Sorry Parents… but you’re boring.

This might be somewhat of a continuation of my post on how parents seem to preface most sentences about their kids with “I love my kids but…”, but parents- more so than ever in this current era of baby worship- are boring. Some of my saddest moments are realizing that perfectly interesting friends with hobbies, interests and relevant viewpoints on the world have now turned into mindless drones. Goodbye stimulating discussions on world events, hello insipid insights on how baby seems to enjoy one type of mashed fruit over another.

Once upon a time, parents used to have lives. They’d have adult discussions at the supper table while the children were respectfully silent. They’d send the kids outdoors to play, while they watched their shows. It seems as though these days mothers give up their entire existence when they have children, while fathers do almost the same (although they do tend to hold onto the things that make them actual people- and not just parents- a little harder, in my experience). And that’s not either gender’s fault. Instead, I blame a society that makes women feel as though they have to subsume their being to be a ‘good mother’, and forces fathers to cling tightly to the few things they can hold onto that define who they are.

Women now spend as much or more time with their children as mothers did in earlier decades when they generally didn’t have full-time jobs. This means that almost every spare moment a women has is spent with, or caring for, her children. And fathers are just as burdened. Its no wonder they lack for conversation. They’re focused so intently on their children that they don’t have time for the rest of the world, the future, or the past. How can you have empathy if you don’t care about anyone but your children? How can you perform civic duties- including voting- if you can’t see the big picture? How can you innovate if you can’t take time to think beyond what’s right in front of you? Maybe boring conversation is just the tip of iceberg. And that is something I for one find terrifying, in many, many ways.

What if you regret having children?

A lot of people tell me that I will regret not having children. But what if I regret having them? Then I’m stuck with a person who is dependent on me and will be for years and years, taking up all my time, energy and money. That’s a lot of regret.

Don’t believe that people regret having kids? Do a quick search on a website like www.truuconfessions.com. There are literally hundreds of posts from people confessing that they regret their choice of procreating, and even more people who agree with them.

Here’s the thing: in deciding not to have kids, I harm no one but myself if I end up regretting my choice… and you know what, there are plenty of deserving kids in need of adoption, so you’d think by the time I figured out I wanted kids, I could still adopt, even if it would be biologically difficult to have one. But don’t get me started on people who don’t think adoption is a viable alternative to having a biological child.

In deciding to have children, and then later regretting that choice, I harm not only myself, but my child (because no one can convince me that, on some level, even if I pretend to be a perfect parent, the child won’t intuit or guess how I really feel about him/her), and I have no way of changing my decision. I’m stuck. And I can’t think of anything more soul-crushing than knowing you had completely dismantled your life for something you never even wanted in the first place and you’re harming another person in the bargain. So why risk it?

“I love my kids, but…”

Has anyone ever noticed that when parents talk about their children they inevitably come off as horrible spokespeople for being a parent? It’s the oddest thing, because everything out of their mouths seems to be a complaint, and yet they seem to think that this is something that others want to, or even must, have.

Recently a coworker came back from parental leave, and immediately it was all “Little so-and-so is great, but he’s crazy, and I’ve never been so sleep-deprived in my life. I haven’t been out with friends in months, and I’m going insane.” Well, with an endorsement like that, I can see why I should procreate.

And it doesn’t seem to get better as the children age. Another parent of a five-year-old I know recently said that his daughter breaks his heart every day (she’s going through a rebellious phase, apparently. Good luck when she hits the teens.). A sixty year old man who takes the bus with me recently walked to the bus stop in the middle of winter because his young adult son had taken his car the night before and hadn’t brought it back in time for him to drive to the bus stop.

Don’t get me wrong, I know these parents love their kids. I don’t doubt that for a second, because why else would they cater to them the way they do, and talk about them incessantly? But I wonder, if they could hear themselves, would they be so quick to insist that I would somehow be making my life immeasurably better by having kids too? Or is this simply a case where misery loves company?

Shhh… Don’t Tell Anyone!

One of the hardest problems I’ve faced in going childfree is telling people. I’ve touched on this in my past post, but reactions generally fall into three categories:

Category 1: Smug Disbelief
These are the people who say things like, “You’ll change your mind.” Or, “Talk to me in 10 years. I bet you’ll have kids.” Or, “You’re still young; you don’t know what you want yet.” So, what you’re telling me is that I don’t have the smallest ounce of self-knowledge? Thanks a lot, ‘friend’.

Category 2: Concern
Hushed voice: “Is it because you can’t?” I actually don’t mind this one. At least the people in this category seem to be genuinely concerned about me, and aren’t parading their self-righteous know-it-all stance in my face. Still, it does strike me as amazing that some people still think that the primary reason not to have a child is biological.

Category 3: Outright Hostility
This one doesn’t show up too often (thankfully), and generally only occurs after I’ve protested that, yes, I am sure, and no, I won’t be changing my mind. This is where the accusations of selfishness, cowardice and soullessness come in. This one is generally the hardest to deal with, because it combines the self-righteousness of Category 1 with anger and defensiveness. These are the people who view anything other than their vision of the One True Way as an attack. Because somehow, in their minds, me not having children is somehow about them. Right.

For the longest time I used to placate these people. It was easier to give a vague answer like, “Well, I’m still on the fence,” or “I might change my mind,” just to avoid conflict. But lately I’ve been trying a different way. I’m still trying to avoid conflict (although that isn’t always possible with the people who have a chip on their shoulder), but I’m starting to stand up for my choice. Sure, I am getting a lot more Category 3’s that way, but at least I’m not lying about who I am and the choices I’ve made.

So what do I say when the subject comes up? I say that I’ve given it a lot of thought, and children aren’t for me or my partner. That’s it, that’s all. When I get the inevitable pushback, I just repeat again that I’ve considered whatever points they’re bringing up and leave it at that. And if they get angry or defensive? Well, then its time to consider whether these are the people you want in your life. Because people don’t have to understand why I’ve made the choice to be childfree; they just have to respect it.

Childfree by Choice: It’s a Big Deal

The reason I decided to write this blog is because being childfree by choice is far from accepted in most cultures these days. A person in their late-twenties who doesn’t want children? And a partner who agrees? The sheer idea of it is absurd in our current culture of Mommy Worship.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not ‘against’ having children. In fact, I think it’s the most important, life-changing decision any person can make. And while I do think that a lot of people make that choice without enough thought, at least having a child is always welcomed by society. But if a person seriously contemplates having children and then decides to live childfree by choice, that decision is not so well tolerated. You’re not believed, told it’s a passing phase, or called selfish. The worst was probably when I was called soulless and in need of professional counseling… by my parents.

So yes, deciding to be childfree is a big deal.

This blog is for anyone who’s in the same situation, or anyone who’s trying to decide whether going childfree is for them. You may be childfree, but you’re not alone.