Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Beneath the Surface: A Two-Prong Theory

One of the frustrations frequently expressed by CF folks is that their decision to be childfree is not taken seriously. How often have you proudly declared your childfree status only to be told, "You'll change your mind" or "you just have to find the right man" or "you'll feel differently when you have your own"? How many times have you received looks of pity for your choice when you are actually quite happy with it? How many times have you been asked how many kids you have or plan to have in the future (instead of whether you have or want them)?

Did you ever stop to wonder why the childed put up such resistance to our choice to be childfree? Did you ever think about why our declaration of childfreedom provokes such shock and an insistent need to convert us? Why do they care so much? If they see that we are happy and satisfied in our lives and with our decision to be childfree, they should be happy for us, right? But they're not. Our happiness only provokes an urgent need in them to invalidate our choice and influence us to join their team.

I've thought about this a lot and I have come up with a two-prong theory:

Misery loves company.

and

Why didn't I think of that?

Prong 1: Misery loves company. Parents work overtime to convince everyone who will listen that parenthood is the greatest joy in life and that one cannot know true joy and fulfillment until one has had a child. This message gets passed down from generation to generation and each successive generation gets reeled right in - hook, line and sinker. Amazingly, very few people question this message. Problem is, the reality of parenthood falls far short from the nirvana it is purported to be. For the most part childrearing is a nightmare. Just look around you at the people you know with kids. How blissful does their life appear to you? Is their life better (or worse) since they became parents? Do they seem happier and more fulfilled than they were in their pre-kids days? Most of the people I know who are parents have suffered a serious downgrade in happiness and fulfillment since their kids were born. Research even bears this out. A small number of parents are brave enough to admit to the downgrade, but most, knowing there is no turning back, live in a perpetual state of denial, repeating the "parenthood is the ultimate fulfillment" mantra in order to convince themselves that they did the right thing by having kids, when deep inside they know they are screwed.

That's why they try so hard to convince us that we will change our minds, or that we don't know what we are missing. Misery loves company. It's not that they consciously wish us unhappiness, but convincing us to have kids keeps everyone on a level playing field. It's easier to delude oneself into thinking one is happy when one is surrounded by equally miserable people. But throw a happy, unencumbered, self-actualized, free spirit into the mix and the stark contrast becomes a reality smack down - like holding a mirror up to a train wreck.

Then there's Prong 2 of my theory: Why didn't I think of that? I truly believe that much of the parents' fuel to invalidate and convert the childfree comes from resentment that we had the independence of mind to evade the parental prison sentence, while the thought never occurred to them. The idea to forego having kids is such a great and simple concept that really only takes a couple of brain cells to put together. You mean a person can choose not to have kids? I've actually witnessed the stunned speechlessness in parents at the moment they realize that having kids is a choice. It simply never dawns on most people. So when confronted with this realization in the face of a person who has actually made the choice to be childfree (and is all the happier for it), the parent wants to kick himself for not thinking of this himself.

But since parenthood is irreversible and since nobody likes to feel badly about themselves, they don't kick themselves. They kick us, telling us we are confused, misinformed and selfish, will change our minds, don't know what true happiness is, don't know what we are missing, and don't have our priorities straight. It's jealousy disguised as pompousness, but sadly many childfree folks take these messages to heart, dragging themselves around with slumped shoulders, like they are human defects that owe the world a big apology.
Assuming there is truth to my theory, this is my message to you, my childfree friends: hold tightly to your convictions, stand up tall and hold your head high. Embrace with pride the life you have chosen, and give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back for bucking the status quo. Question the motives of those who would try to convince you to take their path. Sometimes their real motive lies just beneath the blustery surface and oftentimes, you will find that you don't even have to scratch too deeply to reveal it.

51 comments:

sara star said...

In the older novels I read, (even Nancy Drew, not that old, the 20's right?), Couples without children, bachelors and spinsters (without the negative connotation, endearingly toned) are taken as a matter of course. They play the parts of both friends, acquaintances and villains. Childless couples, and unmarried singles are a part of the landscape. I do truly think our extremely consumerist and therefore pro-natalist society is to blame for the weird reactions to the childfree.

