Saturday, March 7, 2009

Courage and Childfree Honesty

Did you ever notice that most childfree people feel the need to be self-deprecating when explaining their status? For example, a person will explain that he is childfree because he isn't parent material - he can barely take care of his houseplants. Or - here's one you hear a lot - "I'm too selfish to have kids" (the next time I hear a childfree person say this, I swear I am going to smack her). Even our friend George Clooney, who I just featured in my Childfree Celebrity Spotlight, while vocally childfree, was careful to point out that he doesn't have the qualities that are required for being a good parent and described how much he admires people with those qualities. In other words, "parenthood is wonderful, but I'm not wonderful enough to be a parent". We all understand why childfree folks are self-deprecating. Withering under the harsh glare of critical outsiders, it makes us less uncomfortable, and makes our childfree status more palatable, if we laugh it away as a character defect.

For once, I would like to hear a childfree person stand up proudly and tell the truth instead of soft-pedaling and dishing out what they think people can stomach. For once, tell them how great childfreedom is, how we're not childfree because we lack some elusive qualities, but because we are blessed with an abundant ability to think for ourselves and choose wisely. And while you're at it, tell them how we really feel about parenthood. I am going to start. Would you like to join me? If so, please post your own statement in a comment.

This is my declaration of childfree honesty:

I am childfree because I think parenthood is the most over-rated and over-glorified brainwashing scam human beings have ever fallen prey to. While there are certainly intrinsic rewards to being a parent, a careful analysis reveals that the cost is far higher than the rewards. I am childfree because life is short and and there are simply many more things I would rather do than to take care of children.

I do not think having a child makes a person selfless and I am keenly aware of the selfishness that motivates people to have children. Both childfree and parents choose to live the life that they believe will make them the most happy, which probably makes both selfish. The difference is, the childfree lifestyle choice is kinder to our planet and childfree people have more time to dedicate themselves to selfless activities which better society as a whole.

I choose not to have children because I think the childfree life is preferable, not because I don't have what it takes to be a good parent. Over the years, many have told me I would make a great mom and evaluate me as "mom material". I am nurturing. I love children and they gravitate to me. I am sensitive to their needs and educated about child psychology and development. I treat children with respect and kindness and I bring out the best in them. I enjoy their company, but I don't need to have them around me 24/7 in order to feel I have a purpose in life. I have come to realize that I enjoy children precisely because I am not a parent.

I do not hold the opinion that everyone should be childfree, but I think our world would be heck of a lot better off if more people were. Although parents would like us to believe that they are making a huge contribution to humanity by having children, I do not share that opinion. Our planet is overpopulated, overheated and overpolluted to the point that we are teetering on the edge of extinction, not to mention that when I look around at most people, I think at least 60% of them have no business being parents. Witnessing the dysfunctional interactions with their children, it's likely their children will grow up to be detriments to society, rather than contributors to it. And let's face it, although every parent likes to dream that her child will be the one to grow up to cure cancer, the odds of that are 1 in a million - actually higher when one considers that there are almost 7 billion people living on the planet and we're still waiting for that cure. As George Carlin says in one of my favorite stand-up routines, "Kids are like any other group of people - a few winners, and a whole lot of losers."

I do not perceive reproduction and childbirth as a "miracle", nor do I see it as an accomplishment, although most parents enjoy thinking of it this way for obvious reasons. Reproduction is a biological function common to all living beings and frankly, it's so ordinary. Dogs do it. Rats do it. Mosquitoes do it. I am far more impressed with people whose accomplishments actually require some talent, intelligence, effort and thought.

My declaration may seem harsh, but at least it's honest. You will never hear me say, "I'm too selfish to have kids", "I wouldn't make a good mom", "I am lacking all those wonderful qualities that parents have" because if I did, it would be a load of horseshit. The truth is, I have plenty of wonderful qualities, am no more selfish than the next person, and would make a great mom if I chose to be one. I choose not to be one because I am happier just the way I am.

