One of the negative stereotypes about childfree individuals is that we are immature and not fully developed adults, the idea being that becoming a parent is an essential step to becoming an adult and until a person has a child, she is forever locked in a childlike state. Lori Bradley, in her recent post Does Having Kids Make You Old? smartly observes that in many cases the opposite is true, and many people seem to use parenthood as an excuse to avoid aspects of mature adulthood.
I don't find parents who give up career, friends, and adult interests particularly mature. Many parents seem to launch themselves into a world of youthful fantasy that temporarily frees them from facing the difficulties of adulthood. Ironically, they abdicate their roles as parents as they desperately seek to be a best friend and key member of their childrens' clique.
And, it's important to remember that caring for others doesn’t mean just catering to kids. It can mean caring for the community, the planet, for students, for pets or other aging family members. Caring and nurturing comes in many forms. Parenthood is not the only path to maturity or social responsibility. In fact, if parenting is not undertaken with maturity it can lead to chronic childishness.
My reader Betty emailed me with her thoughts about this matter (and gave her permission for me to publish part of her letter here).
"My nephew's wife, Laura (age 29, with 2 lovely little girls who would be my great-nieces) said to me, "I believe you don't really grown up until you have children." Really? My husband and I don't have children, which must mean we haven't yet grown up, however:
*My husband and I are not only both University graduates but have advanced degrees
*We have no student loans or credit card debt, in fact except for a small mortgage on a rental property we are completely debt free.
*We have never defaulted on any payment, EVER.
*We have not been drunk since our college days, don't smoke and have never done drugs.
*We have not borrowed money from our parents.
*We file our taxes on time every year.
*Both my husband and I have had modest careers with Fortune 500 companies that have afforded us many opportunities to travel, work and live overseas.
*I speak 3 languages fluently (English, Spanish, German and actually a little bit of Thai), and my husband speaks fluent German and English.
*Due to my husband's career, in the last 8 years we have lived in Melbourne, Bangkok, Buenos Aires and currently live in Munich, Germany. Meaning I have planned, organized and done 4 international moves, found a place to live in each country, set up house, dealt with all the transition issues of a new culture as well as set up our social network and support system and then packed up and done it all over again...several times.
*We are avid sailors and owned our own sailboat when we lived in Melbourne and have chartered sailboats in many different parts of the world. We have sailed the Great Barrier Reef, Bass Strait, Gulf of Thailand and Mediterranean Sea, mostly just the two of us without any crew on 30-35 ft sailboats. Our ability to work well together as a team at sea has proved invaluable to our relationship on land.
*We have only 1 car, my husband's company car which he drives to work. I go everywhere either on my bike or on public transportation which admittedly is top notch here in Germany.
*We live in a nicely decorated, clean and tidy apartment.
*I love to cook and without being too crazy about it eat as much non-processed, fresh, organic, high quality food as possible. I can't remember the last time we had take out food from a box.
*We are kind and loving to our parents and family. My husband is a doting godfather to his two nephews.
*We have been living on only my husband's income the last 8 years. Due to the many international moves it wasn't always possible for me to work. However, we still manage to have 1+ year salary in savings.
*We have written wills, health insurance, life insurance, car insurance, rentors insurance and disability insurance all paid up and up to date.
*We don't keep the neighbors awake with loud parties or annoying music.
*We do not own a Playstation, Wii, X-box or any form of a video game.
......So I am kinda wondering what part of us has not yet grown up?????.......
Thank you for doing such a great job at the blog. Would enjoy being in contact with you.