make when the entire structure of our culture is built upon the notion that women have children.

    I’ve never met another child free woman in real life. It can be very isolating. I think this article, in this blog, and the dialogue that followed is amazing and cool, and I’m glad to see it. Thank you.

    • I guess I am the odd man out here. I never “decided” to be CF. I just was/am. Kind of like some people know they are gay since they were little kids. All I had to do was find a doctor who take me seriously and tie my tubes. It was considered quite radical in 1978, I just didn’t want to risk an Oops and have a baby or an abortion. It did not make sense to me to take BCP til menopause.
      Despite warnings to the contrary, I never got the biologic clock thing or baby rabies, nor did I care what other people thought of my terminating my fertility. Like you, when I was a younger woman, I did not know any CF women. Shoot, I didn’t know the term CF. I was just comfortable in my own skin about not having kids. At the time I had a girlfriend who was having infertility issues and we tried to talk to a GYN about a uterus transplant. I didn’t see that as any different than a lung or kidney transplant. If I wasn’t using mine, why couldn’t I give it away, but we got laughed out of the doctor’s office. Ironically, 30 years after getting my tubes tied, uterus transplants are being researched.
      As an aside, my take is you’re not truly CF unless you lock the factory with a tubal ligation or vasectomy. Unless you consciously lock the door you are reserving the option to change your mind, yeah, even 20 years later.

  21. To the last point particularly — my husband and I were talking the other night about whether or not we’ll have kids. (he’s pretty CF; I lean CF).

    One of the things we both mentioned is that, while we occasionally fantasize about having kids, we both have spent A LOT of time taking care of kids — He’s the youngest of 12 and has a billion nieces and nephews and I ran a nursery and taught ice skating to 2 year olds for years.

    Having been around kids a lot makes you realize all your in for, which is exactly why we question having kids.

    Sort of in that vain, I actually love kids. Give me a baby and I’ll totally monopolize it — spit up and all. But then I go home and sleep 8 hours and get up and do what I want.

    The point being that some people are CF, because they love kids and know what it takes and know themselves well enough to know that they don’t want that or can’t give that emotionally.

    My favorite anti-CF moment was when my old boss (whose wife is very into the natural childbirth movement) lectured me on how much his wife LOOOOVED giving birth. Um, thanks dude.

  22. As a CF female, I’ve received non-stop bingoes and other forms of harassment for over 20 years because I refused to breed. I have no maternal instinct whatsoever, yet this hasn’t stopped family, friends, co-workers from hurling insults at me for my personal decision. My sister even tried to assault me when I said that I’m not her on-call babysitter. It really came to a head a verbal fight when I got married to a CF man 6 years ago. The comments from family and co-workers was truly awful. I almost filed harassment charges against co-workers at work, it was that bad.
    I don’t care if you have children or not, it’s not my life, so I don’t care. I don’t ask you to justify why you have children, so why do you feel that it’s your right to make me justify my decision?
    Better that we get snarky on CF boards. Would you rather me tell you off to your face what I REALLY think of you for trying to make me explain my life decisions to you?

    • Can you define “bingoes” for those who may not be familiar with childfree community jargon?

  23. As a childfree male, I think there’s another factor why the childfree become defensive. It’s that (added to the pressure that comes from some parents) there is also pressure from the media.

    Listen to any politician’s spruiking (even Australia’s childless PM, Julia Gillard) and one hears constant reference to “the family” spoken in terms of reverence and awe. “Families are doing it tough” “We want to help families” “Families will not be disadvantaged” etc.

    In case politicians haven’t noticed, those who elect not to produce children also have to pay for life’s essentials like food, gas, housing etc. Furthermore, we usually contribute a greater percentage of our income into national funds, for distribution in the form of “baby bonuses”, tax cuts for parents, maternity leave, and other subsidies for parents. One can understand the politicians need to buy the votes of the majority, but some acknowledgment that we are people with needs too would be nice!

    Similarly the media’s attitude that every single person either has children or wants them is annoying to the point of nausea. I’ve lost count of the number of advertisements I’ve seen that begin with the phrase “as a busy mum” … hey, people who use contraception have busy lives too. Similarly, the stock situation of the happy family with cute kids, used to sell breakfast cereal. Or the phrase “for important reasons” and the pic of the cute children that flashes up.

    Worst of all is the shock horror when a natural disaster claims the life of anyone under fifteen, whereas adults that are also wiped out tend to be regarded more or less as an afterthought.

    In general, any resentment I feel is about marginalization by the media and society in general, rather than discrimination by individual parents, though this does occur occasionally.

    • totally agreed, Alan. my own belief is that parents need to get on board with noticing childfree/childless kinds of issues and prejudices, and start talking and acting accordingly. fifty years ago, everyday mainstream people in America felt fine about ignoring or saying ridiculous, bigoted things against African Americans. that is not the case now. childfree may be a choice and not a matter of birth (or heck, it might not be a choice, but built into one’s DNA), but the childfree still deserve a civil rights movement of some sort.

      even though now i have kids, i still bristle at those “America’s families blah blah” political comments. a huge proportion of the population doesn’t have children, and some of them never will.