Thank you for indulging me. I will now step off my soap box.

29 comments:

Britgirl said...

This is an excellent article. So much so that I've reblogged in on Like It Is. I hope you don't mind I quoted from yours, there was so much I agreed with - you are spot on. It's made me think about articulating my own Childfree declaration. Actually writing it down like this is very powerful. Simply, I am childfree because I prefer to be.
Thanks again for an excellent post this is so important.

Mander said...

AWESOME post! I have been doing this too myself and to my husband for years. but the truth is we would be great parents, we have just choosen not to be.

Childfreeeee said...

Britgirl,

I am honored that you "re-blogged" my post...thank you! I think it's an important issue that most of us childfree don't think about, but probably should.

Mander, glad you enjoyed the post and that you and hubby share the mindset.

Kristen said...

I don't even think we need to qualify the decision to remain childfree with the ways it benefits society. Arguing that it's better for the environment, or less selfish, or anything else, is still defending it.

In "How to (not) Have Children" I maintain that absolutely no explanation, no defense, is necessary.

My declaration: I do not want children. Period. Form your own conclusions. You will, anyway.

WaterBishop said...

I think anyone who makes a choice to lead their own life and not be just like the rest of the pack ends up being self deprecating. Which is funny since we live in a time where they take individuality to satirical heights.
Kristen,
yes, a simple "I chose this life because it makes me happy" should be good enough. It's unfortunate so many people won't except that answer.

eyemandy said...

Being selfish is what made me first decide wait to have children. I was in my early 20's and when I mentioned wanting kids to my mom asked me if I'd be willing to forgo shopping for myself in favor of buying the great number of things good parents buy their babies. God no. Back then I thought that I was too selfish to live for another. Now I know it's not selfish; having a baby knowing you don't want to sacrifice your lifestyle would be selfish.

It's just semantics; an over-simplification of an "I'd rather live my life freely than be burdened by the responsibility of being a parent" sentiment. It doesn't mean anything. It certainly isn't anything to get upset about. Saying one's selfish probably underlines a lot of parents' views on child-free people, but who gives a baby poop? Certainly not I. No baby poop anywhere. :)

Feh23 said...

I am childfree because I no desire to anything to do with the process of raising a person to be a productive member of society. The only times I feel I need to justify my decision are when I am asked in a rude manner, or someone attempts to "convert" me.

Me said...

You know I read your blog religiously and agree with much you say.

*ahem*

"Reproduction is a biological function common to all living beings and frankly, it's so ordinary. Dogs do it. Rats do it. Mosquitoes do it. I am far more impressed with people whose accomplishments actually require some talent, intelligence, effort and thought."

So does that mean you're impressed when infertile people have kids?

SwissBarb said...

I'm childfree because I feel no desire to have kids. I love my lifestyle and all the time I can spend doing sports, reading, sleeping, travelling, getting courses about whatever interests me at the moment.
I would get bored to death if I had to follow a kid's soccer game or drawing lesson or whatever. And I do not want to have to associate with other people just because being childed would be something we have in common.

Childfreeeee said...

Kristen, you make a good point that making a declaration is still defending ourselves and we shouldn't have to. I think what is more important to me isn't so much defending myself, but stating the truth about my choice instead of lying about it to make it an easier pill for people to swallow. In other words, saying, "I choose not to parent because the parenthood lifestyle does not appeal to me" rather than "I wouldn't make a good mom". Either way, yes, we are stating a case and we shouldn't have to. What would be interesting would be if more CF people questioned parents (or prospective parents) as to why they WANT to have kids. We'd probably get blank stares.

Childfreeeee said...

WaterBishop...yes, if you say, "I choose this life because it's makes me happy", they look at you like "oh, you poor, confused soul. You just don't know what you are missing."

