Today, however, I wanted to swing the pendulum in the opposite direction and talk about one of my favorite things about being childfree - being able to be a devoted, giving friend and family member.
Now, most people like to think they are caring, giving and devoted to the people they love, however, it should be pointed out that the childfree have a distinct advantage over parents in this regard. Let's face it - once people have kids, their love, devotion and attention get almost fully diverted to the new being they produced and away from the friends and loved ones who were there first. As childfree adults, we've probably all experienced the feelings of loss and mourning when our friends and family members become parents and we get left in the dust.
But the childfree person, by nature of being free of the constraints of childrearing, is able to remain a steadfast and devoted friend and loved one throughout life, which flies in the face of the critical judgements that parents like to hurl around about the childfree - that our lives are "all about ourselves"; that we're selfish and self-centered; that we don't know what love is. The fact is, we do know what love is and demonstrate it by being there and being truly present for our loved ones. I'm the daughter who takes my mom out for a "girls' day out" on a regular basis (do you think I could do this if I had kids?). I'm the best friend who opens up my guest bedroom so a friend can have somewhere to live for three months when she's going through a divorce and trying to reestablish herself (I wouldn't even have a guest bedroom if I had kids!) and years later opens up her home to this same friend's cat because she can no longer keep her, thanks to her allergic child. I am beloved by my friends' kids who call me Aunt Mandy and tell their mother she should buy the same perfume as me so she will smell like me. I am the aunt who dotes on her nieces and nephews with camping trips, day trips, craft days and cookie bakes (they wouldn't get any one-on-one time with me if I was busy with my own kids). I am the companion to 3 furry felines who get kissed and petted and loved to their little hearts' delight (maybe more than they even want). Most importantly, I'm the wife whose husband is number one in her life and whose position of importance will never be downgraded or compromised.
The fact is, my life is not all about me and never has been. It's about my husband. It's about my parents. It's about my siblings. It's about my nieces and nephews. It's about my friends and the children of my friends. It's about the people I work for. It's about my 3 moggies. It's about the childfree community I reach out to every day through this blog and other supportive means. I do not exist in a bubble. My life is intricate with social tentacles reaching out in many directions and in every direction I go I try to be thoughtful, caring and giving of myself. And I am sure you, my childfree reader, are similarly engaged in caring, doting relationships with all of the people in your life.
So when parents try to stereotype and dismiss us as materialistic, selfish, cold, uncaring, self-absorbed, misguided, sad, pathetic childless wretches, don't get hurt or angry. Smile, because you know who you really are and so do the people in your life who benefit from the attention you shower on them. And know that those critical judgements aren't about you, they are about them - expressions of the hurt they feel when they come face to face with someone who flat out rejects the very life path they have undertaken and enjoys a fuller, freer, more vibrant and giving existence because of it.