Frugalista said...

You make some great points. I too don't know if I want any kids and since I seem to be so ambivalent (along with my fiance) I am thinking maybe it's a sign that we shouldn't. The only thing I wonder is this. Does this mean that I have worsened the quality of life for my parents and made them miserable to the point that they regret having had 3 of us? No parent would probably want to admit it was a mistake but I do feel that my parents (maybe now that the child rearing is over) are happy that they had us and have a family to gather for holidays etc. My mom love us to pieces and always have. I know you probably aren't saying parents don't love their kids though. I do know women that say having a child is the best thing they ever did and they are happy not to have missed out on such an experience. Are they lying? If anyone has some insight or comments on this I would love to hear it.

Childfreeeee said...

Of course people love their kids and most people (even the ones who have admitted to me that they wouldn't have kids if they could do it all over again) qualify the statement by saying they love their kids. My parents love me too, yet my dad admitted to me once (out of earshot of my mom) that if he had to do it all over again, he would do what I am doing (i.e. not have kids). This didn't hurt my feelings because I knew he wasn't saying he didn't love me. He was speaking about the lifestyle and when everything is weighed out, the costs of having kids outweigh the benefits.

I think that's really what it comes down to - a cost/benefit analysis. You have to really think through the costs and benefits of having kids and if you think the benefits will outweigh the costs, go for it. I think for most people, though, the costs outweigh the benefits and that is why you see the lower levels of happiness and well-being and marital satisfaction among people with kids.

Childfreeeee said...

Oh, and I also wanted to add that you can have the family togetherness, family gatherings at holidays, etc. without having kids. I am not a mother, but I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a niece, a cousin and a friend, so there is no shortage of family gatherings to attend (and cook for, and give and receive gifts, and enjoy warm dinners with loved ones). The idea that one has to have kids to experience the joy of family is a fallacy.

Dave said...

The two reasons you listed were the first two which came to my mind, too. However, I can think of a third one which would prompt the "You'll change your mind one day" bingo (mainly to those who are on the younger side, 20s):

Those bingoing people have heard many 20-somethings say they won't ever have kids only to pop out one or more kids years later, thereby lessening the believability (in their minds) of the statement even if it is said with total truthfulness.

I am glad I have a family which never put pressure on me to have kids. Being male is helpful, too. Having a younger brother who got married at 24 but did not have a kid until he nearly 36 would have deflected any bingos, although I don't know if his inlaws put pressure on thm.

Surfie said...

Excellent argument, and I'm sure it's pretty accurate too. I reeeeeally hate the "You'll change your mind" people. I was shopping one day and saw a woman I used to work with. She saw my wedding bands and remembered that I had now been married several years and asked me how many kids I had. I told her none and that we won't ever be having any. She made this smug little simpering look and sing-songed "You'll change your mind!" NO I WON'T! I'm 32 years old, and I have never, ever, ever wanted kids. There was never a time in my life that I was even "unsure". As a child when I played house, I didn't play mom - I played housewife with NO KIDS. Some people, even when they are very young, DO know their own minds. Why can't these people understand that?

I wish they would read your blog so maybe they could finally understand why so many of us do not want kids.

Fanboy Wife said...

It's surprising how many people don't choose to have children - they just do. I have a few friends who ask me every now and then, “So you don’t think you’re going to have kids… ever?” I just tell them that I’ll consider it once I have too much time and money, which makes them laugh.

cn said...

great article:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2010/06/09/127600351/cost-to-raise-a-child-300-000

djmist said...

When I hear the bingo "You don't know what you are missing," I respond with "You don't know what you are missing either." Because no one knows what it is like to live another person's life. People with children do not know what the pleasures of living a childfree life, at least through an entire adulthood, are like.

TinFinger said...