Childfreeeee said...

eyemandy,

The thing about selfishness...and the reason I get riled up about it is this:

Yes, you may be selfish in preferring to shop for yourself rather than for a baby. But the point is, parents are selfish as well since they choose to be parents for all the wonderful things they perceive they will get from it. They certainly do not choose to be parents because they desire to be broke, or exhausted or stressed out. That's the price they pay for the benefits they seek. Yet, parents get to wear a badge of sainthood and selflessness because they do have to give up so much for their desired benefits.

I have said this before, but the only parenthood I would deem as selfless is the person who can have their own bio children but chooses to adopt instead because they know there are so many unwanted children who need homes. THAT is selflessness.

There is nobody who can convince me that creating a new human being and then taking care of what you created is selfless, no matter what it involves.

Childfreeeee said...

Me,

Although people who successfully undergo fertility treatments accomplish their goal, I can't say they would fall into the category of what I consider "accomplished" people.

firefly said...

I don't often get asked about children, but I do feel a little odd when it happens. I don't try to justify it (I think it's interesting to drop the shoe and see how people react) but making a statement like this is useful and necessary just for knowing your own mind.

My primary reason for not having children is the cultural expectations placed on parents, not a dislike of children. I would be expected to put the kids first and have no life of my own (or struggle to balance the two and deal with the guilt issues).

Parents haven't always been under this load of expectations; my own parents operated under a quite different set of rules, where they had their lives and we were included when appropriate.

I have to agree with the statement that parenthood "is the most over-rated and over-glorified brainwashing scam human beings have ever fallen prey to" but I think that is specific to the time we live in right now. Because women have a choice, the marketing pressure from society is on keeping the status quo going, and no matter what lies must be told to accomplish that, the system will do it.

I therefore hold most parents suspect until they prove that they can think for themselves, and teach children to do the same, rather than just weakly falling under the marketing spell and doing what's expected.

Sara said...

- I do not hold the opinion that everyone should be childfree, but I think our world would be heck of a lot better off if more people were.

Bravo!
Excellent post which echoes so many of my thoughts as well.

Imagine this: the next time someone informs you that they are pregnant, say "Really? Why?!" I suspect they won't appreciate the irony.

Sea_creature said...

Ah yes, self deprecation... Being that I've recently embraced the fact that I do not want children, under any circumstances (I managed to use birth control correctly for several years! Yay me!), I am guilty of it.

I am childfree because do not care to add to the mess that humanity has already created. I am disgusted by mans capacity for evil and his complete and total disrespect for our Mother Earth. I have absolutely no desire to raise another human being in what is becoming a horrible world. I sometimes struggle to make it through the day myself, why on earth would I want to be responsible for the wellbeing of another person?

And, of course, I like things just the way they are. Why complicate things? I like to sleep, I like to have free time... The thought of a needy child disrupting my much needed peace scares the crap out of me. I'm so happy to have discovered (at 30 - 31) what I knew all along, that I DON'T want kids and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it!

Anne-Marie said...

Great post. I think it's so important not to have to justify our choices to anyone but to ourselves. Unfortunately, it's a very judgemental world out there.

We went from being childless to deciding not to bother with all the "treatments" and poking and prodding that they would involve, and finally realised we were actually childfree, since the idea of adoption and fostering didn't interest us when it finally came down to it. We seem to dodge the usual questions from longtime friends before we did try for a while before just getting on with our lives and finding that we liked them just fine as they were.

If I had a declaration, it would be: I am childfree because I want a different life than the one I would have raising a child.

-AM

Me said...

You said that you are

"impressed with people whose accomplishments actually require some talent, intelligence, effort and thought."

IVF requires LOTS of ALL of those things.

I generally agree with your assessment that reproducing is ordinary. However, that is not true for the subfertile. Indeed NOT having children would be the easy and ordinary thing for such individuals to do. The emotional, physical and financial dedication necessary to undergo Advanced Reproductive Technologies is quite extraordinary.