      Alan do you think it would be helpful, as a starting point, if parents at least started thanking the childfree for the political and financial help they give us? i don’t like the “entitlemoo” idea that we are somehow magically deserving of parental leave, tax breaks, etc without acknowledging that many non-parents are helping foot the bill.

      • etcetera, my feelings about welfare in general are pretty mid-line. I totally agree that people who are able should have part of their taxes go towards supporting those that are less fortunate. A kind of government-institutionalised compassion, if you like.

        And certainly anyone receiving welfare (whether they have children or not) has cause to be grateful that they live under a system where the less fortunate are helped out. I’ve taken unemployment benefit in my time, and I was certainly grateful for the government policy that paid it and for the people that financed it via their taxes. I have no objection to my tax dollar going to support others who have fallen on hard times.

        However, and specifically referring to welfare paid to parents – (I speak for Australia here, but I understand similar situations exist in the US, Canada and Britain) I think the whole thing about throwing money at people simply because they choose to produce children is way out of hand.

        I do not use the phrase “entitlemoo” myself – my complaints are about being discriminated against because I’m CF, not about people who have children – but when I see a woman or couple with a huge brood of offspring, many of which were born while their parents were already on welfare, I can’t help feeling “enough is enough”. If you have children and suffer misfortune, (ie lose your job) then some kind of assistance should be given. However, if someone continues to produce child after child when they are already on welfare, you have to wonder either

        (a) are they too stupid to know what causes the constant stream of babies?

        (In which case, educate them quick!)

        or (b) are they cunning people ripping off the system?

        (In which case limit welfare payments to only children produced nine months or less after they commence the welfare).

        Similarly, I object to money paid to people who are not suffering hardship, simply because they make a lifestyle choice to become parents. Australia pays “baby bonuses” to everyone who has a child, and well-off people with children receive massive tax cuts, payments, handouts, etc – surely the point of welfare is that it goes to the poor?

        The bottom line is that every parental entitlement – maternity leave, paternity leave, tax breaks, child payments, etc, have to come from somewhere – usually the long-suffering CF taxpayer. Until such payments are limited to the genuine needy, I can see resentment from the more militant aspect of the CF movement continuing.

        On the subject of African Americans, I can only agree totally. From an Australian perspective, I still see indigenous Australians discriminated against on a frequent basis, but much less so than, say, 25 years ago. African American (net) friends tell me that there is very little discrimination against their race these days, and I’m glad to hear that it’s so.

    • Alan – i asked you a question here about whether it would help that entitled parents would at least start acknowledging and being grateful for how much non-parents help us and foot the bill for tax breaks, covering our butts at work when a kid is sick, and those sorts of things. would a simple thank-you carry any weight?

      and you posted a great followup (though that particular question wasn’t answered!) … but i can’t seem to find either my question or your answer on the site now! i got your response via email. anyway, thank you so much for explaining your views more.

      “I object to money paid to people who are not suffering hardship, simply because they make a lifestyle choice to become parents,” you said regarding taxes – i assume the tax break there for people with children who are middle class and up? i tend to agree with you, though then we should also cut out the breaks for being disabled and such unless one is in poverty.

      my own feeling is that this mentality could also be extended to the workplace. why do people like me who make the “lifestyle choice” as you put it, to have children, get parental leave, whereas the childless and childfree rarely get to ask for such a thing? to me, it implies that children are important and worthy of being the main focus of your life (at least for those three or six months of leave), whereas anyone else who has some other life focus doesn’t get to take three months off and hike Kilimanjaro or tour with their band, or whatever matters most to them. it belittles every non-parenting priority, and i don’t see how that can possibly help parents and nonparents get along better.

      then again, i’m a realist and pragmatist, and i recently saw statistics about productivity and such in countries where they pay for full parental leave for a whole year — and to my surprise, it showed way, way better results in many areas than what we see in the US, where parental leave is limited and usually unpaid…

  24. A little late to the party. Came over from OBB having just gotten married a few weeks ago and have been asking if we’re having kids right away or waiting since I got engaged from strangers and friends/family.

    I can’t speak about CF and breeders bc I have never heard either of these terms until now. But as someone who doesn’t have and is not planning on having kids I hate when people ask me this question. I find it invasive and non of anyones business. Why does someone need to know.

    Do strangers really want to hear, well I was in a 7 year relationship and that ended, then my drug use got worse, then I ended up in rehab, after a few years sober and finally getting my life together I met a man and fell in love, who happens to be older with a grown child, after dating and finally marrying and now being almost 36 it just didnt happen – is all that a strangers business?

    Or will they have follow-ups like ok how bout now, I just don’t understand why people are so concerned, I never ask someone at the checkout line with a child why they had them.

    I like kids, a lot, if something happened and I had one Id love them to death and probably make a kick ass mom and thats ok too.

    But I don’t but I do sometimes feel from society and friends with kids somehow less than bc of my childless state or what I am doing or talking about cannot be more important than what they are talking about or doing because they do have children.

    Much Love to All!

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