After reading about the Childfree way of life over the past few months, I'm convinced that I would prefer a life without children. Unfortunately, I found this out after already being in a wonderful relationship with my girlfriend of two years (when we got together I was still on the fence, but figured I'd end up having one if she wanted one). Now, my days are spent feeling like I'm between a rock and a hard place. I don't want to lose my wonderful girlfriend (who'd I'd marry in a heartbeat if it wasn't for the kid issue), but I also don't want to gain a child.

Unfortunately, all the literature/articles/and blogs I'm finding hardly take into account the difficulty of making this decision while in a healthy relationship (in which the partner does want a child).

I'll probably be making the decision to have a child (I'm fortunate that my girlfriend only wants one), and I can only hope that my happiness and well-being don't suffer too much.

mrs misty said...

am a married thirty-something and my husband and I have decided we do not want kids I have heard all the "you will change your mind" and the "you don’t know what you are missings" and have never wavered in our decision, Here recently I have been spending a lot of time with my MOM & Grandmother (who have NEVER pressured me one way or the other) and I see how their lives, at 60 and 88 respectively, would be drastically different. Both of whom have had there husbands pass (as I am now noticing in most cases women outlive men) wondering who would take them to DR's appts, the store, the hair salon? Who would go out to lunch with them or keep them company I know this is a shallow reason to have kids but I don't want to end up a lonely senior citizen. How far do friendships go to replace family in the end?

newyorkerforlife said...

A friend just sent me the URL to this article, has anyone else read it yet?
http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/should-this-be-the-last-generation/

You should blog a response to that article, I think it open up the floor to some lively debate! :)

Tom said...

TinFinger, let me be blunt: no partner is worth ruining your life over. If she is dead-set on having children, you need to run screaming right now. The pain of a breakup lessens with time, and there are more people out there who you could be happy with — but parenthood is forever.

Childfreeeee said...

Mrs. Misty,

In answer to your question, childfree people, by nature of having more time for friendships and interests (due to not having kids) have more time to develop meaningful relationships with others - friends and family members - who can help them out (and whom they can help out as well). Even if one did not have a lot of friends or family members to help them out, not having kids frees up TONS of money - money that can be socked away for retirement and for paying for the appropriate help/care if that is needed.

I must say, I agree with Tom in his advice to TinFinger. Kids are forever and they change everything about your life. It's no small change, even with only one child. No matter how wonderful a relationship is, IMO the kid isssue is a deal-breaker. Both parties should agree on kids or move on. It's a cliche to say "there are plenty of fish in the sea" but it's true. You just have to be diligent in looking (and specific early on with dates that you do not want kids).

Childfreeeee said...

Newyorkerforlife - that is a really interesting article and worth a discussion. I have often questioned the idea that we MUST reproduce so the human race will continue. Why must the human race continue? Look at all the damage we have done to the earth. The earth and all it's non-human inhabitants would be far better off if we became extinct.

Frugalista said...

misty-I totally agree with you on wondering about that whole old age thing. Childfreeeee made the comment that you don't need kids to enjoy family holidays etc which is true. I just hadn't really thought about it b/c I am not as close with extended family-mostly due to geography. This means you really do need to foster those relationships. You don't always know that your kids ARE going to be close enough or even willing and able to help you out in your old age but you figure that they are your best bet unless you are SUPER SUPER close with extended family & friends. Kids are the only ones who might feel that obligatory tug to do those things-since you gave them life and all. No guarantee but again, likely your best bet.

Childfreeeee said...

That's true, and also...many people don't even get along with their parents or want anything to do with them once they are grown. Having kids is no guarantee of anything.

Ame-chan said...

As an 18-year-old, I get the "you'll change your mind" argument all the time. I've known my entire life that I do not want children, but because of my age, older adults are less inclined to take my decision seriously. A few years ago, I mentioned to my grandmother and great-grandmother how I feel about having children, and the response was, "Oh, well So-and-so said she wasn't going to have kids too, but now she has six. You'll change your mind when you're older." They completely dismissed and devalued my decision because I'm a teenager. To them, my not wanting kids is just another "rebellious teen phase". I wish there were some easy way to convince people that I'm serious, but it seems that sticking to my guns as I grow older is the only way.