Childfreeeee said...

Hi Me,

There's no doubt that pursuing fertility treatments requires lots of money, commitment and determination and probably a lot of sweat and tears - I won't argue with you about that. But let's agree to disagree about what constitutes an "accomplished person", because I still would not classify someone as an "accomplished person" simply because they accomplished getting pregnant.

I guess our ideas of what "accomplished" means are just different and that's okay.

Catwhispering said...

"The emotional, physical and financial dedication necessary to undergo Advanced Reproductive Technologies is quite extraordinary."

So is the emotional, physical, and financial dedication necessary to become a world-class figure skater. Society tends to see becoming a figure skater, however, as a personal fulfillment option, not a necessity. But that's what having children is, too: a personal lifestyle choice.

You speak of the ordeal of infertility treatments as if it's something you took on out of altruism. This is something you pursue out of a personal whim to have a child with your own genetic material. There is nothing either altruistic or morally exemplar about pursuing extreme, invasive, and costly measures to have a child with your own DNA.

Explosive Bombchelle said...

I do not feel the need to justify why I don’t have kids but I do try to be open and share those reasons as much as I can to create debate, open communication channels, and promote the childfree life as a true choice. If we are all more honest others who are on the fence or feel isolated in their desires not to have children will realize they have allies in this child-centric world. Some of the reasons I don’t have/want to have children relate to children themselves and some, while somewhat self-depreciating, relate to me. The things I want to accomplish in life (travel, read, maintain friendships, write, etc.) are mutually exclusive with the ability to raise healthy and happy children (some might say that is selfish, but I think it’s more selfish to have children you never spend time with). I find children rather boring. Pregnancy and childbirth, although “natural,” is utterly and completely disgusting. I don’t think so highly of my genetic makeup that I have a desire to bestow it on the next generation. I don’t think I would make a “good mother” but that doesn’t seem to stop other women from having kids.

For those who are interested I have written a few pieces on my childfree journey, one related to this one:
I’m Not Kidding

The rest of my childfree work:
Childfree Choice

Suffolk Punch said...

This is a blinder! I have taken a copy of your article and presented it to Childfree Living UK. I hope that is ok?
I like the reasoning - childfreedom makes me happy as I like my quiet time.
There is an option to just being a mother/father. Pity some people don't think before they do.
Some great articles on here, I'm still ploughing through them.

bjork hater said...

Love your article! So much of what you wrote is exactly how I feel!

Kristyn said...

I think it's a defense mechanism to say, "I'm childfree, because...." There're so many people waiting to berate the choice to be childfree. The "you'll change your mind" and the "it's different when it's your own." I know for me it's a defense mechanism.

You're right, though, it's not always truthful. I like the idea of a childfree declairation. Mind if I blog mine, too? It might help to put things into perspective.

By the way, I found you by way of "Like It Is." :)

Stella said...

Bravo.

You echo my sentiments exactly.

A said...

greetings! found your declaration from Britgirl's site. bravo for your declaration. mine is my very first post.

L4UR4 said...

Great post! It takes a lot of courage to tell people that you choose to not follow the "norm".

Personally, I liken having children to having a religion - some find comfort and meaning in it; others don't.

To tell a parent that you don't want kids is like telling a Christian that you're an atheist. I would guess that this is why most childfree people are self-deprecating - fear of an ugly conflict with a devotee.

For me, I am childfree for hundreds of reasons, all of which add up to the general theme of my life being better this way.

Irene U.L. said...

I don't think adopting a child is selfless. Normally the ones who do it are people with fertility issues, otherwise they would have biological ones. They do it because they seek the same rewards from them as all parents. If they were truly selfless, they would contribute to improve those children lives by donating money or whatever, rather than separating them from their roots, community or their empoverished biological parents.

cosmetics said...

This blog is like a blow in the stomach of reproductive fascism. Well done and thank you for sharing your thoughts with the world :)