CFVixen said...

Excellent post!! I've often thought many of the same things, but never put my thoughts together so coherently! I truly do believe that misery loves company. And like you said, it's not always that the other person wants you to be miserable, but they want you to understand and "be one of them."

Also, so often people don't THINK. Hey, do we REALLY have to have kids? Ummmm....not really. And so, yes, there are a lot of people thinking "why didn't I think of that!"

Restless Cynicism said...

Amen to that - so true!!! I'm totally sticking to my guns, life is GREAT without kids :D

Restless Cynicism said...

The blog doesn't touch on the question of love, and the case of when two people fall head over heels, the instinct kicks in to have a child together, that need to become a part of the other person who you have such deep feelings for. People don't always choose to have kids because they are "following the crowd" or feeling peer pressure (although many DO), there is a chunk of it down to good old-fashioned luuuurve and an uncontrollable NEED to breed with the one you love.

There is also the other side of the coin where the parents may actually BE happy with their kids and their decision to have them, and they want you to also share that happiness (of course they assume that your kids would automatically make you happy). This would be the equivalent of me and pet rats - I LOVE ratties, they are marvellous pets, cute snuggly intelligent loving, I'd recommend them to everyone as a pet. So because *I* feel this way about ratties I'd tell other people who are considering a pet "oooh you should get ratties they are fab!!" But most people say "ew rats, no way, not my thing" in which case I totally respect their choice even though part of me thinks "what a shame, they'll miss out on a fab little pet". However I would NEVER get militant and corner them and demand to know WHY they don't want rats as pets. So the same could be said of women who try to push kids on the CF, because in their minds we ARE missing out on the happiness they may be feeling. Of course, this is the flipside to the UNHAPPY parent who does want you to "feel their pain" ;o)

Childfreeeee said...

Restless,

The problem is, most people claim having kids is so wonderful and we should not miss out on the experience, are the same people we can observe with our own eyes and see that they are run down, miserable, stressed out and broke.

In fact, I have noticed that the people who holler the loudest about the necessity of having kids are the ones who are the most miserable. The few parents I have met who truly seem happy in their role have never tried to convince me or invalidate my feelings.

Christy said...

"The few parents I have met who truly seem happy in their role have never tried to convince me or invalidate my feelings."

This thought is very true for me. Excellent post.

I feel like the older the children get, the more likely the parents are to cheer me on for my cf choice. With newer parents, it's like they are biologically unable to be objective. Which I guess is good for their children, but I get sick of hearing about it, so I have very few friendships with new parents.

I'm kind of on the fence about the "you'll change your mind" thing. I tend to also doubt others who claim they don't want children, but at least I keep this doubt to myself. It's just that I have encountered so many young people and women especially, who have changed their minds about having children. I will be friends with them regardless, expecting the worst, then if they stick to their guns, I will be pleasantly surprised! I've decided that losing friends to children is just a part of my life.

When people tell me I'll change my mind, it doesn't bother me too much. I tell them I remember telling my mother when I was five that I didn't want any babies. I also like to say, "what if you change your mind about having had children?" if they absolutely won't shut up about it.

I don't know if the choice to have children is ever just a result of a feeling of love. Not from the footage I've seen. There is always an ulterior motive.

Tinfinger's post made me so sad. I also don't believe a lot of women (or men) when they say they only want one. Once again, they seem to never follow through on that one. I would hate to have to change so much for someone who supposedly loves me.

Erin said...

Just last evening I strolled around my neighborhood with a group of friends for our city's jazz festival. We stopped in art galleries, restaurants, a bookstore, a piano bar to listen to incredible live jazz.

So when someone tells me "you don't know what you're missing" [by being childfree] I honestly and easily respond, "I'm not missing anything!"

TinFinger said...

I appreciate all of the insight and words of caution. My girlfriend did want 2-3 children, but eventually folded under my refusal to have more than one. She's making a sacrifice to only have one, and now it's my turn to sacrifice my desire for zero. Seems ridiculous, actually, now that I type it out: bargaining with a child's life that I don't even want...

SnarkShark said...

Hi! Brand new commenter - just recently found your blog through Happily Childfree. I really enjoy your writing and the commentary.

You make great points.

My problem with justification of my choice to certain people is that, right now, I'm not as happy with my life as I could be, but I'm taking steps to remedy that. But when childed people smirk and say well, your life isn't all that great without kids, now , is it? They're partially right.

But I can always make my life better, and I know that a child would make becoming the person I want to be all that much harder. Because I don't want them. I think every child has the right to be wanted.

Why is "I don't want them" not enough? And forgetting defending yourself, then you're "protesting too much". Ugh.

Childfreeeee said...

TinFinger,

There really is no compromising when it comes to having kids. You either become a parent, or you don't. In your case, you have convinced yourself that both you and your girlfriend are compromising by having one child, but really, YOU are doing most of the compromising. It's a HUGE leap from no children to one child. It's life altering. The leap from one to two isn't such a big deal.

SnarkShark,

Nobody's life is perfect and nobody claims that the childfree life is 100% bliss all the time. But too many people rely on having kids as a way to create a life for themselves, because they are too lazy or un-creative to come up with any more interesting ideas. They choose to live vicariously through their children instead of living their own life.

If you are not happy with your life right now, imagine how LESS happy you would be with 100 times the responsibility, expense, stress and upheaval that comes with having a kid!

Gumby said...

First, I hope Surfie set that idiot straight! ;)

Second, I seriously worry about TinFinger. As Childfreee mentioned, going from one to two isn't really much of a leap. So how do you know that it will stay one?

You make a huge concession and have one that you don't even want and then how do you know it won't turn into "Well we already have one and that's not so bad, is it?? I really think little junior needs a little brother or siiiisssterrr!"

Or WORSE yet, you aren't even consulted - she just stops her pills and OOPS! "OMG, I can't belieeeve it! I'm PREGNANT again! Oh, I SO didn't plan THIS!"

You may think she's incapable of this kind of thing but can you really be sure? People sometimes do some crazy things to get what they want - or just to "win"...

Jenn said...

Childfreee, I totally agree with your comment from June 9th about not needing children to enjoy family. I too find that having cousins, parents, extended family to hang out with is pleasurable enough without having to have your own children.

ElizabethR1533 said...

Another great blog! I get heartily sick of people (mostly women) who, when I say that I'm happily child-free by choice, say "so far" or "at the minute", etc etc.
I have always been "unsure" up until I was 30, and then definitely turned to the "No" camp. But I think I was always already there.
The deal-breaker was when my friend, who has a 5 year old boy, told me "If you're unsure, DON'T!" And whilst she doesn't exactly regret having her son, and obviously loves him, she says when she looks back, she wouldn't have made the same decision.

C said...

TinFinger,
If you're still reading, I just wanted to add to the words of caution against "compromising" with a child's life. My brother did this, and he has been miserable ever since. Then there was a second "oops" baby 3 years later, and his life became even MORE miserable. He has told me several times "never have kids!" He got a vasectomy after the second "oops" child. He and his wife used to be so happy, and now they fight all the time. She even asked for a divorce awhile back, but I guess they've worked it out. My brother works 7 days a week now, by choice, just to try to escape. I feel so bad for him... every time I visit him, I am so grateful and relieved that I get to go back home to my nice quiet life at the end of the day.

charmed said...

I considered compromising for a while with my boyfriend who really wants kids. But I ultimately decided I just couldn't do it. It would make me miserable and that would make him miserable which would make the child miserable also. I don't want to live a life I know I would hate just to keep him. So I decided if he wants to be with me he just has to accept me as I am and that I don't want kids. I even tried suggesting we adopt an older child(way down the line, only been together three years and not married yet) and he said we could adopt a 2nd child but he wants one by me that I have to give birth to. Screw that! I don't really even want to adopt I was just trying to figure out a way to have one without actually getting pregnant. its not worth the compromise if you know it will make you hate life. What's the point of having a kid with someone just to keep them b/c you love them and then spending the next how ever many years in misery and unhappy. you should be able to be happy with the person you love and if you can't what's the point?

TinFinger said...

C,

Thank you for that helpful information. Since commenting here last week, I have desperately searched for male perspectives on my issue (specifically from males who have experienced the effects of compromising).

Fortunately, I came across a few revealing stories that convinced me not to procreate, and the "break up" talks with my girlfriend have already begun. I've basically tossed the ball in her court, and she has to decide if she wants me or a child.

My main concern was: "what if the baby comes into the world and I'll be overcome with a joy I've never known before." Naive, perhaps, but it was a very real worry that I might be throwing away a great relationship and a wonderful experience. After reading stories like yours, though, I'm now convinced that the baby would come out and I'd be consigned to a life of hell.

Frugalista said...

I am SO LOVING all of this great commentary on the subject of having children or NOT. I am still so confused but I think it is really helping me to work towards some semblance of clarity. It's so great to see there are others out there who are ambivalent or flat out don't want them AND to be reassured that life can be very good if not better without them.

Gumby said...

TinFinger,

I'm sorry to hear that this may be the end of your relationship but glad you are having "the talks."

Compromising on such an important and life-altering decision really would not be fair to either one of you.

If she really wants children, she should be able to be with someone who wants the same thing so she can have a chance at a happy life.

If you really DON'T want children, you should be with someone who also doesn't want them (or at least doesn't care at all one way or the other) so that you can have a chance at a happy life shared with a partner with similar goals and beliefs.

I wish you the best of luck. :)

Childfreeeee said...

I echo Gumby's sentiments. You are doing the right thing, not only for yourself, but for your girlfriend and the future child(ren). IF she really is determined to have kids, she and the children deserve to have a husband and father whose heart is fully into being a parent because parenthood is not something a person should enter into half-heartedly (or reluctantly).


My best to you, TinFinger.

C said...

TinFinger,
You're welcome. I'm sorry that the child issue means the end of an otherwise great relationship - but for people like my brother, compromising still wound up ending an otherwise great relationship anyway, except that now he's trapped in that ended relationship (he doesn't want a divorce). Without kids, you can just walk away... once they're born, that is no longer an option. So as much as it sucks now, I think you'll be better off in the long run.

I do think that "what if the baby comes into the world and I'll be overcome with a joy I've never known before" is a reasonable thing to consider though. That COULD happen, although IMO it's unlikely (unless it's been a pattern in your life for you to be surprised by how much you actually love things you were sure you'd hate).

If you have your doubts, try babysitting for a friend or relative's infant or toddler for a full weekend (all day, and all night). It can be a truly eye-opening experience. Either you'll realize that you truly could learn to love it, or you'll spend the entire weekend wishing you were having a root canal instead. A male friend of mine who was on the fence about kids did this - he'd never even changed a diaper before - and he was shocked by how soul crushingly boring it was, an by how exhausted he was by the constant demand for his time and attention.

Childfreeeee said...

But C,

It's different when they're your own!!!

C said...

Childfreeeee,
True - when they're your own, there are "no give-backs, no returns." :P

TinFinger said...

C,

I cracked up when I read: "unless it's been a pattern in your life for you to be surprised by how much you actually love things you were sure you'd hate."

I can't say this has been a pattern, myself.

Actually, one of the key factors in my decision was hanging out with my girlfriend's nephew (he's now a little over one year old). I admit that I would always enjoy teasing him and laughing at his nonsense...for about ten minutes. After which I would lose all interest and try to start up conversations with the surrounding adults (who seemed to continuously be enthralled by the mundanity of the small man's hijinks).

I appreciate all the well-wishes. I'm already experiencing the heartbreak of a breakup (even though it's not final, yet), but thinking of a life with a child keeps me strong. At least I'll know to be more careful (by communicating my childfree choice) if I ever meet someone else in the future!

Gumby said...

TinFinger,

You got one thing wrong - it's not "if I ever meet someone else in the future"
but WHEN you find someone else.

You seem like an intelligent, self-aware, considerate guy. I'm sure it won't take too long before some special lady (with similar goals, of course) sees this! :)

Best of luck to you!

lauracarroll said...

Love the post! It seems that the "Why didn't I think of that?" could precede "misery loves company." People to readily do what society tells them to do without enough independence of mind, have kids, then realize gee may I should have thought harder about it. And you are right--then they are stuck, so it becomes easy to join in the others who are doing so much "sacrificing" and judge those who took a path they may very likely secretly wish they would had taken had they done more than just go with the crowd of what everyone is supposed to do. I agree with sara star too-- that all of this is driven by powerful pronatalist values. If society was run on other values that are not so child-centric, we'd likely see smarter parenthood decisions ~ Laura
Families of Two lauracarroll.com

Childfreeeee said...

Posting this for a reader who does not have/want a Google account, so emailed me the comment to post:

"A few years ago, our guide in Xi'an -- on finding out we were a family of two -- asked if we wanted to stop by a local orphanage for a visit. His meaning was clear: we would be able to pick out/up a child as easily as I had silk scarves earlier that day on the way back from viewing the Terracotta Army. How wonderful to return to the West (in our case the UK ) where there is actual acceptance of our stance. Well, not a lot, but Brits aren't quite as pointed in their questions IMO.

During our time in Asia (2 years, not by choice but for my Better Half's work) I found the best response to be 'the universe unfolds as it should'. You can get away with a great deal if you make your answers sound Confucius-ish (the quote is from a Babylon 5 episode, but we'll gloss over that for now). My husband was in a position of great authority and visibility during this time so I never wanted my actions or words to reflect badly on him. ‘Face’ is all in Asia .

Folk -- often people we'd only JUST met -- wallowed in puzzlement as they tried to wrap their heads round why we wouldn't want to at least adopt if we were unable to do the job ourselves. Given the vast cultural differences, I found it easy to 'forgive' them their intrusive manner on this most private issue.

Our peeps in the USA and UK now seem far less annoying when this matter comes up. Yes, the two countries are child-centric but it is but a shadow of the horror, pity and 'aren't Westerners strange' attitudes we endured over on the other side of the planet. I never felt malice from any of those people…but the pity was tough to graciously swallow.

For young couples I offer this hope: it should get better once you are older. Stand firm. Our marriage of 18 years grows stronger by the year and I am utterly convinced it is because we are a family of two."

caroline said...

I am a 39 yr old CF woman and every once in a while when I feel the despair in a pronatalistic culture I search the internet for support for my own choice. Its such a relief and joy to come across blogs like yours!Thabkyou for making my day!

caroline said...

I am a 39 yr old CF woman and every once in a while when I feel the despair in a pronatalistic culture I search the internet for support for my own choice. Its such a relief and joy to come across blogs like yours! Thank you for making my day!

Ellie said...

This is my favorite post you've written. You absolutely nailed it!

CFJ said...

I like your two-pronged theory, especially the second part. Having kids is such an intrinsic part of this b.s. "life script" we're all fed when we're young that I think childfreedom is just completely inconceivable for a lot of people. It's like trying to explain the 3D world to a 2D stick figure drawing.

I think we're met with such outright disbelief because, for these people, the happiness and fulfilled lives of the childfree simply cannot exist in a world where parenthood is considered the ultimate fulfillment. It's cognitive dissonance. Holding two contradictory ideas like that at the same time is really uncomfortable, and people soothe their own discomfort with flat denial, instead of giving it some thought and realizing, "Hey, maybe the choices I've made aren't the best for everybody, live and let live."

Michelle said...

I think if you don't want to have children, that is fine. However, you speak on the experience of having children as if you have had them, and you haven't, so what you are saying is pure speculation. (but this is your blog so you are free to write WHATEVER you want of course!)
Sure, parents get stressed out- I got stressed out at my jobs as well. But I didn't love the people I worked with- one bonus here is that while I may get stressed, I love my family above anything else in this world. There are parents that don't want to be parents and struggle through it...there are those of us that honestly, down-deep, no lie, wouldn't trade it for anything. I've had the other life. I'll take my husband AND children over being childless any day.
On your Top 100 reasons list, you do have one thing right, and that's never having to lose a child. We lost a child and it was the worst thing, but it made us appreciate the ones we have more.

SophieD said...

I think the resistance is much less complicated than what you've suggested here. I think it's simply that none of us like to be told that someone else disagrees with our choice. Those of us without children hate being told this. The comments here support that. And people with children - who may already be feeling guilty that at times they undoubtedly wish they didn't have them - hate being told that not everyone thinks their decision to have kids was right.

I have to say, I'm also really disturbed at the reaction to Tinfinger's first comment. The commenters here are doing exactly the same thing to him that we complain parents do to us. Invalidating a decision he has made, to make THEM (US) feel better about their (our) decisions. He admits that he's worried that if he turns away from it, he might regret it. He admits he'd marry his girlfriend in a heartbeat. I have real compassion for this, and don't think he needs to be pushed either way. He needs to work it through with his partner, and make sure he can live with the decision and all its consequences, whatever the decision might be.

I just think we all need some self-awareness here.

harvey_requiem said...

I don't think anyone is "pushing" Tinfinger here. They're just suggesting--wisely--that it's not a good idea to bargain or compromise with potential children. And that it's easy enough to go from 1 to 2 children, but to go from 0 to 1 is a huge jump and a massive life commitment. It may not sound like much when you just say it, and it may seem like a reasonable compromise, but in practice it's a whole other world.

Also, it's been pointed out that one child can easily become two or three or more. I know too many girls who would do this--and some who have--once they've got the guy on the hook for one, it will never end. It's all to easy as a bait-and-switch for the child-obsessed. Again, not too smart if you're not even sure you want them, or are sure you don't.

And it's also been pointed out that the wonderful relationship has a high likelihood of becoming not-so-nice once the kid is born--particularly if he didn't want kids in the first place--and that is definitely something to think about. Because right now, he can walk away, but once the kids are born he's chained for life.

I don't see where people are harrassing him or badgering him in the same manner as the childed do to the childfree. Just pointing out some important considerations. Seriously, having kids is life-changing and a big responsibility and not something to go into on speculation, or as a compromise to save a relationship. You should only have kids if you're sure you want them and know what you're getting into. That's much better advice than the "have them, you'll feel differently once it's irrevocable!" crowd has to offer.

jilren said...

When open minded people ask me about not having children, (NOT the glassy eyed Mombies) I explain that being a bit of a nerd (and I admit, looking for a way to justify in my mind that I was making the right decision before I knew of blogs like this one...)I just started researching the decision.

You wouldn't (Or I wouldn't) make any sort of large scale decision, without looking into the cost / benefit analysis, and of course...the customer reviews. You do this when choosing an area to live in, finding a university, buying a car. Hell, I do this exhaustively when booking a hotel or choosing the right make of dishwasher.

There is a (disputed, but I believe it...) number of 70% of parents that said if they could go back in time, wouldn't do it again. Of all parent age groups, not just the toddler hell stage. WHAT?! If 70%, almost 2/3rds of people gave a holiday resort a bad review, or a make of car..or for me, a freaking tube of mascara...I simply would look at another other option.

And that is the best answer I can give people who keep lobbing the bingo's at me.."Yes, yes, Susie, I know YOU love being a Mommy...but you are the minority out there."

And ps- that 70% number is from an Anne Landers poll done almost 30 years ago... the numbers HAVE NOT gotten better, that is just the most famous (unscientific) study I could think of. As soon as people could speak ANONYMOUSLY...the truth started coming out.